Category Archives: nuclear power

EDITORIAL: The Horror of Russian Cowardice and Lies

EDITORIAL

The Horror of Russian Cowardice and Lies

The nuclear reactor in Power Unit No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded at 1:23 am on Friday, April 25, 1986 — twenty five years ago this month.

It immediately generated a cloud of radioactive vapor ten times more toxic than the Hiroshima nuclear bombing.

But the 50,000 residents of the neighboring town of Pripyat, USSR, were not told to take protective measures, such as staying indoors with the windows shut, for a full twelve hours following the blast, when it was announced that they faced “an unfavorable radioactive atmosphere.”  Unfavorable indeed! They were not told they would be evacuated until late in the evening the next day, Saturday April 26, and they were not actually evacuated until 2 pm on Sunday, April 27. By that time, many had incurred lethal or life-altering doses of radioactivity.

Residents were not permitted to take their personal property with them. Patriotic Soviet citizens soon swarmed in and looted them to the bare walls.  Today, Pripyat is a ghost town.

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EDITORIAL: Remembering the Horror of Russia’s Mayak Atrocity

EDITORIAL

Remembering the Horror of Russia’s Mayak Atrocity

A recent independent news report out of Australia reminds the world of what Russia has become under the “leadership” of Vladimir Putin — a toxic waste dump, the world’s nuclear toilet.

Russians, you see, hate it when foreigners look down on them and use them to wipe their feet — until Russians don’t hate it, and actually encourage it.  It seems Russians have absolutely no problem with such attitudes by foreigners if Vladimir Putin, their anointed holy deity, is the one encouraging them to happen.

What  a country!  The details of Russia’s toxic nuclear quagmire are truly shocking, but even more so is the Kremlin’s total failure to try to protect Russians from the nightmare, and indeed its taking every possible step to make the problem much worse..

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Annals of Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare

Thinking of visiting Moscow, or even moving there? Best think again, my friend, best think again. The Moscow Times reports:

What many children in a densely populated eastern Moscow suburb used to think of as a good little hill to play and toboggan on has turned out to be a radioactive waste dump — one that local residents and ecologists say could spill over and contaminate a larger area.

The radiation-emitting dump on Bulvar Marshala Rokossovskogo, which was unearthed during incomplete cleanup works, poses a danger to Muscovites, said Vladimir Chuprov, head of Greenpeace Russia’s Energy Unit. He said the works, suspended half a year ago, were not done properly, leaving the site in a potentially dangerous state.

“The bad news is that the water has flowed in,” Chuprov said. “This water might contain radioactive materials. Liquid is much more difficult to recover and keep from spreading.”

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Annals of Iranian Quagmire

The blogger at TakeYourCross points us to a report from JihadWatch that indicates more gross incompetence on the part of the Bush administration, which maybe allowing U.S. funds to pay for Russian nuclear experts giving advice to Iran. Yikes! At least there may be some hope in this:  Paul Goble reports that some Russians are starting to realize that their brinksmanship in Iran isn’t working out as planned:

Moscow’s efforts in recent months to play “the Iran card” against the West reflect a dangerous misapplication of the principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and are leaving the Kremlin with few good options, according to a leading Russian specialist on foreign policy in southwest Asia.
In an interview in “Moskovsky Komsomolets” Ivan Danilin, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), argues that the Russian government has fallen into the trap of considering Iran largely in terms of Moscow’s relationship with the United States.

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EDITORIAL: Wake Up, Mr. Bush!

EDITORIAL

Wake Up, Mr. Bush!

At the end of the summer, Russia dictator Vladimir Putin traveled to Australia to meet with Prime Minister John Howard, a close ally of U.S. President George Bush, in order to beg for a deal allowing Russia to purchase “yellowcake” uranium from Oz’s vast brick road of the stuff to fuel Russia’s nuclear reactors. Rich in oil, Russia still relies on nuclear power to light its homes and doesn’t have enough of its own uranium to fuel them. It’s a telling indicator of its vulnerability that it needs to go all the way to Australia to get it.

Both before and after this event, we attacked the idea of any nation selling any kind of nuclear material to Russia, and this sentiment was echoed by many in Australia as well. There are two main reasons not to do so. First, Russia has growing ties with the terrorist-sponsoring rogue nation of Iran, including extensive efforts to help Iran develop and protect its own nuclear power capability, and Iran faces massive U.N. sanctions because of this. No thinking person doubts Iran’s wish to transform this capability into nuclear weapons as well, for the purpose of further terrorizing the Western democracies. Russia has flouted international sanctions agreed on by virtually the whole world, siding with Iran. Second, Russia is obliterating every last vestige of democracy inside the country, transforming itself rapidly into a neo-Soviet state at cold war with the West. Supplying Russia with aid and comfort under these conditions, we opined, was insane.

But Mr. Howard foolishly went ahead with the deal anyway, and Mr. Bush did nothing to stand in the way. And now, just look at the results:

Over the weekend, Mr. Howard and his conservative party stood for reelection and got their heads handed to them on a pike. Not only did they lose their majority in parliament to the labor party, but Howard himself was ejected from his own seat (one he had held for more than three decades), out of the parliament entirely, a virtually unprecedented event in Australian history. Australia has a marvelous compulsory voting system, where police hand out tickets imposing fines to those who fail to show up at the polls and cast their ballots, resulting in 94% turnout and clear national mandates. The people of Oz have spoken, and they have repudiated the odious Mr. Howard — just as Mr. Bush currently has the lowest public approval level of any president since such data began to be recorded. Perhaps this will be sufficient jolt to awaken the sleeping American president, forcing him to realize how utterly wrongheaded his Russia policy has been throughout his administration.

There’s still time, Mr. Bush, to set things right if you apply yourself, and you are on the right track by consistently confronting and frustrating Dictator Putin on missile defense in Europe. But there is much, much more you should be doing to stand up against the malignant little troll who prowls the Kremlin, a crude thug and a bully who wishes America only the worst. Maybe you should start by becoming a reader of this blog.

One who doubts whether failure and Russia exist in symbiosis need only cast a random eye across our virtual pages to be convinced that it is so. From exploding buses to a brutal Kiplinger warning to humiliating losses on the soccer pitch to toxic healthcare to horrific inflation to being boiled in your own apartment to rampant Internet corruption to gasoline shortages to barbaric vices to the inability to do a simple thing like deliver a baby, it’s all there in black and white (well, mostly black) — and that’s just the last two weeks! Others document Putin’s failure as well, for instance Streetwise Professor’s three recent posts on Russia’s military impotence.

Failure is what inevitably comes of allying yourself with Russia, so hopefully the Labor Party’s first order of business will be to review Howard’s crazy deal with the Russians and repudiate it. Australia should not be selling nuclear fuel to Russia until there are substantial changes in both Russia’s foreign policy and its domestic political structure — nor should any other responsible nation be doing so. The new prime minister will be former diplomat Kevin Rudd, a serious environmentalist who has promised to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and pledged to set tough new targets for carbon emissions and renewable energy. No such person can possibly support the status quo ante in Russia, one of the world’s most toxic states in every imaginable aspect.

Hopefully, too, the new U.S. administration that replaces Mr. Bush next year will reverse his ghastly Russia policy, should that still be necessary. John McCain, who is seeking the Republican nomination, has shown remarkable leadership on Russia, calling for the ejection of the Putin dictatorship from the G-8 group — that would be a great first step. If McCain doesn’t win the nomination and the Republicans hold the presidency — in fact, even if they don’t — McCain should be America’s next ambassador to Russia.

And the evidence of Russia’s virulent, malignant crackdown on civil rights and liberties is even more apparent than that of is its failure, which is omnipresent. Every single day we report multiple stories showing how the Kremlin is crushing the last vestiges of civil society in Russia, returning the nation to a full-blown neo-Soviet dictatorship (indeed, it’s been compellingly suggested that the better word would be paleo-Soviet, to better reflect the truly barbaric character of what is happening). Today alone we report on how journalists under attack while trying to report on the growing unrest in Ingushetia, and on the horrifying arrest of Russia’s leading opposition figure, Garry Kasparov, for daring to march peacefully through the streets of Moscow in protest against the Kremlin’s draconian crackdown on electoral freedom. The greatest and most disgusting outrage of them all (you can hardly blame a wild bear for killing and eating a hiker who makes himself vulnerable) is the fact that the people of Russia sit idly by watching it all happen, just as they did in the time of Stalin — and many craven cowards in the West do the same.

Mr. Howard will be numbered among them, and he’s got his just desserts in spades. Wake up, Mr. Bush — or the bell will toll for thee as well. Take a lead from the leaders of Germany and France, who have boldly confronted Dictator Putin across a wide range of issues. Step to the forefront and provide the American leadership that the world must have in order to deal effectively with the neo-Soviet threat. As the essay we report today from the mighty Financial Times shows, there are many around the world who clearly see and understand the nature of the peril we now see rising in Russia.

It’s time the American president did, too.

The consequences of inaction should have been well learned by now. Ukraine, for instance, has just commemorated the anniversary of the 1932-33 Holodomor genocide, in which the dictator Josef Stalin sought to exterminate the vast majority of Ukraine’s population in order to seize its “bread basket” unequivocally for Russia (Stalin also sought to purge Chechnya of its non-“Russian” population). Not only did we fail to grasp the significance of Holodomor while it was happening, leading to the tortuous demise of millions of Ukrainians, but some of us helped Stalin along. New York Times Russia correspondent James Duranty, for example, covered up the facts — and got Pulitzer Prize for it. Ivan Lozovy, a Ukrainian-based political analyst, told Radio Free Europe that the Pulitzer should now be revoked: “It would be historical justice. What interests me in this case is to make sure that Duranty is never forgotten, even if the prize is never revoked. Duranty is symbolic of how the West ignored this issue and Ukraine itself for many years, including after independence, until the Orange Revolution. This is a much wider and more important issue than just a prize given away 75 years ago.” Lozovy couldn’t be more on point. We’d better learn history accurately before we hope to make effective policy in the present.

An article over the weekend in the Washington Post touted Dictator Putin’s “popularity,” and the impression Russians have that he is improving their lives, as the Western media has often done in recent years. The article stated: “Yet while Putin — who has never debated a rival during two presidential election cycles — benefits from the country’s closed political process and fawning institutions, his ratings cannot be dismissed as simply the fruit of propaganda, according to Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Center.” A commenter offered the obvious refutation: “If his support is so rock solid, why is his government so vigilant in hounding opponents who, according to these same polls, enjoy single digit followings in the Russian population. His jingoistic speech this week to adoring the Putin Youth testifies to desperation, not confidence.” Stalin also could lay claim to widespread “popularity” in Russia, but this did not mean he presided over a strong or healthy state. Instead, despite being so “popular,” it meant Stalin felt the need to create the Gulag archipelago and murder more Russians than Hitler’s armies. The Soviet Union did not even survive 40 years after his demise.

How can the West expect the sick, impoverished, ignorant masses of Russia to stand up to their new maniacal leader if the powerful West, which hopelessly out-monies, out-guns and out-mans neo-Soviet Russia, will not do so? How can we expect them to understand our outrage, and act on it, if we do not express it? How can we expect Putin to stop if we do not tell him to? As long as the people of Russia continue to express support for Putin, they are as accountable for his barbaric crimes as they were for those of Stalin. It is only a sign of respect if we hold them to account for their behavior as adults rather than patronizing them as children.

The arrest of Garry Kasparov, for doing nothing more than seeking to lead a peaceful protest march through the streets of his nation’s capital, is a clarion warning call to the West, just as was the massacre of Anna Politkovskaya and the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the murder of Alexander Litvinenko (one year ago last week). The last time Kasparov was arrested for such activities, he was released in a few hours. The West took little action to protect him, so now the Kremlin is testing again. He’s been sentenced to five days this time. Can they get away with it? If so, the next time it may be a few years in Siberia just before the presidential elections, maybe in a cell right next to Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

By acting decisively and immediately to oppose the rise neo-Soviet Union just as Ronald Reagan opposed its predecessor, President Bush will be protecting not only American interests but those of the Russian people as well — lest Russia go the way of the USSR. It’s clear the people of Russia will not resolve the matter on their own.

Mr. Bush must act now.

Uh-Oh: Annals of Russian Nuclear Energy

Reuters reports that Russian authorities themselves have admitted to a nuclear lake due to massive safety violations at a major plant. They claim the leak was not dangerous, but does anyone think they would admit great danger if it existed? Does anybody remember Chernobyl?

Safety breaches have caused a radiation leak at a major nuclear reprocessing plant in the Ural mountains, Russia announced on Monday, but officials said there was no danger to humans. Local Emergencies Ministry officials said a faulty tap allowed radiation to leak from a tank holding liquid radioactive waste onto 1.5 km (just under a mile) of a road at the Mayak plant. The incident happened four days ago. “No one was injured,” the local Emergencies Ministry office said in a statement. “The radioactive levels at the plant and outside it are normal and absolutely harmless.”

The Mayak plant, dubbed “Russia’s ticking time-bomb” by environmentalists, suffered a series of accidents in 1949, 1957 and 1967 which were hushed up by Soviet governments. Nuclear weapons and nuclear waste are reprocessed at the highly secretive plant, which is about 2,000 km (1,243 miles) east of Moscow. Foreigners are not usually allowed onto its territory because of its sensitive work with nuclear weapons. Prosecutors said poorly implemented safety rules at the plant had allowed Thursday’s leak to take place.

“After an investigation… it was found that the reason for the leak last Thursday of liquid radioactive waste at the Mayak plant was the result of severe violations of the safety rules,” the local prosecutor-general’s office said in a statement.

Emergency workers said they were notified at 4:30 p.m. local time on Thursday and that they worked through the night to clear up the contaminated ground. “The waste is stored far from populated places,” the Emergencies Ministry said. “The situation is harmless for employees of the plant and residents of the nearest villages.”

“We still have few details about this incident,” said Vladimir Chuprov, head of Greenpeace’s energy unit in Russia. “But we believe there are major systemic problems with Mayak.”

Greenpeace says the plant is one of the most radioactive places on the planet and that local residents are still suffering from a 1957 accident at Mayak that exposed hundreds to radiation. That accident was considered the worst nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union until the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident, which exposed the failings of Soviet nuclear management. Nuclear officials say the Mayak plant has improved safety since the days of the Soviet Union. Mayak, which means lighthouse in Russia, was started under Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as Moscow raced to develop the nuclear bomb.

Australia Betrays Democracy

The BBC reports that the Australian government, and the morally bankrupt regime of George W. Bush, have gone over to the dark side, despite the fact that a clear majority of Australian voters oppose the sale. Robert Amsterdam has more details and excoriates this outrageously selfish action. He also publishes Grigory Pasko’s condemnation of the events.

Australia has agreed a deal to sell uranium to Russia, on condition that the substance, used to generate nuclear power, is not passed on to Iran. One of the world’s largest holders of uranium reserves, Australia recently agreed a similar deal with China. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said “stringent” controls would be in place to ensure the substance was not resold for use in nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the deal was purely an “economic” one.

Guarantees

Russia has strong ties with Tehran, whose budding nuclear programme is the source of a long-standing dispute with the international community. Iran has maintained it is pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and has taken steps to begin the process of enriching uranium in defiance of the UN Security Council. Russia, China and India are all keen to purchase uranium to develop civilian nuclear energy programmes. But the sale of large quantities of the substance, used as a fissile material in nuclear weapons, has raised concerns about arms proliferation. “Any uranium that is sold to Russia will be sold under very strict safeguards,” Mr Howard said after meeting the Russian leader in Sydney ahead of a summit of Pacific Rim leaders.

“This new agreement will allow the supply of Australian uranium for use in Russia’s civil nuclear power industry and provide a framework for broader co-operation on peaceful nuclear-related activities.” President Putin dismissed suggestions any uranium stocks would be used for military purposes either by Russia or any third party. “I simply don’t understand what people are talking about,” he said. “We are buying uranium from Australia for purely economic reasons.”

Dangers

Australia controls 40% of global uranium reserves and has been courted by several leading powers including China, which bought an estimated $250m worth of uranium last year. Australia has agreed, in principle, to a similar deal with India, although critics of this point out that India is not signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. The Bush administration, a key ally of Australia, is believed to be comfortable with both the Russian and Indian deals, but environmental groups are disturbed by the signals they send. “The primary danger is that supplying Australian uranium to Russian nuclear plants, it frees up Russia to do whatever it pleases with its own deposits,” said Steve Shalhorn, chief executive of the Australian arm of Greenpeace.

Kasparov Warns Australia not to Sell Nuke Material to Russia

Australia’s Bulletin magazine (analagous to the American Newsweek) reports on Russia’s insidious efforts to get nuclear fuel from Australia (we have commentary running on Publius Pundit about this topic and have written about it here before):

Australia will share blame if yellow cake sold to Russia ends in the wrong hands, ex-chess champion says.

One of Russia’s most prominent Opposition political figures, former chess champion Garry Kasparov, has warned the Howard Government that Russia cannot be trusted to use Australian uranium solely to power its domestic energy industry. In an exclusive interview with The Bulletin on the eve of APEC, Kasparov says Australia will have to accept moral responsibility if Russia on-sells the uranium to a rogue state or uses it for other non-civil purposes. “Should Australian uranium end up in the wrong hands … Australia will not be able to act innocent or to claim ignorance,” he told The Bulletin. During the APEC forum meeting in Sydney next month it is understood the deal between the two countries to export about 2000 tonnes of Australian yellow cake annually (providing about one third of Russia’s imported uranium stock) will be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and John Howard. Russian investigative journalist Grigory Pasko, who was jailed in Siberia after revealing the Russian Naval Fleet had dumped nuclear waste in the Pacific, will also be in Sydney next week arguing that Australia must impose tougher safeguards on any uranium sales to Russia. The demand for uranium worldwide, particularly in energy-poor countries like India and China, has seen the share price for uranium companies more than double in the last two years. Australia now has more than 200 companies whose main business is uranium exploration. Australian Uranium Association chief executive Michael Angwin says spending on exploration is set to pass $100 million this year, up from $77 million last year. “There has been a ten-fold increase in the last four years,” Angwin says. The reason for the hype is simple. The ALP dropped its no-new mines policy earlier this year and close on its heels, the Federal Government flagged a possible expansion of the nuclear power industry in Australia.”There is a high level of confidence in the fact that Australia has a much more liberal framework for industry to operate in,” Angwin says

Download a copy of the full Bulletin interview here (courtesy of Robert Amsterdam).

As the Epoch Times reports, lawyer and blogger Robert Amsterdam is also sounding the warning call. Way to go, Robert! Pasko, Amsterdam and Kasparov is a formidable trio, to be sure!

“All Australians should be concerned about advanced talks to sell uranium to Russia,” wrote British Lawyer Robert R Amsterdam in an article published in the Herald Sun on August 20.

Defence counsel for jailed Russian millionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mr Amsterdam cautioned the Australian Government over an expected uranium deal next month between Canberra and the Kremlin. “When negotiating the Russia-Australia Nuclear Safeguards Agreement, the Howard Government must consider the Kremlin’s track record,” he wrote. “Australia should be very careful not to rush into a deal without rigorous rules and safeguards relating to the use and enrichment of uranium and the development of nuclear technologies.”

As evidence of the regime’s attitude towards the nuclear issue he pointed out that the Kremlin imprisoned a journalist for reporting on Russia’s illegal dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean. Mr Amsterdam also noted that; “When the United States and Europe wished to defend themselves against the possibility of rogue missiles from Asia, President Putin threatened to point Russian nuclear missiles at London, Paris and Berlin.”

“Moscow sells nuclear technology to Iran and has agreed to build a nuclear research centre in Burma,” he noted. Foreign policy in Russia, he stated, is governed with a firm hand. He gave examples of gas and oil pipelines to neighbouring countries being shut off and trade embargoes. In his article Mr Amsterdam also described the current regime run by former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. “By 2003, a powerful group of former intelligence and military strongmen had succeeded in taking control of Putin’s Kremlin power base,” he stated. “Democratic pluralists and market economists were pushed out or marginalised. Political opposition was crushed. “Most major news media were bought out. The country’s energy resources were brought under Kremlin control,” he wrote. “Neighbours are bullied and long-time business partners are extorted. Opponents are jailed, such as former Yukos oil company boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or killed. “A belief has taken root that Russia is entitled to assert itself aggressively and above the law if need be,” he stated. “No one is above the extortion tactics of the Kremlin and its selective application and misapplication of laws.”

It is also expected when Vladimir Putin arrives for the APEC meetings next month, along with a nuclear deal he will also sign an economic accord which The Age reports will allow for increased Russian investment in Australia, particularly in the mining and minerals sector.

Uh-Oh: Annals of Russian Nuclear Energy

Energy Central reports:

Russian nuclear oversight watchdog Rostekhnadzor has investigated the causes of eight interruptions in the operations of nuclear power plants in July. All of them rated zero on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES), the authority reported on Friday.

Four of the incidents occurred at the Kursk nuclear plant. On July 3 the capacity of the second power unit dropped when the turbo generator was turned off following a false alarm. On July 4 the first power unit was shut down when technical water leaked into the lower part of the reactor chamber. On July 20 the turbo generator of the fourth unit was turned off after the temperature rose in its stator. On July 26 the short circuit safeguard of the third unit stopped the turbo generator.

In addition to that, on July 9 the capacity of the third power unit at Beloyarsk plant dropped 33% due to the failure of a transformer. On July 18 the main circulation pump turned off at the fourth unit of the Kola plant, the report says.

On July 22 metal defects were discovered in the heat collectors of two steam generators of the fifth unit at the Novovoronezh plant during a regular check. On July 24 the capacity of the third unit of Smolensk NPP dropped by 500 MW due to a short circuit in a transformer.

Rosenergoatom operates Russia’s nuclear power plants.

Click the “nuclear power” link at the bottom of this post to read other posts about the breakdown of Russia’s nuclear power industry.

More on the Ticking Nuclear Waste Time Bomb in Russia

Foreign Policy has more on the “ticking nuclear waste time bomb” in Putin’s Russia. For still more, check out Grigory Pasko’s horrifying account on Robert Amsterdam’s blog.

Soviet Russia was never overly concerned with nuclear waste disposal. For decades, the Soviets simply dumped radioactive materials into the Arctic Ocean or erected temporary storage facilities for such materials. Those facilities are now beginning to age, and are becoming a serious environmental problem. Frighteningly, one of these facilities may even be in danger of exploding.

AFP

Norwegian researchers have obtained an alarming report from Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency, about a site on the Kola Peninsula, an ore-rich area near the northern border with Norway. Since 1982, 21,000 spent uranium fuel assemblies have been stored there in three concrete tanks right next to the coast. Inside the tanks, large metal pipes contain the rods. Unfortunately, the concrete has begun to leak and allow sea water in, corroding the metal tubes.

Leakage is a problem because spent rods contain many types of fissile isotopes, and salt water could cause them to disintegrate relatively quickly. Essentially, those fissile isotopes will dissolve in the water, creating a radioactive slurry inside the tubes.

This could be dangerous because, in the right conditions, enough fissile material concentrated in a small space creates a lot of heat—the same principle we exploit for nuclear power generation. Uncontrolled, this heat could cause steam to build up in the tubes, eventually leading them to explode. If concentrations of fissile material are high enough, dangerous chain reactions could occur, releasing more intense (and potentially explosive) “bursts of radiation and heat.” The risk of such explosions is small— both Russian and Norwegian nuclear officials have accordingly “downplayed the danger“—but still significant given the potential for widespread fallout.

And while an actual atomic explosion is probably impossible in this situation, even steam explosions could send huge quantities of dangerously radioactive material into the environment. Rosatom claims there is no danger of that happening, but given the Russian track record on waste disposal, we should watch sites like this very carefully.

Annals of Russian Nuclear Waste: Umm . . . uh oh . . .

The Guardian reports:

A nuclear waste dump in the Russian Arctic may be in danger of exploding because of corrosion caused by salt water in enormous storage tanks, a Norwegian environmental group warned Friday.

The three tanks are used to store spent nuclear fuel rods at Andreeva Bay, on the Kola Peninsula of northwestern Russia, just 28 miles from the Norwegian border, the Oslo-based Bellona said in a statement. “We discover now that we are sitting on a powder keg, with a fuse that is burning, but we don’t know how long that fuse is,” said Alexander Nikitin, a former Russian navy officer who is now one of Bellona’s nuclear experts. The group cited a report from Rosatom, the Russian nuclear authority, describing the danger. Bellona said the storage tanks were long believed to be dry inside, but that recent studies show corrosive salt water is inside the tanks. “Ongoing degradation is causing fuel to split into small granules. Calculations show that the creation of a homogenous mixture of these particles with water can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction,” said the group’s Norwegian translation of the report.

Russian and Norwegian nuclear officials downplayed the danger. The Norwegian Nuclear Protection Authority said in a statement that while a chain reaction was possible, the likelihood was “extremely small.” Russia’s Federal Nuclear Power Agency said there was no danger, and that steps were being taken to improve the storage tanks. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said the government was aware of the problem and was working with the Russians to find a solution. Bellona has long been involved in probes of the nuclear risks in Russia, especially on the Kola Peninsula. Its 1996 report on conditions there were a reference work even for Russian officials. Experts have said the Kola Peninsula has the world’s greatest concentration of nuclear materials, with aging nuclear power plants, rusting hulks of Russian Northern Fleet atomic submarines and waste dumps. Bellona said it first reported on the storage tanks in 1993 but the risk of explosion was a new development. “It has been 14 years since Bellona offered information about Andreeva Bay. But our analysis shows that nothing has happened since then,” Nikitin, who is based in Russia, said in the news release. Nikitin was detained by Russian authorities in 1996 on charges of espionage for his contribution to Bellona’s report on nuclear safety within the Russian Northern Fleet. He was finally acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2000. In an interview published Friday by the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten, Nikitin said the storage tanks contain 21,000 spent nuclear fuel rods. He said the tanks are near the sea and salt water is corroding metal piping, breaking down fuel rods and releasing small uranium particles. The tanks were put into service as temporary storage for spent fuel in 1982 and 1983, because radiation had begun to leak from used fuel rods that had been store in warehouses at the Russian nuclear submarine base at Andreeva Bay.

Russia Losing Control of its Nukes

The Economist confirms suspicions that Russia is losing control over its nukes and couldn’t care less (either that, or it’s intentionally abusing its nukes in concerted effort to undermine the West):

A CHANCE, you might think, for Russia to show the co-operation that its president, Vladimir Putin, regularly promises in clamping down on the global traffic in dangerous nuclear materials. Yet the release last week of new titbits about a Georgian sting operation which reportedly netted just short of 80 grams of highly-enriched weapons-useable uranium, a Russian citizen from Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia (a part of Russia) and several Georgian accomplices—was a “provocation”, thundered Russia’s foreign minister.

The sting was first reported in February last year, and Russia loathes Georgia. But there is more to the Kremlin’s nuclear frostiness. While it continues to co-operate with America in securing dangerous nuclear materials around the world—most recently airlifting back to Russia a whopping 286 kilos of highly-enriched uranium fuel from a research reactor in Dresden in former East Germany—Russian officialdom’s souring mood at home augurs ill.

Russia is not the only country with a nuclear-smuggling habit. Excluding the Georgian sting operation, a database maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear guardian, has clocked 16 confirmed cases worldwide since 1993 where highly-enriched uranium or plutonium (both, in the right form, can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon) has been lost, stolen or seized from would-be traffickers, mostly in Europe and Russia. But not all countries bother to report: China, India and Pakistan have been among the 95 contributors to the list only since last year. Coverage is most patchy in the least secure parts of the world, including Africa and the Middle East.

The Georgian case is alarming. The uranium being hawked was enriched to about 90%, and intended for weapons use (fuel for nuclear-power reactors is typically enriched to 5% or less; most research reactors run on more highly-enriched stuff, meaning 20% or more). Georgian officials say their prisoner revealed that his bagful came from an as yet undiscovered stash of 2-3kg; not enough for a weapon—that takes up to 25kg—but still a threat.

This case uncannily resembles one in 2003, when 170 grams of similar material was seized on the Georgian-Armenian border; its Armenian smuggler said he had picked it up in Vladikavkaz too, though tests showed the material had originated at a Russian nuclear site in Novosibirsk.

Though the quantities of weapons-grade material seized by police are usually quite small, the consequences of any falling into terrorist hands are huge. Al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, has called the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction a “religious duty”. Some experts think building a bomb is beyond the capabilities of such a group; others don’t. But a “dirty bomb”, made by packing conventional explosives around the nuclear waste and other radioactive materials that make up most of the lost or stolen material reported to the IAEA, would be horribly disruptive.

And reported cases may hardly be the half of it. Those trying to find a buyer are more likely to get caught; those who already have one can avoid police stings.

Nor is al-Qaeda the only potential customer. Chechen rebels who attacked a Moscow theatre in 2002 had first considered an assault on a nuclear research reactor at the nearby Kurchatov Institute. Among other terrorist mischief in Russia, an article in the September 2006 issue of the Annals of the American Academy lists the casing of nuclear reactors, monitoring the trains that transport Russia’s nuclear weapons and even a plan to hijack a nuclear submarine.

At a summit in Bratislava in 2005, the Russian and American presidents agreed to speed a global effort to secure all dangerous nuclear materials. This included repatriating fresh and spent fuel from the more than 100 nuclear research reactors in 40 countries that Russia and America between them supplied during the cold war. Some of these are being converted to run on less dangerous low-enriched uranium. Meanwhile, America’s National Nuclear Security Administration is beefing up reactor security in those ill-governed places where it consists of poorly paid guards and flimsy locks.

Russia’s concerns about terrorism are one incentive to fix its nuclear problems. Another is huge dollops of American cash. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, America has helped dismantle thousands of surplus nuclear warheads, consolidate a vast archipelago of nuclear materials, and find jobs for otherwise unemployed Russian weapons scientists.

The window for such co-operation is closing, says Laura Holgate of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an independent outfit that has paid for the return of some Russian reactor fuel from abroad. Much of the easier work in Russia has been done. But officials there still reject help at their most sensitive nuclear sites, where the bulk of the most dangerous materials are kept. Without America looking over its shoulder, says Ms Holgate, it is unclear that Russia will be so conscientious in maintaining security and prosecuting wrongdoers. And if, as Georgia found, it resents being told its nuclear controls aren’t perfect, there won’t be much outsiders can do to help anyway.

Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare is Spreading

ABC News reports:

An unspecified safety problem prompted an emergency shutdown at a Russian nuclear power plant, but no increase in radiation levels were reported, federal officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred at the first unit of the Balakovo plant around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The plant, located near the Volga River city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, has four 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. Nuclear regulators said the problem was located and corrected Tuesday morning and could be restarted later in the day. “Initial reports indicate the cause of the shutdown was a problem with the safety system. The reactor has been taken off-line,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement. The Balakovo plant was the site of a false alarm in late 2004, when a turbine malfunction prompted a shutdown and rumors of a major accident sparked panic among nearby residents. Russian lawmakers recently passed legislation to restructure the country’s nuclear power sector, which includes 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 17 percent of electricity generation. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to build another 42 atomic reactors by 2030 and increase the proportion of electricity generation produced by nuclear plants to about 25 percent. Environmental groups have criticized government plans to keep older model nuclear plants operational, saying that graphite reactors like the one that exploded in Chernobyl and other types have serious safety flaws. About half of Russia’s nuclear reactors are of the graphite and older models.

Despite these problems, Russia is moving forward to construct nuclear power stations in other countries. It is already deeply enmeshed in Iran, and now it has been announced that it will place numerous reactors in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to build four new nuclear reactors for India. India’s prime minister is calling the relationship with Moscow a new “strategic partnership” with energy at the center. The two countries were allies during the Cold War. These days, they’re refreshing their friendship through energy and military cooperation. Putin will be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations Friday. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. Last year’s US-India pact appeared to give American companies a strong position in India’s nuclear market.

Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare is Spreading

ABC News reports:

An unspecified safety problem prompted an emergency shutdown at a Russian nuclear power plant, but no increase in radiation levels were reported, federal officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred at the first unit of the Balakovo plant around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The plant, located near the Volga River city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, has four 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. Nuclear regulators said the problem was located and corrected Tuesday morning and could be restarted later in the day. “Initial reports indicate the cause of the shutdown was a problem with the safety system. The reactor has been taken off-line,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement. The Balakovo plant was the site of a false alarm in late 2004, when a turbine malfunction prompted a shutdown and rumors of a major accident sparked panic among nearby residents. Russian lawmakers recently passed legislation to restructure the country’s nuclear power sector, which includes 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 17 percent of electricity generation. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to build another 42 atomic reactors by 2030 and increase the proportion of electricity generation produced by nuclear plants to about 25 percent. Environmental groups have criticized government plans to keep older model nuclear plants operational, saying that graphite reactors like the one that exploded in Chernobyl and other types have serious safety flaws. About half of Russia’s nuclear reactors are of the graphite and older models.

Despite these problems, Russia is moving forward to construct nuclear power stations in other countries. It is already deeply enmeshed in Iran, and now it has been announced that it will place numerous reactors in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to build four new nuclear reactors for India. India’s prime minister is calling the relationship with Moscow a new “strategic partnership” with energy at the center. The two countries were allies during the Cold War. These days, they’re refreshing their friendship through energy and military cooperation. Putin will be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations Friday. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. Last year’s US-India pact appeared to give American companies a strong position in India’s nuclear market.

Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare is Spreading

ABC News reports:

An unspecified safety problem prompted an emergency shutdown at a Russian nuclear power plant, but no increase in radiation levels were reported, federal officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred at the first unit of the Balakovo plant around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The plant, located near the Volga River city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, has four 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. Nuclear regulators said the problem was located and corrected Tuesday morning and could be restarted later in the day. “Initial reports indicate the cause of the shutdown was a problem with the safety system. The reactor has been taken off-line,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement. The Balakovo plant was the site of a false alarm in late 2004, when a turbine malfunction prompted a shutdown and rumors of a major accident sparked panic among nearby residents. Russian lawmakers recently passed legislation to restructure the country’s nuclear power sector, which includes 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 17 percent of electricity generation. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to build another 42 atomic reactors by 2030 and increase the proportion of electricity generation produced by nuclear plants to about 25 percent. Environmental groups have criticized government plans to keep older model nuclear plants operational, saying that graphite reactors like the one that exploded in Chernobyl and other types have serious safety flaws. About half of Russia’s nuclear reactors are of the graphite and older models.

Despite these problems, Russia is moving forward to construct nuclear power stations in other countries. It is already deeply enmeshed in Iran, and now it has been announced that it will place numerous reactors in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to build four new nuclear reactors for India. India’s prime minister is calling the relationship with Moscow a new “strategic partnership” with energy at the center. The two countries were allies during the Cold War. These days, they’re refreshing their friendship through energy and military cooperation. Putin will be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations Friday. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. Last year’s US-India pact appeared to give American companies a strong position in India’s nuclear market.

Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare is Spreading

ABC News reports:

An unspecified safety problem prompted an emergency shutdown at a Russian nuclear power plant, but no increase in radiation levels were reported, federal officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred at the first unit of the Balakovo plant around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The plant, located near the Volga River city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, has four 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. Nuclear regulators said the problem was located and corrected Tuesday morning and could be restarted later in the day. “Initial reports indicate the cause of the shutdown was a problem with the safety system. The reactor has been taken off-line,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement. The Balakovo plant was the site of a false alarm in late 2004, when a turbine malfunction prompted a shutdown and rumors of a major accident sparked panic among nearby residents. Russian lawmakers recently passed legislation to restructure the country’s nuclear power sector, which includes 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 17 percent of electricity generation. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to build another 42 atomic reactors by 2030 and increase the proportion of electricity generation produced by nuclear plants to about 25 percent. Environmental groups have criticized government plans to keep older model nuclear plants operational, saying that graphite reactors like the one that exploded in Chernobyl and other types have serious safety flaws. About half of Russia’s nuclear reactors are of the graphite and older models.

Despite these problems, Russia is moving forward to construct nuclear power stations in other countries. It is already deeply enmeshed in Iran, and now it has been announced that it will place numerous reactors in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to build four new nuclear reactors for India. India’s prime minister is calling the relationship with Moscow a new “strategic partnership” with energy at the center. The two countries were allies during the Cold War. These days, they’re refreshing their friendship through energy and military cooperation. Putin will be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations Friday. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. Last year’s US-India pact appeared to give American companies a strong position in India’s nuclear market.

Russia’s Nuclear Nightmare is Spreading

ABC News reports:

An unspecified safety problem prompted an emergency shutdown at a Russian nuclear power plant, but no increase in radiation levels were reported, federal officials said Tuesday. The incident occurred at the first unit of the Balakovo plant around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. The plant, located near the Volga River city of Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, has four 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. Nuclear regulators said the problem was located and corrected Tuesday morning and could be restarted later in the day. “Initial reports indicate the cause of the shutdown was a problem with the safety system. The reactor has been taken off-line,” the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement. The Balakovo plant was the site of a false alarm in late 2004, when a turbine malfunction prompted a shutdown and rumors of a major accident sparked panic among nearby residents. Russian lawmakers recently passed legislation to restructure the country’s nuclear power sector, which includes 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 17 percent of electricity generation. President Vladimir Putin has pledged to build another 42 atomic reactors by 2030 and increase the proportion of electricity generation produced by nuclear plants to about 25 percent. Environmental groups have criticized government plans to keep older model nuclear plants operational, saying that graphite reactors like the one that exploded in Chernobyl and other types have serious safety flaws. About half of Russia’s nuclear reactors are of the graphite and older models.

Despite these problems, Russia is moving forward to construct nuclear power stations in other countries. It is already deeply enmeshed in Iran, and now it has been announced that it will place numerous reactors in India:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to build four new nuclear reactors for India. India’s prime minister is calling the relationship with Moscow a new “strategic partnership” with energy at the center. The two countries were allies during the Cold War. These days, they’re refreshing their friendship through energy and military cooperation. Putin will be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations Friday. Russia has been eager to reassert its traditional role as the chief supplier of nuclear know-how to India in the wake of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. Last year’s US-India pact appeared to give American companies a strong position in India’s nuclear market.