[ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power in Saudi Arabia

Jaro Franta jaro-10kbq at sympatico.ca
Mon Aug 23 17:01:42 CDT 2010

Regarding "Iran is of course a case in point" and the comment that the
Iranians, " notwithstanding  the current Russian help, they must have their
own fuel production capability to avoid the possibility of being blackmailed
in the future by threats to cut off their nuclear fuel."

I think this is absolutely true -- especially if they plan to use the
Bushehr plant in a few years for the production of tritium for weapons, just
as TVA's Watts Bar nuclear power plant is doing today in the US -- see the
three articles pasted below, in reverse chronological order.

They already have the Uranium enrichment capacity. 
All that's missing for the eventual production of fusion-boosted fission
bombs is lots of tritium.
These are the types of weapons currently making up the vast majority of the
strategic nuclear arsenals of the world's five declared nuke weapons states:
relatively light weight, suitable for ballistic missile application, with
yields in the range of 100kT to 300kT.

Once they have Bushehr running and their own fuel production capacity, I
expect the IAEA and Russians will be sent home, since neither will support
the use of a civilian plant for weapons material production, by a
"non-weapons state".

Should be an interesting future, to say the least.


NUCNET - 2002 September 25   
US Utility Gets Go-Ahead to Produce Tritium at Civil N-Plant

The largest publicly-owned power company in the US, TVA, has been given the
go-ahead to produce tritium for the US military programme at its Watts Bar
nuclear power plant. 
A statement released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says it has
granted TVA a licence amendment to use tritium-producing burnable absorber
rods at the Watts Bar plant, in response to an application submitted last
year (see News No. 285, 24th September 2001).

The application followed a 1998 federal decision to produce future supplies
of tritium - an isotope of hydrogen needed to maintain nuclear fusion
weapons - at existing nuclear power plants, rather than construct a new
linear particle accelerator at the Savannah River military site. The US has
not produced tritium since 1988, when the DOE closed a production facility
at Savannah River.

Short-term needs are being met by recycling tritium from dismantled weapons.
Under the licence amendment, TVA will be permitted to produce tritium using
lithium, rather than boron, using technology developed by the Department of
Energy (DOE). The irradiated burnable absorber rods will be removed from the
power plant after use and shipped to Savannah River, where the DOE will
extract the tritium.

The amendment permits TVA to install up to 2304 rods at Watts Bar and to
irradiate them for one fuel cycle, which lasts about 18 months. The utility
would then install new rods, and repeat the process for the operating
life-time of the plant.

The process has already been successfully tested, using 32 burnable absorber
rods, between September 1997 and spring 1999. A series of public meetings
have also been held to discuss the issue - in February 1997, August 1997 and
October 2001.

TVA approves deal for commercial reactor to make tritium for bombs
Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (December 8, 1999 12) - The board of directors of the
Tennessee Valley Authority approved a contract Wednesday to make tritium, a
key component of nuclear bombs, marking the first time in U.S. history that
a commercial reactor will be used to produce the material. 
The board voted 3-0 for the contract to produce the material for the U.S.
Energy Department at its Watts Bar plant in Spring City, about 55 miles
southwest of Knoxville. 
The vote came after the board heard from a half-dozen opponents who said
it's wrong for the U.S. government to make the material as it seeks
nonproliferation agreements to cut the world's nuclear weapons stockpile. 
"I'm asking you in the name of God to say no to this madness," said Erik
Johnson, a Presbyterian minister. 
Ralph Hutchison of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance said TVA was
sending the wrong message to the rest of the world. 
"They're watching what we do, not listening to what we say," he said. 
Tritium is a hydrogen isotope that enhances the explosive power of nuclear
warheads. Last year, the U.S. House approved legislation that would have
blocked the use of a commercial reactor to make tritium, but the measure
failed in the Senate. 
No other country is known to be using a commercial reactor to make nuclear
bomb material. However, an article in Jane's Intelligence Review last year
suggested India obtained tritium for its nuclear tests from a commercial
Jack Bailey, a TVA vice president for engineering who headed contract
negotiations, said the agency relied heavily on a report issued in July 1998
that concluded "there were no international laws or agreements that would
prohibit the production of tritium." 
The report was written by officials with the Defense Department, White House
and other federal agencies and offices. 
TVA, the nation's largest public power producer, was picked by the Energy
Department last December to be the U.S. government's new source for tritium.
For the last year, officials with the two agencies worked on a contract. 
Energy Department officials say tritium isn't controlled by international
nonproliferation agreements because it is not a so-called "fissile material"
- plutonium and highly enriched uranium - that could produce an explosion on
its own. 
"The contract to produce tritium is essential to the Department of Energy's
stockpile stewardship program to maintain the safety and the reliability of
the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent," department spokesman Matthew Donoghue
said Tuesday. "It is essential for the Department of Energy in fulfilling
its national security mission." 
Under terms of the contract, the Energy Department will pay TVA up to $9.9
million per year to make tritium. The contract could begin as soon as 2003
and run until 2035, when Watts Bar is scheduled to close.


By Matthew L. Wald
New York Times News Service
December 23, 1998 

WASHINGTON -- Facing a shortage of tritium, a crucial component of nuclear
warheads, the Energy Department announced Tuesday that it will use three of
the Tennessee Valley Authority's civilian reactors to make the material.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson acknowledged that the arrangement with the
TVA breaks down a longtime distinction in the nuclear world by using a
civilian reactor for military purposes. Congress would have to approve the

However, he said lining up the TVA's reactors encouraged nuclear
non-proliferation because it eliminated the need for the U.S. to break
ground on an expensive new military plant to produce tritium. If new arms
control agreements are signed, such a plant might be far larger than ever

The department's last reactor for making tritium was shut for safety reasons
10 years ago.

For the past 10 years, weapons decommissioned under arms accords have been
the military's source of tritium, and until now, the pace of weapons
retirements has been faster than the pace of tritium decay.

But unless Russia approves a new arms control agreement soon, the U.S. will
need new tritium in six years to sustain its arsenal. Tritium, an isotope of
hydrogen, has a half-life of 12.4 years.

Richardson said the Energy Department had used provisions of a 60-year-old
law, the Economy Act, to require the TVA to sell tritium at cost. Department
officials said that if they had not been able to strike a deal, they would
have asked that the Navy requisition the reactors under national security

In a test that began 15 months ago, the Energy Department is already making
tritium at Watts Bar, near Knoxville, Tenn.
The TVA had asked for $85 million a year to make tritium at three of its
reactors. Richardson did not say Tuesday what the cost would be, but he said
using the reactors, Watts Bar 1 and Sequoyah 1 and 2, near Chattanooga, is
"the best option for our national security."

"It is a proven technology, it is the best deal by far for the taxpayer, and
it has the flexibility to meet our present and future tritium needs," he
said. If he had chosen a dedicated military plant, or a linear accelerator,
construction would have had to begin soon, he said.

By relying on reactors already built, the work would be done only as needed.
"We may not need to exercise this option for many years," he said.

The decision drew mixed reactions. Some arms proliferation specialists said
it would undermine the U.S. position in asking other countries not to divert
material from their civilian nuclear programs into bombs.

The Energy Department contends, though, that unlike plutonium, which is made
in reactors and is the heart of a bomb, tritium is not controlled by law and
cannot be used by itself to make a bomb.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a coalition of 28 environmental and
peace groups, mostly around Energy Department weapons plants, said the
decision is "unnecessary, undermines non-proliferation efforts, wastes
taxpayer dollars, and threatens public health."

At the Nuclear Control Institute, a Washington-based group advocating
non-proliferation, Paul Leventhal, the president, said using existing
reactors was "the cheapest, most assured method of producing tritium on an
as-needed basis."

-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu
[mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of George Stanford
Sent: August-23-10 12:07 PM
To: radsafe at health.phys.iit.edu
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Nuclear Power in Saudi Arabia


      Amen to that!

      The obvious solution is to make a full nuclear power cycle 
optional.  No matter how many reactors a country has, they will not 
make their own weapons without a facility for either enriching 
uranium or processing used fuel.  If there were ironclad guarantees 
of an affordable fuel supply, non-weapons states would have the 
luxury of avoiding the expense of developing indigenous fuel 
capability -- and failure to take advantage of that would indicate a 
hidden agenda.

      The now-abandoned (?) GNEP embodied a step in that direction.

      Iran is of course a case in point.  As it is, Iran can 
legitimately claim that, notwithstanding  the current Russian help, 
they must have their own fuel production capability to avoid the 
possibility of being blackmailed in the future by threats to cut off 
their nuclear fuel.

      George S. Stanford
      Reactor physicist. retired.


At 09:48 AM 8/23/2010, Perle, Sandy wrote:
While not the conventional opinion, I believe that countries that 
desire to develop a peaceful nuclear power program need not seek 
opinions from other countries. It is not for anyone to promulgate a 
policy whereby only "they" have the right to this technology and that 
"others" do not have that right. There should not be a "nuclear 
police state" that has veto power of who shall have what. It's not 
that different to ask is the Saudis have oil, why do they need 
nuclear power and not ask the same question of the USA, where there 
is abundant coal for generating power. What's the difference!



Sander C. Perle
Mirion Technologies
Dosimetry Services Division
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614

+1 (949) 296-2306 (Office)
+1 (949) 296-1130 (Fax)

Mirion Technologies: http://www.mirion.com/

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