Sunday, April 26, 2015

Yellowcake Blues

"Without Russian weapons uranium to downblend, and even with a continuing supply from Uranium One’s holdings in Wyoming, Khazakstan and Canada underwritten by the Clinton Foundation, the United States will be faced with a stark choice."

  In a post for Peak Prosperity on Friday, Chris Martenson observed:

In the past ten years police in the UK have been involved in 23 total police shooting fatalities.  In the US in 2013 alone there were a minimum of 458 'justifiable homicides' by firearms, committed by US police.  I say 'a minimum' because the FBI statistics are woefully incomplete because there is no mandate that police forces report their killings to the FBI so the database is certainly inaccurate on the low side…. Adjusting for population, US police officers are killing citizens at roughly 40 times the rate of UK police.
* * *

[T]he recent cases of police brutality are simply a symptom of a much larger problem. Society in the US is breaking down, civility has been lost, and the country is rapidly becoming uncivilized.

This extends within and across all of the most important institutions. Congress is known to work for corporations first and foremost. Democracy itself is bought and sold by the highest bidders. The Federal Reserve protects big banks from the costs of their misdeeds and enriches the already stupidly rich as a side benefit.

DEA agents are caught in Columbia having sex parties with underage girls and drugs, and the worst punishment handed out is a 10-day suspension without pay.  Nobody is even fired, let alone jailed.  

"Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity".
~ Tacitus, Annals, Book XI Ch. 26

The FBI has just admitted that they had been consistently (and certainly knowingly) overstating forensic lab analysis in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95% of cases over a period of several decades.  The cases included 32 that resulted in death sentences.  Many people were wrongly convicted, but nobody from the FBI will face any charges and many of the states involved have (so far) decided they won’t be looking into any of the cases to right the wrongs.  The wrongful convictions will stand, an injustice that is incompatible with the concept of being civilized.

The Department of Justice has utterly failed to hold any banks or bankers criminally responsible for any acts despite levying a few billions in fines for crimes that probably netted the banks tens of billions in profits.  For some, crime does pay.

I could go on, but why bother? The pattern is easy enough to see.

The US has lost its way. Fairness, justice, and knowing right from wrong seem to all be lost concepts and the trend has only gotten worse over the past several years.  Without moral bearings, what’s left?

Last week in this space we remarked how Congress has been pursuing the Russian cable news network, RT-America, calling it a propaganda tool because it takes a distinctly different view towards world affairs and US foreign policy than does the US State Department. Three days ago The New York Times ran a front page story that Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Jo Becker and Times reporter Mike McIntire borrowed heavily from former Hoover Center scholar and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer's new bombshell book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Made Bill and Hillary Rich. Schweizer is a three-time New York Times bestselling author.

The story exposes how the Clinton Foundation pedaled the influence of former President Bill Clinton and would-be-President Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, to wrest control of more than 20% of the world's uranium fuel supplies for Russian oligarchs in exchange for $250 million or more in donations.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. … Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors.

In our view, while this is consistent with the corruption at the top from which every sector of US society takes its queues about moral behavior (viewing torture and wars of aggression as okay in popular television shows and movies, training domestic police as if they were occupying armies, and allowing a tenth of the population to abscond with nearly all the wealth, tax-free, while beggaring college students, medically needy, veterans, single moms and homeless people), the Times buried the lead.

Interred deep in the story we read:

The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation; the United States and Russia had for years cooperated on that front, with Russia sending enriched fuel from decommissioned warheads to be used in American nuclear power plants in return for raw uranium.  
Instead, it concerned American dependence on foreign uranium sources. While the United States gets one-fifth of its electrical power from nuclear plants, it produces only around 20 percent of the uranium it needs, and most plants have only 18 to 36 months of reserves, according to Marin Katusa, author of The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped From America’s Grasp. 
“The Russians are easily winning the uranium war, and nobody’s talking about it,” said Mr. Katusa, who explores the implications of the Uranium One deal in his book. “It’s not just a domestic issue but a foreign policy issue, too.”

The 440 operating nuclear reactors in the world require the equivalent of about 68000 tons of natural uranium ore every year. Yet, over the past 20 years, no more than 40–50000 tons of new uranium ore have been produced annually and that number is rapidly declining. We are now decades past peak and uranium cannot be fracked (despite attempts to do so, using injected hydrochloric acid, under sacred land in the Black Hills).

So how are we keeping US power plants running? Simple. By beating swords into plowshares.
The USA and Russia together have 6267 on-the-books (March 2015) nuclear warheads. Using a rough estimate that each nuclear warhead contains about 100 kg of fissionable U235 enriched to about 95%, one finds an equivalent of about 10 tons of natural uranium in each warhead, or 62000 tons all together (a 3-year supply for US reactors). Since the New START treaty was inked on April 8, 2010, both sides have been under legal obligation to reduce their operational stockpiles to 1500. As of this writing, Russia has cut theirs down to 2987 and the US stands at 3280. At the start of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the total was more than 65,000 — some 25,000 in the US and 40,000 in the Former Soviet Union.

Russia has been selling its decommissioned warheads to the US. Recycling weapons-grade uranium into commercial nuclear reactor fuel means downblending enrichment from 95% to 3–4% U235 content, which is proceeding apace at Oak Ridge. This is a huge waste of energy at the margin, making the fuel absurdly expensive, but that cost is picked up by taxpayers, not electric ratepayers, so it goes unnoticed, particularly in nuke industry PR claims about cheap power.

Russia has been decommissioning warheads faster than the United States (in fact, the US has slowed decommissioning its warheads and now reconditions them using fresh tritium illegally produced in TVA power reactors, before sending the reconditioned warheads back into "service."

Every year, the USA has been importing about 10000 tons of natural uranium equivalent nuclear fuel from decommissioned Russian warheads (about 1000 warheads-worth, but that has now slowed). Russia's sales of used weapons uranium, the gift of good relations with Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama's ability to push START through Senate ratification, has been the only thing that allows the US nuclear power program to continue to operate, since, as The Times pointed out, the US produces "only around 20 percent of the uranium it needs" and the global market grows steadily tighter. 

Indeed, if Iran goes forward with its nuclear program, as envisioned by the Kerry deal, one wonders where the fuel for that program will come from. China’s plan to build hundreds of reactors? Fuggettaboudit.

Thirty years ago, the USA produced about 16000 tons of uranium ore annually; today, production has declined to less than 2000 tons (of much lower grade ore), whereas its power plants require about 20000 tons. France, now 80% nuclear and seeing the shortfall looming, is rapidly denuclearizing. The bombastic US, which can't seem to tie its own shoelaces if foreign policy is involved, continues to impose sanctions on Russia, blaming it for the NATO false flag neo-Nazi skinhead chaos of Ukraine and US false flag downing of a Dutch airliner. Should Putin ever decide he has had enough, ending uranium exports would provide a quick coup de
grâce to one-fifth of the United States' electric supply.

That death may come anyway, as the START treaty goals approach. Without Russian weapons uranium to downblend, and even with a continuing supply from Uranium One’s holdings in Wyoming, Khazakstan and Canada underwritten by the Clinton Foundation, the United States will be faced with a stark choice – eliminate its own nuclear weapons triad or close its power reactors. That choice, ironically, may fall to the next President Clinton, should she withstand the firestorm whipped up by the Times and its beltway echo chamber.

Realistically, it is difficult to blame Hillary Clinton since she is merely following the new rules of the game. The Koch Brothers have announced plans to bestow a 1-billion-dollar campaign war chest on the man they will select to be the next Republican presidential candidate. Only the Clintons are capable of raising the kind of cash to turn the race for the next Presidency into a serious contest. The people's choice is between money from two brothers willing to sacrifice the planet to climate change in order to deregulate their coal and oil interests and a handful of Russian oligarchs willing to dig up all the remaining uranium and poison the planet that way. Or USAnians could make the Quixotic dismount of voting for a Bernie Sanders or a Ran Paul.

Without any moral compass to guide her, who can say which way Hillary Clinton may go to save her nuclear donors' investment in atomic power? One thing’s for certain — she will not ask Israel to pony up any of its secret warheads to make fuel. Instead, if we have to hazard a guess, whomever the next President is, the can will be kicked down the road until, one by one, nukes start shutting down and the lights go out on Broadway.

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