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No case for nuclear energy – South Africa’s civic rights organisation Outa

text-Noflag-S.AfricaOuta says there is no case for nuclear  / 8 December 2016,  Emsie Ferreira Cape Town – Civic rights organisation Outa on Thursday said it believed the case for building new nuclear energy reactors had been dismantled after the energy minister’s advisors told public hearings there were cheaper viable options.

“Following input provided by numerous entities at Wednesday’s Integrated Energy and Resource Plan (IEP and IRP) draft documents, Outa believes the rationale for any plans to introduce nuclear energy into South Africa’s electricity grid has been removed,” Outa’s portfolio director Ted Blom said.
He said the first day of hearings on the draft resource and energy blueprints had shown that they contained serious flaws in their assumptions of the prices of different energy technologies and that there was a need to for the IRP base case scenario to use the cheapest options. The base case scenario advanced in the IRP provides for South Africa to add 20 gigawatt of new nuclear energy by 2050 and Eskom has said it would it go to the market with a request for proposals by the end of the year still.
A team of experts that advised Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson challenged this conclusion and said their input was ignored.  Business Day reported that members of the panel of 40 experts told the hearings that the department’s decision to impose artificial constraints on how much renewable energy could be added to the grid, as well as outdated pricing had allowed nuclear into the model. Outa chairman Wayne Duvenhage said the hearings had already yielded valuable input for the final IRP and he did no see how it could support the government and Eskom’s plans for nuclear expansion.
“Personally, I cannot see how the final IRP-2016 document will be able to suggest the inclusion of even one kilowatt of energy being generated through nuclear. If nuclear energy is indeed forced into the system, the DOE’s credibility will come under serious scrutiny.” Outa has called on the department to allow more time for public submissions.
 “We remain concerned that the DOE is trying to force the process to be complete by the end of March 2017, which we believe will not be sufficient time,” Blom said.


December 9, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Difficult questions for humanity, in the nuclear epoch of the Anthropocene

anthropocene 1The Anthropocene is a nuclear epoch – so how can we survive it? The Conversation,  December 9, 2016, The era in which we live is now officially described as an atomic Anthropocene or the “age of humans”, an epoch defined by humans’ impact on the planet – and one of its most distinctive features is radiation. The fallout (both literal and figurative) from international nuclear weapons testing, nuclear energy and nuclear disasters are embedded in our environment, but also in our society. And this year, they’ve all suddenly become rather more noticeable, confronting us with some alarming questions we never thought we’d have to answer.

Will Donald Trump’s election victory improve nuclear defence policy or plunge us into a new Cold War? Will the world continue moving towards nuclear weapon abolition, or will the nuclear powers keep up and grow their stockpiles instead? How should the world deal with North Korea’s repeated violations of the Test Ban Treaty? And do we really understand how the nuclear age has affected the survivors of nuclear accidents?
Memories of Catastrophe

In retrospect, 2016 was always going to bring these questions to the fore, marking as it did significant anniversaries of two of the world’s worst nuclear disasters: Fukushima (five years ago) and Chernobyl (30 years ago). While the health consequences of both incidents are still debated, their psychosocial effects and economic impact are beyond doubt.

Five years after the Fukushima accident, Japan is still working to decontaminate the affected area. It’s cost five trillion yen (about £35 billion) so far and demanded the labour of 26,000 clean-up workers – many of them vulnerable to exploitation and social exclusion.

Forced and so-called “voluntary” evacuees from Fukushima are still adjusting to life away from home. There are 100,000 of these “nuclear refugees” still displaced; two thirds have reportedly given up hope of ever returning. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics looming, and compensation costs spiralling, the Japanese government recently declared more areas as officially safe – despite evacuees being reluctant to return. Their fears were stoked in November when an aftershock from the original Fukushima earthquake hit Japan. Thankfully, there wasn’t a second catastrophe.

We also saw the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which continues to effect a wide swathe of Ukraine and Belarus. Dealing with the consequences of the disaster consumes around 6% of Ukraine’s national budget, and 2.15m Ukrainians still live on territory that’s officially considered contaminated………

Economic and environmental change

It’s also been a bad year for uranium. The uranium mining and production sector has been faltering ever since Fukushima, and this year’s international overproduction further depressed prices. Global production and extraction activity stalled, earning it the dubious distinction of 2016’s “worst-performing raw material”.

As the industry waits for the market to recover, debates rage over the future of the only current operational uranium mill in the US and proposed developments at sacred and ecologically fragile zones – the Grand Canyon, the Aboriginal Kakadu National Park in Australia, and the Karoo in South Africa. Meanwhile, precarious states such as the Ukraine and Kazakhstan have agreed to jointly produce uranium, also betting the industry will recover.

But nuclear energy’s byproducts still have major environmental impacts, and we still have no solution for managing nuclear waste in the long term. In the US, a potential revival of the repository project in Yucca Mountain has been posited by Trump’s advisors. Meanwhile, Australia is unwilling to provide long term storage, and the long term outcomes remain to be seen………

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

President elect Trump: his Cabinet and Climate

climate-denial-floodWhat You Should Know About Trump’s Cabinet & Climate By  November 30th, 2016 As President-elect Donald Trump continues to round out his cabinet and White House staff, his policies and priorities are coming more into focus.

All indications so far point to a bleak future for addressing climate change, or even recognizing it as one of the world’s largest challenges. A number of his cabinet nominees, political appointees and closest advisors are outright climate deniers while others have funded the denial of climate change or are lukewarm on accepting the science.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

New York Governor Cuomo under fire for subsidising nuclear power

taxpayer bailoutCritics blast Cuomo’s $7.6B subsidy for nuclear plants,, By KAREN DEWITT, 8 Dec 16,  A long-term energy plan by the Cuomo administration that includes a nearly $8 billion subsidy to two upstate nuclear power plants is being challenged from both ends of the political spectrum, and a lawsuit has been filed to try to stop the deal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Public Service Commission plans to convert 50 percent of the state’s power sources to renewable energy over the next decade and a half. A controversial part of that program includes a $7.6 billion state-financed subsidy to a company that now runs two New York nuclear power plants ­– Nine Mile Point in Oswego and Ginna near Rochester – and is taking over a third plant, FitzPatrick, also in Oswego.

That has angered environmental groups, who filed a lawsuit, saying the PSC “acted improperly when it mandated a massive subsidy to prop up New York’s aging, failing nuclear power plants as part of the State’s Clean Energy Standard.”

Other progressive-leaning groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group, also object to the deal.

“In some ways, it’s a straight-up ratepayer issue,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG’s legislative director.

He said the deal will result in $2.3 billion in increased payments for residential utility customers, and even more for businesses. That’s in a state that already has among the highest utility rates in the nation.

“Roughly 800,000 New Yorkers are already having a hard time paying their existing electric bills,” Horner said. “This isn’t going to make it any better.”

Not only left-leaning groups oppose the deal. Fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP have objected, filing complaints with the PSC. Oil and gas companies would have to essentially help subsidize the deal through the price of zero emission tax credits bought and sold in New York…..

December 9, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa’s nuclear experience poses a warning for Zambia

Nuclear Deal(s): What Zambia can learn from South Africa, Daily Maverick,  08 DEC 2016   Zambia has just signed four memoranda of understanding with Rosatom, Russia’s state-run nuclear agency, with a view to signing a nuclear deal worth $10-billion. While government has hailed the deal as a way to solve Zambia’s ongoing energy crisis, Zambians should be asking difficult questions – especially given Rosatom’s track record in South Africa. By SIMON ALLISON.

 When Zambian President Edgar Lungu addressed Parliament in September, he announced a bold new energy strategy: Zambia is going nuclear…….

Three months later, we now have a better idea of what he was talking about. In a ceremony in Lusaka’s plush Pamodzi Hotel on Tuesday, Zambian government representatives signed a series of Memoranda of Understanding with Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear agency.

The deal, which is not legally binding, sets out a 15-year nuclear co-operation plan, with the eventual goal of constructing a nuclear gigawatt nuclear power plant. In addition, Rosatom will help train Zambian nuclear engineers, develop a nuclear energy regulator, and spearhead nuclear research in the country. Local media estimate the total value of the deal to be $10-billion (that’s nearly half of Zambia’s GDP)……

There’s no doubt that Zambia needs an energy plan……..

But is nuclear really the solution? As Zambia prepares to go down the nuclear road, they could learn a few lessons from down south. Although South Africa has successfully operated a nuclear power station at Koeberg for several decades, a government initiative to build two new nuclear power stations has been mired in controversy, with Rosatom playing a central role in the drama. Based on the South African experience, here are three questions that Zambians should be asking.

1. Does Zambia need nuclear power? There’s no question that Zambia needs power…….. But nuclear power might not be the best solution. It’s not just the inherent dangers associated with nuclear power, although that is a factor; but also the nature of the energy generated. Nuclear power stations produce a steady “base line” supply of energy, which may not be appropriate for Zambia’s needs. Nuclear power can’t be turned on and off in response to supply and demand……

Critics of South Africa’s proposed nuclear deal have highlighted similar issues, as well as pointing out that South Africa – and, by extension, Zambia – might be better placed to take advantage of the decreasing cost of renewable energy.

“The promotion of nuclear energy at the expense of renewables bucks global trends. An industrial nation like Germany is phasing out nuclear power, and has a much higher renewable energy investment than sunny, windy South Africa. Chinese renewables expansion currently exceeds nuclear development by far,” said Hartmut Winkler, physics professor at the University of Johannesburg, writing in the Mail & Guardian.

scrutiny-on-costs2. Can Zambia afford nuclear power?

Nuclear power is expensive. Very expensive. It’s not just the cost of the construction of the nuclear plant itself, although those numbers are eye-watering (especially in an economy as small as Zambia’s, where GDP in 2015 was $21.2-billion). It is also the cost of financing that construction.

With most banks unwilling to take such a massive gamble, financing usually comes from the vendor itself. In South Africa’s case, Rosatom is supposed to fund the construction of the two new nuclear plants, and recoup its costs by selling the electricity generated at an artificially high price. According to the text of a secret agreement uncovered by investigative journalist Lionel Faull, Rosatom will be able to dictate that price at will – leaving South African energy users at the mercy of a foreign corporation.

corruption3. Will the nuclear deal be corrupt?

Suspicion of corruption immediately attaches itself to any massive infrastructure project, and with good reason – especially in the case of nuclear deals. South Africa appears to be a textbook example of how the massive sums of money at stake can lead both government and corporations astray.

For example, French nuclear company Areva was accused by Sherpa, an anti-corruption NGO, of attempting to bribe high-ranking South African officials by purchasing unprofitable uranium mining assets for an inflated sum, just months before the tender for the nuclear project was announced. Rosatom itself, meanwhile, has been linked with a suspicious lack of transparency, fuelling fears that not all is above board. As Professor Winkler wrote in a separate piece for The Conversation:

“The nuclear debate gained a political dimension when President Jacob Zuma and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, started to develop an unusually close relationship… The lack of transparency surrounding the process, coupled with a history of corruption in South African mega-projects like the arms deal, has made the whole scheme seem suspicious to the broader public,” he said…….

December 9, 2016 Posted by | AFRICA, politics | Leave a comment

German court ruling means only limited scope for utilities to claim compensation

legal costsflag_germanyE.ON sees limited scope for nuclear claims after ruling -Bernstein, Reuters, Dec 8 E.ON sees limited scope for compensation claims following a court ruling related to Germany’s nuclear exit that paves the way for utilities to try to reclaim money, its chief executive told brokerage Bernstein in an interview.

Germany’s highest court on Tuesday ruled that hastening the shutdown of nuclear plants after Japan’s Fukushima disaster violated some of the property rights of utility companies, allowing them to seek limited damages.

It said that utilities could claim back stranded investments made between December 2010 and March 2011 when the government decided to extend the life of nuclear plants. In 2011, the government’s position changed and it decided to shut down all stations by 2022.

E.ON said earlier this week it had invested several hundred million euros in 2010 in the expectation that the government’s nuclear policy would remain unchanged.

“Of this, a low triple digit million amount was likely incurred in the four month period between December 2010 and March 2011, which should be eligible for compensation,” Bernstein quoted CEO Johannes Teyssen as saying.

Germany’s environment minister Barbara Hendricks said this week the court ruling meant demands by utilities for billions of euros in compensation was off the table……

December 9, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, Germany, Legal, politics | Leave a comment

Insurance companies losing ability to manage risks, as climate change brings extreme weather events

climate SOSClimate change threatens ability of insurers to manage risk Extreme weather is driving up uninsured losses and insurers must use investments to fund global warming resilience, says study,Guardian, , 7 Dec 1, The ability of the global insurance industry to manage society’s risks is being threatened by climate change, according to a new report.

The report finds that more frequent extreme weather events are driving up uninsured losses and making some assets uninsurable.

The analysis, by a coalition of the world’s biggest insurers, concluded that the “protection gap” – the difference between the costs of natural disasters and the amount insured – has quadrupled to $100bn (£79bn) a year since the 1980s.

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warns in the new report that: “Over time, the adverse effects of climate change could threaten economic resilience and financial stability [and] insurers are currently at the forefront.”

The ClimateWise coalition of 29 insurers, including Allianz, Aon, Aviva, Lloyd’s, Prudential, Swiss Re and Zurich, conclude that the industry must use more of its $30tn of investments to help fund increased resilience of society to floods, storms and heatwaves. The Bank of England warned in 2015 that insurance companies could suffer a “huge hit” if their investments in fossil fuel companies were rendered worthless by action on climate change and some insurershave already shed investments in coal.

The ClimateWise report, published on Wednesday, also says the industry must also use its risk management expertise to convince policymakers in both the public and private sector of the urgent need for climate action.

The industry’s traditional response to rising insurance risks – raising premiums or withdrawing cover – would not help deal with the rising risks of global warming, it said.

“The insurance industry’s role as society’s risk manager is under threat,” said Maurice Tulloch, chairman of global general insurance at Aviva and chair of ClimateWise. “Our sector will struggle to reduce this protection gap if our response is limited to avoiding, rather than managing, society’s exposure to climate risk.”

The report said that, since the 1950s, the frequency of weather-related catastrophes has increased sixfold. As climate-related risks occur more often and more predictably, previously insurable assets are becoming uninsurable, or those already underinsured are further compromised, it said.

The economic impact of these natural catastrophes is growing quickly, according to Swiss Re, with total losses increasing fivefold since the 1980s to about $170bn today. …….

December 9, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, climate change | Leave a comment

Problem of carbon release as permafrost melts

When Permafrost Melts, What Happens to All That Stored Carbon?  7 Dec 16, The Arctic’s frozen ground contains large stores of organic carbon that have been locked in the permafrost for thousands of years. As global temperatures rise, that permafrost is starting to melt, raising concerns about the impact on the climate as organic carbon becomes exposed. A new study is shedding light on what that could mean for the future by providing the first direct physical evidence of a massive release of carbon from permafrost during a warming spike at the end of the last ice age.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, documents how Siberian soil once locked in permafrost was carried into the Arctic Ocean during that period at a rate about seven times higher than today.

“We know the Arctic today is under threat because of growing climate warming, but we don’t know to what extent permafrost will respond to this warming. The Arctic carbon reservoir locked in the Siberian permafrost has the potential to lead to massive emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere,” said study co-author Francesco Muschitiello, a post-doctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

To understand how melting permafrost influenced the carbon cycle in the past, the scientists examined the carbon levels in sediment that accumulated on the seafloor near the mouth of the Lena River about 11,650 years ago, when the last glacial period was ending and temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere spiked by several degrees.

Continue reading at The Earth Institute at Columbia University

December 9, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear power industry entering not the Renaissance, but the Dark Ages

What Future Does Nuclear Power Have in an Era of Cheap Energy?, World Political Review

Miles A. Pomper, Dec. 5, 2016

In 2007, The Economist reported that “America’s nuclear industry is about to embark on its biggest expansion in more than a generation. This will influence energy policy in the rest of the world.” Safety, management and regulatory improvements, it predicted, would lead to an “atomic renaissance” for a nuclear energy industry hobbled for decades by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

The nuclear industry itself anticipated that soaring electricity demand in fast-growing developing countries and rising concerns about climate change would drive countries to take a fresh look at an industry whose safety practices appeared to have improved considerably since the 1980s.

But a decade later, the amount of electricity generated by nuclear power has actually dropped slightly, even as electricity demand in developing countries has grown. In the United States and other countries with nuclear power, utility companies have retired plants before the end of their useful lifetime, terming them uneconomic. Countries like Vietnam, which has planned to develop nuclear power for years, and South Africa, which has one reactor, have either scaled back grand plans to build several power plants, or abandoned them altogether.

The impact is clear: Two decades ago, nuclear energy provided the power for nearly one-fifth of the world’s electricity. Now it generates only about half that share. ……

nuclear energy would be facing strong headwinds even if the Fukushima accident had not occurred, because of the market forces of supply and demand. On the supply side, nuclear energy’s competitiveness in generating electricity has been undermined by the revolution in natural gas production, particularly hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; the increasing appeal of alternative renewable sources like solar and wind power; and the peculiar economics of nuclear energy. Meanwhile, efficiency gains, slow economic growth and the lack of strong incentives against fossil fuel use have curtailed demand for nuclear power in many rich and poor countries alike.

The results can be seen from California to Vietnam, from Finland to South Africa. ……..

In the recent past, utility companies have been able to compensate for the staggering upfront costs for new nuclear power plants by the relatively low cost for uranium, which fuels nuclear power, compared to those for fossil fuels. And they boosted these advantages further by increasing the percentage of the time that nuclear reactors operate and extending the years they are in service. The Economist even touted them as “virtual mints—as long as the bill for construction has been paid down or written off.”

But in the U.S.—home to 100 reactors, or more than a quarter of the world’s nuclear power—those cost advantages have been turned on their head. Maintenance costs for some aging reactors have become so steep that it no longer makes economic sense to operate them. And the rising tide of gas output from fracking and steady increases in wind and solar energy capacity have meant that these other forms of energy have increasingly squeezed out nuclear power in competitive electricity auctions. In the past three years alone, American utility companies have announced the shutdown of 14 U.S. reactors…..

Nuclear power’s doldrums have even affected China, which has emerged as the major bright spot for nuclear power in recent years, given its voracious appetite for electricity. Eight new reactors were connected to China’s grid in 2015 alone, and another 21 reactors are under construction. But even in China, a glut of wind and coal power plants is dampening demand for nuclear power, while delays plague construction. Observers anticipate the country falling short of its goal of 58 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity by 2020……

, dozens of governments and companies have been touting the development of a new wave of small and modular reactors, or SMRs. While employing widely varying technologies, SMRs typically are smaller-scale and largely mass-produced reactors intended to substitute for today’s one-of-a-kind large-scale models. They attempt to make reactors more competitive with other energy sources and more appropriate for the fragile electricity grids of developing countries. However, these reactors have yet to be deployed on a commercial basis and also are likely to require government regulators to develop a whole new set of standards. Any effort is likely to require sustained regulatory support from the U.S. and other governments. 

Such efforts to rejuvenate the nuclear industry received a potential death blow with last month’s U.S. elections that solidified the Republican Party’s control of U.S. energy policy. Given Republicans’ skepticism about climate change and government intervention in markets, nuclear power may more likely be entering its dark ages than seeing a renaissance.
Miles Pomper is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C.

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Tsunami risk for Britain’s nuclear power plants?

Tsunamis threaten Britain’s nuclear power plants, scientists warn, : 5 Dec, 2016 Britain’s nuclear power stations are at risk from tsunamis caused by undersea landslides, scientists have warned.

Marine geologists at Durham University found that the British Isles have been hit by more tsunamis than previously believed, including one wave which reached a height of 60 feet.

Scientists are urging the government to take the threat of tsunamis seriously, warning that they could damage critical infrastructure on the coast, such as nuclear power stations, ports, and oil terminals.

New evidence has shown that the giant waves can be triggered by underwater landslides, as well as earthquakes, as was the case with the 2011 tsunami that killed 16,000 people in Japan in 2011.

These landslides cause billions of tons of mud to break away from the seabed and tumble downwards, creating a suction hole in the sea above. Water then rushes to fill the void, creating a giant wave.

Researchers are urging the government to take steps to protect nuclear and other key installations from tsunamis, which are likely to occur more than once every 10,000 years.

Durham University professor of marine geology Peter Talling said: “We believe the government should consider adding tsunamis to the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.”

The register sets out plans for rare, but potentially devastating disasters, such as flu epidemics and floods……

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Illinois Governor signs Bill to save Exelon’s nuclear power stations

Gov. to sign bill saving Cordova, IL nuclear plant Wednesday KWQC6, December 6, 2016, PORT BYRON, Ill. – Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday will sign a bill into law that will keep open two Illinois nuclear power plants, including the Quad Cities plant in Cordova.

The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce says the signing of the Future Energy Jobs Bill will take place at 9:30 a.m. on December 7, 2016 at the Riverdale High School gymnasium in Port Byron.

An Exelon spokesperson told KWQC last month that if the bill did not pass, Exelon would be forced to close both the plant in Cordova and the one in Clinton, Illinois…..

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Nuclear renaissance – what nuclear renaissance?

The nuclear renaissance?, Japan Today  by Mark Hibbs, 5 Dec 16  “……During nuclear power’s heyday, governments favored nuclear power by allowing utility companies to include the capital costs in the rate base. Governments and consumers assumed the risk and power sales amortized the investments. In most places today that’s history. Governments are deregulating power markets and introducing competition, thereby shifting risk from customers to company shareholders.

During the 1990s, investments shifted from nuclear to increasingly cheaper and abundant natural gas, and by 2002 gas-fired plants accounted for over 80% of all new power plants built in OECD countries. In parallel, nuclear technology became a lot more expensive; a 1,000-MW power plant that in 2000 cost $1.5 billion might cost $10 billion today. In 1991 all this was foreseen by Klaus Barthelt, the power engineering CEO for Germany’s biggest nuclear engineering firm Siemens, who then said; “The countries that can still afford our nuclear plants won’t need the electricity, and the countries that will need the electricity won’t be able to afford the reactors.”

With a few exceptions Barthelt’s prediction remains true. For two decades the nuclear has industry hoped for a worldwide “nuclear renaissance” ushered in by the need to meet growing power demand using non-fossil fuels.

But most of the world is still waiting.

The market for new nuclear power in the Americas and Europe remains flat. Japan’s deep technology base didn’t prevent three Japanese reactors from melting down in 2011. For many years, that event will deter Japan and many less-endowed countries from making new nuclear investments………

While nuclear power awaits government fixes, renewable energy technologies led by solar and wind power are jumping into the breach. They now provide a quarter of the world’s electricity. Their market penetration is currently favored by the same kind of policy stimuli that governments after World War II used to favor nuclear power……

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Physicians urged to lobby for worldwide nuclear weapons ban

Nuclear War Remains a Global Health Threat Physicians urged to lobby for worldwide weapons ban by Ira Helfand, MD  December 04, 2016 On Oct. 27, the United Nations General Assembly First Committee voted 123 to 38 to commence negotiations next March for a new treaty to prohibit possession of nuclear weapons as the next step towards their complete elimination. The resolution, L.41, specifically cited concerns about “the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.”

Health professionals have played a key role in promoting passage of this resolution by sounding an urgent alarm about the growing danger of nuclear war. In the last year, relations between the U.S. and Russia have deteriorated, tensions have grown between nuclear armed India and Pakistan, and North Korea has tested its growing nuclear arsenal and missile delivery systems. In this context, the health community has worked, with success, to focus the international debate about nuclear weapons policy on the actual medical consequences — the “humanitarian impact” — that will result if these weapons are used.

In May of this year, four international health federations submitted an unprecedented joint working paper to the UN, advocating for a proposed treaty to prohibit possession of nuclear weapons as the next step towards their elimination. The groups, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, World Medical Association, World Federation of Public Health Associations, and the International Nursing Council, cited the extraordinary threat posed by these weapons :

    • “A proper understanding of what nuclear weapons will do invalidates all arguments for continued possession of these weapons and requires that they urgently be prohibited and eliminated as the only course of action commensurate with the existential danger they pose.”

      Presidents of the four federations followed up with an editorial published in The Guardian on Sept. 28 urging the UN General Assembly to take action: “Banning and eliminating nuclear weapons is a high global health priority. The general assembly has the opportunity to move us towards this critical goal. It must not fail to act.”

      The statement was part of a campaign launched in 2007 when IPPNW and its U.S. affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR,) presented a paper on the global catastrophe that would follow a limited nuclear war. The report built on new research by Alan Robock, Brian Toon and their colleagues, indicating that the use of as few as 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, less than 0.5% of the world’s nuclear arsenal, as might take place in a war between India and Pakistan, would cause worldwide climate disruption.

    • The resulting decline in food production would put up to 1 billion people at risk of starvation, mainly in Latin America, Africa, and South Asia. Subsequent studies of the actual declines in major food crops that would follow this limited nuclear war led the organizations to warn that a billion people in China might also face famine, raising the global total to 2 billion at risk.

      Robock and Toon’s studies also showed that a large-scale nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would cause a catastrophic nuclear winter that would plunge temperatures across the planet to levels not seen since the last ice age, stopping most food production and killing the vast majority of the human population.

    •  In 2007, IPPNW formed the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) which has now grown to include more than 450 partner organizations in 95 countries.

      In 2011 the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement challenged the international community “to pursue in good faith and conclude with urgency and determination negotiations to prohibit the use of and completely eliminate nuclear weapons through a legally binding international agreement, based on existing commitments and international obligations.” Two years later, the Movement adopted an ambitious four-year program to educate the public about the growing danger, and in 2014 it repeated the call for the elimination of these weapons citing “… the new evidence that has emerged in the last two years about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.”

      The World Medical Association added its voice in 2015, reaffirming prior calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Citing the “immense human suffering … catastrophic effects on the earth’s ecosystem … [and] risk of famine,” the WMA urged governments “to work to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.”

    • The American Medical Association adopted a similar statement that year resolving to “advise the government of the United States, and all national governments, that even a limited nuclear war would have catastrophic effects on the world’s food supply and would put a significant proportion of the world’s population at risk from a nuclear famine; and to urge the government of the United States, and all national governments, to continue to work to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.”

      These recent efforts by the health community mirror the critically important work carried out at the height of the Cold War in the early 1980’s. At that time the World Health Organization supported this work, arguing that doctors and scientists “have both the right and the duty to draw attention, in the strongest possible terms, to the catastrophic results that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons.”
      The importance of this work was recognized in the citation awarding IPPNW the 1985 Nobel Peace prize which said that health professionals had performed “a considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.”
      The recent UN vote may represent a major step towards the elimination of the nuclear threat, but there is still much work to do, and many ways health professionals can express support. Most of the nuclear-armed nations, including the U.S., have not supported this process, and the nations who sign the ban treaty will need to use it to pressure the nuclear-armed nations into further negotiations for a detailed nuclear weapons convention that sets out the time line, verification, and enforcement procedures for the actual elimination of these weapons.
      Physicians for Social Responsibility and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War are urging the healthcare community to play an active role in this process. Visit   and  for more information.   Ira Helfand, MD, serves on the Board of Directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is Co-President, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.


December 9, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Danger of nuclear war now greater than during the Cold War

Nuclear danger is not gone, Bert Crain M.D., December 5, 2016 The issue of nuclear weapons is a terrible problem shared by all humanity. The dangers we are facing do not loom large in the public consciousness as they did right after World War II when the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists voiced their first warnings that we should not elect to live in the dread of sudden annihilation and the publication The Nation felt strongly that it was now “one world or none”. We stumbled through the Cold War facing off the Soviet Union with a policy of mutually assured destruction. MAD worked but we were lucky. There were many close calls, the Cuban Missile Crisis being perhaps the best remembered.

Nearly 10 years ago four senior statesmen including two former secretaries of state offered a commentary in The Wall Street Journal that documented the tremendous danger, but also historic opportunity, that then existed. They emphasized the increasing hazard, the steps that should be taken, and the importance of U.S. leadership in a bold initiative consistent with our moral heritage. They emphasized that there was urgent need to amplify the gains that had been made in the Reagan-Gorbachev summits and subsequent détente of 1987. Barack Obama reinforced those leaders’ vision, calling for nuclear abolition in his speech in Prague in April 2009.

The danger now is greater than it was during the Cold War. Since the Russian Federation annexed the Crimea, invaded the Ukraine and began fighting for Bashar El Assad in Syria, the rhetoric has escalated with nuclear weapons once again being celebrated as symbols of national power. Some statesmen believe that Putin’s posture is more bravado from a fearful Russia encircled by NATO and trying to keep Ukraine in their domain.

In any case since the greatest threat we face is the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the U.S., the talk can be unnerving. In addition, all of the nuclear armed states are planning costly upgrades in violation of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. We are threatening to start a new arms race. Many, including the late cosmologist Carl Sagan, an eloquent advocate for science and humanity, considered nuclear proliferation as collective madness.

Those who are anchored to nuclear weapons argue that nuclear deterrence has prevented a major power conflict since 1945. The price has been millions of people held hostage to the threat of extinction. It is now critical to also realize that unlike the ideological conflict of the Cold War, when everyone wanted to live, religious extremists intent on mass murder of nonbelievers and a glorious martyrdom will not be deterred by mutually assured destruction. This chilling fact alone should push the nuclear armed states toward cooperating in verifiable reductions and securing fissile material.

Many of us have been working for decades to enable public opinion through enlightened self- interest to push governments to not do insane things, but the political-military-industrial complex is a hungry beast. The newest and most potent abolitionist movement is The Humanitarian Initiative proposed by a majority of the non-nuclear states. On Oct. 27, 123 nations at the UN General Assembly, voted in favor of adopting a resolution that sets up negotiations in 2017 to establish a legally binding instrument that abolishes nuclear weapons. Physicians for Social Responsibility urges our nation’s citizens to embrace sanity, to pressure our elected officials to support this international effort and to demand a stop to a new nuclear arms race.

Bert Crain, M.D. is a member of Western North Carolina Physicians for Social Responsibility. For more see and

December 9, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Landmark case on climate change looming for USA government

Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change, WP  December 1 A few weeks ago, a federal judge in Oregon made headlines when she ruled that a groundbreaking climate lawsuit will proceed to trial. And some experts say its outcome could rewrite the future of climate policy in the United States.

The case, brought by 21 youths aged 9 to 20, claims that the federal government isn’t doing enough to address the problem of climate change to protect their planet’s future — and that, they charge, is a violation of their constitutional rights on the most basic level. The case has already received widespread attention, even garnering the support of well-known climate scientist James Hansen, who has also joined as a plaintiff on behalf of his granddaughter and as a guardian for “future generations.”

The U.S. government under President Obama, along with several others representing members of the fossil fuel industry, filed to have the lawsuit dismissed. But on Nov. 10, federal judge Ann Aiken denied the motion, clearing the case to proceed to trial. According to Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit representing the youth plaintiffs, a recent case management conference indicated that the case would likely go to trial by summer or early fall of 2017.

“It’s been called the biggest trial of the century, and it is,” said Mary Wood, a law professor at the University of Oregon and expert in natural resources and public trust law. “Literally, when I say the planet is on the docket, it would be hard to imagine a more consequential trial, because the fossil fuel policies of the entire United States of America are going to confront the climate science put forth by the world’s best scientists. And never before has that happened.”

The odds of success  

Theoretically, the trial’s outcome could have major implications for the incoming Trump administration, which aims to dismantle many of the climate and energy priorities established under President Obama.

Should the plaintiffs prevail, the federal government could be forced to develop and adhere to stringent carbon-cutting measures aimed at preserving the planet’s climate future for generations to come. The only other place such action has ever been ordered by a court is in the Netherlands, where a similar case resulted in a landmark ruling last year requiring the Dutch government to slash its emissions by a quarter within five years……..

December 9, 2016 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment