The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

February 26 Energy News



¶ “How to Support Renewable Energy (and Why You Really Should)” • Even with the divided US political climate, most people agree on public support for increasing our use of renewable energy sources. Some are concerned about pollution, others about the national security. But many are attracted to benefits of renewable energy. [Scientific American]

Sonoma Calpine 3 geothermal plant  (Stepheng3, Wikimedia Commons) Geothermal power plant (Stepheng3, Wikimedia Commons)

¶ “Conservative group’s carbon plan gives us hope for climate change action” • The Climate Leadership Council, a conservative panel including former Secretaries of State George Schultz and James Baker and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, is challenging climate skeptics in their party with a market-based approach. [Hawaii Tribune Herald]

¶ “Wind Energy Boom Hits The US” • It’s free, plentiful, carbon neutral and in the right hands could have a radical impact on the future. Installed wind capacity was greater than hydroelectric, according to…

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February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weaken safety standards, to save the industry – that’s the advice from pro nuclear lobbyists

safety-symbol1Flag-USANuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda.,  By  on February 26, 2017A future for nuclear power?

“……A fundamental difficulty for the nuclear industry is that the imperatives for greater safety and reduced costs push in opposite directions. Mark Cooper, from the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, recently told the New York Times“Nuclear safety always undermines nuclear economics. Inherently, it’s a technology whose time never comes.”

Retreating from post-Fukushima efforts to strengthen safety standards inevitably increases the risk of another Chernobyl- or Fukushima-scale catastrophe. Leaving aside the disputed health effects from those disasters, the economic costs associated with both disasters was in the ball-park of US$500 billion, and both had devastating impacts on public acceptance of nuclear power.

Yet a retreat from post-Fukushima efforts to strengthen safety standards seems to be where the industry and its enthusiasts are heading in their efforts to curb nuclear power’s astonishing cost increases and overruns.

Proposals include weakening safety regulations; abandoning Generation 3/3+ reactors in favour of Generation 2 reactor types (or redefining Generation 2 reactor types as Generation 3/3+); and overturning the established scientific orthodoxy that even the smallest doses of ionizing radiation can cause morbidity and mortality.

How to convince the public to accept reduced nuclear safety standards even as 80,000 people remain displaced because of the Fukushima disaster and clean-up and compensation cost estimates double then double again? In a word: spin.

Shellenberger, for example, wants “higher social acceptance” but he also wants weakened safety regulations such as the repeal of a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rule designed to strengthen reactors against aircraft strikes. He squares the circle with spin and sophistry, claiming (without evidence) that the NRC’s Aircraft Impact Rule “would not improve safety” and claiming (without evidence) that the NRC “caved in to demands” from anti-nuclear groups to establish the rule……….

February 26, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Trump Allows Oil, Gas, and Coal Companies to Cheat Americans out of Royalties – At Least Pending Litigation (Gold, Uranium and Other Hardrock Miner’s Don’t Pay Royalties for their Thefts from Public Lands)

Mining Awareness +

News release from the Sierra Club:
Interior Rule Prevented Fossil Fuel Companies From Selling Resources to Themselves
Friday, February 24, 2017
Jonathon Berman, (202) 297-7533,
Washington, DC — Today, Donald Trump rescinded a Office of Natural Resource Revenue rule that prevented companies from selling fossil fuels extracted on public lands to a subsidiary at a low price, paying royalties on that initial sale, and then reselling the fuel at a far higher price without paying royalties on the second sale.

In response, Sierra Club Lands Protection program Director Athan Manuel released the following statement:
“It’s no surprise that someone with Donald Trump’s checkered business history would rescind a rule preventing fossil fuel companies from ripping off the American people. Donald Trump should represent the people, and as such, should conduct business that puts their interests first — not…

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February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

February 25 Energy News



¶ “Trump’s draconian budget proposals will destroy US clean energy innovation” • Voters who expected Trump to prioritize revitalized manufacturing may be disappointed, as his opening budget proposals will stymie progress toward the critical jobs of the 21st century: developing, manufacturing, and installing renewable energy. [Quartz]

Hey Trump: Europe is beating you on clean  energy – bigly. (Reuters / Denis Balibouse) Hey Trump: Europe is beating you on clean
energy – bigly. (Reuters / Denis Balibouse)

¶ “Here’s Why the US Nuclear Industry Is in Jeopardy” • The Spiraling construction costs at new facilities and planned closures of decades-old plants highlight why the nuclear industry in the United States remains in trouble, even as the quest for zero-carbon energy sources grows. Nuclear plants are facing financial meltdowns. [Seeker]

¶ “The Economist embraces renewables” • In this week’s cover story, The Economist thoughtfully argues for expanded use of renewable energy, noting, “It is no longer far-fetched to think that the world…

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February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

BILLIONS from the Public Purse to Poison Us All With New Cancer Factories

The UK is banking on the 3.2GW nuclear power plant to provide as much as 7pc of the country’s energy by the middle of next decade. However, the Hinkley Point, Moorside and Sizewell B projects have all been dogged by delays and concerns over whether the multi-billion pound investments can be shouldered by the companies.


From the Telegraph ….

Yeo: Treasury needs to pour billions into nuclear projects
The Treasury is facing calls to pour billions of pounds into a string of troubled new nuclear projects which threaten the UK’s energy supplies.

Tim Yeo, a former environment minister and energy committee chairman, is warning that the only way the Government can avert a crisis for the country’s nuclear programme is to take a direct financial stake in the projects.

Ministers should also actively encourage investment from nuclear companies in China, South Korea and Russia where the the industry is relatively insulated from the challenges faced by European companies thanks to strong state backing, he said.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo Credit: Geoff Pugh
Ministers are wary of involving the foreign powers in its energy security plans and have steadfastly resisted taking on the financial risk involved in nuclear construction.

In a letter to Business…

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February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Latest gloomy dramas for the global nuclear industry


Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda.,  By  on February 26, 2017 Nuclear ‘dark ages’

“…….The latest dramas occur against a backdrop of deep industry malaise, with the receding hope of even the slightest growth resting squarely on the shoulders of China.

A February 15 piece in the Financial Times noted: “Hopes of a nuclear renaissance have largely disappeared. For many suppliers, not least Toshiba, simply avoiding a nuclear dark ages would be achievement enough.”

Toshiba and Westinghouse are in deep trouble because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US ‒ the combined overruns are about $14 billion and counting. The saga is detailed in Bloomberg pieces titled ‘Toshiba’s Nuclear Reactor Mess Winds Back to a Louisiana Swamp‘ and ‘Toshiba’s Record Fall Highlights U.S. Nuclear Cost Nightmare‘.

Toshiba said on February 14 that it expects to book an $8.2 billion write down on Westinghouse, on top of a $3 billion write down in April 2016. These losses exceed the $7.1 billion Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.

Almost half of the reactors in the US have been operating for 40 years or more and are nearing retirement. Yet the four AP1000 reactors are the only ones under construction, so nuclear power is certain to continue its downward slide in the US.

“There’s billions and billions of dollars at stake here,” said Gregory Jaczko, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “This could take down Toshiba and it certainly means the end of new nuclear construction in the US.”

Likewise, pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman notes that the Toshiba/Westinghouse AP1000 fiasco “apparently ends the so-called nuclear renaissance in the US for full size reactors. During 2007-2010 there were more than two dozen applications expected for new reactors, but now only a few licenses that have been completed and they do not have any links to near term plans to build the units”.

Bankruptcy looms for Toshiba, with the banks circling and the risk heightened by the likelihood of further delays and cost overruns with the four partially-built AP1000 reactors in the US, and unresolved litigation over those projects. Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option ‒ but there is no prospect of a buyer. The nuclear unit is, as Bloomberg noted, “too much of a mess” to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy…….

February 26, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Local servicemen may have radiation poisoning from Fukushima

 “In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.”

With a class action lawsuit pending, hundreds of Navy sailors say they can’t get the help they need


Navy servicemember seeks treatment for alleged radiation poisoning following Operation Tomodachi.

“Right now, I know I have problems, but I’m afraid of actually finding out how bad they really are,” said William Zeller, a 33-year-old active-duty Navy servicemember living in San Diego. He’s one of the 4,500 sailors who were aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during Operation Tomodachi, a humanitarian aid mission sent to Japan the day after a tsunami triggered the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown. 

I know there’s something wrong,” Zeller said. “I’ve got many other people around me telling me I don’t look good, and I need to get checked out. While I am a workaholic, it’s a distraction.”

Zeller is only one of 318 sailors (and counting) who have joined a billion-dollar class action lawsuit filed in 2012 against the nuclear generators’ operating company, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, for injuries allegedly caused by radiation exposure.

The lawsuit argues TEPCO is financially responsible for the sailors’ medical care because the operating company, admittedly, did not inform the Japanese government of the meltdown. In turn, the Japanese government unknowingly misinformed the U.S. Navy of potential dangers of anchoring off the coast of Japan where the ship was engulfed in a plume of radiation for several hours.

Everywhere we went we had to carry [gas masks] on our hips,” Zeller said. “We were turning on news networks, and we could see how we were right in the plume. You could taste the metallic air.”

In the six years since Fukushima, Zeller has only sought medical attention from the Navy since the care is financially covered. 

