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Choice for Humanity

The Saga of Nuclear Power

by Prof. Hayrettin KILIÇ
The Green Think Tank of Turunch Foundation.
New Jersey, USA

"The failure of the US.  Nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in the business  history, a disaster on a monumental scale. The industry has already spent $125  billion in nuclear power, with and additional 140 billion to come before the decade is out..."
................................................................................FORBES magazine, 1985

Page: I (In this page)

- History
- Nuclear Power Plants
Is the Nuclear Power Economical?
- Are There Enough Nuclear Bombs and Tests?
- Military Nuclear Waste
- Civil Nuclear Waste

Page: II

- Is nuclear power safe/accidents?
- Is radiation harmful?
Is it electrical or political power?

- To destroy their own race...

To this date, five countries known as Nuclear Club, USA, France, England, Russia, China, and suspected countries or so called de fecto countries such as India, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan and Korea, have conducted approximate 2.000 nuclear tests around the globe. The explosive force of these tests amounts nearly 40.000 times that of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

About 518 of these nuclear weapons have been tested in the atmosphere, under water or in space, and approximately 1.482 nuclear tests have been conducted underground. In spite of 1963, the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Test (CTBT) in the atmosphere, in outer space and the water, which was signed by 100 countries, France until 1974, and Chine until 1980, continued atmospheric tests, and both countries along with India, Israel, South Africa, and Pakistan did not signed the ban treaty.

1986 accident at the Chernobyl, and 1979 accident at Three Miles Island, aroused an unsettled concern among the general public that  continues to this day. While old Soviet designed and aging Western designed 443 reactors, 204 of which over 20 years old, that are still standing as ticking nuclear bombs in the world. Ironically, not long ago,  France was getting ready to resume nuclear bomb testing in the South Pacific on the 50th year of Hiroshima bombing.

The headlines of Rutland Herald newspaper, Vermont, June 7, 1999 "In Case of Nuclear Accident, Take This Pills". These little white pills containing Potassium Iodide (protects the body only from the potential of thyroid cancer, but offer no protection from other nuclear radiations)  could be the latest weapon to counter the effects of radiation release from an accident at either Vermont Yankee or Seabrook Nuclear Power station, New Hampshire officials decided.

The New York Times, Business Day, March, 6, 1999. Titled, "Nuclear power, ones seen as a nearly unlimited source of energy, today accounts for relatively modest share of electricity output. While the cost of running a nuclear plant can be relatively modest, construction cost soared out of control, making plants so noncompetitive that they can only be sold at BARGAIN-BASEMENT PRICE."

The Washington Post news paper, December 31, 1995. A front page news; "A Nuclear Problem Keeps Growing". Every day six more tons of high level of radioactive waste pile up at the nation's 109 nuclear power plants. It sits there in a sort of atomic limbo, " a total of some 30.000 tons of spent fuel rods so far... and there is nowhere for it to go "Nobody wants the stuff". The department of Energy (DOE) has spent $ 4.2 billion studying the issue. But there is no definite solution in sight."

The propose of this article is to shed light on the latest trend of the global spread of nuclear power, and review the economical, political, safety and environmental aspects of the rapidly spreading nuclear technology. This article is intended for interested and concerned citizens, and provide them well documented information in order to understand that the price that they are paying to build nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.


In 1938, nuclear fission was discovered by German scientists Hahn and  Strasman, and in 1942, Italian scientist Enrico Fermi and his coworkers activated the first nuclear reactor in a squash court at the University of Chicago. This was the first self sustaining nuclear reaction, demonstrating that humanity would be able to harness atomic energy.  Fifty years ago, in 1945,  the first atomic bomb was built in the USA and detonated in Japan during the  Second World War.

In late 1953, US. President Eisenhower inaugurated a new program called " Atoms for Peace". Later, in the 1960's, the USA., England, Soviet Union, China and France were the five states that had built and tested a nuclear bomb before 1967, and therefore declared themselves as Nuclear Weapons States (NWS-or so called, Nuclear  Club). Since then, on both sides of the Atlantic, civilian nuclear power has  been politically and economically bound to the super power's nuclear weapons  programs as a pillar of the cold war, and breeding grounds for almost 30.000 existing nuclear weapons. To this date, the two nuclear industries, military and  civilian have maintained similar infrastructures ,and operate side-by-side  sharing personnel, research, development, and financing.

Arising out of concern about growing nuclear weapons stockpiles and the  desire to stop nuclear testing and the arms race, in 1963 a Treaty Banning  Nuclear Weapons Tests (CTBT) in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water  was signed by the nuclear states. Later, in 1968, the treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was signed by 178 countries and came to power in 1970. The NPT treaty also established a UN, agency, The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was awarded for Nobel Peace Price 2006, to promote peaceful use of nuclear  energy, and in the meantime, control and safeguard civilian nuclear reactors and material throughout the world, so that they are not used as breeding ground for nuclear weapons.

The main objectives of NPT were to stop the nuclear arms race "vertical  proliferation," achieve elimination of nuclear weapons, halt more countries from  joining the five declared nuclear states "horizontal proliferation" and offer developing countries access to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Unfortunately, during the history of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the five Nuclear Weapons States have failed to meet their obligations. They did not  eliminate their nuclear arsenals, instead they continue to develop, modernize  and deploy new nuclear weapons.

They collaborated and supplied necessary material and technology to Non-Nuclear Weapons States (NNWS), or "De facto Nuclear Weapon States" like Iraq during Saddam regime, Pakistan, India, Korea, Iran and Israel to develop nuclear weapon programs. Like China's latest test in 1995, they repeatedly violated the nuclear test ban.  NWS always opposed the establishment of nuclear free zones and actively tried to change the definition of such zones. Moreover, the safeguard system by IAEA was never made effective to have control of sensitive nuclear materials traffic between NWS and NNWS countries. such as between Canada and India USA and South Korea ,France and Iraq ,Russia and China, North Korea, Iran.

Finally, after declining nuclear power in industrialized countries and because of the "dual use" nature of nuclear technology, NWS states have been transferring nuclear technology to NNWS, eventually most of them have managed to make their own nuclear weapons.

When NPT took force in 1970, it was guaranteed for only 25 years. In May 1995,  after a month of intense and sometimes bitter debate over nuclear dangers in the  post-cold war world, it was a diplomatic victory for the U.S. led nuclear club  to convince 170 national delegations in the U.N. unanimously, to extend the NPT  indefinitely.

Three so called "threshold" nations, at that time, India, Pakistan, and Israel  did not sign the treaty. The five declared nuclear powers, that still have  nearly 20.000 operational warheads between them, also agreed to complete a  treaty banning nuclear tests (CBTC) in 1996, and to start talks on ending the  production of nuclear material used to make bombs.

Until a few years ago, nuclear weapons were focused on the western and  eastern super powers. Western nuclear powers oriented their nuclear doctrines toward deterring Soviet aggression, in the mean time, the Soviet Union aimed its  nuclear arsenal at the western allies. So far, some other countries that enjoyed being outside of the cold war like India, Iraq, Pakistan, Japan, South Africa, Israel, Iran, and North Korea were suspected to be pursuing or have already obtained a nuclear bomb. Ironically, Sweden despite a clear prohibition imposed by its  parliament, conducted a secret nuclear weapons development program. The program  culminated with 10 underground small tests explosions between 1971 and 1972, in  secret from the World and Swedish public. Over 1000 inspections conducted by IAEA in countries such as Iraq during the Saddam regime, and in South Africa, neither detected nor stopped nuclear weapon tests carried out, specially joint tests by Israel and the South African government.

With the dismantlement of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet  Union, the proliferation of any weapons of mass destruction became the most  important issue of the international security agenda. The Nuclear Club has begun expanding their nuclear deterrence strategies to counter suspected regional proliferators or frequently mentioned danger, "the South". However, the nuclear  aspects of Counter-Proliferation doctrines raise many disturbing questions about  the details of fighting a nuclear war in Third World Countries, which have been  increasingly acquiring the dual-use nuclear power stations.

Nuclear Power Plants

At the present time, nuclear power plants have already spread around the  world. According to IAEA records, currently about 443 nuclear power plants worldwide are operating and  producing 16% of the World electrical energy. 204 of the plants have already been in operation over 20 years. About 24 are under construction.

As of IAEA's December 2005 update records, there  are 59 reactors in France, producing about %78 of the electricity; there are  about 103 reactors operating in the United States, producing %19 of the  electricity; Japan has 56 reactors, producing about %24 of its electrical  supply; Sweden supplies %52 of its electricity with 10 reactors; there are 6 reactors in Taiwan providing %32 of the electrical power; the Russia Federation has  31 nuclear reactors producing %15 electricity, ironically, 10 of which is the same as the Chernobyl type, and is building about 4 more. There are 20 nuclear reactors in  South Korea that produced %37 of electricity. India producing only %3 of electricity from 44 nuclear reactors, and only 15 of these reactors are under the supervision of IAEA. The other nuclear club countries; England has 23 power plants generating %19 of electricity, and China has 9 known reactors supplying less than %2  of electricity.

So far, 110 nuclear power plants have been shut down permanently, 68 Europe, 23 in US and 7 in Canada and remaining 12 in Japan and far eastern countries.. The construction of new nuclear power plants is effectively forbidden in  West Germany and Sweden and all nuclear power plants will be phased out by the year 2010. Austria, Spain, Denmark and Italy decided that they will never build any nuclear reactors. The nuclear programs in France and Japan are running  into serious waste related technical and financial problems, plus rapidly mounting public  oppositions.

Is the Nuclear Power Economical?

In the United States, no new reactor orders have been placed since 1978. While nuclear companies want to order new plants with government's loan guarantees, Congressional Budget office (CBO) analysis of proposed U.S government loan guarantees for new nuclear power pants (Congressional Budget Office, Cost Estimates, S.14 Policy Act of 2003 12) clearly stated that the "CBO considers the risk of default on such a loan guarantee be very high risk" and that if the power plant were complete "we expect it would financially default soon after beginning of operations". Moreover, the same Policy Act indicated that, until year 2013 there will be no loans guaranteed for building new nuclear power plants in the Unted States.

The following data obtained from Cambridge Energy Research Association, Resource Data International and Utility Data Institute; New York Times, March, 6, 1999 article titled "The nuclear Power Elite" and summarized the energy production and sales trends after 1997 in the United States from different energy sources, which explains why CBO is reluctant to support nuclear power companies.

  Share of Electricity Power Plants Cost Market Value
  Avge. Production . Cost to build  Power plants
  Expenses.  A new Plant. Sale $
  Per kw-hour per kilowatt  avg. Price/kw
Hydro: 11.6% 0.35 cents  $ 1.500-2000 $ 1.775
Coal:   .56.9%  1.80 cents  $ 700-1.000  $ 665
Gas:    .7.5%  3.42 cents  $ 350-500  $ 240
Nuclear: 20.8%. 2.13 cents $ 3.500-5.000 $ 113 

Above figures does not even include costly decommissioning of nuclear power stations. After  the Chernobyl nuclear accident, public opposition to building new nuclear plant, from 44 to 82 percent in West Germany,  from 65 to 83 percent in the UK.  Opposition in France, previously tiny,  soared to %59. In fact that, a nuclear power plant built ten years ago and was ready to operate in Long Island, New York. However, it could not start up due the lack of an evacuation plan for the surrounding community.

FORBES magazine published an article in 1985, even before the Chernobyl  accident, titled Nuclear Follies which stated that, "The failure of the US.  Nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in the business  history, a disaster on a monumental scale. The industry has already spent $125  billion in nuclear power, with and additional 140 billion to come before the  decade is out...and, in little more than a decade transformed what elsewhere in  the world is a low-cost, reliable, environmentally impeccable energy into a  power source that is not only in high in cost and unreliable, but perhaps not even safe".

What Forbes editors had foreseen in 1985 was indeed the beginning of the  end of nuclear power in the US. Now, we see clearly that atomic energy is the  most expensive technological failure in human history, at an average of 2.13 cent per kWh (in U.S.) with more than $500 billion already invested. It has proven so far that the efficiency of use of nuclear energy even in industrialized countries happen to be pathetically low.

C. Komanoff, a leading authority on the nuclear power costs, consultant to  U.S. Department of Energy and 'a leading nuclear power economist', as Governor Bill Clinton called him, conducted extensive research on the saga of nuclear power in the U.S. between 1968 and 1990. His analysis as of 1994, revealed the full history  of U.S. commercial nuclear power for which data was available, utilities spent  $389 billion to generate 5.4 trillion kilowatt hours of nuclear power, this  averages out to 7.2 cents per kWh (in 1990). Over the same period, fossil-fuel  power and electricity from coal-oil-gas cost around 4 cents per kWh to generate the same electrical power.

C. Komanoff's analysis also showed that: A nuclear kilowatt-hour costing  utilities and their customers almost three times what it cost in 1973, namely, 9.1 cents per kWh in 1990 versus 3.2 cents per kWh in 1973. Real annual capital cost-construction costs were per kWh 80% higher in the 1980's than in the 1970's. In the 1970's real annual nuclear fuel costs were 0.61 cents per kWh, in  the 1980's real annual nuclear fuel costs increased to 0.85 cents, about 40%  increase. Enrichment prices soared from $32 / SWU in 1972 to $120/SWU in 1984  (SWU separation work unit similar to kWh unit). Real operating and maintenance  cost per kWh were 182 % higher in the 1980's than in the 1970's. Today the  average nuclear kWh now has an operating and maintenance cost of around 2.5  cents, or 3-4 times the operating costs of fossil-fuel plants.

In addition, during the regular operation of nuclear power plants a vast  amount of long lived, high level waste is constantly produced, 6 tons each day, it is estimated that by year 2010 nearly 90.000 tons of high-level radioactive nuclear waste and spend fuel will accumulate in US. Up to now, the  US has already spent more than 4 billion dollars for finding a geologically fit site for housing radioactive waste. As of 1995 estimates, which cost about $325,000 to isolate a metric ton nuclear waste.

Finally,  billions of dollars are lost due to nuclear power plant accidents and the  dismantling of old nuclear power plants. Ironically, the predictions of Forbes  economists in 1985 concerning nuclear technology were indeed optimistic figures.

Are There Enough Nuclear Bombs and Tests?

The worlds' five declared nuclear weapons states the USA, Russia, England,  France and China along with de facto states such as Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, North Korea, by the end of 2003, have produced about 3.700 metric tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium-235 (HEU), enough for hundreds of thousands of nuclear weapons, in about 60 countries. Approxmiatly  155 metric tons of high purity (%98%) weapon grade Pu-239 exists for nuclear weapons programs. Russia is estimated to have about 95 tons, the US has about 47 tons, France 5 tons, Britain 3.2 tons and China have the remaining 4.8 tons. There are also unofficial military plutonium inventories scattered around the world in places such as  Japan, India,  Pakistan, Israel, S.Africa, Brazil, Argentina and in South and North Korea.

At the present time, global military and commercial plutonium stacks reached to 1.670 metric tons. Every year, civilian reprocessing plants in France, Belgium,  India, USA and England have produced about 15-20 metric tons of civilian plutonium for power production in countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, Russia, Switzerland, and  Japan . However, so called civilian plutonium can be used for a military applications in any given time, in fact that, in April 2002, that Japan's Liberal Part's leader has warned the Chine  that, Japan possess enough Pu-239 to produce 3.000 to 4.000 nuclear warheads in short time".

Even the cold war is over 16 years ago, five club members as well as de facto countries spend billions of dollars annually to maintain and up grade their nuclear arsenal. Though most of them are signatory to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and bound by Article VI to promote nuclear disarmament, instead they are planning, developing and deploying new type of tactical nuclear weapons which can be used in the battle fields.

After long years of  negotiations,  treaties such as Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty (SORT) help to reduce number of nuclear weapons in U.S. and Russia, however, there are still huge number of warheads, 20.150,  globally scattered and  programmed to destroy military targets as well as metropolitan areas. As of 2006, the U.S. nuclear stockpile contains almost 10.000 warheads, Russia has almost 7.200 operational warheads, Britain possess Approxmiatly 200 active nuclear weapons. For China, accurate predictions about their active arsenal are difficult, however The CIA and Pentagon estimate that 400 warheads are operational, and this number may reached to 1000 within 10 years. France, spends 10 present of their defense budget on nuclear program, and at the present time has 348 active warheads. India, the youngest nuclear club member after President Bush to India, has  a stockpile of 40-50 assembled and capable to built many more nuclear warheads. With new nuclear technology transfer agreement between India and United States signed Marc 2006, India will outnumber the Chins stockpile within 5 to 10 years. De Facto states; Israel, with French assistance built a nuclear weapons facility, and experts believe that they have more than 200 hundreds nuclear weapons. Pakistan, only Islamic country and the master of so called Islamic  Atomic Bomb, is suspected to have 25 to 50 nuclear weapons.

The five declared nuclear powers have acknowledged conducting  nearly 2.000 nuclear tests since 1945. 942 of these tests have taken place within the continental United States,  Moreover, islands and atolls in the Pacific were the location of 306 tests conducted by the United States, Britain, and France. As of the beginning of 1995, Russia was estimated to have about 23.000 nuclear weapons and has not published a definitive official list all of its tests. But according to unofficial sources, Russia has detonated approximately 1100 nuclear bombs, only 715 of these were accounted as official tests, most of  the others were reported as hydro nuclear experiments with yields under 100  kilograms.

France, about ten years ago, received giant computers from United States to simulate the effects of the nuclear explosions and has a poor record with regard to disarmament negotiations. It has refused to sign the Partial Test Ban Treaty, banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere and underwater, and abstained form the  treaty for the denuclearization of the seabed's. France refused to sign the 1972 Convention Banning Biological Weapons, and opposed or abstained on UN  resolutions calling for a comprehensive test (CBT) ban treaty. France, with 192 tests, has not participated in any multilateral negotiations on nuclear reductions, and has produced 1100 nuclear warheads of 10 different types  representing explosive power of some 8000 Hiroshima bombs. So far China has  exploded 43 atomic bombs and possesses about 450 nuclear weapons with a yield of  16000 Hiroshima bombs. The silent member, England had only 280 warheads in 1970, with existing Trident submarine program, this number could increase to 450 by the year 2006.

The production of nuclear weapons from mining of the uranium to fabrication of plutonium and testing of the bombs has taking place at different sites around the world. However, environmental and health consequences of nuclear weapons testing have fallen most heavily on Nuclear Club's old colonies, such as; Algeria, Kazakhstan, Marshall Islands, and other small islands in South Pacific. Nuclear Club have chosen to conduct these nuclear tests in rural, minority habited, and colonized areas where disenfranchised people had no right to oppose.

A one kiloton nuclear-explosion, equivalent to 1.000 tons of TNT, will instantly create a electromagnetic radiation in the form of high energy x-rays and gamma rays, which will also effect not only flora and fauna, but all electronic communication hardware around the globe. It will also produce 40 billion curies of radioactivity fission products within first minuet, which will be reduce to nearly 10 billion curies after 12 hours, as the short-lived radionuclides decay.

Any explosion of a typical Fission, Fusion or hybrid base nuclear bombs create thousands of short and long lived radioactive isotopes such as Xenon-133 and 135, Iodine-131,  Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Plutonium-239, Uranium-235. In addition; induced radioactive isotopes are created during the atmospherific explosion such as Carbon-14 and Tritium.

Finally, as a result of the fallouts from nuclear tests until year 2000, scientific studies show that, it will cause over 500.000 cancer fatalities mostly in the northern hemisphere.

Military Nuclear Waste

In order to build all existing nuclear weapons, about 200 metric tons of  weapon grade Pu-239 and thousands of tons of HEU-235 have been produced. In  addition to billions of Curies of radioactive new isotopes introduces to the  environment by nuclear tests, huge amounts of high-level, long-lived radioactive  wastes have been created in every steps of processing, from mining to final ensemble of nuclear warheads. After 55 years of the arms race, deadly radioactive  substances, which must be isolated from the environment, including Sr-90 and  Cs-137, Pu-241,U-235 and 238 are scattered in acidic liquidate waste form, and that of solid waste form: In  Russia, 1430 metric cubes of acidic liquidate waste and in  France 1400 metric cubes of acidic and vitrified glass waste. In addition to being  housed by unofficial nuclear states such as India, Belgium, Germany and  Japan.

Based on current projections, Japan has more than 54.97 tons separated plutonium South Korea has 31.4  of Pu-239 in spent fuel from  its reactors, N. Korea may have three tons of plutonium if the Nyongbyon  reprocessing plant is still in operation , and Taiwan has  18.6 tons  of plutonium in spent fuel reactor assemblies, waiting to be separated and  enriched for new weapon production.

Civil Nuclear Waste - or "It is a nuclear Rape"

On the civilian side, at each step of the process, starting from mining and  milling to enrichment and fabrication, the hazardous and radioactive nuclear waste production figures are much worse than those of the military. In the United States alone, as of 1995, there are 45.000 nuclear waste sites housing about 3,510,560 metric-cubes of radioactive waste corresponding to 1,089,311,771 curies of radioactivity. The estimated 1995 cost of cleaning these sites according to study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) titled "Estimating the Cold War  Mortgage" is about 300-300 billion dollars.

In the Unted States, under federal law, it is the responsibility of DOE to take the position of the spent fuel from civilian nuclear power plants. However the end of cold war by 1991 and  international treaties on nuclear arms reduction, and already exiting surplus Pu-239, there was no need for spent  fuel rods anymore. Ones most wanted waste (housing newly created Pu-239), all of sudden became burden on federal government, local electrical utilities as well as the people living around those power plants.

After 10 years of study and costing billions of dollars, in December,1987, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was chosen as a final repository site for the existing nuclear waste in USA. So far many Nevadans oppose the project, which would be located only 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Representing the determined resistance of citizen of Nevada, Senator Richard H. Bryan (D-Nev) said that "It is a nuclear Rape". In June 1994, a group of energy authorities 20 states sued the DOE in the U.S Court of Appeal in attempt to get ruling on exactly what kind of disposal facilities the agency is obligated to provide in 1998.

At the present time, there is no technology that offers a permanent  solution for safe nuclear waste disposal and storage for hundreds of years. Converting the waste into glass, burial in salt formation, lowering the waste  into the ocean floor, launching it into space by rockets, are all very expensive methods and none of them have been proven to be practical. Some countries plan to cool down their glassifield waste for 30 to 40 years on plant site then store them in a permanent location. However, studies showed alpha emitting isotopes  develop microscopic cracks as result of a process called diversification,  thereby causing embitterment, corrosion, and leaking of the isotopes from the glass.

* The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
* Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

* A Brief Profile of Prof. Hayrettin Kiliç

.................................................................................................For page 2>

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