25 January 2008

A campaign threat to the nuclear power industry


ASK THIS | January 18, 2008

If a Democrat wins the presidency—and if campaign promises count—it may be time to write the obituary for Nevada's Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site. What happens then to the renewed call for nuclear power in the U.S.?

By Joseph Davis

The top three Democratic presidential candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards tussled before the Jan. 19 Nevada caucus over who was more opposed to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The fuss has importance as more than just campaign mud-wrestling.

It may be a sign that it is finally time to write an obituary for the Yucca Mountain plan – and a sign that the industry-ballyhooed "renaissance" of commercial nuclear electric power in the U.S. is headed for trouble – or for a train-wreck.

Being against Yucca Mountain is a pretty good way to get elected in Nevada. At the MSNBC debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, the three leading Democrats contended over which of them had been against Yucca Mountain earliest and most strongly. Whichever Democrat is nominated, Vegas oddsmakers might well favor that person to win the White House in November, and he or she would presumably be expected to live up to the campaign rhetoric by killing Yucca Mountain..

The cloud over Yucca Mountain's future is much darker than that. Not only will the likely president want it dead, but also the Majority Leader of the Senate, Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, who has made a career opposing Yucca Mountain and has used his agenda-setting clout against it. The one-two punch of a president and a Senate leader may be the knockout.

On Jan. 8, the Associated Press reported further Energy Department cutbacks in the contract staff working on Yucca Mountain – from a peak of about 250 workers in 2004-2005 to a skeleton crew of about 15 caretakers today. That's because Congress (at Reid's urging) has drastically cut the budget for the repository.

The director of the Yucca Mountain project, Edward Sproat, told Las Vegas Sun reporter Lisa Mascaro that he is now unsure he can meet a June 2008 target for a license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Any later, and the NRC would be unlikely to act on it before the Bush administration left office and the NRC changed hands. Two of the five NRC seats are vacant right now, which could magnify the leverage of the next administration.

The original idea, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and other laws, was to pick a site for nuclear waste disposal based purely on scientific criteria – finding a rock formation to contain waste that would remain highly radioactive for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. But Yucca was born of politics, not science, back in 1987, when Congress told scientists they could pick any site they thought best – as long as it was Yucca Mountain. Nevada never agreed. Some 20 years later, after billions of dollars of study, the Energy Department is not much closer to making an air-tight scientific case.

This year, politics may be the project's final undoing.

Since the Jan. 15 debate, Clinton and Obama have continued to clash over the Yucca issue in radio ads, with Clinton accusing Obama of ties to the nuclear industry and the Obama camp saying that was unfair.

In Nevada, neither candidate, Clinton or Obama, is talking much about the fact that both have expressed willingness to consider expanding commercial nuclear power in the U.S.


Our "Ask This" questions might first go to the candidates themselves. But they could also be asked of Congress members, Energy Department officials, utility and nuclear industry leaders, and environmentalists.

Q. How specifically do Democratic candidates propose stopping Yucca Mountain?

Q. How do any possible GOP supporters of the repository plan to resuscitate it?

Q. What is their proposed alternative to Yucca Mountain?

Q. What state would it be sited in?

Q. If there's no place to put spent fuel and other waste, should the U.S. start licensing new nuclear power plants?

Q. If not, how do they propose responding to the industry push for new plants?

Q. Will the Energy Department submit an application for Yucca Mountain to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by its June 2008 target? And how long will NRC take to act on it?

Q. Will the current Nuclear Regulatory Commission irrevocably approve the start of a new generation of plants before George Bush leaves the White House?

Q. Will President Bush try to fill the two vacancies on the 5-seat NRC before leaving office? And how will Congress respond?

Q. Who might the next president appoint to the NRC?

Wolfowitz named to head US security panel

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the war in Iraq in the Bush administration who became World Bank president only to resign in a pay scandal, was named Thursday as head of a US government advisory panel.

The State Department announced Wolfowitz's appointment as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's chairman of the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB).

ISAB, the department said, is "a source of independent insight, advice, and innovation on all aspects of arms control, disarmament, nonproliferation, political-military issues, and international security and related aspects of public diplomacy.

"The ISAB provides analysis and insight into current issues-of-interest for the secretary on a regular basis," according to a statement.

Wolfowitz has been serving as a visiting scholar in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies development issues.

Wolfowitz, widely credited with raising Africa's profile in the World Bank's lending activities, agreed to leave his post on June 30 in the face of accusations he violated bank rules in arranging a promotion for his girlfriend, a bank employee.

Wolfowitz consistently argued that he had acted in good faith in the matter.

Under President George W. Bush, he served as deputy defense secretary where he was a proponent of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

In his decades of public (??? !!!) service, he was also Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, US Ambassador to Indonesia, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs and Director of Policy Planning at the Department of State.

Turkey considers Uranium enrichment for own nuclear power plants


Turkey considers uranium enrichment for own nuclear power plants

16:21 | 15/ 01/ 2008

ANKARA, January 15 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey may consider building a uranium enrichment center as part of an ambitious plan to develop the country's nuclear potential, a national newspaper said on Tuesday.

Turkey is preparing to issue a public tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant and plans to build at least two nuclear reactors by 2015.

"The initiative [to build a uranium enrichment center] is strategically important for the whole world and for Turkey's future," the Hurriyet newspaper said.

The issue may be on the agenda of a nuclear energy meeting in Istanbul on Friday. In addition to representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency, top-level officials from the United States, Russia, France and the U.K. are expected to attend the meeting.

The development of its own nuclear power industry was one of the priorities outlined for the country's government in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's address to parliament following his election victory in July last year.

Turkey has been enjoying rapid economic growth for the past five years and is becoming increasingly energy hungry. Some analysts say that the country could soon face an energy shortfall if it continues to rely on traditional energy sources.

Turkey has limited fossil fuel reserves. According to various sources, it produces only 50,000 barrels of oil per day, but consumes over 700,000, while its coal reserves are of a poor quality.

Meanwhile, Turkey's interest in uranium enrichment may allay U.S. concerns over growing nuclear ambitions among Middle East countries, primarily Iran.

With Washington's blessing, Turkey, a traditional U.S. ally and a NATO member, might become one of the key suppliers of nuclear fuel for Muslim countries if they decide to build their own nuclear power plants.

"If Turkey, as a NATO member, becomes an important regional center for uranium enrichment, it would be beneficial not only for the U.S., but also for the countries in the region, because they would be able to buy fuel for their future nuclear reactors from Turkey,"
Hurriyet said.

update on Sibel Edmonds

I have a LOAD of stuff that needs to be posted here, and I intend to get to it.

But this must go on here now. Pay attention! I am watching to see how fast the knowledge about Sibel proliferates in the world press .. the number of "hits" on that on google is going up, but NOT exponentially .. YET ...

Time is NOW To appoint the special prosecutor in the United States ..


Contact These Congressmen

White House in panic over Sibel Edmonds?

Sixteen days after the UK Times' published a blockbuster article, For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets, about how certain top US government officials were enabling Turkish and Israeli interests in supplying the nuclear black market, President Bush quietly announced on Tuesday that he wants Congress to approve sales of nuclear technology to Turkey.

Is this a reaction to the Times article? It sure looks like it. I wouldn't be surprised if we soon start hearing about retroactive immunity for the guilty parties, just as we are seeing in the illegal spying case currently in the Senate.

As always happens in this case, the silence in the US media is deafening.

Two years ago, Bush's efforts to sell nuclear technology prompted much "indignation and furor," but not a single major US media outlet has yet reported the proposed deal with Turkey. Agence France-Presse put out a report on its wires which has been picked up around the world, but that's about it.

The White House press release says that Bill Clinton agreed to the deal in 2000:

However, immediately after signature, U.S. agencies received information that called into question the conclusions that had been drawn in the required NPAS (Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement) and the original classified annex, specifically, information implicating Turkish private entities in certain activities directly relating to nuclear proliferation. Consequently, the Agreement was not submitted to the Congress and the executive branch undertook a review of the NPAS evaluation.

It would certainly be interesting to know which "Turkish private entitities" Bush is referring to here. If he had said "Turkish private companies" instead, we could be comfortable in presuming that he was referring to the two named Turkish companies involved in A.Q. Khan's network, EKA and ETI Elektroteknik. The phrase "entities" on the other hand, is broader, and could very well include the American Turkish Council, the 'entity' named in the Times article as well as other articles about Sibel Edmonds case.

The timing here is also interesting; "immediately after" Clinton approved the deal in July 2000, US agencies became aware of this Turkish involvement in the AQ Khan network. This was fully three years before the Khan network was officially exposed.

The White House press release continues with some curiously descriptive narrative:
"My Administration has completed the NPAS review as well as an evaluation of actions taken by the Turkish government to address the proliferation activities of certain Turkish entities (once officials of the U.S. Government brought them to the Turkish government's attention)."
Given that the entire press release is basically written in 'legalese', this unnecessary parenthetical aside stands out like a sore thumb. I wonder who injected this statement into the announcement, and why. It sure looks like butt-covering to me, given the latest revelations in the Times.

The phrase 'once officials...' also appears to be a curious formulation. I'm not overly familiar with presidential statements and US government protocols, but I would imagine that "Agencies" or "Departments" would normally communicate with foreign governments on such important matters, and I would imagine that presidential statements would normally refer to such agencies, rather than 'officials.' Perhaps I'm wrong, and perhaps this is common practice, but it sure looks like an attempt to exonerate certain individuals such as Marc Grossman who was accused of some very serious crimes in the Times article.

Who were these officials? How, when, and in what format, did they bring this information to the Turkish government? I'd like to see the official communication, please.

And what, exactly, has the Turkish government done to 'address these proliferation activities'? We know that ETA and EKI continue to operate, and as far as I know haven't been penalized. The press release says that this information is all classified.

It appears as though certain administration officials have been illegally supplying the Turkish nuclear program for years, and now that they've been publicly outed, the Bush administration will simply make the entire program legal, just as they are trying to do with the illegal spying.

Congress has 90 days to amend or block this legislation, otherwise it automatically becomes law.

We need public open hearings to determine which officials have been supplying the nuclear black market before this becomes law.

Cross posted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak