Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Despite the problems, small nuclear reactor salesmen aggressively marketing: it’s make or break time for the nuclear industry.

April 5, 2021

Entrepreneurs Look to Small-Scale Nuclear Reactors,   The American Society of Mechanical Engineers,  Mar 2, 2021, by Michael Abrams  ‘‘……… even concepts that are predicated on being small, modular, and fast to build seem locked into decades-long development cycles.

The key to reviving the nuclear power industry  is building these small reactors not as projects, but as factory-made products. That’s easier said than done. “Usually, a bunch of nuclear engineers go in a room and then they come out after a year or two, and they have a design that doesn’t have a lot of foundation in realty, and nobody can make it, and the projects dies,” said Kurt Terrani, a senior staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory………..

In terms of reactor physics, the NuScale concept is fairly bog standard: low-enriched uranium, light-water cooling. In essence, their reactor is just a smaller version of the nuclear plants already in operation. That NuScale didn’t go with a more revolutionary design to mitigate waste or utilize an alternative fuel cycle is no accident. To do so would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to come up with an entirely new licensing framework, said José Reyes, cofounder and chief technology officer at NuScale.

“Pressurized water-cooled reactors have benefited from billions of dollars of research and development and millions of hours of operating experience over the past 50 year,” Reyes said. “NuScale went with a more traditional approach to assure a design that is cost-competitive and capable of near-term deployment.” …………. The containment vessel will also sit underground in a giant pool capable of absorbing radiation from a leak. Multiple reactors would share the same pool. Being underground, they are also earthquake- and airplane-resistant. [ Ed. no mention of what would happen in the case of flooding, or of an emergency requirinfpeople to quickly respond underground] The company believes that its design is robust enough that utilities could site the reactors much closer to population centers, rather than in remote locations surrounded by an emergency planning zone.

So far, the concept and design have been convincing enough to win funding from the DoE and to move NuScale farther along in the regulatory process than any of its would-be competitors. “NuScale’s small modular reactor technology is the world’s first and only to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,”   NuScale set out to design a reactor that was small enough to transport to site, essentially complete. Not everyone agrees, however, that building out a power plant in 60-MW modules is optimal. “The whole idea of SMRs is that smaller is better,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. “But within the class of small reactors, larger is still better.  If you can design a reactor that is still simple, that  is still passively safe, that can still be built in a factory, but that generates 300 megawatts, that for sure is going to be more economically attractive than the same thing that generates 60 megawatts.” Buongiorno points to GE’s BWRX-300 concept as a potentially better option. It, too, is a light-water reactor with fuel rods and passive cooling. But its larger size makes it a more of a plug-and-play replacement for coal plants…… Holtec’s SMR-160 is intended to be installed deep underground; the steel containment vessel is strong enough to keep the core covered during any conceivable disaster. “ …… Other SMR designs are dispensing with solid fuel altogether. These reactors would instead dissolve uranium in a molten salt. Some of these designs are miniaturized versions of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment built by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960s………   The one downside to molten salt reactors is that the salts usually contain fluoride, which is extremely corrosive. Simplifying the mechanical design of the cooling system cuts down on the parts in danger of corroding, but the pins that will contain the fuel are still at risk…..

Make or Break for Nuclear

Moltex is aiming for build costs at around $2,000 per kW—more than wind or solar, but less than newly built coal or gas plants, let alone competing nuclear concepts. “We’ve believe we’ve come up with a concept that can radically reduce the cost of nuclear power,” ……   Other SMR companies are less aggressive with their cost estimates—NuScale has its scopes on a cost of around $3,600 per kW, while GE is aiming for less than $2,500—but still come in under conventional nuclear power. ……. Proof of whether those costs can be achieved will be actual construction and commissioning. “This decade will be very telling,” said Chicago’s Rosner. “It’s the make or break decade for nuclear.” Furthest along is NuScale, which in September 2020 announced its SMR design had been issued a standard design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That means the design can be referenced in an application for a construction permit—a big step, and one that had not been before achieved by a small modular reactor design. In August 2020, the NRC had completed its Phase 6 review and issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The company also announced in November that it had uprated its Power Module to 77 MW, which should improve its economics by around 25 percent…. The key is getting the cost and scale right.  https://www.asme.org/topics-resources/content/entrepreneurs-look-to-small-scale-nuclear-reactors

How the marketing of American weapons determines U.S. foreign policy on China

November 28, 2020

Key Pentagon Official Turned China Policy Over to Arms Industry & Taiwan Supporters  October 28, 2020,  The triumph of corporate and foreign interests over one of the most consequential decisions regarding China is likely to bedevil U.S. foreign policy for years to come, writes Gareth Porter. https://consortiumnews.com/2020/10/28/key-pentagon-official-turned-china-policy-over-to-arms-industry-taiwan-supporters/   By Gareth Porter
The Grayzone   

When the United States finalized a set of seven arms sales packages to Taiwan in August, including 66 upgraded F-16 fighter planes and longer-range air-to-ground missiles that could hit sensitive targets on mainland China, it shifted U.S. policy sharply toward a much more aggressive stance on the geo-strategic island at the heart of military tensions between the United States and China.

Branded “Fortress Taiwan” by the Pentagon, the ambitious arms deal was engineered by Randall Schriver, a veteran pro-Taiwan activist and anti-China hardliner whose think tank had been financed by America’s biggest arms contractors and by the Taiwan government itself.  

Since assuming the post of assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs in early 2018, Schriver has focused primarily on granting his major arms company patrons the vaunted arms deals they had sought for years.

The arms sales Schriver has overseen represent the most dangerous U.S. escalation against China in years. The weapons systems will give Taiwan the capability to strike Chinese military and civilian targets far inland, thus emboldening those determined to push for independence from China.

Although no U.S. administration has committed to defending Taiwan since Washington normalized relations with China, the Pentagon is developing the weapons systems and military strategy it would need for a full-scale war. If a conflict breaks out, Taiwan is likely to be at its center.

Returning Favors

Schriver is a longtime advocate of massive, highly provocative arms sales to Taiwan who has advanced the demand that the territory be treated more like a sovereign, independent state. His lobbying has been propelled by financial support from major arms contractors and Taiwan through two institutional bases: a consulting business and a “think tank” that also led the charge for arms sales to U.S. allies in East Asia.

The first of these outfits was a consulting firm called Armitage International, which Schriver founded in 2005 with Richard Armitage, a senior Pentagon and State Department official in the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

Schriver had served as Armitage’s chief of staff in the State Department and then as deputy sssistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. (Armitage, a lifelong Republican, recently released a video endorsement of Joseph Biden for president).

As a partner in Armitage International, Schriver was paid consulting fees by two major arms contractors — Boeing and Raytheon — both of which hoped to obtain arms sales to Taiwan and other East Asian allies to compensate for declining profits from Pentagon contracts.

Schriver started a second national-security venture in 2008 as president and CEO of a new lobbying front called The Project 2049 Institute, where Armitage served as chairman of the board. The name of the new institution referred to the date by which some anti-China hawks believed China intended to achieve global domination.

From its inception, The Project 2049 Institute focused primarily on U.S. military cooperation with Northeast Asian allies — and Taiwan in particular — with an emphasis on selling them more and better U.S. arms.

Schriver, known as the Taiwan government’s main ally in Washington, became the key interlocutor for major U.S. arms makers looking to cash in potential markets in Taiwan. He was able to solicit financial support for the institute from Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, BAE and Raytheon, according to Project 2049’s internet site, which provides no figures on the amounts given by each prior to 2017.

Equally important, however, is The Project 2049 Institute’s heavy dependence on grants from the government of Taiwan. The most recent annual report of the institute shows that more than a third of its funding in 2017 came either directly from the Taiwan government or a quasi-official organization representing its national security institutions.

Project 2049 received a total of $280,000 from the Taiwan Ministry of Defense and Taiwan’s unofficial diplomatic office in Washington (TECRO) as well as $60,000 from the “Prospect Foundation,” whose officers are all former top national-security officials of Taiwan.  In 2017, another $252,000 in support for Schriver’s institute came from the State Department, at a time when it was taking an especially aggressive public anti-China line.

By creating a non-profit “think tank,” Schriver and Armitage had found a way to skirt rules aimed at minimizing conflicts of interest in the executive branch.

The Executive Order 13770 issued by President Donald Trump in early 2017 that was supposed to tighten restrictions on conflicts of interest barred Schriver from participation for a period of two years “in any particular matter that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients….”

 

However, the financial support for Project 2049 from Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, General Atomics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, and from Taiwanese official and quasi-official bodies were considered as outside that prohibition, because they were not technically “clients.”

Big Wins for Supporters

Brought into the Pentagon at the beginning 2018 to push China policy toward a more confrontational stance, Schriver spent 2018 and the first half of 2019 moving proposals for several major arms sales to Taiwan — including the new F-16s and the air-to-ground missiles capable of hitting sensitive targets in China — through inter-agency consultations.

He secured White House approval for the arms packages and Congress was informally notified in August 2019, however, Congress was not notified of the decision until August 2020. That was because Trump was engaged in serious trade negotiations with China and wanted to avoid unnecessary provocation to Beijing.

Lockheed Martin was the biggest corporate winner in the huge and expensive suite of arms sales to Taiwan. It reaped the largest single package of the series: a 10-year, $8 billion deal for which it was the “principal contractor” to provide 66 of its own F-16 fighters to Taiwan, along with the accompanying engines, radars and other electronic warfare equipment.

The seven major arms sales packages included big wins for other corporate supporters as well: Boeing’s AGM-84E Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), which could be fired by the F-16s and hit sensitive military and even economic targets in China’s Nanjing region, and sea-surveillance drones from General Atomics.

In February 2020, shortly after Schriver left the Pentagon, the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen received the lobbyist in her office in Taipei and publicly thanked him for having “facilitated the sale of F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan and attached great importance to the role and status of Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific region.” It was an extraordinary expression of a foreign government’s gratitude for a U.S. official’s service to its interests.

Having delivered the goods for the big military contractors and the Taiwan government, Schriver returned to The Project 2049 Institute, replacing Armitage as chairman of the board.

Neocon Vision

The arms sales to Taiwan represented a signal victory for those who still hoping to reverse the official U.S. acceptance the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of all of China.

Ever since the 1982 U.S.-China Joint Communique, in which the United States vowed that it had “no intention of interfering in China’s internal affairs or pursuing a policy of “two China’s” or “one China, one Taiwan,” anti-China hardliners who opposed that concession have insisted on making the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which called for the United States to sell Taiwan such arms “as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability” as keystone of U.S. Taiwan policy.

The neoconservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC) led by William Kristol and Robert Kagan wanted to go even further; it pushed for the United States to restore its early Cold War commitment to defend Taiwan from any Chinese military assault.

Thus a 1999 PNAC statement called on the United States to “declare unambiguously that it will come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of an attack or a blockade against Taiwan, including against the offshore islands of Matsu and Kinmen.”

After leaving the World Bank in 2008 amidst a scandal involving his girlfriend, Paul Wolfowitz – the author of that 1999 statement on East Asia – turned his attention to protecting Taiwan.

Despite the absence of any business interest he was known to have in Taiwan, Wolfowitz was chairman of the board of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council from 2008 to 2018. The Project 2049 Institute was a key member of the council, along with all the major arms companies hoping to make sales to Taiwan.

During the first days of Wolfowitz’s chairmanship, the U.S.-China Business Council published a lengthy study warning of a deteriorating air power balance between China and Taiwan.  The study was obviously written under the auspices of one or more of the major arms companies who were members, but it was attributed only to “the Council’s membership” and to “several outside experts” whom it did not name.

The study criticized both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations for refusing to provide the latest F-16 models to Taiwan, warning that U.S. forces would be forced to defend the island directly if the jets were not immediately supplied.  It also called for providing Taiwan with land-attack cruise missiles capable of hitting some of the most sensitive military and civilian targets in the Nanjing province that lay opposite Taiwan.

The delicacy of the political-diplomatic situation regarding Taiwan’s status, and the reality of China’s ability to reunify the country if it chooses to do so has deterred every administration since George H.W. Bush sold 150 F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. That was, until Shriver’s provocative “Fortress Taiwan” sale went through.

The triumph of corporate and foreign interests in determining one of the most consequential U.S. decisions regarding China is likely to bedevil U.S. policy for years to come.  At a moment when the Pentagon is pushing a rearmament program based mainly on preparation for war with China, an influential former official backed by arms industry and Taiwanese money has helped set the stage for a potentially catastrophic confrontation.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist who has covered national security policy since 2005 and was the recipient of Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2012.  His most recent book is The CIA Insider’s Guide to the Iran Crisis, co-authored with John Kiriakou, just published in February.

This article is from The Grayzone