Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Top salesman for nuclear war – Lockheed Martin

March 9, 2017

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks.


Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers
 March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis

“……..Corporations that contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) for nuclear weapons complex work do not report revenues and profits from this work separately from their other military work, although they do break up government work from civilian work, and sometimes break up military work from other government work. Hence, it is not possible to determine profits made from nuclear weapons complex work from the annual reports and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings of large military corporations. However, it is possible to estimate, and to demonstrate how a significant amount of military R&D and production not recorded as nuclear weapons work is in fact partially nuclear weapons work. The nuclear weapons work financed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) is (not surprisingly) carried out in a semi-secret insiders club that insulates it from public knowledge and oversight. The first contracts for the upgrading of the nuclear weapons triads have already been awarded — one to Northrop Grumman — for a new generation of long-range bomber. But the public remains in the dark as to how many tens of billions of their tax dollars will be spent on the project.

From 2012-2014, according to Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report, the company realized an average of $46 billion a year in revenue, with an average of $3.2 billion in profits — 7 percent of revenue, and a 76 percent return on $4.2 billion of investor equity. The annual report informs us that 59 percent of 2014 revenue came from the Pentagon. We know from other sources that $1.4 billion a year is coming from the DOE for operation of the Sandia nuclear weapons lab, and we are estimating that an additional $600 million a year is coming for DOE nuclear weapons complex work. Information in the annual report indicates that around $6.1 billion came from foreign military sales. This adds up to around $35 billion of military revenue, or 75.3 percent of total 2014 revenue. The single biggest revenue earner in recent years is the F-35 jet fighter, bringing in $8.2 billion, 17 percent of total corporation revenue, in 2014. (William Hartung’s recent report describes additional aspects of Lockheed Martin’s military business, and his book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex provides extensive background).

The only references to Lockheed Martin’s nuclear weapons complex work in its 2014 annual report is a sentence noting provision of infrastructure and site support to the DOE’s Hanford complex, and a phrase noting continuing work on the Trident missile. The words “nuclear weapons” never appear in the report.

Lockheed Martin’s Nuclear Weapons Operations

In spite of the lack of mention in the annual report, Lockheed Martin is a partner with Bechtel ATK, SOC LLC and subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), in running the DOE Pantex Plant and the Y-12 Complex. Pantex does nuclear weapons life extension, dismantlement, development, testing and fabrication of high explosive nuclear warhead components. Y-12 stores and processes uranium, and fabricates uranium weapons components.

Lockheed Martin produced the Trident strategic nuclear missile for the 14 US Ohio-class nuclear submarines and for the four British Vanguard-class submarines. The 24 Tridents on each Ohio-class submarine each carry either eight or 12 warheads, all of them 20 to 50 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Each warhead is capable of killing most of the people in any one of the world’s largest cities — either immediately or later, from radiation, burns, other injuries, starvation and disease. Lockheed MArtin is not producing new Trident missiles now, but it maintains and modifies them. Previously, Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors received $65 million for each of the 651 Trident missiles, in addition to the $35 billion in earlier development costs.

The other primary strategic nuclear weapon delivery vehicle is Boeing’s land-based Minuteman III strategic missile, also with many warheads per missile. About 450 of them are in silos in Colorado and northern plains states. Lockheed Martin produced and continues to produce key systems for the Minuteman III, and plays a large role in maintaining them. It was awarded a $452 million contract for this work in 2014.

Lockheed’s Sandia Subsidiary

Regarding the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons upgrades planned for the next decade; particularly important is the role of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). Outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, this DOE lab’s 10,600 employees make 95 percent of the roughly 6,500 non-nuclear components of all seven US nuclear warhead types. Components arm, fuse, fire, generate neutrons to start nuclear reactions, prevent unauthorized firing, preserve the aging nuclear weapons stockpile and mate the weapons to the missiles, planes and ships that deliver them to targets. Sandia Corporation LLC, wholly owned by Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia. The DOE is spending at least $1.4 billion a year on Sandia nuclear weapons work. The secret Lockheed Martin nuclear warhead assembly plant uncovered in Sunnyvale in 2010 is an extension of Lockheed Martin’s Sandia operations. Again, none of this received any mention or revenue numbers in Lockheed Martin’s 2014 annual report.

Lockheed Martin Used Pentagon Dollars to Lobby Congress for Nuclear Weapons Funding

One of the uses of the billions of dollars from these contracts is to recycle them back into lobbying the government to push for additional conventional and nuclear weapons spending, as reported by William Hartung and Stephen Miles. Of course, in addition, these funds are used to support a general environment of fear and insecurity, through contributions supporting hawkish think tanks. Technically, the federal government does not allow military contracting firms to use awarded funds to lobby Congress. Lobbying funds must come from other parts of the companies’ businesses. In reality, this is a non-functional restriction, since profits from various business segments are fungible; that is, once they are profits, they are intermingled, so in reality, the firms can use the profits from military contracts to lobby Congress. But Lockheed Martin went ahead and spent military contract funds from 2008-2012 as part of the contract expenditures. It didn’t even bother to book the lobbying expenditures as expenditures of profits. In 2015, the US Department of Justice required Lockheed Martin’s Sandia subsidiary to repay $4.9 million of a Sandia contract award to the Pentagon that the firm had spent under the contract for lobbying of Congressman the DOE secretary and the secretary’s family and friends………http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39712-trump-is-bankrupting-our-nation-to-enrich-the-war-profiteers

Scrutinising ARPANSA’s Information for Stakeholders on nuclear radioactive waste facility

February 1, 2017

Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth Noonan, David
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.


Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility

Summary

Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:

The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.

The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.

ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.

ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.

The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.

The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.

ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.

The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.

The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.

It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.

Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. (more…)

Pros and cons of tax-payer subsidies for nuclear power

February 1, 2017

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long.

Should troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized? http://bangordailynews.com/2017/01/13/the-point/compete-or-suckle-should-troubled-nuclear-reactors-be-subsidized/ By Peter Bradford, The Conversation

Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and consumer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place and more subsidies follow.

Today, the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.

Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to $5 billion apiece, Forbes magazine in 1985 called nuclear power “the greatest managerial disaster in business history … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money [$265 billion by 1990] has been well spent.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Chair Lewis Strauss’ 1954 promise that electric power would be “ too cheap to meter” is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.

As late as 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission forecast that the U.S. would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today, we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990. Since 2012, power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by midcentury. Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.

The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today’s prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.

Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.

When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977 through 1982, it issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn’t avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today’s nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.

Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets

During nuclear power’s growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s, many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.

Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.

To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.

Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.

Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster than had been expected, and it is now being bid into several power markets — notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York has taken by committing at least $7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.

Nuclear power versus other carbon-free fuels  While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

In California, these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support nuclear units.

If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.

Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.

The industry’s final argument — that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not — ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.

Nuclear energy’s essential components — reactors and enriched uranium fuel — were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.

The U.S. government also has pledged to dispose of nuclear power’s most hazardous wastes — a promise that has never been made to any other industry. By 2020, taxpayers will have paid some $21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.

Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, each plant owner’s accident liability is limited to some $300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed $100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors. The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.

Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some $70 billion in excessive nuclear costs. Today, the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.

Christopher Crane, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, “I’ve talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes.“

But he’s right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It’s time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.

Peter Bradford is a the former chair of the Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commissioner. He also is on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. This piece was originally published on TheConversation.com.

Illegal lobbying by USA nuclear weapons firms

February 1, 2017

Nuclear weapon firms pay to settle illegal lobbying cases http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/12/21/nuclear-weapon-firms-pay-settle-illegal-lobbying-cases/95609254/

Altogether, the three companies making these settlement payments since 2013 are involved in the operation of six of the eight active sites in the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons program. Actions by the Energy Department’s contractors – including any misspending – have substantial impact there, since contract work consumes roughly 90 percent of its total spending.

Although work on energy generation and consumption garners more public attention and President-elect Donald Trump has nominated an oil-state politician – former Texas governor Rick Perry – to become the department’s new top manager, nuclear weapons-related work accounts for nearly two-thirds of all the Energy Department’s activities.

The latest case emerged from a civil lawsuit that accused two companies of both performing substandard work at a nuclear weapons-related waste site and said one of them had improperly spent government funds to lobby for more. The companies declared on Nov. 23 they would settle the allegations by making the payment, mostly to the federal government, for a total of $125 million, a massive amount for alleged Energy Department-related malfeasance.

The settlement involves work by Bechtel National Inc. and its parent Bechtel Corp., and URS Corp. and its subsidiary URS Energy and Construction Inc., which together have been trying to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Washington. That’s where raw uranium was enriched into fuel for nuclear bombs during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War.

The firms have denied doing anything improper. But the settlement is part of an emerging pattern.

Lockheed Martin Corp., which operates one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories – Sandia, agreed in August 2015 to pay $4.7 million to settle a complaint by the Justice Department that it used federal funds to lobby for a no-bid contract extension, while Fluor Corp. paid $1.1 million in April 2013 to settle accusations that it used federal funds to lobby government agencies for more business at its Hanford training facility.

Worries about the mission being underminedBesides overseeing the Hanford cleanup, Bechtel and URS (now owned by a company called AECOM) help operate the other two U.S. nuclear weapons labs — Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, which perform the bulk of U.S. nuclear weapons design work. Altogether, the firms that have reached the settlements since 2013 are involved with operations at Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico, Livermore in California, the Pantex Plant in Texas, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.

The recent settlement “demonstrates that the Justice Department will work to ensure that public funds are used for the important purposes for which they are intended,” Benjamin C. Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a written statement released on Nov. 23.

Money allocated by Congress for Hanford  “is intended to fund the Department of Energy’s important mission to clean up the contaminated Hanford nuclear site, and this mission is undermined if funds are wasted on goods or services that are not nuclear compliant or to further lobbying activities,” Mizer said.

Both Bechtel and AECOM in written statements said the settlements were made to avoid messy litigation and keep the waste plant project moving. “We have performed our work…ethically and professionally,” Bechtel National Inc. spokesman Fred deSousa said in a written statement, without going into details.

In its own written statement, AECOM — which acquired URS in 2014 — complained that the Department of Justice joined the whistleblowers’ “unwarranted lawsuit against URS” based on events that preceded AECOM’s acquisition of the company. “We take our responsibilities as a government contractor very seriously and have a demonstrated track record of serving our customers with honesty and integrity,” the company’s statement said.

The Justice Department’s involvement in the case originated in civil allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing in Hanford’s Waste Treatment and Isolation Plant project, commonly called “WTP.” Under its contract with the Energy Department, Bechtel designed and is constructing machinery to convert nuclear-tainted wastes there into a stable, glassy substance suitable for safe disposal.

Three whistleblowers — Walt Tamosaitis, Donna Busche and Gary Brunson — filed a lawsuit on Feb. 4, 2013, accusing Bechtel and URS bosses of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds over a dozen years that together cost the government more than $1 billion. They also said safety lapses at the site, motivated by a desire to meet Energy Department deadlines and collect financial bonuses, were serious enough to risk a nuclear accident.

The whistleblowers’ complaint triggered an investigation by the Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General, which collected emails sent between Bechtel’s project leaders, the company’s top congressional lobbyist for nuclear projects, and Energy Department employees. The whistleblowers’ attorneys subsequently obtained the emails through the civil discovery process and incorporated them into an amended complaint. The Justice Department, in turn, used the complaint as the basis for its own investigation of Bechtel and URS.

Getting $45 million in new work

In the complaint, the whistleblowers said that when they originally lodged accusations of mismanagement – several years earlier — Bechtel project leaders launched a coordinated lobbying campaign to defend itself and also to collect new revenues for additional work on the waste treatment plant project. It then billed the department for the costs of this lobbying, the complaint said.

In an email sent by one Bechtel manager to another — along with a chart detailing the work that the company could say the additional revenue would finance — the manager said “in reality if we did not receive the additional $50m … most of these activities would still likely happen,” according to the whistleblowers’ complaint. The company subsequently got $45 million added to its contract.

The full emails detailing these actions have not been publicly released, by either the government or the plaintiffs, because the messages are part of an investigation that remains “open and ongoing,” according to Felicia Jones, spokeswoman for the Energy Department Office of Inspector General. She declined to say whether her colleagues consider the whistleblowers’ description of the emails accurate.

The Justice Department’s statement affirmed that it had “alleged that Bechtel National Inc. and Bechtel Corp. improperly claimed and received government funding for lobbying activities.” But Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Nava declined to comment about the whistleblower’s account of specific emails.

Lobbying Congress for new work isn’t against the law. But billing the government for lobbying is, according to the federal Byrd Amendment, approved by Congress in 1989. Court records state that Bechtel will pay $67.5 million of the settlement, and AECOM will pay $57.5 million; the amount of money that will go to the whistleblowers – who are entitled to a portion of any funds they help the government recover — has not been determined yet.

Charles Curtis, who oversaw the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons work from 1994 to 1997 while serving as undersecretary and then deputy secretary, said he was not aware of any improperly-funded lobbying during his tenure. But he expressed surprise that multiple contractors within the past three years have been caught doing it. “These are for-profit enterprises. They can use their shareholders’ money for lobbying, but to use congressionally appropriated money [is] a diversion of funds,” Curtis said. “It’s not only unethical … it’s illegal.”

 Three years ago, it was the Fluor Corporation and its subsidiary Fluor Hanford Inc., which at the time held the contract to manage the Hanford site, that agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a separate complaint that its officials lobbied with government money from 2005 to 2010 to drum up business for a federally funded training facility there.   Loydene Rambo, a Fluor employee, triggered the settlement by filing her own whistleblower suit, based on what she described as records of the lobbyists being paid with federal funds. She received a $200,000 reward, and Fluor denied any wrongdoing.

The Justice Department’s August 2015 settlement with Lockheed Martin Corporation, which runs Sandia, similarly followed improper billing of the government for a more complex and elaborate lobbying effort to extend its management contract, according to a special investigation report released by the Energy Department Office of Inspector General. Lockheed agreed to pay $4.7 million in 2015 to settle the Justice Department’s complaint about the billing. Like Fluor before it and Bechtel and URS since, Lockheed Martin in a written statement denied it had done anything wrong.

Asked by the Center about how the lobbying settlements have affected the department’s relationship with its nuclear weapons contractors, Energy Department spokeswoman Bridget Bartol said in an email that “the Department has taken and will continue to take vigorous action against any contractor who spends federal funds on improper lobbying activities.”

Bechtel remains the primary contractor on the WTP project, and Lockheed Martin still holds the contract to operate Sandia National Laboratories.

Cleanup of the Hanford site was authorized 25 years ago, and as of 2000 it was expected to cost $4.3 billion and be completed in 2011. The Department now estimates it may not be fully operational until 2037, according to pleadings filed in federal court by government lawyers defending the Energy Department in a lawsuit brought by the state of Washington to force an acceleration of the cleanup. If the job is funded at its current level of about $690 million a year until 2037, the cost would exceed $15 billion.

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is mindful of the project’s problems and growing price tag. A recent memo to top Energy Department officials from the transition team he appointed asked them to describe “your alternatives to the ever increasing WTP cost and schedule, whether technical or programmatic.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, investigative newsroom in Washington, D.C. More of its national security reporting can be found here.

German nuclear compensation court case a precedent for limiting the greed of the nuclear industry

February 1, 2017

 Limiting the greed of the nuclear industry http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-limiting-the-greed-of-the-nuclear-industry/a-36664176 The German Constitutional Court’s decision that an accelerated nuclear phase-out is legal, and limiting compensation for energy companies is good news, says DW’s Gero Reuter. This could even set a precedent for coal.

“Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good,” states article 14 of the German constitution. At the same time, the German constitution demands that expropriation is permissible for the public good, and will be compensated after balancing the interests of everyone affected.

That’s the most crucial background to Germany’s biggest power companies – Eon, RWE and Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall – having filed lawsuits against the German government. They asked for compensation for the government’s decision in 2011 to hurry through shutdown of nuclear reactors in the wake of the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima reactor.

According to the energy companies, the nuclear phase-out is an unconstitutional expropriation of their power plants and possible energy production. They had asked for compensation of around 19 billion euros ($20 billion), which was supposed to be shelled out by taxpayers – around 230 euros from each citizen, babies to pensioners.

This week, Germany’s Constitutional Court mostly rejected their claims, saying the law for a nuclear phase-out from 2011 “is mostly compatible with Germany’s constitution.”

Only long-term investments that the power companies made between December 2010 and March 2011 are eligible for compensation, the court ruled, as the German government agreed to a maximum lifetime extension of nuclear power plants for 12 years in 2010.

What’s more, Germany’s Constitutional Court said some of the power companies received unequal treatment, and thus ruled that the German government has to adjust the law accordingly by June 2018.

Good news for taxpayers and the environment

The ruling is good news for taxpayers and the environment, as it will limit the greed of power companies to tap even more subsidies at the expense of public health, the environment and government budgets.

As to the requested compensation costs of around 19 billion euros – fortunately there’s not much left to this argument. It’s possible that the German government won’t have to pay anything to the energy companies at all. If worse comes to worse, it may pay a billion euros. This all depends on how the state will define unequal treatment of the different energy companies over the months to come.

What’s even more positive and groundbreaking is the legal reasoning behind the ruling. Germany’s Constitutional Court stressed several times that it attaches great importance to the protection of life, health and natural resources, and to the minimization of risks through the use of nuclear energy. It also said this could lead to an even faster nuclear phase-out, and that the German government could change its laws after the fact.

Thinking into the future, this decision could set a precedent for legal support to Germany being on the necessary path to withdraw from coal-powered electricity, and to shorten the long-term operating licenses power companies retain for mining lignite (brown coal).

The energy companies should carefully study this decision, and read between the lines to see how the German constitution truly works. “Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.”

And if companies don’t use their property for the public good, then the state can expropriate this under certain circumstances. Obviously, the state then has to pay an appropriate compensation fee after balancing the interests of everyone involved – that’s fair.

But it should pay only what’s fair and not a cent more – especially not for big, powerful energy companies.

German government compensates nuclear industry in exit from nuclear power

February 1, 2017

German nuclear operators to get compensation for nuclear exit: court http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/london/german-nuclear-operators-to-get-compensation-26613982 London (Platts)–6 Dec 2016

* German supreme court says some rights violated by nuclear exit

* But confirms general constitutionality of exit law
* Government needs to set compensation framework by June 2018

Germany’s supreme court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) on Tuesday confirmed that the nuclear exit law from July 2011, although generally conforming with the German constitution, in part violates the property rights of nuclear operators.

Nuclear operators E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall brought the lawsuit after the government decided in 2011 to reverse its planned extension of nuclear runtimes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, replacing remaining production quotas with a set deadline for the closure of reactors and a complete phase out of nuclear power by the end of 2022.

The court in Karlsruhe declared that the government needs to put in place “appropriate” compensation for investment based on the initial plan to extend runtimes by around 12 years after the 2009 elections.

The new compensation rules need to be in place by June 30, 2018, the court said in a statement

It did not give any guidance on the compensation sum.

According to a report by German news agency dpa, the operators so far have not quantified their compensation demands, speaking only of “massive economic damage” with dpa quoting estimates of around Eur19 billion.

In October, the government cleared the way for a financial solution to the nuclear storage issues with new rules under which the nuclear operators will pay a combined Eur23.5 billion into a state-run fund for the financing of mid- and long-term nuclear storage in Germany.

In return, the nuclear operators will be released from liability for interim and final storage of nuclear waste, but remain solely responsible for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants as well as the transport of the nuclear waste to the storage repository.

–Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com
–Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com

Obama and Trudeau move to stop offshore oil drilling in the Arctic

December 21, 2016

Obama Said to Use 1953 Law to Restrict Offshore Oil Drilling  Bloomberg, by 

Jennifer A Dlouhy and Josh Wingrove   December 21, 2016, 
  • Move to permanently protect parts of Atlantic, Arctic
  • Canada to join in coordinated announcement of restrictions

President Barack Obama is preparing to block the sale of new offshore drilling rights in most of the U.S. Arctic and parts of the Atlantic, a move that could indefinitely restrict oil production there, according to people familiar with the decision.

Obama will invoke a provision in a 1953 law that gives him wide latitude to withdraw U.S. waters from future oil and gas leasing, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced. Until now the law has been used mostly to permanently preserve coral reefs, walrus feeding grounds and marine sanctuaries.

Related actions by Canada, including a possible five-year pause on some activity in its share of the Beaufort Sea north of Canada’s Northwest Territories, will be announced at the same time as the U.S. action, the people said.

“If the reports are right, then this is a gift to the public and to our kids that will rank with any in the history of American conservation,” said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Coming in the waning days of his administration, Obama’s move — set to be announced Tuesday — responds to a clamor from environmental activists who have looked for a way to lock in protections before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

Read more: Offshore Drilling Foes Invoke 1953 Law to Prod Obama

Environmentalists said the action would further bolster Obama’s legacy as the president who has done more than any other to combat climate change, because it would illustrate he believes the warming Earth can’t afford the oil and gas locked under the Arctic and Atlantic waters targeted for protection.

“If President Obama acts to permanently protect important areas of the Atlantic Ocean from offshore drilling, he will be making a good decision — a smart business decision — based on science and facts,” said Jacqueline Savitz, a senior vice president with the conservation group Oceana. “This decision would help to protect existing lucrative coastal tourism and fishing businesses from offshore drilling, which promises smaller, short-lived returns and threatens coastal livelihoods.”………

Trudeau Pledge

The U.S. move is expected to be paired with action from Canada, following a March pledge by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Obama to collaborate in managing the Arctic, including taking unspecified “concrete steps” to protect at least 10 percent of its water.

Although some oil companies hold exploration rights in Canada’s Beaufort waters, no drilling is currently taking place. Activity there is now stalled or uneconomical, said Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor.

Obama’s decision takes advantage of oil and gas companies’ relatively lackluster interest in Arctic waters, where exploration costs are high and development can take a decade or more. Oil companies spent more than $2.5 billion nabbing drilling rights in the region, but relinquished many of those claims as low crude prices forced them to cut spending…..

Environmentalists have been laying the groundwork for Obama’s decision by circulating memos on the legal strategy and highlighting how oil spills could devastate wildlife in the Arctic and tourism on the U.S. East Coast.

“The Trump administration has the potential to do serious damage to our climate — but in the last few months of his presidency, President Obama can take concrete steps to secure his environmental legacy,” NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer said in a recent letter.  https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-19/obama-said-to-use-1953-law-to-block-drilling-in-arctic-atlantic

The legal barriers to Australia importing nuclear wastes

November 21, 2016

Nuclear waste debate re-emerges in Australia. Moulis Legal 17.11.16

“…….A long history of talk but with little “legal” support

South Australia’s proposal to encourage the world to export its high-level nuclear waste to Australia is in stark contrast to the previous positions of both the Federal and South Australian Governments. Moreover, significant reform to State laws and to existing Federal practice would be required to facilitate the proposal, none of which has been formulated.

In 1998, the responsible Federal Minister condemned a recommendation by nuclear waste management consortium Pangea Resources for a repository for international high-level nuclear waste in the Western Australian outback. He reiterated Australia’s long-standing bipartisan opposition to such a development:

…no high level radioactive waste facility is planned for Australia and the government has absolutely no intention of accepting the radioactive waste of other countries. The policy is clear and absolute and will not be changed. We will not be accepting radioactive waste from other countries.1

After only cursory consideration of the repository idea in 1998, Western Australia actually went the other way, passing a law to make it illegal to establish a nuclear waste storage facility in the State, or to use any part of the State to store or dispose of nuclear waste, or to even transport nuclear waste in the State.2

Other Australian states – New South Wales;3 Queensland;4 Victoria;5 and South Australia6 – have enacted similar legislation either completely prohibiting a nuclear waste facility in their jurisdiction or making it necessary to seek certain approvals to build one. These legislative constraints would first need to be addressed before any facility were to be capable of being built in any of those States.

At a Federal level, a nuclear waste facility is not prohibited, however the statute responsible for creating the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (“ARPANSA”) also places a blanket ban the construction of nuclear fuel fabrication plants, power plants, enrichment plants and reprocessing facilities.

ARPANSA can permit imports of radioactive waste

Despite the above State prohibitions on the building of nuclear waste facilities and on the transportation of nuclear waste, no absolute prohibition applies to the importation of radioactive waste into Australia. Regulation 4R of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 (“the Regulations”) stipulates that radioactive substances can be imported into Australia, but only if permission has been granted by the Customs Minister or an authorised officer, such as the CEO of ARPANSA.7

ARPANSA administers Australia’s rights and obligations under a number of specific international treaties, with the most relevant to radioactive waste disposal and storage being the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (“IAEA”) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management(“the Joint Convention”) which was ratified by Australia in 2003.

The discretion under regulation 4R of the Regulations to approve radioactive imports has rarely been afforded with respect to radioactive waste and never on a premise of the commercial disposal of international nuclear waste. ARPANSA officials readily advise interested parties that “current Commonwealth Government policy prohibits importation of spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste of foreign origin into Australia”.

The international framework

The Joint Convention enforces a commitment to achieving and maintaining a consistently high-level of safety in the management, transboundary movement and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Joint Convention notes:

… radioactive waste should, as far as is compatible with the safety of the management of such material, be disposed of in the State in which it was generated, whilst recognizing that, in certain circumstances, safe and efficient management of spent fuel and radioactive waste might be fostered through agreements among [the] Parties to use facilities in one of them for the benefit of the other Parties, particularly where waste originates from joint projects8

These principles are also recognised in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to which Australia is also a party.9 The Joint Convention also recognises that any state has the right to ban import into its territory of foreign spent fuel and radioactive waste.10

Additionally, just as Australia exports unspent nuclear material, being uranium, to foreign countries under safeguards, countries like Canada do too. Those safeguards are essentially accounting and inspection procedures designed to ensure that neither the uranium nor any by-product of it (such as plutonium) could be used to contribute to the construction of a weapon. Bodies such as the IAEA and the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (an office within the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) track exported nuclear material through its whole lifecycle, all the way through to the spent fuel and the reprocessing and/or the recycling of that fuel.

Any facility that were to accept international nuclear waste could also expect to be subject to scrutiny against the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“NPT”). The overall quality and security of any nuclear waste disposal facility, as well the country that hosts it, need to satisfy extremely high domestic and international standards to be commercially – and politically – viable.

By virtue of both the Joint Convention and the NPT, Australia would need to establish treaties with overseas governments interested in disposing their nuclear waste in the facility, to specify the arrangements that would be put in place for the management of nuclear waste. Australia may also be obliged to seek evidence of “upstream” agreements in circumstances where the original nuclear product and/or the waste has moved between third party countries before its exportation to Australia…….. http://moulislegal.com/nuclear-waste-debate-re-emerges-in-australia/

Australia must rethink the way that it is a nuclear target, because of Pine Gap

November 21, 2016

when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation….. these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk….These are the questions we don’t discuss.

US military bases in Australia: Protecting us or putting us at risk? http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/us-military-bases-in-australia-protecting-us-or-putting-us-at-risk/news-story/274681984ca0959242829f9da8fa338e    Emma Reynolds news.com.au @emmareyn OCTOBER 2, 2016 THE US is strengthening a network of secretive military bases across Australia that could be used for waging wars against our interests, it was claimed at a weekend summit.

We are providing the US with extra capacity to make that happen, says Prof Tanter.

PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’

Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.

The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.

Prof Tanter says Pine Gap rivals Uluru as the symbolic centre of Australia, with its strange, mysterious power.

“It’s the poisoned heart of Australia and it is increasingly having an effect on our defence policies and the way in which we conduct our foreign policy,” he says.

The establishment of Pine Gap heralded the start of the American early warning system, which involved powerful infra-red telescopes staring at the earth looking for the heat bloom of nuclear weapons. And it continues to grow in strength long after the Cold War, with the number of antennae growing from two or three in 1970 to 33 today.

It has also grown in capability — picking up satellite and mobile phone transmissions that are important for conducting war in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitoring people allegedly carrying out terrorist activities. It spots jet aircraft in the sky and explosions on the ground.

If a North Korean missile takes off, its trajectory can be rapidly beamed to the US, triggering a possible drone assassination. Prof Tanter says such behaviour makes Australia a target.

“Do we really want to be implicated in that?”

DARWIN — TROOPS ON THE GROUND
In 2011, President Barack Obama visited Darwin to announce US troops would begin making regular visits to the Northern Territory as part of the country’s “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region.

The Gillard government agreed to the “permanent rotation of US marines and US air force aircraft”, meaning we have a constant flow of US soldiers on the ground in Australia. There are currently 1500, but this could rise to 2500.

It was this development that triggered the establishment of IPAN in 2012 as onlookers became alarmed at the move from “the invasion of nerd and computer freaks” to actual “troops in uniform with rifles”, Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign, told news.com.au.

Some of the world’s best fighters and bombers, and Osprey hybrid aircraft, now regularly fly into Darwin and nearby Shoal Bay Receiving Station and RAAF Tindal in Katherine, with huge ships coming down from a US base in Okinawa, Japan.

The purpose is officially for training, but IPAN delegates say Australia has also acquiesced to potential deployment.

A few thousand troops may sound like small beer but in conjunction with marines at US bases in Hawaii, Okinawa and Guam, it is a significant force.

OTHER BASES The Defence Satellite Communication Station at Geraldton in Western Australia, along with Kojarena 20km inland, was one of Australia’s spy bases. It is now shared with two large American operational military communication systems that pull down information on Indonesian and Chinese satellites from the sky. This is part of the Five Eyes surveillance system used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kojarena is creating “battlefield conditions”, says Mr Doherty, providing data a soldier in Iraq can use to ascertain what’s behind a hill — the visual, weather and so on — making it “an American war fighting base”.

Australia paid $800 million for one of the satellites used by this system. But if America does not approve of an operation the Australian Defence Force requests, for example in Timor, it can turn off our access, says Prof Tanter.

The US also has access to the Delamere Air Weapons range and the Bradshaw Ranges (which are the size of Cyprus) in the NT, and the multinational training facility of Shoalwater Bay in Rockhampton, which boasts a mock town complete with pub, mosque and church.

America trains its troops in Australia in all conditions — jungle, savannah, woodland and desert.

Mr Doherty believes there are effectively almost 50 joint bases from Broome in WA to Richmond in NSW, since the US can use all Australian bases in a poorly defined “emergency”, and regularly does. The government insists there are only two joint bases, Pine Gap and North West Cape, since troops rotate out of Darwin — a claim Prof Tanter slams as “specious”.

“If it was built by the United States, if it was paid for by the United States, and if it can only function as part of an American global technology, then it’s an American base to which Australia might have some access; greater or lesser access as time goes on.”

AUSTRALIA’S PROBLEM

So why is the US using our bases a problem? Well, we aren’t just passive bystanders.

“Australia is very, very deeply involved,” says Prof Tanter.

Aussies work in every division of Pine Gap. The Aboriginal woman who introduced Friday night’s public forum revealed her mother worked there as a cleaner in the 1960s and knew nothing about its purpose. Even the hotel where the conference takes place is a supplier for the base, providing catering and accommodation for staff.

“At least we’re not locked out the way we were before, but with that comes culpability,” says Prof Tanter.

“The government seems to lack the ability to ask the question, ‘When do Australian and American interests coincide, and when do they not?’”

He suggests nuclear war or unethical activity in countries where we are not at war might be examples of that. We could be implicated in human rights offences.

“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”

The agreement seems “asymmetrical” to the professor. We have spent 13 years in Afghanistan and lost 40 soldiers and seen 250 seriously wounded, he notes.

“We’re an island a long way from anywhere. The most important thing is to get over this psychology of dependence.”

We find ourselves integrated with other US bases across Asia-Pacific, with bombing information from Delamere weapons range fed back to Canberra, Hawaii and then Washington.

Prof Tanter warns that when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base

“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”

A Defence White Paper released in March emphasised the paramount importance of the US and its role in “global security”, stressing Australia’s desire to maintain strong military ties to America and increased “interoperability” of the two countries’ systems. The paper asserts the US “will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner”.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the two main parties are strangely bipartisan when it comes to not criticising defence decisions.

“The Liberals don’t stand up and say, why has there been no discussion on Darwin.”

He believes our submission to US interests, particularly in the case of the Iraq invasion that ordinary Australians were against, “paved the way for IS”.

A Defence Department spokesman this week told news.com.au facilities like Pine Gap make an important contribution to national security.

He said it provides intelligence on priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and foreign military capability and weapons developments. It also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements and provides ballistic missile early warning information.

We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation — but the conference speakers contest that these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk.

Where should the decision to deploy lie? Do we need to host these bases? Should they do all the things they do? These are the questions we don’t discuss.

Russia’s secretive nuclear tsar Sergey Kirienko rises to political power

November 21, 2016

Russian media tell us that Kirienko and his PR team are off to the Kremlin to prepare Putin’s next election campaign. Looking at Kirienko’s 11 years as head of Russia’s nuclear power industry, we can say that in terms of spending and achievements on paper, Rosatom’s former head has few equals. Kirienko’s team are experts at working with the media, putting pressure on dissenters and forging loyalty


Sergey Kirienko, from nuclear to political power
,
Open Democracy VLADIMIR SLIVYAK 11 October 2016  After ten years as head of Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko is now deputy head of Russia’s Presidential Administration. What will he bring to the job? “…….

Information and secrecy

News of these two appointments came out rather oddly. Prior to 24 September, when RBC broke the story of Kirienko’s appointment, there had been no rumours at all about Kirienko’s move, and another two weeks passed before he was officially given his new job…….

This fact illustrates the effectiveness of Kirienko’s PR team. All of Rosatom’s information channels are hermetically sealed, and if any important news appears, it is only by the grace of the residents of the agency’s enormous headquarters building on Moscow’s Bolshaya Ordynka street. There has been the odd information leak, but usually involving foreign media, which Rosatom has little control over.

The way Kirienko’s appointment has developed as a story demonstrates the level of openness, or rather lack of it, which Kirienko’s team has created in recent years. If a major accident had occurred at a nuclear power plant in Russia during Kirienko’s time at Rosatom, it is unlikely that anyone would have heard about it for some time. Instead, there would have been a scenario reminiscent of 1986, when the Soviet government tried to hush up the scale of the Chernobyl disaster for as long as possible.

This lack of transparency is dangerous precisely because in the case of another nuclear accident, it could be a matter of life and death. And this is not a question of official secrets or nuclear weapons. Rosatom is funded by Russia’s taxpayers and has to be accountable to them — not in terms of reporting how many “mini-Olympics” have taken place at nuclear power plants, but in terms of public safety.

Paper power plants

Kirienko’s legacy at Rosatom is a separate issue. Given this recent appointment, he is, it seems, highly regarded by the Kremlin.

There may have been two to three times fewer nuclear power plants built on his watch than were planned. There may have been plenty of corruption scandals involving the arrest of senior staff, including Kirienko’s deputies, on embezzlement charges. But the corporation’s “portfolio” for power plants to be built abroad is worth an astronomical $100bn. And for the Kremlin, which periodically uses energy supply threats to put pressure on countries it is displeased with, nuclear power is not just a question of prestige and money.

To assess Kirienko’s effectiveness as a manager, however, we need to look inside Rosatom’s commission portfolio. These “orders” are not contracts specifying delivery dates, costs and a clear timescale for loan repayments (in most cases the money lent by Russia for power plant construction comes with a repayment date). Eighty to ninety per cent of these reported arrangements are agreements in principle that are vague on details, and in the overwhelming majority of cases the contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Russian media frequently give the impression that Rosatom is building reactors all over the world. It is true that there have been orders from over 20 countries, but they are actually being built in only three places — China, India and Belarus. And in the case of the first two, international cooperation began long before Kirienko joined the nuclear energy sector.

So it is clear that Kirienko’s team has been excellent at drawing up and signing papers, and providing an information blockade for the industry. Actually building nuclear plants seems to be beyond them.

But only abroad…  https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladimir-slivyak/sergey-kirienko-from-nuclear-to-political-power