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Fukushima Catastrophe at 6: Normalizing Radiation Exposure Demeans Women and Kids and Risks Their Health

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Since the election of President Trump, certain words have taken prominence in our lexicon: “alternative facts”, “gaslighting”, “normalization”. But the techniques these words represent have been used by the nuclear industry and its purveyors in government since the Cold War love affair with nuclear weapons began.

And as we deal with the continuing fallout 6 years after the Fukushima, and 31 years after the Chernobyl, catastrophes began, the nuclear industry continues to put these techniques to good use. They have labeled “radiophobic” those who question nuclear power or who refuse to move back to contaminated areas or eat contaminated food. They shame people into taking health risks and socially isolate those who refuse to comply. They sell the lie of decontamination despite the fact that what has been decontaminated one day, may be recontaminated the next.

Women and children are often the focus of these “normalization” techniques. And they are the ones with the most to lose including supportive social and familial structures, and ultimately, health. Females, children and pregnancy pay a disproportionate price for nuclear energy because they are especially vulnerable to radiation damage. When a catastrophe like Fukushima happens, they become targets: targets of gaslighting, social isolation, radiation damage.

Japan’s radiation refugees

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) estimates that as of Nov 2016, the number of people displaced because of the earthquake, tsunami and radioactive contamination remains at 134,000. Of this number, 84,000 are still displaced around Fukushima, where evacuation orders are not yet lifted around the reactor.

In 2017, Japan is lifting evacuation orders and basically forcing people to move back to towns that were, and still are, contaminated with radioactivity from the ruined Fukushima nuclear reactors. Those who return are promised a one-time sum for doing so. For those who will not go back, the Japan government will cut off compensation. The IDMC frames the issue as a horrible choice: return to risk or try to reintegrate elsewhere without any resources. Greenpeace, in their February 2017 report, demonstrates that the uncertain risks and unpredictable nature of radiological contamination mean there is no return to normal.

Taking radiation into your psyche, as if it is normal

Radiation is associated with disease, even at low levels. Nuclear power proponents incorrectly contend that if you think you are sick from radiation exposure, it is all in your head and your health problems resulted from your worry. In other words, it was your fault, not theirs. They term it “radiophobia”. This pernicious label was first coined in the United States in the 1950’s. Like much of the initial Cold War nuclear policy, it attempted to “normalize” nuclear technology so that above ground atomic bomb tests could continue unhindered.

In fact, an opinion piece in the Western journal of surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, a medical journal which addressed women’s health issues, blamed caretakers for inciting fear of nuclear weapons in children. In the piece, entitled “RADIOPHOBIA; a new psychological syndrome,” the author claims “Anxiety-ridden parents or teachers who fear atomic bombs probably project the same fears to their children…” And that this “conditioning amounts to psychological punishment”. In essence the author, who was not a qualified mental health practitioner, was accusing these parents of abuse. The not-so-subtle implication was that radiophobia was a woman’s disease that she passed to any children she contacted.

The unscientific radiophobia label has persisted through the larger nuclear power catastrophes. For instance, according to a Macmillan dictionary entry, “Chernobyl has left an enduring legacy of opposition to nuclear power, now often referred to as radiophobia by technical experts…” However, the targets of this dismissive and derisive label are not just those who oppose nuclear power. The mysogynistic overtones of the radiophobic label are clearly present as the Fukushima and Chernobyl catastrophes continue to unfold.

In the wake of a nuclear catastrophe, exposed women and children are specifically berated into silence. If they continue to express concerns about health impacts, they risk becoming social outcasts. In this context, radiophobia is a social label used to stigmatize, not a scientific or medical diagnosis. In the case of Japan, radiophobia is called “radiation brain mom“. This epithet particularly refers to women who question whether food is contaminated; and it implies that they are irrational, overly emotional and unscientific, merely for asking the question.

Radiophobia accusations at Fukushima put children and women’s health at risk

After Fukushima began, doctor of psychosomatic medicine, Katsuno Onozawa, was interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun in 2013. As an actual expert on psychosomatic disorders, she stated: “children were exhibiting a range of symptoms including sore throats, nosebleeds, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches and rashes…” Yet these symptoms were written off as “radiophobia” and the mothers were accused of making their children sick by worrying. “Many reproach themselves, thinking, ‘Maybe I’m the one who’s strange,’ and become depressed.” She concludes: “If we say ‘it’s safe’ despite the risks only to erase fears, then we simply leave in place the danger that defenseless children may be contaminated.”

For the record, here are some symptoms of short-term, higher radiation exposure: “nausea, vomiting, headache, and diarrhea…swelling, itching, and redness of the skin” Many around Three Mile Island complained of similar symptoms following the partial meltdown there. The higher the radiation dose, the quicker the symptoms manifest. Children are more vulnerable to radiation exposure than adults, women more vulnerable than men.

