Posted: 13th May 2022
War in Ukraine
The Times reports on comments made by former Russian prime minister, president, and top Putin ally, Dmitry Medvedev, where he warned that continued NATO military support for Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. Medvedev, who now is deputy chair of Russia’s security council, said “pumping weapons into Ukraine, training troops to use western equipment, sending in mercenaries and the exercises of alliance countries near our borders increase the likelihood of a direct and open conflict,” in a post written on messaging app Telegram. “Such a conflict always has the risk of turning into a fully fledged nuclear war. This will be a disastrous scenario for everyone.”
Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, Sir Tony Brenton, has predicted that the Kremlin is likely to move nuclear weapons to the Baltic to counter NATO ascension by Nordic states. Brenton said the move would be a direct response to the increasing possibility that Finland and Sweden will apply for NATO in the coming week. “I think we need to resign ourselves to the likelihood of much more Russian nuclear deployment in the Baltic area as a response to Finland’s accession to NATO, when it comes, and Sweden’s very likely one as well,” Brenton told BBC Newsnight. On Thursday, Finland’s top leaders stressed their support for NATO membership – with Sweden likely to follow suit – to join Norway, Denmark, and Iceland as members of the military bloc.
Trident / Nukes in Britain
The Tablet reports on Pax Christi’s support for the upcoming demonstration at RAF Lakenheath, organised by CND.
UK Nuclear Energy
The UK government has launched its new fund to help stimulate interest in nuclear power. The £120 million Future Nuclear Enabling Fund is – according to the government – “designed to unlock and accelerate new nuclear technologies while encouraging new players into the market.” The government also called on firms looking to avail of the scheme “to register their interest in bidding for funding and inviting further information on potential future projects.”
A planning decision by the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, on the plan to build a twin reactor nuclear power station at Sizewell C in Suffolk, has been pushed back by 6 weeks. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced on Thursday that the deadline for the proposals for the new £20billion project will now be July 8. It was initially slated for May 25. Alison Downes, of campaign group Stop Sizewell C, said: “This delay is down to the dozens of really difficult problems with the Sizewell C application – including water supply, transport, coastal erosion and biodiversity.”
Meanwhile, Kwasi Kwarteng has admitted to the BBC that plans to fund a swathe of new nuclear power projects would see higher energy prices for customers in the short-term. Kwarteng said the plan would have a “small effect” on people’s monthly bills. The government is looking to fund the new projects with the introduction of a levy to people’s bills while the plants are being constructed. According to the government, this will eventually lead to savings for customers – as by giving developers money up front – they’ll be less likely to take out loans.
Beyond Nuclear’s Linda Pentz Gunter writes for The Morning Star – looking at plans by US nuclear firm Westinghouse – to potentially invest in new British nuclear projects in Wales. “The fact that the government is even contemplating a deal with Westinghouse is astounding, given the company’s track record here in the US where two new nuclear plant projects bankrupted the company in 2017.”
Ministers have just six weeks to decide on extending the life of the Hinkley Point B nuclear reactor, according to industry insiders speaking to the i newspaper. The plant is due to be shut off in July, but the government has been considering an extension as part of efforts to prevent a drop off in power generation at a time of rising energy prices.
Councillors have been told that Lancaster City Council’s decision to join the Mayors for Peace network will not impact nuclear submarine jobs at Barrow-in-Furness or various regional relationships with neighbouring Cumbrian districts. The vote to join the peace organisation has been met with concerns that its opposition to nuclear weapons could impact local defence industries.
Iran Nuclear Deal
The New York Times has a guest essay on Joe Biden’s reluctance to engage in the politics required to avert nuclear war and make the world safer. On a failure to revive the Iran nuclear deal: “A crisis with Iran would undermine the global coalition that Mr Biden has helped assemble to defend Ukraine. And it would constitute not only a foreign policy disaster. It would constitute a political disaster, too. If Mr. Biden thinks the midterm campaign looks bleak now, imagine the effect on Democratic fortunes if Iran becomes a de facto nuclear power or if that prospect plunges the United States into another Middle Eastern war. By avoiding a political headache now, Mr Biden is courting an even greater one down the road.”
The EU’s top official in charge of coordinating the bloc’s efforts to reach a new Iranian nuclear deal – was detained by German police on Friday morning after returning from Iran. Enrique Mora was in Tehran this week for talks aimed at breaking the current deadlock in discussions being held in Vienna. Two other diplomats, EU Ambassador to Vienna Stephan Klement and Bruno Scholl, the head of the EU’s Iran Task Force, were also detained. The trio had been travelling to Brussels from Tehran via Frankfurt airport. Writing on Twitter, Mora said the diplomats were detained by German security for 30 minutes without explanation, having their passports and mobile phones temporarily seized.
The Asahi Shimbun looks at the efficacy problems of the underground ice wall at the defunct Fukushima nuclear power plant. Completed in 2016, the wall surrounds the No 1 to No 4 reactors at the plant, with the aim of diverting water towards the ocean instead of into the damaged reactors where they can become contaminated. “A frozen ground wall has advantages, such as a high ability to block water, but its maintenance requires huge sums,” said Kunio Watanabe, a professor of frozen soil studies at Mie University. “An easy-to-build underground ice wall was the only possible option in the early stages because of extremely high radiation readings around the reactor buildings. Now that it has been used for so many years, other approaches should also be weighed.”