Aletho News


Discrimination in the Application of Nuclear Law

By Dan Joyner | Arms Control Law | April 1, 2014

It would be hard to find a more stark demonstration of how differently the IAEA and Western governments, led by the United States, have treated Iran and its nuclear program, as compared to other NPT NNWS who are under essentially the same legal obligations, than in the following couple of developments within the last week.

The first is a presentation given by Robert Einhorn, a recently retired senior US official, who many see as a close confidant of the administration, in which he floated a “trial balloon” of a possible comprehensive agreement between Iran and the P5+1. Among the elements of such a deal, Einhorn proposed the following:

Convert the underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordow into a research and development facility for testing more advanced centrifuges and conducting other nuclear research. Centrifuges there now would be removed to monitored storage.

Modify a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak to greatly reduce its production of plutonium — another potential bomb fuel — by converting it into a light water reactor, fueling it with enriched uranium or reducing its power level. “Fueling the reactor with enriched uranium would make it more capable of producing medical isotopes than the original” planned facility, Einhorn writes.

Require even more stringent monitoring of the Iranian program than dictated by the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including “more frequent and wider access by International Atomic Energy Agency personnel, more extensive installation of surveillance and containment equipment and greater use of remote, real-time monitoring.”

Set up procedures to ensure that any questions about Iranian compliance are “investigated and resolved expeditiously.”

So, under Einhorn’s plan, Iran would get to keep a limited capacity to enrich uranium, but only at a limited number of agreed facilities, not to include the ones that could not be easily bombed if necessary by Israel or the U.S.  Iran would also have to scrap plans for building a reactor at Arak that might produce some plutonium, but only if Iran built a separate reprocessing facility that it has no plans to build.

Now, juxtapose that development with the news this past week that Japan has agreed to repatriate some of the weapons grade plutonium contained in its massive stockpile of already separated plutonium, to the US, although according to this report:

The joint statement released at the summit by Washington and Tokyo did not specify how much nuclear material was being repatriated. According to a 10-year-old U.S. report on the Tokai research facility, roughly 1,210 pounds of bomb-ready uranium and 730 pounds of separated plutonium existed at the site, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Tuesday.

Though nonproliferation supporters commended the announcement on the coming withdrawal of fissile material from Tokai, the amount of plutonium held at the facility represents less than one percent of Japan’s worldwide stockpile and just 3.5 percent of the total amount held domestically. Those figures also do not take into account the 8 tons of plutonium the country could begin producing annually at its mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant at Rokkasho, which is still under construction.

See any differences in treatment?

April 1, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Discrimination in the Application of Nuclear Law

Japan prepares to ship nuclear materials to the US

RT | March 24, 2014

Japan agreed to transfer a share of its highly enriched uranium and weapons grade plutonium stockpiles to the US as part of the global effort to secure nuclear materials. Other nations are also urged to deposit excess nuclear materials in the US.

On the eve of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, US and Japanese leaders arranged a deal on “final disposition” in the US of well over 300 kilograms of weapons grade plutonium and an unspecified quantity of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that will be “sent to a secure facility and fully converted into less sensitive forms.”

This quantity of plutonium is enough to produce 40-50 warheads. The total quantity of HEU currently stocked in Japan is estimated at approximately 1.2 tons. According to The New York Times, some 200 kilograms of HEU is currently designated for the US.

After Barack Obama announced in Prague in 2009 an ambitious agenda to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” the American president has been pressing his foreign counterparts, both in Asia and Europe, demanding they either get rid of their excess nuclear materials via the US, or tighten security of stockpiles at home.

Two more countries, Belgium and Italy, have also agreed to hand over excess nuclear materials to the US and issued separate joint statements with the White House, Reuters reported.

“This effort involves the elimination of hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material, furthering our mutual goal of minimizing stocks of HEU and separated plutonium worldwide, which will help prevent unauthorized actors, criminals, or terrorists from acquiring such materials,” US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a joint statement released by the White House on Monday.

There is no information whether the deal between Japan and the US has a financial side; nuclear materials, of course, have a solid market value.

After the Russian-American HEU-LEU agreement came to an end in 2013, the US nuclear power generation industry is likely to face a sharp fuel price surge and shortage.

For two decades, the US was buying nuclear fuel from Russia for a dumping price. This fuel was made from down blended Soviet military grade highly enriched uranium, which constituted up to 40 percent of nuclear fuel for America’s 104 nuclear reactors (America’s 65 nuclear power plants generate over 19 percent of electric power in the country).
In the meantime, the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), the leading US nuclear fuel supplier remains in dire straits and plans to voluntarily file for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2014 in order to restructure.

The US also has problems with producing plutonium, used not only in nuclear warheads, but for space exploration as well; only plutonium can produce enough power for long missions to distant planets in the Solar system.

Tokyo also reportedly possesses several dozen tons of plutonium-uranium hybrid fuel called MOX, which it intends to burn in 16 reactors the country plans to restart. All Japanese nuclear power generating facilities halted operation following the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in March 2011.

The nuclear materials designated for transfer to the US have been kept for decades at Japan’s research reactor site in Tokaimura, where it was used for research.

During the Cold War era, the US and UK reportedly handed over some 331 kilogram of plutonium to Japan to be used for developing breeder reactor technology.

After decades of research, practically all fast (breeder) reactor projects around the world, including Japanese ones, are now closed down. The only country that currently possesses operating breeder reactor power generation facility is Russia.

In 1999, the Tokaimura facility witnessed an accident involving a highly enriched uranium solution. Two workers mishandled radioactive fluid and died as a result, while over 300 were exposed to high doses of radiation.

The New York Times maintains that while the nuclear materials at the Tokaimura facility are of American and British origin, Japan also has vast stockpiles, up to nine tons of plutonium, created at the country’s nuclear power stations as a byproduct of burning uranium for electric power generation. Once Japan restarts some of its nuclear reactors, there will be even more plutonium generated.

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Nuclear Power | , , | Comments Off on Japan prepares to ship nuclear materials to the US

Sanctions against Russia for the U.S. are a Dead-End

By Sufyan bin Uzayr | International Policy Digest | March 23, 2014

Now that Crimea has voted to unite with Russia and Vladimir Putin has welcomed Crimea with open arms, the Western half of the world, especially the United States and the European Union, are talking at lengths about imposing sanctions on Russia in order to bring Vladimir Putin to his senses.

However, the task seems easier said than done. The United States is simply not in a position to impose long-term sanctions on Russia. Economic and political ties between the United States and Russia are surely not exemplary. Yet, one key American industry relies heavily on a particular import from Russia: fuel for nuclear power plants. American dependency on Russia for its nuclear fuel is not a new development. It dates back to the early 1990s, when the HEU-LEU scheme was launched after the demise of the Soviet Union. Under this scheme, highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Russian nuclear warheads is processed into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use as fuel for American nuclear power plants.

While there are plans of reducing the need for nuclear energy, the United States still receives 100 GW of its power from nuclear power plants (compare this with Russia’s nuclear energy production of 230 GW). As a result, during 2014, 48 million pounds of uranium will be needed to fuel America’s nuclear power plants. Going by data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the total uranium Oxide produced within the United States is roughly 4.8 million pounds. Barely 10% of the total demand.

Quite obviously, this is not a new trend. Back in 2012 as well, the United States had to purchase over 80% of its nuclear fuel from foreign sources. Acquisition of uranium (ore and/or concentrate) is just one side of the story. The bigger task is the conversion of the acquired uranium into usable nuclear fuel — a process popularly known as ‘enrichment.’

As of now, nuclear enrichment is the responsibility of private firms in the United States. However, among all such private firms, the American ones constitute no more than 20%. Foreign enrichment facilities constitute the rest. European firms and work units undertake approximately 35% of the total enrichment task, and the remainder lies in the hands of Russian enterprises. Quite simply there are not many “home” enrichment facilities in the United States, and nuclear enrichment is accomplished primarily with the help of foreign facilities such as those from Europe and Russia.

Therefore, even though the HEU-LEU scheme ended recently, the United States is set on extending its lifespan by means of renewal. The real details of the renewed HEU-LEU scheme remain to be seen. But by all means, it is highly doubtful that American dependency on Russian help will come to an end, especially because the capacity of America’s own enrichment facilities is limited, as per the data from World Nuclear Association. With uranium supplier USEC planning to file for bankruptcy, the role of foreign facilities in general and Russian facilities in particular will rise manifold.

If sanctions are imposed on Russia, the United States might choose to make up for the missing nuclear imports and enrichment services from Russia by increasing the amount it imports from rest of the world; but even that will help only in part. In a nutshell, when it comes to nuclear energy, America will have a hard time finding an alternative to Russian help. Thus, while the European Union can indeed deliver on its promise of imposing sanctions against Russia, the United States cannot because if mutual sanctions were to come into effect, the primary loser will be America’s own nuclear industry.

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Nuclear Power | , , , | Comments Off on Sanctions against Russia for the U.S. are a Dead-End

Netanyahu Draws Red Line: Next Spring, Iran in Final Nuclear Stage

Moqawama | September 28, 2012

As part of his escalated rhetoric against the Islamic Republic, “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Thursday that “the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it can build a nuclear bomb.”

Netanyahu flashed a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the UN General Assembly showing the progress Iran has made, saying “it has already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.”

Then, he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which “Israel” could not tolerate – the completion of the second stage and 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.

“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” he said. “From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

“The battle is between modernity and the medieval forces of radical Islam,” he said and noted that “deterrence would not work against Iran as it had with the Soviet Union.”

“Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose survival,” he said. But “militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet “suicide bombers”. Yet, Iran produces hordes of them.”

“I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down. This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether,” the “Israeli” top official said. “

“Red lines don’t lead to war, red lines prevent war,” he added.

In response, Iran’s deputy UN ambassador took the floor at the General Assembly to categorically reject “”Israel’s” entirely baseless allegations.”

Eshagh al-Habib accused Netanyahu of using “an unfounded and imaginary graph to justify a military threat against Iran.”

“Iran is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack,” he said.

Al-Habib urged the international community to exert pressure on “Israel” to end its irresponsible behavior and to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon party and put all its nuclear facilities under US safeguards.”

September 28, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on Netanyahu Draws Red Line: Next Spring, Iran in Final Nuclear Stage