In Japan, the “radiation brain mom” label has resulted in a self-censoring of concern about radiological contamination, leaving women and children unprotected after exposure to the initial radiation cloud. Subsequently their health is continually put at risk from food and environmental contamination. “Silence was not imposed by an iron fist of government, but rather wrapped around people like soft velvet, gently making women feel that they had to be silent.”

Taking radiation into your body, as if it is normal

Since the Fukushima catastrophe started, recommendations for radiation exposure limits in Japan were increased by 20 times. The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) sets non-binding recommendations internationally for post nuclear catastrophes. Their limit is 1 mSv per year in addition to background radiation. This effectively would double the dose from unavoidable natural background, which is already 0.8 to 1 mSv per year. However, according to the IAEA, 1-20 mSv per year “is acceptable and in line with the international standards and with the recommendations from the relevant international organisations, e.g. ICRP, IAEA, UNSCEAR and WHO”.

Therefore Japan is, under controversy, encouraging resettlement in areas up to 20 mSv/yr. The increase in the allowable exposure limit occurred after contamination created wide-reaching negative economic impacts. Before the radioactive release contaminated Fukushima province, it was a center for organic farming and the “eat locally” movement. Since the contamination, consumer instinct has been to avoid Fukushima products.

Since studies show cancer and other disease impacts can occur within the range of natural background, clearly, the decision to allow a higher exposure level had nothing to do with health. Instead, it was an economic decision that took advantage of the fact that many diseases induced by this radiation exposure may not show for years, or may show as hard-to-attribute subclinical impacts, masking radiation’s disease-causing role. For those health impacts that do appear, nuclear proponents can always fall back on the argument that “it is all in your head”–i.e. radiophobia.

International agencies and industries normalize eating contaminated food to save face and money.

The ICRP is guilty of encouraging radiation ingestion, despite known risks. One recommendation is the encouragement of growing, selling and consuming, contaminated food, as an economic imperative for those in contaminated areas.

ICRP has also supported an effort in the wake of Fukushima called ETHOS that encourages “practical radiation protection culture” (PRPC). ETHOS was an effort originally started with the French nuclear industry, after the Chernobyl catastrophe began, when they realized that the cost of evacuation and compensation was starting to impact the nuclear industry’s financial and public standing worldwide.

Encouraging PRPC is a cowardly way of saying it’s too expensive to move people away from contaminated areas or allow them to eat clean eat food, so officials need to tell people there is no health risk from contamination. This is done under the guise of empowering the local populations by providing them with monitoring equipment, training, and a sense that eating contaminated food is okay. Mothers in Belarus were trained to measure the radioactive contamination of their children and to accept a certain level, resigning them to the fate of living with and eating radioactivity.

ETHOS goes one step further in claiming that individuals bear the responsibility to keep themselves safe from radioactive contamination with little to no help or resources from the industry that caused the contamination in the first place. Now, ETHOS is in Fukushima, protecting the nuclear industry from those whose lands it has defiled and whose lives it has marred.

The U.S. will be no different

For those who are hoping the U.S. will somehow escape the radiation normalization process, think again. We are learning from Fukushima and Chernobyl that international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) or ICRP will provide no support for clean food and relocation to uncontaminated land should we suffer a nuclear catastrophe.

We are further learning that our U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits that decontamination is a lie. Using very colorful and demeaning language regarding radiological cleanup, an EPA employee said in 2013 “‘U.S. residents are used to having ‘cleanup to perfection,’ but would have to abandon their ‘not-in-my-backyard’ mentality in such cases. ‘People are going to have to put on their big-boy pants and suck it up…’”.

Dove-tailing on this egregiously tone-deaf statement, EPA proceeded to institute “protective” action guides (PAGs) meant to provide levels of acceptable contamination in food and water subsequent to a radiological incident. A radiological incident can include a catastrophic release but also lesser releases from transport accidents, for instance. The limits EPA recommends are hundreds to thousands of times higher for some radionuclides than previously allowed. Exposure could continue at these levels for years, endangering women and children the most. Just like women have been resigned or bullied into silence at Chernobyl and Fukushima, we can expect the same modus operandi here.

UN Human rights instruments offer women and children radiation protection when other  national and international agencies fail to

Women and children are more susceptible to radioactivity, therefore any attempt to label women as irrational for fearing radioactivity is ludicrous. The fact is, women and early life stages are not protected by the recommendations of international experts. Women and children have, and will continue to, pay a disproportionate price for the use of nuclear power, it’s routine radioactive releases, and the catastrophes it causes.

Increasing allowable levels of exposure post accident for economic convenience or to tamp down fear is unacceptable. Encouraging women and children to eat contaminated food appears to be in violation of Article 24 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), particularly the principle of needed access to “adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution”.

Women’s voices should count for more, not less

Women are often the most concerned about social health, and are the first and most vociferous in protecting public health following a nuclear catastrophe. And science shows they should be. Women and children are more vulnerable to radiation’s impacts and the life-stage of pregnancy is uniquely sensitive. They pay the highest price for nuclear power and it releases, so their voices should count for more, both in the energy decisions we currently face and in how we protect those whose lives are upturned by nuclear catastrophes.


