August 19, 2011 By 243 Comments
By Andrew McKillop 21st Century Wire August 19, 2011TOO LATE FOR NON-PROLIFERATION The venerable and creaking NPT Treaty, first signed by only 3 States in March 1970 (US, USSR, UK), which now has 189 member state signatories, but even more than in 1970 the treaty- on its face, has no meaning. Only explosive nuclear weapons, that is conventional nuclear weapons, are covered and theoretically limited by the treaty. The treaty makes no mention of Depleted Uranium (DU) weapons, or the vast Dirty Bomb targets of civil nuclear power reactors. This in no way prevents these “Doomsday Machines” being the most daunting nuclear weapons we face, taking account of their annual nuclear waste production, their in-reactor nuclear materials, their fuel rod stores and reprocessing centres, uranium mining wastes, reactor assemblies and nuclear fuels used on the world’s 1100 submarines and surface ships powered by the atom, and the ever-growing numbers and amounts of lost or stolen nuclear equipment and materials. Taking only the world’s presently operating 430-odd civil power reactors (about 441 before Japan’s Fukushima disaster), their annual production of nuclear wastes is around 30 000 tons per year, to be sure much of it defined as low-level, relatively low risk in radiological terms and relatively low risk in chemical toxicity terms. Although exact data is secret, Depleted Uranium weapons production is a major value-adding spinoff from civil power reactor wastes, producing weapons with proven and high carcinogenic effects, and chemical toxicity effects on both humans and animals, but as already mentioned these weapons are not covered by the NPT Treaty. DU – YOU ARE DEAD Annual production of Depleted Uranium weapons, mainly anti-tank ordinance but including others, is as noted secret, but estimates suggest the main producers – the USA, Russia, France, China, the UK (ironically, the five declared nuclear weapons states as defined by the NPT), Germany, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea and an increasing number of other countries – manufacture about 4000 tons of DU ordnance per year. Stocks are high and rising, due to low and limited use, although the two Gulf wars against Iraq (1991 and from 2003) and the war against Afghanistan (since 2001) have used an estimated 3000 to 3500 tons of DU weapons to date. Small and limited amounts of DU weapons utilisation are reported in the NATO war against the Gaddafi regime of Libya. Cancer deaths due to these radioactive and chemically toxic weapons, especially in Iraq, are estimated to be as high as 10 000 to date, and deaths will certainly continue for decades ahead. Make no mistake: DU is a killer. DU weapon stocks in the USA alone are estimated to be more than 25 000 tons, and world stocks are likely well above 70 000 tons. The so-called attractiveness of DU weapons is directly linked to their origin – wastes from so-called civil nuclear power, used to make weapons of war. The basic material, uranium alloys with various levels of radioactivity and chemical toxicity is above all cheap. Secondly, it has major technical characteristics making it almost ideal for producing anti-tank and anti-building weapons. Uranium metal is heavy and dense. It is easily machined. Being radioactive, it is easy to trace and track, for example during weapons testing and through the industrial production process. But perhaps its main trump card is its incendiary nature – that is very easily catching fire and liberating large amounts of heat, triggering secondary fires, for example in tank and armed vehicle fuel reservoirs, and wall claddings and flooring of targeted buildings. This incendiary, heat-liberating characteristic explains the acronym for the biggest single type of DU ordnance: anti-tank shells and missiles. These are called HEAT ordnance, for High Energy Anti Tank. The usual type of shell or missile is called “discarding sabot”, designating a machined uranium sheath or nose cone on the shell, behind which a titanium or iridium high-strength metal dart is positioned, with the explosive “military payload”, for example pentrite or TNT, placed further behind. When the shell hits the armour of the targeted tank, the uranium alloy cone or sheath explodes, liberating fine dust particles which instantly ignite. The heat liberated massively weakens the armor, through which the dart penetrates, breaching the tank hull, enabling the conventional explosive ‘stage’ of the shell to enter and explode. Typical times needed for this sequence are around 400 milliseconds (0.4 seconds). To be sure, all kinds of other dust particles can also be incendiary – for example rice or wheat dust, able to totally explode and destroy 65 000-ton cargo ships in worst-case explosions, phosphates as used in home-made bombs, and aluminium, magnesium or iron dust and filings as used in fireworks and in weapons, but uranium is extremely incendiary. Also to be sure, generous amounts of the uranium dust do not catch fire, are transported by wind, fall to earth with rain, and enter the food chain and water table – causing decades-long cancer epidemics in most affected areas. Our democracy-loving, human rights-defending political deciders with clean finger nails and a clean conscience, who order the use of these filthy weapons would apparently be unconcerned about that. The image of the mushroom cloud has become part of our cultural lexicon. CIVIL POWER REACTOR DIRTY BOMBS As we know from the Fukushima disaster, and the Chernobyl disaster any industry standard 900 MW light water or other type of reactor using uranium fuel contains a “radiological inventory” roughly equal to 150 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. Each reactor. Fuel rod stores, and dumps, can radically increase this equivalence, when spent fuel rods are stored, or buried on-site, usually only a few metres under the soil. Depending on the age and type of the reactor, its operational history, and other parameters like spent fuel rod inventories on-site, one single industry standard civil power reactor can be considered equivalent to as much as 250 or 350 Hiroshima-sized bombs in its capacity to kill by radiation poisoning, and totally sterilize hundreds of square kilometres of land – becoming a Total Exclusion Zone for decades ahead. Using HEAT ordnance, or in fact any kind of conventional military ordnance, or unconventional ordnance such as drone airplanes with stand-off missiles, or simply a 50-kilogram explosive charge, no conventional civil power reactor’s core shielding will resist. Attack also targeting the reactor’s cooling systems, and its IT and control centre, will assure almost 98% “target acquisition” as the military jargon puts it, in restricted-audience advertising and promotion of HEAT ordnance. The myth of nuclear deterrence, and the fatuous irrelevance of the NPT Treaty is shown by this. All component parts of the civil nuclear power system are equally vulnerable to conventional military attack, especially spent fuel production and reprocessing, even using 1914-1918 war ordnance, Somali “Technicals” or home-made drone bombs. No country with conventional civil nuclear power has any meaningful national security Of one thing we can be sure: no leading politician in any country using civil nuclear power will admit this basic truth. This curious primitive-minded and schizophrenic separation of civil nuclear power, from military nuclear weapons, is all the more hypocritical and evil when it concerns Western leaders almost proudly using DU weapons against Afghans, Iraqis, or Libyans. This is an open and permanent challenge to attacked people and nations to hit back using “asymmetric” and devastating weapons already positioned in the Oppressor’s country: their civil nuclear Dirty Bombs. When we wake up to a successful asymmetric nuclear weapons attack – to be sure described as an industrial accident, and then later on as a terrorist attack – it will be much too late to whine “but we didn’t know”. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima have provided all we need to know about the weapons potential of so-called civil nuclear power. Thousands of victims of DU-caused cancers in Iraq and Afghanistan can explain to the educated middle class voters of the countries producing and using DU weapons that these are genuine nuclear weapons – which kill by cancer. Understandably, one single case of using this asymmetric nuclear weapon in the Aggressor countries will be worth millions of words and online rantings, and those who voted for producing and using these weapons – either knowingly or not – will have paid the price of their destructive democratic decision. So when will the discussion begin? It should begin now, before it’s too late. -
It is perhaps difficult to understand why our leaders and mainstream media have not fully recognized and discuss openly the real and present danger that nuclear weapons and facilities pose to our communities worldwide.
It is possible that political elites know, but they are perhaps too stupid, or too reckless and arrogant, so they simply ignore what it all means.
We are currently entering the hot zone. The nuclear fuse can easily be lit now with Syria and Iran as prime NATO and Israeli targets. Just like “Mad Dog” Gaddafi suffered a trial by media, few western spectators will have much sympathy for Syria’s Basher el Assad.
Those in the US and Europe who are sworn to protect Israel’s ‘security’ will also have you believe that Iran does have quite long-range missiles.
But what they will not tell you is that Iran could also take out the Dimona bomb-making factory the Zionist militarists are so terribly proud of. Any day of the week, weekends too. The same works in reverse as Israel could also target a nuclear power facility in Iran. Who would blink first?
The same applies to Hezbollah. They aren’t going to like their el Assad “patron” going down the tube. In theory, they could deploy a Scud-type missiles with enough range to hit the Dimona facility.
The environmental and economic blow-back from any such incident would be huge, and in most cases, the regions involved would not be able to recover- ever.
So what are all these massive nuclear arsenals for, if not for military use? Why has depleted uranium already been sprayed via US, NATO, and Israeli munitions across the Middle East and North Africa? Still, no one in the MSM or in our halls of government seems to take the asymmetric nuclear war threat seriously – so far.
April 30, 2011 By Leave a Comment
April 22, 2011 By 303 Comments
By Andrew McKillop 21st Century Wire April 22, 2011 Since its introduction in the 1950′s, the myths surrounding nuclear power have been worked up into a complex web as massive and multiple as the debts and deficits assailing government leaderships and central bankers in most OECD countries, but like these myth-based no alternatives, the nuclear myths are easy to cut back to basics. We can start with the Mother Myth of nuclear power. This is as beguilingly simple as the sequence leading to yet another debt and deficit bailout, with printed money in Europe, the USA or Japan. We are confronted by all-powerful debts in today’s world, and by all-powerful forces in the atom. By intelligently exploiting it we will have ultimate power… In fact arguments about ‘how to use it’ and ‘should we use it’ started even before the world’s first atom bomb was exploded in 1945. How could we use this total power and unlimited energy ? Would it be for good or evil ? How much would it all cost ? COSTS NEVER MATTERED The atom scientists of the 1930s- names we still know today, like Fermi and Einstein, argued about those subjects too. But being scientists, they were not especially concerned by what it would all cost. Only later, with the founding of the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency in 1956 – which is essentially a promotional agency for nuclear power – were the key subjects of entrepreneurial effort and the obligatorily linked need for government subsidies brought into the fray. This was sold as creating a future world where atomic arms will be changed to power plant ploughshares. While atomic weapons were expensive, the ploughshares would be cheap if we spent enough investing in them (so they said). Another handicap for the 1930′s atom scientists that make it hard for them to get an idea how much nuclear power would cost, and which cost several of them their very own lives from cancer death, was that 75 years ago they knew little and therefore cared little about radiation and what it did to living things. The myth of radiation being very ‘interesting’ but not dangerous, was however firmly debunked by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but not without a last ditch attempt by the occupying Allied Powers to protect it – by arresting and deporting any journalist who talked about radiation deaths. Estimates of radiation deaths from these two bombs vary widely, depending on the cut-off time interval for making an estimate and also hindered by the Allied Powers blackout on radiation deaths, but in total these were likely well in excess of 100,000. Today with the Fukushima disaster making it suddenly OK to openly doubt that nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap, it is easy to find the radiological equivalent of these 6 industry standard BWR power plants and their fuel ponds. Anywhere up to 15 000 times the combined release of radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. RISKS DON’T MATTER Under a tight shield of commercial and national security, technological complexity and simple disinterest in almost unlimited health and environment security risks the nuclear industry worldwide… has created hundreds of Doomsday Machines. They must never, ever suffer total meltdown, or damage so serious their radiological inventory can escape. If – or rather when – that happens the consequences can only and will only be dire. This central fact has been deliberately and consistently hidden from the general public since the so-called Atomic Age began. This so-called Faustian bargain or Devil’s bet dwarfs even the incredible costs of what is a totally uneconomic source of electricity, but the financial risks of nuclear power are themselves massive – in fact open-ended like the health and environment risks. A PRICE TO PAY: Fukushima’s Faustian drama unfolds. We could or might find excuses for the sequence of events and overlays of hasty and uninformed, irresponsible or technologically arrogant decisions leading to hundreds of Doomsday Machines being stationed around the planet – each one a gigantic dirty bomb. For many, still even today, atomic energy looks like something for nothing, and this alone has attracted generations of charlatans to work the talk circuits in favour of nuclear power. As we know today, the old nuclear nations which first developed atomic energy from the 1950s and 1960s have rapidly ageing and unsure reactor fleets. By the 2020-2030 period dozens of these reactors will have to be taken out of service. And then what ? Industry terminology for this includes the keywords Safestore, dismantling, entombment and sarcophagus – all of which translate to extreme high costs both in the short-term and on a recurring basis. This also assumes there will be linked and secure long-term high level radioactive waste ultimate repositories, such as the constantly abandoned US Yucca Mountain project, abandoned mainly because of its extreme high cost. Trying desperately to keep itself alive at whatever cost and whatever risk to present and future human and other life on the planet, the nuclear industry has retreated into its laager mentality with technology gimmicks ranging from thorium and other non-uranium fuelled reactors, fusion reactors, and fast breeder reactors. Although no commercial – that is non subsidized and large scale – versions of these quick fixes exist, the high-tech sheen on these claimed alternatives is enough to beguile some weak minded, uninformed and gullible persons. Nuclear power should be given another try, they say ! NUCLEAR MERCANTILISM The key sales pitch for nuclear power- that its costs can be recouped rather quickly from the almost free energy and power it supposedly delivers has been shamelessly used to vend these Doomsday Machines, particularly in the emerging and developing countries, from Sudan to Bangladesh, and Ghana to Mongolia. Exactly how to get this energy that will be too cheap to meter remains a shady piece of logic: massive and complex long-term financing vehicles and packages will be needed. While details are shrouded in more than only commercial and financial secrecy – nuclear power’s national security handle is heavily employed to blackout information – this, of course, is the basic strategy is mercantilist. The 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) comprises of mainly OECD membership, but also includes countries like Argentina, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as some other small non-OECD countries but specifically does not include India. This traces to the 1975 founding of the NSG, in the wake of India’s 1974 test explosion of an atom bomb, and the alarmed but confused attempt by leaderships of the old nuclear nations to lock down nuclear technology but also promote nuclear power. The permanent and basic linkage between nuclear weapons, and nuclear power had been made clear for all to see by the Indian test, but business had to go on as usual. By some strange schizophrenia, the same alarmed political leaderships in the old nuclear nations chose to ignore (or simply not know) that with each large-sized civil power reactor they promote, their suppliers contract to house several thousands times more radiation products than those released by the Hiroshima bomb. Setting aside this sheer madness, for the last 10 years and especially since 2005, nuclear mercantilism has rapidly grown as the effective and real mover. This extends far beyond simple market and sales maximising strategy, and the strategy is likely coordinated at high level among the key members of the NSG, who number less than 15 OECD countries. FROM PETRODOLLARS TO URANIUM DOLLARS The sales pitch for nuclear power is that we have to massively invest and spend if we want this unlimited energy. Only then will we touch down in Atomic Nirvana and we will finally have been promised since the 1950′s- energy that is too cheap to meter. Our fuel is uranium and this fuel is very far from rivalling world oil or other hydrocarbons for global turnover, with an approximate value around 13 billion USD in 2010, but as the nuclear industry likes to crow, uranium fuel costs are only around five percent of total operating costs. Uranium supplies are short, and import dependence for most major consumer countries is high. As a result, uranium fuel costs could likely grow, simply due to the permanent supply shortfall of this fuel for reactors and the heavy import dependence of nearly all major users in Europe, Japan and South Korea – incidentally making a mockery of the energy security claim used to sell nuclear energy. Accessing uranium supplies, mainly in Africa and Central Asia is already a bargaining chip for nuclear financial packaging and uranium supply features among the underlying movers in Chinese rivalry with OECD country interests in Africa, and Russian versus Western rivalry in Muslim Central Asia. Creating the debt-and-dependency hook, and recycling uranium dollars is therefore part and parcel of the nuclear sales drive in starkly unprepared low income countries – in the case of Sudan (Darfur is home to one of the three largest deposits of high-purity uranium in the world), a long-term civil war and in many others exposed to serious civil strife. FINANCIAL SHOCKER Until the Fukushima disaster threw a cloud over the so-called Nuclear Renaissance announced by the nuclear industry, this prefigured as many as 100 – 125 reactor sales in emerging and developing countries outside China and India in the 2010-2020 period. Excluding uranium supplies, fuel services (waste and reprocessing), electric power infrastructures and other parts of the nuclear value chain this pre-Fukushima sales target implied a global 10-year turnover value of at least 700 billion USD. With leverage and financial packaging through national debt and currency exchange rate linked paper, this could generate far above 100 trillion dollars in tradable value, and above all potentially re-create the long 1985-2000 period of Third World debt-driven dependence on OECD nation financial institutions and private banks. COPYRIGHT ANDREW MCKILLOP 2011 -
March 25, 2011 By 290 Comments
By Andrew McKillop 21st Century Wire March 25, 2011 What the atomic energy lobby calls The Nuclear Renaissance is advance warning of uncontrolled and runaway financial and economic disaster. This adds on to vastly growing risks of industrial disaster like we have witnessed this month in Japan, nuclear weapons proliferation, and reactors turned into and used as massive Dirty Bombs while their wastes are recycled as Depleted Uranium ordnance. The so-called ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ could or might see as many as 225 new large-size reactors built in as many as 45 countries, through 2010-2020. World uranium demand – already at least 20 percent more than uranium mine supply – could almost double in the same period. Presently almost unknown to the public and ignored by the media, national security and even the concept and present reality of nation states is under threat. Nuclear accidents, nuclear weapons production, and financial disaster triggered by the nuclear subprime asset bubble now under way are direct challenges to the existence of nation states. Nuclear power has ever less credibility as its costs spiral upward, pumping ever growing amounts of taxpayers’ money to feed the beast in every country treading the nuclear path, as is shown by any rational analysis of the nuclear industry’s energy and economic facts. But the real strategic role of civil nuclear power, despite it being able to yield nuclear weapons in “a few screwdriver turns”, is now economic and financial. Fast increasing numbers of civil reactors, uranium mines, fuel fabrication and reprocessing plants, waste fuel centres and “plutonium repositories” across the world have generated a surge of political and corporate, economic and finance sector elite support. Nuclear power is the new “No Alternative”, shading down and crowding out the reality that massive volumes and quantities of nuclear materials, in any country, destroy all reality of national defense and the nation state. The choice is simple: nuclear power or national defence. In the coming decade we will have to choose between the atom and the nation. Conventional war, like conventional nation states is not credible in a world with 45 or more nuclear power using states. Due to certain assured massive destruction of the economy when, or if , large reactors and nuclear installation are hit… conventional war is finished. Do our political leaders know this, as they sign ever bigger reactor and nuclear fuel contracts with a growing list of low income Emerging economy countries? How many politicians are factoring this into their decision making? CHERNOBYL – THE FINAL SOLUTION The world’s civil nuclear power system is a giant-sized Chernobyl-type dirty bomb offering no energy security or freedom from oil. Quantities of plutonium produced worldwide by civil reactors are already about 22 tons a year – enough for more than 2000 Hiroshima-sized bombs every year. By 2020 this could rise to 3500 per year. Oil saving due to the atom is negligible. In a fast growing number of countries both the size and complexity of nuclear installations is also rising fast. Reactor building costs and prices are exploding, with the inflation rate in 2010 close to 25 percent per year. Only a few types of reactor, especially underground or ‘hardened’ military reactors can resist a wide-body airplane crashing on them. Their costs are astronomic as shown by the European EPR, whose proud boast is that it could also resist a wide-body plane crash – at fantastic cost. But almost no reactor of any kind will resist entirely conventional ballistic missiles, conventional artillery shells, conventional anti-tank and anti-building munitions, and infantry launched or drone launched missiles. The reality is inescapable. All are totally vulnerable to operator error and IT safety system failures. Every single one of them is a potential Doomsday Machine. Reactors will also not resist worst-case seismic damage, as the Earth’s tectonic systems shift to a new long-term period of cooling climate and intensified volcanic activity, driving increased numbers of major seismic events. Due to the world’s uranium supply and fuel reprocessing system being totally fossil energy dependent, the vaunted claim of “Low Carbon Nuclear” is more of a marketing myth than the Friendly Atom. NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE We are promised or threatened the so-called Nuclear Renaissance. This is shorthand for a return to the rates of reactor orders and completions closer to those of the nuclear industry’s previous heydays and high times, dating from the first Oil Shock of the 1970s and by overdrive into the early 1980s. At the time and for 10 years one new reactor came on line every 17 days. Uranium prices and reactor construction costs exploded. The result was simple: the nuclear asset bubble imploded. The industry downsized, restructured, forced mergers took place, tens of thousands of jobs were lost – and Big Government, that is the taxpayers, paid for the party. Today, like the 1970s, nuclear power is again promoted as the fast track to energy independence - and for delivering supposedly Low Carbon energy to fight global warming from burning fossil fuels. To be sure, the rationale is bizarre: nuclear energy claims to deliver energy security, but there is massive import dependence for uranium supply in nearly all nations using civil nuclear power systems. This is perhaps because uranium exporter countries are not yet seen as “terror supporting regimes”, not yet accused of overcharging for their uranium exports. This will soon change as uranium prices spike up to unknown peaks. ATOMIC SURPRISES ARE BAD SURPRISES Nuclear boomers dream in print they have the Final Solution to all safety risks, cost limits and uranium fuel shortages, that might or could bar mankind’s route to nuclear powered Universal Prosperity. This essentially cornucopian dream – very ironically – came from the fusion of two supposedly total opposite world views. In the deep Cold War period of extreme American defence of capitalism, and extreme Soviet defence of totalitarian state control, through the 40 years from the late 1940s until 1989, both regimes placed all their military faith in nuclear weapons. Both also linked civil and military nuclear power, then fused them into a nuclear technological utopia. This ideology-spanning facet of the all nuclear solution, joining civil and military in a seamless web of myth, makes it unsurprising that China and India, and other big states, or would-be big states of today are fully embarked in the Nuclear Renaissance. Certainly for the Big 5 UN Security Council declared nuclear weapons states, any pretence that civil nuclear, and military nuclear are not 100% linked and totally interdependent, is a complete farce. All the Big 5 Security Council states started their nuclear story with a fevered race to develop nuclear weapons, then made a few screwdriver turns to spin-off and start their civil nuclear systems - always with fantastic government cash subsidies. Despite this, by a strange form of mass schizophrenia among the political elites of these states, nuclear power is imagined to be cheap and economic – and of course… safe ! Yet, the reality of dirty bomb capability for each and every large sized reactor anywhere on earth, is stoically denied. So as we wait patiently in the shadow of the fallout cloud, the myth of the nation state continues. The permanent denial of civil and military nuclear power being one and the same has likely favoured the most proliferative-possible, most vulnerable-possible civil nuclear systems worldwide, both in the “old nuclear” countries, and in the 15 or more new nuclear states that the Nuclear Renaissance may bring. In any case, the historic reality of international wars started by one nation and fought against another nation is now obsolete. Any nation with sizeable nuclear installations on its home territory is vulnerable to devastating attack using entirely conventional, non-nuclear weapons of the type possessed by dozens of states and nations, today. This reality hides the awesome question: who will look after nuclear power using states when they have suffered economic, political and social meltdown in civil, international, or terror wars ? Who can step in to prevent worst-case damage all the nation’s nuclear plants and fuel facilities? If we ask the key question: “Can we be certain this awesome challenge is understood by our political elites and the opinion formers who control our press and media ?”, and still all we hear is silence, there is no answer. THE END OF NATIONS? The fully globalized economy is described by many as a certain death sentence for the nation state. Nuclear power proliferation sets the exact same No Future full stop for the nation. With a fully developed global nuclear power system the historical trend or social instinct of the nation state has no place and must disappear. To be sure, large nuclear reactors and facilities will surely serve, as they already do for Iran today as last-ditch anti-invasion defence, but they are also prepositioned enemy weapons for hostile opponents not necessarily wanting to invade and occupy. Only to destroy. The asymmetric war potential is almost open-ended. This can inject new themes for the flagging ”Bin Laden industry” of technology-terror potboiler books, films and docu-dramas, but the reality of nuclear power’s threat to the nation state must be addressed. In a civil war, which reactor will get hit, first ? So what are we left with? The linked illusions of the nation state and national security must be abandoned, if the world’s political and corporate elites want to pursue the chimera of cheap and safe atomic energy. Otherwise our leaders will have to stay hopeful and ignore the civil nuclear overkill threat, while they continue to pump state funds into the economic failure of nuclear power. When we wake up to hear the incredible and fantastic worst case has already happened- as we have these last few weeks with Japan’s own major accident, or later because of operator error, or even in the shape of purposeful military or terror attack on large civil nuclear installations, it will be too late – much too late. - Andrew McKillop is guest writer and energy markets analyst for 21st Century Wire. He has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has extensive experience in energy policy, project administration, including the development and financing of alternate energy.
March 16, 2011 By 267 Comments
BBC March 15, 2011Germany has temporarily shut down seven of its nuclear reactors while it reconsiders its nuclear strategy. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that all reactors operational before 1980 would be taken offline, and safety checks carried out on the remaining plants. The move comes after concerns about radiation leaks at a Japanese plant after last Friday’s earthquake. The EU has also reached agreement on “stress tests” of all European nuclear facilities. “We want to look at the risk and safety issues in the light of events in Japan,” the European energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said. ‘Out of service’ Chancellor Merkel also pointed to the safety concerns behind the German move. ”In light of the situation, we will carry out a safety check of all nuclear plants,” she said. ”Those nuclear power plants which began operation before 1980 will be provisionally shut down for the duration of the moratorium. They will be out of service. ”Safety is the priority. Those are the criteria by which we acted today.” All safety questions would be answered by 15 June, she said. Last year, Germany decided to extend the life of its 17 nuclear power plants by 12 years, but that decision was suspended for three months on Monday. The government had faced growing pressure for the extension to be scrapped. More than a quarter of all German electricity comes from nuclear power. The Swiss government has also suspended decisions on its nuclear programme. Concerns are growing about radiation leaks at a nuclear plant in Japan that has been hit by a third explosion in four days following last week’s earthquake and resulting tsunami. The blast occurred at reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant – 250km (155 miles) north-east of Tokyo – which engineers had been trying to stabilise after two other reactors exploded. SEE BBC REPORT HERE
March 16, 2011 By 284 Comments
Paul Joseph Watson Infowars.com March 16, 2011 With Japanese authorities confirming that the third blast at Fukushima’s stricken nuclear plant caused radioactive particles to be released directly into the atmosphere, localized winds are blowing the radiation towards Tokyo, causing many to flee the capital, but the longer term trajectory of upper atmosphere prevailing winds will still send any potential radiation cloud towards the U.S. west coast. Global Jet Stream Map for March 13-21, 2011 Following a third explosion at the plant as well as a fire in another reactor, radioactive material is now leaking directly into the atmosphere at a rate of 400 milliseverts per hour, according to The International Atomic Energy Agency. Anyone who is exposed to more than 100 milliseverts a year risks contracting cancer. Higher than normal levels of radiation have already been detected in Tokyo, with readings up to ten times higher than normal measured in Chiba, which is 15 miles from the capital. Gamma radiation levels in the Ibaraki prefecture, which is just a hundred or so miles north of Tokyo, are 30 times higher than normal. The French embassy, which already advised its citizens to leave Tokyo on Sunday, warns that low level radioactive winds could reach the capital within hours… SEE FULL REPORT HERE
March 15, 2011 By 330 Comments
Japanese disaster exposes serious problems with nuclear fuelBy Andrew McKillop 21st Century Wire March 16, 2011 As alternatives to fossil fuel go, nuclear power has long been held in high regard by green prophets and policy makers throughout the developed world. Still though, its loyal proponents, including James Lovelock, have been stumped for years by the double entendre that has dominated this discussion for the best part of a half century: is it cost-effective? And more importantly, is it safe? The recent crisis in Japan has forced the latter to the very top of our global agenda. Japan’s nuclear crisis began with an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunamis that rocked the country’s northern region on Friday (Japan’s Meteorological Agency has since upgraded the earthquake to 9.0 on the Richter scale). As a result of the quake, the fuel rods in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s unit 2 reactor were fully exposed, despite attempts to pump water into the chamber, according to Japanese media reports. The prefectural (regional) nuclear safety department said Tuesday that sharp rises in radiation were detected in the Ibaraki prefecture, south of Fukushima. Radiation monitored in Hitachiota City rose to 100 times normal levels, according to officials from the safety department, and radiation was also recorded at 10 times the normal level in Naka City and Hitachi City in the same prefecture, Xinhua reported. Infowars.com reported yesterday that in addition to under reporting the fires at Fukushima, Japanese government officials have not told the people about the ominous fact that the nuclear plant site is a hellish repository where a staggering number of spent fuel rods have accumulated for 40 years. Pentagon officials also reported this past Sunday that helicopters flying 60 miles away from the Daiichi plant picked up small amounts of radioactive material, which suggests there could also be more widespread environmental contamination than was previously expected. The proliferation of nuclear plants since 1960 was somewhat of a global phenomenon and is no stranger to controversy. Hollywood first chimed in with its 1979 thriller The China Syndrome. Then real life happened- Americans will tell you about the cooling malfunction that caused part of the Unit 2 core to melt at Three Mile Island, and then- Eastern Europeans will tell you about the employees, who in violation of safety regulations, had switched off important control systems causing a nuclear explosion at the doomed Chernobyl facility in the Ukraine. Human error and equipment failures aside, it’s also not uncommon that reactors have been built near major continental fault lines. This is how the present discussion surrounding Japan’s nuclear incident has initially been framed. Beyond these obvious risks exist a set of even deeper, perhaps more dangerous aspects to the nuclear power game: its dirty, radioactive shopsoiled products. And as any good consumer knows, any shop keeper who pushes shopsoiled goods over his counter is a business man who has little regard for the health and safety of his patrons, despite his repeated assurances that everything he sells is, “of the highest quality”. Nuclear power companies will always advertize that theirs is “a solution for competitive and safe electricity production”, and the solution to “Zero-emission energy”. It’s “green” and it’s “clean”. Consumers should be warned though, believe this slick public relations campaign at your own risk- and the risk of future generations. THE JAPANESE DID Shopsoiled nuclear goods in the shape of reactor uranium fuel contaminated with plutonium and other high level radioactive wastes from the (not-so-friendly) atom are called second-time fuel by France’s Areva Corporation, a semi-public State-owned nuclear company. Mixed with fresh uranium, the reprocessed and recycled wastes produce “MOX”, or mixed oxide fuels. These same MOX fuels are also sometimes involved in the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium. Since 1995, its Melox plant in the southern Gard department has been making MOX fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants in a small, select number of countries, particularly for Japan and the United States. This fuel is made from uranium and plutonium oxides and is extracted from “spent” fuel rods in conventional reactors. MOX fuel is being promoted heavily by Areva as the world’s key solution for recycling plutonium generated in fuel rods. In spite of all its safety objections, Areva claims this process can stretch world nuclear fuel supplies, which also happen to be heavily limited by the massive under supply of fresh-mined uranium relative to annual uranium needs (another major problem with the nuclear option). With more than 1,500 tons of MOX fuel produced to date, Areva’s Melox plant is the world’s leading producer. In France, more than 10 percent of the electricity produced from nuclear energy comes from reactors running on MOX fuel, and 21 of its 58 present operating reactors are claimed by Areva as able to use MOX fuel. Up until the March 2011 disaster, Japan was heavily promoted by the French nuclear industry as moving up and coming along fine as the potential second-largest user in the world of this highly risky Doomsday Fuel. With the Japanese market in their crosshairs, Areva’s plans for MOX were the meat of boardroom exuberance. TOO MUCH PLUTONIUM Down in the real world, far away from the Areva boardroom – located in a sealed building with armed guards on every entrance in a discreet Paris suburb – things are different. The key part of Areva’s evil euphoria: plutonium. The MOX theory is that plutonium, used as fuel, is like something out of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice – it can just grow and grow – but we are such great guys, with such marvelous technology we can and will control this proliferation. The desperate problem is this concerns plutonium, not pails of water. Finding out how much plutonium is produced by the world’s 440-odd civil nuclear reactors, excluding what is produced in the 200-odd military and research reactors of larger size, is however not easy. Knowing what plutonium can do is a lot easier: the complete detonation of 1 kilogram of plutonium produces an explosion equal to about 20,000 tons of a chemical explosive like TNT. Lethal doses of plutonium oxide, when inhaled, start from as low as a half-milligram. Estimates are variable on how much is produced by the world’s civil reactors, but the minimum is about 25 tons per year. Apart from the extreme, almost unlimited danger of plutonium, its production inside the fuel rods of conventional reactors makes them hard to operate, and can make them dangerous due to the quirks of plutonium as an engineering metal, as well as chemical and radioactive agent. When fuel rods contain even the smallest few-percent amounts of plutonium, they have to be removed, cooled, and transported to reprocessing centres. The plutonium is removed – and given Melox treatment to recycle cash for the very few industrial ‘players’ like Areva who like playing around with this ersatz fuel and seem to care little and less about generating permanent danger for anything living that their pet plutonium can contact. THE FRENCH CONNECTION The temptation on the part of the nuclear industrial complex to flog its wears to anyone and everyone is something of a grim reality, encapsulated by France’s recent courtship of its dodgy neighbour across the Mediterranean. Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine reported on July 27, 2007: French President Nicolas Sarkozy went to Tripoli on Wednesday and struck a number of deals with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including promises to build a nuclear reactor. Critics in Germany and France are crying foul, accusing him of going it alone and potentially endangering Europe. Der Spiegel rightly described this typical Sarkozy go-for-it, lunge-for-anything which features Big Dosh (in this case the billions of petrodollars Gadhafi has been collecting for the last 40 years), as nothing less than a European disgrace. But we can ask another question: Would you buy anything from Areva’s unofficial international sales agent Sarko ? In this case, Gadhafi did not. GETTING TO KNOW THINGS Areva and its small number of partners-in-crime covering the major nuclear technology supplying countries, notably Japan, are at this moment in March 2011 under heavy stress: the Japan disaster is real. Worldwide media is focused on Japan, and especially the crippled, probably long-term defective and aged reactors which have suffered massive damage – and perhaps total meltdown. What the nuclear elite really fear are two things: scrutiny and open information, like those garden insects and arthropods that run for it when you lift a big stone that has been in place for so long. The nuclear elite’s system of lies, distortion, bribery and propaganda is suddenly exposed for what it is – creating a time of terrible danger for the pushers of defective and dangerous, expensive and unnecessary nuclear razzle dazzle that cost lives. Gimmicks that kill and shopsoiled goods are the meat of nuclear business turnover: unlike previous and exposed industries like asbestos, government and corporate complicity to ram nuclear power down our throats, with the goal of universal acceptance for this Doomsday Tech has been massive. Only disaster can shake it. Throughout the government-friendly media outlets, rearguard action is underway- the nuclear elite are using all channels to swamp the public with confusing information, to reassure the public that Japan’s nuclear authorities are in control. But these same elite have already gone cap in hand to US nuclear experts, begging for help. Tragedy aside, this singular example in Japan shows almost in real-time how the lies of the nuclear elite are critically damaged by truth… any truth. And this truth is only allowed out when there are disasters and catastrophes – another thing which we will remember when nuclear shills and boomers are peddling their talk about clean, safe and cheap nuclear power. This time their game could be over. - COPYRIGHT ANDREW MCKILLOP 2011 - Andrew McKillop is guest writer and energy markets analyst for 21st Century Wire. He has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has extensive experience in energy policy, project administration, including the development and financing of alternate energy.
February 26, 2011 By 120 Comments
By Andrew MacKillop 21st Century Wire February 26, 2011 - Top and bottom, or truth and beauty quarks interest nuclear physicists, but the mutually assured destruction of both the top and bottom, namely- both the North and South parts of the global economy. It came very close indeed, programmed and running to schedule right until the end of December 2010. Using the lever of nuclear power and the ‘creative’ financial assets generated around them, the intended mechanism featured a massive finance bubble driven by a construction spree of new, industry standard, Chernobyl-sized (900 MW and over) reactors right across the Southern emerging and developing countries, scheduled to take place between 2010-2020. The lynchpin target for this so-called “Nuclear Renaissance” was the entire Middle East and North African region– the Arab world, including outlier countries such as Sudan and the Central Asian muslim republics. As late as mid-year 2007, France’s President Sarkozy could crow about French success in selling its nuclear power to his respected, or at least petrodollar-flush fellow head of state, received with pomp and circumstance at the Elysee Palace(with tent and gorilla bodyguard)… Mr Muammar Gaddafi. INFLATING THE BUBBLE The nuclear bubble plan originated inside a small, shadowy core group of global finance and geopolitical players. The earliest coming out the so-called plan to build more nuclear reactors through 2010-2020 than in any previous period in history, took place at the UN’s Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. Upon exposure, the first plan experienced its first defeat. Even as vaguely sketched out, or alluded to by the four heads of state of leading nuclear suppliers- Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown (succeeded later by Cameron), it was promptly met with disbelief and outright hostility by leaders of China, Russia, India, Brazil and others. Bruised but undeterred by this first failure to sell the scam, its pilot group continued its work through 2010. Their members included the likes of George Soros and his foundation, the World Shift Network, including pro-nuclear activists like Al Gore, nuclear boomers coordinated by the WNA (World Nuclear Association) and by a string of finance industry and institutional players led by the IMF, World Bank, the US Ex-IM Bank, as well as some notable major Ponzi scheme finance operators like Goldman Sachs Co. and its finance industry allies. They were frequently joined by the other three heads of government of the top 7 core nuclear industry supplier countries. Together they comprise the present 46-nation NSG-Nuclear Suppliers Group, hatched in 1974. UNDERSTANDING THE NUCLEAR BUBBLE Understanding why the attempt at floating a massive nuclear finance bubble – one which is approximately 10 to 50 times the size of the US sub-prime housing bubble – was doomed to either economic failure, or financial failure, or government debt and monetary failure- or all three, one only needs a flashback to the nuclear industry’s first finance bubble and meltdown, the period around 1974-1979. But at least as important, we have to add another cause of near-certain failure, along with the potential menace of massive loss of life, almost open-ended economic loss, and the ensuing environment damage. Until the Arab youth revolt started sweeping the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in January 2011, the key geographic region for selling nuclear reactors and creating the new “Nuclear South” – was MENA. One may ask the question: who in their right mind, 6 weeks later at end-February 2011, would suggest it is still a nice, progressive and productive, secure and useful idea to sell industry standard, Chernobyl-sized nuclear power plants to countries like Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Syria,Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Iran, the Central Asian republics, or any other civil war-prone country of the region, like Sudan ? At this moment in time any fast forward scenarios for the MENA region remain cloudy, but above all, they are troubled. Today, few could tell you the sell-by-date for remaining regimes in place in these countries. Apart from minor details like nuclear power plants being likely early collateral damage in civil wars of the region with massive destructive potential, the collapse of friendly dictators in the region heavily weakens another basic need of the nuclear bubble scam – for the borrowing parties to remain inexistence throughout the life of this global Ponzi scheme that was going to be operated, using nuclear assets in the South as the underlying security. Why the plan or scheme to off-load, dilute or dissolve unpayable OECD debt with this scam had to be big- and would have started big, is as simple to understand as flipping through debt and deficit statistics and forecasts for the leading economies of the OECD group. Any so-called “reserve currency” or money, whether in paper dollars, paper euros, paper yen or any others, today faces mortal threat of meltdown. The traditional central banker’s game of turning the printing press and crossing one’s fingers has been shaken to its core of confidence by the global financial and monetary meltdown- a disaster which was triggered by the US sub-prime housing scam. NUCLEAR SUB-PRIME DWARFING THE HOUSING BUBBLE The nuclear sub-prime bubble, we can be sure, was schemed as an operation tens of times bigger than the global housing bubble. The scheme was promoted as an “energy independence” and/or low-carbon plan for emerging and developing countries of the South, but under the table featured a huge off-load of debt from the OECD super-debt countries which could supply the necessary nuclear tech, fuel and engineering services – and above all the finance packages. The scam would have spread its wings the encompass government debt, currency and credit default swaps, SIVs (Structured Investment Vehicles) and a string of interest rate and other derived products, only limited in size and arcane complexity by the same cynical imagination of the nimble minds who gave an unsuspecting world the US sub-prime bubble – and crash. THE FIRST ASSET BUBBLE In market jargon anything that goes North is growing and profitable, while going South means losing money, likely going out of business. Turning this around in geographic terms, the nuclear sub-prime scam was conceived with a Southern base, but for the world nuclear industry ‘going south’ already happened- its first asset bubble still remains as a trace memory, haunting analysts and industry advocates. The first time the industry almost died on its feet started exactly when the NSG was first founded by the original 7 pro-nuclear OECD countries, including the 3 Western members of the UN Security Council. Between 1974-1979 the industry rode a massive upsurge in asset values with reactor costs rising almost daily as the whole nuclear supply chain from uranium mining, enrichment and fuel fabrication, through reactor building and waste handling suffered double-digit annual inflation. By 1978 US Westinghouse (now Toshiba-Westinghouse) was forced to declare force-majeure on its uranium fuel supply contracts, and then on all of its new orders, reactor building and completions. POPULAR NUCLEAR MYTHS Elsewhere in the NSG world, financial meltdown became a threat, followed by a reality much more dire than core meltdown– as the core business of nuclear industrial players became too hot to handle. The reason was simple. The 1973-1974 oil shock generated a wave of panic in decider mindsets right across the developed OECD North, at a time when the only users of nuclear power along with communist Russia and communist China. The atom in economic folklore became the quick fix silver bullet able to shield their oil-based economies from oil price rises, despite the fact that an average intelligence child with a two-dollar pocket calculator could show, and can show today, that nuclear power saves little oil- or indeed, no oil at all. Uninterested by such tiring details, governments and corporate deciders stampeded into their farcical attempt at saving the economy with atomic power. Reactor orders exploded. Inflation followed, and financial meltdown naturally ensued, creating what the nuclear industry still calls its ‘nuclear winter’ – stretching from the early 1980s until the late 1990s, during which a single reactor order or completion was a hailed and rare event! NUCLEAR SALVATION So looking back we can see clearly that through 1974-1979 the exploding track of reactor and nuclear costs was exactly the same as what has happened through 2006-2011 to date. Selling nuclear salvation from high-priced oil to know-nothing heads of state, was then, and still remains today, an easy task in the run up to, and after-glow from the recent all-time high barrel price for oil (US $ 147 on the US NYMEX in 2008). This, we can note, was likely goosed by Goldman Sachs Co. The record price peak also included a 15-20 dollars special GS Co. premium specifically designed to bankrupt its client and victim, Semgroup Holdings, which was advised to bet, and lent funds to bet on falling oil prices… by Goldman Sachs. READY, STEADY… OOPS Primed and ready for the second nuclear asset bubble – this time a super-production – the world finance industry teamed with a mix and match of new-time, and old-time nuclear boomers through the years 2006-2009. This new Atomic Rat Pack ranges from the loony fringe of global warming hysterics like Jim Lovelock, James Hansen and Al Gore, to Whole Earth Catalog changeling and businessman Stewart Brand, completing his coming-out by discovering he’d always loved nuclear power all along but had been too shy to say it. More important for the hard-sell in the South, heads of state of the 7 key NSG countries, Sarkozy and Merkel, soon joined by Obama and Brown, fell over themselves to sell the atom to literally any country at all– in Sarkozy’s case to his friend and highly respected head of state Muammar Gaddafi back in 2007. The list of nuclear-possible or likely countries in the South at end 2010 makes a lurid read. In all cases the projects include (or included, as of end 2010, the probable end of this scam) big or very big civil reactor orders, for industry standard 900MW and larger power reactors. Apart from the MENA and the Muslim world, we find a bizarre array of crumbling dictatorships, one party states tricked out as democracies, and banana-or-oil republics, such as: Nigeria, Ghana, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Belarus,Pakistan and Indonesia. Through year 2010, in a flurry of mostly closed-door meetings, the nuclear industry boomers headed by the WNA and leading lights in the world finance industry honed down their strategy for building and launching the ultimate asset bubble. The reason for Southern tilt was not only the lack of debt and sometimes current account surpluses in these countries, but simple facts of life in the North. In the North, environment militants, knowledge and fear of nuclear power, high costs, and the many alternatives to the atom which now include vast reserves of unconventional gas, made their sales pitch a no-go… compared with the home run in the South. In the background, this was further powered by IMF-coordinated attempts to create new mechanisms for re-indebting the emerging and developing countries, and use the South as a place to offload OECD nation debt into a massive new pool of financial paper riding the nuclear asset bubble. Also add here a rather flagging green energy asset bubble. Perhaps the biggest reason we have to thank the cellphone-wielding Flash Mob youth of the Arab world is this: the potential for launching the new nuclear finance scam is now almost zero in the MENA region – the lynchpin for this attempt at out-doing the US sub-prime bubble. The life expectancy of such a scam today is not much more than that of a quark – about 10 to the minus 25 seconds. COPYRIGHT ANDREW MCKILLOP 2011 – Andrew McKillop is guest writer for 21st Century Wire. He has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.
September 29, 2010 By 286 Comments
By Andrew McKillop 21st Century Wire Sept 29th 2010 Like a Marlene Dietrich show in a remake of 1945 Berlin, surrounded by Soviet troop hordes, the nuclear sales show has to go on. The vaunted “Nuclear Renaissance” which is being proclaimed by the industry could see more than 200 new reactors built during the 2010-2020 decade, rivalling the industry’s previous high-water mark of 1975-1985 when one new reactor came on line, on average, every 17 days. The image of cheap, clean, safe and low carbon energy which is also secure – despite the uranium being mostly imported – has seduced political deciders and the corporate elite, worldwide. But the reality behind this romantic green image of a nuclear panacea to future energy needs is something altogether different. Welcome to Funky Town Since 2004, a future globalized electrical village lit by the atom is the meat of the obsessional ad campaign run by the French Areva state-backed nuclear monopoly, under the banner of “semi-private” as portrayed in the business press. This longstanding and massive advertising campaign runs to the background music of the Lipps Inc 1970s disco dance track “Funky Town” (see and hear this advert at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3B__ovj2jU). Areva wants to take you to Funky Town. Everyone is boogying to DJ Friendly Atom in these richly detailed TV and print media offerings. The comic strip presentations often show Areva-owned clean and environment-friendly uranium mines in Canada – rather than Islamic militant-menaced Niger where Areva has a massive mine. The ads sometime flash dark-suited, smiling Men of Finance proffering hard cash at the edge of the stage, to underline the new illusion: nuclear power is very market friendly. Indeed, nuclear power is market friendly and uranium mining is always clean and environmentally friendly in Funky Town. Quite often the reactors on the skyline are joined by serried ranks of friendly windmills and gleaming solar panels also delivering low carbon electricity. When in Funky Town, the revellers dance to the Areva tune. The Atomic Reality At the time when “Funky Town” was regular disco fodder circa 1977, nuclear power generation was still almost totally and exclusively reserved for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the USSR and to a smaller extent, China and India. It was almost exclusively State-controlled, State-financed and State-operated. Its strategic deployment and costs were ultimately linked to the real business of the atom – nuclear weapons making and state security which, of course, was a State secret. Why nuclear economics “did not matter” back then is certainly an interesting economic question and brings us to the root of the nuclear illusion. The State was not in the background, rather it was entirely present at the forefront of the nuclear scene, for the simple reason that nuclear powered electricity is expensive. Producing electricity for the civil power grid was still a side issue and interest for the State, in the early 1970s. The real objective of the State-backed and State-controlled nuclear industry was plutonium brewing to make atomic weapons. This context had lasted from the early age of the atom until the 1960s in the “old nuclear” countries – although America’s “Atoms for Peace” programme began with Eisenhower’s speech to the UN Assembly on Dec 8, 1953 (later called the “Atoms for Peace speech”). This programme was more an exercise in PR and communication, and wishful thinking, than making nuclear power a real world source of “cheap, clean and safe” electric power for the coming mass consumer society. The first coming of civil nuclear power in the 1955-1965 period did not scale up and become “international” by extending outside the USA and Europe, until the end of the 1960s and early 1970s where nuclear power became an “export” to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In all cases, in each country, the start-up of their civil nuclear programmes was organized and structured by the State, from start to finish. The so-called nominally private operating companies that were founded were usually private only in name. All building, construction, land use, environmental, worker safety, and financial, economic or legal regulations – especially liability insurance in case of an accident – were taken charge of by the State, from start to finish. The State was present and paid for the upstream – the power transmission and distribution infrastructures, fuel supply and fabrication, spent fuel removal and reprocessing, storage of wastes, and other nuts and bolts on the hardware side. The State was present and paid for the downstream – assured and constant financing at below-market rates, the creation of closed capital State-private holding companies and the massive gift of accident liability insurance. Data on how much this cost is clouded in controversy, and in many cases all documentation has been destroyed, but the French Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire estimates that in France, the “civil-isation” of the atom perhaps needed US $ 75 billion of state aid and support (some $300 billion by today’s standards). A conservative estimate. To be sure, no other energy supply industry, with the possible small-scale exception of Green Energy, could ever dream of receiving this royal flush of State largesse. This surely helps explain why in 2010, “Funky Town” go-go financiers have massively crowded into the nuclear sector. While the state aid pickings are good, this is the place to be. From Put Options to Development Aid The French EDF ex-monopoly electricity supplier with the biggest number of nuclear reactors of any traded power company in the world, also the most debt-laden traded company in France, and with a share price down about 25% through Jan-Aug 2010, is using financial engineering to keep a foothold in the US nuclear power market. Using debt instruments, EDF bought half of Constellation Energy Group’s nuclear business for US$ 4.5 billion in 2008, thwarting a takeover of Constellation by Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. At the time, Constellation set up an option for a later possible sale of non-nuclear plants to EDF. Since then, the financial crisis and unsure economic recovery have taken their toll on high-priced assets of highly indebted corporations, such as electric power plants. EDF and Constellation are now in dispute over Constellation’s option to sell EDF non-nuclear plants for as much as US $2 billion. The so-called put option – implying the value of these plants would fall – is due to expire in December 2010. EDF is Constellation’s biggest shareholder, but if Constellation exercised its put option, EDF would incur more debt or lower-performing assets and view this as a hostile move likely to jeopardize their relationship. This would in turn compromise plans to build new nuclear projects in the near future. Closely linked to this example of financial engineering, is the Congressional decision on what will be the last government aids for nuclear power plant building in the USA- a decision that would likely go to Constellation. If the corporation backs out of nuclear expansion, due to financial stress caused by EDF in retaliation for Constellation using its put option, the chance of it building another friendly atom plant may be low. Moving up a long way in funky financing, state-to-state bilateral deals in the nuclear power sector are now in high gear. Amounts in play are usually well above US $ 10 billion per project, and very complex mix-and-mingle methods and processes are used for their financing. From development aid finance, to market plays wielding put-and-call options, and natural resource based offset and compensatory trading all have a role for Funky Town financing of the atom. Like deals between South Korea and Abu Dhabi, Russia and Iran or France and Pakistan, the US-India arrangement targets business opportunities of epic dimensions. On the basis of the 2008 bilateral agreement, U.S. companies—most importantly Toshiba-Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi—are planning to build nuclear power plants in India. A linked American-Indian trade group claims that this business may ultimately be worth US $130 billion by 2030. At the basis of the long-running 30-year standoff between the USA and India was the question of uranium enrichment. During the negotiation of the 2008 agreement, Washington initially resisted giving India long-term consent to reprocess spent fuel subject to the agreement, because a 1982 U.S. National Security Decision Memorandum had limited such consent to the European Union and Japan. Business and plain sense however won the day: any questions of nuclear proliferation are in fact relics of a very distant past: India tested its first atom bomb in 1974 ! Already marshalled into this private-public ‘Marshall Plan’ for selling US nuclear power and services to India are the US Ex-Im (export-import) Bank, leading Wall Street private banks, and major downstream infrastructure companies such as Bechtel, all primed and ready to go. Under special arrangements for nuclear financing, US state agencies, especially the Ex-Im Bank can in some cases finance up to 85% of the initial sale for projects with a 15-year lifetime after an initial open-ended time period during which construction and hand-over to Indian buyers took place. Unlike smaller and specialized aid agencies like US AID, the Ex-Im Bank is an ideal vehicle for closely working with the big creative players of private finance, who shy well away from the atom for many reasons. The next round in financing the new Nuclear Renaissance promises to be a lot less easy. Lined up on today’s buy side are a lengthening list of low-income and mid-income new nuclear countries wanting the atom. They include: Nigeria, Ghana, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and others. Even “entry level” nuclear projects tend to cost US $ 2 – 5 billion, take years to construct and will have to be operated for a minimum of 30 – 40 years to make a profit and pay back initial costs. To be sure, the now standardized “operating life extensions” of 10 years here or there, may help avoid the prohibitive costs of decommissioning. In a likely return to the dawn of civil nuclear power, the UN’s nuclear agency the IAEA could be extended to cover nuclear financing. When the IAEA was announced by US president Eisenhower in a Dec 1953 speech to the UN general assembly, his original proposal included power plant financing, building and fuel supply. As we know, the IAEA in fact was only given the “watchdog” anti-proliferation role that it still has. The World Bank and its regional bank affiliates were also excluded from financing the atom – and although today’s World Bank talk about nuclear power is positive, the financing is not there. Modelled on the Global Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund, a US $ 100 billion fund that was definitely not approved at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate summit, the IAEA is working towards a “sister fund” known as the Global Nuclear Energy Fund for sustainable energy. In particular, this fund would aim to marshal and mobilize at least as much financing capability as the green energy fund: US $ 100 billion, but present and current promises, only from Europe, are of US $ 100 million. The nuclear fund would focus “small and innovative” nuclear power projects in low income countries, according to the IAEA. Sovereign Debt to Global Debt The UN’s Nuclear Suppliers Group has an impressive 45-nation list of supposed nuclear equipment and service suppliers, but these include countries like Iceland, Malta, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, everyone short of the Vatican. The “serious suppliers” especially include the 5 UN Security Council permanent members, China presently mostly importing nuclear equipment and of course fuel, but quite soon planning to be a major builder of overseas power plants and operator of overseas uranium mines, like in India. Most major suppliers, like the USA, France, Japan and Germany are also “seriously indebted” to new epic proportions following the 2008-2009 blow-out and collapse of the not-so-funky financial sector and its collateral damage to banks, and the economy in general. The result of all this is that selling nuclear power almost any place on the planet is now an attractive option – reinforced by the inevitable collapse of international financing and funding hopes for the green energy bubble at the December 2009 Copenhagen climate summit. All illusions aside, the economic reality of Nuclear power is that it is expensive and comes in big slices. Country risk in a long list of New Nuclear countries is high and in the extreme, over and beyond the weapons proliferation, waste handling and storage challenges in these countries, and elsewhere. Financing the Nuclear Renaissance in 2010-2020 will almost surely shift to international and multilateral debt financing methods. The IMF will surely be there, and all creative methods will have a look-in to using nuclear power plants as the underlying security in a vast new upsurge in global debt trading. A. McKillop copyright 2010 Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO. Contact: email@example.com