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New book: Nuclear Multilateralism and Iran.

Championing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Rules: The EU and Iran , Lobelog, by Peter Jenkins, 20 Apr 17 In a newly published book, Tarja Cronberg contrasts EU and US conceptions of multilateralism in the nuclear field. Her work is titled Nuclear Multilateralism and Iran.

A former member of the European Parliament (EP) and chair of the EP delegation for EU relations with Iran, Cronberg writes: “For the US multilateralism is a means to an end, but for Europeans it is an end in itself.” Both the EU and the US are committed, she continues, to upholding international law, well-functioning international institutions, and a rules-based international order. But the EU’s commitment is more heartfelt and goes deeper than the US commitment. After all, the EU itself is a multilateral institution, and, lacking military resources, is more dependent on global rules. The US approach is “utilitarian,” writes Cronberg, quoting Robert Kagan, whereas the EU approach could be characterized as both idealistic and needy (my words, not hers).

These distinctions are the starting-point for an analysis of the EU contribution to resolving the concern aroused by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in 2003 that Iran had “pursued a policy of concealment” for 18 years and had failed to declare the possession and use of nuclear material to develop a uranium enrichment capability. Cronberg finds that the EU contribution was important, even essential to the eventual outcome of that process. The EU showed itself to be a “unified” and effective “actor.”

Good Cop/Bad Cop

This finding leads her to offer several recommendations to EU policymakers. Her chief recommendation relates to the role the EU should aspire to play in the event of similar nuclear proliferation cases in the future. She would like the EU role to be “autonomous.” In effect she is advocating that the EU put itself forward as a purer champion of a multilateral rules-based order than the United States, to lead the international search for peaceful solutions.

In support of that recommendation she makes a telling point. On moral and political grounds the five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) ought to have disbarred themselves from preaching nuclear non-proliferation years ago. Most NPT parties resent the continuing reluctance of the NWS to act on their NPT pledge to negotiate “in good faith” on nuclear disarmament. Indeed most parties find NWS hypocrisy nauseating. In contrast, although two NWS are members of the EU (only one, in all probability, from April 2019), the EU as a whole is entitled to characterize itself as a non-nuclear weapon entity………

This is a thought-provoking book that draws on “front-line” experience of the issues and historical events that the author addresses. It appears at a time when the commitment of the United States to the multilateral rules-based order that it fathered over 70 years ago seems weaker than ever.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, resources - print | Leave a comment

How easily America’s nuclear weapons strategy could go horribly wrong

THE PLAN TO MAKE AMERICA’S NUKES GREAT AGAIN COULD GO HORRIBLY WRONG, VICE News,  By Keegan Hamilton . It was nearly 2 o’clock in the morning on Oct. 23, 2010, when an Air Force lieutenant called from his base in Wyoming to report the nightmare scenario unfolding before him. Fifty intercontinental ballistic missiles — each tipped with a nuclear warhead 20 times more powerful than the bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima — had suddenly lost contact with the computers at the base’s launch center.

“I… we… have no idea what’s happening right now,” the officer sputtered as he tried to explain the situation to support staff at a remote command center. Another officer barked orders behind him, interrupting the call. “Holy shit!” the lieutenant exclaimed. “I will have to call you back!”

The Air Force could tell that the weapons were still in their underground silos, but there was no way to know whether the missiles had been hijacked. A renegade missile crew, someone splicing into underground cables, or hackers exploiting radio signal receivers attached to the ICBMs could have set them on a countdown to launch. Even worse, without contact with the missiles, it was impossible to halt an unauthorized launch attempt.

Fortunately, the missiles were undisturbed. Altogether, they were knocked offline for a total of about 45 minutes, and the entire situation was resolved in a matter of hours. But for a chaotic stretch during the blackout, nobody knew what was wrong or how to fix it. As one colonel put it in an email, “the weapon system was kicking our butt.”

The culprit turned out to be a simple computer glitch: A circuit card had popped loose in the brains of the base’s Weapons System Processor.

The Air Force maintains that the situation was always under control. Still, it’s a stark reminder that even a minor mishap involving our nation’s aging nukes could have catastrophic consequences.

The U.S. keeps 416 “Minuteman” missiles ready to blast off at a moment’s notice. It’s unlikely — but not impossible — that a false alarm could make it seem like an attack is underway. In such a scenario, President Donald Trump, who has the sole, unchecked authority to launch U.S. nuclear weapons, would have only a few minutes to react. The codes used to fire the missiles are about the length of a tweet. And once one is launched, there’s no taking it back.

The technology that currently powers these nukes is notoriously antiquated. Most of the systems were designed and built during the height of the Cold War in the 1960s and ’70s, with the last major overhaul completed during the Reagan administration. Some computers in the missile base command centers still use eight-inch floppy disks.

In a May 2016 report, the Government Accountability Office determined that a key component of the Defense Department’s “command and control system,” which would be used to either start or prevent World War III, is “made up of technologies and equipment that are at the end of their useful lives.” The Pentagon is now in the midst of a $60 million overhaul of the system, which is expected to be complete by 2020.

The U.S. is on track to spend about $1 trillion over the next three decadesupgrading all facets of the nuclear arsenal, with $3.2 billion already budgeted for the 2017 fiscal year. A large chunk of that money will go toward upgraded missiles, new infrastructure, and overhauled command-and-control systems, such as digital phone lines and modern computers. Obama initiated the modernization plan, but it has found a new champion in Trump, who wants to boost the nuclear weapons program budget by an extra billion dollars……

Cyberwarfare has already moved into the nuclear realm. The U.S. has reportedly attempted to digitally sabotage North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, perhaps as recently as last week, and it’s widely believed that malware created by the National Security Agency infected computers at an Iranian uranium-enrichment facility in 2010.

In February, the Pentagon issued a report on “cyber deterrence” that addressed the threat posed to nuclear weapons at home. It warned that “the cyberthreat to U.S. critical infrastructure is outpacing efforts to reduce pervasive vulnerabilities.” In other words, the bad guys are coming with new ways to attack digital weak spots faster than we can fix them.

As the mishap in Wyoming shows, the aging computers that control America’s nukes are by no means perfect. But with the modernization process already underway and multiple experts raising concerns about the plan to bring the most dangerous weapons known to man into the 21st century, the question is whether the solution to repair the creaky old machines is more dangerous than the existing problem…..

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

Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science

The most common tricks politicians use to muddle inconvenient science  “I think my primary message would be learn to appreciate evidence.” VOX,  by  Apr 20, 2017 On Saturday, thousands of people will march on Washington in support of science. And they’ll do so for very good reasons: Science, under the Trump administration, is under assault. As Vox’s Brian Resnick noted recently, the Trump administration has proposed cutting around $7 billion from science programs, including stifling research funding for the EPA and the National Institutes of Health.

In this interview, I talk to Dave Levitan, author of the new book Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science. A how-to guide for spotting nonsense, Levitan’s book highlights the rhetorical tricks and logical errors politicians use when they distort science for political purposes. Here, we discuss the ideological roots of science denialism and why it’s so important for citizens to demand evidence in support of policy claims.

Dave Levitan  The whole idea for the book came about when I started seeing patterns. Cherry-picking data is probably the most familiar. The tendency to draw on a single data point in support of some broader argument, like Sen. James Inhofe did with the famous snowball on the Senate floor. Or taking a very specific subset of data, like Ted Cruz did when he claimed there hasn’t been any global warming for 17 years. That might be the most commonly seen one where you really just pick and choose exactly which study and data point, which subset or source to use, and then conveniently draw on that when it aligns with your political narrative.

 Another really common one is where they claim that because there is still some degree of uncertainty around whatever the subject happens to be, then that means we shouldn’t do anything about it. Climate change is a great one for that, but it dates back much farther. Conservatives used the same tactics for delaying action on acid rain in the ’80s, for example. President Reagan would say, “Well, we still have to study this and figure out what’s going on. There’s not enough data to do anything.”
First of all, they were wrong. There was plenty of data. We knew exactly how to deal with acid rain and ended up fixing it pretty well. So that one comes up a lot, the idea that because there’s any degree of uncertainty that we shouldn’t do anything, which is of course ridiculous because every scientific measure ever taken has a degree of uncertainty and always will……..

I think my primary message would be learn to appreciate evidence. I really wish that your average reader of news would keep in mind that evidence is important and just because someone said something doesn’t make it true. That’s true for people on the right or left, for scientists themselves, and for everyone. People have to back up their claims with evidence.

If individual citizens have this in mind at all times, I think they’d do a better job of spotting bullshit and lies. Make sure that people show their work, that their policy pronouncements are backed up with reliable data.

April 21, 2017 Posted by | climate change, resources - print, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Three Mile Island nuclear station could close anytime soon

Three Mile Island, like much of nuclear industry, is on the brink  Wallace McKelvey |   on April 19, 2017  Nuclear power, which generates more than a third of Pennsylvania’s electricity, could soon disappear from the state amid a glut of cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale play.

And the first of the state’s five plants to fall could be Three Mile Island, which could close as soon as 2019.

That’s the argument, at least, that TMI owner Exelon is making as it seeks the Legislature’s help to keep struggling reactors like TMI open. The same argument is being made in other states — Illinois and New York both moved to shore up nuclear plants in the last year.

In turn, the gas lobby and other advocacy groups have ramped up efforts to thwart a bailout of the nuclear industry that they say would lead to electric rate hikes.

Pennsylvania lawmakers from both chambers and both parties formed a “nuclear caucus” with the goal of crafting a proposal to rescue the industry this fall. For their part, caucus leaders say they’re not interested in bailouts or subsidies……

Exelon’s most recent SEC filing described TMI as the facility “at the greatest risk of early retirement due to current economic valuations and other factors….

“We’ve operated for the past six years at a loss,” said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon’s executive vice president of governmental and regulatory affairs and public policy. “We have effectively tried everything we can to weather the storm. I think the question in front of us now is how much longer we’re willing to go.”

For two years in a row, TMI failed to clear PJM’s capacity auction, meaning that it was not able to sell guaranteed power in 2019 and 2020…..

In Illinois, Exelon announced the closure of two of its nuclear power plants but reversed the decision when the governor signed off on a $235 million subsidy … Competitors have since filed lawsuits to block the measure.

Exelon isn’t the only nuclear energy company to consider closing plants in Pennsylvania. FirstEnergy Corp. announced that it would close or sell the Beaver Valley nuclear power station near Pittsburgh within the next year. PSEG, which owns half of Peach Bottom station in York County alongside Exelon, also said it wouldn’t operate nuclear plants that are unprofitable. It has pressed New Jersey for similar subsidies to continue operating its nuclear plants there…..

“Here’s what the U.S. government must do to bring about a gradual phase-out of almost all U.S. nuclear power plants: absolutely nothing,” former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford wrote in 2013. He cited the “abundance of natural gas, lower energy demand induced by the 2008 recession, increased energy-efficiency measures, nuclear’s rising cost estimates and the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station” in Japan………

April 21, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Is the world on the brink of nuclear war? Wouldn’t bet against it

Donald Trump is betting that the genuine threat of nuclear war will get Kim Jong-un to back down. That is an incredibly dangerous bet to make. Michael Bradley  Managing partner at Marque Lawyers…….(Subscribers only)

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

Shenzhen nuclear plant declares war on shrimp

Hong Kong-based watchdog reports six minor incidents at Guangdong power suppliers last year, including accumulation of 3mm shrimps around water pipe at Ling Ao station, South China Morning Post, Ernest Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 Operators of a nuclear power plant in Shenzhen have surrounded water intake pipes with gill nets to prevent the accumulation of shrimp that caused a minor safety incident last year.

The Nuclear Safety Consultative Committee, a Hong Kong-based watchdog that monitors the plants in Daya Bay and Ling Ao, reported six “below scale”(Level 0) incidents at the power stations last year, three of which occurred in a single month……..

April 21, 2017 Posted by | China, incidents | Leave a comment