Category Archives: Pakistan

Unconditional Surrender – India’s Exceptional Protocol

• ” There is a serious danger inherent in the India Additional Protocol”

• ” The IAEA would be far better off to offer India a voluntary-offer agreement like it has with the official Nuclear Weapons States”

Robert Kelley, the former IAEA safeguards inspector with three decades of experience in the U.S. national laboratories, has been in the news lately. Writing for IHS Jane’s, Kelley and co-author Brian Cloughley showed that India appeared to be expanding its uranium enrichment program and that fissile material produced at the country’s Mysore facility may support its thermonuclear weapons program. Following publication of the Jane’s report, India moved to ratify its Additional Protocol with the IAEA after years of delay. A copy of India’s AP was published by the Arms Control Law website.  The following is Kelley’s analysis of India’s AP agreement with the agency:

Continue reading Unconditional Surrender – India’s Exceptional Protocol

Nuclear Karachi

Originally published on DAWN.com, December 16, 2013

By A.H. Nayyar, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian

WORK has started on preparing the site for two large nuclear power plants in Karachi. Each of these reactors will be larger than the combined power of all the nuclear reactors currently operating in Pakistan.

This will be by far the largest nuclear construction project ever in Pakistan. It is not too late to ask a few basic questions so that people, especially those living in Karachi, know what they may be letting themselves in for.

Everyone knows the new reactors are being purchased from China. They will be designed and built by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

What people may not know is that the reactors will be based on a design known as the ACP-1000 that is still under development by this Chinese nuclear power company. In effect, Pakistanis are buying reactors for the Karachi site that so far exist only on paper and in computer programmes — there is no operating reactor in China based on this design.

It was reported in April 2013 that the CNNC, the developer of the ACP-1000, had completed a “preliminary safety analysis report”, and was “working on construction design”.

This means so far there is not even a complete design. Since the new Karachi reactors will be the first of a kind, no one knows how safe they will be or how well they will work. The 20 million people of Karachi are being used as subjects in a giant nuclear safety experiment.

The Fukushima nuclear accident has shown that safety systems can fail catastrophically. The accident in 2011 struck Japanese reactors of a well-established design that had been operating for decades. Still, all kinds of things happened that were not expected by the reactor operators or managers or by nuclear safety authorities.

An important lesson of Fukushima is that nuclear establishments underestimate the likelihood and severity of possible accidents. Another important lesson is that these same establishments overestimate their ability to cope with a real nuclear disaster.

At Fukushima, the nuclear authorities failed dismally despite Japan’s legendary organisational capability, technological sophistication and social discipline.

Nearly 200,000 people living close to the Fukushima reactors were evacuated and some may never be allowed to return. Radiation was blown by the wind and contaminated the land to distances of over 30 km.

The US suggested its citizens living in that area of Japan move at least 80km away from the reactor. The government of Japan considered forced evacuation of everyone living within 170km of the reactor site and organising voluntary evacuation for people living as far as 250km from the plant.

Contaminated food and water was found at distances of 250km.

The financial cost of the clean-up so far is estimated to be about $100 billion and could eventually be much higher.

So how big, how dangerous and how costly is the nuclear experiment about to be carried out in Karachi?

An analysis undertaken two years ago, in 2011, by the science magazine Nature and Columbia University in New York showed that the nuclear reactor site in Karachi has more people living within 30km than any other reactor site in the world.

It found that, in 2011, there were eight million Karachi citizens living within this distance of the reactor. All of Karachi falls within 40km of the reactor site.

So far, there have been no public hearings or discussions of the suitability of the site for the new Karachi reactors. There is no report of an Environment Impact Assessment for the proposed new Karachi reactors. Neither the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission nor the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority has explained what will happen in case of an accident at the proposed reactor.

A preliminary study by one of the authors found that the plume of radioactive material that could be released from a severe nuclear accident could be blown eastward by the wind over the city, engulfing the most populous areas of Karachi.

There is also no information on the terms for the supply of nuclear fuel, such as how long the very hot, intensely radioactive spent nuclear fuel will stay at the site and how will it be safely stored until it is returned to China, if it is returned at all. The spent fuel stored at Fukushima was damaged in the accident and led to the release of radioactivity.

Finally, there is no information on what emergency plans, including for possible evacuation, have been drawn up as part of preparing for these large new reactors. There is no information whether such plans even exist.

Here is a question for those in charge of Karachi, in charge of Sindh and the federal authorities in Islamabad: how do you propose to evacuate many millions of people from Karachi in case of a severe nuclear accident at the new reactors?

One expects mass panic, with people deciding to save themselves and their families as best as they could, clogging the roads, and delaying the escape of others closer to the reactor. Can any plan work in such an environment?

Finally, there is the cost in terms of money. Reports suggest the two reactors may cost $9-10 billion. They will be paid for by taking loans from China. There is little information on the details of the financing of the reactors, including the final cost of decommissioning and waste disposal.

There is not even a publicly available government study showing that these reactors are the least-cost option for producing the expected amount of electricity.

The issue of cost also must include the consequences of accidents. If there is an accident at the new Karachi reactors due to a problem with the reactor design or the construction, who will pay the vast sums needed to cover the damage and clean-up — Pakistan or China?

The people of Karachi have a right to know the answers to these questions. It is time they started asking.

The writers are physicists with an interest in nuclear issues.

In the news (July 29 – August 5 2013)

Welcome back to the AR’s weekly links. Today marks the 68th anniversary of the U.S. decision to drop the “Little Boy” nuclear bomb over Hiroshima killing 140,000 people. Our condolences are enduring.

Nuclear Safety & Security

Japan’s Fukushima disasters continue to drive nuclear safety coverage. We think it appropriate here to use the plural, “disasters,” when reviewing the devastation at Fukushima. Tepco’s workers have to fight separate and distinct dragons smouldering in containment chambers 1-3 alongside unit-4’s potentially more dangerous spent-fuel pond. The tragedy is still unfolding.

Reactor meltdowns were previously seen as discrete and terrible events. Fukushima has sharpened nuclear-safety views by showing a huge disaster that develops at a snail’s pace with continuing bad revelations nearly two-and-a-half years after the accident.

RT cited plant operator Tepco in reporting that “Fukushima radiation levels are as high as 2011” The Asahi Shimbun’s Miki Aoki meanwhile wrote that 9,640 workers at Fukushima have been exposed to 5 millisieverts or more of radiation and are therefore eligible for workers’ compensation if they develop leukemia. Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University, writes in the Asia-Pacific Journal that “the best hope lies with nationalizing the nuclear assets and providing them with competent management, relieving the utilities of their burdens and the rest of us of some portion of risks.” The plant remains in a state of “emergency,” Reuters Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Salto wrote Aug. 5, following Tepco’s admission that Fukushima’s toxic waters had entered the ocean.

Nuclear safety fears ripple elsewhere in the region.South Koreans have been scandalized by revelations of bribery and fake test results, reported NYT’s Choe Sang-Hung. Taiwanese legislators came to blows over whether the island should start a fourth reactor in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, reports the South China Morning Post.

The Questions: Has the full impact of Fukushima yet been felt on the nuclear industry? Will the disaster aid the public in understanding nuclear time, in which material efficacy is measured by centuries, from human time, measured among decision makers in election cycles? Can Tepco devise a responsible way of releasing the built-up waste into the sea without facing dumping claims?

Nuclear Power

Regulatory fallout from Fukushima, along with the uptick in shale-gas extraction, are challenging nuclear power in the U.S. The Colombia Journalism Review’s John Mecklin reviews press coverage on Edison International’s decision to shut San Onofres and determines the closure “was at base economic; its majority owner decided that the probable costs and regulatory uncertainty were too great to risk going forward with the repair and replacement of the plant’s steam generators.” While the World Nuclear News reports there is a correlation between the reactors closure and higher California power prices, other nuclear projects are being dropped amidst low prices for natural gas, wrote the NYT’s Matthew Wald about Duke Energy’s choice to halt a reactor project in Florida.

Time’s Bryan Walsh reports that nuclear advocates are banking on next-generation reactor technologies to drive investments.

The Questions: Beyond Bill Gates, which private-sector actors are financing the next generation? How have the actuarial tables shifted following Fukushima to weigh sovereign risks from nuclear accidents? How might the shale-gas “boom” augur a period of nuclear-industry reflection and more accurate measure of atomic energy’s risk-weighted costs?

Nuclear Nonproliferation

Robert Einhorn in Foreign Policy and Yousaf Butt in The National Interest exchanged views over nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty interpretation in the context of Iranian negotiations.

Einhorn controversially writes that “Lawyers can debate whether a right to enrich is included in the treaty, but what is not debatable is that Iran has forfeited — at least temporarily — any right to enrichment (and reprocessing) until it can demonstrate convincingly that it is in compliance with its NPT obligations,” wrote Einhorn.

The former White House advisor’s piece begs the question: “If it is not debatable,” then why even bother to talk? Butt ripostes that “if U.S. policymakers are interested in making headway towards a negotiated solution with Iran, they must clarify their understanding of the NPT.”

Stay tuned…

Meanwhile in Jammu, Happymon Jacob writes in Greater Kashmir that India continues to strengthen its international standing outside the NPT: “India will eventually gain membership in these organisations (namely the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Australia Group, Missile Technology Control Regime and the Wassenaar Arrangement). What is significant here is not only India’s potential entry into these exclusive clubs, but doing so without giving up its nuclear weapons. None of these cartels admit into its membership those who have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).”

India’s non-proliferation record is reasonably clean, giving it some credibility to be an outside member of the club. Not so in neighboring Pakistan, where the nuclear black-market network established by AQ Khan is still being unraveled. Following U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit, Pakistan’s Energy Minister, Khawaja Asif, said “the Secretary has indicated about the possibility of a civil nuclear deal between the two countries akin to the Indo-US Agreement 123,” The Nation reported.

The Wilson Center’s Dani Nedal has published a fascinating account of Brazil’s covert nuclear-fuel-cycle program in the 1970s: “As once-secret documents and oral history interviews with key former Brazilian scientists and officials show, Brazil sought to circumvent international legal and political obstacles by clandestinely purchasing crucial materials and know-how on the nuclear black market, and from countries such as China.” Read more here.

The Questions: How are the Arms Control Lawyers holding up against the Arms Control Wonkers? There’s been something of an insurrection among arms-control theologians. Why are NPT and IAEA-CSA literalists cast as apologists? What lessons might be gleaned from the Brazilian experience of the 1970s to the Iran challenges of today? How does recognition of India as a de facto nuclear-weapons state affect the NPT? What utility would the NPT continue to serve were Pakistan to receive the same dispensation as India?

Iran

Iran inaugurated new President Hassan Rohani on August 4. The country’s former top nuclear negotiator offered an olive branch to the west, wrote MSNBC’s Dafna Linzer, by appointing Javad Zarif foreign minister: “Perhaps no other Iranian has had the kind of access to the corridors of U.S. power as Zarif has had, from members of Congress to nuclear experts and policy makers. As Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in the early 2000s, Zarif was granted special waivers to travel to Washington for private meetings with some of the same people who have since become top Middle East diplomats in the Obama administration.” Reuters Marcus George and Paul Taylor reported the appointment of Zarif may be a bellwether for an attempted “Grand Bargain.”

The Bloomberg News editorial department welcomed Rohani’s inauguration by urging U.S. President Barack Obama, so long as negotiations continue, to veto additional Congressional sanctions, define security guarantees and desist from regime change.

Finally, Iran’s tit-for-tat with the International Atomic Energy Agency took a new turn in a July 10 Information Circular requested by Ambassador Aliasghar Soltanieh. The Islamic Republic threatened to sue IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano for damages caused by overstepping his mandate: “Defining unilateral obligations on a sovereign state is beyond the mandate of the Director General. As clearly described above, the DG has deviated from his mandate. Iran reserves its right to file claims against his acts on the damages arising,” INFCIRC/853 says. The document provides a spectacularly different view of the negotiations between Iran and the West than heretofore reported.

The Questions: Who is going to write the table-napkin history of Zarif’s time in NYC now that he’s Foreign Minister? His charm and sophistication precede him. How much is Director General Amano worth and will Iran really go for the throat? Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA allows it to request arbitration to settle disputes. Is Iran ready to push back on what it deems IAEA excess?

Errata

Press freedom continues to come under pressure in the U.S. and elsewhere, wrote NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan. A U.S. appeals court decision compelling fellow Times reporter James Risen to break confidentiality afforded his sources has already damaged the paper’s ability to report the news, she writes.

Over at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Hugh Gusterson probes the reasons why so-called “public secrets” cause so much discomfort to those in power: “In the final analysis, the reason there will be more Mannings and Snowdens is that so many American secrets are not strict military secrets but scandalous public secrets pertaining to ways the US national security state behaves that are at odds with national or international law, or in conflict with fundamental national values. Whether one condones what Snowden did or not, it is clear that he was motivated by a deep sense of indignation that his government was doing something profoundly wrong. “If you want a secret respected,” said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the country’s greatest commentators on secrecy, “see that it’s respectable in the first place.”

The Questions: Why is the fear of public embarrassment so deeply imbued in the quest to keep “public secrets?” How long can an economic culture built on taking risks be controlled by a system that needs total-information awareness to ensure security? At what point does the cost of total-information awareness begin to burden free-market innovation?

Tuesday bonus: Did you know that Lee Majors TV series “Six Million Dollar Man,” aired from 1973 to 1978, was called “The Nuclear Man” in its Spanish-language incarnation?