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The Children of Fukushima Return, Six Years After the Nuclear Disaster

1Children at a nursery school this month in the hamlet of Naraha in Fukushima. The government lifted the evacuation order on the town in 2015.

NARAHA, Japan — The children returned to Naraha this spring.

For more than four years, residents were barred from this hamlet in Fukushima after an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant north of town. When the government lifted the evacuation order in 2015, those who returned were mostly the elderly, who figured coming home was worth the residual radiation risk.

But this month, six years after the disaster, 105 students turned up at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School for the beginning of the Japanese school year.

Every morning, cafeteria workers measure the radiation in fresh ingredients used in lunches. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30. There are not enough junior high students to field a baseball team on the new field next to the school.

Yet the return of the schoolchildren, the youngest of whom were born the year of the disaster, has been a powerful sign of renewal in this town, which is in the original 12-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant.

Reopening the school “is very, very meaningful,” said Sachiko Araki, the principal of the junior high school. “A town without a school is not really a town.”

The new, $18 million two-story building has shiny blond wood floors, spacious classrooms, two science labs, a library filled with new books and a large basketball gymnasium. A balcony at the back of the building overlooks the sea.

Many emotions fueled the decisions of the families who returned to Naraha. It was always a small town, with just over 8,000 people before the disaster. So far, only one in five former residents has come home.

2The library at Naraha Elementary and Junior High School. The school was being built when the disaster hit, so workers started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

A bank, post office and medical clinic are now open, but a supermarket is still under construction. Because neighborhoods have stood empty for so long, wild boars sometimes roam the streets.

With thousands of bags of contaminated soil piled high in fields around town and radiation meters posted in parking lots, the memory of the nuclear disaster is never distant.

At the Naraha school, which was being constructed when the disaster hit, workers destroyed a foundation that had just been laid and started over, removing mounds of dirt in an effort to decontaminate the site.

Today, radiation is regularly monitored on the school grounds as well as along routes to the building. The central government, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection, set a maximum exposure of 0.23 microsieverts an hour, a level at which there is no concrete scientific evidence of increased cancer risk. (Microsieverts measure the health effects of low levels of radiation.)

Still, some teachers say they are extra careful. Aya Kitahara, a fifth-grade teacher, said she and her colleagues had decided it was not safe to allow children to collect acorns or pine cones in the neighborhood for art projects, for fear that they would pick up small doses of radiation.

Nearby, a nursery school and day care center was built mostly with money from the nuclear plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, in 2007 and reopened this month. Keiko Hayakawa, the principal, said she was surprised that the city had pushed to bring back children before all bags of contaminated soil had been cleared from town.

We had to start and keep moving to open this facility as soon as possible,” Ms. Hayakawa said on a morning when 3- and 4- year-olds romped in a large playground, climbing a jungle gym, riding scooters and digging in a sandbox. “Otherwise, there was a fear that people might never come back.”

3A class of elementary students. In some grades, as few as six students take their lessons in classrooms built to accommodate as many as 30.

Calculations of radiation exposure are imprecise at best. They may not detect contaminated soil from rain runoff that can collect in gutters or other low-lying crevices. Risk of illness depends on many variables, including age, activities and underlying health conditions.

I don’t want to accuse anyone of being consciously disingenuous,” said Kyle Cleveland, associate professor of sociology at Temple University in Tokyo, who has written about the psychological effects of the Fukushima disaster. But government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.”

Reviving the towns of Fukushima is also a priority for the central government. With the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to deliver on his promise that the Fukushima cleanup effort is “under control.”

It is really up to the individuals whether they would accept the current environment or not,” said Kentaro Yanai, the superintendent of the Naraha school district. “But for us, we did the best that we could have done so far in order to reduce radiation levels.”

For young families, factors other than radiation risks weighed on the calculus of whether to return. Some longed to go back to the town that had been their home for generations, while others assumed they could afford more space in Naraha.

And as national compensation payments for evacuees are set to expire next year, some residents secured jobs working for the town government or for contractors involved in the reconstruction work. Still others are employed by Tokyo Electric, which is coordinating the huge cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Ayuka Ohwada, 29, had originally thought she and her family would stay in Iwaki, a city of about 340,000 more than 20 miles south, where many Naraha residents lived during the evacuation period. But once her parents moved back to their old home, Ms. Ohwada and her children, now 8 and 6, began visiting on weekends.

4Day care workers and children in Naraha. The town now has a bank, a post office and a medical clinic, but a supermarket is still under construction.

I started thinking that maybe the countryside is a much better environment for my children,” said Ms. Ohwada, whose parents offered her a piece of land to build a new house. Ms. Ohwada, who was employed as a convenience store clerk before landing a job at town hall, said she and her husband, who works in a nearby town at a company involved in decontamination, could never afford a stand-alone house in Iwaki.

In Naraha, the school is doing as much as it can to cushion the return for young families.

The building, which was originally designed for the junior high school, now houses two elementary schools as well. Extra counselors talk students through lingering anxieties, and the fifth- and sixth-grade classes have two teachers each. All students will receive tablet computers, and lunch and school uniforms are provided free.

Yuka Kusano, 37, said her children had grown accustomed to large classes while they were evacuated in Iwaki. But after enrolling in the Naraha school this month, she said, they benefit from individualized attention rare in Japanese schools.

Her 12-year-old daughter, Miyu, is in seventh grade with just five other classmates, and her son, Ryuya, 9, is in a fourth-grade class of 13 students.

It is really luxurious,” Ms. Kusano said. Still, with so few children in Naraha, she drives Ryuya to Iwaki on weekends so he can continue to play on a softball team.

Hints emerge of the turmoil the students have endured in the six years since the disaster. During a recent presentation for parents, one girl with thick bangs and large black glasses said she had struggled with frequent moves.

I am doing O.K.,” she said. “I just want to keep stability in my life.”

Such stability is one reason many families with young children have chosen not to return.

5Uninhabited houses in Naraha. The town numbered just over 8,000 before the disaster. So far, only a fifth of the former residents have returned.

Tsutomu Sato, a nursing home manager with three daughters, 9, 5 and 2, said the family had moved seven or eight times after being evacuated from Naraha.

I just want to build a base for my family as soon as possible,” said Mr. Sato, who bought a house in the Yumoto neighborhood of Iwaki. He said his oldest daughter cried whenever he raised the possibility of moving back to Naraha, where his parents and grandmother were restoring their house and planned to move back next year.

In exile, he maintains a fierce attachment to his hometown and has formed a volunteer group, Naranoha, to stage cultural events to bring together the diaspora of former residents around the region. He said that if his parents grew too frail to take care of themselves, he would consider moving back.

With or without the disaster, we have to make life decisions based on our circumstances,” he said.

In Naraha, the mayor, Yukiei Matsumoto, said surveys showed that just under three-quarters of former residents wanted to return eventually.

In order to clear the stigma that people have,” he said, “we are back now to show the rest of the country and the rest of the world that we are doing well.” But he acknowledged that if more young people did not return, the town had a dim future.

Kazushige Watanabe, 73, said he had come back even though his the tsunami had destroyed his home and his sons lived outside Fukushima Prefecture.

He has moved into a compact bungalow built by the city in a new subdivision in the center of the town, where he has lived alone since his wife’s death in January.

He pointed out a house around the corner where a family with three children had moved in recently. “I can hear the children’s voices,” he said. “That is very nice.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-children.html

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , | Leave a comment

Confusion on North Korean situation. Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to North Korea border,

Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to North Korea border, as Kim Jong-un warns of ‘super-mighty pre-emptive strike’, Telegraph UK  Reuters 20 APRIL 2017  Russia has moved heavy military equipment towards its border with North Korea amid mounting fears of a military clash between Pyongyang and the United States over the North’s nuclear program.

A flurry of military activity in Russia’s far east came as the UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s latest missile test and threatened to impose new sanctions against Pyongyang for its “highly destabilizing behavior.”
In a unanimous statement, the council demanded that North Korea “conduct no further nuclear tests” and said Pyongyang’s “illegal missile activities” were “greatly increasing tension in the region and beyond.”……

It was revealed earlier this week that a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Carl Vinson would spend another 30 days at sea before heading towards North Korean waters.  Last week Donald Trump, the US president, said he had ordered an “armada” into the northwest Pacific in a show of force designed to deter North Korea from further missile and nuclear weapons test.

The US defence ministry acknowledged on Tuesday that the ships had actually travelled into the Indian Ocean to carry out manoeuvres with Australian forces, and only began its journey north recently.

Mr Trump has called on China, Pyongyang’s only ally, to rein in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but has threatened to act alone to “solve” the problem if necessary.

Residents and local media in Russia’s Far East reported large military convoys travelling in the direction of the North Korean border since the weekend, in what appear to be contingency plans to contain fallout from a possible military clash between the United States and North Korea.

A video published by local news site DVHab.ru showed a train carrying twelve tracked vehicles, including Tor surface to air missile systems, travelling through Khabarovsk in the direction of Vladivostok.

“Some say the situation around North Korea is a fiction, but this is the third train of equipment we’ve seen since this morning,” a man can be heard saying in the film. “Looks like something is being sent to the Korean border.”………

South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of a US-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which has angered China.

Frontrunner Moon Jae-in was criticised for leaving his options open before the May 9 election.

On Monday, Hwang and Pence reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the THAAD, but the decision will be up to the next South Korean president. For its part, China says the system’s powerful radar is a threat to its security.

The North has said it has developed a missile that can strike the mainland United States, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturising a nuclear warhead.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/20/north-korea-warns-super-mighty-preemptive-strike-will-reduce/

There has been some confusion over the whereabouts of a US aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he had sent an “armada” as a warning to North Korea, even as the ships were still far from Korean waters.The US military’s Pacific Command explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia. It was now heading for the Western Pacific as ordered, it said.

China’s influential Global Times newspaper, which is published by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official paper, wondered whether the misdirection was deliberate.

“The truth seems to be that the US military and president jointly created fake news and it is without doubt a rare scandal in US history, which will be bound to cripple Trump’s and US dignity,” it said. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/20/north-korea-warns-super-mighty-preemptive-strike-will-reduce/

April 21, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA spy plane over North Korea, increases preparations for THAAD antimissile system in South Korea

US dispatches ‘sniffer plane’ as site chosen for THAAD deployment http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/us-dispatches-sniffer-plane-as-site-chosen-for-thaad-deployment/news-story/9e3425f3fc5bcc320304a3975496787  APRIL 20, 2017 Victoria Crawnews.com.au @Victoria_Craw THE US has dispatched a specialised “sniffer plane” to detect nuclear particles over North Korea as the provision of land for a state-of-the-art missile defence system is confirmed.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Ever growing risk of ‘Accidental’ Nuclear War

Risk of ‘Accidental’ Nuclear War Growing, UN Research Group Says, The warning comes as the Pentagon begins an extensive review of its nuclear arsenal. Defense One, BY PATRICK TUCKER, 19 APR 17, 

On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.

On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department commenced a new, massive study into its nuclear weapons arsenal, looking at how weapons are kept, how the U.S. would use them in war and whether they present an intimidating enough threat to other countries not to attack us. The review was mandated by President Trump in a Jan 27, memo.

The Pentagon is scheduled to complete the review by the end of the year, an essential step as the military seeks to modernize different aspects of its nuclear deterrent. But a new report from the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, or UNIDR, argues that as the modern battlefield becomes more technologically complex, crowded with more sensors, satellites, drones, and interconnected networks, the risks of another nuclear accident are on the rise.

“A greater reliance on automated systems can lead to misplaced confidence while introducing new points of vulnerability,” says the report. Those new points of vulnerability include so-called “hidden interactions.” That means a sensor or computer program misinterpreting some bit of data and possibly presenting false information in a way that could cause an accident. The 1987 incident provides a good case in point. Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud as a missile strike, hence the false alarm.

Take those satellites, combine them with sensors on drones and data from other sources as well, including new, perhaps unproven technologies to detect missile launches and the picture becomes much more crowded and murky.

“The complex interactions and tightly coupled systems linked to nuclear arsenals (like those for early warning, and launch command and control) have made ‘accidental war more likely’” the report’s authors say.

Add to that the fact that the number of states that have access to nuclear weapons is increasing, and the number of platforms that they might be able to use to deliver those weapons is also going up. Consider the controversial U.S. plans for a long-range standoff weapon, or LRSO, basically a big nuclear cruise missile that can be fired off a fighter jet.  Reports have surfaced that the U.S. is even considering nuclear-armed drones (that would be remotely operated by human pilots and the degree of seriousness in the considerations is up to debate).

Those might sound like awesome capabilities but they increase the chances of a nuclear accident or retaliatory strike, according to the authors of the report, because such weapons essentially turn every jet and drone into a potential nuclear threat in the eyes of an adversary……http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2017/04/risk-nuclear-accidents-growing-un-research-group-says/137171/?oref=defenseone_today_nl

April 21, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China praises US on nuclear issue, criticizes North Korea

China criticizes North Korea, praises US on nuclear issue, By Brad Lendon, CNN April 20, 2017  China may be getting fed up with continued nuclear bluster from long-time ally North Korea and tilting toward the United States. A day after North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said Pyongyang would test missiles weekly and use nuclear weapons if threatened, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “gravely concerned” about North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile activities.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international | Leave a comment

American State Dept certifies that Iran is complying with nuclear deal. Tillerson slams the deal anyway!

Tillerson Slams Nuclear Deal after State Department Certifies Iranian Compliance, A proliferation expert suggests the certification was made to comply with law and avoid a crisis while reviewing its Iran policy. The Weekly Standard, APR 20, 2017 | By JENNA LIFHITS Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slammed the Iran nuclear deal for its limited scope and eventual sunset date Wednesday, and said the Trump administration is conducting an exhaustive review of its Iran policy.

The secretary’s rebuke came one day after his State Department certified that Iran is complying with the deal. The decision to certify likely follows from the administration being knee-deep in an intensive review of the agreement and uncertain about next steps, top proliferation experts told THE WEEKLY STANDARD………

While Tillerson did not specify whether the administration would scrap or rigorously enforce the deal, he and other administration officials have suggested a preference for the latter.

Late Tuesday, Tillerson certified to Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal.

The president must by law report to Congress about Iranian compliance with the deal every three months. If the administration does not submit a compliance certification or determines that Iran is in “material breach” of the deal, Congress has the ability to quickly re-impose sanctions lifted under the deal. The certification drew the ire of some in the White House who would have preferred to see no certification filed and the deal subsequently done away with.

The administration likely issued the certification to meet the conditions of the law and avoid a crisis while reviewing its Iran policy, a top proliferation expert told TWS………

If the administration had not issued the certification, the diplomatic fallout could have been significant, David Albright (founder of the Institute for Science and International Security)  added.

Tillerson said this week that the administration is conducting a broad review of its Iran policy, including the nuclear agreement and whether to maintain related sanctions relief…….

Administration officials have also reportedly been considering broadening sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). http://www.weeklystandard.com/tillerson-slams-nuclear-deal-after-state-department-certifies-iranian-compliance/article/2007709

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

“Military option” against Noth Korea would bring unacceptable risk

North Korea risk too high for military option: Robert Litwak https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/04/19/north-korea-nuclear-risk-too-high-military-option-robert-litwak-column/100615092/ Robert S. Litwak April 19, 2017 

North Korea crossed the nuclear threshold a decade ago when it conducted its first atomic test. The precipitant of the current crisis is that the Pyongyang regime is now on the brink of vastly expanding its small nuclear arsenal. Left on its trajectory, by 2020, North Korea could have a nuclear stockpile of 100 warheads that can be mounted on long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

The contrast between North Korea’s atomic arsenal (which could, incredibly, approach half the size of Britain’s) and its paltry economy (a gross domestic product of about $17 billion, comparable with Asheville, N.C.) is jarring. North Korea is essentially a failed state on the verge of a nuclear breakout. And this totalitarian state is run by a dynastic cult — the Kim family.

A North Korean ability to strike the U.S. homeland would be a game changer. Vice President Pence declared in South Korea on Monday that the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” was over — but he did not indicate what would follow.

Strategic patience had essentially resulted in acquiescence as North Korea built up its nuclear arsenal and made substantial progress in miniaturizing warheads and acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. In response, the United Nations and the United States have imposed still stricter sanctions on the Kim regime. But sanctions are not a strategy.

With North Korea perilously close to becoming a major nuclear power, America should pivot to serious diplomacy. Since the end of the Cold War, when the North Korean atomic challenge arose, U.S. hard-liners have eschewed diplomacy toward this “rogue state” because they view it as tantamount to appeasement.

The alternative to diplomacy — the much discussed military option “on the table” — has essentially been off the table because it runs the catastrophic risk of spiraling into a second (this time, nuclear) Korean war. No U.S. president could authorize even a “limited” strike on a missile site and discount this escalatory risk. When the United States can’t bomb and won’t negotiate, it is in fact acquiescing to a continued North Korean buildup. That unsatisfactory prospect reinforces the case for transactional diplomacy through coercive engagement to block North Korea’s current disastrous course.

Though a full rollback of North Korea’s atomic program is not a realistic goal, transactional diplomacy to freeze its capabilities at their current level might be attainable. This would make the best of a bad situation: When zero warheads is not an option on the table, an agreement capping North Korea at 20 nuclear weapons is better than an unconstrained program that hits 100 warheads by 2020. And a freeze would preclude the additional testing that North Korea still needs to master miniaturization and reliable long-range missiles.

Why should diplomacy succeed this time when it has failed in the past? New conditions that change China’s strategic calculus. Until now, Beijing has been lackadaisical in its enforcement of sanctions and has declared that Pyongyang was Washington’s problem. But a North Korea with a large atomic arsenal and ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. homeland would be a game changer. That’s true not only for America but also for China, where risky consequences could include the possibility of South Korea and Japan reassessing their own non-nuclear intentions.

Transactional diplomacy would decouple the nuclear issue from regime change. It would create the conditions for success by identifying a point of near-term optimization among the parties.

A freeze would permit Pyongyang to retain a minimum deterrent and the Kim family regime. For Beijing, it would preserve a strategic buffer state and avert the adverse strategic consequences of a nuclear-armed North Korea. And for Washington, a near-term interim agreement freezing North Korean capabilities would prevent a breakout and be characterized as the first step toward long-term denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

This analytical option should be put to the diplomatic test. Otherwise, we are left with the bad options of bombing or acquiescing.

Robert S. Litwak is vice president for scholars and academic relations at the Wilson Center and director of International Security Studies. He is the author of Preventing North Korea’s Nuclear Breakout.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump administration confused about Iran nuclear agreement

White House Shouldn’t Try To Reverse Iran Nuclear Deal, Parsi Says, NPR, April 20, 20175 , Heard on Morning Edition  Steve Inskeep talks to Trita Parsi, an Iran scholar, who warns of dire consequences if Trump officials renege on the nuclear accord and reverse a pledge to ease sanctions against Tehran.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let’s make sense of two moves that President Trump’s administration made this week. The administration affirms that Iran is following a nuclear deal. The administration also says Iran is misbehaving around the Middle East. Put another way, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Iran is following a deal that the Trump administration really doesn’t like.
INSKEEP: One observer of the administration moves is Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. He supported the nuclear deal made by the Obama administration, although he is not on good terms with Iran’s government. Welcome to the program.

