NRC: Disposal of spent fuel a top priority. The chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Committee (NRC) called on Washington to identify a permanent site for nuclear fuel disposal. In her first new conference as chairman, Allison Macfarlane said, “We are paying more attention to spent nuclear fuel. We know this is a pressing issue.”
U.N. urges CTBT ratification. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a special press release to mark the International Day against Nuclear Tests on August 29th. Secretary General Ban said, “I once again call on the leaders of all those states that have not yet signed and ratified the CTBT to do so without delay. I urge them to visit the site of a nuclear test, contaminated beyond remediation; speak to those who were exposed to the fallout, many of whom suffer still. The human and environmental consequences of nuclear testing should compel these leaders to take the necessary action to prevent this from ever happening again.”
U.S.’s hypersonic Waverider fails third test. The Air Force’s experimental Mach 5 cruise missile, the X-51A Waverider, failed its most recent test when the control fin malfunctioned, causing it to crash into the Pacific Ocean. According to a military official, the Waverider is designed to travel six times the speed of sound using technology that bridges the gap between planes and rocketships. This failure has serious implications for the future of the U.S.’s “prompt global strike’ plans. The X-51A Waverider was to be an alternative to the Air Force’s previous plan of attaching conventional warheads to ICBMs.
The UAE awards $3 billion in nuclear fuel contracts. The United Arab Emirates awarded six foreign companies $3 billion in contracts to supply fuel for the state’s first nuclear power plant. The agreements will cover the first 15 years of operations for the Barakah plant, slated to open in 2017. The UAE hopes the development of a nuclear power infrastructure will allow the state to save the bulk of its oil reserves for export rather than for domestic energy consumption.
Germany arrests four people violating Iran nuclear embargo. Prosecutors have accused the arrested men, one German citizen and three Iranian-Germans, with providing Iran special valves used in heavy water nuclear reactors – a violation of Germany’s embargo on nuclear trade with Iran. The accused are believed to have used front companies in Azerbaijan and Turkey to supply Iran with the restricted items.
Satellite imagery shows progress on North Korean reactor. The Institute for Science and International Security reported that new satellite images show construction is nearing completion for the light-water reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex. In the images taken in May-June, the construction of the reactor appears complete, with the exception of the building dome. Pyongyang claims the new reactor will generate civilian electricity. However, similar promises related to its first nuclear reactor where ignored as the facility was never connected to the power grid.
IAEA: Progress made in strengthening global nuclear security. In a report prepared for next month’s annual meeting, the IAEA assessed the implementation of last year’s endorsed safety action plan. The U.N agency noted improvements in emergency preparedness and response capabilities, and progress in assessing nuclear plants safety vulnerabilities. It said these and other measures have contributed to “the enhancement of the global nuclear safety framework.” However, the environmental group Greenpeace has argued, “The IAEA’s action plan does not address any of the real lessons of Fukushima.”
IAEA and Kazakhstan to discuss nuclear fuel bank. Next month, Kazakh and IAEA officials plan to meet to decide the location of a multilateral nuclear fuel repository. Kazakhstan is reportedly considering the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk and the Semipalatinsk Test Site as possible locations. Vladimir Shkilnik, head of the state-owned nuclear holding company Kazatomprom, said that consultations are going to take place during the IAEA General Conference in September. Shkolnik confirmed that the fuel bank would only provide nuclear fuel for nonmilitary purposes. He said, “We have created an international system of control over the export of uranium. When we supply uranium to a country, we get from them assurances that it will not be used for any other purposes.”
Pakistani Taliban attack Air Force base. A group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants laid siege to the Minhas air base at the aeronautical complex in Kamra, northwest of Islamabad. Pakistani Officials have denied speculation that the base is connected to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. A Pakistani military spokesman was quoted saying, “”No air base is a nuclear air base in Pakistan.” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little also commented, “I do not have any indication that attack has endangered the Pakistani nuclear stockpile.” The attack was thwarted after a two hour battle that resulted in the death of eight militants, one soldier, and the base commander being seriously injured.
NNSA resumes operations at Y-12 complex. National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman, Steven Wyatt, confirmed that regular operations have resumed at the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Wyatt said, there will be greatly enhanced security oversight, with additional federal personnel on site at the facility to review the contractor operations and planning activities. Wyatt also noted that all of the plant’s surveillance-and-assessment cameras have been fixed and are fully operational.
China tells North Korea to put nuke test on hold. The Washington Times reported the first meeting between senior Chinese officials and the new North Korean government of Kim Jong-un was held July 30 – August 2nd. During that meeting, China reportedly told the North Koreans to refrain from any nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, or military provocations with South Korea until after China’s leadership change this fall. Some analysts have speculated that North Korea could be soon planning a third nuclear test.
State Department Panel: U.S. and Russia should reduce nuclear arms further. The U.S. State Department’s International Security Advisory Board advised reductions in deployed nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles in a recent assessment. The board stated, “The United States could communicate to Russia that the United States is prepared to go to much lower levels of nuclear weapons as a matter of national policy, e.g. to no more than 500 strategic delivery vehicles and 1,000 deployed strategic warheads…This could greatly reduce Russia’s incentive to build a new heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and allow the United States to reduce the scope and cost of its nuclear modernization plans.” However, the board did note, “Arms control fatigue, electoral politics and the thorny issue of missile defense have all converged in 2012, creating poor conditions for trust and dialogue.”