March 6, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How will melted fuel at Fukushima plant be removed?

Japan Nuclear

Naohiro Masuda, head of decommissioning for the damaged Fukushima

On March 2, 2016, five years after the meltdown caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Naohiro Masuda the Chief Decommissioning Officer of the Fukushima nuclear plant said that operators have yet to locate where the melted nuclear fuel has gone: “There are melted fuels in units 1, 2 and 3,” Masuda said. “Frankly, we do not really know what the situation is for these (melted fuel), nor where it has gone.”

One year later the melted fuel has not yet been located with certainty. The two major problems are first to find where it is, and if found how to remove it from where it is. Both jobs rendered extremely difficult by high levels radiation frying the robots’ electronic semiconductors….

How will melted fuel at Fukushima plant be removed?

The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about how disaster-response workers plan to remove melted fuel from the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
Question: What methods are being considered for removing the fuel?

Answer: Innovation will be needed in order to avoid exposing people to radiation, due to the high levels of radiation released from the fuel. One method under consideration is to fill the containment vessels holding the fuel with water, since water has radiation-blocking properties.

Q: Aren’t the containment vessels ruptured?

A: Just like you can’t fill a cup with water if it has a hole in it, the water-filling method won’t work if the containment vessels are ruptured. If they are, then another possible method is removing the fuel from the air.

Q: Which way is better?

A: Both have advantages and disadvantages. The water method could require finding and patching holes in the containment vessels. The air method wouldn’t need this, but could cause dust and other particles containing radiation to be released. The national government and plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) will discuss as early as this summer about these two plans.

Q: What is the fuel like now?

A: At the time of the meltdown, the reactors at the plant were heated to over 2,000 degrees Celsius. The melted fuel is thought to have mixed with equipment in the plant, concrete and other materials, and to have cooled to a rock-like state. It will have to be cut out and removed.

Q: How will the fuel be cut loose?

A: The plan is to use a remotely-controlled robot. However, high-tech electronics using semiconductors are easily broken by radiation. There are ideas to make the robot use hydraulics or springs for its movement, to make it resistant to the radiation. Robot technology will be the key to a successful decommissioning of the reactors.

(Answers by Mirai Nagira, Science & Environment News Department)


March 6, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Multiple missiles’ fired into Japanese waters, by North Korea

missile-risingNorth Korea fires ‘multiple missiles’ into Japanese waters Seoul, SMH. 6 Mar 17  : North Korea has fired ‘multiple missiles’ from its Tongchang-ri region where a missile base is located, South Korea’s military says.

The missiles flew about 1000 kilometres in possible retaliation by the reclusive state to joint US-South Korean drills that began last week.

apanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said North Korea had fired four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Tokyo had “lodged a stern protest with North Korea,” Abe told reporters……

North Korea has threatened to take “strong retaliatory measures” after South Korea and the US began annual joint military drills on Wednesday that test their defensive readiness against possible aggression from the North.

North Korea criticises the annual drills, calling them preparation for war against it……

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Japan, North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Useless media is now normalising Trump

The mainstream media have been so timid for so long, so unwilling to take on the right for fear of being accused of liberal bias, that they really don’t know how to behave otherwise.
The problem is not that the media are now normalizing Trump, serious as that is, but that their tendencies to do so are so deep, there is little hope they can ever perform as a real instrument of democracy. First, there is their fascination with style over substance.
So Donald Trump has actually been right about one thing: the mainstream media are a farce. You can game them, as he has and will continue to do.
Media Fawns Over Trump’s New Tone: A Closer Look
text-relevantThe Media’s Rapid Retreat,  Tuesday provided a vivid demonstration that we are in this all by ourselves. The media won’t come to America’s rescue. BY NEAL GABLER | MARCH 3, 2017 Oh, how optimistic, naïve and ultimately foolish we were! When Donald Trump bulldozed his way through his first five weeks of his presidency, leaving wreckage in his wake, we knew the mainstream media couldn’t pretend this was business as usual. And they didn’t. And when Trump performed at his first presser as if he were, to put it charitably, deranged, we knew the media couldn’t pretend otherwise. And they didn’t. And when Trump decided to lash out at the mainstream media and declared them an “enemy of the people,” a characterization that even the reliably conservative John McCain thought contained a hint of dictatorship, we knew that the media, if only in self-defense, wouldn’t take that lying down. And they didn’t.
But here is what we should have known: the media scrutiny was only a temporary deviation from their norm. And something else. Though, as Todd Gitlin wrote so powerfully and eloquently in this space, we have a lot to fear from Trump’s media attacks, I think we have far more to fear from the media’s own customary cowardice. Trump won’t have to murder them. They will kill themselves. They already are in the process of doing so.
Since the election, the great media beast, which had performed with such servile lassitude for decades, had finally seemed to rouse itself from its stupor. It was one of the things that provided some small comfort for those of us who perceived Trump as an existential threat not only to civility, decency, common sense and truth, but to democracy itself. The press acted the way it was supposed to act: as a searchlight and a disinfectant. And, of course, it was the reason our new president was so exercised against them.