INSKEEP: So what does it mean that President Trump, who said he would rip up this nuclear deal on day one, instead says Iran is following it?…..

PARSI: Well, I think the first thing to say is that it doesn’t seem as if the Trump administration really knows what it’s doing. It’s a significant contradiction to first come out and say that the Iranians – contrary to all of their claims that Iran would be cheating – actually is living up to the deal only to come out the day after and saying, well, we hate the deal anyways and signaling that the U.S. might actually be walking away from the deal, unless of course the aim is to get rid of the deal without the U.S. having to pay the cost for it, meaning instead of the U.S. violating the deal directly by not renewing these sanctions waivers, killing the deal by escalating tensions in Yemen and elsewhere in the region and hoping that that will force the Iranians out of the deal…….

INSKEEP: Wouldn’t you like some pressure on this government, though, even though you are a supporter of the nuclear deal?

PARSI: Certainly. There’s many areas in which there needs to be pressure on Iran, particularly, I would say, on the human rights front. But an approach that is centered on pressure and that is completely void of diplomacy most likely will lead to a military confrontation…….

INSKEEP: Can you just remind us what the basics of this nuclear deal are? Iran still has a nuclear program – right? – but it’s restricted.

PARSI: Iran has a restricted nuclear program. There are inspections in every aspect of Iran’s program. And all of the various pathways that Iran had towards building a nuclear bomb as a result of this deal has been closed. Some of these restrictions will be lifted in about 15 or so years. But the most important restriction is the inspections regime, the additional product called a Non-Proliferation Treaty, will be permanent, granted, of course, that all sides live up to their end of the bargain. And as the Trump administration certified two days ago, so far, the Iranians are living up to the bargain. And now, the United States also has to continue to waive sanctions in order for the United States to be in compliance with the deal.

INSKEEP: OK. You just mentioned waiving sanctions. Does President Trump have to actively do something to keep the sanctions off Iran for the moment?

PARSI: Yes. Before May 18, the United States is obliged to continue to waive sanctions in order for the U.S. to be in compliance. If it doesn’t, then the U.S. pulls out of the deal, and that will likely cause the Iranians to do the same.

INSKEEP: So that would be the next big moment to watch, potentially, is whether President Trump is willing to affirmatively keep sanctions eased on Iran.

PARSI: Exactly. And the day after the deadline is the Iranian presidential elections.

INSKEEP: And in which the president who did the deal, President Hassan Rouhani, is up for re-election.PARSI: He is up for re-election. And if he loses, then we will have a president in the United States and a president in Iran that most likely will be opposed to this deal. And that would be very negative for the continuation of this nuclear accord.

INSKEEP: Trita Parsi has a book coming out called “Losing An Enemy: Obama, Iran, And The Triumph Of Diplomacy.” He’s with the National Iranian American Council……http://www.npr.org/2017/04/20/524833644/white-house-shouldnt-try-to-reverse-iran-nuclear-deal-parsi-says

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Secret Floating Nuclear Power Plant to be fuelled all too close to city of St. Petersburg

Russia’s Secretive Floating Nuclear Power Plant Making Waves In St. Petersburg, Radio Free Europe, 20 Apr 17, ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Ecologists in Russia’s northern capital are raising the alarm over government plans to fuel a floating nuclear power plant just 2 kilometers from the heart of the city.

Officials have been saying since December that they are nearly ready to begin fueling the Akademik Lomonosov, the country’s first-ever ship-borne nuclear-power station, which is scheduled to be deployed at Vilyuchinsk on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula in 2019. Because the process is shrouded in secrecy and the government has ignored requests for information, it is unclear what the status of the fueling process currently is.

“From this floating nuclear power plant to the city’s mining institute [for example] is probably only about 500 meters,” Rashid Alimov, director of energy programs for Greenpeace Russia, told RFE/RL. “The historical center is densely populated. We have to exclude even the thought of an accident. That is why we have written to the governor. … According to the law, carrying out such operations at the Baltic Shipyard must be approved by the city, evacuation plans have to be drawn up. We have asked the municipal authorities about this.”……..

Independent nuclear-energy analyst Aleksei Shchukin, who spent more than 30 years working on nuclear-powered icebreakers, told RFE/RL that the fueling operation presents risks. Although the reactors are based on designs developed in the 1960s, the configuration on the Akademik Lomonosov is unique and untested.

“That is why I think there is no point in taking a risk and fueling the reactors in the center of a huge city,” Shchukin said. “This is very dangerous. They could take the vessel to Murmansk or Arkhangelsk, where there are bases for repairing and refueling nuclear vessels. That would be much safer.”

Authorities have ignored requests to find out why they insist on conducting the refueling — and possibly other testing — in St. Petersburg, a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site with a population of just under 5 million.

Previous Incidents……..
 
Soviet-Era Dumping

According to a 1993 report commissioned by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the Soviet Union dumped 16 nuclear reactors into the Kara Sea and two into the Sea of Japan. According to the report itself, the findings amount to a startling confession of how international agreements “were consciously broken on numerous occasions” by Moscow………..https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-petersburg-floating-nuclear-plant-safety-fears/28440654.html

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Fusion nuclear reactors as a source of electricity? It’s something to be shunned.

These impediments—together with colossal capital outlay and several additional disadvantages shared with fission reactors—will make fusion reactors more demanding to construct and operate, or reach economic practicality, than any other type of electrical energy generator.

The harsh realities of fusion belie the claims of its proponents of “unlimited, clean, safe and cheap energy.” Terrestrial fusion energy is not the ideal energy source extolled by its boosters, but to the contrary: Its something to be shunned.

Fusion reactors: Not what they’re cracked up to be http://thebulletin.org/fusion-reactors-not-what-they%E2%80%99re-cracked-be10699  Daniel Jassby, 19 Apr 17 Daniel Jassby was a principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab until 1999. For 25 years he worked in areas of plasma physics and neutron production related to fusion energy research and development. He holds a PhD in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University.

Fusion reactors have long been touted as the “perfect”energy source. Proponents claim that when useful commercial fusion reactors are developed, they would produce vast amounts of energy with little radioactive waste, forming little or no plutonium byproducts that could be used for nuclear weapons. These pro-fusion advocates also say that fusion reactors would be incapable of generating the dangerous runaway chain reactions that lead to a meltdown—all drawbacks to the current fission schemes in nuclear power plants.

And, a fusion-powered nuclear reactor would have the enormous benefit of producing energy without emitting any carbon to warm up our planet’s atmosphere.

But there is a hitch: While it is, relatively speaking, rather straightforward to split an atom to produce energy (which is what happens in fission), it is a “grand scientific challenge” to fuse two hydrogen nuclei together to create helium isotopes (as occurs in fusion). Our sun constantly does fusion reactions all the time, burning ordinary hydrogen at enormous densities and temperatures. But to replicate that process of fusion here on Earth—where we don’t have the intense pressure created by the gravity of the sun’s core—we would need a temperature of at least 100 million degrees Celsius, or about six times hotter than the sun. In experiments to date the energy input required to produce the temperatures and pressures that enable significant fusion reactions in hydrogen isotopes has far exceeded the fusion energy generated.

But through the use of promising fusion technologies such as magnetic confinement and laser-based inertial confinement, humanity is moving much closer to getting around that problem and achieving that breakthrough moment when the amount of energy coming out of a fusion reactor will sustainably exceed the amount going in, producing net energy. Collaborative, multinational physics project in this area include the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) joint fusion experiment in France which broke ground for its first support structures in 2010, with the first experiments on its fusion machine, or tokamak, expected to begin in 2025.

As we move closer to our goal, however, it is time to ask: Is fusion really a “perfect”energy source? After having worked on nuclear fusion experiments for 25 years at thePrinceton Plasma Physics Lab, I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement. I concluded that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite.

Scaling down the sun.  Continue reading

April 21, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, France, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Trump Administration doesn’t know what to do about the Paris Climate Agreement

The Trump Administration Is Apparently Terrified of Actually Making a Decision About Paris Sad!, Mother Jones, APR. 19, 2017  This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of theClimate Desk collaboration.

Donald Trump’s aides have abruptly postponed a meeting to determine whether the US should remain in the Paris climate agreement, with an unlikely coalition of fossil fuel firms, environmental groups and some Republicans calling on the president to stick with the deal.

Trump’s top advisers were set to meet on Tuesday to provide the president with a recommendation ahead of a G7 meeting in May. However, a White House official said the meeting had been postponed due to conflicting schedules. It is unclear when it will now take place.

Trump has already signed executive orders to start the demolition of the clean power plan, throw open federal land to coal mining, and halt new vehicle emissions standards but has so far not acted on his campaign pledge to “cancel” the Paris compromise.

His aides are understood to be split on whether the US should stay in the voluntary agreement, which was fully ratified last year. Barack Obama pledged that the US would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025, based on 2005 levels, as part of a landmark global effort that for the first time required emissions reduction goals from all nations, including the large developing emitters China and India.

Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon and the Environmental Protection Agency head, Scott Pruitt, are both in favor of ditching the Paris agreement. Last week, Pruitt called the agreement a “bad deal” for the US that imposes a burden that other countries do not have to bear.

However, the weight of opinion may be in favor of those who support the agreement. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, both advisers to the president, have positioned themselves as defenders of the agreement, while Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, has supported the idea of “keeping a seat at the table.” Other advisers at the meeting were expected to include Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Gary Cohen, an economic adviser; and HR McMaster, the national security adviser.

Support for the Paris deal has come from seemingly unlikely quarters—the oil giant ExxonMobil wrote to the White House to advocate it as an “effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change.” BP and Shell have also previously endorsed the Paris deal, along with dozens of other businesses including Gap, General Mills and the Kellogg Company.

A group of Republicans in Congress also warned against withdrawing from the agreement. The Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo, in his role as co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, said it was “imperative that we maintain our seat at the table.”

“The world’s leading nations must work together to not only reduce the impact carbon emissions have on climate change, but also mitigate and prepare for the effects, which communities like ours are dealing with every day,” Curbelo said in a joint statement with Ted Deutch, a Democrat who is his fellow co-chair……..

If Trump decides to exit the deal, it will require a three-year notice period before the process begins. In order to speed up the process, he could remove the US from the overall UN climate change framework or submit the deal to the Senate to be ratified as a treaty, where it will probably fail.

A third, and perhaps most likely, option is to remain in the agreement in name only, retaining a modicum of US prestige abroad while dismantling  Obama-era rules designed to reduce emissions. The US will face no penalty for not meeting its emissions targets, although some other countries have raised the possibility of imposing a “carbon tariff” on American goods.

Regardless of whether the US stays within the Paris deal, its chances of making deep cuts in its emissions have receded since Trump took office. Without the clean power plan, more stringent emissions standards on vehicles and gas and oil drilling operations or any sort of tax on greenhouse gases—a plan recently floated by some Republicans—the US will pull back from the effort to help avoid more severe heatwaves, droughts, the disappearance of coral reefs and coastal inundation.

“Regardless of what Trump does on Paris, he has abrogated our position,” said Tom Steyer, a leading hedge fund manager and climate campaigner. “This is an administration trying as hard as possible to bring back coal mining; they have given up American leadership on energy and climate. They have already walked away.” http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/04/trump-aides-postpone-meeting-paris-climate-deal

April 21, 2017 Posted by | climate change, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

April 29 Peoples Climate Mobilization – We March for the Future

On April 29, We March for the Future We’ll either save or doom the planet during the Trump administration. Don’t sit the Peoples Climate Mobilization out., The Nation, 20 Apr 17  By Bill McKibben,
It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest 
thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to Washington, DC, on April 29 for a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day……

This week of rallying is the logical extension of the climate-justice movement that emerged in the last decade, led by frontline communities and climate scientists, by indigenous people and farmers and ranchers. All the battles currently under way will be on full display as we march: against the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines and now a dozen others; against fracking wells and mountaintop-removal coal mines; for solar panels, solar panels, and more solar panels. (Not to mention bikes, buses, and electric cars.) This march embraces, finally, large segments of the labor movement. Workers and citizens dying in the heat and floods will march next to scientists pale from too many hours in front of the computer. It is a march for the future.

But reaching the future depends on dealing 
with the present, and the present is uniquely bleak. Governments have been oblivious before, but it’s hard to remember one as actively, determinedly stupid. It was revelatory to watch, earlier this month, as even Fox’s Chris Wallace filleted Scott Pruitt, the head of Trump’s EPA. “What if you’re wrong?” he finally asked the flustered Pruitt, who couldn’t quite recall even climate denialism’s standard talking points. Pruitt, of course, is wrong, since his entire job is to represent the industry that has spent a quarter-century lying through its teeth about climate change. But he’s aggressively wrong—he hadn’t even started his new job before the transition team was leaking news that the administration was ready to defund the satellites we use to keep track of the climate. Think about that for a moment. We’re not just going to ignore the mounting evidence; we’re going to stop collecting it.

Which helps explain, I think, the mounting anger of the scientific community. They’ll march first, on April 22, to the National Mall, and in hundreds of satellite marches around the world. Expect lines of people in lab coats, pushing equation-laden blackboards down the streets of Washington. Scientists have been, for the most part, resolutely apolitical: Their job has been to provide the data, offer the analysis, and then stand back and let “policy-makers” take over. In a rational world, that would make sense. There’s no particular reason why someone who knows the best way to compute the melt rate of Greenland’s glaciers (no easy task, by the way) would also know the best way to move us off fossil fuel.

But as scientists have finally begun to realize, there’s nothing rational about the world we currently inhabit. We’re not having an argument about climate change, to be swayed by more studies and journal articles and symposia. That argument is long since won, but the fight is mostly lost—the fight about the money and power that’s kept us from taking action and that is now being used to shut down large parts of the scientific enterprise. As Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney said in March, “We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.” In a case this extreme, scientists have little choice but to be citizens as well. And given their credibility, it will matter: 76 percent of Americans trust scientists to act in the public interest, compared with 27 percent who think the same thing about elected officials………

the news isn’t all grim. In fact, what makes the current Trumpish backsliding so absurd is that it comes just as we’ve figured out at least some of what we need to do about climate change. The price of a solar panel has dropped 80 percent in the last decade and continues to plummet. In much of the world, wind power is now the cheapest way to generate electricity. That means that if we wanted to, we could take giant steps—fast. A few nations have shown the way: Denmark produced nearly half its power from wind in 2015, and Costa Rica ran its electricity system almost exclusively off renewables. The price of batteries is dropping just as fast now, and their capacity grows with each new iteration. It’s not just Elon Musk; the Chinese are starting to drive this revolution as they install vast quantities of renewable power.

Which is a good reminder that markets alone are not going to make this transition happen—at least, they’re not going to make it happen fast enough to catch up with the physics of global warming. For that we’ll need concerted government action, like the Senate bill that Bernie San­ders and Jeff Merkley will introduce in late April calling for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. It won’t pass, obviously—but it will serve as the new standard for sensible people to rally around.

And it will be popular—every poll shows that Americans of every ideology love solar power (close to 90 percent in some surveys). Not only that, but they’d love the jobs that come with the transition to solar: by first estimate, about 4 million. That job growth should put Trump’s endless posturing about coal miners in stark relief—thanks mostly to automation, there are barely 76,000 of them left; twice as many Americans work in car washes.

All these streams will converge on the National Mall on April 29, chosen because that weekend marks Trump’s first 100 days in office. This Peoples Climate Mobilization(#ClimateMarch) will be the big one, the sequel to the massive protest that filled the streets of New York in September of 2014. Expect—well, expect lots of people determined to show that they’re fed up with Trump’s nonsense and aware that there’s another future available. We’ll be marching from the Capitol, up Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’ll completely surround the White House—a kind of citizens’ arrest of the nincompoop inside. There will be a moment of silence and then tremendous noise, loud enough to shake the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to their senses if they had them. We’ll end with a closing event at the Washington Monument, where people will be able to gather in “circles of resistance” and talk about the road ahead. (There will also be candidate training the next day for climate activists who want to run for office.)…..https://www. thenation.com/article/on- april-29-we-march-for-the- future/

April 21, 2017 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

Does Donald Trump have a frontal lobe brain deficit?

Brain specialist doctor believes Donald Trump’s frontal lobe is failing http://www.palmerreport.com/politics/brain-specialist-doctor-believes-donald-trumps-frontal-lobe-is-failing/2354/ By Bill PalmerOver the past week Donald Trump has begun making so many basic confused errors that it’s become a matter of serious concern to a number of Americans. He’s forgetting names. He’s forgetting people. He’s forgetting what to do during the National Anthem. He’s forgetting that a kid just handed him a hat. He’s forgetting which country he just bombed. And now a brain specialist doctor says she believes it’s evidence that Trump’s frontal lobe is failing.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Bill in USA Congress aims to facilitate removal of a President

House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures http://thehill.com/homenews/house/329206-house-democrat-introduces-bill-to-amend-presidential-removal-procedures A House Democrat has introduced legislation to enhance the Constitution’s presidential removal procedures in response to concerns about President Trump’s behavior.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House’s two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office.

“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Blumenau’s  proposal stems from concern that the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted five decades ago, would fall short in cases of emotional or mental incapacity.

The amendment states that the vice president assumes the Oval Office in the event that a president is removed from office, dies or resigns. Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officers can also jointly declare that a president is unfit to serve. The vice president would then take over as president in such a case.In the event that a president refused to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote to force the resignation.

But Blumenauer posited that the mechanism wouldn’t be effective if a mentally unstable president simply fired all the Cabinet members. He argued it’s also possible that Cabinet members might feel pressured to stand by the president in the polarized political environment despite their own personal misgivings.

“Because the cabinet can be fired by the president, there is a natural bias that would make them reluctant to acknowledge the president’s inability to serve. It’s time to revisit and strengthen the Amendment and make sure there is a reliable mechanism in place if the president becomes unable to discharge the powers and duties of office,” Blumenauer said.

Blumenauer first raised concerns about the 25th Amendment in a House floor speech in February during which he expressed worry about what he viewed as “erratic” behavior from Trump. At the time, he pointed to Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud in the election and stating that it was sunny during his inaugural address when it was, in fact, raining.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers have openly raised questions about Trump’s psychological state since he took office in January, including Blumenauer, Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) and Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and John Yarmuth (Ky.).

April 21, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s claims of ability to carry out Electronic Warfare

Russia claims it can wipe out US Navy with single ‘electronic bomb’, Fox news 19 Apr 17 Russia has claimed it can disable the entire US Navy in one fell swoop using powerful electronic signal jamming.

A news report from the country – where the media is essentially controlled by the state – said the technology could render planes, ships and missiles useless.

The newsreader says: “Today, our Russian Electronic Warfare (REW) troops can detect and neutralise any target from a ship’s system and a radar, to a satellite.”

The news report claims a single Russian war plane flew several times around American destroyer the USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea several years ago, disabling its systems and leaving it helpless.

The report also claims they are capable to creating electronic jamming domes over their bases that make them invisible on radar screens.

The propaganda piece even quotes top US General Frank Gorenc as saying: “Russian electronic weapons completely paralyse the functioning of American electronic equipment installed on missiles, aircraft and ships.”

The reporter adds: “You don’t need to have expensive weapons to win – powerful radio-electronic jamming is enough.”……..http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/19/russia-claims-it-can-wipe-out-us-navy-with-single-electronic-bomb.html

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment