The nuclear renaissance came in like a lion and went out like a three eyed fish. Its still too early to tell just what the coming year will bring, but the initial signs are that if any thing, we can expect a whole new agenda to arrive along with the Obama administration. Whether we will be seeing a rehash of Clinton or something more enlightened is the question?
I think the current crisis and where things go or not can be boiled down to what economist Paul Krugman said just a week ago in a presentation he made before the National Press Club. We are in serious shit and the only way out is if the government comes up with some of the biggest public works projects in US history this year. Â The problem of course, is that this isn’t 1933 and the 600,000 jobs a month being lost cover a rather wide spectrum of the skilled and unskilled sectors of the economy. Â I can just imagine seeing unemployable MBA’s digging ditches or putting up solar panels on their neighbor’s rooftops can’t you! Â Sorry, but there just aren’t any off the shelve super jobs programs out there, other than the prison camp business. Â Oh! shucks, you mean we could free ourselves from the Wall Street Plantation mindset, and set up Lester Brown’s Plan B? Â Don’t hold your breath! Â The global drug dealers are terrified of this, thus the cheap gas prices.
Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for, Â a review of the major stories and issues around the world and here in the US on nukes. Â Note that this is a quick draft of some of the stories that most haveÂ never heard, thanks to the corporate media. Note that after each summary there is a link where you can go look at news stories over the last year directly.
Nuclear Weapons and the fuel cycle
Reconfiguration – Bombplex 2030
The Bush Doctrine – aka 1984 revisited will hopefully be tossed out on its ass, but this is gonna be hard to do with the nuclear military industrial complex more embedded than ever in the US government. Â Bush has more than doubled the DOE’s budget in the last 8 years. He has also created a mercenary subcontracting culture of giant corporate vultures sucking off government money. Â During his administration nearly the entire DOE workforce has been privatised with only 15,000 government workers left today, while close to 200,000 contracted workers are now paid by giant corporate contractors. Â Most of these people work for any one of hundred’s of companies like Bechtel, GE, URS, Westinghouse, Fluor, SAIS, Battelle, Boeing, Lockheed and can all be counted on to be virulent pro-nuclear, pro dominator pirates.
The US now spends more money on weapons and their sales than the rest of the other top 7 weapons sellers Â combined. Â It is this group of companies that are pushing the world into economic oblivion with their war of the world agenda. Â These Â people and their nuclear security state represent the most dangerous criminal mindset in the world today!
Last week, Bush released the master plan to reorganize and rebuild the nuclear weapons infrastructure. The global security types have been preaching at their pulpits for over a month for this new super tech weapons war. Too bad we can’t create some kind of killer game arcade for these folks, lock the doors and deliver lots of pizza and beer at the door.
There is no other issue underlying the global nightmare we face that is more critical than shutting down the nuclear nerds and this reconfiguration. Why would this concern nuclear power people? Because this is the source of almost all of the nuclear power subsidies. Â This is where the nuclear mentality is bred in a culture of super egos and budgets that have no bounds or understands the implications that they are likely one of the main causes of global extinction of advanced life forms due to genetic damages. Let’s see adult males now have 1 in 2 chance of getting prostate cancer? Â Where did that come from? It would be nice if we had a few quality numbers to toss to the public, like the one I recently heard that we’ve spent nearly $5 trillion on nuclear since the dawn of the Manhattan Project. Â What a dark mark on humanity this is.
The Wall Street Journal tried to pull a blogging tactic with their Peak Uranium article. Cute, but no cigar (Lake) still as the Bush push which launched a global uranium frenzy in 2005 is now collapsing around Humpty Dumpty. Â In one of Bush’s more notorious last minute strategies, the industry pushed through a GEIS for ISL uranium mining that is now all but dead as mines that had opened up last year to take advantage of the price spikes in uranium are starting to close back down here in the U.S. Other countries like Russia have announced a major new pushes with production to expand by 12% over the next year. Â While France’s Cameco continues to cut back operations in Canada. Â Folks not all uranium can be had for the same price.
Expect more cheap uranium from slave operations in Niger or from places with no environmental consciousness like Russia to increase. Â There are only a handful of super uranium mining companies in the world like Billiton, Cameco and Rio Tinto. They produce few jobs, but giant holes in the ground on the same scale as coal’s mountain top removal operations. Â Its just not occuring yet in West Virginia, as most of the devestation is being wrought on indigenous lands around the world.
The HEU-LEU battle:
Nearly 50% of the US commercial nuclear power industry is supplied by Soviet nuclear weapons grade uranium. Bush has been attempting to kill this program as a way to open up the uranium market.Â This issue represents a critical role in the whole new commercial power renaissance. Bush and USEC have taken the deal to the US Supreme Court with the hopes of killing the legislated MOX program so that uranium mining in the US can take off.
In just the last few weeks, in what has to be quite a symbolic moment in the nuclear era, the mile long K-25 building at Oak Ridge is finally starting to be dismantled. Along with the two other gasseious diffusion facilities, these monsters are now pretty much a sign of the times within DOE where old buildings are coming down and cleanup operations continue around the country, from West Valley, Hanford, Oakridge and many other lesser known facilities.
Veteran and worker Compensation:
This issue is global with battles currently going on in the UK, New Zealand, Marshall Islands, Canada, the US and Italy. A recent victory was won when a judge ruled against Bechtel’s attempt to toss out Downwinder compensation claims. The struggle in the US is especially poignant due to Bush’s DOL treatment of workers. As some of you might remember, the story of the year for me in 2007 was how the Mound’s DOE admin were caught irradiating workers health records and then dumping them in an nuclear waste dump in New Mexico. Battles rage across the country, with the Denver area having one of the strongest public battles. The Rocky Mountain News has gone to war with the DOL, having done major story after story on the state of mistreatment of former workers. This issue to me represents the most disgraceful issue in the country today, especially how the national media refuses to do any serious attempts at coverage. The battles raging almost everywhere a DOE facility exists are all classified as local news. Almost every week a new cohort of workers at some company or other has been applying for compensation status. Less than 1 in 4 workers have received money, with Bush’s Labor Department agenda mostly to kill off the workers and cut all coverage of their plight in the media.
Iraq – Iran
This issue as usual, is the most covered nuclear story in the world. On average nearly 1 in 10 nuclear news stories around the world focus on this media battle that has been going on since 2003. Anyone who is watching this closely right now is litterally holding their breath as nearly a dozen different news sources have all pointed to the danger that Israel could launch an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office. Believe it or not, rightwingers were claiming that yellowcake that was moved to Canada last summer was the missing WMD. Sorry. Not. And of course we have former Attorney General Gonzallez being charged with lying to congress over the 2003 Iraqi WMD claim.
After years of lies, note the US has never publicly acknowledged its global boycott of oil and the devastating impacts it is having on that country, the world under major pressure from China is moving towards the end of the 60 year old war there. Bush nearly destroyed the whole KEDO agreement that Carter pushed through to the embarrassment of Clinton. Bush was finally forced to reverse his pro-war saber rattling when North Korea tested long range missiles and demonstrated its ability to hit parts of the US, forcing Bush to reverse years of lost negotiations. Almost every major setback in the deadlocked talks has been due to Bush and their rightwing tactics, the latest being Rice’s nationally televised statement that the North Koreans were “Idiots” that nobody could trust.
Stories last week put a big zinger in the British press when it was disclosed that the government has secretly sold its entire weapons production infrastructure to a California Company. There has been a similar push for a new generation of Trident Submarines. There was a series of submarine incidents around the world starting with a US sub leaking coolant in city after city in Japan, followed by a serious Russian sub accident. That sub was due to be leased to India. A few days later a submarine leak which had been covered up by British officials, caused a big stir. What the major press did there was then start talking about the US’s history of accidents including a lost nuclear weapon in Greenland.
Just as this series of global incidents came to an end the US Air Force went on a huge month long PR campaign here, leading off the push for the reorganization of the US nuclear weapons infrastructure.
In the crossover issue of the year, as part of Bush’s global GNEP agenda, the US and the global uranium dealers gave India a welcome to the nuclera club card that had been blocked by India’s leftists parties for months. About the only country in the world still standing up to the boycott is Australia that has stated it won’t sell uranium to India until it signs the NPT. The deal has heigtened tensions between Pakistan and India which is very likely the hottest nuclear flashpoint in the world now. One commenter suggested to me that Bush’s tactic was pulled out to counter a huge proposal between Iran and India to build a giant oil pipeline. That deal is now dead. Hmmm.
Russia and the New Cold war
This issue represents another key global issue worth watching very closely. Last week Russia claimed that it would back down from its push for new nuclear weapons if the US backed off building the missile shield in Eastern Europe. Russia has been playing a key role in the North Korean and Iranian issues, and has also cut deals with India, Brazil, Venezuela and even talked to Cuba about new nukes.
Lesser but still tragic
The US and UK have blocked the people of one of the Diego Garcia Islands from returning to their homes due to the strategic location the islands. The US spent nearly a decade destroying another island’s nuclear free constition Belau during the Reagan Bush years. There has been a global push, outside of the US for a nuclear free middle east, focussing on Israel’s refusal to sign any global weapons treaties. The UN has also attempted to block the use of depleted uranium weapons as well as set some limits on the US pushing nukes into space. Most of these UN based gobal initiatives were blocked by the US and a handful of allies. In one of the only glimmers of good news, the French finally acknowledged that there were impacts from its years of nuclear testing in the Pacific and starting looking into some kind of compensation process for victims.
GNEP and the Bush Doctrine:
Bombplex 2030, or whatever you want to call it, is at the heart the nuclear dilema. We are seeing the nuclearization of the world like never before, thanks to the visionary neocons from PNAC who gave us the Iraqi – Middle east nightmare that has cost US taxpayers nearly $600 billion to date. Our saber rattling threats against the world has nearly 70% of our former allies in terror of us. DOE’s Bodman has been on the road more than Condi Rice with Bush’s promise of supporting nuclear power and weapons development. There are now dozens of country’s around the world who have expressed interest in going nuclear with the latest push coming out of Nigeria!
Even though the democrats have been able to reign in most of the US GNEP spending, other nuclear states have also been buying into the GNEP agenda, with the push being led by the IAEA. This is all about Gen IV breeders and a plutonium economy of course. Thus, everything we are seeing including the DOE’s nuclear reconfiguration (formerly Bombplexe 2030) is all about concentrating a growing agenda of focussing nuclear contracts into giant private corporation’s hands.
Just as the corporate media was the key to taking the US into the Iraqi war, they are the key player today in dragging the world into a nuclear security state. Â There isn’t a single major media outlet, PBS included that has dared bring the full scope of what is happening on this issue to the public.
Two of the most militant pro-nuclear players in the country have been taken out. Pete Domenici, by retirement and what’s his Senator Larry Craig by a bathroom sex scandal. Domenici has long been the biggest player on the board. His departure will mean there will be new faces and strategies to come in congress.
Last but not least, I wished I had a better pulse on the health and scope of the peace movement here and around the world. There have been protests in the UK, Japan and the US that got a touch of coverage, but like so many other issues, the zealotry of the right and the media’s refusal to counter the militant push has left it with little public exposure or support.
Nuclear Power Issues:
At the global level, it was clear that the biggest industry players who were hoping for a surge in construction contracts have been the leading proponents of the push. Probably the biggest setback for them came when Australia’s Howard government lost in elections last spring. Howard had been calling for the replacement of the country’s coal industry by nukes within 10 years. Bang, sorry Labour called it all off, but has pushed for a renewed expansion of uranium mining in the west and at several of the biggest mines. Australia has one of the strongest, if not the strongest anti-nuclear movements in the world right up there with Germany.
Attempts to ship spent fuel across Germany in late November resulted in over 15,000 Germans blockading the Castors travel by rail across the country. Attempts by the pronuclear major media have failed to reverse the country’s stance. Probably the biggest shift in Europe came with the collapse of the Prado government and the corrupt Berlusconi re-entry, with calls to restart the dead nuclear industry in Italy.
It was Finland that set of the nuclear rush in Europe, soon followed by the UK. The Fin reactor push with an Areva contract has been at the center stage with its growing cost overruns and contractural controversies. The media bandwagon in Europe has been a very interesting thing to watch. I just wished that there was an english version of La Monde!
The European movement held an international uranium mining week in late September and is holding meetings in Frankfurt Germany during the last week of December.
Probably the hottest battle anywhere has been in the UK over the Blair-Brown nuclear push. Back in the 1990’s the government promised to do a fully open conversation – debate with the public if it ever tried to go nuclear again. Well, Blair broke the rules and tried to ram a new generation of reactor development through in 2007, which was blocked at the last minute by a Greenpeace lawsuit, for the failure follow its own promised guidelines. It had to start the process once again going around the country and holding public hearings which it did. Public opinion was pretty much split between the pros and cons with the largest segment of the public in the middle. The fairness of the socalled “Consultation continues to be disputed legally. The big promise was that the whole development process could be accomplished with private money, with a single major catch that came out at the end of the campaign, that British Energy, the government run nuclear operations would be sold to the coalition of French UK and US companies, with France’s Areva and EDF in the lead. The final sale just cleared EU concerns last week for the 22 billion pound sale. EDF-Areva’s US partner in the sale is San Francisco based URS. The new privately held operation was given a very special deal, excluding it from any the UK’s Freedom of Information laws and immediately announced plans to start incinnerating nuclear waste.
A new scandal hit this past week about the sale in that nearly 10,000 jobs may be lost to French workers.
Scotland and Ireland haven’t gone alone with the deal, with Scotland pissed as hell about how most of the UK operations are centered up at Sellafield where reprocessing has been opposed by the Scots. In last elections the Scots, partly because of Sellafield broke for the first time in years with the labour party and have been growing towards secession from Britain and the UK. At present the Brown government is attempting to find a volunteer city willing to host an underground spent fuel nuclear waste dump. One of the major candidate towns, Cornwall just bailed out of the deal with the Downing Street offering hundreds of millions of Pounds if they took the deal. Several of the older nuclear plants have been demolished in the last year with online videos of demolitions being very popular. There have been several safety scandals in the past year with the biggest being around Sellafield authorities stealing body parts of workers who died of cancer over a 30 year period. That investigation is ongoing and gets only tiny coverage in the Brit press. Last but not least, the UK was pushing to build one of the largest windpower operations in the world when it ran into environmental problems due the North Sea’s being so heavily contaminated with nuclear waste dumping that the whole project may be cancelled due to the danger of stirring up deadly amounts of radiation.
What can we say about the turnaround that Sarkozy and the French have done with their nuclear operations. The French are looking to invest nearly 50 billion Euros in the next decade with the largest chunck having come with the purchase of the UK government’s badly ailing BNFL nuclear power operations. France which owns the majority stock of Areva has been the darling of the global industry and the media starting with their shared contract with Siemans to construct a !,600mw reactor in Finland in 2005. Extensive delays, safety and workers scandals have already set the project back several years and demonstrated the classic cost overrun syndrome we all know as the “power to cheap to meter” scam that the media loves to let roll around in various forms without contesting.
In other major deals EDF recently make an successful overbid to buy up the US financially troubled nuclear company Constellation for $4.5 billion. They also announced plans to build a new uranium mine in troubled Niger where rebels have been attacking France’s other scandal ridden uranium mining operations. France also cut a major uranium supply contract with India, and has been set up strategic partnerships with Mitsubishi’s nuclear operations in Japan. Japan and France have been taking over the lead lead in pushing the US’s GNEP agenda at the world level with some 16 countries now signed up as member states. Meeting are held in Geneva and facilitated by the IAEA. Areva has annnounced plans for new enrichment facilities in Idaho and France as well with recent hearings here in the US attended by hundreds of folk.
France’s nuclear operations have had to suffer a whole string of accients, leaks and scandals over the last 6 months including opposition in the town where EDF announced plans to build a $5.1 billion EPR reactor, first new reactor in years. Protestors have been out in force for over a year. Like all other construction estimates the current estimate is 20% higher than it was last year.
And then we have a rattled japanese industry that is struggling to recover from the July 2007 earthquake that damaged the larged nuclear complex in the world, followed by several more quakes, the country has since decided to shut two reactors that were close to seismic areas that were clearly at risk. The major complex is still down for repairs. But Japan is anything but giving up. It has been a major financial backer in the new push and has once again been trying to reopen the deadly sodium IFR breeder reactor at Monju.
New reactors are being pushed across Asia from Vietnam, the fillipines to even Burma, all being driven by the huge economies of China and India. Dozens of reactor contracts are being fought over by engineering companies around the world.
Australia has had a sea change this year with former PM Howard calling for a complete outrigging of nuclear power facilities to replace coal power in the country. But Howard and his conservative government were tossed out of power this spring ending any push for more reactors as well as the country’s quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Attempts by the Murdoch media to repush nuclear hasn’t gotten anywhere, although the huge price jump in uranium has captured the fancy of Billiton PHP. A dramatic new push is going ahead including a gargantuan mining plan at the largest mine in the world at Alice Springs. Probably one of the most surprising moves in the uranium world was Billiton’s attempt to buy control over Rio Tinto, once the largest mining transnational corporation in the world.
New reactors are being considered across northern Africa, with the push for uranium mining weakening by the day. Namibia had planned on building the largest mine in the world covering an area over 33 square kilos. Its controversial Rossing mine, once the largest in the world was also slated for expansion. Rossing, one of the dirtiest, low grade operations anywhere use over 250,000 tons of acid a year and 1/3 of the entire country’s water supply to produce yellowcake. There has even been a push to incinerate the 250,000 tons of acid on site.
In probably the biggest news of the year the economic collapse took with it South Africa’s push to build a PBMR reactor. Yeah the same one that was supposed to have nearly ready for operation but was stopped by environmental group Earth Live’s legal battles for the last 7 years. Nigeria is the latest country to move ahead with enabling legislation for constructing reactors.
Bush and his GNEP agenda has opened a global Pandora’s box as even 12 middle eastern countries have picked up on Bushe’s nuclear offerings. Bechtel having just signed a construction contract with Egypt. A consultant for the other countries came back with new construction estimates just a few weeks back setting the price at $6,000 per installed KW with the likelyhood of it doubling again in the next decade. OOPs. Anybody smell cold feet?
Oh my, and are there nuclear battles all over Canada. Probably the most important step in the Canadian nightmare comes with the massive flooding of Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine that set the world’s uranium market in a tizzy in 2005. And of course, right on cue from Bush the cry for more mining and reactors were launched across Canada by Harper. Any surprise that he’s had to lock parliment down from breaking up his government?
The struggle is everywhere. Nova Scotia is on the way to blocking new uranium mining being pushed while the west are being promoted for more uranium, oil shale as well as reactors. The worst hit by this are the indigenous communities that are now trapped with news calls for uranium minining operations. But with the economic collapse Cameco has already been scaling back on its plans and its likely there will be a lot of that around the corner.
Â Nuclear Power in the US of AÂ
The biggest news of 2008 is the end of the Bush era, and what a disaster it has been. Â The republicans have lost control over the administrative reigns of the US. Â We dodged Lieberman’s $500 billion nuclear financing scam as well as the McCain call for nuclear expansion. Â Beyond this, there wasn’t a whole lot of good news at the national level to write home about except at several strategic levels. Â The most important being the dramatic increase in reactor construction cost estimates. The other major strategic shift has been the collapse of the push to reignite a uranium mining industry here as uranium prices have dropped substantially in the last year.
This is nothing like the last time around on this issue. The pro-nuclear renaissance is mostly a product of media tactics and the super contractors like Areva, Bechtel, General Electric and Westinghouse. Â Gotta love those French! They now own the UK nuclear infrastructure and are snapping up US companies as well, with the Constellation – Unistar group going for $4.5 billion just a week ago.
We can expect Obama to toss out a bunch of cash for the nuclear industry if the initial push for renewables fail in congress.
The democrats, the media shoved the Indian nuclear scandal under the rug with their support of Bush’ 123 Treaty, thanks to millions of dollars of Indian donations just at the right time. Â Well folks, we’ve just greased the south asian cold war, not to mention helped to nuke India.
The big sleeper story is rolled up in the darkest reaches of Bush’s 2005 Energy Act. Its there that the most important energy legislation in this country was murdered. I’m speaking of the 1935 Public Utilities Holding Company Act. The law that used to lock electric companies into regulated areas across the country. Â Yep, the same one law that Clinton gave Enron an waiver on that led to the California energy invasionn of 2001.
With that law history, expect all kinds of energy investment money to start moving into a super merger process of private utility companies. Â Just watch what happens if Obama starts handing out cash to electric utility companies! Â For example, Entergy has been making agressive attempts to take over NRG, one of the few other nuclear reactor operators in the country.
The industry was forced to accept about $20 billion in load guarantees at the end of 2007, but have been clamoring for far more. Â This issue will be Â a big one to keep a close eye on.
The scale of the reactor development comes in two flavors. Â Many states haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, with one of the most important being California. Activists have been able to shoot down attempted legislative tactics to open the state to development but have failed two years in a row. Â If memory serves me there are something like 17 states that have similar legislation on the books like California’s that block further development until a permanent solution to spent fuel comes up.
Thus, the near certainty that Nevada’s Senator Reid has pretty much killed Yucca Mountain has the nuclear industry quite concerned.
The harsh news is the number of reactors that are moving through the NRC’s licensing process. Â Rather than run all of these stories down, here’s a link to a Platt’s story that gives very details on where each of these reactor projects are at.
And of course, there are ongoing battles with current reactors across the country. The most intense public campaigns are in Verment with the Yankee reactor there and in New York with the Indian Point facilities.
There are a number of reactors around the country that are also under sustained scrutiny by local communities or even state agencies. Â They range from Diablo Canyon, TMI, Millstone, Pilgrim, Crystal River and probably a few others.
One of the more historically routine, but unlisted stories of the year has been the ultra rush by the industry to jump up power ratings and and relicense old reactors for 20 additional years of operation. Â The NRC has yet to block a single license.