Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

US nuclear power: Status, prospects, and climate implications

August 4, 2022

that final abdication can’t rescue nuclear power, which stumbles33 even in countries with impotent regulators and suppressed public participation. In the end, physics and human fallibility win. History teaches that lax regulation ultimately causes confidence-shattering mishaps, so gutting safety rules is simply a deferred-assisted-suicide pact.

 Science Direct,  Amory B.Lovins,  Stanford University, USA    The Electricity JournalVolume 35, Issue 4, May 2022, 

Abstract

Nuclear power is being intensively promoted and increasingly subsidized in both old and potential new forms. Yet it is simultaneously suffering a global slow-motion commercial collapse due to intrinsically poor economics. This summary in a US context documents both trends, emphasizing the absence of an operational need and of a business or climate case.

In 2020, the world added1 5.521 GW (billion watts) of nuclear generating capacity—just above the 5.491 GW2 of lithium-ion batteries added to power grids. The average reactor was then 29 years old—39 in the United States, whose fleet is the world’s largest—so it’s not surprising that in 2020, maintenance or upgrade costs, safety concerns, and often simple operational uncompetitiveness caused owners worldwide to close 5.165 GW. The net nuclear capacity addition was thus the difference, 0.356 GW. Yet in the same year, the world added3 278.3 GW of renewables (or 257 GW without hydropower)—782× as much. Adjusted for relative US 2020 average capacity factors4, renewables’ net additions in 2020 thus raised the world’s annual carbon-free electricity supply by ~232× as much as nuclear power’s net additions did. That is, nuclear net growth increased the world’s carbon-free power supply in all of 2020 only as much as renewable power growth did every ~38 hours. Renewables also receive5 ~10–20 times more financial capital—mostly voluntary private investments—while nuclear investments used mainly tax revenues or capital conscripted from customers. These ratios look set to continue or strengthen6. Indeed, in 2021, world nuclear capacity fell by 1.57 or 2.48 GW—the seventh annual drop in 13 years9—while renewables were expected to add ~290 GW10.

In a normal industry, such market performance, let alone dismal economics (below), might dampen enthusiasm. Yet the nuclear industry’s immense lobbying and marketing power continues to yield at least tens of billions of dollars in annual public subsidies, still rapidly rising.

This reflects broad bipartisan support among US and many overseas political leaders (strong nuclear advocates lead seven of the ten nations with the biggest economies)—often contrary to their citizens’ preferences and, as we’ll see, to the goal of stabilizing the Earth’s climate. To explore this seeming paradox, here is my frank personal impression of nuclear power’s status, competitive landscape, operational status, prospects, and climate implications in the United States.

1. Status

When nuclear power emerged, from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, US utilities—vertically integrated, three-fourths private, technically and culturally conservative—didn’t want it. Yet powerful Federal actors offered heavily subsidized fuel and let them own it, largely relieved them of accident liability, and ultimately tempted and coerced them into a vast nuclear building spree, under implicit threat of displacing them with Federal nuclear utilities11………………….

As construction costs and durations relentlessly rose12, regulators and customers were assured their initial pain would usher in decades of low-cost generation. This too proved false. Some plants failed early, others’ operating costs rose, and decades later, owners are demanding huge new subsidies to keep running. After these scarifying experiences, capital markets are disinclined to invest in nuclear newbuild in the US or elsewhere. Contrary to a widely cultivated myth, the successive accidents (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daiichi) widely blamed for this rejection all occurred after the business case and investor confidence had collapsed13……

………………….The US supply chain to sustain the 93 existing reactors persists, more or less, but of the four original US reactor vendors, all have merged (GE with Hitachi), exited, or failed, most recently Westinghouse19—bought by Toshiba, bankrupted20 by its new US projects, then restructured by a Canadian private-equity partnership (which recently considered selling it21) to maintain the plants it once built. Export markets have proven elusive: as Siemens’ power engineering CEO foresaw in 199122, “The countries that can still afford our nuclear plants won’t need the electricity, and the countries that will need the electricity won’t be able to afford the reactors.” Yet strong government promotion persists…………… Market appetite for big new reactors is anemic overseas and zero at home—and only for as many smaller units as taxpayers will largely or wholly pay for……………….

US public acceptance of nuclear power fluctuates, and depends strongly on how, by whom, and to whom the question is put. Nuclear advocates reported an even split in the 2019 Gallup Poll25 after long and intensive publicity campaigns, though renewables attract far larger and more consistent support…………………..

After decades of intense political pressure, industry capture26 of US nuclear safety and security regulation appears complete, with rules and processes arranged to the operators’ liking. The skill and integrity of some US Nuclear Regulatory Commission technical experts are commendable, but on major matters, their role is only to advise, not decide. ………………  new “reforms” are taking a singularly dangerous turn: as I summarized elsewhere29,

SMRs’ [Small Modular Reactors’] novel safety30 and proliferation31 issues threaten threadbare schedules and budgets, so promoters are attacking bedrock safety regulations. . NRC’s proposed Part 5332 would perfect long-evolving regulatory capture—shifting its expert staff’s end-to-end process from specific prescriptive standards, rigorous quality control, and verified technical performance to unsupported claims, proprietary data, and political appointees’ subjective risk estimates.

(more…)

In Ukraine, with the blessing of the Western countries, those who are in favor of a negotiation have been eliminated – Jacques Baud

April 30, 2022

Retired Swiss Military-Intelligence Officer. Is it possible to actually know what has been and is going on in Ukraine? Jacques Baud, The Unz Review 02 Apr 2022

” ……………………………. Conclusions. As an ex-intelligence professional, the first thing that strikes me is the total absence of Western intelligence services in accurately representing the situation over the past year. In fact, it seems that throughout the Western world intelligence services have been overwhelmed by the politicians. The problem is that it is the politicians who decide — the best intelligence service in the world is useless if the decision-maker does not listen. This is what has happened during this crisis.

That said, while a few intelligence services had a very accurate and rational picture of the situation, others clearly had the same picture as that propagated by our media. The problem is that, from experience, I have found them to be extremely bad at the analytical level — doctrinaire, they lack the intellectual and political independence necessary to assess a situation with military “quality.”

Second, it seems that in some European countries, politicians have deliberately responded ideologically to the situation. That is why this crisis has been irrational from the beginning. It should be noted that all the documents that were presented to the public during this crisis were presented by politicians based on commercial sources.

Some Western politicians obviously wanted there to be a conflict. In the United States, the attack scenarios presented by Anthony Blinken to the UN Security Council were only the product of the imagination of a Tiger Team working for him — he did exactly as Donald Rumsfeld did in 2002, who “bypassed” the CIA and other intelligence services that were much less assertive about Iraqi chemical weapons.

The dramatic developments we are witnessing today have causes that we knew about but refused to see:

  • on the strategic level, the expansion of NATO (which we have not dealt with here);
  • on the political level, the Western refusal to implement the Minsk Agreements;
  • and operationally, the continuous and repeated attacks on the civilian population of the Donbass over the past years and the dramatic increase in late February 2022.

In other words, we can naturally deplore and condemn the Russian attack. But WE (that is: the United States, France and the European Union in the lead) have created the conditions for a conflict to break out. We show compassion for the Ukrainian people and the two million refugees. That is fine. But if we had had a modicum of compassion for the same number of refugees from the Ukrainian populations of Donbass massacred by their own government and who sought refuge in Russia for eight years, none of this would probably have happened.

Whether the term “genocide” applies to the abuses suffered by the people of Donbass is an open question. The term is generally reserved for cases of greater magnitude (Holocaust, etc.). But the definition given by the Genocide Convention is probably broad enough to apply to this case.

Clearly, this conflict has led us into hysteria. Sanctions seem to have become the preferred tool of our foreign policies. If we had insisted that Ukraine abide by the Minsk Agreements, which we had negotiated and endorsed, none of this would have happened. Vladimir Putin’s condemnation is also ours. There is no point in whining afterwards — we should have acted earlier. However, neither Emmanuel Macron (as guarantor and member of the UN Security Council), nor Olaf Scholz, nor Volodymyr Zelensky have respected their commitments. In the end, the real defeat is that of those who have no voice.

The European Union was unable to promote the implementation of the Minsk agreements — on the contrary, it did not react when Ukraine was bombing its own population in the Donbass. Had it done so, Vladimir Putin would not have needed to react. Absent from the diplomatic phase, the EU distinguished itself by fueling the conflict. On February 27, the Ukrainian government agreed to enter into negotiations with Russia. But a few hours later, the European Union voted a budget of 450 million euros to supply arms to the Ukraine, adding fuel to the fire. From then on, the Ukrainians felt that they did not need to reach an agreement. The resistance of the Azov militia in Mariupol even led to a boost of 500 million euros for weapons.

In Ukraine, with the blessing of the Western countries, those who are in favor of a negotiation have been eliminated.This is the case of Denis Kireyev, one of the Ukrainian negotiators, assassinated on March 5 by the Ukrainian secret service (SBU) because he was too favorable to Russia and was considered a traitor. The same fate befell Dmitry Demyanenko, former deputy head of the SBU’s main directorate for Kiev and its region, who was assassinated on March 10 because he was too favorable to an agreement with Russia — he was shot by the Mirotvorets (“Peacemaker”) militia. This militia is associated with the Mirotvorets website, which lists the “enemies of Ukraine,” with their personal data, addresses and telephone numbers, so that they can be harassed or even eliminated; a practice that is punishable in many countries, but not in the Ukraine. The UN and some European countries have demanded the closure of this site — but that demand was refused by the Rada [Ukrainian parliament].

In the end, the price will be high, but Vladimir Putin will likely achieve the goals he set for himself. We have pushed him into the arms of China. His ties with Beijing have solidified. China is emerging as a mediator in the conflict. The Americans have to ask Venezuela and Iran for oil to get out of the energy impasse they have put themselves in — and the United States has to piteously backtrack on the sanctions imposed on its enemies.

Western ministers who seek to collapse the Russian economy and make the Russian people suffer, or even call for the assassination of Putin, show (even if they have partially reversed the form of their words, but not the substance!) that our leaders are no better than those we hate — sanctioning Russian athletes in the Para-Olympic Games or Russian artists has nothing to do with fighting Putin.

What makes the conflict in Ukraine more blameworthy than our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya? What sanctions have we adopted against those who deliberately lied to the international community in order to wage unjust, unjustified and murderous wars? Have we adopted a single sanction against the countries, companies or politicians who are supplying weapons to the conflict in Yemen, considered to be the “worst humanitarian disaster in the world?”

To ask the question is to answer it… and the answer is not pretty.

About the author

Jacques Baud is a former colonel of the General Staff, ex-member of the Swiss strategic intelligence, specialist on Eastern countries. He was trained in the American and British intelligence services. He has served as Policy Chief for United Nations Peace Operations. As a UN expert on rule of law and security institutions, he designed and led the first multidimensional UN intelligence unit in the Sudan. He has worked for the African Union and was for 5 years responsible for the fight, at NATO, against the proliferation of small arms. He was involved in discussions with the highest Russian military and intelligence officials just after the fall of the USSR. Within NATO, he followed the 2014 Ukrainian crisis and later participated in programs to assist the Ukraine. He is the author of several books on intelligence, war and terrorism, in particular Le Détournement published by SIGEST, Gouverner par les fake newsL’affaire Navalny. His latest book is Poutine, maître du jeu? published by Max Milo.

This article appears through the gracious courtesy of Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement, Paris. more https://www.sott.net/article/466340-Retired-Swiss-Military-Intelligence-Officer-Is-it-Possible-to-Actually-Know-What-Has-Been-And-is-Going-on-in-Ukraine

Recent history sheds light on the Ukraine situation . Part Three- Denazification

April 30, 2022

Retired Swiss Military-Intelligence Officer. Is it possible to actually know what has been and is going on in Ukraine?
Jacques Baud, The Unz Review 02 Apr 2022


”………………………………………………………………….. Denazification

In cities like Kharkov, Mariupol and Odessa, the Ukrainian defense is provided by the paramilitary militias. They know that the objective of “denazification” is aimed primarily at them. For an attacker in an urbanized area, civilians are a problem. This is why Russia is seeking to create humanitarian corridors to empty cities of civilians and leave only the militias, to fight them more easily.

Conversely, these militias seek to keep civilians in the cities from evacuating in order to dissuade the Russian army from fighting there. This is why they are reluctant to implement these corridors and do everything to ensure that Russian efforts are unsuccessful — they use the civilian population as “human shields.” Videos showing civilians trying to leave Mariupol and beaten up by fighters of the Azov regiment are of course carefully censored by the Western media.

On Facebook, the Azov group was considered in the same category as the Islamic State [ISIS] and subject to the platform’s “policy on dangerous individuals and organizations.” It was therefore forbidden to glorify its activities, and “posts” that were favorable to it were systematically banned. But on February 24, Facebook changed its policy and allowed posts favorable to the militia. In the same spirit, in March, the platform authorized, in the former Eastern countries, calls for the murder of Russian soldiers and leaders. So much for the values that inspire our leaders.

Our media propagate a romantic image of popular resistance by the Ukrainian people. It is this image that led the European Union to finance the distribution of arms to the civilian population. In my capacity as head of peacekeeping at the UN, I worked on the issue of civilian protection. We found that violence against civilians occurred in very specific contexts. In particular, when weapons are abundant and there are no command structures.

These command structures are the essence of armies: their function is to channel the use of force towards an objective. By arming citizens in a haphazard manner, as is currently the case, the EU is turning them into combatants, with the consequential effect of making them potential targets. Moreover, without command, without operational goals, the distribution of arms leads inevitably to settling of scores, banditry and actions that are more deadly than effective. War becomes a matter of emotions. Force becomes violence. This is what happened in Tawarga (Libya) from 11 to 13 August 2011, where 30,000 black Africans were massacred with weapons parachuted (illegally) by France. By the way, the British Royal Institute for Strategic Studies (RUSI) does not see any added value in these arms deliveries.

Moreover, by delivering arms to a country at war, one exposes oneself to being considered a belligerent. The Russian strikes of March 13, 2022, against the Mykolayev air base follow Russian warnings that arms shipments would be treated as hostile targets.

The EU is repeating the disastrous experience of the Third Reich in the final hours of the Battle of Berlin.War must be left to the military and when one side has lost, it must be admitted. And if there is to be resistance, it must be led and structured. But we are doing exactly the opposite — we are pushing citizens to go and fight, and at the same time, Facebook authorizes calls for the murder of Russian soldiers and leaders. So much for the values that inspire us.

Some intelligence services see this irresponsible decision as a way to use the Ukrainian population as cannon fodder to fight Vladimir Putin’s Russia. It would have been better to engage in negotiations and thus obtain guarantees for the civilian population than to add fuel to the fire. It is easy to be combative with the blood of others.

4. The Maternity Hospital At Mariupol

It is important to understand beforehand that it is not the Ukrainian army that is defending Mariupol, but the Azov militia, composed of foreign mercenaries.

In its March 7, 2022 summary of the situation, the Russian UN mission in New York stated that “Residents report that Ukrainian armed forces expelled staff from the Mariupol city birth hospital No. 1 and set up a firing post inside the facility.” On March 8, the independent Russian media Lenta.ru, publishedthe testimony of civilians from Mariupol who told that the maternity hospital was taken over by the militia of the Azov regimentand who drove out the civilian occupants by threatening them with their weapons. They confirmed the statements of the Russian ambassador a few hours earlier.

The hospital in Mariupol occupies a dominant position, perfectly suited for the installation of anti-tank weapons and for observation. On 9 March, Russian forces struck the building. According to CNN, 17 people were wounded, but the images do not show any casualties in the building and there is no evidence that the victims mentioned are related to this strike. There is talk of children, but in reality, there is nothing. This does not prevent the leaders of the EU from seeing this as a war crime. And this allows Zelensky to call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

In reality, we do not know exactly what happened. But the sequence of events tends to confirm that Russian forces struck a position of the Azov regiment and that the maternity ward was then free of civilians.

The problem is that the paramilitary militias that defend the cities are encouraged by the international community not to respect the rules of war. It seems that the Ukrainians have replayed the scenario of the Kuwait City maternity hospital in 1990, which was totally staged by the firm Hill & Knowlton for $10.7 million in order to convince the United Nations Security Council to intervene in Iraq for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.

Western politicians have accepted civilian strikes in the Donbass for eight years without adopting any sanctions against the Ukrainian government. We have long since entered a dynamic where Western politicians have agreed to sacrifice international law towards their goal of weakening Russia………………. more https://www.sott.net/article/466340-Retired-Swiss-Military-Intelligence-Officer-Is-it-Possible-to-Actually-Know-What-Has-Been-And-is-Going-on-in-Ukraine

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.”

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.]

In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever.

April 30, 2022

As new renewable energy capacity continues to boom, nuclear power generation declined in 2021 and the industry’s future is grimmer than it has ever been. The post In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever appeared first on RenewEconomy.

In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever — RenewEconomy Renew Economy, Jim Green 11 Jan 22,

The decline was marginal (<1 per cent): a net loss of two power reactors (six start-ups and eight 8 permanent closures) and a net loss of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

The marginal decline makes for a striking contrast with renewables. The International Energy Agency calculates that new renewable capacity added in 2021 amounted to nearly 290 GW – that’s more than four times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity.

Nuclear power’s contribution to global electricity supply has fallen from a peak of 17.5 percent in 1996 to 10.1 percent in 2020. Renewables reached an estimated 29 per cent share of global electricity generation in 2020, a record share.

The ageing of the world’s reactor fleet is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, as is the ageing of its workforce — the silver tsunami. The average age of the world’s reactor fleet continues to rise and by mid-2021 reached 30.9 years. The mean age of the 23 reactors shut down between 2016 and 2020 was 42.6 years.

Primarily because of the ageing of the reactor fleet, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates up to 139 GW of lost nuclear capacity from 2018-2030 due to permanent reactor shutdowns, and a further loss of up to 186 GW from 2030-2050.

So the industry needs about 10 new power reactors (or 10 GW) each year just to maintain its 30-year pattern of stagnation. And there were indeed 10 reactor construction starts in 2021, six of them in China.

But the average annual number of construction starts since 2014 has been just 5.1. Thus, slow decline of nuclear power is the most likely outcome. An extension of the 30-year pattern of stagnation is possible, if and only if China does the heavy lifting. China has averaged just 2.5 reactor construction starts per year since 2011.

Phasing out nuclear power

The number of countries phasing out nuclear power steadily grows and now includes:

Nuclear power generation declined in 2021 and the industry’s future is grimmer than it has ever been.

The decline was marginal (<1 per cent): a net loss of two power reactors (six start-ups and eight 8 permanent closures) and a net loss of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

The marginal decline makes for a striking contrast with renewables. The International Energy Agency calculates that new renewable capacity added in 2021 amounted to nearly 290 GW – that’s more than four times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity.

Nuclear power’s contribution to global electricity supply has fallen from a peak of 17.5 percent in 1996 to 10.1 percent in 2020. Renewables reached an estimated 29 per cent share of global electricity generation in 2020, a record share.

The ageing of the world’s reactor fleet is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, as is the ageing of its workforce — the silver tsunami. The average age of the world’s reactor fleet continues to rise and by mid-2021 reached 30.9 years. The mean age of the 23 reactors shut down between 2016 and 2020 was 42.6 years.

Primarily because of the ageing of the reactor fleet, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates up to 139 GW of lost nuclear capacity from 2018-2030 due to permanent reactor shutdowns, and a further loss of up to 186 GW from 2030-2050

So the industry needs about 10 new power reactors (or 10 GW) each year just to maintain its 30-year pattern of stagnation. And there were indeed 10 reactor construction starts in 2021, six of them in China.

But the average annual number of construction starts since 2014 has been just 5.1. Thus, slow decline of nuclear power is the most likely outcome. An extension of the 30-year pattern of stagnation is possible, if and only if China does the heavy lifting. China has averaged just 2.5 reactor construction starts per year since 2011.

Phasing out nuclear power

The number of countries phasing out nuclear power steadily grows and now includes:

Germany: Fourteen reactors have shut down since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the final three reactors will close this year.

Belgium: The country’s seven ageing reactors will all be closed by the end of 2025.

Taiwan: Final reactor closure scheduled for 2025. Four reactors were shut down from 2018 to 2021 and only two remain operational.

Spain: Nuclear power capacity is expected to decline from 7.1 GW in 2020 to 3 GW in 2030 with the final reactor closure in 2035.

Switzerland: The government accepted the results of a 2017 referendum which supported a ban on new reactors and thus a gradual phase-out is underway. The Mühleberg reactor was shut down in 2019 and most or all of the remaining four ageing reactors are likely to be shut down over the next decade.

South Korea: Long-term (2060) phase-out policy with concrete actions already taken including the shut-down of the Kori-1 and Wolsong-1 reactors in 2017 and 2019 respectively, and suspension or cancellation of plans for six further reactors. The current plan is to reduce the number of reactors from a peak of 26 in 2024 to 17 in 2034.

Too cheap to meter or too expensive to matter?

Despite the abundance of evidence that nuclear power is hopelessly uncompetitive compared to renewables, the nuclear industry and some of its supporters continue to claim otherwise.

Those economic claims are typically based on implausible cost projections for non-existent ‘Generation IV’ reactor concepts. Moreover, the nuclear lobby’s claims about the cost of renewables are just as ridiculous.

Claims about ‘cheap’ nuclear power certainly don’t consider real-world nuclear construction projects. Every power reactor construction project in Western Europe and the US over the past decade has been a disaster.

The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors) was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$12.5 billion leading Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy in 2017. Criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the project are ongoing, and bailout programs to prolong operation of ageing reactors are also mired in corruption.

The only remaining reactor construction project in the US is the Vogtle project in Georgia (two AP1000 reactors). The current cost estimate of A$37.6-41.8 billion is twice the estimate when construction began. Costs continue to increase and the project only survives because of multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts. The project is six years behind schedule.

In 2006, Westinghouse said it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as A$2.0 billion, 10 times lower than the current estimate for Vogtle.

The Watts Bar 2 reactor in Tennessee began operation in 2016, 43 years after construction began. That is the only power reactor start-up in the US over the past quarter-century. The previous start-up was Watts Bar 1, completed in 1996 after a 23-year construction period.

In 2021, TVA abandoned the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant in Alabama, 47 years after construction began and following the expenditure of an estimated A$8.1 billion.

There have been no other power reactor construction projects in the US over the past 25 years other than those listed above. Numerous other reactor projects were abandoned before construction began, some following the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Western Europe

The only current reactor construction project in France is one EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville. The current cost estimate of A$30.1 billion — yes, over A$30 billion — is 5.8 times greater than the original estimate. The Flamanville reactor is 10 years behind schedule.

The only reactor construction project in the UK comprises two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point. In the late 2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was A$3.8 billion. The current cost estimate for two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point is A$41.6-43.5 billion, over five times greater than the initial estimate of A$3.8 billion per reactor.

In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in 2017, but construction didn’t even begin until 2018.

One EPR reactor (Olkiluoto-3) is under construction in Finland. The current cost estimate of about A$17.4 billion is 3.7 times greater than the original estimate. Olkiluoto-3 is 13 years behind schedule.

Nuclear power is growing in a few countries, but only barely. China is said to be the industry’s shining light but nuclear growth has been modest over the past decade and it is paltry compared to renewables (2 GW of nuclear power capacity added in 2020 compared to 135 GW of renewables).

There were only three power reactor construction starts in Russia in the decade from 2011 to 2020, and only four in India………………………………  https://reneweconomy.com.au/in-2022-nuclear-powers-future-is-grimmer-than-ever/

How the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body

December 26, 2021

AUSTRALIA CAPTUREDHow the military-industrial complex has captured Australia’s top strategic advisory body, MICHELLE FAHY, DECLASSIFIED AUSTRALIA 9 DECEMBER 2021

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has veered away from its founding vision of providing an array of independent diverse views, to now promote an aggressive militaristic solution to the heightened tensions in Australia’s region.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra is the government’s primary source of outside-government advice, research and analysis on military and strategic affairs. Since its establishment in mid-2001, it has veered away from its founding vision.

There is a jarring disconnect between the lofty goals of independence expressed in ASPI’s charter, and the infiltration of ASPI by tentacles of the military-industrial complex. This has been barely mentioned in Australia’s mainstream media.

Declassified Australia investigation has uncovered a casebook example of ‘state-capture’, with the development of deep connections between ASPI, and the world’s largest and most powerful military weapons manufacturers.

Australia is a significant participant in the global arms trade at present. Its $270-billion decade-long spending spree upgrading weapons and war machines is large by international standards, and Australia is increasingly becoming an arms seller too. As Australia moves militarily ever closer to the US, even defence insiders say the defence industry is ‘awash with money’.

The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen have made the world’s biggest weapons manufacturers richer, larger, and more influential. At the lesser-known end of the spectrum, the Yemen war is notable for its extensive human rights abuses and war crimes: it has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite pleas from the UN, the arms still flow and the war continues. The weaponry for this war has been supplied by the world’s top arms manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, and missile-maker Raytheon.

ASPI and the Weapons Lobby

The Australian subsidiaries of these and other global weapon-makers have been regular ASPI sponsors for years. Some of them have successfully used the back door to gain access to ASPI’s top table, its governing council. ASPI council members have included former senior military officers, defence ministers, and federal MPs who are also on arms and cyber company boards. It has also included former and current arms industry executives. The challenge to ASPI’s independence is large and real.

ASPI’s founding charter, since it was established in 2001 by then prime minister John Howard with bipartisan support from Labor leader Kim Beazley, declares it must ‘operate independently of Government and of the Defence Organisation’.

Further, it states that ‘the perception, as well as the reality, of that independence would need to be carefully maintained’. Thus, from the outset, the government was acknowledging how such an important think tank would be vulnerable to capture by vested interests, both ideological and commercial………..

Our investigation shows that the ASPI council has numerous members who represent or have close links to the military-industrial complex. Of the 11 non-executive directors on ASPI’s governing council, five sit on the boards or advisory boards of weapons or cybersecurity corporations, while numerous past council members have had similar connections.

The current council includes former Howard defence minister Robert Hill. He’s on the supervisory board of German weapon-maker Rheinmetall’s Australian subsidiary, which is supplying Defence’s $5 billion of Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles, and will soon also produce and export ammunition for the US Joint Strike Fighter program. Hill is also chair of Viva Energy Group, a major supplier of fuel to the Australian Defence Force (ADF)…………………….

Declassified Australia put questions to ASPI and the current council members. Dr Nelson declined to comment. No other council member responded by deadline. ASPI replied saying it manages conflict of interest matters in line with other Australian proprietary limited companies, and that ‘Council members will recuse themselves from discussions which may give rise to the perception of a conflict of interest matter’.

ASPI has a history of council members with interests in the defence industry. Jim McDowell was chief executive of BAE Systems in Australia for a decade, and then ran BAE in Saudi Arabia, where the Saudi military has since used BAE arms in the catastrophic war in Yemen. Returning to Australia, he was engaged by Liberal defence industry minister Christopher Pyne, and Defence, on numerous sensitive defence projects while also on ASPI’s Council. BAE Systems is in the running to provide Australia’s planned nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.

Former Labor senator Stephen Loosley’s Council membership, including seven years as chair, coincided with board roles at French arms multinational Thales Australia, manufacturer of the Austeyr, the service rifle for all the Australian military, as well as armoured vehicles, submarine sonars and munitions. The Thales group has been accused of selling weapons to the Indonesian military who are running a war in West Papua against the independence movement.

Former Labor defence minister Kim Beazley was an ASPI distinguished fellow for two years in 2016-2018. For the majority of that time he was on the board of Lockheed Martin Australia while writing regularly for ASPI, without ASPI disclosing his board position at Lockheed.

………..ASPI’s independence is drawn into question not just by its board appointees but also by some research fellows. One recent example is the former director of cyber, intelligence and security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Rajiv Shah, who cowrote a report on collaboration within the intelligence community that was sponsored by BAE Systems. Shah is now an ASPI fellow and a consultant to government and industry. ASPI does not disclose either in the report nor in his website bio Shah’s previous employment with BAE Systems, one of the world’s top 10 arms companies. Dr Shah did not respond to questions.

Declassified Australia does not imply any illegality by any past or present ASPI council members, fellows, or staff. The issue is the deep involvement of people associated with global weapons manufacturers, and the potential for, and perception of, conflicts with ASPI’s charter of independence.

The Reshaping of ASPI

At its foundation, the ASPI Council was instructed by the government to ensure its independence. As set down by the defence minister, it is required not only to be ‘politically non-partisan’ but also, most crucially, to ‘reflect the priority given to both the perception and substance of the Institute’s independence’.

The Howard government had envisaged that ASPI would do this by maintaining a ‘very small’ permanent staff while relying mostly on short-term contracts, secondments and similar arrangements for its research work. It would not publish views in its own name but would provide a forum for the views of a wide variety of outside experts.

20 years on, ASPI has morphed into a very different organisation.

A decision by Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd to make Stephen Loosley the ASPI Council chair in 2009, while Loosley was on the Thales Australia board, tested perceptions of independence. Then, in 2012, the Gillard Labor government appointed the current executive director directly from the senior position of Deputy Secretary of Strategy in the Defence Department. In the late 90s, Peter Jennings had been chief of staff to Liberal defence minister Ian McLachlan when the Howard Government first mooted the idea of creating ASPI.

Under this new leadership, ASPI set about expanding. Staff numbers have quadrupled in nine years from 14 to 60, plus there are now 29 research fellows and nine interns.

ASPI receives its core funding via a grant from the Defence Department. In 2018, the Morrison government approved a $20 million grant to cover five years’ of ASPI operations. In May 2021, this grant was increased by $5 million to cover two years of operations of a new Washington DC office.


Since 2012, ASPI has vigorously pursued additional funding. Within two years, annual income from commissioned research jumped from $37,000 to $1.1 million, and sponsorships were up 235% to $746,000. ASPI’s own-sourced revenue has continued to grow dramatically. In 2011-12, ASPI received less than $500,000 above its base funding, by 2020-21 it had exploded to $6.7 million.

The single largest source of ASPI’s funding in 2020-21, beyond its core funding, was from the US Government’s Departments of Defense and State ($1.58m), followed by additional funding from Defence ($1.44m) and other federal government agencies ($1.18m). The NSW and Northern Territory governments provided $445,000. In the private sector, the largest source was social media, tech and cybersecurity companies ($737,362), with Facebook ($269,574), Amazon ($100,000) and Microsoft ($89,500) being the largest. From the arms industry, ASPI received $316,636, with more than two-thirds of that coming from two of Australia’s largest defence contractors, Thales ($130,000) and BAE Systems ($90,000).

In 2019-20, Twitter gave ASPI $147,319 for its cyber research. Significantly, Twitter last week announced a partnership with ASPI said to be dealing with misinformation from the Chinese communist party that was seeking to counter evidence of human rights abuses in Xinjiang. As a result of ASPI’s research, thousands of “state-linked accounts” were shut down by Twitter.

While the cash from the arms industry may not appear substantial, as we have seen, the arms industry wields its major influence via its representatives finding their way on to seats at the top table.

The substantial extra funding from the US government, Defence and other Australian government departments, as well as corporate interests, provides a real challenge to ASPI’s responsibility to remain independent. It raises serious questions about undue influence, including foreign influence, at ASPI.

ASPI responded to our questions about protecting the perception of its independence by saying it retains ‘complete editorial independence on the material we choose to research’. It said it would not accept funding from parties attempting to constrain its editorial independence.

But just what does the US government get in return for its $1.57 million funding of ASPI, beyond its research projects on human rights violations, disinformation, and cybersecurity in China?

And what might BAE Systems get for its $90,000 grant to ASPI, other than a new report on the need for a ‘collaborative and agile’ intelligence community?

And what about Thales Australia, in return for its $130,000 grant to ASPI, beyond just being lead sponsor of the 2020 ASPI Conference?

The answer for them all, is ‘influence’.

ASPI’s role in advising the Australian government on defence strategy and procurements and cybersecurity would better serve the Australian people if it was to return to its original charter of researching and publishing a diversity of views from a position of uncompromised independence.

MICHELLE FAHY is an independent writer and researcher, specialising in the examination of connections between the weapons industry and government, and has written in various independent publications. She is on twitter @FahyMichelle, and on Substack at undueinfluence.substack.com   https://declassifiedaus.org/2021/12/09/australia-captured/?fbclid=IwAR0_MMo3hIrY7uDHK4d2l5M-nxdsGBFyA_6Xtim8jxjotqPkMXmFheeGNWM

Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey has misled South Australia, in greatly minimising the amount of Intermediate Level nuclear waste intended for Napandee farm site.

December 26, 2021

So on the basis of the above figures the amount of ILW contained in the big canister that Rowan mentioned is actually only 0.1 per cent by volume of the ILW intended for Napandee. (In other words the documented volume of ILW intended for Napandee is about 1000 times more than what he stated).

Andrew Williams, Fight to stop sa nuclear waste dump in South Australia, 1 Dec 21, Rowan Ramsey stated that the TN-81 canister in the Interim Waste Store at Lucas Heights is the only Intermediate Level Waste intended for Napandee. This is not correct.

The large canister that he mentioned contains reprocessed used nuclear fuel from the old decommissioned HIFAR reactor, which ARPANSA notes as having radioactivity at the higher end of the ILW range.

That means it must remain safe from people and the environment for 10,000 years according to International guidelines followed by the Australian regulator. Another load of reprocessed used nuclear fuel from the old HIFAR reactor is due back next year and is intended to end up at Napandee, in the same type of TN-81 container.

Of the waste intended for Napandee, this highly hazardous reprocessed nuclear fuel is the most radioactive. However there is a lot more intermediate level waste (ILW) than what is in these two big containers intended for Napandee. All of the reprocessed highly hazardous used nuclear fuel produced by the existing OPAL reactor over its operating life is intended for Napandee in years to come.

However during the production of radioactive isotopes (some of which are used in nuclear medicine) ILW is produced. The Australian Radioactive Waste Management Framework (2018) reports total ILW at 1770 cubic metres, with 95% by volume as federal gov. wastes. It is intended to produce a further 1,960 cubic metres over the next 40 years (all intended for Napandee), most of which will be produced at Lucas Heights. (This is documented and can be checked).

All of this ILW is intended to go to Napandee for up to 100 years of above ground storage. A TN-81 container can hold up to 28 canisters, each containing 150 litres of vitrified reprocessed fuel waste. 28×150 litres = 4,200 litres = 4.2 cubic metres. So on the basis of the above figures the amount of ILW contained in the big canister that Rowan mentioned is actually only 0.1 per cent by volume of the ILW intended for Napandee. (In other words the documented volume of ILW intended for Napandee is about 1000 times more than what he stated).

New files expose Australian govt’s betrayal of Julian Assange and detail his prison torment

December 26, 2021

The documents obtained by Tranter and provided to The Grayzone provide an unobstructed view of the Australian junior ally’s betrayal of one of its citizens to the imperial power that has hunted him for years. As Julian Assange’s rights were violated at every turn, Canberra appears to have been complicit. 

New files expose Australian govt’s betrayal of Julian Assange and detail his prison torment https://thegrayzone.com/2021/11/17/files-australian-julian-assange-prison/ KIT KLARENBERG· NOVEMBER 17, 2021

Documents provided exclusively to The Grayzone detail Canberra’s abandonment of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, and provide shocking details of his prison suffering

Was the government of Australia aware of the US Central Intelligence Agency plot to assassinate Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and journalist arrested and now imprisoned under unrelentingly bleak, harsh conditions in the UK? 

Why have the country’s elected leaders refused to publicly advocate for one of its citizens, who has been held on dubious charges and subjected to torture by a foreign power, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer? What does Canberra know about Julian’s fate and when did it know it?

The Grayzone has obtained documents revealing that the Australian government has since day one been well-aware of Julian’s cruel treatment inside London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison, and has done little to nothing about it. It has, in fact, turned a cold shoulder to the jailed journalist despite hearing his testimony of conditions “so bad that his mind was shutting down.”

Not only has Canberra failed to effectively challenge the US and UK governments overseeing Assange’s imprisonment and prosecution; as these documents expose in stark detail, it appears to have colluded with them in the flagrant violation of an Australian citizen’s human rights, while doing its best to obscure the reality of his situation from the public. 

(more…)

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) must be required to fully inform the Kimba community of the safety and financial risks of the nuclear dump

December 26, 2021

[importance of] the community at Kimba getting their own full and independent assessment and report on the government’s intentions for Napandee assisted by both government funding and by access to all records and information for that purposeAnother issue forThe Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)

NAPANDEE ASSESSMENT
It is the intention of ANSTO to store intermediate level nuclear waste at the proposed nuclear waste management facility at Napandee near Kimba in South Australia for an indefinite period but suggested to be 30 years

Since it is merely the storage of the intermediate level waste ANSTO is suggesting that it is not necessary to obtain any licences from ARPANSA for that purpose and consequently will not be making any application to ARPANSA in that regard

This is clearly against the concept of the enabling legislation and irrespective of this suggestion ARPANSA as the statutory regulator must insist on ANSTO having an appropriate licences for both the storage of the intermediate waste at Napandee and for the construction of the required facility for the increased storage capacity at Lucas Heights



Should there be any reluctance by ARPANSA in enforcing the licensing compliance by ANSTO then legal action will need to be taken by way of mandamus by interested parties which would be the Kimba community to make certain that the required licences will be sought by ANSTO

In order to ensure that the community position is fully protected ARPANSA should provide adequate funding either directly or by
government grant to the community to enable them to obtain proper and detailed legal advice and to undertake any appropriate actions that may be required or necessary to protect their position


This should be coupled with the community at Kimba getting their own full and independent assessment and report on the government’s intentions for Napandee assisted by both government funding and by access to all records and information for that purpose

This is an essential requirement for enabling the community at Kimba to understand and negotiate with full knowledge of the safety case required for the Napandee facility as the independent assessment will no doubt be critical of the inappropriate and unsuitable site selection and nature of the facility by way of above the ground storage

The special rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the sound management and disposal of hazardous substances including nuclear wastes and for the rights of indigenous peoples are aware of the Kimba community concerns and will monitor the situation and if necessary take appropriate action to ensure protection of their human rights