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Defects Found in French Nuclear Reactors

The French nuclear safety agency has uncovered a series of defects in the construction of a reactor in Normandy considered to be the template for the next generation of stations due to be built in Britain.

The agency, ASN, says that a quarter of the welds seen in its steel liner – a crucial line of defence if there were to be an accident – are not in accordance with welding norms, and that cracks have been found it its concrete base, also essential for containing radioactivity.

The reports – in a series of letters covering inspections made between December and last month – will cause particular concern because similar defects have been listed in a previous report by the Finnish safety authority into the only other reactor of its type being built anywhere in the world.

The earlier report helped put the Finnish reactor, on the island of Olkiluoto in the Gulf of Bothnia, two years behind schedule, three years after construction began. It is also believed to have helped increase its cost by more than 50 per cent. Similar delays and cost overruns here would play havoc with the Government's nuclear programme, and could even lead to it being abandoned.

Kate Hudson's New Statesman Article on Aldermaston

On Easter Monday, CND is going back to Aldermaston. Yes, we intend to surround the Atomic Weapons Establishment that builds Britain’s nuclear weapons – and we will celebrate 50 years of courageous, creative and tenacious opposition to nukes. But if you think this is just a blast from the past, that this is just about the 50th anniversary, you are very much mistaken.

Aldermaston is not something that belongs to the past – it produces Britain’s weapons of mass destruction today, and will continue to do so into the future, unless we are effective in our opposition.

In 2002, the private consortium that manages AWE Aldermaston published a plan to redevelop and build new facilities at the site. The building work is now well advanced, and the developments are on the scale of HeathrowÂ’s Terminal Five.

They are estimated to cost in the region of £5 billion and they will also result in the employment of more than 1,000 additional staff. Recruitment has already begun. But what are these developments for? We believe that they are for the development and production of a new generation of nuclear weapons. It is just not credible that the scale of redevelopment is solely to preserve the existing capabilities of the establishment.

Thousands at Easter Aldermaston Protest

Thousands of protesters converged on the Berkshire village of Aldermaston  to commemorate the birth of Britain's anti-nuclear movement in an act of mass defiance against the Government's plans to curb protests at the headquarters of Britain's nuclear weapons programme.

The protest was called to mark the 50 th anniversary of the first march to Aldermaston when up to 10,000 people walked from London to the Atomic Weapons Establishment to protest against nuclear testing. The Easter 1958 march coincided with the creation of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and was widely credited with starting the world's first mass anti-nuclear movement.

Coaches from 50 different locations brought up to 5,000 activists from as far as Aberdeen and Penzance where they converged on six of the gates leading into the facility, where Britain's Trident nuclear warheads are manufactured and maintained. The protest at each gate was themed to mark a particular decade of anti-nuclear campaigning from the 1950s onwards and was visited by a moving float of speakers who included veterans from the original peace march, anti-nuclear MPs, the designer Vivienne Westwood and one of the few remaining survivors of Hiroshima.

USA Need Nuclear Weapons for rest of 21st Century

The commander of US strategic forces claims the United States will need nuclear weapons as a deterrent for the rest of the 21st century and should move now to field more modern weapons.

Air Force General Kevin Chilton said new, more reliable nuclear weapons would enable the United States to reduce the large inventory of non-deployed weapons it keeps as a hedge.

"As we look to the future -- and I believe we are going to need a nuclear deterrent for this country for the remainder of this century, the 21st century -- I think what we need is a modernized nuclear weapon to go with our modernized delivery platforms," he told reporters.

The administration has requested 10 million dollars for the program in its 2009 budget request even though the US Congress turned down a similar request in its previous budget submission.

CND Concern at War Costs

CND has expressed deepening concern at the huge increases in the financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD ‘Spring Supplementary EstimateÂ’ increases the budget for Afghanistan by 48% and Iraq by 52% compared to the estimates given only 3 months ago. Costs are doubled compared to the last financial year.

 

A report published  by the Commons Defence Select Committee describes as “surprising” the increases, including a near doubling of capital costs in Iraq compared to the estimate of 3 months ago and a five-fold increase from indirect resource costs for both Iraq and Afghanistan compared to last year. Despite the draw-down of UK troops in Iraq costs have ballooned from £955m in the winter estimate to £1,449m in the latest figures.

 

When indirect costs of the operation are included the Iraq billion alone comes in at £1,648 million for the year, with the combined operational costs for the current financial year now forecast to reach £3.297bn - a 94% increase on the previous figure of £1.698bn.

New DU tests in Kirkcubright

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The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today condemned the decision of the Ministry of Defence  to carry out a new series of tests of Depleted Uranium (DU) shells at the Dundrennan Range in Kirkcudbright.
 

Scottish CND has also written to Environment Minister Mike Russell to ask if the Scottish Government was consulted about the MoDÂ’s plans. The last series of DU tests was carried out five years ago, prior to the invasion of Iraq.  

The new tests are taking place before the United Nations conclude a new study into the safety of DU weapons..

 

There will be a local vigil against the tests in the Harbour Green Kirkcudbright at 2 pm on Tuesday 11 March. The issue will also be considered at a meeting in Dundrennan Church at 7 pm on Tuesday evening.

 

John Ainslie, Coordinator of Scottish CND said - Â“The MoD are showing a callous disregard for the Scottish environment, the health of local residents, and the view of the United Nations by conducting these unnecessary tests.”

Problems with mystery Warhead material

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The United States Department of Energy have encountered significant problems remanufacturing a secret material for Trident warheads. The material called Fogbank is used in the interstage of the 100 Kiloton W76 warhead. The interstage channels energy from the Primary to the Secondary of the thermonuclear weapon.  


In 2004 a special facility was built in the United States to remanufacture Fogbank as part of plans to extend the life of W76.  These Life Extension plans have recently run into difficulty. The delay is due to serious problems with the manufacture of a Special Material. The US Administration are likely to use this delay to argue that a new Reliable Replacement Warhead is needed.


Because Fogbank is only manufactured at one plant in the United States it is likely that Britain purchased this material for the Trident warheads which have been made at Aldermaston.

 

A detailed report on Fogbank is available here. (Word Doc) Reported in the New Scientist (8 March edition) and Guardian

Security Council approves new sanctions against Iran

The UN Security Council has extended sanctions against Iran  for refusing to halt sensitive activities that could result in the production of a nuclear bomb.

For the first time however, the 15-member Council was not unanimous on an Iran resolution, despite the British and French sponsors delaying the vote by three days in a bid to secure unanimity. A total of 14 countries voted in favour, while Indonesia abstained on the ground that Tehran is cooperating with the UN nuclear agency in clarifying outstanding questions about its nuclear programme, which Iran says is for energy purposes.

The UN vote was scheduled as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna was discussing a report by IAEA chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, in which he confirmed that Iran had failed to halt uranium enrichment in line with UN demands. His report raised concerns about documents which the IAEA believed to be connected to nuclear weapon research.

Iran said the documents were fabricated and rejected allegations about missile development.

The sanctions imposed  ban dual-use goods being traded with Iran, which have both military and civilian purposes, and provide for the inspection of shipments suspected of carrying any banned items.

9 year old calls for end to US nukes

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On Tuesday 26 February over 400 people attended a public meeting in Oak Ridge Tennessee to discuss the future of one of America's biggest nuclear weapons' facilities, the Y12 plant.

Inca Nicholson, a 9 year old girl, addressed Ted Wyka, the presiding federal officer and said:
"You have got to be insane ..... We need trees, sun, and clean air.  Not another nuclear weapon".

Inca is from the Farm School at Summertown, Tennesee. Reported in Knoxnews.

The Three Trillion Dollar War

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According to a new book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and author Linda J. Bilmes. In "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict," they warn that the war's "true budgetary cost," excluding interest, "is likely to reach $2.7 trillion." Aside from the price of munitions, contractors, transport, fuel and other fixed costs, their calculations are based on the government's continuing obligation to provide medical care and disability payments for the thousands of wounded Iraqi and Afghanistani veterans over the coming decades.

Those costs represent a moral debt on which we cannot default — and they will grow larger every day that we maintain the occupation. Even if the war could be ended immediately, the fiscal obligations incurred by the invasion and occupation will continue. Beyond the mandatory disability payments, medical and psychiatric care and additional benefits to which the troops are entitled, the nation will face years of increasing military budgets to restore the equipment and readiness of our battered armed forces, especially the Army and the National Guard.

Even in the "best-case" scenario envisioned by Stiglitz and Bilmes, with our troop presence declining rapidly, the U.S. commitment in Iraq is still likely to cost no less than $400 billion over the next several years, on top of the $800 billion or so that we have spent to date. Those figures, which don't include veterans' benefits, add up to $1.2 trillion. What the authors call their "realistic-moderate scenario" for a prolonged presence in Iraq will cost twice as much or more.