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The real purpose of nuclear power industry was always to provide plutonium for weapons

The deadly industry – this is a brief section from Nuclear Power and the Collapse of Society 

The story of how nuclear generated power came to be starts in the 1950s. After WWII, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China set out to build arsenals, but required more plutonium than could be furnished by their respective military programs. A US Atomic Energy Commission study concluded that commercial nuclear reactors for power were not economically feasible because of costs and risks. Dr. Charles Thomas, an executive at Monsanto, suggested a solution: A “dual purpose” reactor that would produce plutonium for the military and electric power for commercial use.

Companies profited from these dual markets, while leaving the public to assume responsibility for research, infrastructure, and risk: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs. The real purpose of a “nuclear power” industry was to provide plutonium for weapons and profit for a few corporations.

This deadly industry has now left dead zones and ghost towns around the world. The Hanford nuclear storage site in the US, Acerinox Processing Plant in Spain, The Polygon weapons test site in Kazakhstan, the Zapadnyi uranium mine in Kyrgyzstan, and countless other uranium mines, decommissioned plants, nuclear waste dumps, and catastrophes like Fukushima and Chernobyl.  by Rex Weyler, 5 May 17,


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

North Korea’s reasons for persisting in testing nuclear weapons

Why North Korea is testing nuclear weapons Pyongyang accuses Washington of plotting a ‘decapitation strike’, and sees in nuclear weapons a powerful deterrent, Aljazeera, 5 May 17 

………….Why is North Korea testing nuclear weapons?Analysis of North Korea’s government statements suggests that the leadership in Pyongyang sees in nuclear weapons the following benefits:

1. Guaranteeing security of the state

2. Economic development and prosperity

3. Gaining respect and prestige in the international arena

On April 14, North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister said: “We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US pre-emptive strike.”

North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Choe Myong-nam, referred to the annual joint drills between the US and South Korea to justify his country’s nuclear pursuits: “It is because of these hostile activities on the part of the United States and South Korea that we strengthen our national defence capability, as well as pre-emptive strike capabilities with nuclear forces as a centrepiece.”

North Korea is publicly stating that it is going ahead with its nuclear weapons programme, while the International Atomic Energy Agency on May 4 said it has “concrete information” that this is indeed the case, and points out that security risks would apply beyond the region.

New  satellite images of the Punggye-ri site in North Korea have shown workers pumping out water at a tunnel believed to have been prepared for a forthcoming nuclear test, US monitors said.

Has North Korea declared war in 2017?

North Korea has not officially declared war on any country since 1950, but has threatened to launch a “great war of justice for national reunification” and to strike the US mainland in “full-out war… under the situation where the US hurts the DPRK by force of arms,” using the alternative name for North Korea.

In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, starting the three-year Korean War which ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty. This mean that North Korea is still technically at war with South Korea.

The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, while the Korean Peninsula has been divided by a 4km-wide demilitarised zone stretching 250km along the border.

The US has been performing the annual Foal Eagle military drills with South Korea, imposed sanctions on North Korea and has deployed  the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system, designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles fired at South Korea.

From its side, North Korea has defiantly carried out missile test launches despite regional and US condemnation, and continues to develop its nuclear weapons capability.

How did North Korea get nuclear weapons?…….

How many nuclear weapons does North Korea have?

It was  estimated  that North Korea may have produced up to 20 nuclear bombs by the end of 2016, although the true nuclear capability of the isolated and secretive North Korean state could not be verified.

Meanwhile, North Korea asserts it will keep building up its nuclear arsenal in “quality and quantity”.

In September 2016, Siegfried Hecker from Johns Hopkins University in Washington toured North Korea’s main Yongbyon nuclear facility in 2010 and estimated that North Korea produced enough highly enriched uranium to make additional six nuclear bombs a year.

Experts and governments estimate plutonium production levels from tell-tale signs of reactor operation in satellite imagery.

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

Pentagon officials try to connect North Korea’s nuclear actions with Iran

Pentagon Seeks to Link Iran, North Korea Citing ‘Similar Looking’ Missiles Pacific Commander Complains Non-Nuclear Missiles Aren’t Restricted by Nuclear Deals by Jason Ditz, May 04, 2017 Every failed missile test or official warning by North Korean state media against attacking them is a new excuse for the US to offer loud condemnations and new threats, and while the US also likes to threaten Iran, they really haven’t had much in the way of excuses for doing so in recent weeks.

Pentagon officials are looking to resolve that with testimony to Congress claiming that Iranian missiles look suspiciously similar to North Korean missiles. They don’t offer any proof, of course, that this means anything about them having a common origin, but this is clearly the connection Congress is meant to make.

The attempts at “sort of” connections continued throughout the testimony, with officials citing a North Korean submarine missile launch and noting that Iran is also working on the idea of firing missiles from submarines. Attempts to ratchet up the tensions didn’t stop there.

Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris even had the gall to complain that neither Iran nor North Korea were impacted by the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in developing shorter range ballistic missiles. Neither is a signatory to the treaty in the first place, of course, and perhaps even more importantly, the missiles in question aren’t even accused of being nuclear in nature.

Still, the Pentagon has been angling for more money for its wars long enough to know that making things about “nuclear” threats is a way to sell Congress on almost anything, and complaining about Iran not complying with a nuclear treaty, even though the missiles in question are non-nuclear and Iran was never a signatory  to it in the first place, is always going to play well.

May 6, 2017 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Political process in South Africa practically rules out any future nuclear procurement

Can any South African Nuclear Energy Procurement ever Succeed? Daily Maverick, DIRK DE VOS, 05 MAY 2017  Should the whole nuclear energy procurement process start up again, the few nuclear vendors that still remain should ask themselves: is it really worth the bother?

As most of us know, the recent Cape High Court decision in favour of the applicants, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA-JHB) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), to set aside nuclear procurement agreements was an utter thumping.

All South Africans owe a debt of gratitude especially since both NGO’s operate under significant financial constraints (donations can be made here) and for some, this was a replay of the David and Goliath story in the book of Samuel. Malcolm Gladwell’s take on that story is worth retelling…….

We are yet to see whether the new Minister of Energy will appeal the decision but it is hard to see how a “rematch” in any higher court will result in a different outcome.

Briefly, the court’s decision did two things. It set aside the previous Minister of Energy’s decision to proceed with the procurement of nuclear energy due to a number of flagrant departures from section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), which governs how such determinations should be made. It also set aside the Russian Nuclear Agreement as it should have – and did not – receive Parliamentary approval as required by section 231(2) of the Constitution. This agreement purported to create a number of obligations and liabilities for South Africa (including taking on all liabilities for a nuclear accident). The Constitution requires that these types of agreements with substantive impacts be approved by parliament. More basic framework co-operation agreements with the USA and South Korea – which, being of a more technical, administrative nature, did not require parliamentary approval – were also set aside on the basis that they were not tabled in parliament within a reasonable time, as required by section 231(3) of the Constitution.

The most striking thing about the judgment is not the decision itself, but just how underhand, dishonest and profoundly inept the government has been in the whole affair. In a sense, they were worse off than Goliath – it was almost a process of self-sabotage. “Oh well”, says the nuclear lobby and in particular, NECSA – which by the way has just secured 85% of the total budget of R787 million allocated to nuclear by the Department of Energy for the next financial year, “the court decision said nothing about the wisdom of procuring nuclear energy as such and South Africa should just start the nuclear procurement process from scratch”. That is true. The court’s decision was mostly about procedural matters, but it raises an important question: could procuring nuclear power ever be done legitimately in a way that satisfies the Constitution and the rule of law? It’s an important question because the answer should guide whether anyone, especially taxpayer-funded entities, should bother even trying.

The answer is no and this is why. The Constitution was not drafted to prevent South Africa from procuring nuclear power, but, given the state of the nuclear energy sector in 2017, it makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible. It is perhaps this very reality that has driven the underhandedness that we have seen.

The problem, at its core, is that the nuclear energy sector is selling a crap product. One could go on forever about why nuclear energy is a problem, but here are the main points:

Nuclear is very different from any other energy options

There are no nuclear vendors that are not state-owned. Without state ownership, the nuclear sector would not exist. That means procuring nuclear requires first the state-to-state type agreements whether in terms of section 231(2) or (3) of the Constitution annulled by the Cape High Court. Further, simply having nuclear energy, let alone procuring new nuclear, requires a whole separate and expensive regulatory system, participation in international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency, and funding a separate entity like Necsa. Nuclear energy costs South Africa nearly R800 million per year – a cost not typically included in the price of nuclear energy. Nuclear’s safety issues cannot be solved technologically; its safe operation requires constant vigilance from highly trained experts. Enormous decommissioning costs and the storing of spent fuel have not been resolved. Despite efforts to delink civilian nuclear from nuclear weapons proliferation, the risk remains. No other energy option needs any of this.

Nuclear is in decline everywhere……..

Nuclear is very expensive and therefore has to be very big…….  A scan through existing nuclear power projects in those parts of the world where independently-obtained information is possible, makes for sobering reading – including projects developed or sponsored by Rosatom. One consequence of the record of nuclear is that credit rating agencies hate them and shred the credit rating of any country that gets serious about procuring nuclear. Current estimates are that nuclear power is now twice as expensive – on a per kWh basis – as renewables, while renewables continue to fall in price.

There are other problems. Eskom is in a terrible state and that is a long-term problem that will have to be resolved in one way or another – probably through another taxpayer-funded bail-out or some type of privatisation…….

Any project with anything like a trillion-rand budget is simply not going to slip through and any hurdle not cleared is fatal for a nuclear procurement programme. The process requires a large amount of transparency and this is the nub of the problem for any nuclear deal……

May 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Latest climate and renewable energy news

So much news is coming out, particularly about the speedy development of renewable energy, that I cannot keep up. Here are brief notes:

Climate Change
There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up.
Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth’s climate warms.

Increased scrutiny of climate-change models should be welcomed.
The apparent slowdown in global warming has provided a spur for better understanding of the underlying processes.

Modest climate change bill draws sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
A small but increasingly vocal group of Republicans is embracing the reality of global warming and taking small steps to press the issue in Congress.

Health and climate change
The World Health Organisation’s director-general describes climate change as ‘the fifth horseman’ of the apocalypse, as doctors are encouraged to speak out more about illness and death caused by extreme weather.

Is Climate Changing Cloud Heights? Too Soon to Say
A new analysis of 15 years of NASA satellite cloud measurements finds that clouds worldwide show no definitive trend during this period toward decreasing or increasing in height. The new study updates an earlier analysis of the first 10 years of the same data that suggested cloud heights might be getting lower.

Medical scientists report on the impact climate change is having on health.
John Abraham The Guardian
As a climate scientist, I spend time and energy studying how fast the Earth is warming and what is causing the warming.

The great climate silence: we are on the edge of the abyss but we ignore it
Clive Hamilton
We continue to plan for the future as if climate scientists don’t exist. The greatest shame is the absence of a sense of tragedy
‘We must leave Earth in 100 years’
THE world’s smartest man says the future of humanity requires us to colonise another planet – and we have to do it soon.

