Tag Archives: nuclear

Chinese paid TVA manager for nuclear technology info

A former senior TVA manager has admitted he was paid by the Chinese government for nuclear technological information while working for the utility, court records unsealed Friday show.

From the News Sentinel report:

Ching Ning Guey has struck a deal to plead guilty to a charge of development of special nuclear material outside the U.S. The case, kept under seal for more than a year, is tied to an indictment announced earlier this month against a Chinese nuclear engineer and a Chinese-owned nuclear power plant alleging nuclear espionage.

Guey worked as a senior manager for the probabilistic risk assessment division of the Tennessee Valley Authority from 2010 to 2014. According to a plea agreement filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley, Guey had access through his job to tightly-controlled information about the development and production of special nuclear material.

“The defendant received warnings and guidance on the restrictions and controls that pertain to the prohibitions against the distribution and sharing of this information with restricted countries,” Atchley wrote.

But in November 2013, Guey was invited to travel to China at the request of a nuclear power company owned by the People’s Republic of China. The trip was financed by the Chinese government, and Guey was paid by the Chinese government for three key Electric Power Research Institute reports that China was barred from accessing, Atchley wrote. All three reports provided key information about light-water and heavy-water nuclear reactors and are regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Nonproliferation and International Security.

Guey, who was born in Taiwan but became a naturalized citizen in 1990, was recruited as far back as 2004 to provide the Chinese government with nuclear information, court records show. That relationship came as a result of Guey’s meeting in the early 1990s with Chinese nuclear engineer Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho at a Chinese American Nuclear Technology Association event.C

TDEC questioning plan for new nuclear landfill at Oak Ridge

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee officials are raising concerns about the U.S. Department of Energy’s plans for a new nuclear landfill at Oak Ridge.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is pushing DOE to consider other Oak Ridge sites beyond the agency’s preferred one, the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Sbgejm) reported.

The federal agency’s preferred site is adjacent to an existing landfill on the government reservation and only 650 yards from the city boundary.

“We are continuing to work with the DOE and EPA on this issue and taking the matter very seriously,” Kelly Brockman, communications chief for TDEC, said in an email response to questions.

The Department of Energy’s current landfill for cleanup wastes is approaching capacity. That’s largely due to the mountains of hazardous and radioactive debris generated by the demolition of K-25 and other former uranium-processing facilities in Oak Ridge.

DOE has said that opening a new landfill at Oak Ridge — rather than shipping the wastes to commercial disposal sites in other states — would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and minimize transportation risks.
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Alexander voting no on Iran nuke deal

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today he will vote against the Iran nuclear deal, contending that it would not stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and could even touch off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Further from Michael Collins:

The accord “does not sufficiently restrict Iran’s nuclear program and makes no effort to put a brake on its other conduct as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” the Maryville Republican said in a statement.

“The agreement puts some limits on Iran’s nuclear program, but it also legitimizes it, thereby encouraging a nuclear arms race in the most unstable area of the world,” Alexander said. “The agreement takes the pressure off Iran at a time when pressure is likely to succeed.”

Alexander said he believes the United States should negotiate with Iran, “but should do so from a position of strength, as we did with the Soviet Union.”

“Disapproval of this deal would help make clear that Congress is willing to confront Iran’s non-nuclear illegal and inhumane activities,” he said.

Congress is in the middle of a 60-day review of the agreement, which was announced July 14 after two years of negotiations involving the United States and five other Western powers.

…Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, also has said he would oppose the accord. Corker, whose committee has held a series of hearings on the agreement, has raised concerns that the deal will not stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and would allow Iran to “industrialize” its nuclear program over time.

TVA rates increasing 1.5 percent to cover nuclear plant costs

TVA directors on Friday adopted a $10.7 billion spending plan for fiscal 2016 that will raise electricity rates by 1.5 percent, or about $1.50 per month on the average residential bill, reports the Times-Free Press.

The rate hike, the same as in each of the past two years, will raise an extra $200 million from customers in TVA’s seven-state territory.

TVA President Bill Johnson said the rate increase is less than the average of most utilities but still will allow TVA to stick to its plan to reduce debt more than $6 billion over eight years and cut carbon emissions by 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 to comply with EPA’s new Clean Power Plan requirements.

But even with better profits this year and a projected 1 percent increase in power sales next year, Johnson said higher rates are needed in fiscal 2017 to absorb the expense of adding the first new nuclear reactor to America’s grid in the 21st century.

TVA expects to begin producing power later this year at the Unit 2 reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tenn. The plant will generate enough power to serve about 650,000 homes but will add $450 million a year in depreciation and operating expenses. And while it will save about $200 million in fuel costs by replacing other plants, Watts Bar will still add $250 million a year in net new costs in the next year.

“When you put a capital-intensive asset into operation like Watts Bar, your embedded costs go up,” Johnson said. “But over the 40 to 60 years this plant will operate, you will generate consistent fuel savings and over the life of the plant, it is a very good investment.”

But anti-nuclear activists question the savings from the Watts Bar, which TVA began building in 1973. The twin-reactor plant was originally expected to be built in five years and cost less than $700 million. Instead, the first reactor wasn’t finished until 1996 at a cost of more than $6 billion, and TVA has spent another $4.2 billion just in the past five years building the second unit.

Oak Ridge nuclear protestors released from prison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An 85-year-old nun and two fellow Catholic peace activists who vandalized a uranium storage bunker were released from prison on Saturday, their lawyer said.

Attorney Marc Shapiro says Sister Megan Rice was released just hours after 66-year-old Michael Walli and 59-year-old Greg Boertje-Obed also were let out of prison.

The trio was ordered released by a federal appeals court on Friday. The order came after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last week overturned their 2013 sabotage convictions and ordered resentencing on their remaining conviction for injuring government property at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

The activists have spent two years in prison. The court said they likely already have served more time than they will receive for the lesser charge.

On Thursday, their attorneys petitioned the court for an emergency release, saying that resentencing would take weeks if normal court procedures were followed. Prosecutors responded that they would not oppose the release, if certain conditions were met.

“They are undoubtedly relieved to be returning to family and friends,” said Shapiro, who represented the activists in their appeal.

Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed are part of a loose network of activists opposed to the spread of nuclear weapons. To further their cause, in July 2012, they cut through several fences to reach the most secure area of the Y-12 complex. Before they were arrested, they spent two hours outside a bunker that stores much of the nation’s bomb-grade uranium, hanging banners, praying and spray-painting slogans.

In the aftermath of the breach, federal officials implemented sweeping security changes, including a new defense security chief to oversee all of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s sites.

Rice was originally sentenced to nearly three years and Walli and Boertje-Obed were each sentenced to just over five years. In overturning the sabotage conviction, the Appeals Court ruled that their actions did not injure national security.

Boertje-Obed’s wife, Michele Naar-Obed, said in a phone interview from her home in Duluth, Minnesota, she hoped her husband would be released from prison by Monday, which will be his 60th birthday.

Naar-Obed previously served three years in prison herself for anti-nuclear protests. She said that if their protests open people’s minds to the possibility of life without nuclear weapons, then “yeah, it was worth it.”

TVA nuke plant, launched in 1979, nears completion in 2015

By Ray Henry, Associated Press
SPRING CITY, Tenn. — Tom Wallace started working at the Watts Bar nuclear plant as a young man in 1979, hoping he could eventually become a reactor operator.

It remains a work-in-progress for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Wallace, 55, is still finishing that plant 36 years later, one of the longest building projects in U.S. history. In a bizarre turn, what could soon become the newest U.S. nuclear plant is a piece of 1970s-era technology.

In the time it took to build it, Wallace raised two daughters and now has grandchildren. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry has designed a generation of entirely new plants now being built in Georgia and South Carolina.

“I would never leave this plant until it’s running,” Wallace said, standing outside the plant’s turbine building in Spring City, about 60 southwest of Knoxville. “This is an important part of my career and life.”

If nothing else, the second reactor at the Tennessee River site is a cautionary tale for the power industry. When it’s finished, it will provide enough electricity to power about 650,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley. The cost of running a nuclear plant is relatively steady, and it does not produce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

But they are enormously expensive and complicated to build. The project ran decades late. In the early years, workers struggled to meet safety rules and ran up billion-dollar cost overruns.
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Alexander criticizes EPA rules as unfair to TN and nuclear power

Michael Collins reports on U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s lecture to Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on the Obama administration’s preference for wind and solar energy over nuclear power. As a result, the senator thinks Tennessee isn’t getting the pollution-reduction credit it’s due.

Alexander took McCarthy to task last week because the Obama administration is treating nuclear power differently — and in his view, a bit unfairly — than wind and solar energy in its proposed rules to cut carbon emissions.

“Sixty percent of the country’s carbon-free electricity, emission-free electricity, comes from nuclear power,” Alexander told McCarthy during a budget hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment. “Wind produces 13 percent. Solar produces 1 percent.

“If you’re really serious about climate change, if you’re really serious about clean air, then why would you disadvantage nuclear power and treat wind and solar better?”

Alexander, who has called for the construction of more nuclear plants, is upset that Tennessee will have to make a 38.9 percent cut in carbon emissions under the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan — but won’t get credit for meeting emissions standards through the new Watts Bar nuclear reactor near Spring City, Tenn.

…Tennessee is doing “a terrific job of making agreements with the EPA, cleaning up the coal plants, building nuclear plants, having hydro plants,” Alexander said, yet it is “being penalized because you’re preferring wind and solar — which produce little — over nuclear, which produces a lot of what we want.”

“It’s the energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats when the nuclear navy is available,” Alexander said, pulling out a line that he uses often to describe the inconsistency.

“I like the analogy,” McCarthy said, smiling.

She told Alexander the EPA was aware of the discrepancy.

“We are really looking at that,” she said.

Obama gives Corker a call on Iran nuclear deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday called the chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to further discuss a framework agreement aimed at keeping Iran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon.

Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., are working on legislation that would give Congress a say in the implementation of any final deal the U.S. and its partners can reach with Iran in coming weeks. The committee is to vote on the bill Tuesday.

Obama objects to the bill as it’s written and has promised to veto it.

Josh Earnest, the president’s spokesman, says Obama discussed with Corker the commitments Iran had made to limit its nuclear program.

Earnest says Obama praised Corker’s handling of the issue and reiterated that the emerging deal is the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The tentative agreement has to be finalized by June 30.

Corker’s office confirmed the telephone call but declined to discuss details. Cardin confirmed that he spoke with Obama for about 15 minutes.

Millions spent patching Oak Ridge Y-12 building scheduled for demolition

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) — The federal government is spending millions of dollars to patch up a former production facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge that is intended for demolition.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1GU06iL) the government has spent about $24 million over the past seven years for work that included repairs on two of Alpha-5’s seven roofs and removal of all materials at risk of causing explosions. And there is still more that needs to be done.

The repairs are necessary to mitigate some of the hazards the 530,000-square-foot facility poses to workers and the environment. Despite those hazards, there is no timetable for demolition.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have cited Alpha-5 in separate reports as a prime example of the government’s sluggish system for cleaning up no-longer-needed nuclear operations.

One of the criticisms of the recent GAO report was that the Department of Energy’s environmental management organization — which oversees the cleanup of the old facilities — doesn’t always consider risks when deciding which buildings to demolish first.

There are dozens of old facilities at Y-12 and other sites awaiting demolition. Many of the sites won’t be accepted by the cleanup program until the 2030s because of funding and other uncertainties, the GAO stated.

The GAO report cited National Nuclear Security Administration documents that show Alpha-5 has degraded so much “that site officials now detect contaminants, such as mercury, in areas where they were not detected two years earlier, and additional funds are needed to repair its failing roof.”

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in an email that the agency is continuing to monitor Alpha-5 and will take needed steps to reduce risks.

“The permanent solution, however, is decontamination and decommissioning of this facility,” he wrote.

Alexander on $6.5B Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, head of the powerful Senate Appropriations energy and water subcommittee that controls funding for the Department of Energy, says he has a plan to bring Oak Ridge’s Uranium Processing Facility to completion on time and within a budget cap of $6.5 billion, reports the News Sentinel.

His plan includes drawing on advice from newly confirmed Defense Secretary-designate Ashton Carter. Tennessee’s senior senator supported Carter’s nomination and said his experience would be valuable during a “critical time.”

In a telephone interview, Alexander said he and Carter spent about 45 minutes last Wednesday in the senator’s office talking about nuclear deterrence.

“I asked him for his best advice on our nuclear weapons modernization program,” the senator said. “We’ve embarked on a significant and expensive effort to make sure that our weapons work if we need to use them. And I want to make sure that (a) they work and (b) that we’re not wasting any money because we don’t have any money to waste.

“While he was deputy secretary of defense, he was in charge of a review of our nuclear weapons modernization to try to help the Energy Department make sure it was managing it properly. So, as secretary of defense, he’ll be very helpful to me because he’s got experience with dealing with not only weapons modernization but with the uranium facility (UPF) as well. His advice will be very helpful as we try to allocate the billions of dollars that we’re asked to spend carefully and wisely.”

Alexander has been an advocate for the Uranium Processing Facility, which is to be constructed at Y-12 in his home state, but he’s also been strongly critical at times about the project’s cost growth. He said it was he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who set a cap of $6.5 billion for the project, which will consolidate and modernize the work with bomb-grade uranium.

Note: Frank Munger has a more lengthy report on his interview with Alexander at the Atomic City Underground blog, HERE.