Well, the comfort didn’t last long — just until Trump’s appearance Tuesday before a joint session of Congress. We all know that it doesn’t take much to snooker the press. Alas, Donald Trump knew it too. Before last year’s debates, many of us predicted that if Trump could simply string two sentences together, the media would declare him the winner. His problem was that he couldn’t even manage that. But, to borrow a phrase that George W. Bush once applied to education — “the soft bigotry of low expectations” — when it comes to Republicans, the media always apply their own bigotry of “low expectations” and then somehow turn it into a win for the inept. If a candidate or, in this case, a president, exceeds those expectations by just a smidgen — “surprisingly presidential,” the ordinarily astute Washington Post pronounced afterward — the press gush and grovel. So all Trump had to do was take it down a notch, stay on the TelePrompTer, throw a few tiny bones to his antagonists and — voila! — the roaring lions of the press suddenly became cuddly kittens. It’s too easy.

If you ever needed an object lesson in media abdication, Tuesday’s speech analysis was it. When Trump began by condemning anti-Semitism after weeks of silence and after seemingly helping to incite a wave of national hatred, the media fawned. (Let me repeat that: A president condemns anti-Semitism and gets cheered for it. That is how far we have fallen.) When he said that the time had passed to fasten on “trivial fights” — this from the man who had only focused on the trivial — the media saw statesmanship. When he used the widow of dead Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens as a prop, milking his death for applause, the media saw a great moment — “an emotional moment,” ABC called it, and CNN’s Van Jones said it was “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” All sins were apparently washed away, no matter that on the same day he had accused former President Obama of leaking the Russian information to the press and picked up the “alt-right,” white nationalist theory that the attacks on Jewish cemeteries and centers were inflicted by his enemies. Some statesman.

The media response would be laughable if it weren’t also terrifying. Of course, Fox News thought Trump’s speech was the Gettysburg Address. Even Chris Wallace, who is supposed to be one of the few sane voices at that insane network, actually said this: “It was one of the best speeches in this setting I’ve ever heard anybody give.” On Trump’s alleged nemesis, CNN, Van Jones, a liberal, declared the speech the moment he became president. “Presidential” was the word that was tossed around the most, along with “optimistic.” Both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times headed their coverage with that word.

On ABC, White House correspondent Jonathan Karl celebrated an “upbeat President Trump,” “right off the bat reaching out.” The other words we heard endlessly were “new tone” (“a softer and more measured tone,” said anchor Lester Holt Wednesday on the NBC Nightly News, while Kristen Welker said he was “striking a more positive tone”) and “pivot,” as in, he pivoted from being a reckless amateur to a president, though, in fairness, NBC also noted that Trump’s windy pronouncements needed to be subjected to a “reality check,” and had the temerity to challenge his assertion that the raid in which Owens died provided “large amounts of vital intelligence.” Citing 10 officials, Cynthia McFadden said it did no such thing.

Of course, we should have seen this capitulation coming. Trump can’t help himself from being who he is, and the media can’t help themselves from being who they are. The mainstream media have been so timid for so long, so unwilling to take on the right for fear of being accused of liberal bias, that they really don’t know how to behave otherwise. It was a wonderful interlude of media responsibility we had for a few weeks there, but it was an interlude and an anomaly, and even then, Trump’s dalliance with the Russians got 1/10,000 of the coverage that Hillary Clinton’s emails received, and, let me remind you, we are talking about a foreign enemy government hijacking our election.

The problem is not that the media are now normalizing Trump, serious as that is, but that their tendencies to do so are so deep, there is little hope they can ever perform as a real instrument of democracy. First, there is their fascination with style over substance, which was in full display on Tuesday. In the media, it is not what you say or even do, it is how you say it. I assume that this is so because substance is hard and style is easy, and the media almost always take the path of least resistance. Trump talked nice, and they fell for it.

Second, there is their tendency to create narratives — in this case: Trump, who was out of control, has now learned how to become a statesman. This is a much better story than the real one: that of a president who is temperamentally and ideologically unfit for office. The media love this stuff.

Third, there is their obsession with reverting to the mean — which we see not only in the false equivalencies the media seem intent on creating, but also in their timid retreat when they realize they may have acted too boldly. Trump hadn’t given them much of an opportunity to temper criticism with praise, and they were clearly looking for one. (How eager? Seth Meyers showed how often they had leapt to the same conclusion during the campaign.) Once they found it on Tuesday, they seized it with alacrity. Expect more.

Finally, there is the terror of engaging in warfare, even if warfare is the only way to preserve our democracy, as it is now. I suspect that a lot of journalists fear blurring the line between telling the truth and taking sides, and the Republicans have taken full advantage of that fear for years. No doubt Trump will too. If you call him out, you are picking on him, which is to lose your objectivity. And even if individual journalists were to screw their courage to the sticking post, it is highly unlikely that their employers, especially broadcast networks, would let them. You have to play it safe.

So Donald Trump has actually been right about one thing: the mainstream media are a farce. You can game them, as he has and will continue to do. It is best we realize that now. Trump may be his own worst enemy because some things are beyond the pale and must be reported as such. But Tuesday provided a vivid demonstration that we are in this all by ourselves. The media won’t come to America’s rescue. They don’t know how.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | media, USA | Leave a comment

Trump is wrecking the State Department: military solutions will prevail over diplomacy?

trump-full-figureFlag-USA Former Reagan Aide: “Trump is decimating State Dept…to force military solutions”
 Donald Trump is destroying the State Department and growing the military. The danger is, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon recently asserted that “deconstruction of the administrative state” was a primary goal of the Trump administration. And he meant it literally, which, when it comes to foreign policy, has potentially dangerous repercussions for the United States and the world.

Immediately after taking office, Donald Trump forced resignations by a number of top level State Department management officials. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came on board, he engaged in an abrupt reorganization of remaining management without explanation. And as of yet, the Trump team has put forth nominees for only 7 of the 118 positions within the State Department that require Senate confirmation. The majority of leadership positions remain unfilled, including almost every Ambassadorship.

One mid-level officer at State offered a troubling observation:

They really want to blow this place up. I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.

During the campaign, Trump was asked who he consults with on foreign policy:

I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things. I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.

Trump has also engaged his son-in-law in foreign policy, to the extent that Kushner has been characterized as “a shadow secretary of state, operating outside the boundaries of the State Department or the National Security Council.”

Simultaneous with his gutting of the State Department, Trump has also expressed his intention to seek an additional $54 billion in funding for the Defense Department.

Bruce Bartlett, a historian and economist, and a former aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, commented on the situation:

Statements about what U.S. foreign policy will look like under the Trump administration have been vague but deeply disconcerting. He has expressed deep-seated nationalism and an intention to change dramatically the role of the U.S. as a world leader. He has expressed doubt about U.S. commitment to long-standing allies, including NATO, and repeatedly asserted a desire to move closer to adversaries like Russia. He has casually discussed the use of nuclear weapons, including saying in one interview, “Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?” and reportedly asking three times in a single security briefing “why can’t” the U.S. use nuclear weapons.

Former foreign partners of the U.S. are already “weighing contingency plans and bracing for the worst” with regard to the Trump administration. Regardless of political party, Trump’s affection for military options, including nuclear weapons, and his intentional destruction of the mechanisms of diplomacy are a combination that should send a chill up the spines of all of us.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear bomb tests and their health toll on Americans

U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone.

atomic-bomb-lhighly-recommendedAmerica’s Forgotten Nuclear War (On Itself), National Interest Kyle Mizokami, 4 Mar  `17 , Nuclear weapons have a mysterious quality. Their power is measured in plainly visible blast pressure and thermal energy common to many weapons, but also invisible yet equally destructive radiation and electromagnetic pulse. Between 1945 and 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear tests seeking to get the measure of these enigmatic weapons. Many of these tests would be today be considered unnecessary, overly dangerous and just plain bizarre. These tests, undertaken on the atomic frontier, gathered much information about these weapons—enough to cease actual use testing—yet scarred the land and left many Americans with long-term health problems.

The majority of U.S. nuclear tests occurred in the middle of the Western desert, at the Nevada Test Site. The NTS hosted 699 nuclear tests, utilizing both above-ground and later underground nuclear devices. The average yield for these tests was 8.6 kilotons. Atmospheric tests could be seen from nearby Las Vegas, sixty-five miles southeast of the Nevada Test site, and even became a tourist draw until the Limited Test Ban Treaty banned them in 1963. Today the craters and pockmarks from underground tests are still visible in satellite map imagery.

The bulk of the remaining nuclear tests took place in Pacific, at the islands of Bikini, Enewetak, Johnson Island and Christmas Island. The second nuclear test, after 1945’s Trinity Test, took place at Bikini Atoll. The Pacific tests were notable not only for their stunning visuals, the most compelling imagery of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima, but also the forced relocation of native islanders. Others that were near tests were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive fallout and forced to fleet. In 1954, the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru accidentally sailed through fallout from the nearby fifteen-megaton Castle Bravo test. Contaminated with nuclear fallout, one crew member died, and the rest were sickened by radiation.

The first test of a thermonuclear, or fusion, bomb took place on November 1952 at Enewetak Island. Nicknamed Ivy Mike, the huge eighty-two-ton device was more of a building than a usable nuclear device. The device registered a yield of 10.4 megatons, or the equivalent of 10,400,000 tons of TNT. (Hiroshima, by contrast, was roughly eighteen thousand tons of TNT.) Ivy Mike was the biggest test by far, creating a fireball 1.8 miles wide and a mushroom cloud that rose to an altitude of 135,000 feet.

One of the strangest atmospheric tests occurred in 1962 at the NTS, with the testing of the Davy Crockett battlefield nuclear weapon. Davy Crockett was a cartoonish-looking recoilless rifle that lobbed a nuclear warhead with an explosive yield of just ten to twenty tons of TNT. The test, code-named Little Feller I, took place on July 17, 1962, with attorney general and presidential adviser Robert. F. Kennedy in attendance. Although hard to believe, Davy Crockett was issued at the battalion level in both Germany and North Korea.

Also in 1962, as part of a series of high-altitude nuclear experiments, a Thor rocket carried a W49 thermonuclear warhead approximately 250 miles into the exoatmosphere. The test, known as Starfish Prime, had an explosive yield of 1.4 megatons, or 1,400,000 tons of TNT, and resulted in a large amount of electromagnetic pulse being released over the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The test, conducted off Johnston Island, sent a man-made electrical surge as far Hawaii, more than eight hundred miles away. The surge knocked out three hundred streetlights and a telephone exchange, and caused burglar alarms to go off and garage doors to open by themselves.

Nuclear tests weren’t just restricted to the Pacific Ocean and Nevada. In October 1964, as part of Operation Whetstone, the U.S. government detonated a 5.3-kiloton device just twenty-eight miles southwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The test, nicknamed Salmon, was an experiment designed to determine if nuclear tests could be detected by seismometer. This was followed up in 1966 with the Sterling test, which had a yield of 380 tons.

In 1967, as part of a misguided attempt to use nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, the United States detonated a nuclear device near Farmington, New Mexico. Project Gasbuggy was an early attempt at nuclear “fracking,” detonating a twenty-nine-kiloton nuke 4,227 feet underground just to see if the explosion would fracture surrounding rock and expose natural-gas reserves. The experiment was unsuccessful. Two similar tests, Rulison and Rio Blanco, took place in nearby Colorado. Although Rulison was a success in that it uncovered usable gas reserves, the gas was contaminated with radiation, leaving it unsuitable for practical commercial use.

A handful of nuclear tests were conducted in Alaska, or more specifically the Aleutian island of Amchitka. The first test, in October 1965, was designed to test nuclear detection techniques and had a yield of eighty kilotons. A second test occurred four years later, and had a yield of one megaton, or one thousand kilotons. The third and largest test, Cannikin, was a test of the Spartan antiballistic-missile warhead and had a yield of less than five megatons.

During the early years of nuclear testing it was anticipated that nuclear weapons would be used on the battlefield, and that the Army and Marine Corps had better get used to operating on a “nuclear battlefield.” During the 1952 Big Shot test, 1,700 ground troops took shelter in trenches just seven thousand yards from the thirty-three-kiloton explosion. After the test, the troops conducted a simulated assault that took them to within 160 meters of ground zero. This test and others like them led to increases in leukemia, prostate and nasal cancers among those that participated.

U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone. The United States did indeed learn much about how to construct safe and reliable nuclear weapons, and their effects on human life and the environment. In doing so, however, it paid a terrible and tragic price.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the DiplomatForeign PolicyWar is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump administration attacks climate and lead cleanup programmes

logo-Republican-USATrump’s EPA budget proposal targets climate, lead cleanup programs Reuters, By Timothy Gardner and Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON, 5 Mar 17

The White House is proposing to slash a quarter of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, targeting climate-change programs and those designed to prevent air and water pollution like lead contamination, a source with direct knowledge of the proposal said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump has long signaled his intention to reverse former Democratic President Barack Obama’s climate-change initiatives. But the Republican president has vowed his planned overhaul of green regulation would not jeopardize America’s water and air quality.

The 23-page 2018 budget proposal, which aims to slice the environmental regulator’s overall budget by 25 percent to $6.1 billion and staffing by 20 percent to 12,400 as part of a broader effort to fund increased military spending, would cut deeply into programs like climate protection, environmental justice and enforcement.

Politico and other news outlets reported the staff and overall budget cuts earlier, but the source disclosed new details on the impact the cuts would have on programs and grants to states.

Environmentalists slammed the proposed cuts, which must be approved by the Republican-led Congress.

The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the budget proposal or its counter proposal. The White House said it had no comment.

Under the proposal, which was sent to the EPA this week, grants to states for lead cleanup would be cut 30 percent to $9.8 million, according to the source, who read the document to Reuters.

Grants to help Native American tribes combat pollution would be cut 30 percent to $45.8 million. An EPA climate protection program on cutting emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that contribute to global warming would be cut 70 percent to $29 million.

The proposal would cut funding for the brownfields industrial site cleanup program by 42 percent to $14.7 million. It would also reduce funding for enforcing pollution laws by 11 percent to $153 million………

March 6, 2017 Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa: World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s petition urging Eskom to back renewable energy

sign-thisflag-S.AfricaWWF launches petition urging Eskom to back renewable energy  5 Mar 17,  WWF South Africa has launched a petition calling on Eskom to expedite the use of renewable energy in the country as part of this year’s Earth Hour campaign.

Earth Hour is an annual global event, during which people are encouraged to switch off their lights on the last Saturday in March from 8.30pm to 9.30pm local time as a symbolic gesture marking the environmental challenges facing our planet.

This year, WWF-SA has decided to go one step further for Earth Hour by asking citizens to sign a petition addressed to Eskom, which has been stalling over the implementation of renewable energy contracts.
Since 2016, Eskom has refused to sign further contracts under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) which would put more renewable energy on the grid.

Instead, the utility is resolutely pursuing an electricity programme that relies heavily on coal and is actively promoting an expensive and environmentally questionable nuclear build.

Ultimately, South Africa should be aiming for 100% of our energy to come from renewable sources if the country is to honour its climate action commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Renewable energy will not only reduce carbon emissions, but can also be scaled up and deployed quickly to match the country’s need for energy – far quicker than large coal and nuclear new builds.

Some renewable energy can already supply cheaper electricity than the newest coal power plants. The cost gap will only increase in the future, with renewables getting cheaper and coal likely to get more expensive.

Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa, commented: “In order to avoid the extreme impacts of runaway climate change, we need to reduce our carbon emissions urgently by introducing more renewable energy into the energy mix. Yet, the bulk of South Africa’s carbon emissions come from electricity generated by fossil fuels such as coal and oil. This has to change.

“We know that Eskom has the power to unblock this hold-up, and thus enable all the socio-economic and environmental benefits that will result from the renewable energy programme. By signing this petition, South Africans will be calling on the utility to exercise this power for the greater good of all.”

We urge all supporters to visit the website at to sign the petition before Earth Hour which takes place on 25 March 2017 between 8.30pm and 9.30pm this year.

Say YES to renewable energy!

March 6, 2017 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

South Africa’s murky nuclear deal and the country’s financial mess

financial-meltdownflag-S.AfricaSA heads for financial armageddon, Fin 24 2017-02-26 06:02 – Justin Brown State finances face stormy times as the private sector braces itself for a possible switch in finance ministers amid spluttering tax collections, low growth, tax hikes and deep suspicion regarding the nuclear build.

Prince Mashele, a senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria, said at a PwC post-budget speech event on Friday – where Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was conspicuously absent – that, depending on which ANC faction dominated, the next two to three weeks would be crucial in determining what would happen in the finance ministry.

Following the swift swearing-in of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe as an ANC MP this week, Mashele pointed to the possibility of his becoming either finance minister or deputy finance minister…….

Mashele said that once Molefe was installed at Treasury, he was likely to sign off on a nuclear deal with Russia that would mean South Africa would never again enjoy the benefit of cheap power prices.

“Your grandchild and great-grandchild will pay through the nose [for the nuclear deal],” he added.

The plan by the Guptas, who are close allies of President Jacob Zuma, to install their preferred candidate as finance minister was put on hold – but not abandoned – when former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was replaced by Des van Rooyen, whom the president reluctantly axed after pressure from the business sector, before Gordhan was placed in the position.

“They want Molefe to enter Treasury,” Mashele said, adding that Gordhan was “under siege” from Zuma and the Guptas, who were fighting court battles with him…….

March 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Scientists lead Boston rally, urging others to fight against anti-science and climate change denialism

SCIENTISTS CAN WIN THE WAR ON #SCIENCE #CLIMATECHANGE #AUSPOL, J Pratt. 5 Mar 17  By Jeremy Deaton   Scientists have historically stayed above the political fray, but now that researchers face regular attacks under the Trump administration, many are planning to fight back.

And it’s creating a rift within the scientific community. Some scientists believe their work should speak for itself. Others say academics need to stand up for evidence-based inquiry — particularly where the fate of the planet is concerned. The March for Science, planned for April 22 on the National Mall, has drawn both sharp criticism and enthusiastic praise from scientists.
In the midst of this debate, newly published research has come down on the side of the outspoken. Not only do climate scientists have the public’s trust, they also have considerable latitude to advocate for climate action, a new study finds………

Last week, scientists in Boston led a rally during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes addressed those assembled, urging researchers to stand up to Trump.   “There have been many conversations in the scientific community about whether a rally is the right response,” said Oreskes.  “We did not politicize our science.   We did not start this fight.

Our science has been politicized by people who are motivated to reject facts because those facts conflict with their worldview, their political beliefs or their economic self-interest.”

The assembled scientists and their supporters, armed with signs that read “stand up for science” and “bring back facts,” greeted her words with cheers and applause. Oreskes concluded with a forceful plea for scientists to advocate for their work — an act that cannot be discredited by those in power……

March 6, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

South Korea’s Kepco might take the risk of buying Toshiba’s troubled nuclear business

toshiba-and-nukeKepco seen as potential buyer for Toshiba’s ailing nuclear unit, 5 Mar 17  South Korean group, in contrast to rivals, is willing to look at Westinghouse deal, by: Kana Inagaki in Tokyo, Song Jung-a in Seoul When Toshiba won a fierce battle in 2006 for control of Westinghouse, a US designer of nuclear power plants, it was a victory against its local rival Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The two Japanese companies engaged in a bidding war that inflated the acquisition price of Westinghouse from $2bn to $5.4bn — a process that left other would-be buyers of the US company in shock, including South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries. A little more than a decade later, another Korean company — state-controlled Korea Electric Power Corporation — has emerged as a possible buyer for Westinghouse, which is reeling from large cost overruns on two US nuclear power plants. Moreover, Kepco may well be the only potential acquirer of Westinghouse that is acceptable to western countries, above all the US.
Toshiba is suffering the worst financial crisis in its history because of Westinghouse’s troubles, and last month said it was willing to sell its controlling shareholding in the US company, as well as reduce its 60 per cent stake in a consortium called NuGen, which is planning to build a new nuclear plant in the UK. South Korea has ambitions to become a leading player in the global nuclear industry, and officials at the country’s energy ministry, and Kepco, are keen to secure work on new power plants following a drought in overseas deals since the company landed a breakthrough $20bn export deal in 2009 to supply the United Arab Emirates with four reactors. Kepco has been in negotiations for months about investing in NuGen, according to people involved in the process, although the scale of the Korean company’s participation has not been finalised. The attraction of the UK, however, is clear: Britain has become an important market for the nuclear industry given that other countries, such as Germany, are phasing out reactors……..
Another Korean government official says there could be an industrial logic to Kepco buying Westinghouse, or establishing some kind of partnership with the US company, because this would provide a means to accelerate the country’s expansion in the global nuclear market. Kepco’s participation in both Westinghouse and NuGen could be essential, say several nuclear experts, because other potential bids from China and Russia risk being blocked by the US and the UK over national security concerns. There are few other obvious bidders for Westinghouse……….
A deal between Kepco and Westinghouse could help propel South Korea towards its goal of becoming an important player in the global nuclear industry. Both companies are on an export drive. On top of the UAE deal, Kepco is aiming to sell six more reactors by 2020. Meanwhile, Westinghouse is trying to drum up sales of the AP1000, its latest reactor design, which is currently only being installed in new power plants in the US and China……..
But bankers say Toshiba may find it hard to sell Westinghouse now — having tried several times already. The four reactors being built in the US using Westinghouse’s AP1000 design are already more than three years behind schedule and, on a combined basis, more than $10bn over their original budgets. These problems were the main factors behind Toshiba’s announcement last month of a $6.3bn writedown on its US nuclear business. Some experts say that, with reduced demand for nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, it is questionable whether Kepco would gain anything from buying Westinghouse. “Why should [Kepco] take such big financial risks by taking over a troubled business amid the gloomy industry outlook?” asks Suh Kyun-ryul, professor of atomic engineering at Seoul National University…….

March 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, South Korea | 2 Comments

New York’s public institutions will pay up big for Gov. Cuomo’s upstate nuclear plant bailout

taxpayer-bailout-exelonGov. Cuomo’s upstate nuclear plant bailout will cost MTA, NYCHA big on utility bills, Daily News,   by Glenn Blain, 5 Mar 17 ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo’s plan to bail out three upstate nuclear plants will cost public institutions, including the MTA, millions of dollars in added utility costs, a new study says.

The study by the New York Public Interest Research Group found that public institutions will see their electric bills rise by as much as $112 million a year for the first two years of the deal and then even more over the next dozen years.

“Since the Cuomo Administration has kept this process largely in the dark, it’s up to us to educate the public on the tremendous hit all ratepayers are going to take,” said NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner. “We hope this analysis will spur lawmakers to block the plan.”

According to NYPIRG’s analysis, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is on track to see its annual utility bill rise by $11.6 million thanks to the bailout.

The New York City Housing Authority will see an estimated $522,160 in additional costs. The Port Authority will pay an additional $435,098 a year while the city’s Health and Hospitals Corp. will see an estimated increase of $2.44 million a year, according to NYPIRG.

Cuomo’s plan, dubbed The Clean Energy Standard, requires utilities across the state to purchase power from the nuclear power plants at inflated rates……

Last fall, NYPIRG and other critics of the deal estimated it would cause Con Edison’s residential customers to shell out an extra $705 million over the next 12 years.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

This year, Tesla’s solar roofs on sale

House with solar roof tilesTesla will begin selling its solar roof this year — here’s everything you need to know [excellent pictures]  Business Insider  DANIELLE MUOIO FEB 27, 2017, Tesla will begin selling and installing its solar roof later this year, the company wrote in its fourth-quarter investor letter.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | decentralised, USA | Leave a comment

Plans for Plymouth-based nuclear submarine found at a charity shop

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: March 05, 2017  Top-secret plans for a Plymouth-based nuclear submarine have been found by chance – in a suitcase donated to a charity shop.

The documents on the now-decommissioned HMS Trafalgar, which was based at Devonport, were uncovered by staff at a store in Wales.

Workers at the Barnado’s shop in Porthmadog, Gwynedd, said the suitcase was donated anonymously.

All else that was inside was books – and the now-declassified 6ft drawings will be auctioned off.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment