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

April 28 Energy News



¶ “Big, young power plants are closing. Is it a new trend?” • Many of the US coal plants retired in recent years were geezers by industry standards. They trended old and small, and ran a fraction of the time. But in a vexing sign for the industry, those in the next round of retirements are decidedly younger. In fact, they are just middle-aged. [E&E News]

San Juan Generating Station could close in 2022, three
decades earlier than anticipated. (Doc Searls, Wikipedia)

¶ “How much storage and back-up do high renewable grids need?” • It’s a question at the heart of electricity planning and the subject of many of the myths peddled by vested interests in the fossil fuel lobby and reported by the gullible media. The answer is: not nearly as much as the naysayers would have you think. [RenewEconomy]


¶ The Australian…

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April 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Russian Environmental NGOs: An Endangered Species

Mining Awareness +

From Human Rights Watch:
JANUARY 18, 2017 12:22PM EST ‪Dispatches‬
Russian Environment NGOs: An Endangered Species
Environmental Rights Center Labeled “Foreign Agent”
by Anastasia Ovsyannikova, Natalia Estemirova fellow

2017, officially designated as Russia’s “Year of Ecology,”[1] is off to a disastrous start. On January 16, the authorities labeled one of the country’s most prominent environmental groups, Bellona-St. Petersburg, a “foreign agent organization.”

At the end of 2016, the Ministry of Justice conducted an unscheduled audit of Bellona, and although the group has not yet received the official result of that audit, Bellona-St. Petersburg has been added to Russia’s growing list of “foreign agents.”[2] Since 2012, the Russian government has used its “foreign agents” law to demonize independent groups that accept foreign funding and carry out public advocacy, especially those that challenge government policies and actions. In 2013, the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office conducted a joint…

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April 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Merkley, Sanders goal: U.S. on all renewables by 2050

GarryRogers Nature Conservation

GR:  The U. S. has begun adopting renewable energy. For instance, the number of us solar jobs (not even counting wind) surpassed coal, oil, and gas jobs officially in late 2015 ( This story shows some of the powerful support behind the 100 by ’50 Act (100% by 2050). It also includes links to background information as well as the bill and the bill summary.

People in my community are switching to rooftop solar power. The switch stabilizes their costs and gives them independence from power failures of all kinds. Those that live in shaded homes like mine or in multi-family apartments are switching using the Green-e Program.

Look at the list of seven core components of the transition plan and see if you agree that it is sensible. The story from reporting from Senator Merkley’s home state lists the component near the end:


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April 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teetering on the brink, and other nuclear and climate news

You wonder how long the world can teeter on the brink – Donald Trump says:  Chance of ‘major, major conflict’ with North KoreaUnprepared President Trump risks blundering into nuclear war. But Why so little public protest on the current threats of nuclear war?  Have we all got nuclear-war-fear fatigue? Or, in Australia, it is the football season.

Investigative journalism lives! – Time to pay attention to long term effects of low dose ionising radiation. The radioactive berry harvests of Chernobyl.

Trump says that Kim Jong Un ‘is a problem that needs to be finally solved’, sends Cruise missile-carrying nuclear submarine to South Korea. China’s strong warning to North Korea against another nuclear weapons test. Japanese buying nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers, in fear of nuclear attack. Just 10 minutes to prepare for a North Korean nuclear attack, Japan’s government says. The multi-million death toll that would result from a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. Close to human extinction – a nuclear war warning from Ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Plutonium in space – the danger in space probes.

USA.   America’s anti-ballistic missile systems capable of nuclear strike against Russia, China.  Nuclear energy utilities NextEra, FPL lose lawsuit over $97.5 million in nuclear-related tax refunds Nuclear bomb drill in New Jersey.  

American scientists march to save science.  Florida’s nightmare outlook with climate change.   9 year old boy persisting in suing Donald Trump over his climate policies. Heartland Institute’s misinformation campaign into schools.

CANADA. Emergency exercises in Ottawa and Nova Scoria: testing how to respond to a nuclear threat.

INDIA. Duration of Indian Hot Season Nearly Doubles as Crushing Drought and Heat Expand Across the Subcontinent.

SOUTH KOREA. South Korea: All major candidates vow to stop building new reactors.


RUSSIA. Children Still Endangered by Chernobyl Radiation in Russia; Russia Pretends Area Has Improved; Removes Medical, Social Insurance and Compensation. Russia Continues Crusade Against Environmental Groups in Run-up to Earth Day.

SOUTH AFRICA. South Africa’s Eskom nuclear plan set back, as Judge rules nuclear decisions unlawful.

UKRAINE.   Chernobyl’s massive steel arch – temporary protection against ionising radiation.

JAPAN. 80% of voluntary Fukushima disaster evacuees outside pref. unwilling to return home.    Japan reconstruction minister quits after inappropriate comment on disaster zone. The scandalous deficiency of the health scheme in Fukushima.   Tests to start on radioactive soil for use in reconstruction.  Japan’s very big problem of nuclear wastes from its failed Tokai Reprocessing Plant.  High contamination in Namie, Fukushima

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

The radioactive berry harvests of Chernobyl

The harvests of Chernobyl, Aeon, Thirty years after the nuclear disaster, local berry-pickers earn a good living. What’s the hidden cost of their wares?, Kate Brown, is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of Plutopia (2013). Olha Martynyuk is a historian at the National Technical University of Ukraine.

You can’t miss the berry-pickers in the remote forests of northern Ukraine, a region known as Polesia. They ride along on bicycles or pile out of cargo vans. They are young, mostly women and children, lean and suntanned, with hands stained a deep purple. And they are changing the landscape around them. Rural communities across eastern Europe are struggling economically, but the Polesian towns are booming with new construction. Two hundred miles west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, thousands of mushroom- and berry-pickers are revving up the local economy. As they forage, they are even changing the European diet, in ways both culinary and radiological.
The rise of the Polesian pickers adds a strange twist to the story that began on 26 April 1986, when an explosion at the Chernobyl plant blew out at least 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes. Soviet leaders traced out a 30 kilometre radius around the stricken reactor and emptied it of its residents. Roughly 28,000 square kilometres outside this exclusion zone were also contaminated. In total, 130,000 people were resettled, but hundreds of thousands remained on irradiated territory, including the Polesian towns of Ukraine’s Rivne Province. In 1990, Soviet officials resolved to resettle several hundred thousand more residents but ran out of money to carry out new mass evacuations.

Last summer, we went to Rivnе to talk to people who in the late 1980s wrote petitions begging for resettlement. In the letters, which we had found in state archives in Kiev and Moscow, writers expressed worries about their health and that of their children, while describing a sense of abandonment. Help never arrived; the Chernobyl accident came just as the Soviet state began to topple economically and politically……..

Anyone in Polesia can pick anywhere, as long as they are willing to brave the radioactive isotopes. After Chernobyl, Soviet officials strongly discouraged picking berries in contaminated forest areas, which promised to remain radioactive for decades. As the years passed, fewer and fewer people heeded the warnings. In the past five years, picking has grown into a booming business as new global market connections have enabled the mass sale of berries abroad. A person willing to do the hard work of stooping 10 hours a day and heaving 40-pound boxes of fruit to the road can earn good money. The women and child pickers are revitalising the Polesian economy on a modest, human-powered scale. They are quietly and unceremoniously doing what development agencies and government programmes failed to do: restoring commercial activity to the contaminated territory around the Chernobyl Zone.

We followed the pickers into the woods. …….

Reliance on the forest for a living is an ancestral tradition in Polesia. Because of the mineral-poor soils, traditional farming never thrived here. Instead, Polesians subsisted on game, fish, berries, herbs and mushrooms while making their tools and homes from wood and clay. What is new in the past few years is the industrial-sized scale of berry harvesting. A typical roadside berry-buyer purchases about two tons of berries a day in season, and there are hundreds of buyers. In 2015, Ukraine exported 1,300 tons of fresh berries and 17,251 tons of frozen berries to the European market – more than 30 times as much as in 2014. Ukraine is now one of biggest exporters of blueberries to the EU.

That success is all the more remarkable because Polesian berries are not just any berries. They grow in radioactive soils, which means that they carry some of Chernobyl’s legacy in them. We showed up at a berry wholesaler in the boom town of Rokytne and noticed a radiation monitor who was stationed to meet buyers at the loading dock. The situation there was tense. As the monitor waved a wand over each box of berries, measuring their gamma ray emission, she set aside about half of the boxes. The buyers argued with her, trying to lower the count on their berries: ‘It’s not the berries that are radiating. It’s my trailer. Measure it over there.’

We asked the monitor, a young townswoman, how many berries come up radioactive. ‘All the berries from Polesia are radioactive,’ she replied, ‘but some are really radioactive. We’ve had berries measure over 3,000!’ She could not describe what units she was referring to, microsieverts or microrems; she only knew which numbers were bad. ‘The needle has to be between 10 and 15,’ she said, vaguely pointing to her wand, ‘and then I place it in this machine.’ She gestured toward a small mass spectrometer. ‘If the readout is more than 450, then the berries are over the permissible level.’

Contrary to our assumption, the berries rejected as too radioactive were not discarded, but were merely placed aside. Then they, too, were weighed and sold, just at lower prices. The wholesalers we spoke to said that the radioactive berries were used for natural dyes. The pickers claimed the hot berries were mixed with cooler berries until the assortment came in under the permissible level. The berries could then legally be sold to Poland to enter the European Union (EU) market, even if some individual berries measured five times higher than the permissible level. Such mixing is legal as long as the overall mix of berries falls within the generous limit of 600 becquerel per kilogram set by the EU after the Chernobyl disaster.

No one, certainly no official, ever envisioned revitalising the economy by exploiting berries and mushrooms. Months after the 1986 accident, Soviet scientists determined that forest products were the most radioactive of all edible crops, and banned their consumption. However, villagers in Polesia never stopped harvesting berries and mushrooms (as well as game and fish) from the forests outside the fenced-off Chernobyl Zone. Women sold their produce surreptitiously at regional markets, deftly avoiding the police who learned to identify Polesians by their homemade baskets……..

AQlthough the Polesian berries meet EU standards, it remains unclear how healthy life is for those living in the Rivne Province. Official publications of the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency assert that radiation levels in Polesia are too low to cause health damage other than a slight rise in the chance of cancer. However, that judgment is based on reference studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, not on local research in the Chernobyl zones. Wladimir Wertelecki, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent the past 16 years tracking every recorded birth in the Rivne Province. ‘Hiroshima was just one big X-ray. It doesn’t compare to the doses of people in Polesia who ingest radioactive isotopes every day,’ he says. He thinks that the slow-drip exposure of organs to radioactive isotopes over decades makes for a far more damaging exposure than the single, external Hiroshima dose.

Researchers in Wertelecki’s group and those working on small, usually minimally financed medical studies have found that low doses of ingested radiation tend to concentrate in vital organs that keenly impact on important body functions. Yury Bandazhevsky, a pioneer in studying the health impacts of Chernobyl, has recorded a correlation between the incorporation of radioactive cesium in children’s bodies and heart disease in Belarus and Ukraine. Wertelecki and the Ukrainian medical researcher Lyubov Yevtushok discovered that in the six Polesian regions of the Rivne Province, certain birth defects, such as microcephaly, conjoined twins and neural-tube disorders occur three times more frequently than is the European norm. ‘We did not prove with this study that radiation causes birth defects. We just have a concurrence, not proof, of cause and effect,’ Wertelecki says. Nevertheless, he considers the concurrence statistically strong enough to warrant large-scale epidemiological studies that could prove or disprove whether the birth defects were caused by radiation.

Despite the fact that the nuclear disaster presented scientists with a unique living laboratory, few funding agencies have been willing to finance Chernobyl studies on non-cancerous health effects; based on Japanese bomb-survivor research, industry scientists have insisted that there would be no measurable non-malignant impacts. In Chernobyl-contaminated Polesia, however, few people doubt that ingesting radioactive toxins over decades has a biological cost.

Galina, the woman who declared that there was ‘no Chernobyl’, changed her view later when talking about her own health. Trim and fit at the age of 50, she had a stroke followed by two surgeries for ‘women’s cancer’. About her cancers, she said: ‘All of a sudden, they started growing day by day. I asked the doctors if they’d hold up the operation until autumn [after the harvest], but they said I’d be dead by then. Probably, these problems were caused by radiation. It does have an effect, apparently.’ Even less is known about non-cancer health impacts from Chernobyl. Many locals complain of aching and swollen joints, headaches, chronic fatigue and legs that mysteriously stop moving. There have been almost no studies investigating these vague complaints…….

here has been little public discussion and almost no medical research on the long-term, low-dose ingestion of radioactive isotopes. Presumably exporting the berries helps the people of Polesia, but for now there is no hard proof……

The mass marketing of radioactive Polesian forest products is an unexpected outcome of policies aimed at finalising the disaster. It is a development that disputes the focus on Chernobyl as a ‘place’. Rather, Chernobyl is an event, an ongoing occurrence that transpires as long as the radioactive energy released in the accident continues to decay……

April 28, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Long History of US Military Brutality Against Korea

The High Costs of US Warmongering Against North Korea TruthOutWednesday, April 26, 2017 By Christine Ahn, Truthout | News Analysis 

“………..Contrary to Trump’s campaign rhetoric that he “would be very, very cautious” and not be a “happy trigger” compared to Hillary Clinton, the Trump administration has mercilessly and without coherence dropped massive US bombs throughout the Middle East. With regards to Korea, the Trump administration has said that all options are on the table, including military action. Trump announced that the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Syria over dinner with President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in a clear message to China that it must either rein in North Korea, or the United States will take unilateral action. It was soon after that Donald Trump told the world that the US was “sending an armada, very powerful” toward North Korea, even though it wasn’t.

A Long History of US Military Brutality Against Korea

But North Koreans don’t need to look at Syria or Afghanistan, or at Libya or Iraq, to understand the sheer brutality of US military power. They have their own history of surviving indiscriminate US bombing during the Korean War that destroyed 80 percent of North Korean cities and claimed one in four relatives.

More bombs were dropped on Korea than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II. According to the memoir Soldier by Anthony Herbert, the most decorated veteran of the Korean War, in May 1951, one year into the war, General MacArthur offered this testimony before Congress:

The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach…. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited…. If you go on indefinitely, you are perpetuating a slaughter such as I have never heard of in the history of mankind.

Curtis LeMay, who took over for MacArthur, later wrote, “We burned down just about every city in North Korea and South Korea both … we killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million more from their homes.”

While all parties to the Korean War, including the North Korean People’s Army, committed heinous acts, Americans must remember this tragic history because it very much underlies the North Korean mindset and their enormous will to survive, underscoring how counterproductive “strategic patience” is.

According to Korea expert John DeLury,

Thinking that it’s a matter of making North Korea hurt enough, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of a key attribute of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] state and society which has an extraordinary capacity to absorb pain. They have maybe suffered more than anyone since 1945. They’re like a boxer, they’ll never beat you but you can never knock them down. No matter how hard you hit them, they get back up.

And the sober lesson that the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations ultimately arrived at was that there was no military option.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton considered a preemptive strike on North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor, but the Pentagon concluded that even limited action would claim a million lives in the first 24 hours — and this was well before Pyongyang possessed nuclear weapons. President Obama, too, considered surgical strikes, but as David Sanger reported in the New York Times, obtaining such timely intelligence was nearly impossible and “the risks of missing were tremendous, including renewed war on the Korean peninsula.” Any military action by Washington will undoubtedly trigger a counter-reaction from Pyongyang that could instantly kill a third of the South Korean population.

To most Americans, Korea is a problem “over there.” It’s not. The situation on the Korean Peninsula has for 70 years been dictated by US foreign policy. In 1945, at the end of WWII, the United States, along with the Soviets — as victors over Japan in the Pacific Theater — divided the Korean peninsula. Two young officers in the State Department literally tore a page out of the National Geographic and drew a line across the 38th parallel, taking Seoul and giving Pyongyang to the Soviets.

The Korean people, who were preparing for their liberation from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule, had organized one of the most vibrant grassroots democratic people’s committees in history. Instead of liberation, they got two military occupations and became the front line of the Cold War. The division of Korea led in 1948 to the creation to two separate states: the Republic of Korea in the south, and the Democratic People’s Republic in the north, which ultimately led to the 1950-53 Korean War.

The atrocious war was temporarily halted on July 27, 1953, when US Army Lieutenant General William Harrison, representing the UN Command, and North Korean General Nam Il, representing the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers, signed the Armistice Agreement. Article IV, paragraph 60, called for the official end of the Korean War by replacing the Armistice with a peace treaty.

Hopes for Diplomacy and Peacebuilding

Today, the US still has wartime operational control over South Korea and jurisdiction over half the DMZ. There are 28,500 US troops across South Korea, and it’s the US missile defense system, THAAD, which has prompted massive protests across South Korea and is straining Seoul’s relations with Beijing. The rapid deployment of THAAD — ahead of schedule and pushed during the political vacuum in South Korea — is just the latest example of US intrusion into Korean affairs to further its own geopolitical interests.

But just as the security of Korean peoples is tied to US policy, Korea has very much influenced human security in the United States. Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presciently noted, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” In fact, Korea has been the justification for US military expansion in the Asia Pacific, and inaugurated the military-industrial complex and massive spending that has built the greatest war-making force in world history. According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, “It was the Korean War, not Greece or Turkey, or the Marshall Plan or Vietnam that inaugurated big defense budgets and the national security state that transformed a limited containment doctrine into a global crusade that ignited McCarthyism just as it seemed to fizzle, and thereby gave the Cold War its long run.”

Sadly, the conflict with North Korea is being used as further justification to increase the US military budget. In February, President Trump requested an additional $54 billion for the military — a 10 percent increase — while making drastic cuts to social welfare programs. This is on top of the already bloated $598 billion US military budget, which is the world’s largest and more than the next seven highest-spending countries combined. “The Pentagon spends an estimated $10 billion a year on overseas bases,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “More than 70% of the total is spent in Japan, Germany and South Korea, where most US troops abroad are permanently stationed.”

The good news is that on May 9, South Korea will be holding a snap presidential election after the impeachment and imprisonment of its corrupt politician Park Geun-hye, whose hardline policy against North Korea strained inter-Korean relations. The leading candidate, Moon Jae-in, has pledged to improve relations with Pyongyang, noting that diplomatic relations are the best bet to ensure South Koreans’ security. As South Koreans work to improve peace on the Korean Peninsula, our job here in the United States is to strengthen the connection between the struggles for democracy, justice and liberation throughout the Asia Pacific, including South Korea, Okinawa and the Philippines, which are very much tied to our struggle for a just world built on food, land, water, health care and education.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | history, North Korea, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Unprepared President Trump risks blundering into nuclear war

White House meeting with full Senate on North Korea sends alarming signal from an unprepared president, ShareBlue, The Trump administration’s unusual step of inviting the entire Senate to the White House for a security briefing on North Korea, in addition to Donald Trump’s recent heated rhetoric, suggests he might be preparing for military action — a dangerous and terrifying scenario this ill-tempered and ignorant president is most certainly not capable of handling.

Donald Trump has engaged in a great deal of “saber-rattling” about North Korea, including his claim of “sending an armada” to the region, but his administration’s recent actions suggest they could be preparing for much more than tough talk.

The Trump administration took the highly unusual step of inviting the entire U.S. Senate to the White House on Wednesday for a national security briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, with Mattis, Dunford, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also in attendance. The State Department also announced that Tillerson will chair a special ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council about North Korea on Friday.

Trump’s young presidency is already in trouble, with record low approval ratings, multiple investigations into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, and an inability to enact any significant legislation, despite GOP control of both the House and Senate.

For a president desperate to prove his first 100 days are not a total failure, engaging in military action against North Korea, which poses an actual, though not imminent, threat to U.S. national security, could be the opportunity he is seeking to show his strength as a leader……….

The White House’s actions have not gone unnoticed by national intelligence and security expert Malcolm Nance, who questioned whether the White House might not only be briefing the Senate on Wednesday, but also asking for “war powers”:……..

Earlier this month, in response to Trump’s unilateral decision to use military force in Syria and Afghanistan and reports that he was considering a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement demanding that Speaker Paul Ryan initiate classified discussions about Trump’s use of force. Her effort was an attempt to leverage Congress’ constitutional war-related powers to hold Trump’s executive branch accountable. Unsurprisingly, however, Ryan scheduled no such meetings.

What is perhaps most concerning about the possibility that the Trump administration could be preparing for military action against North Korea is Trump’s failure to demonstrate any understanding whatsoever of the consequences of military action, and specifically, the use of nuclear weapons.

During the presidential campaign, Trump presented conflicting views of nuclear weapon use, and his administration’s policy on nuclear weapon use is also uncertain. In December, Trump indicated a willingness to engage in a new nuclear arms race with Russia, saying during an appearance on MSNBC, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

Retired General Michael Hayden: Possible I Won’t Vote In This Election | Morning Joe | MSNBC 

During his campaign, Trump refused to say he would not use nuclear weapons. He also showed a lack of understanding about the difference between nuclear weapons and conventional munitions, and he indicated that he was not familiar with the concepts of deterrence and disarmament. In fact, during an hour-long national security briefing in 2016, Trump repeatedly asked, “If we have nuclear weapons, why can’t we use them?”

SCARBOROUGH: What concerns you most about Donald Trump?

HAYDEN: How erratic he is, Joe. I can argue about this position or that position. I do that with the current president, but he [Trump] is inconsistent. And when you’re the head of a global superpower — inconsistency, unpredictability, those are dangerous things. They frighten your friends, and they tempt your enemies. So I would be very, very concerned.

FORD: General Hayden, Harold Ford, very very quickly: Who amongst your peers that you respect greatly — whether they think like you or don’t think like you — do you know that’s advising Mr. Trump.

HAYDEN: No one.

[Stunned utterances and looks from other panel members.]

SCARBOROUGH: I have to follow up with that, but, then, I’ll be very careful here. Several months ago, a foreign policy expert — on an international level — went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked. At one point, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” That’s one of the reasons why he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.

[Stunned utterances and looks from other panel members.]

Three times in an hour briefing: “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”

BRZEZINSKI: Be careful, America, and be careful, Republican leaders. Your (unintelligible) is blowing up.

SCARBOROUGH: So, General Hayden, I want to ask, one more time, and it may be classified, but, the steps. Donald Trump decides to use a nuclear weapon. What is the time frame between his decision and when the nuclear weapons are launched?

HAYDEN: Joe, it’s scenario dependent, but the system is designed for speed and decisiveness. It’s not designed to debate the decision.

With a cabinet full of generals, a decimated State Department, GOP control of both the House and the Senate, and a Republican Party unwilling to hold the Republican president accountable to any laws or norms, the reality is Trump has unchecked power when it comes to military action, including use of nuclear weapons.

Trump’s unpopularity, the ongoing questions about his election, and his demonstrated ignorance about a range of critical and complicated issues — from geopolitics to nuclear weapons — all add up to a dangerous situation with North Korea in which Trump is clearly in over his head and lacks the knowledge, experience, and sober advice to handle it.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

South African court annulls nuclear agreements

South Africa’s nuclear deals unlawful, court rules 26
April 2017
  A South African court has annulled initial agreements the government reached with three countries to help it build nuclear power stations.

The deals with Russia, the US and South Korea were unlawful, the court ruled. The government failed to hold public hearings and a parliamentary debate over its plans, it added.

Environmental groups said they welcomed the ruling, pointing out it came on the eve of the anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

The government has not yet commented on the ruling, in a case brought by the Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI).

Its plan to build eight nuclear plants at an estimated cost of around 1tn rand ($76bn; £59bn) has been dogged by controversy. Critics fear the deal will be unaffordable and plagued by corruption, and suspect that Finance Minister Pravin Gordan was sacked by President Jacob Zuma last month because he had serious reservations about it.

“In the past few weeks citizens have demonstrated their willingness to mobilise against corruption and the capture of our state. The nuclear deal is at the centre of it all.” SAFCEI official Siphokazi Pangalele said in a statement.

Concerns about the affordability of the deal contributed to global rating agency Fitch’s decision on 7 April to downgrade South Africa to “junk status”.

The government says it needs new nuclear power stations to meet South Africa’s growing electricity demand, and to move away from relying on coal-fire plants. The country currently has one nuclear plant.

It had reached preliminary agreements with Russia, the US and South Korea to build eight more, AFP news agency reports.

Environmental groups say South Africa should rely more on renewable energy to meet its electricity needs.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | 2 Comments

Plutonium in space – the danger in space probes

The final mission for Cassini, Enformable, 26 Apr 17, Karl Grossman Despite protests around the world, the Cassini space probe—containing more deadly plutonium than had ever been used on a space device—was launched 20 years ago. And this past weekend—on Earth Day—the probe and its plutonium were sent crashing into Saturn.

The $3.27 billion mission constituted a huge risk. Cassini with its 72.3 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel was launched on a Titan IV rocket on October 17, 1997 despite several Titan IV rockets having earlier blown up on launch.

At a demonstration two weeks before in front of the fence surrounding the pad at Cape Canaveral from which Cassini was to be launched, Dr. Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, warned of widespread regional damage if this Titan IV lofting Cassini exploded on launch. Winds could carry the plutonium “into Disney World, University City, into the citrus industry and destroy the economy of central Florida,” he declared………

on an Earth “flyby” by Cassini , done on August 18, 1999, it wouldn’t have been a regional disaster but a global catastrophe if an accident happened.

Cassini didn’t have the propulsion power to get directly from Earth to its final destination of Saturn, so NASA figured on having it hurtle back to Earth in a “sling shot maneuver” or “flyby”—to use Earth’s gravity to increase its velocity so it could reach Saturn. The plutonium was only used to generate electricity—745 watts—to run the probe’s instruments. It had nothing to do with propulsion.

So NASA had Cassini come hurtling back at Earth at 42,300 miles per hour and skim over the Earth’s atmosphere at 727 miles high. If there were a rocket misfire or miscalculation and the probe made what NASA in its “Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission” called an “inadvertent reentry,” it could have fallen into Earth’s atmosphere, disintegrating, and releasing plutonium. Then, said NASA in its statement, “Approximately 7 to 8 billion world population at a time … could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.”

The worst accident involving space nuclear power occurred in 1964 when a satellite powered by a SNAP-9A plutonium system failed to achieve orbit and fell to Earth, breaking apart and releasing its 2.1 pounds of Plutonium-238 fuel, which dispersed all over the planet. According to the late Dr. John Gofman, professor of medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley, that accident contributed substantially to global lung cancer rates……….

the U.S. Department of Energy working with NASA has started up a new production facility at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to produce Plutonium-238 for space use. Other DOE labs are also to participate.

Says Gagnon of the Maine-based Global Network: “Various DOE labs are rushing back into the plutonium processing business likely to make it possible for the nuclear industry to move their deadly product off-planet in order to ensure that the mining operations envisioned on asteroids, Mars, and the Moon will be fully nuclear-powered. Not only do the DOE labs have a long history of contaminating us on Earth but imagine a series of rocket launches with toxic plutonium on board that blow up from time to time at the Kennedy Space Center. They are playing with fire and the lives of us Earthlings. The space and the nuke guys are in bed together and that is a bad combination—surely terrible news for all of us.”

“The Global Network,” said Gagnon, “remains adamantly opposed to the use of nuclear power in space.”

April 28, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, safety, technology, USA | Leave a comment

American scientists march to save science

Science in America – Neil deGrasse Tyson

March against madness – denial has pushed scientists out to the streets  25 April 2017 by dana1981

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people in the US and around the world marched in support of science. Next weekend, the People’s ClimateMarchwill follow.

Redglass Pictures and StarTalk Radio created a short film in which the brilliant scientist and communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson – though not specifically talking about the science marches – perfectly articulated the motivations behind them.

For example, last weekend’s March for Science was largely a pushback against the creeping science denial among today’s political leaders, about which Dr. Tyson said:

But in this, the 21st Century, when it comes time to make decisions about science, it seems to me people have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not; what is reliable and what is not reliable; what should you believe, what should you not believe. And, when you have people who don’t know much about science standing in denial of it, and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.

The climate march is in response to so many of our political leaders using science denial to obstruct the important debate about policy solutions:

So once you understand that humans are warming the planet, you can then have a political conversation about that … [policy solutions] have political answers. And every minute one is in denial, you are delaying the political solution that should have been established years ago.

Mythbuster Adam Savage was interviewed on MSNBC about why he decided to speak at and participate in the March for Science in San Francisco:

we live in a time where people are passing legislation like in North Carolina to not pay attention to science when making legislation about coastal water levels rising. That is absolutely ludicrous and anti-human. We need to make, as you just said, policies based on the best evidence we have available to us, and that’s why I’m marching.

The marches have drawn some attention. PBS NewsHour – the only American network news program to consistently report on climate change – did a story featuring our own Geoffrey Supran:

The underlying problem is that it’s been decades since we’ve known enough about the threats posed by human-caused climate change to mitigate those risks. It should be a no-brainer: we have one planet with one climate that we depend upon entirely for our survival. We are in the process of fundamentally changing its atmosphere by dumping 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide into it every year. Our only reasonable option is to curb that carbon pollution as quickly as possible before we destabilize the Earth’s climate.

We seemed to finally be moving in the right direction with the Paris agreement, and now the American government is reneging on its pledges and doing everything in its power to increase carbon pollution. Members of the House Science Committee, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the President of the United States deny basic scientific findings made decades ago. The President proposed a budget that would slash funding for scientific research, he’s failed to appoint people to key scientific posts in his administration, and Republicans in the House of Representatives passed two bills to stifle science at the EPA.

It’s madness. We are risking the future of our society on the slim chance that a 3% fringe minority of climate scientists is right and 97% are wrong. It’s like playing Russian roulette, but with far worse odds. At least with Russian roulette there’s a 5-in-6 chance (83%) you’ll be fine. That’s a far sight better than the 3-in-100 (3%) gamble our leaders are taking on climate change. Worse yet, even the 3% don’t deny that humans are altering Earth’s climate, which is an inherently risky proposition.

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April 28, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Brexit and Britain’s problem of nuclear waste

NucClear News no 95 May 17  Brexit & Radwaste As Britain heads towards a hard Brexit and Brexatom – quitting Euratom – thanks to a freedom of information request, the Gizmodo website has obtained details of some of the internal worries of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The document, dated 13th July 2016, runs through some of the biggest strategic challenges created by us leaving the EU.

An NDA subsidiary, Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM) is engaged in research on deep geological disposal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EU is fronting a lot of the research cash. For example, one project – DOPAS – The Full-Scale Demonstration of Plugs and Seals, studied how to plug and seal radioactive waste. In this case Europe paid €8,700,000 – half the cost of doing it. It has also recently paid for a number of other similar projects. The document goes on to reveal that RWM is planning to seek European cash for future projects with similarly impenetrable acronyms. The best one is Europe putting an expected contribution of €3-4m into “DISCO” – a project studying the Dissolution of Spent Fuel in Waste Containers. Though it isn’t explicitly spelled out in the document, the implication is obvious: If our relationship with Europe is currently up in the air – so is the ability to pay for these important research projects.

Perhaps the biggest danger though – reading between the lines – is the risks associated with Britain becoming more hostile to immigration. “UK universities have a multinational community”, the document explains, “UK universities have been very successful in attracting the best talent (students and academic staff) from across the world, which in turn leads additional funding, better teaching and higher quality research. An inability to attract non-UK EU nationals would have a negative impact on UK universities and indirectly on the NDA estate R&D programme.”

Ultimately then, it appears that Brexit is going to create headaches when it comes to getting rid of radioactive waste.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

America’s anti-ballistic missile systems capable of nuclear strike against Russia, China

US missile shield aims to cover sudden nuclear strike against Russia – General Staff  27 Apr, 2017 The United States is pursuing global strategic domination through developing anti-ballistic missile systems capable of a sudden disarming strike against Russia and China, according to the deputy head of operations of the Russian General Staff.

There is an obvious link between Washington’s prompt global strike initiative, which seeks capability to engage “any targets anywhere in the world within one hour of the decision,” and the deployment of missile launch systems in Europe and aboard naval vessels across the globe, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

“The presence of US missile defense bases in Europe, missile defense vessels in seas and oceans close to Russia creates a powerful covert strike component for conducting a sudden nuclear missile strike against the Russian Federation,” Poznikhir explained.

While the US keeps claiming that its missile defenses are seeking to mitigate threats from rogue states, the results of computer simulations confirm that the Pentagon’s installations are directed against Russia and China, according to Poznikhir.

American missile attack warning systems, he said, cover all possible trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles flying toward the United States, and are only expected to get more advanced as new low-orbit satellites complement the existing radar systems.

“Applying sudden disarming strikes targeting Russian or Chinese strategic nuclear forces significantly increases the efficiency of the US missile defense system,” Poznikhir added.

American ABM systems are not only creating an “illusion” of safety from a retaliatory strike but can themselves be used to launch a sneak nuclear attack on Russia.

In a blatant breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the standard land-based launching systems can be covertly rearmed with Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of interceptors – and the Pentagon’s denial of this fact, according to Poznikhir, is “at the very least unconvincing.”

Moreover, Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union, allowed it to develop more advanced weapons that can now not only pose a threat to targets on the ground but in space as well………

April 28, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Chernobyl’s massive steel arch – temporary protection against ionising radiation

World’s largest moveable steel structure shelters sarcophagus at Chernobyl
April 27, 2017 by Susan Bauer 
Today marks the 31st anniversary of the catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s Unit 4 reactor. The blast discharged 400 times the radioactivity released by the Hiroshima bomb and drove nearly 200,000 people from their homes near the plant in Ukraine.

Now, the hastily built sarcophagus used to temporarily contain what remained of the reactor’s hull after the meltdown has been permanently entombed. A massive steel arch was built, and in 2016, slid over the sarcophagus where it is expected to safely and securely contain the radioactive debris for 100 years………

April 28, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Concern at plan to remove Handguns From Guards At Nuclear Power Plants

Gov’t Taking Away Handguns From Guards At Nuclear Power Plants, Daily Caller, ANDREW FOLLETT, Energy and Science Reporter , 27 Apr 17, Security guards at nuclear power plants will soon be prohibited from carrying handguns, according to a Wednesday statement by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

TVA claims that a recent regulatory review concluded handguns were obsolete compared to other security measures protecting the power plants, but would not clarify what these new measures were citing security concerns. TVA seemingly intends to remove handguns from their security system by the end of the year.

TVA’s own security officers have gone on record strongly objecting to the change.

“Radiological release, that’s what they’re after. Terrorists are after to kill as many as they can in the quickest way.” Paul Tackett, a veteran nuclear security officer at TVA’s Watts Bar reactor, told a local news station. “They’re [TVA] talking about taking away our handguns. I mean, if we’re utilities at night, we have no way of protecting ourselves.”

A successful theft of uranium from a nuclear power plant could have catastrophic consequences. The sort of low-quality uranium and plutonium used in nuclear reactors could be used to make low-tech nuclear explosives often called “dirty bomb.”

“The safety and security of our facilities and host communities is and will always be our top priority,” a spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Our security officers employ powerful weapons such as automatic rifles and shotguns, meaning that phasing out sidearms does not reduce our solid commitment to safety and security.”

“Anything is possible to happen at anytime,” Tackett said. “It was just a few years ago when we had an officer shot at out here.”

A dirty bomb combines radioactive material with conventional explosives that could contaminate the local area with high radiation levels for long periods of time and cause mass panic, though it would be millions of times weaker than an actual nuclear device. The Islamic State (ISIS) has expressed interest in stealing this kind of radioactive material for a dirty bomb…….

April 28, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

South Africa’s Eskom nuclear plan set back, as Judge rules nuclear decisions unlawful

Back to square one for Eskom as judge sets nuclear decisions aside LINDA ENSOR In a major reversal for Eskom’s nuclear plans the Western Cape High Court has set aside the two determinations issued by former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson which lay the basis for the nuclear procurement.

It is back to square one for the utility as the court found that the determinations relating to the construction of 9,600MW of nuclear plants were unconstitutional and invalid.

It also declared the nuclear co-operation agreement signed between the South African and Russian governments to be unconstitutional and unlawful. This agreement is widely seen as laying the foundation for the involvement of Russian energy giant Rosatom in the South African nuclear build programme.

The first determination which was set aside was issued under section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act and ruled that 9,600MW was required and should be acquired by the Department of Energy. It was signed in November 2013 by then energy minister Ben Martins but gazetted only in December 2015. The second determination was signed in December 2016 by Joemat-Petterson and identified Eskom as the procurer of new nuclear energy.

The determinations were approved by the National Energy Regulator of SA but the court found that the regulator’s concurrence with them was procedurally unfair, irrational and in breach of the National Energy Regulator Act as there was no public participation.

Judge Lee Bozalek, with the concurrence of Judge Elizabeth Baartman, also found that the request for information issued by Eskom in December last year was unlawful and unconstitutional and it was set aside.

The request for information, which closes at the end of this month, would form the basis for a request for proposal and for the procurement of 9,600MW of nuclear energy.

In a written judgment handed down Wednesday Judge Bozalek declared that the manner in which Joemat-Pettersson had tabled the nuclear co-operation agreements with the US, Russia and South Korea in Parliament was unconstitutional and unlawful, and set aside them aside.

The nature of the agreements meant they had to be tabled in terms of section 231 (2) of the Constitution, which requires the approval of both houses of Parliament, and not section 231 (3), as the minister irrationally decided to do, the judge said. Tabling in terms of Section 231 (3) does not require parliamentary endorsement.

There were joyous scenes outside the court after the judgment was handed down in the case, which was brought by Earthlife Africa and the Southern African Faith Communties’ Environment Institute against the Minister of Energy, President Jacob Zuma, the National Energy Regulator of SA, speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete, chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise and Eskom.

Spokespersons for the two organisations said the judgment would ensure there was proper oversight by Parliament and the people in the process of procuring of nuclear energy, which would have to be undertaken in an open and transparent process.

The two NGOs argued there had been no proper public participation or consultation process over the determinations, which were “irrational and unreasonable”. The government rejected these arguments on the ground that these determinations amounted to “executive policy”.

Judge Bozalek, however, said the determinations – which would have far-reaching consequences for the country – were not merely administrative decisions, and a “rational and fair decision-making process” was required before Nersa decided whether or not to concur with the minister’s proposed determination.

The National Energy Regulator Act required that decisions that materially and adversely affected the rights of others had to be procedurally fair. The regulator decided to concur with the 2016 ministerial determination by means of a round-robin exercise a mere three days after being asked to do so by Joemat-Pettersson.

“In taking the decision Nersa was under a statutory duty to act in the public interest and in a justifiable and transparent manner but also to utilise a procedurally fair process giving affected persons the opportunity to submit their views and present relevant facts and evidence. These requirements were clearly not met by Nersa in taking its far-reaching decision to concur in the minister’s section 34 determination,” Judge Bozalek said.

He also ruled the two-year delay in gazetting the 2013 determination breached the minister’s decision, “thus rendering it irrational and unlawful”. The delay also violated the requirements of open, transparent and accountable government. The minister should have consulted with Nersa again in 2015 before gazetting the determination.

Red flag

The government’s nuclear plans have been red-flagged by credit ratings agencies, which downgraded SA to junk status.

President Jacob Zuma has been determined to proceed with the nuclear build programme, despite critics saying it is not necessary and beyond the means of a fiscally constrained government. His stance led to the removal of Joemat-Pettersson as energy minister and her replacement by Zuma supporter Mmamoloko Kubayi in the recent Cabinet reshuffle that also removed Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.

The draft 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) says SA will not need new nuclear power plants before 2037, but until it is finalised, Eskom has been operating on the basis of the 2010 IRP, which proposes the construction of 9,600MW in nuclear plants.

In December, the power utility issued a request for information, which closes on April 28, and by the end of June it planned to issue a request for binding proposals from potential vendors, provided it obtained the approvals to do so.

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Legal, South Africa | Leave a comment