Corporate fraud and bribery charges against SNC-Lavalin, (thorium nuclear company)

SNC-Lavalin faces rare corporate fraud and bribery charges LES PERREAUX, JEFF GRAY AND BERTRAND MAROTTE MONTREAL and TORONTO — The Globe and Mail, Feb. 19 2015, The RCMP have laid rare corporate fraud and bribery charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. after protracted negotiations with prosecutors failed to reach a settlement, threatening the future of an enormous Canadian firm that builds infrastructure around the world.

While former company executives already face criminal charges related to bribing Libyan officials – former vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa has pleaded guilty to Swiss charges – a series of scandals has shown a culture of breaking ethics rules in the company’s executive suite prior to 2012. These are the first charges targeting the company as a whole.

SNC is accused of using at least $47.7-million to bribe Libyan officials. A second count is for fraud of about $130-million related to construction projects in Libya. SNC responded quickly, saying the alleged activities took place between 2001 and 2011 and the people involved have been fired. The company says it has co-operated with authorities for the past three years and intends to plead not guilty.

A source familiar with the investigation said settlement talks between SNC-Lavalin and prosecutors were close to a deal in October.

As part of any deal, the company was expected to face a multimillion-dollar fine. But the possibility that a guilty plea could automatically trigger a 10-year ban on winning Canadian government contracts “complicated everything” and must have been among the factors that scuppered the settlement, the source said.

Long considered soft on anti-corruption enforcement, Canada’s international reputation may benefit from the charges, according to one of the country’s staunchest critics.

“This is a step in advance. Canada is actually gaining ground on its past,” said Mark Pieth, a criminal law professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland and the former chairman of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s bribery working group.

“Finally. I had waited for action against the company for a long time.”

Business analysts played down any immediate threat to the company, saying charges and an eventual fine of up to $300-million were expected. But chief executive Robert Card was unequivocal when he told The Globe and Mail last fall SNC could be broken up or “cease to exist” if the company were convicted and barred from Canadian government contracts for 10 years. He said even laying charges could be damaging enough to SNC’s reputation to pose a threat…..

Riyaz Dattu, a Toronto lawyer with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP who advises companies on corruption issues, said the charges for SNC-Lavalin are a dire warning for other Canadian companies that they need to bring in stronger anti-corruption controls and new training for employees to ensure bribes are not being paid around the world.

“The message is coming through loud and clear to corporate Canada,” Mr. Dattu said.

The Libyan allegations are not the only corruption troubles facing SNC. Ethics probes have involved SNC employees who worked on projects in Algeria, Bangladesh and Montreal. Mr. Ben Aissa is at the centre of many of the allegations, including fraud and corruption charges related to building a Montreal hospital……….http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/snc-lavalin-faces-rare-corporate-fraud-and-bribery-charges/article23108284/

Call from Sen. Charles Schumer to clean up contaminated nuclear plant in Hicksville

Schumer calls on agency to move ahead with steps toward nuclear cleanup  Nassau LONG ISLAND Newsday  January 19, 2015  By EMILY C. DOOLEY  emily.dooley@newsday.com Investigating contamination at a former Sylvania Corning plant in Hicksville that processed uranium and thorium for nuclear fuel rods has stalled and Sen. Charles Schumer called yesterday on the Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the process.

He also pledged to fight for increased funding for the Army Corps program, which was created in 1974 to clean up contaminants from the nation’s early…[registered readers only] http://www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/schumer-calls-on-agency-to-move-ahead-with-steps-toward-nuclear-cleanup-1.9823499

Simple economics rule out thorium reactors

January 16, 2015,  Jortiz3
Contrary to popular belief, the reason light-enriched-uranium reactors are used, and not thorium or breeder reactors, is due to simple economics. To run breeder reactors and thorium reactors, the neutron density and heat density must be so great that high-temperature coolants must be used throughout the core.

The systems used to manage these coolants are as exotic as the coolants are. This leads to increased costs, on the order of 20%. This 20% is enough that utilities simply choose light-enriched-uranium so that the reactor core can be cool enough that cooling with water is possible and savings can offset the cost of mining the ridiculous quantities of natural uranium required.

 

Thorium reactors would be far too slowly developed to have any real impact on climate change

“……..Timescale Claim: Thorium and the LFTR offer a solution to current and medium-term energy supply deficits. Response: The thorium fuel cycle is immature. Estimates from the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (see 4.2 below) suggest that 10-15 years of research will be needed before thorium fuels are ready to be deployed in existing reactor designs. Production LFTRs will not be deployable on any significant scale for 40-70 years. 4. Thorium / LFTR prospects
4.1 Timescales for thorium fuel The thorium fuel cycle is immature and unready for production-scale deployment. Although thorium fuels have been used in approximately 30 reactors, their nuclear dynamics and operational performance remain poorly characterised. India is already deploying thorium in its reactors as a component of mixed oxide (MOX) fuels comprising plutonium / uranium, and plans more of the same in its forthcoming Advanced Heavy Water Reactors. However, Norway’s Thor Energy and the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) both believe that considerable research, development and testing lies ahead before thorium fuels will be ready for operational use.
As the NNL states, “Thorium reprocessing and waste management are poorly understood. The thorium fuel cycle cannot be considered to be mature in any area.” It estimates that 10-15 years work is required before thorium fuels will be ready for use in current reactor designs, and that their use in new types of reactor is at least 40 years away. [The Thorium Fuel Cycle – An independent assessment, NNL, August 2010] 4.2 LFTR lead time: half a century
 The assessment of the Chinese Academy of Sciences as it embarks on its LFTR programme is that a production LFTR is 20-30 years in the future – rather shorter than the NNL’s estimate of 40 years (see 4.1). Given the hazards, such as the potential failure of reactor materials under intense neutron irradiation and chemical corrosion, risk-averse utilities and investors would want to observe the performance of any such full-scale LFTR for at least a decade and probably more, before embarking on any substantial LFTR programme.
The lead time for nuclear construction is of the order of a decade, so this could add a further 20-30 years before production LFTRs were deployed at full scale. The total lead time for LFTRs would therefore be a minimum of 40 years on the shortest estimates, or 70 years based on more conservative figures. …….http://www.nuclearpledge.com/reports/thorium_briefing_2012.pdf

Costs of high-temperature coolants kill the economics of thorium reactors

January 16, 2015,  Jortiz3
Contrary to popular belief, the reason light-enriched-uranium reactors are used, and not thorium or breeder reactors, is due to simple economics. To run breeder reactors and thorium reactors, the neutron density and heat density must be so great that high-temperature coolants must be used throughout the core.

The systems used to manage these coolants are as exotic as the coolants are. This leads to increased costs, on the order of 20%. This 20% is enough that utilities simply choose light-enriched-uranium so that the reactor core can be cool enough that cooling with water is possible and savings can offset the cost of mining the ridiculous quantities of natural uranium required.

Do Australian tax-payers know that they are funding China’s dodgy Thorium Nuclear Power experiment?

Isn’t this just dandy?  The Australian government can’t afford to fund services to the needy in health, education,  and is doing its darndest to kill clean energy, but is quietly promoting nuclear energy. And not conventional nuclear energy, which is bad enough, but the untested, hugely costly thorium experiment – the same one that was tried and found unviable 50 years ago

 ANSTO-SINAP Joint Research Centre, 16 Jan 15  In December 2012, ANSTO signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) for cooperation in the area of materials research and development.

 Within the same week, the Institute of Materials Engineering (IME) was awarded a major grant from the Australia-China Science and Research Fund to conduct collaborative research with SINAP on advance Thorium Molten Salt Reactors (TMSR). The newly formed Joint Research Centre (JRC) covers a range of scientific disciplines in order to cover the challenges of next generation TMSRS.
The contributions of IME within the framework of the JRC are to provide materials performance assessment and to conduct independent research on the behaviour of nuclear materials exposed to corrosive molten salts at high temperature and in high radiation fields.  ……….
This Project is supported by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Australian-China Science and Research Fund :http://www.ansto.gov.au/ResearchHub/IME/Projects/SINAP/index.htm#sthash.2cGODOCp.dpuf

Thorium Nuclear Reactors – quite a bad idea really

Thorium – a good idea? WISE, Jan 15  (translation by Noel Wauchope) “………….Now with the fear of further nuclear weapons proliferation  increasing, the nuclear industry looks to another cycle, based on thorium instead of uranium. But with a thorium reactor one can also make nuclear weapons material. The Thorium reactor is not quite there yet. The technique is not yet out-developed, let alone tried. All serious scientists think it will still take several decades before there reactors are available for commercial use.
And so does the whole “climate” argument; if you want to do something about climate change (replace coal plants Thorium power plants) it will have to be done very quickly, not over 20 years. Moreover the many tens of billions of dollars to build a thorium cycle and infrastructure could be better spent on truly clean and endless sources. Moreover, the thorium cycle has serious drawbacks……..
Because plutonium is a chemically very different ftrom  uranium, it is quite easy to identify  from spent fuel rods. Uranium-235 or other isotopes * (U-232 and U-233)are  much more difficult, because they are  chemically indistinguishable from the rest of the uranium………
 Thorium is often mentioned. It is an ore which can be recovered like uranium in large mines. Although thorium itself is not very radioactive, many decay products of thorium are. It expires in stages to include the noble gas 220Rn presenting the risk of contamination. The biggest health threat of thorium is if ingested or inhaled. The alpha radiation can not penetrate the skin, but if ingested accumulates in the liver, spleen, lymph nodes and bones. The “biological half-life ‘of thorium is about 22 years, which in practice means that the alpha radiation damages during the rest of life, and thereby increases the risk of liver cancer and leukemia. This makes mining of thorium a tricky business.
It is not self-fissile but neutron radiation in a nuclear reactor converts it to it fissionable U-233 and U-232 waste product. This is material that can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. So there is indeed in a thorium reactor, not plutonium,  but other proliferation-sensitive material.
Thorium reactors are – according to the proponents of this technique – so also much safer than current reactors. For example, in a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) the fuel is not processed as a solid but is dissolved in a molten fluoride salt. This molten salt is also used as a refrigerant and as fuel. It remains stable at high temperatures and controllable. The advocates claim that ‘the runaway of the reactor in a thorium-central’ is impossible. The neutrons released during the reactions can be immediately absorbed by the thorium atoms in the mixture, causing the atoms to be in turn suitable for fission. It is also possible to use materials other than thorium, plutonium, for example, to add to the mixture. Advocates say so; it is a way to get rid of our plutonium; we use it just as a fuel in the thorium plant.
But it is questionable whether the thorium cycle is really a better guarantee against the danger of proliferation. Although no plutonium is produced  there is a method to extract the nuclear material U-233 quite easily and efficiently from irradiated thorium reactor rods. Thorium ie first becomes protactinium (PA-233), which decays with a half-life of 27 days to U-233.  To select from the reactor fuel rods after about a month to, it is possible to separate the PA-233 from the thorium. This can also be in a small lab, there is no need for large or complex factory. Then you just have to wait a few months until all the protactinium is spontaneously transformed into highly pure uranium-233. Eight pounds of this material is already enough to make an atomic bomb.
Hence the thorium cycle can be diverted to the production of atomic bombs. This removes a major advantage claimed. Proponents say of thorium; “There are easier ways to get nuclear material, so terrorists or countries that seek nuclear weapons do not really want to use thorium reactors.” But that’s a rather strange reasoning; it is also easier to commit a murder with a gun than with a knife. Why do not you go do not advocate the possession of a knife?
Nuclear waste
A thorium plant, compared to uranium plants,  produces  little long-lived radioactive waste.  But not even this type of plant is still producing waste that remains dangerous for 240,000 years and people and the environment must be stored and fully protected. The problem of high-level nuclear waste is not so much the volume (quantity) but the toxicity and radiation intensity. Whether you need to find a solution for 100 or 500 pounds is not as relevant, the point is that there is still no definitive accepted method existing to store this hazardous waste safely for thousands of years.
Catch-22
The nuclear industry has a problem; it now fully recognizes that the problems with the current (Uranium) cycle are too large.  So it now looks to a whole new cycle based on thorium The owners of the now hundreds of operating nuclear power plants, the builders of the uranium-based power plants, the thousands of people who earn their living from extracting uranium will not go welcome the call for a Thorium industry. This has resulted in the odd dichotomy between  the people who believe in the Thorium Cycle and the people who believe in the Uranium Cycle. Meanwhile there are the scientists who want to explore new fields of research especially those who advocate Thorium power plants; they want to be assured that they can can certainly do some decades (fundamental) research.
Too late, too expensive
Do not forget; the thorium reactor is not quite there yet, all serious scientists think it will still take several decades before there reactors are available for commercial use. And so does the whole “climate” argument; if you want to do something about climate change (replace coal plants Thorium power plants) that will have to be done very quickly, not waiting over 20 years to begin. Moreover, it will cost many tens of billions of dollars to build a thorium cycle and infrastructure. That   money can be spent  better ongenuinely clean and endless sources.http://www.wisenederland.nl/kernenergie/thorium-een-goed-idee-0