Bangladesh coal plant could cause 6,000 early deaths.
A giant coal-fired power plant approved by Bangladesh could drastically worsen air pollution for millions and cause the early deaths of 6,000 people over its lifetime, Greenpeace said Friday.

Could towing icebergs to hot places solve the world’s water shortages?
The idea of towing an iceberg from Antarctica to the UAE sounds fantastical, but might not be entirely beyond the realms of plausibility

We would need 1.7 Earths to make our consumption sustainable.
The U.S. is the second least sustainable country in the world. Trump could make it even worse.

Scientists take on greenhouse gas challenge.
Ingenuity in laboratories worldwide is harnessing microbes, water and hot air to produce different types of renewable energy from greenhouse gas.

Following Recent Surge, Wind Now Generates 5.5 Percent of U.S. Electricity
The U.S. wind energy industry experienced its fastest first-quarter growth since 2009, installing 2,000 new megawatts of capacity — enough to power about 500,000 homes — on its way to producing 5.5 percent of the country’s electricity.

May 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, renewable | Leave a comment

China responds to North Korea’s criticism of China, over nuclear program

Beijing hits back at North Korea’s rare criticism of China over nuclear program, SMH, Kirsty Needham, 4 May 17, Beijing: Chinese state media has hit back at a rare and detailed attack by North Korea on its neighbour and major economic backer.

China had crossed the “red line” of North Korea and China relations, a scathing commentary published in North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper claimed on Thursday.

China was accused of turning three provinces of north east China into an “anti-North Korea frontline”, and allowing South Korean intelligence to conduct “abduction and terror at the Sino-North Korea border under the disguise of religious and business people”.

Chinese analysts were “spouting nonsense” that North Korea’s access to nuclear weapons strains north Asia’s security, it said. It criticised China’s “ignorant politicians and media” for supporting stricter sanctions on North Korea……..

May 6, 2017 Posted by | politics international | Leave a comment

Macron, French Presidential candidate, would hasten nuclear decommissioning, depending on renewables development

French presidential favorite pins reactor closures to renewables growth, Nuclear Energy Insider, May 3, 2017 The election of Emmanuel Macron as French President would see nuclear decommissioning activity surge in the next decade but shutdown dates will depend on measures to accelerate wind and solar development. The French presidential elections reach a climax on May 7 when centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron faces far right candidate Marine Le Pen in the final round of voting. Macron is the favorite to win the election– polling at around 59% of the vote on May 1– and the election result will have a profound impact on the future of EDF’s French nuclear fleet.

While a surprise Le Pen victory would likely see a reversal of France’s reactor closure plans, a Macron win would usher in a surge in decommissioning activity in the coming decade. Macron has set out bullish renewable energy objectives and pledged to retain laws introduced in 2015 which aim to cut the share of nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025.

However, Macron has not set out a firm position on this nuclear target and market analysts have highlighted the challenge of shutting down an estimated 25 GW of nuclear power capacity over such a short timeframe while maintaining grid stability.

“The lack of a firm position on this issue may be because Mr Macron is well aware that the 2025 target is highly ambitious,” Jefferies analysts Ahmed Farman and Oliver Salvesen said in a research note April 24.

The 50% target may instead be reached between 2030 and 2033, a Macron adviser told Bloomberg in a report published April 26. The 50% objective could be reached sooner if ASN, the French nuclear safety authority, imposes tough conditions to extend reactor lifespans from 40 to 50 years, the adviser told Bloomberg.

Some 34 of EDF’s 58 reactors will soon reach 40 years of operations and the ASN will publish its safety report on the proposed lifespan extensions in around 2018.

Macron has said he would decide on the future of these plants following the ASN’s report.

Green bond

Macron’s pledge to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50% is based on a rapid expansion of wind and solar power. Macron has pledged to double wind and solar capacity and close all of France’s coal-fired power stations by the end of his five-year term in 2022.

Macron’s renewables pledge will require an acceleration in the approval process for renewable energy projects. France’s wind and solar development has been hampered by regulatory and administrative hurdles and Macron has pledged to simplify the authorization process.

Jefferies analysts Farman and Salvesen estimate the closure of 25 GW of nuclear power capacity in the coming eight years would require around 75 GW of new renewable energy capacity.

“That looks quite challenging given that in the last 10 years only 18 GW of wind and solar was installed in France,” the analysts said in their note.

A key advantage for developers going forward is the falling cost of wind and solar power. Technology improvements and improved installation practices have driven wind and solar costs towards wholesale market prices, removing the need for state subsidies in some countries.

Shutdown begins

Macron also supports the current government’s pledge to close two 900 MW reactors at Fessenheim when EDF brings online its 1.65 MW EPR at Flamanville, currently expected by the end of 2018. The EPR project is several years behind schedule but on March 15 EDF said it had begun system performance testing in line with its latest construction timetable announced in September 2015.

“The next milestone will involve fuel loading and then start-up at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018,” the company said………..

May 6, 2017 Posted by | France, politics | 1 Comment

Nuclear power and the collapse of society  by Rex Weyler, 5 May 17,  On March 1 1954, on Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, the US military detonated the world’s first lithium-deuteride hydrogen bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. The radiation blew downwind, to the southeast, and irradiated the residents of Rongelap and Utirik atolls, and the crew of tuna boat Fukuryu Maru, “Lucky Dragon.”  

The islanders and fishing crew suffered radiation sickness, hair loss, and peeling skin. Crew member, Aikichi Kuboyama, died six months later in a Hiroshima hospital. Island children, suffered lifelong health effects, including cancers, and most died prematurely. The Lucky Dragon sailors were exposed to 3-5 sieverts of radiation.

One sievert will cause severe radiation sickness leading to cancer and death. Five sieverts will kill half those exposed within a month (like the workers who died at Chernobyl within the first few week). Ten sieverts will kill any human being. Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims received 150 Sieverts. Even microorganisms perished.

Today, inside the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor-2, the melting core releases 530 sieverts per hour, enough to kill a human instantly and melt steel robotic equipment within two hours.

The meaning of “collapse”

When we hear the term “collapse of industrial society,” some may picture a doomsday or a Hollywood apocalypse film. But the collapse of societies – like in Rome, Mesopotamia, or the Rapa Nui on Easter Island – doesn’t work like that. The “collapse” of a complex society usually involves ecological habitat degradation that can take centuries. So, what does “social collapse” really look like?

James Kunstler calls the collapse of industrial society a “long emergency” – a process that unfolds in fits and starts over generations. Some social conflicts we witness in the world today – banking crises, war, refugees, racism – can be understood as symptoms of this long, ecologically-triggered collapse. Russian author Dmitry Orlov describes the five stages of collapse: Financial, commercial, political, social, and, finally, cultural. When business-as-usual becomes impossible, communities seek alternatives to currency trading; markets fail, faith in government disappears, trust of neighbours erodes, and people lose faith in common decency.

Dr. Joseph Tainter, professor of Environment and Society at Utah State University describes collapse as a “simplification” of society, a reversal of the process by which the society became increasingly complex. “To understand collapse,” he explains, “we have to understand complexity.”

Societies evolve complex solutions to solve social problems that arise, generally from environmental limits. Eventually, the marginal benefits of these alleged solutions decline. Consider oil, military aggression, or nuclear power as solutions to problems, that later manifest unintended consequences. As technical solutions meet bio-physical limits, added investment leads to less benefit, until the society grows vulnerable to catastrophe, such as global warming, war, or radiation.

Societies collapse, according to Tainter, when technical complexities cost more than they return as benefits. This understanding of social collapse fits the state of chaos now unfolding at the nuclear plant at Fukushima.

Socialise the cost

TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima reactors, ignored early warnings of risk, from both inside and outside the company, because the safeguards were too expensive. Thus, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems and led to a core meltdown in all three reactors.

Today, six years later, the reactor cores are melting down through the rock, and radiation levels are so intense that even robots can’t survive long enough to locate the burning fuel rods. Removal of the rods, originally scheduled for 2015, then delayed until 2017, has been delayed again, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, 300 tons of radioactive water floods into the Pacific Ocean every day.

Cleanup cost estimates have risen to several billion Euros per year and decommissioning is now expected to take about 40 years. In December, 2016, the Japanese government announced that the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and storing radioactive waste, if they can achieve this at all, would reach over 21 trillion yen (€180 billion; US$ 200 billion). This scenario is based on no major earthquakes occurring before the 2050s.

TEPCO will likely go bankrupt before it will pay these costs, so the government has stepped in, which means the citizens pay the costs, just as they bailed out the banks after the last economic collapse. This is a core policy for large, modern corporations: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs.

The nuclear “solution” to growing energy demand – now a massive technical and financial black hole, with negative marginal returns, draining scarce resources from struggling communities – is what industrial collapse looks like in the real world.

The victims

The wealthy may not notice collapse in the early stages, as the first victims are the poorest and most vulnerable. The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima displaced over 150,000 people. Some 1,600 died during evacuation, and the survivors live in makeshift camps on meagre allotments of food and supplies. As families abandoned their homes, lifelong dreams shattered, childhoods were disrupted, families broke apart, and modest enterprises lost forever.

Women and children suffered the greatest challenges and risks due to “a yawning gender gap” in Japanese society, as Kendra Ulrich writes in “Unequal Impact.” Among the 34 highly developed countries, ranked for gender wage gap, Japan stands at the bottom with South Korea and Estonia. After the nuclear meltdown, single mothers faced financial and social barriers to recovery. Radiation puts fetuses and young children at the greatest risk for future health effects.

Last year, Ichiro Tagawa, 77, returned to his village of Namie and reopened the bicycle repair shop that had been in his family for 80 years. “I am so old,” he told a New York Times reporter, “I don’t really care about the radiation levels.” Citizens have measured radiation in Namie at 4 microsieverts an hour, enough to receive a cumulative 3-sieverts (Lucky Dragon level) in a month.

To save money, the Japanese government has declared some towns near Fukushima “safe,” by increasing the radiation limits and then cancelling evacuee housing and insisting that citizens return to those “safe” villages. Sending people back to that environment could amount to random murder, since some will attract cancer and die from the radiation.

Corruption and cover-up have become a way of life inside TEPCO and the nuclear industry. The Japanese government and TEPCO also increased “safe” radiation limits for plant workers by about 700-times, and then ordered scientists to stop monitoring radiation levels in some areas of the plants that exceed even these new, dangerous regulations. According to Tomohiko Suzuki’s book, Yakuza to Genpatsu (The Yakuza and Nuclear Power), TEPCO subcontractors pay bribes to Japanese crime gangs, the Yakuza, to obtain construction contracts, and the Yakuza pay politicians and media to keep quiet. Workers lured into the plant include the homeless, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and former Yakuza debtors.

The deadly industry

The story of how nuclear generated power came to be starts in the 1950s. After WWII, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China set out to build arsenals, but required more plutonium than could be furnished by their respective military programs. A US Atomic Energy Commission study concluded that commercial nuclear reactors for power were not economically feasible because of costs and risks. Dr. Charles Thomas, an executive at Monsanto, suggested a solution: A “dual purpose” reactor that would produce plutonium for the military and electric power for commercial use.