The military health system is a process, putting it politely,” he said, explaining how it took four years to learn he had abnormal bone growth, nerve damage and what he believes is irritable bowel syndrome, all of which began a year after Operation Tomodachi. His weight fluctuates 20 to 30 pounds within a month, and he’s unendingly fatigued.

Before I went [on the USS Ronald Reagan], I used to be a martial arts instructor,” he said. “I used to go on regular bike rides. I hiked. I was in very good shape. Now, I wear a breathing machine when I go to sleep because I have respiratory problems. I literally just go to work and go home now. I don’t have the energy or the pain threshold to deal with anything else.”

Considering the Veterans Association’s inability to treat members in a timely or efficient manner, Zeller’s lawyer, Paul Garner, said VA care is not an option. Instead, they’re hopeful that a fund set up by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will come to fruition. 

Koizumi announced the creation of the fund while visiting 10 affected sailors, including Zeller, in San Diego in May. Koizumi said he expects to raise $2 million by a March 31 cutoff date. The plan is to then transfer the money to the U.S. to supplement the sailor’s medical bills at, according to Garner, some of the best care centers across the country.


USS Ronald Reagan

However, Garner knows $2 million won’t be enough to cover every need, especially since some sailors have reported symptoms appearing in their children who were born after Operation Tomodachi. 

I have no idea if it’s caused by the radiation that I was exposed to on the Reagan, but I don’t know that it’s not,” said Jason F., who was also on board the USS Ronald Reagan but didn’t want to share his last name while he’s still active duty. His breathing is audible over the phone, as if climbing several sets of stairs, but he’s tucking his three-year-old daughter into bed at their San Diego home.

That’s standard breathing for me,” he said. “I don’t know what to do about it. She has difficulty breathing too,” he said of his daughter, who was born in 2013. “She snores like a grown man.”

Jason is 36 years old, in shape, never smoked a day in his life and didn’t have trouble breathing until after his time on the USS Ronald Reagan. His respiratory difficulties have aggrandized since 2011, peaking during a 2016 deployment where the doctors told him the contrasting temperatures were to blame and gave him an inhaler to puff on. It took a formal request to fly him off the ship to receive medical treatment in Bahrain, where he was told he had a 60 percent chance of tuberculosis and a 40 percent chance of lung cancer. He has since been diagnosed with asthma by an outside specialist, although the treatments aren’t working. 

It’s difficult for them to figure out,” Jason said. “I mean, how many patients have they had that are exposed to radiation? And are they trained for that?”

When Zeller mentioned radiation exposure to doctors at the Navy, he said he was told it was interesting, if acknowledged at all. 

Lung cancer is one of several cancers associated with high radiation exposure, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, as well as leukemia, which several sailors have been diagnosed with. Bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness and ulcers, are also symptoms reported by the sailors and are signs of radiation poisoning, according to the Scripps Health website.

In 2014, the Department of Defense published a report acknowledging that radiation exposure can cause such medical issues, but that the exposure levels were too low and the symptoms appeared too soon to make a connection. 

While Zeller and Jason hope for financial support either from Koizumi’s fund or by winning the lawsuit, they want support for the others affected. 

I’m experiencing symptoms, but it’s not just for me,” Zeller said. “It’s for the individuals who are way worse than me and to bring attention to them… They have tumors, cancers, birth defects in their children, some individuals have mass muscle fatigue where their entire half of their body isn’t functional anymore, and they are stuck in wheelchairs. I am currently on the better end.”

The sailors are waiting for a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determining whether the lawsuit will continue in the United States or in Japan, if at all.

In January, TEPCO urged the court to dismiss the case, citing that it is a political matter that could impact international relations.

Jason said the lawsuit is about more than money, specifically when it comes to his daughter’s future. 

I just want accountability,” he said. “I want her taken care of. Whatever that takes.”

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | 1 Comment

SIX YEARS AFTER: 60 percent say Fukushima evacuees bullied


A man living outside Fukushima Prefecture writes, “When I said that I came from Fukushima, I was told, ‘You are an evacuee, aren’t you?’ I cannot forget that.”

More than 60 percent of current or former evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear crisis said they were victims of bullying or discrimination in areas they evacuated to or witnessed or heard of such incidents, according to a new survey.

The survey, released Feb. 26, was conducted jointly by The Asahi Shimbun and Akira Imai, professor of local governments’ policies at Fukushima University, in January and February.

It is probably the first time that the actual conditions of ‘bullying evacuees’ became clear in large quantities and concretely,” Imai said. “The recognition that evacuees are victims of the nuclear accident is not shared in society. That is leading to the bullying.”

The series of surveys started in June 2011, three months after an accident occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

In the latest survey, the sixth, The Asahi Shimbun and Imai sent a questionnaire in late January to 348 people who had replied to the series of surveys.

Of these, 184 people of 18 prefectures, including Fukushima Prefecture, gave valid responses. Of the 184, 147 were still evacuees.

The latest survey asked for the first time whether they were bullied or discriminated due to the fact that they evacuated because of the nuclear accident. Thirty-three of the 184, or 18 percent, said that they or their family members became victims of bullying or discrimination.

In addition, 81 of the 184, or 44 percent, replied that they saw or heard of those actions around them.

In a section in which respondents can freely describe their experiences or opinions, a 35-year-old woman wrote, “I was told, ‘Why do you work despite the fact that you have money. I felt sad, wondering whether I have no right to work.”

A 59-year-old man wrote, “When I bought in bulk, I was told, ‘Oh! An evacuee.’”

Meanwhile, 60 of the 184 respondents, or 33 percent, responded that they have neither been victims of bullying or discrimination nor have they seen or heard of any acts.

A 48-year-old woman wrote, “Superiors or colleagues in my workplace in the area where I have evacuated have treated me normally. I have been able to encounter good people.”

The survey also asked the 147 respondents, who are still evacuees, whether they think they are unwilling to tell people around them the fact that they are evacuating. Sixty-one, or 41 percent, replied that they think so.

In the free description section, a 49-year-old woman wrote, “I have the anxiety that talking (with other people) will lead to discussing compensation money.” A 31-year-old woman wrote, “I have a concern that my children could be bullied.”

Meanwhile, 50 of the 147 respondents, or 34 percent, replied that they don’t have that anxiety about telling people. In addition, 26 of the 147 people, or 18 percent, answered that they don’t know whether they think so or not.

A 56-year-old man wrote, “I dare not tell people who do not know that I am evacuating. I cannot move my life forward if I continue to say that I am an evacuee.”

Currently, about 80,000 people are living in and outside Fukushima Prefecture as evacuees.

A man living outside Fukushima Prefecture writes, “When I said that I came from Fukushima, I was told, ‘You are an evacuee, aren’t you?’ I cannot forget that.”

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobbyists admit deep industry trouble: pin their hopes on Asia and Russia

Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda.,  By  on February 26, 2017  ‘ The EU, the US and Japan are busy committing nuclear suicide’

“………..The nuclear industry and its supporters have responded in varying ways to the crises facing nuclear utilities and the industry’s broader malaise. Some opt for head-in-the-sand delusion and denial. Others are extremely pessimistic about the industry’s future. Others paint a picture of serious but surmountable problems.

There is agreement that the nuclear industries in the US, Japan and the EU ‒ in particular their nuclear export industries ‒ are in deep trouble. A February 2017 EnergyPostWeekly article says “the EU, the US and Japan are busy committing nuclear suicide.” Michael Shellenberger from the pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute notes that: “Nations are unlikely to buy nuclear from nations like the US, France and Japan that are closing (or not opening) their nuclear power plants.”

Shellenberger said: “From now on, there are only three major players in the global nuclear power plant market: Korea, China and Russia. The US, the EU and Japan are just out of the game. France could get back in, but they are not competitive today.”

That’s good news for the nuclear industries in South Korea, China and Russia. But they might end up squabbling over scraps ‒ there were just three reactor construction starts last year around the world.

February 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

SIX YEARS AFTER: Fukushima port welcomes fishing boats back for 1st time since 2011

Kurumi Sugita:

“This is too cruel.
Why play with local people’s strong desire to believe in the back-to-normal dream?
This desire is in the heart of all the people who love their hometown and want to recover the ordinary life before the nuclear accident.
If you mention the contamination, you are regarded almost as an enemy to the back-to-normal reconstruction efforts. This is how you destroy the solidarity, and it has been going on since 6 years. People’s heart bleed in this cruel situation and contradictions.”


Fishing boats return to Ukedo fishing port in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Feb. 25.

NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–Fishing boats returned to their home port on Feb. 25 for the first time in six years since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant wreaked havoc here.

The Ukedo fishing port, located seven kilometers north of the nuclear plant, was destroyed by the tsunami caused by the powerful earthquake in March 2011. In addition, nearby areas of the sea were contaminated by radioactive substances discharged from the crippled plant.

Since then, the reconstruction of the port has started and the work is ongoing.

On Feb. 25, 26 fishing boats entered the port to prepare for the start of the fishing season of “kounago,” or young fish of “ikanago” (Japanese sand lance), in mid-March. Fishing is scheduled to resume in waters that are more than 10 km from the nuclear plant.

This is the first step to return to my life as a fisherman,” said a smiling Ichiro Takano, 69, a third-generation fisherman.

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

15,550 Bq / kg radioactive cesium school rooftop sludge in Chiba prefecture


Noda city (Noda-shi on the map) is located in Chiba prefecture, at the northern doorstep of Tokyo.

Noda City announced on January 24 that more than 15,550 Becquerel of radioactive cesium exceeded the criteria of designated waste (more than 8,000 bq per 1 kilogram) from the rooftop sludge of Municipal Nittsuka Elementary School. It is the first time that sludge exceeded the standard value in the city. The city already removed the sludge, in accordance with procedures as specified waste based on the Special Measures Law.

In response to the high radiation dose measurements found in Kashiwa city public property site this month, the city started inspection of sludge etc. and dose measurement at 300 public facilities. The country’s decontamination standard is 0.23 microsieverts per hour with a measurement height of 1 meter (50 centimeters for children-related facilities), but the city has independently set the measurement height to be a more severe 5 cm. There are no places that have exceeded city standards so far.

Meanwhile, on the 14th and 15th, they measured sludge on the roof of 12 elementary and junior high schools that were the subjects of solar panel roofing projects. As a result, they found doses exceeding city standards at five schools, up to 0.85 micro-Sievert was measured. City removed the sludge and checked radioactive cesium concentration. Only the sludge of Yotsuka-sho, had concentration of cesium exceeding the standard value of designated waste.

The removed sludge is temporarily stored at a temporary storage place surrounded by containers on the city hall premises. Approximately 5 cubic meters of targeted waste is treated, and four schools sludge which cesium concentration was found within the standard value were treated as general waste.

Translated from Japanese by Hervé Courtois

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear plant still plagued by tainted water 6 years after meltdowns


Workers bring in a new water tank, right, as a replacement for an old contaminated water tank at TEPCO’s No. 1 nuclear power plant in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017

OKUMA, Fukushima — With two weeks to go until the sixth anniversary of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant here, the Mainichi Shimbun visited the plant on Feb. 24, obtaining a first-hand view of working conditions and the persisting problem of tainted water.

The number of areas on the plant site requiring full face masks has decreased considerably, and the overall working environment has improved greatly. However, the issue of having to replace the tanks that hold radioactively contaminated water lingers.

Dealing with contaminated water requires significant manpower. According to TEPCO, about half of the approximately 6,000 people working daily at the No. 1 nuclear power plant are involved in handling contaminated water.

There are roughly 1,000 tanks of contaminated water inside the No. 1 plant site, forming a forest of containers with nowhere else to go.


A worker makes checks with a hammer on an impermeable wall near TEPCO’s No. 4 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017

During the immediate aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011, a considerable number of tanks known as flanges were placed within the site. However, as concerns continue to grow about contaminated water leaking from these tanks due to dilapidation, TEPCO has taken action and is working on dismantling them.

Although covering the ground at the No. 1 plant with concrete has made it possible to work in about 90 percent of the site without a protective uniform, all those working near the old tanks must wear full face masks and Tyvek suits as the tanks once held highly contaminated water. Wearing this kind of protective clothing makes the work much harder to perform — as it can be difficult to breathe — and it is physically exhausting, even in the middle of winter.

Hiroshi Abe, 55, of Shimizu Corp. — the company overseeing the dismantling work — states, “As we work toward recovery from the disaster, we want to ensure that all workers are protected from radiation exposure and injuries.”

Presently, the level of radiation in the vicinity of the buildings housing the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 reactors is high. During the Mainichi Shimbun’s visit to the site on Feb. 24, the radiation level near the No. 3 reactor was found to be more than 300 microsieverts per hour, and near the No. 2 reactor building, it was discovered to be 137.6 microsieverts per hour.


A radiation measuring device shows a reading of 137.6 microsieverts per hour near TEPCO’s No. 2 reactor in the town of Okuma in Fukushima Prefecture on Feb. 24, 2017.

Furthermore, an “ice wall,” which was built to restrict the flow of contaminated water underground, has not been as effective as initially expected.

A spokesman for TEPCO, Takahiro Kimoto, who accompanied the Mainichi Shimbun on this visit, said, “Nearly six years have passed since the disaster. Our decommissioning work is now about to enter the main stage of extracting melted fuel.”

However, with TEPCO and the government’s decommissioning work set to continue until around 2041-2051, there is still a long way to go until they can reach the “main stage.”




February 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , | Leave a comment

StratCom chief Hyten: Nuclear arsenal should be modernized, not expanded

He believes the current arsenal is more than capable of defending against even a more aggressive Russia.“There’s been no military requirement, no need to develop new types of warheads or delivery systems,” Reif said. “There aren’t gaps. The alleged gaps are mirages.”

The United States has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity,” President Donald Trump said last week, and he wants to make sure the U.S. is at the “top of the pack” among the world’s nuclear powers. He has bluntly criticized the treaty that sets the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals at equal levels as “one-sided.” And he’s called for a formal nuclear posture review.

Words like those cause ears to perk up at Offutt Air Force Base, where Gen. John Hyten, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, is the keeper of the keys to the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He’s also the chief adviser to the president and senior military leaders on all matters nuclear.

His top concern, Hyten said in an interview this month with The World-Herald, is not so much the size of the U.S. nuclear force but whether it remains fit to deter its enemies. He believes updating the arsenal — much of it built in the 1980s or earlier — is more important than enlarging it.

“If you look at every element of the nuclear enterprise, it has to be modernized,” Hyten said. “All our stuff is old. It’s still ready, safe, secure, reliable. But it’s old.”

He believes the size of his current force is enough to deter America’s adversaries, and he could even live with cuts — as long as Russia cuts its arsenal too.

“Nobody wants to decrease our deterrent posture,” Hyten said. “Not with Russia the way it is right now, not with China building in the Pacific. And not with, goodness, what’s going on right now in North Korea and Iran.”

He does welcome the nuclear posture review.

“Every new administration that comes in, one of the first things they should do is take a look at our nuclear capabilities, because it is the most sobering, daunting, powerful element of our defensive architecture,” Hyten said. “The way you do that is through a nuclear posture review. I look forward to participating in it myself.”

Hyten said no timetable has been set for the review, but he expects it will take 12 to 18 months. StratCom will be heavily involved.

“In this building there are some of the best and brightest nuclear thinkers, nuclear operators in the country today,” Hyten said. “And we’ll provide the expertise we need to do it.”

Trump has consistently said he wants to be less predictable than his predecessors, and the broad strokes of his nuclear policy have yet to be colored in. In the early days of his administration he has shown a great deal of deference to his new defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis — who also commands the respect of many of Trump’s critics.

“I think Mattis is the wild card here,” said Kingston Reif, director of disarmament and threat reduction policy for the non-proliferation advocacy group Arms Control Association. “He may be the check on some of those more Strangelovian impulses.”

The New START treaty with Russia, signed in 2010, requires both the U.S. and Russia to cut the size of their nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads and 700 delivery systems (sea-launched missiles, ICBMs and nuclear bombers) by February 2018 and maintain parity for 10 years. The treaty is up for renewal in 2021, but Trump has complained to Reuters that it is a “one-sided deal.”

Russia’s nuclear force also is old, but the country is several years into a program to modernize its aging nuclear force, while the U.S. remains a few years behind.

That worries Michaela Dodge, a senior policy analyst specializing in nuclear weapons policy with the Heritage Foundation, a national think-tank that generally advocates for conservative causes.

“There already is a nuclear arms race,” she said, “but the U.S. isn’t in it.”

In recent years Republicans and Democrats have more or less worked together on the early stages of funding the expensive new bombers and submarines and gravity bombs Pentagon officials say will be needed to deter future attacks on the U.S. and its allies.

But in an era of strong taxpayer resistance to big spending programs, the reconstruction of the U.S. nuclear force is sure to be one of the biggest. A new report by the Government Accountability Office estimated the cost of rebuilding the arsenal at $400 billion over the next 10 years.

And the work will continue for years, or even decades, beyond that. For example, development work on the new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine already has started, even though the first subs aren’t scheduled for delivery until the early 2030s.

Hyten’s job, as he sees it, is to keep making the case for updating the arsenal — hopefully, stiffening the spines of wavering members of Congress who balk at the price tag. That’s the same thing his two predecessors, Adm. Cecil Haney and Gen. C. Robert Kehler, did during their StratCom tours.

“The good part right now is that we have broad support in the new administration, broad support in the Congress to modernize all elements of it,” Hyten said. “But because they are nuclear weapons and because there will be some expense for the taxpayers, I think that’s why it gets so much discussion.”

As the new chairwoman of the Senate’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer will have a lot of influence over future spending on nuclear weapons.

Like Hyten, she is committed to rebuilding the bombers, submarines and missiles that make up America’s nuclear force — even if the price is high.

“We didn’t build new types of nuclear delivery systems for the last 25 years. I think we need to modernize,” Fischer said in an interview Saturday.

But, she added, “I don’t believe our (arsenal) is second-rate.”

Fischer interprets Trump’s call for expansion as support for the modernization program — which, she notes, President Barack Obama also backed.

“I’m not disputing that it’s going to be expensive,” she said, “but we have to make the commitment.”

In spite of Trump’s criticism of the New START treaty, Fischer believes it’s a framework that the U.S. and Russia should stick with.

“I’m not advocating re-looking at these treaties at this point,” the Republican said. “We are on target right now. We need to meet the obligations, and the Russians need to meet the obligations.”

Although Trump has complimented Russian President Vladimir Putin on his toughness and leadership, Fischer said she has no illusions about the threat the Russian leader poses to the U.S., and to his neighbors.

“I think Putin’s a thug,” she said. “We need to be aware of what (the Russians) are doing. We need to monitor them.”

There’s been some talk in recent years — among anti-nuclear activists on the left and budget hawks on the right — about scrapping the air, land and sea triad that has formed the bedrock of nuclear deterrence since the 1960s.

Like his predecessors, Hyten said all three legs of the triad are essential. ICBMs are cheaper and faster to launch, heavy bombers are highly flexible, and submarine-launched missiles are easiest to hide and most likely to survive a first strike.

“Each element of the triad is fundamental to defending ourselves against any threat on the planet today,” Hyten said.

The last nuclear posture review took place soon after Obama’s famous Prague speech in 2009, during which he called for an eventual end to nuclear weapons in the world. It was undergirded by the assumption that Russia wasn’t an adversary, Dodge said, and that a nuclear confrontation with the Russians was unlikely.

“If you assume Russia is friendly, you probably have a different target set,” Dodge said. “Eight years later we kind of have more evidence that it’s not true.”

Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, doesn’t know what form Trump’s call for an expanded arsenal will take. He believes the president will quickly run into economic reality if he tries to propose more weapons, or new ones.

“Trump is going to be more than busy trying to find funding for the modernization program,” Kristensen said. “He cannot afford to come in with fantastic new weapons systems in the nuclear realm.”

Reif hopes Trump will stick with Obama’s policy of pledging no new classes of weapons, no new nuclear capabilities, and no new missions for the nuclear force. He believes the current arsenal is more than capable of defending against even a more aggressive Russia.

“There’s been no military requirement, no need to develop new types of warheads or delivery systems,” Reif said. “There aren’t gaps. The alleged gaps are mirages.”



February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Russian nuclear deal places massive liability on South Africans


Sunday 26th February, 2017

Cape Town – A nuclear agreement with Russia has far-reaching consequences for the budget the Western Cape High Court heard on Friday, as it places all liability for a nuclear accident on South Africa, while indemnifying Russia completely.

David Unterhalter, SC, appearing for Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environmental Institute, who are challenging government’s nuclear procurement process in court, said liability for nuclear accidents fell on South Africa even if it occurred outside the country.

If the Russian company building the proposed eight new nuclear power stations had an accident while transporting nuclear material from Vladivostok to Qatar, for instance, causing extensive damage, the Russian inter-governmental agreement made South Africa liable for what could be “massive” costs, GroundUp reported.

“South Africa bears the burden under the indemnity clause. A country making this kind of offer would have to make very special provision for this in its budget,amp;” Unterhalter said.

Such liability was not even consistent with the Vienna Convention on liability for nuclear damage, he said.

“So we have gone very far in seeming to court Russia and to say, ‘We will pay and we will indemnify'” Unterhalter said.

The court is not being asked to decide on the merits of the Russian nuclear agreement, as this would be beyond its powers. However, the contents are relevant as the court is being asked to decide whether an international agreement of this nature should first have been tabled in Parliament for approval, particularly because of the massive financial implications.

The litigants argue that tabling the agreement without Parliamentary approval was unlawful as it did not comply with the Constitution and the agreement should be set aside.

Counsel for Minister of Energy Tina Joematt-Pettersson, who tabled the Russian agreement, argued that it did not need to come before Parliament, nor was there a need to allow the public to make representations. This was because it fitted into the category of agreements between countries that dealt with “technical, administrative or executive” matters, which did not have extra-budgetary consequences.

Marius Oosthuizen, SC, for the government, argued that the minister’s tabling of it under this category therefore did not contradict constitutional requirements.

One of the two presiding judges, ED Baartman, commented that a government guideline indicated that international agreements which dealt with minor, everyday issues did not need Parliamentary approval.

“Are you saying the Russian agreement is a minor, everyday issue?” she asked.

Oosthuizen replied that the Russian agreement would not constitute something that was high on the South African agenda as it was about co-operation between governments on an executive level.

The litigants are also asking the court to set aside the minister’s “determinations”, made under the Electricity Regulation Act, that South Africa needed 9600MW of new nuclear power.

One was made in 2013, where the Department of Energy was the body that would buy the nuclear power, and the other in 2016 that made Eskom the procurer.

“Both are infected with administrative error and neither should survive” Unterhalter said.

The court heard submissions on whether the minister’s decisions were administrative in nature – which meant they could be reviewed and set aside – or whether they were policy decisions, which could not be.

One of the tests in deciding whether a decision was administrative was whether it had consequences and whether it affected anyone.

Oosthuizen argued the decision to determine that South Africa needed 9600MW of nuclear power had not affected anyone’s rights, but had merely imposed an obligation on the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) which had the statutory duty to issue electricity-generating licences.

Judge LJ Bozalek said, “You can’t just look at this through the prism of Nersa’s rights. You have to look at the rights of people.”

Oosthuizen replied, “Yes. But that decision did not affect my electricity bill by one cent.”

Baartman said, “Not yet.”

The case has ended. No date was set for judgment.

Letter against nuclear energy proposal in South Africa

I UNDERSTAND President Zuma and team have made a deal with the Russians to build a nuclear plant here in South Africa.

Many hundreds of South Africans are totally against this deal – why aren’t we marching with banners, “No Nuclear”? You know the dangers of the nuclear plant from radiation to storing the radioactive waste, which has to be kept secure for years.

We all remember the Cheronbyl accident which led more countries to abandon the nuclear option and go for renewables.

We need to stand up against this deal – someone said, “it will show the Arms Deal as a picnic” so, no doubt, many stand to gain bribes and illegal pay-outs.

Through the Highway Mail, we can stand up against this programme. Apparently we only have till the end of March to object. It is so important – please make it a priority.

Liz Purdham


February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Critique of Jill Lepore`s Autumn of the Atom

The Mail

Letters respond to Jill Lepore’s article about the history of climate science and nuclear-winter theory.

The Nuclear-Winter Debate

Jill Lepore’s article about the history of climate science and nuclear-winter theory is important, but her story is incomplete (“Autumn of the Atom,” January 30th). Although Lepore states that the nuclear-winter debate has “long since been forgotten,” research done in the past ten years, using modern climate models, has shown that the theory of nuclear winter—which says that smoke from fires started by nuclear detonation will block sunlight, causing the Earth to become drastically colder—was correct. Lepore also refers to Stephen Schneider’s alternate theory of nuclear “autumn,” from the nineteen-eighties, as if it refuted the nuclear-winter theory. But it failed to take into account the Earth’s stratosphere, was never published in a scientific journal, and was certainly not accepted by the scientific community. It was, however, used by supporters of nuclear weapons to try to discredit nuclear winter.

Despite the over-all decrease in Russia and the U.S.’s nuclear arsenals, the two countries still have the capability to produce a nuclear winter: a nuclear war that used less than one per cent of the current global arsenal would cause a climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. Let us hope that this summer’s U.N. negotiations to ban nuclear weapons will make it clear that a nation threatening retaliation or a first strike would be acting as a suicide bomber.

Alan Robock, Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N.J.

Lepore has done history and science, your readers, and my late husband, Carl Sagan, a great disservice. Her article’s central thesis demeans Carl’s scientific acumen and his character, wrongly asserting that, in his “grandiosity,” he harmed the environmental movement by advancing an exaggerated theory of the long-term consequences of nuclear war.

From Lepore’s account, readers would conclude that Carl’s interest in the greenhouse effect on Venus was something that he picked up from a bright grad student. In fact, five years earlier, Carl had published his own dissertation, viewed as the beginning of our modern understanding of Venus, which included his groundbreaking greenhouse model.

Lepore also gives the impression that the theory of nuclear winter has been debunked. If anything, more recent scientific research indicates that Carl and his colleagues were conservative in their estimates. Tellingly, she makes no reference to the findings—in peer-reviewed, refereed publications—that fully support, and expand on, the models created by Carl and the other nuclear-winter scientists.

Carl is also faulted for “partisanship,” in part for declining an invitation to dine with the Reagans in the White House—a choice that I made, in response to the El Mozote massacre and other crimes in Central America for which I believed Reagan bore some responsibility. Does Lepore find those public figures and celebrities who refuse to be co-opted by the Trump White House to be partisan? Or is that an unwillingness to lend your cachet to policies that you abhor?

According to Lepore, Sagan “made some poor decisions” and “undermined environmental science.” She leaves the reader to wonder what those bad decisions were. Fighting for the reduction of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons? Sounding the alarm on global warming decades before others started paying attention to it? Mounting the world’s most successful campaign for public scientific literacy? Attracting multitudes to science and reason? Turning the camera on Voyager 1, which was out by Neptune, to point homeward, to make us see our true circumstances in the vastness? What better decisions have other people made?

Ann Druyan

Ithaca, N.Y.

J Lepore article on the New Yorker from the 30 January 2017

Paper posted at Harvard by J Lepore

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment