Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons: Exploding the Myths

Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons: Exploding the Myths by Gregory S. Jones
Published on: Apr 2018
In Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons: Exploding the Myths, long-time defense analyst Gregory S. Jones draws from his decades of research using publicly available, unclassified information to debunk the persistent fallacy that reactor-grade plutonium cannot be used to build reliable nuclear weapons. This belief has long been held by a segment of the nuclear power industry determined to use plutonium as reactor fuel despite its highly uneconomical nature. Further, this mistaken belief has made reactor-grade plutonium readily available to many non-nuclear weapon states.
In the book, Jones shows that nuclear weapons can be manufactured using reactor-grade plutonium that have the same predetonation probability, size, and weight as nuclear weapons using weapon-grade plutonium. In addition to technical analysis, the book describes how Sweden and Pakistan planned to use reactor-grade plutonium for their nuclear weapons programs and how India may be planning to do so today. Jones also details how the U.S. successfully tested a nuclear weapon using what was truly reactor-grade plutonium in 1962. All of this leads Jones to argue for banning plutonium recycling and reprocessing globally. 
For hard copies of the book on Amazon click here.
Published by:
The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center - 2018
By Gregory S. Jones
with Foreword by Olli Heinonen

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Double Entrende in the Case of The Goldman Award to Anti-Nuclear Activists

I am updating an error in my previous post where I mistakenly assumed that Goldman Sachs was the source of the 2018 Goldman award recognizing the anti-nuclear activism of two South African women. Here is an article on the award:
Nosmot Gbadamosi (2018, April 24). Goldman Prize: Two South African activists win for halting secret Russian nuclear deal CNN
Two female South African environment activists working for small NGOs taking on the South African government and winning a legal challenge that stopped a $76 billion dollar nuclear deal with Russia.

For their herculean efforts, Makoma Lekalakala, 52, and Liz McDaid, 55, were awarded the prestigious 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize on Monday.

"These were hard won gains," Lekalakala said on being awarded the Goldman prize. "But for us the whole thing was about holding our leadership accountable to the people. We really fought for it."

The highly-coveted Goldman prize is awarded annually to six people from six different continents who undertake "sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk."
These women successfully argued that the lack of transparency and accountability in South African nuclear cooperation agreements violated democratic principles of governance (see

I applaud these women's efforts and honor the sacrifices made at great personal risk.

In my previous post I then went on to interrogate why Goldman Sachs, owner of the oligarchic South African uranium firm Nufcor, which holds a very a poor history of labor, community and environmental impacts, would be giving out awards to women fighting against nuclear.

However, as noted above, I soon learned that the Goldman Award is NOT the SAME as the awards to women and other causes that Goldman Sachs gives out as part of its community outreach: e.g., see

The term Goldman is a double entendre when it comes to social responsibility - signifying to a progressive environmental award and signifying to a brand that cloaks itself in social responsibility but, is in fact standing knee deep in dirty commodities trading, especially in uranium.

Here is Goldman Sach's statement on its relationship to Nufcor, the South African nuclear giant:
Statement of Goldman Sachs: Background and Facts on Financial Intermediation, Certain Investments and Risk Management in the Commodities Markets. November 19 2014
Nufcor is a separate subsidiary of Goldman Sachs, but its activities form part of the firm’s commodities intermediation function. Given the commonality of clients and personnel across our intermediation function, there is no separate client information that is associated with Nufcor’s activities that Goldman Sachs uses in other parts of our trading activities.
You will see below that Goldman acquired Nufcor as part of an uranium deal with Constellation Energy. Goldman trades in uranium that has not yet been enriched in order to circumvent laws restricting nuclear trafficking.

I wonder whether the failure of the Russian nuclear plant will impact Nufcor?

Both Areva and Westinghouse tried to sell South Africa nuclear reactors in 2008 according to this article by the World Nuclear Organization

Goldman Sachs has a lot of stockpiled uranium it needs to unravel and Russian nuclear plants may or may not obstruct that goal depending upon whether the firm can sell to Russian plants: 

Here is an excerpt from my book Crisis Communications, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability addressing Goldman Sach's environmental record and interests in uranium:

...the 2012 report “Dirty Profits: Report on Companies and Financial Institutions Benefiting from Violations of Human Rights” identifies BHP Billiton Ltd, Paladin Energy, Rio Tinto, TEXTRON and General Dynamics, Anglo American and Barrick Gold Corp as directly responsible for human rights violations stemming from the uranium supply chain.[i] 

The report notes that after the financial crisis financial institutions investments in resource extracting and mining industries increased substantially, with little-to-no benefits for local populations.[ii] 

Financial institutions held responsible in 2012 for most substantial environmental damage included French BNP Paribis, the German Allianz, Deutsche Bank, the Dutch ING and UniCredit.[iii] The report singles out Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs for promoting the financialization of basic commodities with sometimes catastrophic costs for everyday people.[iv] 

These allegations can present significant public relations risks, including inciting public demand for greater regulatory accountability. Yet, profit incentives and the allure of commodities trumped concerns about dirty profits for Wall Street investors, producing the uranium bubble that burst with the Fukushima nuclear crisis discussed in Chapter Five.

NUFCOR is an interesting case example of how colonial energy corporations have come under the control of international financial institutions. NUFCOR formed in 1967 in South Africa to coordinate uranium output, operate centralized processing plant, and market overseas in the context of Apartheid relations that exploited the labor and health of mine workers and local populations.[v] NUFCOR was designed to coordinate output and operate the centralized plant that processed the South African uranium oxide brand. The plant did not conduct radiation monitoring for three decades.[vi]

In 1998, NUFCOR incorporated in London. NURCOR revenue for the 12 months to end June 2007 was $170.3 million while EBIT was $32.2 million.[vii] 

In 2008, Constellation Energy Acquired NUFCOR from AngloGold Ashanti Limited and FirstRand International Limited.[viii] Despite this sale, Anglo Gold announced in 2010 plans to continue selling uranium produced as by-product of its gold mining, describing “a sellers' market at the moment for uranium.”[ix] Bloomberg’s Company Overview details the vast scope of NUFCOR nuclear services:
Nufcor International Limited markets, trades, finances and manages risks relating to commercial nuclear fuel and associated processes. It engages in the trading of components of commercial nuclear fuel, including uranium concentrates, conversion services, natural UF6, enrichment services, and enriched UF6. The company was incorporated in 1998 and is based in London, United Kingdom.[x]
Constellation’s interest in NUFCOR is clear from the wide array of nuclear energy services it offers. What isn’t clear is why Constellation sold NUFCOR a year later to Goldman Sachs (in 2009) as part of a purchase of 900,000 pounds of uranium.[xi] 

Goldman Sachs’s 2009 acquisition of NUFCOR included huge stockpiles of raw uranium, a uranium reprocessing facility, and vast opportunities for uranium trading.[xii]

Goldman’s foray into nuclear was a direct result of excess cash and the seduction of the commodities bubble. In the immediate wake of the financial crisis, Goldman benefited from the low-interest loans received from the Federal Reserve’s TARP financial rescue program and though AIG settlements of credit default swaps. 

Goldman likely acquired NUFCOR because the uranium market was expected to grow and Goldman was ideally positioned to game the market, as described in Casey Research’s approving discussion of Goldman’s efforts:

The company [Goldman Sachs] created a hedged trade, which guaranteed it a profit as it played the arbitraged opportunity between the spot market and the long-term market, and sold to the utilities at a profit. 

Goldman Sachs sold about 15 million pounds of uranium annually. And it was not alone: Deutsche Bank was playing a similar game on a slightly smaller scale, selling around 10 million pounds annually. 

To put these numbers into context, the annual amount of uranium the two banks traded is 5 million pounds more than all of Canada produces per year—and Canada is the second-largest uranium producer in the world.[xiii]

Goldman and Deutsch Bank were the two financial institutions singled out in the Dirty Profits report for financial activities that externalized significant costs for vulnerable publics.

Institutional investors’ financialization of commodities needed to sustain civilization raises concerns on many grounds. At a most basic level, speculation in commodities increases prices and presents security risks. US Senators Leff and McCain in their report on Wall Street banks involvement in physical commodities that Goldman’s uranium supply-chain produced non-proliferation concerns and presented potential catastrophic accident hazards:

Goldman’s uranium-related activities, which are expected to continue until at least 2018, raise multiple concerns, including insufficient capital and insurance to protect against a catastrophic event, unfair competition, and conflicts of interest arising from controlling physical uranium supplies while trading uranium financial instruments.[xiv]

As shall be documented in Chapter Five, the financial power of nuclear securities and uranium derivatives (such as futures) dictates decision making about energy.


[i] Facing Finance, “Dirty Profits: Report on Companies and Financial Institutions Benefiting from Violations of Human Rights,” (2012), 1-73,

[ii] Ibid., 4.

[iii] Ibid., 5.

[iv] Ibid., 7.

[v] Gabrielle Hecht, Being Nuclear, 68.

[vi] Hecht, Being Nuclear, 265-266.

[vii] Eric Onstad and Anna Stablum, “Suitors Emerge for Uranium Trader Nufcor-AngloGold,” UK Reuters, February 19, 2008, accessed January 10, 2014,

[viii] Allan Seccombe, “AngoGold Sells Nufcor Stake,” Mining Magazine, Jul 1, 2008, accessed August 3, 2014,

[ix] Lucy Warwick-Ching, “Nuclear Choice: Time to Invest in Uranium?,” The Financial Times, March 25, 2010, accessed June 3, 2012,

[x] “Company Overview of Nufcor International Limited,” Bloomberg, accessed, May, 14, 2015,

[xi] Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Wall Street Bank Involvement, at 113.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Marin Katusa, “The Truth About Goldman Sachs,” Casey Research, February 25, 2014, accessed May 26, 2014,

[xiv] Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Wall Street Bank Involvement, at 119.