Companies profited from these dual markets, while leaving the public to assume responsibility for research, infrastructure, and risk: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs. The real purpose of a “nuclear power” industry was to provide plutonium for weapons and profit for a few corporations.

This deadly industry has now left dead zones and ghost towns around the world. The Hanford nuclear storage site in the US, Acerinox Processing Plant in Spain, The Polygon weapons test site in Kazakhstan, the Zapadnyi uranium mine in Kyrgyzstan, and countless other uranium mines, decommissioned plants, nuclear waste dumps, and catastrophes like Fukushima and Chernobyl.

No one knows exactly how many people have died due to the Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian academy of sciences estimates 200,000 and a Ukrainian national commission estimated 500,000 deaths from radiation’s health effects.

In 1983, a Yorkshire television station uncovered evidence that child leukemia had increased ten-times in the village of Seascale, near the Sellafield/Windscale nuclear site. It has become a deadly radioactive blotch on the landscape, leaking radioactive plutonium-24, americium-241, and caesium-137 into the surrounding environment, and sending bomb grade plutonium into the world’s political environment. According to the BBC, the cost of cleaning up the mess is now estimated at £70-billion, and rising annually, as one corporation or consortium after another fails to make progress, but always makes money. These cleanup costs now consume most of the UK’s “climate change” budget since nuclear power was once considered a solution to carbon emissions.

In February, the EDF Flamanville nuclear plant in France – three-times over budget and years behind schedule – closed after an explosion and fire. France faces a €200 billion cost to decommission 58 reactors at the end of their life. Germany set aside €38 billion to decommission 17 nuclear reactors, and the UK estimates a cost between €109‒250 billion to decommission UK’s nuclear sites.

This is the face of industrial collapse, when alleged solutions become bigger problems. Nuclear power has now become a massive liability, draining resources from communities that need schools, hospitals, and the essentials of life. Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, and other researchers point out that some societies – Tikopia island, Byzantine society in the 1300s – avoided collapse, not by increasing complexity with better technology, but by down-sizing intentionally, learning to thrive on a lower level of complexity.

This is now the challenge of industrial society. Can we, and especially the rich and powerful, change our habits of consumption and growth? Can we come back to Earth?

 References and Links

James Kunstler: “The Long Emergency

Joseph Tainter, the Collapse of Complex Societies: Book and Lecture online:

The Dynamics of Complex Civilisations, David Korowicz, Oil Drum, 2010

Gail Tverberg: Energy Flow, Emergent Complexity, and Collapse, Oil Drum

“The Collapse of Civilization,” New Scientist, April, 2008

  • “Les civilisations sont-elles vouées à disparaître?”: Les Cahiers de Science & Vie, (n. 109).

    Jared Diamond: “Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies,” Tanner Lecture, University of Utah, 2000

    “Culture and the Environment on Easter Island and Tikopia,” Ben Ewen-Campen, Swarthmore, 2003).

    “Nuclear refugees tell of distrust, pressure to return to Fukushima,” Japan Times, March, 2016.

    Tomohiko Suzuki, “Yakuza to genpatsu: Fukushima Daiichi sennyuki,” The Yakuza and Nuclear Power: Undercover Report from Fukushima Daiichi), Bungeishunju Ltd., Japan

    “Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link,” Amory Lovins, 1981; and Annual Report, Commonwealth Edison Company, 1952; at Nuclear Energy Information Service.

    Sellafield, UK, £70bn clean-up costs, BBC, 2014.

    Nuclear Power as a false solution, Rex Weyler, Deep Green: Atomic Renaissance Interrupted, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2008. Nuclear Delusions, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2011. Precaution and Common Sense, R. Weyler, EcoReport, 2013

May 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, social effects | Leave a comment

“Dr Strangelove” remembered – fear of The Bomb is back

Nuclear conflict risk: Why the bomb is back, May 2017

The film Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – to give it its full title – remains a comedy classic. Starring Peter Sellers in multiple roles and directed by Stanley Kubrick, it illustrated the way in which the US and the then Soviet Union might unintentionally drift into all-out nuclear war. Back in 1964, when it was first released, it was a very dark comedy indeed. Audiences then lived under the very real shadow of the Cold War nuclear arms race.

Mindful of the dangers, over the years, an elaborate series of arms control and arms reduction agreements were concluded between the two superpowers to try to manage their nuclear rivalry.

But with the Cold War over, nuclear arsenals were scaled down. The nature of international conflict seemed to change; no longer rivalry between great powers but bitter local wars where countries disintegrated into chaos or terrorist groups sought to capitalise on ungoverned space to mount their nihilist campaigns.

But now there are those who fear that the nuclear spectre is becoming all too real again. The US non-governmental organisation Global Zero certainly thinks so. It has brought respected former officials and military men together to campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

It is launching a new initiative on Friday in Vienna to establish what it calls the Nuclear Crisis Group, which it hopes will serve as a kind of shadow-Security Council to deal with potential nuclear flashpoints.

As Global Zero Executive Director Derek Johnson told me, “from Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula, to south Asia and the South China Sea and Taiwan, all of the nuclear-armed states and their allies are tangled up in conflicts and crises that could go nuclear at any moment.”

“It’s true,” he notes, “that each of these crises has been simmering for a long time, but they’re all heating up.” The world, he argues, “has never been faced with so many nuclear flashpoints simultaneously”.

The growing tensions between the US and North Korea are clearly very much on Global Zero’s minds. “The election of Donald Trump,” says Johnson, “has injected an alarming new level of incoherence and volatility into a uniquely perilous moment in human history.”

The message of Global Zero is that mankind is “simply not equipped to manage existential risks indefinitely”. The new Nuclear Crisis Group will monitor potential flash-points; seek to publish reports to educate and keep these issues in the public eye, while also engaging in behind the scenes diplomacy to try to influence the main players.

The NCG is co-chaired by the respected US diplomats and ambassadors Richard Burt and Thomas Pickering, and by a former general, James E Cartwright. It describes itself as embracing “a cadre of seasoned diplomats, political and military leaders and national security experts from key countries, including China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, South Korea and the United States”.

A nuclear race?

The NCG and its sponsoring organization – Global Zero – are clearly part of a nuclear disarmament lobby that in many ways feels that it has been pushed to the sidelines. While it would be wrong to speak of a new Cold War, relations between Russia and the US are clearly at a very low-ebb.

But their relative positions and capabilities have changed. Russia – despite its military adventure in Syria – is a shadow of the former Soviet Union.

Nonetheless Moscow’s Syria intervention illustrates that Russia cannot simply be ignored and the deepening tensions come at a time when both Washington and Moscow are seeking to modernise their nuclear arsenals.

Indeed Russia’s military doctrine places a growing importance on its nuclear arsenal, not least because of the imbalance of conventional forces between it and the West. Donald Trump’s own approach to nuclear weapons is unclear – he has spoken in muscular terms about expanding the US nuclear arsenal and has been sceptical about the value of one of the key Cold War arms reduction treaties.

Indeed arms control is having a hard time generally. Russia is widely regarded in the West as having breached the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an agreement that for the first time abolished a whole category of nuclear weapons

New conventional long-range strike systems look set to complicate the balance of threat and deterrence. And the demise of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and that of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya seem to have sent a clear signal to the North Korean leadership that you renounce weapons of mass destruction at your peril.

Uncertainty about the Trump administration’s attitude to the nuclear deal with Iran that has, at least, constrained its nuclear development for a period, adds another element of tension.

So nuclear disarmament according to Global Zero should be very much back on the agenda. The developing crisis over North Korea’s nuclear programme simply provides added urgency.

There is of course no equivalence between the regime of Kim Jong Un and the Trump administration.

But the combination of an erratic and unpredictable North Korean leadership with an inexperienced president who seems fascinated with the military is a dangerous one. The possibility of a confrontation between two-nuclear armed countries suddenly seems more real now than it has for decades.

Maybe Dr Strangelove would be worth re-viewing.

May 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Japan’s desperate hunt for a highly radioactive nuclear waste dump site

Japan seeks final resting place for highly radioactive nuclear waste, 5 May 17, 

With communities refusing to come forward to host the by-product of Japan’s nuclear energy industry, the Japanese government is drawing up a map of the most suitable locations for underground repositories.

The Japanese government is putting the finishing touches to a map of the country identifying what its experts consider to be the safest location for a repository for 18,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste for the next 100,000 years. The map is expected to be released next month and will coincide with the government holding a series of symposiums across the country designed to explain why the repository is needed and to win support for the project.

Given that the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in March 2011 is still fresh in the memory of the Japanese public, the government’s plan is not expected to win much understanding or support.

The original proposal for a repository for the waste from the nation’s nuclear energy sector was first put forward in 2002, but even then there were few communities that were willing to be associated with the dump. Fifteen years later, and with a number of Japan’s nuclear reactors closed down for good in the wake of the Fukushima accident, the need for a permanent storage site is more pressing than ever.

Radioactivity release

The disaster, in which a 13-meter tsunami triggered by an off-shore earthquake crippled four reactors at the plant and caused massive amounts of radioactivity to escape into the atmosphere, also underlined just how seismically unstable the Japanese archipelago is and the need for the repository to be completely safe for 100,000 years.

Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan, does not believe the government can deliver that guarantee.

“You only have to look at what happened in 2011 to realize that nowhere in Japan is safe from this sort of natural disaster and it is crazy to think otherwise,” she told DW.

Given the degree of public hostility, Mioko-Smith believes that the government will fall back on the tried-and-trusted tactic of offering ever-increasing amounts of money until a community gives in.

Government funds

“They have been trying to get this plan of the ground for years and one thing they tried was to offer money to any town or village that agreed to even undergo a survey to see if their location was suitable,” she said.

“There were a number of mayors who accepted the proposal because they wanted the money – even though they had no intention of ever agreeing to host the storage site – but the backlash from their constituents was fast and it was furious,” Smith added.

“In every case, those mayors reversed their decisions and the government has got nowhere,” she said. “But I fear that means that sooner or later they are just going to make a decision on a site and order the community to accept it.”

The security requirements of the facility will be exacting, the government has stated, and the site will need to be at least 300 meters beneath the surface in a part of the country that is not subject to seismic activity from active faults or volcanoes. It must also be safe from the effects of erosion and away from oil and coal fields. Another consideration is access and sites within 20 km of the coast are preferred.

High-level waste

The facility will need to be able to hold 25,000 canisters of vitrified high-level waste, while more waste will be produced as the nation’s nuclear reactors are slowly brought back online after being mothballed since 2011 for extensive assessments of their safety and ability to withstand a natural disaster on the same scale as the magnitude-9 earthquake that struck Fukushima.

Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University, agrees that the government will have to pay to convince any community to host the facility.

“They will probably peddle it as subsidies for rural revitalization, which is a tactic that all governments use, but there are going to be some significant protests because Fukushima has created a nuclear allergy in most people in Japan,” he said.

“I expect that the government would also very much like to be able to phase out nuclear energy, but that is simply not realistic at the moment,” he said.

When it is released, the government’s list is likely to include places in Tohoku and Hokkaido as among the most suitable sites, because both are relatively less populated than central areas of the country and are in need of revitalization efforts. Parts of Tohoku close to the Fukushima plant may eventually be chosen because they are still heavily contaminated with radiation from the accident.

May 6, 2017 Posted by | Japan, wastes | Leave a comment

Germany’s record of renewable energy: only 15% from fossil fuels and nuclear last weekend

Germany breaks renewables record with coal and nuclear power responsible for only 15% of country’s total energy

Electricity prices fell to negative figures for several hours on Sunday, as renewable sources fed so much power into the grid that supply exceeded demand Charlotte England  @charlottengland, 5 May 17, Germany has broken a new record for renewable energy, with low-carbon sources nearly obliterating coal and nuclear power last weekend.

  • At one point on the sunny and breezy Sunday, sustainable energy from windsolar, biomass and hydro power provided a record 85 per cent of the country’s total energy
  • Germany has been investing heavily in renewables, as part of the government’s Energiewende initiative to transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power to a low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply by 2050.
Investment in sustainable energy has been so successful that for several hours on Sunday electricity prices fell into negative figures, as renewable sources fed so much power into the grid that supply exceeded demand.

Coal use fell to an all-time low, with public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reporting that on 30 April coal-fired power stations were only operational between three and four in the afternoon and  produced less than eight gigawatts of energy, well below their maximum output of about 50 gigawatts.

“Most of Germany’s coal-fired power stations were not even operating on Sunday,” Patrick Graichen of Agora Energiewende told Australian news site RenewEconomy.

“Nuclear power sources, which are planned to be completely phased out by 2022, were also severely reduced.”

Mr Graichen added that days like Sunday would be “completely normal” by 2030 thanks to the government’s continued investment in the Energiewende initiative.

Germany announced in May 2011 that it plans to shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2022, in addition to nearly eliminating fossil fuel power..

The country’s ambitious energy transition aims for at least 80 per cent of all power to come from renewables by 2050, with intermediate targets of 35 to 40 percent share by 2025 and 55 to 60 percent by 2035.

The EU as a whole is also striving to meet stringent sustainable energy targets, albeit more modest ones than Germany.

While the bloc is on course to meet 2020 goals of 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources, the UK is lagging behind.

MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee warned the Government last year that, on its current course, the UK will fail to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets — to provide for 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources

May 6, 2017 Posted by | Germany, renewable | Leave a comment

Electromagnetic Pulse Attack from North Korea is not likely

A North Korean Nuclear EMP Attack? … Unlikely, By Jack Liu

05 May 2017, Recent press articles warn about the possibility of the North Koreans launching an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States, and there are even suggestions that the recent missile test failures may represent a thinly veiled EMP threat. However, such an attack from North Korea is unlikely, as it would require the North to have much larger nuclear weapons and the missile capability to deliver them.

EMP Concerns

The Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the US from EMP Attack[1] states:

When a nuclear explosion occurs at high altitude, the EMP signal it produces will cover the wide geographic region within the line of sight of the detonation. This broad band, high amplitude EMP, when coupled into sensitive electronics, has the capability to produce widespread and long lasting disruption and damage to the critical infrastructures that underpin the fabric of U.S. society.

The effects of the pulse can be transferred directly to sensitive devices or as an electrical surge over power lines.

The generic diagram below [on original] shows an EMP to consist of three phases (E1, E2 and E3) occurring over vastly different time scales.[2] Of these, E1 is the most damaging. The others are 100 times (at minimum) less damaging than the first.

The E1 component of an EMP is a very brief but powerful electromagnetic field that can induce very high voltages in electrical conductors. Damage occurs by causing voltage limits in equipment to be exceeded and happens so fast that ordinary surge protectors cannot effectively protect computers and communications equipment. However, special transient protectors fast enough to suppress this part of an EMP exist and there has been significant progress in hardening critical systems against EMP.

The E1 component is produced when gamma radiation during the first 10 nanoseconds (1 nanosecond = 1 billionth of a second) from the nuclear detonation rips electrons out of the atoms in the atmosphere. The electrons travel at relativistic speeds (more than 90 percent of the speed of light) to illuminate the area beneath the blast. The Earth’s magnetic field acts on these electrons to change the direction of electron flow to a right angle to the geomagnetic field that may cause downward electron flow to produce a very large, but quick, electromagnetic pulse over the affected area.

The E2 component is generated by scattered gamma rays and gamma emissions produced by neutron collisions from the explosion. This component lasts from about one microsecond to one second after the beginning of the electromagnetic pulse and  is similar to the electromagnetic pulse produced by lightning. Because of the similarities to lightning-caused pulses and the widespread use of lightning protection technology, the E2 pulse is generally considered to be the easiest to protect against.[3]

The E3 component of the pulse is a slow pulse, lasting tens to hundreds of seconds. It results from the nuclear detonation distorting the Earth’s magnetic field, followed by its restoration. This component is quite similar to a geomagnetic storm caused by a very severe solar flare. Like a geomagnetic storm, it can induce currents in long electrical conductors, with the potential to damage power line components.

Size Matters

This is an instance where size does matter: the larger the nuclear explosion, the larger the affected area. While technical reports and papers on EMP from nuclear detonations are mostly classified, there is a paper by D. Hafemeister of California Polytechnic Institute that provides sufficient detail to derive a simple rule of thumb on the relationship between affected distance and nuclear device yield. The paper makes some simplifying assumptions:

  • The detonation is spherically symmetric (which may not always be the case);
  • The Earth’s magnetic field is not accounted for;
  • Prompt gamma rays account for 0.3 percent of the total energy of the explosion and are emitted within the first 10 nanoseconds of detonation;
  • About 0.6 percent of the prompt gamma rays produce relativistic electrons that constitute the E1 component of the EMP; and
  • The electric field damage threshold is 15,000 volts/meter or higher in the E1 component.

Plugging in the numbers and presuming these assumptions are appropriate, the rule of thumb is surprisingly simple: D = Y, where D is the maximum damage distance expressed in kilometers and Y is the yield of the blast in kilotons. So, a 20 KT bomb detonated at optimum height would have a maximum EMP damage distance of 20 km; a 1 MT (1,000 KT) bomb would damage out to 1,000 km. The largest North Korean test to date has been estimated to be about 20 KT.


Considering the physics behind EMP and the status of North Korea’s nuclear program to date, doomsday headlines in the press regarding the North’s potential EMP threat are grossly overstated.[4] North Korea’s nuclear tests have not yet demonstrated sufficient yield to cause damage to large areas through EMP. Moreover, with only a limited arsenal, it would not make sense for the North Koreans to conduct nuclear tests simply to develop EMP weapons.

[1] John Foster, et al., Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack—Critical National Infrastructures, April 2008.

[2] Edward Savage, James Gilbert, William Radasky. The Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid, Meta-R-320, Prepared for Oak Ridge National Lab., Jan 2010.

[3] According to the US EMP Commission, “In general, it would not be an issue for critical infrastructure systems since they have existing protective measures for defense against occasional lightning strikes. The most significant risk is synergistic, because the E2 component follows a small fraction of a second after the first component’s insult, which has the ability to impair or destroy many protective and control features. The energy associated with the second component thus may be allowed to pass into and damage systems.”

[4] In the early 1950s, above ground nuclear tests of a size similar to what the North Koreans have demonstrated were conducted at the Nevada Test Site just 65 miles from Las Vegas. There were no reports of power outages. The casinos continued to operate. Nuclear fallout was the bigger issue.

May 6, 2017 Posted by | Reference, South Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA Federal Register contains new rules for nuclear facilities: comments received until June 13

New regs for Monday: Nuclear, relocation, pesticides, The Hill, Monday’s edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for nuclear facilities, relocation expenses for federal employees and a review of various pesticides.

Here’s what is happening:

Nuclear: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering new procedures for decommissioning nuclear power reactors. As part of the rulemaking process, the commission is publishing a preliminary draft regulatory analysisof the decommissioning rule.

The NRC hopes the new rules will make the decommissioning process more efficient.

The public has until June 13 to comment on the analysis….

May 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Pentagon to lease privately owned Trump Tower apartment for nuclear ‘football’

Pentagon to lease privately owned Trump Tower apartment for nuclear ‘football’: letter, Reuters, By Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart |5 MAY 17  WASHINGTON

The U.S. Defense Department is finalizing a lease on a privately owned apartment in New York’s Trump Tower for the White House Military Office to use for supporting President Donald Trump without providing any benefit to Trump or his organization, according to a Pentagon letter seen by Reuters.

The Military Office carries and safeguards the “football,” the device that contains the top secret launch codes the president needs to order a nuclear attack, as well as providing him secure communications wherever he is.

The White House, Secret Service, and Defense Department had no comment on whether similar arrangements have been made at other properties Trump frequents – Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida and the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where Trump is spending this weekend.

n a letter to Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the House Armed Services and intelligence committees, Defense Department official James MacStravic, said the apartment is “privately owned and … lease negotiations have been with the owner’s representatives only.”

MacStravic, who wrote that he was “temporarily performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics,” said any acquisition of leased space with “an annual rental in excess of $1 million must first be approved by my office.”

He “approved this action” after consulting with the White House Military Office and other officials, he said.

Officials declined to reveal the cost of the lease or identify the owners of the apartment…….

May 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

US Congress ready for a showdown over $billions in nuclear tax credits

Congress Gears Up For Showdown Over Billions In Nuclear Tax Credits, Daily Caller ANDREW FOLLETT Energy and Science Reporter 5 May 17 Congress did not include a provision extending tax credits for nuclear power in the $1.1 trillion spending bill intended to keep the government funded through September.

The lack of nuclear energy tax credits threaten the viability of two nuclear reactors being built in Georgia and South Carolina.

“The extension of the tax credit for advanced nuclear energy production is absolutely imperative to nuclear new build at Vogtle and VC Summer – and next-up U.S. nuclear projects, including SMRs, currently in the queue,” David Blee, executive director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Its urgency is even more so given challenges emanating from the Westinghouse Chapter 11 filing.”

Georgia and South Carolina lawmakers strongly supported extending the tax credit. Supporters claim congressional leadership is delaying the issue until lawmakers take up tax reform later this year.

Westinghouse’s March bankruptcy filing will likely delay the construction of the Vogtle and VC Summer reactors. South Carolina’s two Republican senators, Tom Scott and Lindsey Graham, were shocked when the federal tax credit was left out and have already introduced legislation extending the tax credit to 2025.

The Obama administration gave the developers of the Vogtle reactor in Georgia a $8.3 billion loan guarantee. Nuclear power supporters say taxpayers may be at risk of losing money if the Vogtle project falters.

Industry representatives think Scott’s legislation could save the Vogtle and VC Summer reactors……

“I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and watch the nuclear industry be destroyed,” Graham told Politico Wednesday. “For three years, we’ve been trying to get these tax credits extended…The reactors that are being built are very much at risk.”…

May 6, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment