Nuclear Reactors 241 - The U.S. Navy Considers Commercial Firms for Scrapping of Nuclear Carrier Enterprise - Part Two of Two Parts

Part Two of Two parts (Please read Part One first)

        Apparently NNS would like to do more of the work than requested by PSNS, even to the extent of doing the entire job of scrapping the Enterprise. There are over a thousand jobs at stake. And, as they point out, they did build the Enterprise in the first place. The parent company for NNS attended the May 2014 event and will probably submit a reply to the Naval RFI.

        In response to the buildup of a backlog of conventionally powered aircraft carriers and other Naval vessels in need of demolition, NAVSEA recently awarded contracts to three different "shipbreaking" companies for two aircraft carriers and three other ships. As a matter of fact, a ship is currently being towed from Puget Sound to Brownsville, Texas where the demolitions are taking place. Two of the three shipbreaking companies attended the May 2014 event and have recently said that they continued to be interested in the Enterprise job.

       A representative of one of the companies, All-Star Metals, says that the Navy needs to understand exactly what commercial firms can offer and have confidence in their ability to do the job needed on nuclear powered vessels. Of course, the ability to safely remove and transport nuclear fuel and radioactive components is a very import part of the Enterprise job and the Navy needs to know that commercial vendors are prepared for that task.

         Even if the decommissioning of the nuclear propulsion system of the Enterprise is carried out at Bremerton, the Navy wants to get input from commercial firms about how they would go about removing parts of the Enterprise (as NNS proposes) and leaving just enough for the remains to be sufficiently seaworthy to make the trip to PSNS. This would reduce both the cost of towing and the amount of work that had to be done in Bremerton.

       There has also been a discussion of how to take sufficient weight and width off the Enterprise so that it could be towed through the expanded Panama Canal which would seriously reduce the distance and cost of towing. The full width of the Enterprise is two hundred fifty feet and the old Canal locks could only handle one hundred and ten feet wide ships. If the carrier was cut down to the width of just the hull, it would be about one hundred thirty feet wide which would fit through the new expanded locks which will be one hundred eighty feet wide when completed.

        The Navy has still given no indication of what they intend to do with the Enterprise. If the recycling contract were given to NNS in Virginia, their parent company has said that they might consider a partnership with one of the three shipbreaking companies to have the work done in Brownsville, Texas. Given their backlog of nuclear decommissioning jobs, it does not appear that PSNS would miss the Enterprise contract all that much.

U.S.S. Enterprise:

Geiger Readings for May 20, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 66 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 59  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 56 nanosieverts per hour
Honey crisp apple from Central Market = 153  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 82 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 76 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 240 - The U.S. Navy Considers Commercial Firms for Scrapping of Nuclear Carrier Enterprise - Part One of Two Parts

Part One of Two parts.

    I cover global nuclear issues in my but sometimes a story hits close to my home city of Seattle, Washington. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) is located in Bremerton, near Seattle. In the early 1990s, a system was developed at PSNS to recycle old submarines and cruisers which were mothballed at Bremerton when they reached the end of their operational lives.

     At the Shipyard, the nuclear reactors that power some of the vessels are "defueled" and have the reactor vessels and their compartments removed. The reactor components are then "encased" and barged down to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south central Washington State on the Columbia River. The remains of the ships are cut up for scrap and recycling.

    Over a hundred nuclear subs and eight nuclear cruisers have been disposed of in this way. Planning has been underway for some time for the Shipyard to dispose of the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise sometime in 2017. This would be the biggest job ever undertaken by the Shipyard. However, recently the U.S. Navy has been considering the possibility of opening the Enterprise job to commercial bidders which would inject an element of competition into what has been a monopoly for nuclear naval vessel disposal.

    This possibility appeared in May of 2014 when the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) sent out a request for information to commercial firms about how they would dismantle the Enterprise aside from the nuclear reactor and propulsion system. Despite repeated requests for more information, the Navy has refused to explain its intentions further than issuing a short statement in early May of 2015. "To ensure the best use of resources, the Navy is currently looking at options for recycling of USS Enterprise (CVN 65), including the possibility of commercial recycling," NAVSEA said May 4 in the statement. "All reactor compartments and radioactive systems will be disposed of by [Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Intermediate Maintenance Facility]. No final decisions have been made."

    Non-Navy sources have speculated that there are probably two major reasons that the Navy is considering commercial firms for the Enterprise project. Apparently, the Navy is concerned about the estimate for the Shipyard to do the job. In order to carry out the entire recycling task at Bremerton, the Enterprise would have to be towed from Virginia, around South American and up to Washington State. This alone would cost more than the Navy had budgeted for the whole project.

    A second big concern is the fact that the Shipyard is used to maintain active Naval vessels in the North Pacific and it is quite busy. In addition, there is already a backlog of nuclear submarines lined up for demolition at the Shipyard. Adding the Enterprise to the workload might well overtax the already busy Shipyard's capacity.

   The Enterprise is currently at the Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) yard in Virginia where it was built. In 2013, the Enterprise was moved from the Norfolk Naval Base to NNS to have the nuclear fuel removed and some of the equipment and components stripped. This job was planned in conjunction with PSNS but there has been a conflict over just how much of the Enterprise will be removed before it would be sent to Puget Sound. PSNA wanted it to arrive basically intact while NNS wanted to remove major sections before it left Virginia.

(See Part Two)

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard:

Geiger Readings for May 19, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 69 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 79  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 80 nanosieverts per hour
Avacado from Central Market = 77  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 112 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 92 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Weapons 143 - Czech Republic Stops Attempt by Iran to Purchase Banned Compressors

        The U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council have been involved in intense negotiations this winter and spring to hammer out an international agreement to insure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. One of the biggest concerns is the control of nuclear related technology imports by Iran that might possibly be used in a nuclear weapons program. It has been reported that Iran has been attempting to evade international sanctions on its purchase of technology that might be used to create such weapons.
       The Czech Republic recently blocked an attempt by Iran to purchase sanctioned equipment from a U.S. company with a branch in the Czech Republic. The incident was reported by the sanctions committee of the U.N. Security Council. Iran attempted to purchase a type of compressor that has both nuclear and non-nuclear applications from a U.S. company named Howden CKD Compressory. There is no evidence that Howden CKD Compressory knew that the order for the compressors violated the sanctions. 
       The sanctions committed said that a "false end user" had been provided with the compressor order. "The procurer and transport company involved in the deal had provided false documentation in order to hide the origins, movement and destination of the consignment with the intention of bypassing export controls and sanctions." The report did not provide any additional details and the Iran U.N. mission did not respond to a request for any information about the incident. 
       The Czech government reported that the business that placed the order for the compressors claimed that they were intended for a compressor station that could be used to transport natural gas. The Czechs did not provide any additional detail on exactly how they became aware of and stopped the transaction, the specifications for the particular compressors that were ordered or name the business that placed the fraudulent order. They did say that the value of the order was about sixty million U.S. dollars which would have been a huge order for Howden CKD Compressory which provides multi-stage centrifugal compressors for use in the oil and gas, petrochemical and other industries.
        These type of compressor, in addition to the uses mentioned above, can also be utilized in centrifuge cascades that are used to purify uranium gas. Enriched uranium can be drawn directly from these compressors to be used as nuclear fuel or as material for the creation of nuclear weapons. Such compressors are especially useful when working with twenty percent enriched uranium. Most nuclear fuel for common nuclear power reactors is only enriched to about five percent so these compressors were probably intended for nuclear weapons production. 
         Iran had frozen twenty percent enrichment as part of the international negotiations in 2013. The attempted purchase of these compressors under false documentation in 2014 is certainly suspicious. Such behavior on the part of the Iranians supports claims by critics of the international nuclear program negotiations that Iran cannot be trusted to honor the terms of any deal aimed at curbing Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Geiger Readings for May 18, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 63 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 94  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 110 nanosieverts per hour
Mango from Central Market = 85  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 95 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 89 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for May 17, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 113 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 70  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 75 nanosieverts per hour
Medjool date from Central Market = 85  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 99 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 93 nanosieverts per hour

Geiger Readings for May 16, 2015

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office = 92 nanosieverts per hour
Ambient outside = 120  nanosieverts per hour
Soil exposed to rain water = 105 nanosieverts per hour
Medjool date from Central Market = 84  nanosieverts per hour
Tap water = 55 nanosieverts per hour
Filtered water = 46 nanosieverts per hour
Petrale sole - Caught in USA = 96 nanosieverts per hour

Nuclear Reactors 239 - Forbes Articles Says That Nuclear Scientists Don't Get No Respect


        I just read an article in Forbes magazine titled "Climate Scientists Get Respect, So Why Don't Nuclear Scientists?"  The author, James Conca,  said that in discussions of climate change, it is often mentioned that ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and we should do something about it. He goes on to say that one hundred percent of geologists agree that biological evolutions has been acting on the Earth for four billion years and that ninety nine percent of physicians agree that everyone should be vaccinated. All of this was a build up to comments about the absence of nuclear scientists in the main-stream media when nuclear power is being debated. He said that you could not understand the reality of nuclear science without them.

        He said, "As a research scientist, a geologist and a nuclear scientist, this is really annoying. And sad. Nuclear is such a complicated scientific discipline that it is insane not to tap this group of scientists if you want to know the reality. Because without them, you will not get any real understanding of this subject." He goes on to say that nuclear scientists are often unfairly accused of selling out to the nuclear industry but dismisses that charge. He suggests that part of the reason for lack of respect and media coverage of nuclear scientists is that there is no "constituency" for nuclear power like Texas is for oil, West Virginia is for coal and Pennsylvania is for natural gas. He concluded by pointing out that the global media failed to cover the call for nuclear power by a group international scientific societies in the recent "Nuclear For Climate Declaration".

         I have great respect for nuclear scientists and am always ready to listen to their statements in the realm of nuclear science. However, nuclear power involves many issues that are outside of academic understanding of nuclear science. If a nuclear scientist says that a particular radioactive nucleus fissions into a particular set of daughter particles, I will accept what he says. On the other hand, when a nuclear scientists says that nuclear power is the best solution to the problem of anthropogenic climate change, he is way out of his area of expertise. There are social issues, political issues, economic issues and environmental issues that he may not be an expert in. All of these weight heavily on any consideration and debate on the expansion of nuclear power for combating climate change. Perhaps the reason that more nuclear scientists are not seen in the debates is because the debates are not about the facts of nuclear science.

       I reject his contention that there is no constituency for nuclear power. There are many leaders in developing nations trying to lift their citizens out of poverty who see nuclear power as their best chance for economic expansion. There are major nations with nuclear technology who see it as an excellent source of export revenue and are promoting it vigorously. And there are very wealthy corporations which stand to make billions and billions of dollars from nuclear plant construction and are spending millions to promote it. There are also many people concerned about climate change who believe that nuclear power is the answer.

       The bottom line in my rejection of nuclear power is this. I have no doubt that nuclear scientists and nuclear engineers are capable of designing nuclear power reactors that are safe and reliable. The problem is that you have to be able to rely on governments to regulate reactor construction and operation. And you have to be able to depend on corporations to follow regulations in the construction and operation of power reactors.

        The terrible nuclear disaster at Fukushima could have been prevented if the Japanese government has regulated properly and TEPCO had acted properly in the operation of the plant. But they did not. The history of government regulation of nuclear power and corporations construction and operation of nuclear power plants is littered with terrible examples of corruption, greed, and incompetence. The problem with nuclear power  is not nuclear science, the problem is human institutions.