Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

U.S. government high on the narcotic of ”Defense” spending – the war corporations love it !

April 30, 2022

 Exacerbating the dilemma are the close ties between the Washington establishment and the defense industry, which lobbies lawmakers and funds their campaigns.

Another problem is the so-called revolving door, wherein many defense officials tasked with overseeing procurement go on to work for companies in the private sector. In January, the Project On Government Oversight watchdog reported that over the past three years Lockheed Martin hired 44 former Pentagon officials, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman 24 each, Boeing at least 23, and General Dynamics eight.

A staggering $286 billion in US defense spending went to these five well-connected suppliers in 2019 and 2020, according to the report.

Biden’s Ukraine Arms-Buying Spree Boosts US Defense Industry Giants  https://www.urdupoint.com/en/world/bidens-ukraine-arms-buying-spree-boosts-us-d-1493247.html, Muhammad Irfan   April 06, 2022  WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik US defense contractors are raking in additional billions of Dollars as a direct result of President Joe Biden’s policy toward Ukraine, and stand to gain even more based on administration plans to bolster NATO while setting new military spending records.

After Russia launched its operation in Ukraine on February 24, the Pentagon‘s top five suppliers saw their stock prices rise – with three jumping by double digits in the first week, as investors on Wall Street anticipated a surge in weapons orders.

However, the spike began well before Russian forces entered Ukraine and in line with Washington‘s growing support for Kiev. For example, in the second week of January the US delivered about $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine just as lawmakers were set to introduce legislation for $200 million more.

In January, Raytheon chief Greg Hayes told investors on an earnings call that he fully expected to see the company benefit from the tensions in Eastern Europe with new international sales opportunities, a sentiment other contractors echoed, which has now become a reality. Since the beginning of the year, Lockheed Martin’s stock price rose by over 25 percent while Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics each saw a spike of over 15%.

“War is excellent for business,” Australian global peace activist Helen Caldicott told Sputnik.

Javelin manufacturer Raytheon and Stinger supplier Lockheed Martin are especially ecstatic over the situation in Ukraine, added Caldicott, the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Former Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney was surprised by neither the conflict itself, which he called a “predictable consequence” of NATO expansion, nor the US defense establishment’s reaction to it.

“It now has champagne corks popping in the Pentagon, in the defense industry, and in their wholly owned subsidiaries in Congress, think tanks, the intelligence apparatus, and the press,” Spinney told Sputnik.

US President Joe Biden has repeatedly boasted about the largess of security aid his administration has bestowed Ukraine, which now stands at $2.3 billion – 70 percent of which has been doled out within the past five weeks alone.

The weapons the Biden administration committed or delivered to Ukraine by mid-March included 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft weapons,10,000 Javelin and AT4 shoulder-fired anti-tank systems, and 60 million rounds of ammunition, to name just a few of the big ticket items listed on a White House fact sheet. Thousands of other weapons in the packages include grenade launchers, rifles, pistols, machine guns, and shotguns – in addition to 100 tactical drones, 25,000 sets of body armor, and 25,000 helmets.

US allies are also giving defense contractors reason to celebrate. According to the White House, at least 30 countries have provided security assistance to Ukraine since the operation began.

Yet, even before current tensions, Ukraine for years had been a leading recipient of US military aid. Since 2014, the US has provided Kiev with a total of more than $4 billion in security assistance, including the aid authorized under Biden, according to a State Department fact sheet.

Meanwhile, the US troop presence in Europe has jumped from 60,000 to 100,000 following the start of the Ukraine conflict. And the US and its NATO allies have announced intentions to send even more to boost the alliance‘s “eastern flank.”

Spinney said understanding the internal political-economic causes of the US addiction to the narcotic of defense spending is at the heart of the problem.

Citing American strategic thinker John Boyd, Spinney said the strategy is simple: “Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.”

Sure enough, on March 28, the Biden administration submitted to Congress a budget request for 2023 that included $773 billion in spending for the Pentagon, a 4% increase from the previous year. Another $40 billion in defense-related spending through other agencies brings the total to $813 billion, which would represent a record level national security budget if approved.

Biden has asked Congress for nearly $7 billion to strengthen NATO and other European partners in order to counter Moscow, according to the White House. In addition, $682 million was requested for Ukraine security assistance, an increase of $219 million, which Biden said was meant to forcefully respond to Russia‘s “aggression” against Ukraine.

Nor is the next wave of weapons spending likely to stop there. Senior military commanders have already staked out the ground for further prodigal spending. On March 29, US European Command chief Todd Wolters in testimony to Congress said he suspected the Pentagon was “going to still need more.”

Only six days earlier, Republican lawmakers called for higher defense spending, saying that Russia‘s operation in Ukraine “has already left us and our NATO allies less secure.”

VICIOUS CYCLE, TWISTED INCENTIVES

The recent spending sprees, the experts said, are consistent with confrontational US policies – from the Cold War to the war on terrorism. Exacerbating the dilemma is the close ties between the Washington establishment and the defense industry, which lobbies lawmakers and funds their campaigns.

Another problem is the so-called revolving door, wherein many defense officials tasked with overseeing procurement go on to work for companies in the private sector. In January, the Project On Government Oversight watchdog reported that over the past three years Lockheed Martin hired 44 former Pentagon officials, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman 24 each, Boeing at least 23, and General Dynamics eight.

A staggering $286 billion in US defense spending went to these five well-connected suppliers in 2019 and 2020, according to the report.

Spinney, who once appeared on Time Magazine’s cover for highlighting reckless defense spending during the Reagan administration, said the “first” Cold War’s 40-year climate of fear was something then-Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev tried to end. But successive US administrations were busy planting the seed money for a new generation of cold-war inspired weapons.

The former Pentagon analyst said President George W. Bush‘s Global War on Terror was the bridging operation that “greased the transition” to Cold War II by keeping defense budgets at Cold War levels.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks helped fuel a climate of fear, he added, that is now needed to sustain Cold War II for the remainder of the 21st Century

Caldicott said the consequences of those decisions have unleashed wars and suffering around the world anew over the past two decades.

“Since 2001, the US has spent $6.4 trillion on killing and destruction in 85 countries, murdering 801,000 people,” Caldicott said while noting that the stocks of the top five defense contractors outperformed the overall market by a whopping 58 percent.

To make matters worse, the peace activist added, all members of Congress received huge amounts of money from these “killing corporations.”

Ukraine war – a great opportunity Each new NATO country was a new customer for the weapons industry

April 30, 2022

“Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the wall came down,” veteran salesman Dick Pawlowski recalled. “There were contractors flooding through all those countries.” Arms makers became the most aggressive lobbyists for NATO expansion. The security umbrella was not simply a formidable alliance but also a tantalizing market.

New alliance members meant new clients. And NATO would literally require them to buy Western military equipment.

Arms Industry Sees Ukraine Conflict as an Opportunity, Not a Crisis,  Jonathan Ng, Truthout , 2 Mar 22,In February, a photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting hunched over a 13-foot table with French President Emmanuel Macron circulated the globe. News about their sprawling table and sumptuous seven-course dinner was reminiscent of a Lewis Carroll story. But their meeting was deadly serious. Macron arrived to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine and threat of war. Ultimately, their talk foundered over expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Yet the meeting was surreal for another reason. Over the past year, Macron, the leading European Union (EU) peace negotiator, has led an ambitious arms sales campaign, exploiting tensions to strengthen French commerce. The trade press even reported that he hoped to sell Rafale fighter jets to Ukraine, breaking into the “former bastion of Russian industry.”  

Macron is not alone. NATO contractors openly embrace the crisis in Ukraine as sound business. In January, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes cited “tensions in Europe” as an opportunity, saying, “I fully expect we’re going to see some benefit.” Likewise, CEO Jim Taiclet of Lockheed Martin highlighted the benefits of “great power competition” in Europe to shareholders.  

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, pounding cities with ordnance and dispatching troops across the border. The sonic boom of fighter jets filled the air, as civilians flooded the highways in Kyiv, attempting to flee the capital. And the stock value of arms makers soared.

The spiraling conflict over Ukraine dramatizes the power of militarism and the influence of defense contractors. A ruthless drive for markets — intertwined with imperialism — has propelled NATO expansion, while inflaming wars from Eastern Europe to Yemen.

Selling NATO

The current conflict with Russia began in the wake of the Cold War. Declining military spending throttled the arms industry in the United States and other NATO countries. In 1993, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry convened a solemn meeting with executives. Insiders called it the “Last Supper.” In an atmosphere heavy with misapprehension, Perry informed his guests that impending blows to the U.S. military budget called for industry consolidation. A frantic wave of mergers and takeovers followed, as Lockheed, Northrop, Boeing and Raytheon acquired new muscle and smaller firms expired amid postwar scarcity.

While domestic demand shrunk, defense contractors rushed to secure new foreign markets. In particular, they set their sights on the former Soviet bloc, regarding Eastern Europe as a new frontier for accumulation. “Lockheed began looking at Poland right after the wall came down,” veteran salesman Dick Pawlowski recalled. “There were contractors flooding through all those countries.” Arms makers became the most aggressive lobbyists for NATO expansion. The security umbrella was not simply a formidable alliance but also a tantalizing market. 

However, lobbyists faced a major obstacle. In 1990, Secretary of State James Baker had promised Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that if he allowed a reunited Germany to join NATO, the organization would move “not one inch eastward.” Yet lobbyists remained hopeful. The Soviet Union had since disintegrated, Cold War triumphalism prevailed, and vested interests now pushed for expansion. “Arms Makers See Bonanza In Selling NATO Expansion,” The New York Times reported in 1997. The newspaper later noted that, “Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — first to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic and then possibly to more than a dozen other countries — would offer arms makers a new and hugely lucrative market.”

New alliance members meant new clients. And NATO would literally require them to buy Western military equipment.

Lobbyists poured into Washington, D.C. fêting legislators in royal style. Vice President Bruce Jackson of Lockheed became the president of the advocacy organization U.S. Committee to Expand NATO. Jackson recounted the extravagant meals that he hosted at the mansion of the Republican luminary Julie Finley, which boasted “an endless wine cellar.”

“Educating the Senate about NATO was our chief mission,” he informed journalist Andrew Cockburn. “We’d have four or five senators over every night, and we’d drink Julie’s wine.”

Lobby pressure was relentless. “The most interested corporations are the defense corporations, because they have a direct interest in the issue,” Romanian Ambassador Mircea Geoană observed. Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and other firms even funded Romania’s lobbying machine during its bid for NATO membership……………… https://truthout.org/articles/arms-industry-sees-ukraine-conflict-as-an-opportunity-not-a-crisis/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=734c56bc-48da-4e66-bea1-f2bedb7d1431

”Infinite war” – NATO and U.S. weapons industry found the perfect sales opportunity in Yemen

April 30, 2022

Arms Industry Sees Ukraine Conflict as an Opportunity, Not a Crisis,  Jonathan Ng, Truthout , 2 Mar 22,

In the United States, the industry employs around 700 lobbyists. Nearly three-fourths previously worked for the federal government — the highest percentage for any industry. The lobby spent $108 million in 2020 alone, and its ranks continue to swell. Over the past 30 years, about 530 congressional staffers on military-related committees left office for defense contractors. Industry veterans dominate the Biden administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from Raytheon.  

”’………………….Yemen Burning

Arms makers found the perfect sales opportunity in Yemen. In 2011, a popular revolution toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had monopolized power for two decades. His crony, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, became president the next year after easily winning the election: He was the only candidate. Thwarted by elite intrigue, another uprising ejected Mansour Hadi in 2015.

That year, Prince Salman became king of Saudi Arabia, but power concentrated into the hands of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, who feared that the uprising threatened to snatch Yemen from Saudi Arabia’s sphere of influence.

Months later, a Saudi-led coalition invaded, leaving a massive trail of carnage. “There was no plan,” a U.S. intelligence official emphasized. “They just bombed anything and everything that looked like it might be a target.”

The war immediately attracted NATO contractors, which backed the aggressors. They exploit the conflict to sustain industrial capacity, fund weapons development and achieve economies of scale. In essence, the Saudi-led coalition subsidizes the NATO military buildup, while the West inflames the war in Yemen.

Western statesmen pursue sales with perverse enthusiasm. In May 2017, Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia for his first trip abroad as president, in order to flesh out the details of a $110 billion arms bundle. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, arrived beforehand to discuss the package. When Saudi officials complained about the price of a radar system, Kushner immediately called the CEO of Lockheed Martin to ask for a discount. The following year, Mohammed bin Salman visited company headquarters during a whirlwind tour of the United States. Defense contractors, Hollywood moguls and even Oprah Winfrey welcomed the young prince Yet the Americans were not alone. The Saudi-led coalition is also the largest arms market for France and other NATO members. And as the French Ministry of the Armed Forces explains, exports are “necessary for the preservation and development of the French defense technological and industrial base.” In other words, NATO members such as France export war in order to retain their capacity to wage it.


President Macron denies that the coalition — an imposing alliance that includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Sudan and Senegal — uses French weapons. But the statistics are suggestive. Between 2015 and 2019, France awarded €14 billion in arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia and €20 billion in licenses to the United Arab Emirates. CEO Stéphane Mayer of Nexter Systems praised the performance of Leclerc tanks in Yemen, boasting that they “have highly impressed the military leaders of the region.” In short, while Macron denies that the coalition wields French hardware in Yemen, local industrialists cite their use as a selling point. Indeed, Amnesty International reports that his administration has systematically lied about its export policy. Privately, officials have compiled a “very precise list of French materiél deployed in the context of the conflict, including ammunition.” 
Recently, Macron became one of the first heads of state to meet Mohammed bin Salman following the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Like Trump’s trip, Macron’s diplomatic junket was a sales mission. Eventually, Macron clinched a deal with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale fighters. The CEO of Dassault Aviation called the contract “the most important ever obtained by French military aerospace,” guaranteeing six years of work for a pillar of its industrial base. 


French policy is typical of NATO involvement in Yemen. While denouncing the war, every Western producer has outfitted those carrying it out. Spanish authorities massage official documents to conceal the export of lethal hardware. Great Britain has repeatedly violated its own arms embargo. And the United States has not respected export freezes with any consistency. 


Even NATO countries in Eastern Europe exploit the war. While these alliance members absorb Western arms, they dump some of their old Soviet hardware into the Middle East. Between 2012 and July 2016 Eastern Europe awarded at least €1.2 billion in military equipment to the region. 


Ironically, a leading Eastern European arms exporter is Ukraine. While the West rushes to arm Kyiv, its ruling class has sold weapons on the black market. A parliamentary inquiry concluded that between 1992 and 1998 alone, Ukraine lost a staggering $32 billion in military assets, as oligarchs pillaged their own army. Over the past three decades, they have outfitted Iraq, the Taliban and extremist groups across the Middle East. Even former President Leonid Kuchma, who has led peace talks in the Donbas region, illegally sold weapons while in office. More recently, French authorities investigated Dmytro Peregudov, the former director of the state defense conglomerate, for pocketing $24 million in sales commissions. Peregudov resided in a château with rolling wine fields, while managing the extensive properties that he acquired after his years in public service.  

The Warlords

Kuchma and Peregudov are hardly exceptional. Corruption is endemic in an industry that relies on the proverbial revolving door. The revolving door is not simply a metaphor but an institution, converting private profit into public policy. Its perpetual motion signifies the social reproduction of an elite that resides at the commanding heights of a global military-industrial complex. Leading power brokers ranging from the Mitterrands and Chiracs in France, to the Thatchers and Blairs in Britain, and the Gonzálezes and Bourbons in Spain have personally profited from the arms trade.

In the United States, the industry employs around 700 lobbyists. Nearly three-fourths previously worked for the federal government — the highest percentage for any industry. The lobby spent $108 million in 2020 alone, and its ranks continue to swell. Over the past 30 years, about 530 congressional staffers on military-related committees left office for defense contractors. Industry veterans dominate the Biden administration, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin from Raytheon.  

The revolving door reinforces the class composition of the state, while undermining its moral legitimacy. As an elite rotates office, members insulate policymaking from democratic input, taint the government with corruption and mistake corporate profit with national interest. By 2005, 80 percent of army generals with three stars or more retired to arms makers despite existing regulations. (The National Defense Authorization Act prohibits top officers from lobbying the government for two years after leaving office or leveraging personal contacts to secure contracts. But compliance is notoriously poor.) More recently, the U.S. Navy initiated investigations against dozens of officers for corrupt ties to the defense contractor Leonard Francis, who clinched contracts with massive bribes, lavish meals and sex parties. 

Steeped in this corrosive culture, NATO intellectuals now openly talk about the prospect of “infinite war.” Gen. Mike Holmes insists that it is “not losing. It’s staying in the game and getting a new plan and keeping pursuing your objectives.” Yet those immersed in its brutal reality surely disagree. The United Nations reports that at least 14,000 people have died in the Russo-Ukrainian War since 2014, and over 377,000 have perished in Yemen.

In truth, the doctrine of infinite war is not so much a strategy as it is a confession — acknowledging the violent metabolism of a system that requires conflict. As a self-selecting elite propounds NATO expansion, military buildup and imperialism, we must embrace what the warlords most fear: the threat of peace.The author would like to thank Sarah Priscilla Lee of the Learning Sciences Program at Northwestern University for reviewing this article.  https://truthout.org/articles/arms-industry-sees-ukraine-conflict-as-an-opportunity-not-a-crisis/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=734c56bc-48da-4e66-bea1-f2bedb7d1431

Largest increase in the UK nuclear liability regime for 50 years 

April 30, 2022

Largest increase in the UK nuclear liability regime for 50 years take, https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/largest-increase-in-the-uk-nuclear-6038616/, 21 Jan 22,  As we flagged last year in this note, the 2004 Protocols updating the Paris Convention and Brussels Convention have finally been ratified. This is likely the biggest increase in the international nuclear liability regime for decades, and has global impact.

In the UK this means that the Nuclear Installations (Liability for Damage) Order 2016 came into effect on 1 January 2022. This immediately increases the liability cap of nuclear operators in the UK from £140m to €700m (approx. £585m), with those caps increasing annually over the next five years to €1.2bn (approx. £1bn). The UK also now has a new operator duty of care not to cause significant impairment to the environment, new categories of compensation for which an operator will be liable (including loss of profit in some instances), and material extensions to the geographical scope covered by the regime (e.g. now including the Republic of Ireland).

The extension of the limitation period for personal injury to 30 years from the date of the incident is likely the one with the largest impact after it became clear last year that insurance would not be available to cover the full period, at least for the time being. The UK Government instead stepping in and indemnifying operators to cover the insurance gap using the powers granted to the Secretary of State under the amended Nuclear Installations Act 1965.

Similar changes to the liability regime in certain other European and Scandinavian signatory countries should also have taken effect.

Please see our detailed note on the topic here for further information.

[View source.]

Issue for The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA): IS ANSTO’s NUCLEAR REACTOR VIABLE?

December 26, 2021

ISSUES FOR URGENT RESOLUTION BY ARPANSA
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) is the national regulator of all federal government aspects of nuclear and radiation sources and activities with the prime objective of protecting and keeping safe the nation’s population and environment from the harmful effects of radiation and other nuclear pursuits.

In its regulatory role ARPANSA will shortly have to address issues linked to nuclear waste and collectively are probably the most important and significant situation that has had to be dealt with by ARPANSA since its foundation over twenty years ago

ANSTO VIABILITY
The first is the need for ARPANSA to obtain an independent andcomprehensive assessment and report on the proposed increased
production of nuclear medicine by reactor generation by the AustralianmNuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) at its Lucas Heights precinct

The reason behind this is that ANSTO is relying on its production of nuclear medicine as the mainstay of its activities and intends to become a major international producer and exporter of reactor generated nuclear medicine.

However this appears to be a misconceived and purposeless intention since nuclear medicine generated by reactor isotopes is in significant decline throughout the world due to its dangerous inherent state in being used in medical diagnosis and treatment

There is a world wide turning away by the medical profession from using reactor generated nuclear medicine because of its sever danger to patients coupled with its extremely high production costs.

More alternatives to this form of nuclear medicine are already extensively used as they are far safer and pose little risk to patients and additionally are much cheaper to produce with the involvement of major international drug companies

ARPANSA should seek the independent and expert assessment and review of the proposal and intentions by ANSTO as part of the licensing process for the increased storage facility for nuclear waste at Lucas Heights recently proposed by ANSTO

The assessment and review must include a financial examination to determine commercial and economic viability of the activities and proposals by ANSTO as this is an essential ingredient of the qualifications for the licence for the increased storage capacity

Since the suitably qualified experts for the assessment are not in Australia (as in any case this could create a conflict situation) ARPANSA will need to rely on and engage the highly qualified experts in this field available
from overseas

From the general tenor and prescriptions of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 and applicable regulations – which are referred to as the enabling legislation – it seems quite certain that the commercial and financial aspects must be included by ARPANSAin considering an application for a licence

This should be even more imperative since the funds sought by ANSTO for the increased storage capability at Lucas Heights are being provided by the federal government which is in direct and colloquial terms taxpayers’ money and it is an obligation of the government to protect public revenue and expenditure

There has never been any publicly released information by ANSTO on the financial aspects of the production and sale of its nuclear medicine but as justification for the production ANSTO has relied on the emotivearguments that in their lifetime everyone has or will have a need for nuclear medicine.

ANSTO claims that it has given to the government a recently commissioned independent study into future nuclear medicine supply in Australia and this study should be given to ARPANSA with all supporting information for assistance for its assessment and review as part of the licensing process.

Europe to pay half for raising Russia’s dangerous sunken submarines, – while Russia builds new ones!

December 25, 2021

The sunken submarines K-27 and K-159 are the potential source of contamination of the Arctic, the riskiest ones,”

As Moscow this spring took the Chair of the Arctic Council, the need to lift dangerous nuclear materials from the seabed was highlighted as a priority.

No other places in the world’s oceans have more radioactive and nuclear waste than the Kara Sea.

Europe to pay half … it is a dilemma that international partners are providing financial support to lift old Cold War submarines from the ocean, while Russia gives priority to building new nuclear-powered submarines threatening the security landscape in northern Europe. 

EU willing to co-fund lifting of sunken nuclear subs from Arctic seabed  https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/nuclear-safety/2021/11/europe-offers-pay-russia-raise-sunken-nuclear-subs The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) has decided to start a technical review aimed to find a safe way to lift two Cold War submarines from the Barents- and Kara Seas. By Thomas Nilsen   

“We are proceeding now,” says a smiling Jari Vilén, Finland’s Ambassador for Barents and Northern Dimension.

Projects aimed to improve nuclear safety are some of the few successful arenas for cooperation still going strong between the European Union and Russia.

“In roughly two years time we will have the understanding on what and how it can be done, what kind of technology has to be used,” Vilén elaborates with reference to the two old Soviet submarines K-159 and K-27, both rusting on the Arctic seabed with highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel elements in their reactors.

(more…)

While the French government promises a nuclear revival, its supreme auditing body warns of serious obstacles to this.

December 25, 2021

The Court of Auditors (Cour des comptes) is the supreme body for auditing the use of public funds in France. It is independent from the Government and Parliament. It has financial jurisdiction and is in charge of auditing, issuing rulings and certifying the State and Social Security accounts, as well as contributing to the evaluation of public policies.

Nuclear revival: the Court of Auditors highlights many obstacles  https://reporterre.net/Relance-du-nucleaire-la-Cour-des-comptes-pointe-de-nombreux-obstacles 19 Nov 21,

In a report published this Thursday, November 18, the Court of Auditors questions our “ability to build a new fleet of [nuclear] reactors on time and at reasonable costs”. This, while “maintaining a 50% nuclear share in electricity production (…) beyond 2050 would require ultimately not having seven EPR or EPR2, but 25 to 30 in the assumption that the current reactors would almost all be shut down by this time, ”the text specifies. And that the composition of the new mix must be decided between 2022 and 2027, believes the institution, given the delays in the construction of new plants.

The report from the Court of Auditors

In this document entitled “The choices of electricity production: anticipating and controlling technological, technical and financial risks”, the wise men of the rue Cambon recall the slippages of cost – 19 billion euros instead of the 3 billion planned – and of deadlines – at least eleven years late – of the Flamanville EPR site. “The gaps are similar for the Olkiluoto RPE in Finland,” they said. In July 2020, the Court of Auditors detailed these troubles at length in a report dedicated to the EPR sector.

Several points of real concern are mentioned.

One is the locations of these new reactors, “as climate change can make the installation of sites along rivers more complicated”.

Management of spent fuel and waste: the construction of new reactors planned to operate until 2100 would in fact involve “either renewing the fuel reprocessing plant at La Hague (…) and creating new sites for ‘warehousing and then disposal of nuclear waste, or to propose another mode of management of spent nuclear fuel and waste which would be, in such a hypothesis, much more voluminous ”, we read in the note.

Another imperative element for the implementation of this half-nuclear mix emphasized by the Court is “the start of the Cigeo radioactive waste disposal project” – a project that is also marred by many uncertainties.

The cost, finally. “EDF will not be able to finance the construction of new nuclear reactors on its own when it has to bear the cost of extending the current fleet and of the“ post Fukushima ”safety investments, face the future costs of dismantling and the uncertain evolution regulated access to historic nuclear power since its inception in 2011, and that it is already indebted to the tune of 42 billion euros, ”warns the Court of Auditors. The project to build six new EPRs had been estimated at 46 billion euros by EDF and could be half-financed by the state, as reported by Reporterre. The cost of the investment has since been reassessed from 52-56 billion euros to 64 billion euros, according to a working document released at the end of October by the media Context.

The implementation of a 100% renewable energy mix also represents many challenges, nevertheless warns the Court of Auditors. It would thus be necessary to define modalities for storing energy (batteries, etc.) at an affordable cost and to overcome implementation difficulties linked to geography, regulations and even social acceptability.

In any case, “the holding of an informed democratic debate would encourage choices made with full knowledge of the facts and then followed up with lasting effects”, recommends the institution. This debate could take place in 2023 during the preparation of the next multiannual energy program, the roadmap for France’s energy policy.

The publication of this report comes at a time when debates rage on the definition of the electricity mix of the future. On October 25, the electricity transmission manager unveiled its six electricity scenarios for 2050: three give pride of place to the atom. Less than three weeks later, Emmanuel Macron promised the construction of new nuclear reactors in France during a televised address.

Terra Power’s Natrium nuclear reactor will be an economic lemon

December 25, 2021

This host of factors makes it reasonably certain that the Natrium will not be economically competitive.

In other words, even if has no technical problems, it will be an economic lemon.


Ramana, Makhijani: Look before you leap on nuclear   
https://trib.com/opinion/columns/ramana-makhijani-look-before-you-leap-on-nuclear/article_4508639b-d7e6-50df-b305-07c929de40ed.html, Oct 16, 2021  

The Cowboy State is weighing plans to host a multi-billion dollar “demonstration” nuclear power plant — TerraPower’s Natrium reactor. The long history of similar nuclear reactors, dating back to 1951, indicates that Wyoming is likely to be left with a nuclear lemon on its hands.

The Natrium reactor design, which uses molten sodium as a coolant (water is used in most existing commercial nuclear reactors), is likely to be problematic. Sodium reacts violently with water and burns if exposed to air, a serious vulnerability. A sodium fire, within a few months of the reactor starting to generate power, led to Japan’s Monju [at left] demonstration reactor being shut down.

At 1,200 megawatts, the French Superphénix was the largest sodium-cooled reactor, designed to demonstrate commercial feasibility. Plagued by operational problems, including a major sodium leak, it was shut down in 1998 after 14 years, having operated at an average capacity of under 7 percent compared to the 80 to 90 percent required for commercial operation. Other sodium-cooled reactors have also experienced leaks, which are very difficult to prevent because of chemical interactions between sodium and the stainless steel used in various reactor components. Finally, sodium, being opaque, makes reactor maintenance and repairs notoriously difficult.

Sodium-cooled reactors can experience rapid and hard-to-control power surges. Under severe conditions, a runaway chain reaction can even result in an explosion. Such a runaway reaction was the central cause of the 1986 Chernobyl reactor explosion, though that was a reactor of a different design. Following Chernobyl, Germany’s Kalkar sodium-cooled reactor, about the same size as the proposed Natrium, was abandoned without ever being commissioned, though it was complete.

All these technical and safety challenges naturally drive up the costs of sodium-cooled reactors, making them significantly more expensive than conventional nuclear reactors. More than $100 billion, in today’s dollars, has been spent worldwide in the attempt to commercialize essentially this design and associated technologies, to no avail.

The Natrium design, being even more expensive than present-day reactors, will therefore be more expensive than practically every other form of electricity generation. The Wall Street firm, Lazard, estimates that electricity from new nuclear plants is several times more than the costs at utility-scale solar and wind power plants. Further, the difference has been increasing.

To this bleak picture, Terrapower has added another economically problematic feature: molten salt storage to allow its electric output to vary. Terrapower hopes this feature will help it integrate better into an electricity grid that has more variable electricity sources, notably wind and solar.

Molten salt storage would be novel in a nuclear reactor, but it is used in concentrating solar power projects, where it can cost an additional $2,000 per kilowatt of capacity. At that rate, it could add a billion dollars to the Natrium project.

This host of factors makes it reasonably certain that the Natrium will not be economically competitive. In other words, even if has no technical problems, it will be an economic lemon.

To top it all off, the proposed Wyoming TerraPower demonstration project depends on government funds. Last year, the Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial taxpayer funding; this may increase $1.6 billion over seven years, “subject to the availability of future appropriations” and Terrapower coming up with matching funds.

Despite government support, private capital has recently abandoned a more traditional project, the mPower small modular reactor, resulting in its termination in 2017. And it was Congress that refused to appropriate more money for the sodium-cooled reactor proposed for Clinch River, Tennessee when its costs skyrocketed, thereby ending the project in 1983.

A much harder look at the facts is in order, lest Wyoming add to the total of many cancelled nuclear projects and abandoned construction sites. Of course, the Natrium lemon might be made into lemonade by converting it to an amusement park if it is never switched on, like the Kalkar reactor, now refashioned into Wunderland Kalkar, an amusement park in Germany, near the border with the Netherlands. For energy, the state might look to its natural heritage – its wind power potential is greater than the combined generation of all 94 operating U.S. nuclear reactors put together, which are on average, about three times the size of Natrium.

M. V. Ramana is Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and the Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. Dr. Ramana holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Boston University.

Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, holds a Ph.D. in engineering (nuclear fusion) from the University of California at Berkeley.

‘Profiteers of Armageddon’: Report Reveals Who Benefits From US ‘Nuclear Modernization’ Plan

December 25, 2021

While “a handful of prime contractors” are the initial recipients and main beneficiaries of public money spent on bombers, missiles, and submarines, “the funds trickle down to subcontractors” that often include other prominent companies. The report names firms such as Bechtel, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

Hartung directs attention to the millions of dollars in political activities by key contractors, writing that “while not all of this spending is devoted to lobbying on nuclear weapons programs, these expenditures are indicative of the political clout they can bring to bear on Congress as needed to sustain and expand the budgets for their nuclear weapons-related programs.”

They also spent $57.9 million on lobbying last year, employing 380 lobbyists, over two-thirds of whom “passed through the ‘revolving door’ from top positions in Congress, the Pentagon, and the Department of Energy to work for nuclear weapons contractors as executives or board members.”

And it should be noted that the revolving door swings both ways,” the report adds, noting that “three of the past five secretaries of defense worked as lobbyists or board members of major nuclear weapons contractors before taking up their positions in the Pentagon: James Mattis (General Dynamics); Mark Esper (Raytheon); and Lloyd Austin (Raytheon).”

Profiteers of Armageddon’: Report Reveals Who Benefits From US ‘Nuclear Modernization’ Plan, While taking aim at special interest lobbying and corporate profits that impede “sensible” policy, the author argues the “only way to be truly safe from nuclear weapons is to eliminate them altogether.”      https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/10/12/profiteers-armageddon-report-reveals-who-benefits-us-nuclear-modernization-plan

JESSICA CORBETT  A short list of contractors that pour large sums of money into campaign contributions, lobbying, and industry-friendly think tanks benefits from the U.S. government’s ongoing, decadeslong “nuclear modernization” plan worth up to $2 trillion, according to a report out Tuesday.

The issue brief—entitled Profiteers of Armageddon: Producers of the next generation of nuclear weapons—was authored by William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy, who also outlined his report in Inkstick.

Hartung details how the U.S. departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) are ramping up a plan to build the next generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles, and submarines as well as warheads, and the beneficiaries are major contractors along with operators of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons complex.

The brief notes the U.S. nuclear weapons budget has climbed in recent years to over $43 billion in the Biden administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, and warns that “this figure will grow dramatically,” pointing to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that parts of the Pentagon’s plan “will cost tens of billions each over the next decade, including $145 billion for ballistic missile submarines, $82 billion for the new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), and $53 billion for the new nuclear-armed bomber.”

“And the costs will not end there,” the report continues, noting that “the estimated lifetime cost of building and operating the new ICBM is $264 billion.”

While “a handful of prime contractors” are the initial recipients and main beneficiaries of public money spent on bombers, missiles, and submarines, “the funds trickle down to subcontractors” that often include other prominent companies. The report names firms such as Bechtel, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

Hartung directs attention to the millions of dollars in political activities by key contractors, writing that “while not all of this spending is devoted to lobbying on nuclear weapons programs, these expenditures are indicative of the political clout they can bring to bear on Congress as needed to sustain and expand the budgets for their nuclear weapons-related programs.”

From 2012 to 2020, campaign contributions from contractors mentioned in the brief topped $119 million, more than a quarter of which was in the 2020 cycle alone. They also spent $57.9 million on lobbying last year, employing 380 lobbyists, over two-thirds of whom “passed through the ‘revolving door’ from top positions in Congress, the Pentagon, and the Department of Energy to work for nuclear weapons contractors as executives or board members.”

And it should be noted that the revolving door swings both ways,” the report adds, noting that “three of the past five secretaries of defense worked as lobbyists or board members of major nuclear weapons contractors before taking up their positions in the Pentagon: James Mattis (General Dynamics); Mark Esper (Raytheon); and Lloyd Austin (Raytheon).”

The brief also pushes back against “routinely exaggerated” claims about job creation that both companies and lawmakers use to promote nuclear weapons programs, and points out that contractors pump millions into supporting think tanks that opine on relevant policy.

Continued lobbying for the modernization plan “ignores the fact that building a new generation of nuclear weapons at this time will make the world a more dangerous place and increase the risk of nuclear war while fueling the new arms race,” Hartung argues. “It’s long past time that we stopped allowing special interest lobbying and corporate profits stand in the way of a more sensible nuclear policy.”

While asserting that “the only way to be truly safe from nuclear weapons is to eliminate them altogether,” in line with a global treaty that states with such weapons continue to oppose, Hartung also highlights that “the organization Global Zero has outlined an alternative nuclear posture that would eliminate ICBMs, reduce the numbers of bombers and ballistic missile submarines, and implement a policy of no first use of nuclear weapons as part of a ‘deterrence-only’ strategy that would reduce the danger of a nuclear conflict.”

Global Zero CEO Derek Johnson welcomed Hartung’s brief in a tweet Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Calif.) led the reintroduction of legislation (S.1219/H.R. 2603) to establish that “it is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first,” but the bill has not advanced in Congress, despite pressure from progressive lawmakers and campaigners.

Peace Action of Wisconsin’s Pamela Richard said in August that while activists encourage the passage of Warren and Smith’s bill as well as a related one (S. 1148/H.R. 669) from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), “our long-term goal is total nuclear disarmament.” 

The nuclear industry is dying. Bitcoin to the rescue?

September 14, 2021

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”

Zero-carbon [?] bitcoin? The owner of a Pennsylvania nuclear plant thinks it could strike gold

Talen Energy plans to build a $400 million bitcoin mine at its Pa. nuclear plant. “I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of nuclear plants.”

Could bitcoin mining be the salvation of the embattled nuclear energy industry in America?

The owners of several nuclear power plants, including two in Pennsylvania, have formed ventures with cryptocurrency companies to provide the electricity needed to run computer centers that “mine” bitcoin. Since nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, [ except that the whole nuclear fuel chain DOES] the project’s investors say, the zero-carbon [ a lie] bitcoin would address climate concerns that have tarnished the energy-intensive cryptocurrency industry.

  Talen Energy, the owner of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station near Berwick, Pa., announced this week that it has signed a deal with TeraWulf Inc., an Easton, Md. cryptocurrency mining firm, to build a giant bitcoin factory next to its twin reactors in northern Pennsylvania. The first phase of the venture, dubbed Nautilus Cryptomine, could cost up to $400 million.

Talen’s project could eventually use up to 300 megawatts — or 12% of Susquehanna’s 2,500 MW capacity. It’s the second bitcoin-mining venture in the last month that involves owners of Pennsylvania nuclear facilities.

Last month Energy Harbor Corp., the former power-generation subsidiary of First Energy Corp., announced it signed a five-year agreement to provide zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] electricity to a new bitcoin mining center operated by Standard Power in Coshocton, Ohio. Energy Harbor owns two nuclear units in Ohio and the twin-unit Beaver Valley Power Station in Western Pennsylvania.

A nuclear fission start-up, Oklo, also announced last month it signed a 20-year deal with a bitcoin miner to supply it with power, though the company has not yet built a power plant.

In recent years, commercial nuclear operators have struggled to compete in competitive electricity markets against natural gas plants and upstart renewable sources such as wind and solar. Unfavorable market conditions have hastened the retirements of several single-unit reactors, such as Three Mile Island Unit 1 in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Illinois have enacted nuclear bailouts, paid by electricity customers, to stave off early retirement for other plants.

The cryptocurrency deals would provide nuclear generators with reliable outlets for their power, and bitcoin miners with predictable sources of power at cheap prices, along with a zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] cachet…….

The nuclear industry views the crypto craze not as a crutch but as a launching pad for expansion. “U.S. nuclear power plants are ready and able to supply miners with abundant, reliable carbon-free [ but nuclear is NOT carbon-free] power while also providing new business pathways for the nuclear developers and utilities, increasing their operating profits, and potentially accelerating the deployment of the next generation of reactors,” John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and government affairs at Nuclear Energy Institute, said……

 Energy and cryptocurrency experts say several trends are shifting the market in favor of U.S. nuclear power producers. 

In May, Chinese regulators announced new measures to limit bitcoin mining in several regions that failed to meet Beijing’s energy-use targets. Bitcoin production levels have fallen since then, forcing bitcoin producers to relocate to places with low operating costs and cool climates to reduce the costs of cooling the bitcoin data centers. The state of Washington, which has lots of inexpensive hydroelectric power, has undergone a huge boom in bitcoin mining.

How mining is done

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer virtual currency, operating without a central authority, and which can be exchanged for traditional currency such as the U.S. dollar. It is the most successful of hundreds of attempts to create virtual money through the use of cryptography, the science of making and breaking codes — hence, they are called cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin mining is built around blockchain technology, and it involves generating a string of code that decrypts a collection of previously executed bitcoin transactions. Successful decryption is rewarded with a new bitcoin. The supply of bitcoins is limited to 21 million — nearly 90% have already been mined. So the remaining bitcoins become increasingly scarce and more difficult to extract

Data centers operated by bitcoin miners randomly generate code strings, called “hashes,” to solve the puzzle and earn new coins. Worldwide, miners on the bitcoin network generate more than 100 quintillion hashes per second — that’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 guesses per second, according to Blockchain.com. The first phase of the Nautilus project in Pennsylvania would generate five quintillion hashes per second.

Such guesswork requires muscular [doncha love that word ”muscular” when they mean ”huge”] computing power, robust internet connections, and lots of electricity. Smaller bitcoin miners have teamed up in consortiums to pool their computing power. Bigger players have built huge data centers devoted exclusively to producing lines of random code.

“Mining cryptocurrency is an international, profitable, and energy-intensive business,” ScottMadden a management consulting firm, said in a paper it published last year. Bitcoin mining consumes an estimated 0.5% of the electricity produced worldwide or about as much as the country of Greece. 

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”


………. Unlike other crypto projects in which the power generator is an arms-length electricity supplier, the Nautilus Cryptomine is a 50-50 venture between Talen and TeraWulf. The project would be directly connected to the Susquehanna plant — “behind the meter,” in industry parlance — and would avoid any transmission costs from the grid…….

The cryptomine would be located inside a 200,000-square-foot building — about four football fields. The mining operation would be built on a data center campus that Talen is developing next to the Susquehanna plant……..

“As you look across the United States, and you look at kind of the challenges that are facing nuclear plants, I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of plants,” said Dustin Wertheimer, vice president and divisional chief financial officer of Talen Energy   https://www.inquirer.com/business/cryptocurrency-bitcoin-pennsylvania-nuclear-power-talen-susquehanna-20210806.html