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.



"Senate Dems block GOP measure to kill Iran [nuclear] deal"

As reported by Politico:

Senate Democrats on Thursday successfully blocked a measure meant to kill President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran, dealing a decisive defeat to Republicans’ attempts to derail the controversial agreement and ensuring its survival.

With a 58-42 vote, Democrats filibustered the disapproval resolution that Republicans and other deal opponents had tried to send to Obama's desk, where it would have been vetoed. But with more than enough support from Democrats to sustain that veto, the fight largely turned to the minutiae of Senate procedure and the suspense of whether Democrats would halt the bill from reaching the White House altogether.


"Energy secretary is urged to end U.S. nuclear fuel program at Savannah River"

As reported by Steven Mufson at the Washington Post:

A group of more than a dozen prominent former arms negotiators and senior diplomats has sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz urging an end to the U.S. nuclear fuel program at the government’s Savannah River complex that they say is too costly and a threat to non-proliferation efforts.

...The signatories included former nuclear arms negotiators Robert Einhorn and Robert Gallucci; former ambassadors Thomas Pickering and Joseph Nye; former White House director for arms control, former Pentagon and intelligence official Henry S. Rowen; former head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Jessica Matthews; former Nuclear Regulation Commission members Peter Bradford and Victor Gilinsky; National Medal of Science winner and a designer of the first hydrogen bomb Richard Garwin; and nuclear policy experts Henry Sokolski, Frank von Hippel, S. David Freeman and Ploughshares Fund president Joseph Cirincione.

SRS Watch has posted the letter online.

The MOX fuel fabrication facility [FFF] at the U.S. Department of Energy's [DOE] Savannah River Site [SRS] was supposed to convent 34 metric tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear fuel for commercial atomic reactors. MOX is short for Mixed Oxide, referring to mixed uranium-plutonium oxide nuclear fuel.

The MOX FFF has proceeded despite the protests of anti-nuclear and non-proliferation critics for the past two decades, who urged that the excess weapons-grade plutonium be mixed back into the high-level radioactive waste from which it came in the first place, and treated as dangerous, deadly radioactive waste, not a commercial nuclear power commodity.

The MOX FFF project has turned into a $5 billion boondoggle. The still under construction MOX FFF was built too small to house the needed equipment, for one thing! But if the project continues, tens of billions of additional taxpayer dollars could be wasted, on an undertaking that undermines U.S. credibility on nuclear weapons non-proliferation, not to mention the risks of using plutonium fuel in reactors not designed for it in the first place.

For example, Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 had loaded MOX fuel into its reactor core in September 2010, just six months before the nuclear catastrophe began. 6% of the core consisted of MOX fuel; plans were to expand that to a 33% MOX core. Unit 3 then experienced the largest of the hydrogen gas explosions in March 2011, after its core began to melt down. The radioactive dust, so to speak, has not yet settled on what role the MOX fuel played in contributing to the full-scale melt down at Unit 3, the size of its destructive H2 explosion, and, most significantly of all, the severity of the hazardous radioactivity releases that resulted.

Critics have long resisted MOX. This has included grassroots anti-nuclear efforts, as in the Midwest. In the mid- to late-1990s, for example, a coalition of groups from Chicago to Ontario undertook a Nix MOX caravan, that generated significant media coverage.

This was followed by a lawsuit -- Alice Hirt v. Bill Richardson, Secretary of Energy -- in federal court in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The pro bono environmental attorneys, Terry Lodge and Kary Love, on behalf of clients including Alice Hirt of Don't Waste Michigan in Holland, MI, sought to block DOE's shipment of weapons-grade plutonium, converted to experimental MOX reactor fuel, by truck from Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico, through Michigan, to Chalk River Nuclear Lab, Ontario. The environmental coalition initially won a Temporary Restraining Order against the shipment in late 1999, but by January 2000, DOE was able to force the shipment through.

Despite this, plans to use MOX fuel at Commonwealth Edison (later Exelon) reactors in IL, as well as at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in ON, fell apart. The MOX FFF at SRS, however, has kept the MOX scheme alive for 20 years, at huge cost to U.S. federal taxpayers, as well as at risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and environmental catastrophe.

Here are some additional examples of Nix MOX activism in the late 1990s:


"Obama secures votes to protect Iran nuclear deal"

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) became the 34th senator to support the Iran nuclear agreement, which means President Obama has the votes to sustain his promised veto of any legislation that would attempt to scuttle the deal. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)As reported by the Washington Post, U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has announced her support for the Iran Nuclear Deal. As the 34th U.S. Senator to do so, this secures enough support to protect President Obama's promised veto, if and when expected congressional measures of disapproval are passed, by majority vote, in the U.S. Senate and House before Sept. 17, the deadline for such an action. President Obama needs only one house of Congress to sustain his veto, in order to stave off congressional disapproval and secure the Iran Nuclear Deal negotiated by his Secretary of State, John Kerry.

There is some possibility still remaining that President Obama won't need to use his veto pen. If 41 U.S. Senators support the Iran Nuclear Deal, they can successfully filibuster a vote on disapproval -- meaning the pact can be secured that way, as well.


"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).


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.