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Nuclear Proliferation

Nuclear power was the failed answer to the horrors of the atomic bomb - the so-called "Peaceful Atom." However, the two technologies are inextricably linked. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea clandestinely developed nuclear weapons using the infrastructure, technology and know-how of their "civilian" nuclear programs. Contained expansion of nuclear power across the globe only increases the chances of nuclear weapons development and is counterproductive to disarmament.

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Thursday
Aug132015

"The Iran Nuclear Deal 70 Years After Hiroshima and Nagasaki"

Margaret Harrington, host of "Nuclear-Free Future Conversation" on Channel 17/Town Hall Meeting Televsion in Burlington, VT, interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on the Iran Nuclear Deal announced on July 14th, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombing 70th anniversaries on Aug. 6th & 9th, and the Japanese Abe administration's restart of an atomic reactor at Sendai post-Fukushima, despite overwhelming popular opposition. A major theme of the conversation is how nuclear power and nuclear weapons are flipsides of the same coin. (Note: there appears to be "dead air" and a black screen at the 29:00 to 30:00 minute mark of the interview, but it resumes after that).

Wednesday
Aug052015

Dr. Gordon Edwards on "Brazil Nuclear Leader's Arrest May Stymie Atomic Ambitions"

Dr. Gordon Edwards, President, CCNRDr. Gordon Edwards, President of Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (photo, left), has prepared the following backgrounder in response to the Reuters article, reprinted at Voice of America, about the the arrest of the longtime head of Brazil's nuclear energy utility, Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva. A retired admiral, Pinheiro da Silva was arrested on corruption charges on Tuesday for allegedly taking 4.5 million reais ($1.35 million) in bribes from engineering firms working on the long-delayed Angra 3 nuclear power plant. The arrest could disrupt a plan to revive Brazilian nuclear ambitions whose roots go back to its atomic-bomb program in the 1980s.

Background:                     August 5, 2015

The head of Brazil's nuclear energy utility, a retired military man, has been arrested on corruption charges. This will delay further the construction of Brazil's third nuclear power reactor, Agra-3, which is already about 2 billion dollars over budget.  Total cost is currently estimated at $7.6 billion; it will no doubt continue to climb. Power from existing nuclear plants in Brazil is about 50% more expensive than from other sources. 

Brazil's civilian nuclear program has close historic ties to the military. Alone among non-nuclear-weapons-states, Brazil is developing its own fleet of nuclear submarines; the nuclear shipyard was inaugurated in 2011. The Brazilian military has developed its own uranium enrichment facility using high-efficiency ultracentrifuges of indigenous design.  This capability, developed in secrecy, was only announced to the world in 1987. The Brazilian ultracentrifuges are unique, based on electromagnetic rather than mechanical bearings, and are not subject to direct inspections by the IAEA. The civilian nuclear utility in Brazil acquires its nuclear reactor fuel from the enrichment plant that is owned and operated by the military.

Brazil supplied uranium to the US Bomb program during the Manhattan Project -- and beyond.  The first Brazilian research reactor was built in 1957 with US assistance. When the military regime wielded power in Brazil (1964-1985) a secret "Parallel Program" was adopted to acquire total domestic control over the complete nuclear fuel cycle -- uranium enrichment, reactor operation, plutonium extraction, and nuclear explosive manufacture. Ostensibly devoted to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the military worked clandestinely on nuclear weapons-related matters throughout this period.

When India exploded its first atomic bomb in 1974 using plutonium from a Canadian-designed research reactor, Brazil and Argentina were ruled by rival military regimes. Both countries had nuclear ambitions which included a nuclear weapons capability. The Argentine Generals were responsible for the kidnapping and secret murder of tens of thousands of "undesirables", including journalist and trade unionists. With the help of German scientists, some of whom worked under the Nazis during WWII, Argentina had already built a heavy-water nuclear reactor of German design and an experimental reprocessing plant for separating plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel.

Canada sold a CANDU nuclear reactor to Argentina in 1978, despite the brutal nature of the regime and its obvious military ambitions. In 1979 longshoremen in Saint John, New Brunswick, refused to load heavy water onto a ship bound for Argentina because of the atrocities being committed on a daily basis in Buenos Ares.  The Trudeau cabinet decided to have the heavy water trucked in great secrecy to Mirabel Airport in Quebec where it was flown to Argentina. A cabinet briefing document stated that Canada's reputation as a reliable supplier of nuclear materials would be in jeopardy if the heavy water were not delivered....

(As it turns out, Canada lost $130 million on the Argentian sale, and tens of millions of dollars were diverted from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to a numbered swiss bank account. An investigation by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee concluded that this money was used for illegal or corrupt purposes and that AECL officials were uncooperative and unresponsive when questioned by Committee Members.  The head of AECL, John Foster, was subsequently fired.)

Following the Falklands War in 1982, both the Argentinian and the Brazilian military regimes collapsed, and by 1990 both countries had renounced nuclear weapons.  However, neither country has endorsed the IAEA's "Additional Protocol" (endorsed by 129 other countries) that would provide much greater access to IAEA inspectors.  To many outside observers, it seems evident that the military roots of the nuclear programs in these two South American superpowers have never entirely disappeared. 

Gordon Edwards.
Thursday
Jul162015

Karl Grossman: "Obama, the Iran Deal, and Plutonium"

Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.Beyond Nuclear board of directors member Karl Grossman (photo, left) has published a blog at The Times of Israel entitled "Obama, the Iran Deal, and Plutonium." Quoting Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, and Jacques Cousteau, Grossman illuminates how "there’s no 'peaceful nuclear power,'" and that "Nuclear weapons and nuclear power are two sides of the same coin."

Drawing on his 45 years of investigative reporting, and his authorship of six books -- much of it focused on the covers ups, deceptions, and hypocricies of nuclear power -- Grossman describes how India acquired nuclear weapons through Eisenhower's so-called "Atoms for Peace" path.

He warns that the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency's schizophrenic mandate -- to promote nuclear power, while curbing nuclear weapons proliferation -- risks other countries likewise obtaining "The Bomb." This includes Iran, even under the current "Iran Nuclear Deal," hammered out by the likes of the "great booster of nuclear power," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Grossman's blog was published on July 16, 2015 -- 70 years to the day after the U.S. detonation of "Trinity" in the New Mexico desert. The Manhattan Project plutonium bomb "test" led to the annihilation of Nagasaki, Japan just over three weeks later.

[See the Obama administration's White House web site postings about the Iran Nuclear Deal; and see the full text of the Iran Nuclear Deal itself.]

Wednesday
Jul092014

88 pounds of nuclear material seized by ISIS in Iraq

As reported by Reuters, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have seized 88 pounds of nuclear material from a university in Mosul, Iraq. The Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations has reported the theft to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and called on the UN for assistance in the nuclear material's recovery.

Reuters reports that Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, wrote in his July 8 letter:

"Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state," Alhakim wrote, adding that such materials "can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction."

"These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts," said Alhakim.

He warned that they could also be smuggled out of Iraq.

"The Republic of Iraq is notifying the international community of these dangerous developments and asking for help and the needed support to stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad," Alhakim wrote.

The incident is reminiscent of the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, when unguarded nuclear facilities were systematically looted.

Friday
Mar282014

"Measured Progress on Nuclear Security," or a "World Awash in Nuclear Explosive?"

The Nuclear Genie, as depicted in Walt Disney's 1950s pro-nuclear propaganda book "Our Friend the Atom"The New York Times editorial board has cited "Measured Progress on Nuclear Security," given Japan's pledge to turn over a small fraction of its potentially weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium to the U.S. for "disposal."

But as the Center for Public Integrity and Truthout have warned in an article by Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith entitled "The World Awash in Nuclear Explosive?", we have a frighteningly long way to go in our attempts to put the nuclear weapons proliferation genie back in the bottle.

Specifically, and ironically enough, Japan's bid to open the Rokkasho reprocessing facility could open the way for catastrophic nuclear weapons proliferation, warns NRDC's Tom Cochran.