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Trump’s Executive Order Spree Explained: From Monuments to Oil Spills

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Deepwater Horizon Response, 100727-G-9091S-43, USCG Photo by Dave Silva. cleaning tar balls in Florida, Pensacola, FL

Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, prepares to clean an oiled Kemp’s Ridley turtle, Photo Credit: NOAA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources

From Greenpeace:
Trump’s Executive Order Spree Explained: From Monuments to Oil Spills by Cassady Craighill April 28, 2017

The latest moves by the Trump administration could open up protected areas to oil and gas drilling.
We may say this every Friday, but this time we really mean it — this has been one hell of a long week.

Trump marks his first 100 days in the White House this weekend, and in an attempt to squeeze in just a few more attacks on our communities and environment, he went on an Executive Order blitz.

It started on Wednesday when he signed an executive order that ordered the Interior Department to review…

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April 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You’d Never Guess 2017 is the “Year Of Ecology” in Russia: 21 Environmental Groups in Russia Have Now Been Branded “Foreign Agents”

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From Human Rights Watch:
APRIL 24, 2017 12:59PM EDT ‪Dispatches‬
You’d Never Guess 2017 is the ‘Year Of Ecology’ in Russia
21 Environmental Groups in Russia Have Now Been Branded ‘Foreign Agents’
By Anastasia Ovsyannikova, Natalia Estemirova fellow

Last Friday morning, Yuri Ivanov, a member and former director of Kola Environmental Center (KEC), arrived at his office and learned from the news that the Justice Ministry had listed KEC as a “foreign agent.” “It is not a big surprise for us,” sighed Ivanov when I called him. Indeed, anything is possible when it comes to the “foreign agent” hunt in Russia.

In 2012, the Russian government introduced a “foreign agents” law that uses the label to demonize independent groups who accept foreign funding and conduct very broadly defined “political activity.”

When the law came into force, ministry inspectors warned KEC that it was “on the verge” of violating the…

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April 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April 29 Energy News



¶ “Hydropower boom in China and along Asia’s rivers outpaces regional electricity demand” • For the past two decades, China has been in an unprecedented dam-building boom, developing over 300 GW of hydropower. But is it too much? Probably, at least in the short to medium term. Installed hydropower far outstrips demand. []

Xiaowan (Photo by International Rivers)

¶ “How A Professional Climate Change Denier Discovered The Lies And Decided To Fight For Science” • It might seem like an impossible transition, but Jerry Taylor, who used to be staff director for the energy and environment task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council and vice president of the Cato Institute, made it. [UPROXX]

¶ “Why nuclear power has no future in California or U.S.” • To those who have watched the nuclear industry collapse, the Westinghouse bankruptcy represents the final chapter in the 20th…

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April 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Not to Be Outdone By Putin, Trump Signs Order Opening Arctic for Oil Drilling

Mining Awareness +

Protesting Russian State owned Gazprom; Albertina Museum in Vienna

Deepwater Horizon, BP oil spill, Gulf of Mexico
From the VOA:
Trump Signs Order Opening Arctic for Oil Drilling
April 28, 2017 3:23 PM, Steve Baragona
President Donald Trump is re-opening for oil exploration areas that President Barack Obama had closed, a move that environmental groups have promised to fight.

In an executive order Friday, the president reversed the Obama administration’s decision to prohibit oil and gas drilling in the Arctic waters off Alaska.

The order also instructs the Interior Department to review current restrictions on energy development in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In addition, it bars the creation or expansion of marine sanctuaries and orders a review of all areas protected within the last 10 years.
The action is the latest from the Trump administration aimed at boosting domestic energy production and loosening…

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April 30, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is it REALLY a good idea to start another Korean war?

North Korea already is a nuclear power. Its first nuclear test was over a decade ago, and analysts say it probably has enough material for a dozen bombs today…… there are absolutely no good reasons to start another Korean War.

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Are Not Reason Enough to Start a War, TIME, Charlie Campbell / Beijing Apr 28, 2017 More than 2 million people were killed in the 1950-3 Korean War, including almost 40,000 Americans. Some 7,000 U.S. soldiers are still listed as missing. Countless families were torn apart by the conflict, which is still officially ongoing, as it was only ended by armistice rather than a peace treaty. It remains one of modern history’s longest wars.

These facts are important to remember when a U.S. President says, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea,” as Donald Trump did in an exclusive Reuters interview published Thursday.

 The regime of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un is a perennial headache for the international community. In recent years, North Korea has shelled South Korean islands and sunk a Naval corvette, claiming dozens of lives, including civilians. To fund its weapons program, the regime produces narcotics, fake currency and uses cybercrime across the globe.

On Feb.13, it even unleashed VX nerve agent — a U.N.-certified Weapon of Mass Destruction — at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to assassinate of Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother. It has abducted possibly hundreds of foreign nationals. At home, its own citizens are subject to “crimes against humanity,” according to a 2014 U.N. report.

However, what’s spurred Trump’s saber-rattling is North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang has tested five nuclear bombs to date, and appears poised for a sixth. It also frequently tests missiles that may one day be able to reach the continental U.S. “[We can] can tip new-type intercontinental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads and keep any cesspool of evils in the earth, including the U.S. mainland, within our striking range,” Kim Jong Un said after watching a rocket test last year.

Trump says that if North Korea cannot be persuaded from dismantling its nuclear weapons then military action maybe unavoidable. On April 8, he ordered a U.S. navy strike group — an “armada,” he called it — to the Korean peninsula. The obvious problem is that Seoul — home to half of South Korea’s 50 million people, including 200,000 Americans — lies within range of North Korea’s artillery, and possibly even nuclear weapons.

Trump’s gamble is that Kim Jong Un would shy away from retaliating against a U.S. strike on his nuclear facilities, cognizant that American military superiority means any full-scale war would undoubtedly result in his regime’s complete destruction…….

 Trump told Reuters that he operates under the assumption that Kim Jong Un is “rational.” But backed into a corner, is Trump willing to bet nuclear apocalypse on that?

But even if North Korea were not to retaliate, there’s no guarantee strikes would achieve their goal of permanently retarding the regime’s nuclear program. Plus there would be dire strategic consequences. Beijing would be livid. The U.S. would have started yet another 21st Century war, utterly alienating international public opinion, tearing up its hard-fought Asian security alliance and inviting Chinese hardliners to push it out of the region. According to an August 2016 study by Brown University, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — in which the U.S. military has been involved — have directly cost 370,000 lives since 2001. (Not that we’ve stopped counting.)

However, the broader point is that North Korea, for all its many and egregious faults, is a state hell-bent on survival. It might have nuclear weapons, but the regime cannot use them without guaranteeing its own destruction……..

Unfortunately, there is little chance the regime will voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong Un is very aware of the fates of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who were both toppled after abandoning their nuclear aspirations. He believes a nuclear bomb guarantees the security of his regime. And he might be right.

For lack of any better option, the U.S. and its allies should utilize the countless strategic advantages that won the Cold War, because the tussle with North Korea is still part of that ideological reckoning. ……

North Korea already is a nuclear power. Its first nuclear test was over a decade ago, and analysts say it probably has enough material for a dozen bombs today…… there are absolutely no good reasons to start another Korean War.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Admiral Harris warns on North Korea’s nuclear warheads. Most Americans favour military action against North Korea.

US commander’s damning warning over nuclear weapons APRIL 28, 2017 Debra Killalea MORE than half of Americans want President Donald Trump to attack North Korea – and the president has indicated that’s a real possibility.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Anglican Archbishop warns South Africans about the pro nuclear determination of the Zuma government

Ndungane warns that the government will not give up after nuclear deal ruling, Business Day, 28 APRIL 2017 Anglican archbishop emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane expressed his “profound relief” at Wednesday’s High Court ruling on the nuclear deal, but warned that he expected Eskom and the government to “fight tooth and nail” to have it overturned.

Ndungane commended Earthlife Africa, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei), and other civil society organisations that have been in the forefront of opposing the deal for several years.

“This is a salutary lesson. Civil society in SA has doggedly persevered in doing what it believes is right in respect of the nuclear deal.

“That they have been vindicated by the high court is a triumph of David against mighty Goliath. Government and Eskom should know that we do not intend to be brow beaten into submission,” the archbishop said.

However, he said he fully expected the government and Eskom to appeal against the ruling, since the small cabal of people led by the President in whose interests the nuclear deal appeared to have been negotiated, were unlikely to simply give up.

In addition, the various departments and state-owned enterprises involved would not want to see their expenditure to date being written off as “fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.

Ndungane expressed his deep concern that the South African government, which had been elected by the people to act for the people, was failing in its duty to protect the interests of the poorest people…….

He asked South Africans, when next they are called to exercise their ballot, to vote for a government that will act in the full interests of all the people of the land, and not just a select few.

“I have said previously that this nuclear deal will cripple the country’s economy. Our current debt stands at R1.89-trillion. When we borrow money to pay for the nuclear deal, our country will owe R3-trillion. Anyone with the most basic ability to balance a budget can see that increasing one’s debt by more than half is financial suicide,” the archbishop said. He asked South Africans, when next they are called to exercise their ballot, to vote for a government that will act in the full interests of all the people of the land, and not just a select few.

“I have said previously that this nuclear deal will cripple the country’s economy. Our current debt stands at R1.89-trillion. When we borrow money to pay for the nuclear deal, our country will owe R3-trillion. Anyone with the most basic ability to balance a budget can see that increasing one’s debt by more than half is financial suicide,” the archbishop said.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | Religion and ethics, South Africa | Leave a comment

South African research institutions paid hush money to shut up about nuclear power

Eskom funding may be muffling dissenting voices on nuclear amaBhungane  Centre for Investigative Journalism, 28 Apr 17,  The lure of millions in Eskom funding appears to have gagged two research institutions previously critical of the utility’s nuclear procurement plans. The lure of millions in Eskom funding appears to have muzzled two research institutions previously highly critical of the state-owned utility’s plans to procure a fleet of nuclear power stations.

In the case of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) amaBhungane understands that the CSIR’s Energy Centre has been effectively gagged since a secrecy-shrouded meeting in March this year between acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko and his counterpart at the CSIR, Dr Thulani Dlamini.

In the other case, the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) at Stellenbosch University withdrew comments it had submitted for publication that were highly critical of Eskom’s nuclear plans.

In an email seen by amaBhungane, CRSES director Wikus van Niekerk said: “We receive significant funding from Eskom, some from a programme where Matshela is personally involved in, and I need to be careful how I react in public not to put this at risk.”……..

Case 1: CSIR Energy Centre

Several industry insiders, who asked not to be named, raised the alarm after the CSIR Energy Centre’s head, Dr Tobias Bischof-Niemz, suddenly pulled out of an event on South Africa’s future energy supply in early April.

They told amaBhungane that a strong rumour had emerged that at Koko’s March meeting with the CSIR chief executive, Eskom had pledged a significant sum – R100 million was mentioned – for CSIR research on technology related to nuclear energy.
AmaBhungane was unable to independently verify the claim.

While there is no evidence of any untoward quid-pro-quo, the same sources noted that the Energy Centre has withdrawn from other public engagements on renewable energy and South Africa’s future energy mix.

Adding to suspicions is the reluctance of both Eskom and the CSIR to disclose any detail of the meeting between Koko and Dr Dlamini.

Both institutions declined to answer questions about who attended the meeting, what was discussed and whether Koko offered the CSIR additional funding, as rumoured……..

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said Eskom had R30.8 million worth of “multi-year collaborative projects” underway with CSIR and another R17.5 million worth were “actively under consideration”.

The CSIR insisted the organisation “did NOT receive any payments from Eskom in order to stop any research that we are conducting,” but ignored questions about Bischof-Niemz’s non-attendance at the April event where he was scheduled to give a presentation on renewable energy.

Up to now the Energy Centre has been vocal about its research on South Africa’s optimal energy mix, which suggested that the price of renewables had dropped to the point where government’s plan to procure 9,600 MW of nuclear power did not make financial sense.


Case No 2: CRSES Stellenbosch

The CSIR is not the only research institution that Eskom channels money to. The Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) at Stellenbosch University is another, and it too seems wary of upsetting Eskom.

Email correspondence seen by amaBhungane suggests that the independent research institute is willing to self-censor for fear of offending its funder.

The correspondence between CRSES director Wikus van Niekerk and the staff of Energize magazine – an energy sector trade publication – concerns a submission written by Van Niekerk that is strongly critical of Eskom’s nuclear plans.

After submitting the draft to the editors, Van Niekerk then refused to have it published as a standalone piece. In the correspondence Van Niekerk writes that “We [CRSES] receive significant funding from Eskom, some from a programme where Matshela [Koko] is personally involved in, and I need to be careful how I react in public not to put this at risk.”

According to Eskom, CRSES received R2.6 million in 2016 from Eskom’s Power Plant Engineering Institute, with planned funding for this year projected at around R4 million. CRSES receives additional funding from Eskom’s Research, Testing and Development business unit for R2.5 million photovoltaic penetration study……..

Joemat-Pettersson had previously ordered Eskom to sign the outstanding agreements by 11 April. However, under Mmamoloko Kubayi, who replaced Joemat-Pettersson after Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle, the deadline passed without agreements being signed.

Talk of the nuclear deal has revved up since Zuma’s highly controversial reshuffle, which many see as an attempt by the president to remove ministers – particularly at Treasury and the Department of Energy – seen as obstacles to a future deal.

The DoE under Kubayi asked that signing of power purchase agreements be delayed until she could meet with public enterprises minister Lynne Brown on the matter.

Meanwhile the investments of 37 independent power producers, worth approximately R58 billion, remain plagued by uncertainty.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | investigative journalism, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | 1 Comment

Trump administration trying to make China responsible for fixing North Korean crisis

US puts onus on China to avert ‘catastrophe’ with North Korea, 9  27 Apr 17, The United States sounded a global call to confront the North Korean nuclear threat Friday, exhorting Beijing to use its “unique” leverage to rein in Pyongyang and avert “catastrophic consequences.”Addressing the UN Security Council after Donald Trump warned of the risk of a “major conflict,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a campaign of pressure to force Pyongyang to change course and put a halt to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Mr Tillerson told the Council.

 “The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real, and it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the US mainland,” he said.

Mr Tillerson told the Council there was “no reason” to think North Korea would change course under the current multilateral sanctions regime, warning: “The time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path”.

“I urge this council to act before North Korea does,” he said.

Washington has repeatedly called for tougher UN sanctions, but wants China to take the diplomatic lead by using its leverage over Pyongyang — which Beijing has been reluctant to do for fear of destabilising North Korea.

At the council meeting, China pushed back, saying it was not realistic to expect one country to be responsible for solving the conflict

China is not a focal point of the problem on the peninsula and the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
……..The Security Council meeting follows weeks of warnings from the US administration that it is running out of patience.

“All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table,” Mr Tillerson said.

“Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”

Russia and China made clear that a military response to the threat from Pyongyang would be disastrous and appealed for a return to talks and de-escalation.

China’s Wang warned “the use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters”.

North Korea “is conducting itself in an inappropriate way”, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the council.

“At the same time, options of using force are completely unacceptable and could lead to catastrophic consequences.”……….

At the end of the meeting, Mr Tillerson again took the floor and bluntly re-asserted Washington’s stance.

“We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table. We will not reward their bad behaviour with talks,” he said……..

April 29, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Pennsylvania nuclear corporation looks to tax-payer funding to save the industry

FirstEnergy looks to the feds for help with coal and nuclear By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The future of FirstEnergy’s coal and nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio now is being assessed through the lens of a speedy federal study which, it is widely understood, is looking for ways to prop up coal and nuclear plants.

Chuck Jones, the CEO of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., said the company’s subsidiary that operates those plants has delayed a decision on filing for bankruptcy until the Department of Energy releases a study it commissioned two weeks ago.

The study which, among other things, is meant to explore “the extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants,” is supposed to be done by June 19.

“I think the administration is serious about this,” Mr. Jones said during a call with analysts on Friday. “Our Washington team tells me that this is a very serious initiative. If their intention is to keep these fuel-secure base load assets from closing then they’re going to have to do something to make sure that there’s a financial incentive for these plants to not close,” he said.

Mr. Jones said he’s traveled to Washington D.C. to discuss this matter with representatives of the Trump administration and officials at the Department of Energy.

“And I’m sure this also clearly ties in to one of the President’s key initiatives, which is to protect our coal natural resource and the mining and jobs that go along with that,” he said.

Another government solution that could impact the company’s bankruptcy considerations is a set of bills moving through the Ohio legislature that would to subsidize nuclear plants through zero emission nuclear credits. If enacted, the measures would give FirstEnergy’s two nuclear power stations in Ohio $300 million in annual income.

But that alone won’t be enough to ward off bankruptcy, Mr. Jones cautioned. What it will do, he said, is give those plants a better chance of being scooped up by a buyer during a bankruptcy proceeding.

While he did not address efforts brewing in Pennsylvania to explore nuclear subsidies, he said the way the Ohio legislation is currently written, the Beaver Valley nuclear plant might qualify for credits across the state line.

It’s unusual for financial analysts to throw as much cold water on a company’s narrative as was spilling every which way during FirstEnergy’s earnings call on Friday.

Some questioned whether the Department of Energy has the power to enact measures that would help coal and nuclear plants directly. Others said that even if the DOE study does produce a policy framework, it will likely trigger involvement from other federal agencies, stretching the timeline for implementing any helpful measures……..

What’s clear is that the current system isn’t working, he said, because FirstEnergy’s power plants aren’t making enough money to stay alive. In its quarterly report, FirstEnergy said “prolonged decrease in demand and excess generation supply” compelled it to close more than half of its generation capacity in recent years……..

Stu Bresler, senior vice president of operations and markets at PJM, recently told Pennsylvania’s nuclear caucus that if all of the state’s nuclear plants were to shut down — a scenario he believes is unlikely — the grid would remain reliable.

Anya Litvak:

April 29, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Chinese company worried that Brexit might muck up UK’s planned nuclear power projects

Chinese nuclear group raises concern that Brexit may hinder plans for Essex reactor, 28 APRIL 2017The Chinese nuclear developer behind three of the UK’s planned new nuclear power plants has warned that Brexit has cast doubt over the nuclear cooperation between China, France and Britain.

CGN Power has raised concern over the UK’s departure from a key pan-European nuclear group, Euratom, as it prepares its submission for the UK government’s rigorous assessment of China’s homegrown reactor design.

In exchange for taking a minority stake in EDF Energy’s £36bn plans to build nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell B, the UK Government has left the door open for a Chinese-designed reactor at Bradwell in Essex – despite security concerns over a Chinese company holding control of key British infrastructure.
China hopes that by gaining a foothold in the UK market, considered one of the world’s most stringent safety regimes, it will be able to grow its international nuclear presence.

But Dongshan Zheng, the senior vice president of CGN, said at an industry event that the decision to leave Euratom as part of Brexit will “create some uncertainties” for its UK plans. “How this project will go ahead smoothly, how we will have as good a relationship as we have now – this is the first challenge,” he said.

Euratom streamlines the international movement of nuclear goods, people and services through a standard framework which governs safety standards.

Without membership, the UK’s nuclear renaissance could face delay while complicated new bilateral agreements are formed. It would strip the EU stamp of approval from China’s first own-design reactor in Western Europe.

“Certainly, the project itself will face some risks in costs, in terms of planning,” he said.Earlier this year EDF Energy told a committee of MPs that ideally it would remain part of Euratom but if the UK does leave it is vital that the Government agrees transitional arrangements, to give the UK time to negotiate and complete new agreements.

The MPs are due to report on the UK’s energy priorities in the Brexit negotiations early next week but the findings could be undermined by the upcoming snap election which will force an overhaul of parliamentary committees this summer.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Eskom paid hush money to muzzle anti nuclear opinion

Eskom may have paid millions to keep anti-nuclear research groups quiet: report, Business Tech By Staff WriterApril 28, 2017 Millions of rands in Eskom funding appears to have silenced two well-respected research institutions, previously critical of the state-owned utility’s plans to procure a fleet of nuclear power stations, according to a new report by amaBhungane.

According to amaBhungane, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was “effectively gagged” after a meeting in March between acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko and CSIR head, Dr Thulani Dlamini.

Insiders speaking to amaBhungane noted that a strong rumour had emerged from the meeting, pointing to R100 million pledge by Eskom for CSIR research on technology related to nuclear energy……

CRSES  amaBhungane reported that it appears that a similar agreement was reached between the state-owned power utility and the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES), who at the last second decided to withdraw comments it had submitted for publication that were highly critical of Eskom’s nuclear plans.

Further email correspondence seen by amaBhungane suggested that the CRSES was unwilling to offend Eskom for fear of having its funding pulled.

In an email seen by amaBhungane, CRSES director Wikus van Niekerk acknowledged the censorship saying, “We receive significant funding from Eskom, some from a programme where Matshela is personally involved in, and I need to be careful how I react in public not to put this at risk.”

Eskom, the CSIR and CRSES have all denied that Eskom has in any way tried to rein in independent research or debate on nuclear or renewable energy options.

You can read the full report here

April 29, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

The president shouldn’t have sole authority to trigger nuclear war

Two to Tango With Nuclear Weapons The president shouldn’t have sole authority to trigger nuclear war., US News, By Peter D. Zimmerman   April 26, 2017 Somewhere in the American southwest, not so very far from civilization, there is a fenced and guarded compound within another fenced and guarded compound in the distant reaches of a large military base……Beneath the fence is a vault where nuclear weapons wait ……

Under the prairies of Montana or the Dakotas underground bunkers are buried adjacent to a bomb-proof silo containing a Minuteman intercontinental missile…….
Somewhere under the ocean a missile submarine receives a message. The captain and his executive officer separately decode and authenticate it.
 It always requires two people, two separate actions, to launch, steal, sabotage or tinker with an atomic warhead. This is the inviolable two person rule intended to prevent misuse of a nuclear weapon. ……

But the system deliberately breaks down at the single point where failure would be catastrophic. Only one person need act in order to launch all American nuclear weapons. The president. There is no two-person rule for ordering a strike. Nobody except the president needs to agree; nobody in the chain from president to launch officer has authority to question the order. If the president orders a launch, the system executes it. The service members involved may have their doubts, but years of military training have conditioned them that even this order must be obeyed………

The United States vowed that never again would a potential enemy be able to launch a surprise attack to which this country could not respond instantly and in kind.

This made sense during the height of the Cold War when the United States, terrified by the prospect of a nuclear Pearl Harbor, sought to ensure that a counter strike could not be thwarted by a clumsy decision-making process that would require more time than the country expected to have………

At least twice the Soviet Union and the United States have come very close to launching nuclear weapons based on the warnings provided by radar and satellite systems. A Soviet officer did not pass a notification of a rocket launch to the Kremlin at a time he knew that tensions between the powers were minimal. A good thing; it was not a nuclear missile but a small scientific rocket launched from a Norwegian island and carrying an innocent payload. The Soviets had been notified in advance of the launch, but somehow the message was lost.

 Bad weather has sometimes fooled American defenses into thinking that a flight of geese was actually a nuclear missile, and only good judgment stopped the alert in its tracks. But human intervention is only legal going up the chain to the president. It’s ruled out if the president sends down a message ordering a launch, even if he or she is mistaken.

Nor is there any way at all to stop a drunk president, an angered and offended president, an insane one, or merely a bored and curious one from simply ordering the opening of the football and the launch of one or more nuclear weapons………

the president and the Congress must work together now, ignoring partisanship, to prevent an accidental, or even an intentional nuclear holocaust. It is time to extend the two person rule to the top of the pyramid, so that not even the president can start a nuclear war alone.

Peter D. Zimmerman CONTRIBUTOR

Peter D. Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist, was chief scientific adviser of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the Bureau of Arms Control at the State Department. He also served as chief scientist of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is professor emeritus of science and security in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London and lives in Northern Virginia.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Polluted water: the health toll of fracking on young babies

Fracking kills newborn babies – polluted water likely cause Tickell, 25th April 2017  A new study in Pennsylvania, USA shows that fracking is strongly related to increased mortality in young babies. The effect is most pronounced in counties with many drinking water wells indicating that contamination by ‘produced water’ from fracking is a likely cause. Radioactive pollution with uranium, thorium and radium is a ‘plausible explanation’ for the excess deaths.

A new study of Pennsylvania counties published today in the Journal of Environmental Protection shows for the first time that contamination from fracking kills babies.

The Marcellus shale area of Pennsylvania was one of the first regions where novel gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing of sub-surface rock, now termed ‘fracking’, was carried out.

The epidemiological study by Christopher Busby and Joseph Mangano examines early infant deaths 0-28 days before and after the drilling of fracking wells, using official data from the US Centre for Disease Control to compare the immediate post-fracking four year period 2007-2010 with the pre-fracking four-year period 2003-2006.

Results showed a statistically significant 29% excess risk of dying age 0-28 days in the ten heavily fracked counties of Pennsylvania during the four-year period following the development of fracking gas wells. Over the same period, the State rate declined by 2%. They conclude:

“There were about 50 more babies died in these 10 counties than would have been predicted if the rate had been the same over the period as all of Pennsylvania, where the incidence rate fell over the same period.”

Radioactive water pollution to blame?

The Marcellus shale beneath Pennsylvania was one of the first areas where fracking began. Only 44 fracking wells were drilled before 2007, while 2,864 were drilled in 2007-2010.

The cause of the excess mortality is not proven in the study, however the authors point out that the fracking production process releases naturally occurring radioactive materials from shale strata which then contaminate groundwater.

These include radium, uranium, thorium and radon, an intensely radioactive gas which decays into radioactive ‘daughters’ with a half life of under four days. And as the authors write, fracking “involves the explosive destruction of large volumes of underground gas and oil retaining rocks and the pumping down of large amounts of what is termed ‘produced water’ which initially contains various chemical and sand additives.

“This produced water and backflow returns to the surface with a high load of dissolved and suspended solids including naturally occurring radioactive elements … The contaminated water has to be safely disposed of but this is often associated with violations of legal disposal constraints.”

Baby mortality related to exposure through water wells

In the five heavily-fracked counties in the northeast part of the state (Susquehanna, Bradford, Wyoming, Lycoming and Tioga), the number of deaths from 2003-2006 vs. 2007-2010 climbed from 36 to 60, a statistically significant rate increase of 66%.

The rate in the five counties in southwest Pennsylvania (Washington, Westmoreland, Greene, Butler and Fayette) rose 18%, from 157 to 178 deaths, though this increase was not statistically significant.

This divergence in relative risk between the heavily fracked NE and SW counties was initially perplexing, however the authors noticed the higher dependence on private water wells (potentially contaminated with frackiing fluids) for drinking water and other needs in the first region compared to the second.

In the NE group of counties , the number of water wells per birth ranged from 4.9 to 13.5, compared to 1.1 to 3 in the SW group of countries. Their chart of Relative Risk for early infant mortality after fracking (see image above right) plotted against ‘exposure’ defined as ‘water wells per birth’ on a county by county basis produced a straight-line graph – indicated a strong relation to increased mortality and exposure to groundwater.

Table [on original]: Water wells per birth and violations per annual birth in highly fracked Pennsylvania Counties.

They conclude: “The results therefore seem to support the suggestion that the vector for the effect is exposure to drinking water from private wells. This is a mechanistically plausible explanation. However the findings do not prove such a suggestion. We may examine other possible explanations for possible health effects which have been advanced.”

While radioactive pollution is carefully examined, the authors acknowledge alternatives including “the existence of chemical contaminants in the produced water” which they consider a “possible but unknown factor.”

Serious questions raised over health hazards of fracking

“A major component of early infant mortality is congenital malformation, e.g., heart, neurological, and kidney defects. These are known to be caused by exposures to Radium and Uranium in drinking water”, said Christopher Busby.

“Infant death rates were significantly high in highly-fracked counties in northeast Pennsylvania, those with the greatest density of private water wells, suggesting it is drinking water contamination driving the effect.”

Joseph Mangano added: “These results raise serious questions about potential health hazards of fracking, especially since the fetus and infant are most susceptible to environmental pollutants. This is a public health issue which should be investigated wherever fracking is being carried out or proposed.”

The result is expected to have significant insurance, investment, economic and downstream political implications in the US and other countries.


The study: ‘There’s a world going on underground-infant mortality and fracking in Pennsylvania‘ is by Busby C C and Mangano J J and published in the Journal of Environmental Protection 8(4) 2017. doi: 10.4236/jep.2017.84028

Dr Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk and is Scientific Director of Environmental Research SIA, based in the Latvian National Academy of Sciences, Riga, Latvia. Busby’s CV can be found here.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | children, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Plant Vogtle nuclear power project oppressed by troubles

Time, money and taxes weigh on troubled SCANA nuclear project, Apr 28, 2017SCANA Corp.’s 30-day agreement with Westinghouse Electric Co. that allows work to continue at the $16 billion V.C. Summer nuclear project expires today. But SCANA executives say they are confident that they can get a 60-day extension before time runs out.

Meanwhile, work at the site continues to go more slowly than expected, adding to the chronic delays that have driven up the project’s price tag. And SCANA (NYSE:SCG) says it is watching efforts in Congress to extend production tax credits for nuclear plants. SCANA concedes that if they are not extended, it would make it difficult to continue with the project.

Questions about the troubled expansion at Summer — plagued by cost overruns, delays and now Westinghouse’s filing for Chapter 11 protection from creditors— dominated SCANA’s earnings call Thursday. And with only a few answers available now, the questions are likely to continue for much of the coming 60 days.

As Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 protection March 29, SCANA and Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) reached 30-day agreements with Westinghouse to keep construction work going at Summer and the Plant Vogtle nuclear project.

‘No impediments’

SCANA is using the time to determine whether it makes sense to take over construction management and try to complete the two nuclear reactors under construction, or abandon the project. During the review, SCANA is essentially paying all the contractors on the site — either directly or through disbursements to Westinghouse.

But SCANA officials did not expect to be able to complete the review by now. From the start, the company said it would need another 30 to 60 days.

Chief Operating Officer Steve Byrne expressed confidence that extension, for 60 days, is forthcoming.

“As of right now — and there are always a lot of last minute details to be taken care of — we don’t see any impediments … to having an agreement in place sometime by either later today or tomorrow,” he told analysts Thursday.

But no deal was announced yesterday, and the current agreement expires at midnight.

April 29, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | 1 Comment