The safety regime at the Rosyth naval dockyard, home to seven defunct nuclear submarines, has been called into question after an emergency exercise failed to demonstrate adequate arrangements for rescuing casualties from an accident. The UK government’s nuclear safety watchdog has ordered Babcock, the multinational company that runs the Fife dockyard for the Royal Navy, to rerun the exercise, codenamed Nightstar, in March because of mistakes made last September. An inspection by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) concluded that there were flaws in the way that staff looked after injured people during the exercise at the base known as ‘Scotland’s nuclear graveyard’. There were also communication and command problems in dealing with the imagined accident. The revelation has prompted “unease” about safety at the naval base, according to the local MP. Anti-nuclear campaigners have highlighted the serious risks of accidents, and demanded higher standards. The problems with the Nightstar exercise on September 30 2015 were disclosed in the ONR’s latest three-monthly report on Rosyth. Though inspectors thought that some of the exercise procedures were adequate, others were not. The MoD plans to dismantle the defunct nuclear subs at Rosyth, and then to transport the resulting 3,600 tonnes of radioactive waste to a disposal site yet to chosen. One option was an old nuclear site Chapelcross near Annan in Dumfries and Galloway. But this is opposed by the Scottish Government. A dock is being equipped to remove radioactive waste from the first “demonstrator” submarine, HMS Swiftsure. The aim is to start dismantling the boat in May.
Sun Herald 10th Jan 2016 read more »
State regulators on Friday approved several permit changes that would affect the location of monitoring stations and air flow requirements for the ventilation system at the federal government’s troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico. But government watchdog groups are concerned the changes will weaken protections for workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque told The Associated Press he was disappointed that the state seemingly rubber-stamped the proposals. Hancock pointed to numerous permit violations by the contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, that were outlined by the state along with tens of millions of dollars in fines following the February 2014 radiation leak.
Cumbria Trust 10th Jan 2016 read more »
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the U.S. Department of Energy has produced a sample of plutonium-238, the radioactive isotope used to power deep space missions, good news for future NASA space probes heading to destinations starved of sunlight. The 50-gram (0.1-pound) sample is a fraction of the plutonium needed to fuel one spacecraft power generator, but the Energy Department said the material represents the first end-to-end demonstration of plutonium-238 production in the United States since 1988. The DOE made the new batch of plutonium-238 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Nuclear-powered spacecraft transfer heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 pellets into electricity. Plutonium power systems fly aboard NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, the Cassini orbiter at Saturn and the New Horizons probe that encountered Pluto last year. Nuclear scientists must artificially create plutonium-238 in a reactor because the isotope is not found in nature. Technicians take neptunium-237, an isotope with the same number of neutrons and one fewer proton, mix it with aluminum and crush it into tightly-packed pellets. A reactor at Oak Ridge fires neutrons at the pellets, irradiating the neptunium to generate plutonium-238.
Space Flight Now 7th Jan 2016 read more »
Jeremy Corbyn’s secret blueprint to seize control of Labour’s policy-making machine to fast-track a change in the party’s position on Trident has been revealed in leaked documents drawn up by his allies in the trade unions. Leading members of the Shadow Cabinet have been made aware of a paper which would strip them of the power to set policy between conferences. Instead, Labour’s National Executive Committee would explicitly be given the role of deciding policy.
Independent 9th Jan 2016 read more »
Britain’s nuclear heroes are bidding for a £1million research fund to finally prove the awful genetic legacy of the UK bomb tests. Veterans are hoping the government cash will help them win a 60-year fight for justice after they were left with a crippling legacy of cancers , rare disease and 10 times the normal rate of birth defects in their children.
Mirror 9th Jan 2016 read more »
A powerful US B-52 bomber flew over South Korea on Sunday, in a clear show of force from the United States as a Cold War-style standoff deepened between its ally Seoul and North Korea following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.
Guardian 10th Jan 2016 read more »
It was, it transpired, probably quite a small bomb, in terms of yield and explosive power, and not the game-changing thermonuclear device that North Korea initially bragged about. Nevertheless, Kim Jong-un’s unwelcome birthday surprise (the North Korean dictator turned 33 on Friday) – ordering his country’s fourth underground nuclear test in less than 10 years – has caused a big splash. Last week’s unanticipated detonation sent shockwaves across Asia and has plunged the US and China into an unedifying display of public finger pointing over who is most to blame. Given that the threat posed by Pyongyang’s UN-proscribed development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles is nothing new, the shambolic, divided and largely clueless response of the international community to this latest provocation is dismaying to behold. Whether Barack Obama, in his last year in office, has the energy or clout to follow his counter-proliferation success with Iran with a big push on North Korea is doubtful. While China has been too acquiescent over Kim’s dangerous antics, it is fair to say that Obama, increasingly focused on his domestic legacy and badly burned on Syria, Libya and Isis, has taken his eye off the Korean ball in particular and foreign policy challenges in general.
Observer 10th Jan 2016 read more »
No country is seeking opportunities to use nuclear weapons. But each knows that, in international affairs, having a sophisticated nuclear arsenal is like having an unlimited amount of money at an auction: you know that you can’t be outbid. They can pursue their interests aggressively and can afford not to shy away from a fight if challenged. Which is why, just as the North was readying its test, Jeremy Corbyn was reshuffling his cabinet to install the anti-nuclear, anti-Trident Emily Thornberry as his shadow defence secretary. After all, the UK’s nuclear weapons are symbolic of its ability and willingness to play a role in world affairs, the last thing Corbyn wants. From the position of the far-Left, preventing the renewal of Trident and achieving nuclear disarmament in the UK is the first step towards dismantling the hallmarks of our international capabilities: its military, its far reaching intelligence services and its security relationships with other nations. Doing so is essential if the UK is to be transformed from a powerful state into one more akin to the countries of Scandinavia, focused more heavily on the smooth running of welfare programmes than international events.
Express 10th Jan 2016 read more »
Fuel Poverty – Scotland
The Scottish Government has cut funding for fuel poverty by more than a 10th, according to Labour. Last month, the Government committed £103 million to improve energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty in its Draft Budget 2016/17. In 2014, the Government committed £79 million for energy efficiency in its draft budget 2015/16. Scottish Labour said there should never be a choice between heating and eating. In February 2015, further pledges from John Swinney and a departmental reshuffle increased the total available budget to £119 million. However, the draft budget 2016/17 said the energy efficiency budget for the previous year was only £89 million, suggesting the current £103 million was an increase on the previous year.
Daily Mail 10th Jan 2016 read more »