Summary of the program on….

Reprocessing Nuclear “Waste”

Augustus Merwin provided the NSF with an informative and very timely presentation on emerging technologies that will permit the U.S. to transform nuclear spent fuel into a highly productive source of energy as well as reducing the amount of “waste” that will have to be stored for several hundred years. At the present time, the belief is that the residue from the production of electricity at nuclear reactor sites, as well as from defense production facilities, is useless and must be stored for thousands of years in safe and secure burial sites.

Merwin pointed out that nuclear “waste”–actually used nuclear fuel (UNF)–far from being dangerous and useless, represents a valuable energy source. UNF has an energy density roughly a million times that of gasoline! By reprocessing this material into new nuclear fuel, and pulling out the highly valuable albeit dangerous Plutonium (Pu), that quantity of Pu is capable of producing 100% of the energy requirements of the United States for the next 100 years! Furthermore, reprocessing can reduce the volume of UNF by 97% while decreasing the time that the material must be stored to just three hundred years.

This is revolutionary! Previous thinking had posited that all of the spent fuel would have to be stored forever as it was, creating an enormous requirement that even a site as big as Yucca could not handle. But by utilizing “pyroproessing”, a metallurgical technique that is both proliferation resistant and can reduce the amount of “waste” by 97%, the country could not only eliminate much of the volume of spent fuel, but produce a very valuable fuel that could be burned in liquid metal reactors in a safe and cost effective manner.

Merwin underscored that today the development of a full scale pyroproessing facility and accompanying burner reactor would address several national objectives. Pyroproessing can dispose of weapons plutonium from the former Soviet Union, reduce the volume and toxicity of UNF, and help the United States reemerge as the global leader in nuclear technology.

Merwin was asked to assess the viability of the Yucca facility, both for storage of the remaining fuel, as well as serving as a site for generating electricity. Merwin felt that building such a facility at Yucca Mountain has the potential to address our national security goals, most importantly safe storage of highly radioactive spent fuel and preventing proliferation of these materials. He noted that Yucca has scored well on all safety and security critiques it has been subjected to.

Gus was asked to speculate as to what benefits hosting the material at Yucca, reprocessing the UNF, and producing electricity would bring to the state. He felt that such a program would bring thousands of high paying jobs to Nevada, while bringing in federal money to advance our infrastructure and educational systems. He stressed that no new monies would be required, since compensation for the state and the construction costs of the proposed plants can be adequately covered by the existing nuclear waste fund (over $41 billion!).

In sum, Merwin said that by utilizing existing stockpiles of used nuclear fuel and modern technology, we can address several national objectives, bring a 21st century industry into Nevada, and generate clean electricity at zero expense to the nation. Nevada would become the world’s leader in nuclear energy technology; produce hundreds of MW of base-load carbon free electricity, and dispose of potentially dangerous materials. He added that very little water would be needed for this new technique—pyroreprocessing– long considered a major drawback to storage of spent fuel at Yucca.

We encourage our participants to study the attached PowerPoint carefully, and if you feel that this proposal Merwin has forwarded bears further attention, do let your state and Congressional representatives know that.

Augustus Merwin is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at UNR on a fellowship from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Gus is the founding president of the UNR Student Section of the American Nuclear Society, and has passed the NCEES Professional Exam in Nuclear Engineering. He was recently named the recipient of this year’s “Regents Scholar” award at UNR—quite an honor!

The link for Mr. Merwin’s PowerPoint is below.

Gus Merwin Reprocessing for NSF PowerPoint

Dri children

DRI launches global initiative to provide women and

children in developing countries with clean water

Imagine a day in which your access to clean, drinkable water ceased and you could not shower or bathe properly and you had no one to help you. For more than 783 million people around the world, that day was today. In 2015, more than 2.5 billion people also lack access to basic sanitation in the developing world.

A new initiative led by Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) is aiming to dramatically reduce those numbers, focusing specifically on women – who often bear the brunt of the impact from lack of access to safe water; and in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa walk up to four hours per day, on average, to carry clean water back to their villages and families.

As part of DRI’s Global Water Knowledge Campaign, this new initiative builds on more than 20 years of water research that DRI scientists have done in West Africa. Through a generous challenge-grant investment from two long-time DRI Foundation leaders, donations to this global campaign will support four primary objectives –

  • The provision of safe drinking water and basic sanitation services
  • Creation of WASH education materials for women and girls in developing countries
  • Training of WASH staff working in developing countries
  • Applied water research and student education at DRI, ensuring that WASH projects are sustainable and scalable in developing countries.

The DRI Sustainable Water Initiative is a unique, international collaboration with WaterAid, Water for People, and World Vision. Collaboratively, these three world renowned organizations currently have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) programs in more than 41 countries.

Leading this new initiative is Dr. Braimah Apambire, a native of Ghana, West Africa, who serves as director of DRI’s Center for International Water and Sustainability.

The impact of unsafe water, and inadequate sanitation and hygiene is felt around the world, with both human health and economic implications. In places like sub-Saharan Africa a significant percentage of the population is at risk of dying from preventable illnesses, many of which are linked to WASH issues.

More than 500,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation – that’s over 1,400 children per day. Diarrhea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in sub-Saharan Africa. In economic terms, 5.6 billion productive work days are lost every year due to complications arising from water-related diseases and the burden of fetching water.

An investment in the DRI Sustainable Water Initiative will help save lives and support improved health and socioeconomic outcomes, especially for women and children, in the developing world.

For more information about DRI’s Sustainable Water Initiative and to support this important effort please visit – https://dri-water.charity.org/

This is the final announcement for a most timely presentation on….

Reprocessing Nuclear Waste

with

Augustus Merwin

The Ramada, 9:00 a.m., Thursday, March 26th

Used nuclear fuel (waste) is piling up in unsafe storage ponds at the nation’s nuclear reactors, leaving this dangerous material within 50 miles of 165 million people. It needs to be moved to a safe and secure repository soon. Yucca is the national designated site for that storage, but under pressure from Nevada’s Congressional delegation, the repository has been closed. Part of the argument is that Yucca cannot hold all of the nation’s nuclear waste that has piled up.

However, Gus Merwin will argue that modern technology, specifically pyroproessing, can eliminate 99% of the waste, leaving small amounts of material that will need to be stored. His presentation will focus on the disposition of plutonium to address multiple national security issues, such as proliferation of nuclear material and upholding diplomatic agreements with Russia.  He will demonstrate how reprocessing has the potential to bring a safe and secure billion dollar per year industry to Nevada that is based on proven technology.

Merwin is a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering at UNR on a fellowship from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Gus is the founding president of the UNR Student Section of the American Nuclear Society, and has passed the NCEES Professional Exam in Nuclear Engineering. He was recently named the recipient of this year’s “Regents Scholar” award at UNR—quite an honor!

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP by e-mailing info@nationalsecurityforum.org. Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be accepting new and renewal membership applications for the July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.

Summary of the presentation to the NSF on….

BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE

“BMD—Ready and Relevant”

with

Brigadier General Greg Bowen

Brigadier General Greg Bowen from US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/ Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT) provided an overview of the origins, current status, and future of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).  His talk began with a short review of ballistic missile developments since WW-II, and how the US has transitioned to meet this emerging threat.  The U.S. Army has long had the mission of providing ground-based anti-aircraft capabilities, but the ballistic missile threat beginning in 1957 drove the Army to establish a command dedicated to conducting research and fielding missile defense systems.  General Bowen’s current command traces its lineage to those early attempts to defeat ballistic missiles.

General Bowen then provided a primer on ballistic missile systems and how
they are characterized.  He discussed the types of missiles based on their range (Short, Medium, Intermediate, and Intercontinental ballistic missiles), and the phases of a missile’s flight.  After launch and while the rocket booster is burning is referred to as the “Boost Phase”.  Once the booster burns out and the payload is on an unpowered ballistic trajectory, the missile is in the “Midcourse Phase”, which is typically above the atmosphere and is the longest portion of the trajectory.  The portion between when the re-entry vehicle (the portion containing the warhead) re-enters the earth’s atmosphere and when it detonates is referred to as the “Terminal Phase”.  General Bowen discussed the options available to engage a ballistic missile in each phase of flight, along with the advantages and challenges of each.  Since the Midcourse Phase is the longest and thus provides the most “battlespace”, most of the Army systems focus on this portion of the trajectory to defeat a threat missile.

He then transitioned into a discussion on the current strategic environment, noting that 22 nations have ballistic missile systems and 9 nations are assessed to have nuclear weapons.  Proliferation of this technology continues, and several nations are known to be working together on enhancing their missile capabilities through technology transfer.  He described how the US and other countries view nuclear deterrence, and how missile defense, if properly applied, can enhance deterrence and stability.  One point General Bowen emphasized was that for deterrence to work, the parties involved must be rational actors.  He questioned whether or not some current leaders are indeed rational, which bolsters the need for a defensive capability in the event deterrence fails.

General Bowen then provided an overview of the current sensors, “shooters”, and battle management systems that comprise the BMDS today, along with some of their capabilities.  He emphasized that the current system is limited, and is designed to counter a “rogue nation” threat, not a general attack from a near peer competitor.

He finished by discussing his thoughts on the future, noting that we cannot afford to build enough interceptors to counter every ballistic missile, and that we need to look toward “left of launch” (destroying the missiles on the launch pad) and advanced technologies such as directed energy solutions to counter the ballistic missile threats in the future.

General Bowen’s PowerPoint is linked below.  Bears a close review!

BG Bowen USASMDC-ARSTRAT 10 Mar 2015 National Security Forum

Save the Dates for these upcoming Forums….

Reprocessing Nuclear Waste

with

Augustus Merwin

The Ramada, 9:00 a.m., Thursday, March 26th

Used nuclear fuel (waste) is piling up in unsafe storage ponds at the nation’s nuclear reactors, leaving this dangerous material within 50 miles of 165 million people. It needs to be moved to a safe and secure repository soon. Yucca is the national designated site for that storage, but under pressure from Nevada’s Congressional delegation, the repository has been closed. Part of the argument is that Yucca cannot hold all of the nation’s nuclear waste that has piled up.

However, Gus Merwin will argue that modern technology, specifically pyroproessing, can eliminate 99% of the waste, leaving small amounts of material that will need to be stored. Merwin is a PhD candidate in the UNR Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering and has a fellowship from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

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Good Neighbors or National Security Threats

US and Latin America in the 21st Century

with

Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow

Friday, April 17, 2015, 9:00 am, the Ramada

Latin America is rapidly transforming itself from a region formerly dominated by the United States to a continent that now forges trade and security relationships with other countries, including China and India.  Now our largest foreign supplier of oil and our fastest growing trading partner, the region is also a source of immigrants and illegal drugs. Latin America is of great strategic interest to the United State–or at least it should be!

Our speaker, Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, will offer an overview of US strategic interests in Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba and beyond.  He will describe US efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law, bringing the narcotics cartels under control, etc. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico and Venezuela, and as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America.

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The Grand Ayatollah

Iran’s Supreme Leader from Khomeini to Khamenei to…..???

with

Eliot Assoudeh

The Ramada, Thursday, April 30, 9:00 a.m.

UNR PhD candidate Eliot Assoudeh will discuss the import of the position of Supreme Leader in Iran and the key personalities holding that role, from Khomeini in 1979 to Khamenei today. Given reports that the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei is dying, Assoudeh will assess potential rivals as his successor and how those individuals might impact Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its support for regional terrorism, and its relations with the United States.

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No need to RSVP now—just note these upcoming programs in your calendars!