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Other Regions

Attempts to market nuclear power across the globe endanger these societies not only from the routine radioactive contamination and potential for accident or attack posed by operating reactors, but by the opportunity this technology provides to transition to nuclear weapons.

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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.
Monday
Jul202015

New reactor in Finland estimated to start up nine years behind schedule

As reported by NucNet, the Finnish nuclear utility TVO has revealed its latest estimate for grid connection of its Olkiluoto-3 reactor in Finland: 2018. That's nine years late, a major part of the reason that the original price tag has also soared. The new reactor is a French Areva EPR (European Pressurized Water Reactor).

And, as reported by Politico, another proposed new reactor project in Finland -- HANHIKIVI 1 -- may have suffered a serious setback, due to Finnish authorities' concerns about a potential Croatian partner's shadowy ties to Russian business interests.

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.]

Tuesday
Apr282015

Nguyen Khac Nhan: "the Vietnamese person who is most well-informed about nuclear energy and most vehemently opposed to it"

As reported by Michiko Yoshii in the Asahim Shimbun's Forum, a Vietnam-born, France-based engineer, Nguyen Khac Nhan, describes himself as "the Vietnamese person who is most well-informed about nuclear energy and most vehemently opposed to it."

The article quotes Nguyen's response to a question about Vietnam's first proposed atomic reactors:

"The nuclear power projects will most certainly be stopped. Five reactors have melted down in the first 50 years of nuclear power's use in the world. Three Mile Island had one, Chernobyl had one, and Fukushima had three. That's one reactor every decade. Unfortunately there will be another accident at a reactor within the next decade. We don't know if it'll be in France, China, Japan, or some other country. And when it happens, I think they'll put a stop to the Vietnamese projects. I don't intend to die until I've seen those projects killed." (emphasis added)

Monday
Dec222014

South Korea's nuclear power industry reportedly hacked, raising safety and security concerns

Map and chart of South Korea's 23 atomic reactors, with many more on the drawing boardsAs reported by the Korea JoongAng Daily on Dec. 20th, on Dec. 15th, design blueprints and detailed instructions regarding safety control systems at South Korea's two largest nuclear power plants -- Gori (with six operating reactors, two more under construction, and two more planned) and Wolseong (six operational reactors) -- were posted on South Korea's biggest Web portal site.

At 4,137 Megawatts-electric and 2,779 MWe, respecitvely, the Gori and Wolseong nuclear power plants are already the biggest in the world; but they are projected to expand to 7,937 MWe and 4,779 MWe, respectively. (See the EJA map and chart, above, as well as the Wikipedia entry "Nuclear Power in South Korea.") Altogether, there are currently 23 atomic reactors in South Korea, with more planned.

News of the leak became public once Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation (KHNP) -- part of the state-run Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) -- officially requested an investigation by the Seoul Supreme Prosecutor's Office, and the Korean National Police Agency Cyber Bureau, on Dec. 18th. The provocative blog was also supposedly shut down that same afternoon.

Park In-sik, a spokesman for KHNP, was quoted as saying "The blueprint is often used by operators at the Gori plant when managing the reactor. And the program control manual was actually published in 2009 and handed out to employees as part of a training program at the Wolseong 1 reactor."

KHNP was reported to have added: "We acknowledge [our information management] has been lax, but we can only take action against the leak after the investigation is complete. To prevent additional leaks, all data stored on computers inside our offices was encrypted this morning," presumably Dec. 20th.

(Is there a Korean saying akin to the American English "Why close the barn door after the horse is gone?"?!)

The article quoted a National Information Security Service official as warning "If these reactor blueprints and system manuals are leaked, we could be faced with a situation where someone posing as an employee could log onto the main reactor control system and commit a terrorist act."

However, in a Dec. 22nd Reuters article, KHNP downplayed the risks, labeling the stolen data as "non-critical";  a South Korean deputy energy minister, Chung Yang-ho, was quoted as saying "It's our judgment that the control system itself is designed in such a way and there is no risk whatsoever." A KHNP spokesman was also reported to have said "It is 100 percent impossible that a hacker can stop nuclear power plants by attacking them because the control monitoring system is totally independent and closed."

But nuclear reactor design specialist Suh Kune-yull of Seoul National University was quoted by Reuters as countering "This demonstrated that, if anyone is intent with malice to infiltrate the system, it would be impossible to say with confidence that such an effort would be blocked completely. And a compromise of nuclear reactors' safety pretty clearly means there is a gaping hole in national security."

Who leaked the information to the internet, and why?

Although providing no specifics, the Korea JoongAng Daily article reports "Although no details about the identity of the blogger were disclosed, the user identifies themselves [as] 'the head of antinuclear power group's Korean branch.'"

The Korea JoongAng Daily quoted "Who am I?", the user name of the blogger, as writing "Why did we attack the control system? Because we don’t want to suffer disasters like the Fukushima accident...Nuclear power is not a safe source of energy anymore. People living near the nuclear power complex have filed a class action suit claiming that they have been suffering from thyroid cancer."

The Korea JoongAng Daily reported that "hacked information posted on the blog included test results for thyroid cancer for residents living around the Gori reactor, as well as some personal information of about 10,800 current and former KHNP employees."

The atomic reactor-generated radionuclide Iodine-131 is known to cause thyroid pathology, whether released in relatively small amounts as a so-called "routine emission" from regular nuclear power plant operations, or during a nuclear catastrophe, as at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

But it must be emphasized that the leading anti-nuclear power organizations in South Korea -- groups like KFEM (Korea Federation for Environmental Movements), a national member of Friends of the Earth International -- have a long and proud tradition of non-violent anti-nuclear activism. They are dedicated, of course, to preventing catastrophic radioactivity releases, not facilitating such disasters by making nuclear power plants vulnerable to terrorist attack.

By contrast, the Reuters article placed the supposed anti-nuclear blogger in Hawaii, again providing no specifics. The anti-nuclear power movement of the United States, of course, is unanimously dedicated to non-violence and radiological prevention.

However, the Reuters article explicitly addresses another possibility, the elephant in the room: that the source of the hack was instead the North Korean military dictatorship. After all, the breach of the South Korean nuclear power industry comes amidst accusations by the FBI and White House that the Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea is responsible for the salacious, high-profile, costly hack against Sony Pictures described by President Obama as "cyber vandalism." North Korea has denied the charges.

Both articles have reported that the provocative blog threatened to expand the attack, and post further revelations of critical nuclear power safety information, on Christmas Day, if the two South Korean nuclear power plants are not shut down, and a ransom (for lack of a better word) paid.

The Guardian has reported the hack has prompted two days of emergency preparedness exercises at South Korean nuclear power plants, as well as increased security vigilance at U.K. atomic reactors.

North Korean threats against U.S. nuclear power plants?!

Bill Gertz, Senior Editor of the blog Washington Free Beacon, reported on Dec. 18th that very heavily redacted U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) documents, recently released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), have revealed that five North Korean commando sleeper cells had been deployed into the U.S. in the 1990s, to potentially attack U.S. nuclear power plants in the event of hostilities between the two countries.

Gertz links to a blog entitled The DMZ War: 1953 to Today, where documents purporting to comprise the DIA FOIA release are posted.

A few other online blogs, such as The Inquisitr, as well as Fox News, have reported on or reprinted the Washington Free Beacon's allegations. However, no other news organizations have done so. Beyond Nuclear can provide no further authentication of the these alarming claims.