Archive for the ‘uranium enrichment’ Category

Iran and the issue of uranium enrichment

February 2, 2015
7 reasons not to worry about Iran’s enrichment capacity, ALMONITOR  5 Nov 14 Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are aiming to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program by Nov. 24. Iranian and US officials have confirmed that progress was made in the extremely complicated nuclear talks in mid-October in Vienna. …………The following are seven reasons not to be too overly concerned about Iran’s breakout capability:
  1. Under the current International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules and regulations, the maximum level of transparency for nuclear activities would be secured by the implementation of its three arrangements: the Safeguard Agreement, Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 and the Additional Protocol. The world powers negotiating with Iran have a clear understanding that Iran is ready to commit to all three arrangements in a final comprehensive agreement.
  2. Iran would be cooperative in capping its level of enrichment at 5% for the duration of the final agreement to assure non-diversion toward weaponization. The fissile uranium in nuclear weapons contains enrichment to 85% or more.
  3. To ensure that Iran’s enrichment activities do not lead to a bomb, Tehran would be willing to synchronize the number of centrifuges or their productivity to its practical needs and convert the product to oxide for a number of years. Iran’s major practical need is to provide fuel for the Bushehr plant in 2021, when its fuel-supply contract with Russia terminates. Practically, out of the current 22,000 centrifuges, Iran would need around 9,000 to 10,000 to provide enough fuel annually for the four fuel elements (out of a total 54 fuel elements) for Bushehr that Russia is contractually required to supply.
  4. Regarding the heavy water facility at Arak, Iran would be cooperative in placing greater monitoring measures and modifying the reactor to reduce the annual enriched plutonium production capacity of 8-10 kilograms (18-22 pounds) to less than 0.8 kilograms (1.7 pounds). Furthermore, the 0.8kg of material will be 78% fissile, which is too low for the production of nuclear weapons, and the timeline for redesigning and building the reactor will require another five to six years.
  5. Secularizing the supreme leader’s fatwa banning the production and stockpiling of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction would be a strong objective guarantee. Once the fatwa is secularized and operationalized, violation would be a criminal matter for the courts to pursue and punishable by law. Iran’s history makes it hard to dismiss the fatwa. After all, despite an estimated 100,000 deaths from Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iran, it was a fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that kept Tehran from retaliating during the Iran-Iraq war.
  6. Iran has paid a high price for its nuclear program, having endured a barrage of draconian multilateral and unilateral sanctions to date. The sanctions imposed against Iran are far beyond those imposed on North Korea, which does possess nuclear weapons. The fact is that Iran has already paid the price for making a bomb, but neither wants nor has one, a clear indicator of its steadfastness on nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
  7. If anyone were going to have made the decision to build nuclear weapons, it would have been former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet, during his eight years in the presidency, the IAEA found no evidence of an Iranian nuclear program geared toward weaponization, and his administration sought to normalize bilateral relations with the United States more than all his predecessors.

I am confident that Iran, the United States and the world powers genuinely seek to reach a deal and that there is no reason to extend the deadline beyond late November. The best strategy is to pursue a broad engagement with Iran to ensure that the decision to pursue a nuclear breakout will never come about. Iran and the United States are already tacitly and indirectly cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). A nuclear agreement would be a great boost to mutual trust and provide greater options for dealing not only with IS and the Syrian regime but also Afghanistan and Iraq — where both Washington and Tehran support the new governments in Kabul and Baghdad. Rather than focusing onenrichment capacity, Washington should weigh its capacity for relations with Iran.  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/iran-nuclear-enrichment-uranium-iaea-fatwa-sanctions.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=a39e197e64-November_5_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-a39e197e64-93115393##ixzz3IKFLTdR3

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Uranium enrichment produces huge amounts of depleted uranium

September 14, 2013

Uranium Enrichment Creates Massive Amounts Of Depleted Uranium (DU) – Used In Weapons Of Mass Destruction

How and where is depleted uranium manufactured? Most of the byproducts (garbage) “from uranium enrichment (96%) is depleted uranium (DU)… There are vast quantities of depleted uranium in storage. The United States Department of Energy alone has 470,000 tons.[1] About 95% of depleted uranium is stored as uranium hexafluoride (UF6).”

Kentucky’s nasty radioactive mess at USEC’s Paducah uranium enrichment plant

June 10, 2013

The Paducah plant cannot legally stay open, and it can’t safely be shut down—a lovely metaphor for the end of the Atomic Age and a perfect nightmare for the people of Kentucky.

Countdown to Nuclear Ruin at Paducah  EcoWatch May 22, 2013 by Geoffrey Sea Disaster is about to strike in western Kentucky, a full-blown nuclear catastrophe involving hundreds of tons of enriched uranium tainted with plutonium, technetium, arsenic, beryllium and a toxic chemical brew. But this nuke calamity will be no fluke. It’s been foreseen, planned, even programmed, the result of an atomic extortion game played out between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the most failed American experiment in privatization, the company that has run the Paducah plant into the poisoned ground, USEC Inc.

As now scheduled, main power to the gargantuan gaseous diffusion uranium plant at Paducah, Kentucky, will be cut at midnight on May 31, just nine days from now—cut because USEC has terminated its power contract with TVA as of that time [“USEC Ceases Buying Power,” Paducah Sun, April 19, page 1] and because DOE can’t pick up the bill.

DOE is five months away from the start of 2014 spending authority, needed to fund clean power-down at Paducah. Meanwhile, USEC’s total market capitalization has declined to about $45 million, not enough to meet minimum listing requirements for the New York Stock Exchange, pay off the company’s staggering debts or retain its operating licenses under financial capacity requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Paducah plant cannot legally stay open, and it can’t safely be shut down—a lovely metaphor for the end of the Atomic Age and a perfect nightmare for the people of Kentucky.

Dirty Power-Down

If the main power to the diffusion cascade is cut as now may be unavoidable, the uranium hexafluoride gas inside thousands of miles of piping and process equipment will crystallize, creating a very costly gigantic hunk of junk as a bequest to future generations, delaying site cleanup for many decades and risking nuclear criticality problems that remain unstudied. Unlike gaseous uranium that can be flushed from pipes with relative ease, crystallized uranium may need to be chiseled out manually, adding greatly to occupational hazards.

The gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge, TN, was powered-down dirty in 1985, in a safer situation because the Oak Ridge plant did not have near the level of transuranic contaminants found at Paducah. The Oak Ridge catastrophe left a poisonous site that still awaits cleanup a quarter-century later, and an echo chamber of political promises that such a stupid move would never be made again. But that was before the privatization of USEC.

Could a dirty power-down at Paducah—where recycled and reprocessed uranium contaminated with plutonium and other transuranic elements was added in massive quantities—result in “slow-cooker” critical mass formations inside the process equipment?

No one really knows.

Everybody does know that the Paducah plant is about to close. Its technology is Jurassic, requiring about ten times the energy of competing uranium enrichment methods around the world. The Paducah plant has been the largest single-meter consumer of electric power on the planet, requiring two TVA coal plants just to keep it operating, and it’s the largest single-source emitter of the very worst atmospheric gasses—chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)…….

Meanwhile, the Kentucky DOE field office in charge, managed by William A. Murphie, has advertised a host of companies “expressing interest” in future use of the Paducah site, with no explanation of how the existing edifice of egregiousness will be made to disappear. “Off the record,” the Kentucky field office has floated dates like 2060 for the completion of Paducah cleanup.

That’s two generations from now……http://ecowatch.com/2013/countdown-to-nuclear-ruin-at-paducah/

Silex laser uranium enrichment could cause major weapons proliferation danger

August 16, 2012

a SILEX facility could make it much easier for a rogue state to clandestinely enrich weapons grade uranium to create nuclear bombs

SILEX could become America’s proliferation Fukushima,

Controversial nuclear technology alarms watchdogs  http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/controversial-nuclear-technology-alarms-watchdogs/18138  By David Worthington | July 30, 2012 A controversial nuclear technology is raising alarms bells among critics who claim it may be better suited for making nuclear weapons than lowering the cost of nuclear power and could lead to a nonproliferation “Fukushima” for the United States.

SILEX (separation of isotopes by laser excitation) is a method for enriching uranium with lasers. It was developed by Australian scientists during the mid 1990’s as a way to reduce the cost of nuclear fuel, because uranium must be processed before it can be used to generate power.

The scientists formed Silex Systems to license the technology for commercialization, and that process is still ongoing. In 2000, the governments of Australia and the United States signed a treaty, giving the U.S. authority to review whether SILEX should be deployed. That’s because there could be a major proliferation problem. SILEX reduces the steps necessary to transform fuel grade uranium into to weapons-grade uranium, and the process doesn’t create telltale chemical or thermal emissions, according to an article published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. R. Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, has the byline. (more…)

Laser uranium enrichment technology – sacrificing safety for efficiency

July 21, 2012

a tension between the United States’ goal of safely commercializing nuclear-power technology and its efforts to control the proliferation of nuclear materials. ”When there’s a conflict, generally speaking, the policy to spread nuclear technology overrides the non-proliferation policy.”

Laser-based uranium enrichment plant sparks controversy 07/05/2012 Laser Focus World  by Gail Overton  Senior Editor  Washington, DC–A July 4 Nature news story from Sharon Weinberger says that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to open a plant that uses laser-based uranium enrichment will be considered in private. Although the controversial laser uranium-enrichment technology is on the cusp of making it cheaper to create fuel for nuclear power plants, some non-proliferation experts are concerned that the efficiency of the laser-based technology will also smooth the path for bomb makers.  (more…)

Security and Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)

January 5, 2012

The Seoul Nuclear Summit, The National Interest,  Miles A. PomperMichelle E. Dover ,  January 4, 2012  “……. [In 2010] The White House announced that fifty-four national commitments were made by twenty-nine countries. These included pledges to donate money to the IAEA, remove or secure nuclear material, prevent nuclear smuggling, ratify or support existing conventions and treaties, and convert reactors from running on nuclear-weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) to safer low-enriched uranium (LEU).

The last promise was particularly important. Unlike its cousin, plutonium, HEU is suitable for use in the simplest kind of nuclear weapon, a so-called “gun-type” bomb. In gun-type devices, one subcritical piece of fissile material is fired at another subcritical target. Together they form a critical mass and spark a chain reaction. The process is so simple and well understood that such a device does not need to be explosively tested; even the first such bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, was not tested prior to its use. Terrorists who acquired a sufficient quantity of HEU would not need to be backed by the scientific and financial resources of a state to construct such a nuclear device. (more…)

A nuclear weapons proliferation danger: Silex Laser Uranium Enrichment

January 2, 2012

many of the good things GE is using to make a case about Silex—less use of resources and electricity and increased efficiency—are actually negatives that make it easier for rogue states to hide clandestine plants…..methods for the production and use of nuclear materials that would be more difficult to detect,” the report states

New Uranium Enrichment Technology Alarms Aviation Week, By Kristin Majcher Washington 23 Nov 11 General Electric says it has successfully tested a faster, cheaper way to produce nuclear reactor fuel, and is planning to commercialize the technology by building a facility in Wilmington, N.C. While the prospect of saving resources to generate energy at a lower price sounds like a breakthrough, scientists are concerned that the top-secret method of enrichment that GE is using will indirectly elevate proliferation risks around the world, thus inspiring rogue states to develop their own laser enrichment facilities for nuclear weapons.
The enrichment technology is the Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation (Silex). It was developed by Silex of Australia in 1992. The technology company USEC funded early research on Silex, but abandoned it in favor of focusing on centrifuge enrichment. In 2006, GE signed an exclusive agreement to commercialize and license the technology and spearhead further research and development.
Although Silex is the only known method of laser enrichment that works and could be commercially viable, scientists are concerned because many countries have funded laser-enrichment projects. According to the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, more than 20 countries have researched laser isotope separation techniques, including China, India, Iraq, Russia, Japan and Pakistan. Although they were unsuccessful, scientists say that putting Silex back into the public eye, regardless of the safeguards GE promises, poses a problem. Showing that it works could renew efforts by countries to develop the process. (more…)

Factbox: What is uranium enrichment?

December 27, 2010

What is uranium enrichment?, Factbox, by David Cutler, 27 Dec 10, “…….WHAT IS ENRICHMENT:– Enrichment is a process of increasing the proportion of fissile isotope found in uranium ore (represented by the symbol ‘U’) to make it usable as nuclear fuel or the compressed, explosive core of nuclear weapons. (more…)