The USA Produces Less Enriched Uranium Than Iran and North Korea

While developing nations strive to build nuclear power plants (and weapons), the USA seems to have lost interest.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s nuclear plants were popping up all over our nation, and conventional wisdom was that nuclear power would soon meet all of our energy needs at a bargain-basement price.  It sure hasn’t worked out that way.

It’s not that nuclear power was a bad idea.  In the USA nuclear power has proven to be clean, safe, and reliable.  But generating nuclear power is also fraught with challenges.  The cost to build nuclear power plants is daunting.  Nobody wants nuclear waste dumped in their back yards.  And disasters at Chernobyl and Fukishima, while preventable, have tarnished the promise of nuclear power as a primary energy source.

New technology in fossil fuels has reduced carbon emissions and production costs, making nuclear power just too expensive an alternative.  Technology in the nuclear industry has come a long way too, but you would never know it by looking at our domestic nuclear power plants.  The average age of our nuke plants is 36 years.  The last two reactors built were the Watts Bar units – one was completed in 1996, and the other struggled for completion in 2016.  Hundreds of approved plant projects never got started.  Only four plants are currently under construction, and they are behind schedule and over budget.  If they are completed, they will produce electricity that costs more than even solar and wind power.  A growing number of plants are scheduled to shut down.  Westinghouse went bankrupt trying to get its new lower-cost, faster-construction model up and running.

Our biggest gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant was closed two years ago, so we currently buy almost all of the enriched uranium used in our nuclear power reactors from Russia.  But Russia, in a snit over Obama’s Ukraine-related sanctions, suspended the trade agreement by which highly enriched uranium from weapons was being downblended for use in nuclear plants in the USA and around the world.

Germany intends to shut down all of its nuke plants by 2022.  China, on the other hand, is planning a number of plants as part of their effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Industry experts say that the world is already using more uranium than is being mined.  After the re-purposed uranium from nuclear weapons is used up, they expect hot competition and shortages as China, India, Russia and other nations ramp up their nuclear power programs at a rate greater than Europe and the USA wind theirs down.  No wonder there was a commotion when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to grant a Russian company the rights to mine one-fifth of our domestic uranium in exchange for a $2.35 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation and a $500,000 speaking fee for her husband.

We won’t need a great deal of expensive nuclear power to meet our nation’s future electrical needs.  But we will still need enriched uranium.  Our existing nuke plants will require uranium for some time yet, and the Trump administration wants to expand our fleet of nuclear powered ships and submarines.  Plus there is no avoiding our strategic need to maintain an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

At this time there are no US companies producing enriched uranium – a few foreign companies make a small amount in America, but our total domestic production lags far behind other nations.  Granted, enriched uranium is available in the world market, but it seems that domestic production of at least enough uranium to power our Navy is a matter of national security.

“While the U.S. once led the world in this technology that contributed to our national security, we currently have zero domestic capacity for enrichment, yet Western Europe, Russia, China, North Korea, Pakistan, and even Iran maintain this capability. During the past decade, the DOE shut down the last domestic enrichment facility that was in position to ramp up deployment of an American technology. Now Mr. Perry has the thankless task of modernizing the weapons complex, upgrading aging infrastructure, and in some cases rebuilding entirely lost capabilities, such as enrichment.”   — Aaron Weston, director at the American Council for Capital Formation Center, and Norman Augustine, co-chair of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, quoted by Forbes

Dept. of Energy secretary Rick Perry and the Trump administration should give priority to addressing our abandonment of nuclear power and the resources required to produce it.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

I’m so happy!
Doin’ the neutron dance.
I’m just burning!
Doin’ the neutron dance.

the Pointer Sisters – Neutron Dance

 

Here’s something fun – the girls are still burnin’, doin’ the Neutron Dance!  Check it out!

We Must Demand Real Federal Budgets

zero based budgetingZero-Based Budgeting is a simple concept, practiced by every family and every company in the USA.  We all determine how much money we will receive for a given period, and then decide how we are going to spend it.  We give priority to necessities, and then, if funds are available, we may indulge in luxuries or less-important items.

In fact the practice is so simple, so obvious, so common-sense that we don’t even give it a thought.  We just do it.  Most Americans would be surprised to learn that our federal government, with the largest budget on planet Earth, does not.   The government simply takes whatever amount each department or agency spent last year, and adds to it.  It is a recipe for economic disaster, and our $18 trillion debt is exactly that.

Last month Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) introduced HR1591, the “Zero-Based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight Act of 2015”.  ZERO for short.  It’s his third attempt to bring reason to our federal budget process.

The ZERO Act would require each department to justify all of its spending every year.  Congressman Ross points out that in recent years taxpayers paid $615,000 to digitize Grateful Dead tickets, $442,000 to study male prostitutes in Vietnam, and $2.5 million for a Super Bowl ad.  Neither you, nor I, nor any of our elected representatives authorized that spending.  But it happened because there is no oversight, and under the current “continuing resolution” system, there can’t be.

If ZERO is enacted, departments would have to describe every activity for which funding is requested, provide the legal basis for the activity, and offer three alternative funding levels, two of which would be below the current year’s level.  They would have to provide details on the benefits derived from each activity and any added benefit for increased funding.  Plus, they must show measures of cost efficiency and effectiveness.

Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) told me he and the budget committee “will take up zero-based budgeting as part of budget reform later this summer.”  So far only one congressman, David Jolly (R-FL) has co-sponsored HR1591.

At least three presidential candidates are advocates of Zero-Based Budgeting.  Two of them, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush, are governors who understand budgeting.  The third is Carly Fiorina, a dollar-savvy former CEO to whom ZBB is second nature.  Fiorina told Breitbart News about something I personally experienced as a small business owner:

“I started my career in Washington, D.C. and sold to the federal government. As anyone who has done business with the federal government knows, in the last six weeks of every year, every government agency spends every dime,” she continued. They do that because they want to make sure the appropriations process is focused on the rate of increase for the following year – not what they actually need or whether they actually need to spend it.”

We taxpayers are dropping the ball.  First of all, we don’t understand our own tax returns.  And second, we don’t do a good job of holding our elected officials and the bureaucrats they are supposed to oversee accountable for spending our money.

It is admittedly hard work to budget every year, and to actually plan and prioritize spending.  Families do it.  Businesses do it.  Is it too much to ask of our government officials and employees?  Let’s encourage our congressmen to get behind real budget reform.

This article can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

What’s that honey?
Pick you up at eight?  And don’t be late?
But baby, I ain’t got NOOOOOOOO money, honey!
Oh, all right honey, you know what I like!

Chantilly Lace – the Big Bopper

 

Here’s a fun video about a guy with a budget problem: