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On Hiroshima Day, Greenpeace Japan strengthens its support for the UN nuclear weapons ban

“I want you to feel the presence of not only the future generations, who will benefit from your negotiations to ban nuclear weapons, but to feel a cloud of witnesses from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

“We have no doubt that this treaty can – and will – change the world.” – Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bomb victim

The elimination of nuclear weapons has been the cause that Greenpeace campaigned so passionately and heavily for since 1971.

72 years after Hiroshima, where is Japan’s commitment to end nuclear weapons?  by Yuko Yoneda – 4 August, 2017  

Even with the passing of the UN’s Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, Japan still remains an outlier, betraying the hopes of atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It started with just 12 of them. With a bold mission, this group of activists set sail to Amchitka island off Alaska to protest the detonation of an underground US nuclear test. It was September 1971, and though the mission was initially unsuccessful, it was the beginning of what became Greenpeace, and just one of the many issues – the elimination of nuclear weapons – that the environmental organisation would campaign endlessly against.

Fast forward to 2017, and what was once a hard-fought battle and one of Greenpeace’s legacy issues, has now become a successful defeat. On 7 July, the United Nations adopted the “Nuclear Weapons Treaty” with an overwhelming majority – an epoch-making agreement that prohibits not only the development, experiment, manufacture, possession, and use of nuclear weapons, but also the “threat to use”. Nuclear and chemical weapons, and anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs were also banned. The Treaty will be open for signature by states on September 20th.

To our disappointment, however, Japan did not join the 122 countries, or two-thirds of the United Nations member countries, that stood up to stop nuclear weapons. The peculiar absence of Japan, whose preamble explicitly recognizes “unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (Hibakusha) as well as those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons” begs explanation.  

The Government of Japan expressed a concern that the Treaty that was negotiated only among non-nuclear weapon states could create “a more decisive divide” between the states with and without nuclear weapons. From a standpoint of realpolitik of the Cold War era, Japan is under an American nuclear umbrella, and as such, would violate a Treaty prohibiting the “threat to use” if it were to be a signatory. Therefore Japan sides with the nuclear weapons states (the US, Russia, China, France, UK, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries that rely on the US nuclear umbrella.

The adoption of this historic Treaty by an overwhelming majority of the UN membership, nonetheless, represents a hard-won victory for people such as the Hibakusha (Japanese word for the surviving victims of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), victims of American nuclear tests and their descendents, and grassroots activists who worked tirelessly against the European nuclear deployment and uranium mining in Australia. The Treaty is a long lasting legacy of their testimonies, protests and actions of the past decades, and keeps a hope alive for realization of the nuclear free world.

Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bomb victim who now lives in Canada, told delegates of the Treaty negotiations:

“I want you to feel the presence of not only the future generations, who will benefit from your negotiations to ban nuclear weapons, but to feel a cloud of witnesses from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

“We have no doubt that this treaty can – and will – change the world.”

On the 72nd anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, we stand in solidarity with the survivors and those across the world who have campaigned against nuclear weaponry and call for Japan to join the Treaty. The elimination of nuclear weapons has been the cause that Greenpeace campaigned so passionately and heavily for since 1971. As the only country in the world hit by a nuclear attack, Japan’s commitment to the Treaty would not only be a long-fought win for the country’s tainted history, but also an important step towards a future world that is ultimately safe and nuclear free.

Yuko Yoneda is the Executive Director at Greenpeace Japan.


August 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear | 2 Comments

It is still worth fighting climate change: but catastrophic change might be inevitable

Catastrophic climate change all but unavoidable; now what?, UW study finds little chance of keeping temperature rise within 2 degrees Celsius, Seattle PI, By Stephen Cohen,  August 3, 2017 
Seattle is suffering through its worst heat wave of the year, but according to a recent University of Washington study, increasingly hotter temperatures — and their deadly outcomes — are all but unavoidable.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to try and slow down the rising thermometer.

The UW study, co-authored by statistics and sociology professor Adrian Raftery and associate professor of atmospheric sciences Dargan Frierson, concluded there is a 90 percent chance the Earth’s average temperature will rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

 Limiting a rise to less than 2 degrees was one of the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement due to the potentially catastrophic effects of such an increase, including heat waves, extreme storms, flooding, sea level rise, etc. But the study, published on July 31 in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” found there is a less than 5 percent chance that the goal will be met, and only a 1 percent chance the increase will be limited to 1.5 degrees.

“If we’re to keep anywhere close to the 2-degree limit, we basically need to pull out all the stops on all registers over the next 80 years,” Raftery told SeattlePI. “I don’t see any alternative.”

The study used 50 years of data on three input factors — world population, gross domestic product per person and carbon intensity — to determine a range of possible outcomes. Only one of the three (carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon needed for a constant amount of economic production) is realistically subject to policy or societal influence. Carbon intensity has been decreasing at a fairly steady rate for years, and by 2100 it may have gone down by about 90 percent, but the incremental improvement doesn’t seem to be enough.

 “If we’d gotten started seriously earlier — say, back when climate change was first identified as a major issue in the 1980s — then I think we could be a bit further along than we are now,” Raftery said.

You don’t have to look too far into Washington’s past to see what even a small rise in temperature might do to the state. The winter of 2014-15 featured above-average temperatures, which led to a “temperature-driven drought,” according to Jeff Marti of the Washington Department of Ecology.

The state got a normal amount of precipitation, but warmer temperatures turned what would have been mountain snowpack into rain, which washed down rivers and out into Puget Sound instead of remaining in the mountains. When temperatures rose in the spring and summer, there was little snowpack to melt into rivers and increase the volume of water while simultaneously lowering temperatures……

One reaction would be to say, ‘Too bad, we’re going to miss the 2-degree target,’ so we kind of throw up our hands and say there’s nothing we can do,” Raftery said. “But I think that’s exactly the wrong message to take away from the study. The more warming it is, the worse the consequences, and that makes it even more urgent to to take urgent action to at least limit temperature increase to be as close to 2 degrees as possible.” reporter Stephen Cohen can be reached at 206-448-8313or Follow Stephen on Twitter at @scohenPI.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Swiss Alps: global warming is revealing long-frozen bodies of lost travellers

Melting glaciers in Swiss Alps could reveal hundreds of mummified corpses, Frozen bodies of couple who vanished 75 years ago among those uncovered recently as global warming forces ice to retreat, Guardian, Philip Oltermann and Kate Connolly, 5 Aug 17, Swiss police say hundreds of bodies of mountaineers who have gone missing in the Alps in the past century could emerge in coming years as global warming forces the country’s glaciers to retreat.

Alpine authorities have registered a significant increase in the number of human remains discovered last month, with the body of a man missing for 30 years the most recent to be uncovered.

Rescue teams in Saas Valley in the Valais canton were called last Tuesday after two climbers retreating from an aborted ascent spotted a hand and two shoes protruding from the Hohlaub glacier…….

The discovery comes less than a week after the bodies of a Swiss couple, missing for 75 years, were found in the Tsanfleuron glacier in the same canton…….

Switzerland’s glaciers have been melting at an unprecedented rate, losing almost one cubic km in ice volume or about 900 bn litres of water over the past year. According to an investigation by Tagesanzeiger newspaper, eight of the 10 months in which the glaciers have lost the most in volume over the past century have been since 2008.

Since 1850, when glaciers covered 1,735 sq km (670 sq miles) of Swiss land, the total area has shrunk by a half, to about 890 sq km.

Police in Valais expect the bodies of many more missing persons to emerge because of global warming. “It’s quite clear,” a spokesman, Christian Zuber, told the Guardian.

“The glaciers are retreating, so it’s logical that we’re finding more and more bodies and body parts. In the coming years we expect that many more cases of missing persons will be resolved.”……

August 5, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Switzerland | Leave a comment

Kuwait getting right out of nuclear investment, as it sells shares in the beleagured AREVA group

Kuwaiti fund to sell Areva shares in bid, stay away from nuclear – sources,  KIA to sell five pct Areva stake in delisting buyout

* Kuwait sovereign wealth fund to take 86 pct loss on Areva

* KIA declined French offer to buy stakes in NewCo, Areva NP

* World’s biggest SWF to stay away from nuclear investment

By Geert De Clercq, PARIS, Aug 4 (Reuters) – Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) will sell its nearly five percent stake in Areva to the French state as the nuclear group is delisted and will stay away from nuclear investments for now, sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund, one of the world’s biggest, paid 600 million euros ($712 million) for its 4.82 percent stake stake in 2010, but since then Areva’s stock has plunged as its equity has been wiped out by years of losses.

Following a state-funded 4.5 billion euro rescue and restructuring of Areva, the French state will pay 4.5 euros per share for KIA’s 18.46 million shares, or about 83 million euros, representing an 86 percent loss for the fund.

When it decided to buy the Areva stake nearly seven years ago, Kuwait was one of several Gulf countries considering developing nuclear power to meet demand for electricity and water desalination.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that the French state had proposed that KIA take equity stakes in nuclear fuel group Areva NewCo and reactor building unit Areva NP, which will both be spun off from the legacy Areva SA in which KIA is the main minority shareholder.

“A proposal was made to KIA but they have not followed up. KIA has no further development projects in nuclear,” a source close to Areva told Reuters.

The source said that as main minority shareholder after the French state – which directly and indirectly owns nearly 89 percent of Areva SA – KIA was kept informed about the restructuring but had no interest in taking part in it in any way and will sell its shares to the French state.

Prior to the delisting of Areva SA, the state has launched a buyout offer that runs from Aug. 1 to 14.

Areva’s uranium mining and nuclear fuel activities have been spun off as Areva NewCo, while its nuclear reactor unit Areva NP is being sold to state-owned utility EDF. Japan’s MHI will buy minority stakes in both units.

The restructuring leaves legacy Areva SA, once the vanguard of France’s nuclear export drive, as an empty shell with mainly the liabilities related to the troubled Olkiluoto 3 nuclear newbuild project in Finland.

KIA officials were not available for comment.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, MIDDLE EAST | Leave a comment

Nuclear power now is really losing the race against renewables

It’s Official: Nuclear Power Can’t Compete With Renewables, EcoWatch, By Paul Brown, 4 Aug 17 

The nuclear revival the global industry has been hoping for took another hammer blow this week when two reactors under construction in South Carolina were abandoned, only 40 percent complete.

The plan had been to build two Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors to lead the nuclear revival in the U.S., but cost overruns and delays dogged the project and will have the opposite effect. This is a further humiliation for Westinghouse, the U.S. nuclear giant that earlier this year filed for bankruptcy because of the costs associated with this new design. Hopes that a new generation of reactors could be built in the U.S. and sold to the rest of the world rested on the success of this project, and it has spectacularly failed.

By this week, construction had already cost $9 billion, almost the entire original budget, with years of building still to go. The reactors were originally scheduled to begin producing power in 2018, but this had been put back to 2021. Cost overruns had meant the final cost could be $25 billion. Around 5,000 construction workers have lost their jobs.

Changing context

The two owners of the project who had taken control after the Westinghouse bankruptcy, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, announced they would halt construction rather than saddle customers with additional costs……..

Nuclear power did find favor in some quarters in the U.S. because it was regarded as a low carbon source of electricity. But President Trump is trying to dismantle legislation that would have helped the industry get credit for this.

The repercussions of the decision to abandon the building of the South Carolina reactors will be felt across the Atlantic in the UK, where three reactors of the same design were due to be built in Cumbria in the northwest of England. NuGen, the UK company that planned to build them, is, like Westinghouse, a subsidiary of the Japanese giant Toshiba. It was already reviewing its plans to build them before this week’s news broke.

Officially this is still the position, but it seems unlikely that the company would gamble on trying to build reactors of a design that could not be completed successfully in the U.S.

All big nuclear companies have new designs being constructed on home turf. Their plan has been to demonstrate how well they work and then export them. But this is currently not working anywhere, most spectacularly in Europe, where the French giant EDF is in deep trouble with its flagship design, the even larger 1,600 megawatt pressurized water reactor.

Rapid delay

Prototypes under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France are, like the AP 1000, years late and over budget.

Construction has started on two more at Hinkley Point in Somerset in the West of England, but already, within weeks of the first concrete being poured, a delay has been announced.

Although the British Government still supports the project, it has already been questioned by the UK National Audit Office, which polices government finances. The NAO said consumers will be paying far too much for the electricity even if the project is finished on time, which on the industry’s past record seems extremely unlikely.

With renewables providing more and more cheap power in Europe and across the world, it seems unlikely that any of the new generation of large nuclear plants will ever be able to compete.

Phase-out planned

Japan, still suffering from the after effects of the Fukushima disaster of 2011, is unlikely to be able to resuscitate its nuclear industry, and South Korea, with arguably the most successful nuclear construction record, has a new government which wants to phase out the industry.

Only China and Russia, where what is really happening in their nuclear industries is a closely guarded secret, remain as likely exporters of new nuclear stations.

Both countries offer to supply fuel to countries which buy their reactor models. As well as building them, they offer as part of the package to get rid of the spent fuel and waste, so any country that buys nuclear power from China and Russia is effectively tied to them for a generation or more.

So for Russia and China, selling nuclear power stations is a political decision to extend their influence rather than an economic one—and it could be an expensive option for all concerned. From a purely economic perspective, however, it appears the nuclear industry is reaching the end of the road.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

What about an illegal order to fire a nuclear weapon? Must the military obey?

Would the military really have to obey a Trump command to fire a nuclear weapon?, Anthony J. Colangelo

Every member of the U.S. military has sworn an oath … to obey the officers and the president of the United States as the commander in chief appointed over us,” he said.

But is that quite right? Isn’t there such a thing as an illegal order? And if so, what kind of right or, more accurately, what kind of duty exists to disobey it?

Second point first: As a matter of fact, it is illegal to obey an obviously illegal order. Indeed, the law clearly rejects the “superior orders” defense. Colloquially put, the defense goes something like this: “I cannot be liable for carrying out an illegal act because I was simply following orders.” At least since the Nazis were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity at Nuremberg, this defense has largely disintegrated.

If — continuing the Nazi parallel — the “commander in chief appointed over us” tells military officials to commit genocide, they can’t legally go along with it. Legally, they must say no.

But how can, say, the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet know if an order is so obviously illegal that he’d be held liable?

Under international and U.S. law, the order must be “manifestly” or “clearly” illegal, not just of debatable or arguable legality. What this means is that the person ordered to launch or to plan the launch knows or should know that the order is illegal. The Department of Defense manual cites as an example firing on the shipwrecked. An order to shoot an innocent civilian in the head also would qualify.

The kind of weapon used is, of course, germane as well. The law of war — otherwise known as humanitarian law — is designed to protect civilian life and reduce suffering even though, inevitably, in armed conflict there will be some amount of civilian death and suffering.

At least five unique characteristics ominously separate nuclear weapons from conventional weapons in ways that promise to increase civilian death and suffering. First, quantitatively, the blast power, heat and energy generated far outstrip that of conventional weapons. Second, the radiation released is so powerful that it damages DNA and causes death and severe health defects throughout the entire lives of survivors as well as their children exposed in utero. Third, nuclear weapons make impossible humanitarian assistance to survivors at the blast scene struggling to survive, leading to more suffering and death. Fourth, damage to the environment leads to widespread famine and starvation. And fifth, nuclear weapons cause long-lasting multi-generational psychological injury to survivors of the blast.

All of these factors weigh heavily against the humanitarian goals of the law of war, which again is designed chiefly to prevent and reduce civilian death and suffering.

So anyone ordered to plan or launch a nuclear strike is on notice: An order to use a nuclear weapon instead of a conventional weapon when the same military advantage can be gained by either gives rise to a duty to reject that order. To do otherwise and follow the order would constitute a war crime for which the actor could be held liable.

Anthony J. Colangelo is a Gerald J. Ford Research Fellow and professor of law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and consultant for the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The future of nuclear power is in question: “baseload generation” is no longer necessary

How to manage the implosion of nuclear power, Washington Examiner , 4 Aug 17

 “…..Today, the very future of nuclear power is in question. The electricity market is flashing warning signs that bad times are ahead for the nuclear industry and the U.S. fleet of 100 nuclear power plants.

Westinghouse is bankrupt. Only two new nuclear plants are being built in the U.S., and both are plagued with huge cost overruns. The nuclear industry has been rocked by plant closings and battered by an abundance of cheap natural gas, which has made it difficult for nuclear plants to compete. Since 2014, electricity companies have either closed or announced plans to shut down 14 existing U.S. nuclear plants, and odds are high that at least a dozen more nuclear plants will be shuttered. Among those in jeopardy are all four nuclear plants in New Jersey – PSE&G’s Salem 1 and 2 plants and the Hope Creek plant and Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant.

At a bare minimum, the policy choices ahead are difficult. And for PSE&G, the question is whether New Jersey needs the large amounts of baseload power that nuclear plants provide. Could New Jersey run on natural gas and renewable energy alone?

This may seem like an absurd question, given that nuclear power supplies 44 percent of the state’s electricity. The answer is that low-cost natural gas – which accounts for 46 percent of New Jersey’s electricity – will grow in importance, along with renewables and improvements in energy efficiency. Incredible as it might seem, nuclear power is just no longer needed to maintain grid reliability.

According to a study by the Brattle Group, the term “baseload generation,” which has been synonymous with nuclear power and coal for decades, is no longer useful for the purposes of planning and operating today’s electricity system. Instead, more flexible resources like natural gas and renewables are increasingly needed to cost effectively assist with meeting changing system loads, responding to local requirements and integrating the variable output of solar and wind power.

Despite changing market conditions, some states have approved generous subsidies to keep their financially-stressed nuclear plants afloat. Illinois and New York state have approved a zero-emission nuclear resource program that puts a price on nuclear power’s attributes in meeting carbon reduction goals — though both efforts are being challenged legally by other electricity producers, who say the nuclear credits intrude into federal wholesale markets.

What is indisputable is that the Illinois and New York state measures are in fact subsidies requiring electricity users to pay an additional $700 million annually in higher rates. Several other states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut – are considering similar measures. But nuclear power’s future is being questioned and challenged as never before………

Absent the need for baseload power, New Jersey’s PSE&G should prepare for what had once been unthinkable: the early retirement of the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants. Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear plant, is scheduled to be closed by the end of 2019…..

August 5, 2017 Posted by | ENERGY, USA | Leave a comment

Methods of climate geoengineering

Potential climate-engineering solutions to global warming, By Brett Anderson, AccuWeather senior meteorologist, 8/04/2017,   Climate engineering is a potential means to reduce climate warming caused by the rise of greenhouse gases.  just read two articles in the July 21 issue of Science, which covers two climate engineering methods that may work in reducing climate warming.

The first article discusses the idea of injecting sulfur into the stratosphere, which would cause an artificial reduction of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the article in Science.

This process is similar to the massive release of sulfur into the stratosphere by large volcanic eruptions. Significant, short-term global cooling has been recorded shortly following some of these eruptions.

Stratospheric aerosol modification (SAM) may be used as a last-resort option to reduce the severity of global warming. However, SAM technologies are presently not developed.

Cloud seeding

Another climate engineering method that was discussed in the Science issue is cirrus cloud seeding.

High, wispy and thin cirrus clouds typically do not reflect a lot of solar radiation back into space. Cirrus clouds emit less long wave radiation back into space than a clear sky does, which is similar to what greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide do.

Image courtesy of Science and ETH Zurich, Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear power is just not economic: the demise of VC Summer heralds its end

Vermont Law School’s Cooper on demise of VC Summer: Nuclear power is uneconomic, Business Magazine 4 Aug 17, The abandonment this week of the VC Summer nuclear project in South Carolina heralds the likely demise of “new” nuclear in the United States (including the Vogtle project in Georgia and North Anna 3 in Virginia) and also should put an end to state or federal bailouts for the failing nuclear industry, according to four experts who held a media briefing Thursday, sponsored by NIRS, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Nuclear economist Dr Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, said the V.C. Summer shutdown should lead to a similar step at the Vogtle project in Georgia and to a renewed focus on renewable energy.

Cooper said: “The message for Vogtle is simple, nuclear power is uneconomic. It will take massive federal, state and vendor subsidies to be completed and the cost of power will still be two to three times the cost of power from alternatives. The capital cost of renewables is between one-eighth and one quarter the cost of VC Summer.  Even adjusted for load factors, nuclear power is two to three times more costly then the alternatives.”

Peter Bradford, former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner, past chair of the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions, said that “new” reactor construction financed in advance from ratepayers in states like Virginia (home to Dominion’s proposed North Anna 3 reactor) are V.C. Summer-like debacles waiting to happen.

Bradford said: “The primary lessons for Georgia, Virginia, and other states, from the South Carolinacancellations (as well as Levy County in Florida and Kemper in Mississippi) is that laws and regulatory decisions placing economic risks on customers instead of the investors and lenders who should properly bear them are a disastrous mistake.  Freed of responsibility for the consequences of their mistakes, utility executives too often plunge into ill-advised schemes to pad their rate bases (and individual compensation) when they should be managing competitive processes designed to select the most cost-effective alternative.”

After a surge of state bailouts for nuclear in 2016 in New York and Illinois, the industry has failed in 2017 in Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The push in Ohio faltered in the face of extensive public criticism and was relegated in Connecticut to a study report  by the state’s governor.  In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bailout backers were unable to even get promised legislation introduced.

A federal bailout for the nuclear industry would come at staggering cost. If based on the New Yorkmodel, the cost to consumers would be $150 billion to $275 billion, depending on whether the subsidies applied to all reactors, or just those that are determined to be unprofitable. (The latter may seem like a common-sense outcome, but Exelon crafted bailout legislation in Illinois that allows it to be paid even if energy prices rise.) If a federal bailout were based on a new and expanded nuclear production tax credit, as a Department of Energy advisory committee recommended last year (at $27/MWh), the cost to taxpayers would be nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars:  $228 billion, according to calculations by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).

NIRS Executive Director Tim Judson said: “Nuclear power is failing despite the fact that it is already heavily subsidized. Canceling the Summer reactors proves that the industry has no future, but it only tells half the story. Nuclear generators are pushing for billions of dollars in subsidies and bailouts for their aging reactors, and those efforts are mostly failing, as well. Hoped-for momentum from 2016 bailouts in New York and Illinois did not materialize, as state legislatures rejected nuclear subsidy bills this year. With renewable energy now surpassing nuclear by widening margins, it’s clear that subsidizing nuclear is an expensive way to slow down the growth of clean, safe, affordable, job-creating energy sources.”

Even if there is no new federal bailout for nuclear, taxpayers could still end up on the hook for billions of dollars if the Vogtle project goes belly up. Ryan Alexander, president, Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit and nonpartisan taxpayer advocacy group, said: “The VC Summer project relied on the same problematic reactor designs and contractor, the recently bankrupt Westinghouse Corporation, as Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle. Westinghouse’s AP1000 design was being used in both VC Summer and Vogtle. Both projects have experienced multiple delays and significant cost overruns. Westinghouse’s recent bankruptcy pushed both projects further into turmoil. Unlike VC Summer, Vogtle managed to win themselves more than $8 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. So while federal taxpayers should and must watch any efforts to contribute to the bailout of the state of South Carolina and the players involved in the VC Summers project, billions in tax dollars are already at risk with the Vogtle project. It seems clearer than ever that the writing is on the wall for taxpayers. We’ve said it for 8 years: These massive nuclear reactor projects were doomed from the start, and taxpayer money should not be risked on them.”

Where does the industry go from here? The V.C. Summer project collapse means that any remaining illusions about a resurgence of nuclear power in the United States is now dead.

As Bradford explained: “In fact, there never was an actual ‘nuclear renaissance’, just the 31 paper applications on file at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by early 2009.  Now nearly all but two are cancelled, leaving a trail of economic waste in their wake. The intent of the renaissance dream was to show that new reactor designs and an expedited licensing process from which the public was largely excluded would produce reactors that could be completed ‘on time and on budget’ as well as at competitive costs.  The expectation was that private financing, without subsidy from customers and taxpayers, would then become available to nuclear power.  That dream is now in ruins. The Westinghouse bankruptcy and subsequent events in South Carolina make the lessons so clear that even the most ardent nuclear propagandists probably can no longer shout them down.”


August 5, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Scrapping the Iran nuclear deal could result in disaster

The Guardian view on Iran: the nuclear deal is not a disaster – but scrapping it could be, Guardian, 
Editorial 5 Aug 17   Hassan Rouhani has a hefty electoral mandate for his second term but faces opposition at home and a US president determined to scrap the landmark nuclear agreement. 
hen the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is sworn in again on Saturday, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and ministers from Britain, France and Germany will be in Tehran to watch; an indication of how far relations with the west warmed in his first term. Yet as he embarks upon his second, he may feel the chill. Despite defeating his conservative rival by a landslide in May’s elections, opposition is ranged against him at home and abroad. The great domestic uncertainty he faces – supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 78 and without a clear successor – is for now overshadowed by Donald Trump’s threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors its implementation, says Iran is complying with the requirements to curb its nuclear programme and accept inspections in return for sanctions relief. But Mr Trump has vowed to overturn the Obama administration’s stand-out foreign policy achievement. He has twice signed the sanctions waiver, but with extreme reluctance. He has asked aides to find a way to ditch the deal and says he expects Iran to be declared non-compliant next month. Officials say it has breached the pact “in spirit”………

American hostility can only bolster the isolationist, hardline forces ranged against Mr Rouhani; against the wishes and instincts of the Iranian people; against stability in the region and indeed against the interests of the US. Even defence secretary James Mattis – who has defined the three gravest threats facing the USas “Iran, Iran, Iran” – is among those pressing to maintain the deal. The president he serves calls the agreement a disaster. But Mr Trump is, as usual, wrong. It is scrapping it that could court catastrophe.

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

As President Rouhani starts a new term, Iran says US breaching nuclear deal

Iran says US breaching nuclear deal as Rouhani starts new term, Borneo Bulletin August 4, 2017 TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said yesterday new US sanctions were a violation of its nuclear deal with world powers, piling pressure on President Hassan Rouhani as he started his second term.

Rouhani vowed to continue his efforts to end the country’s isolation as he was sworn in by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei following his re-election in May.

But the ceremony came less than 24 hours after US President Donald Trump confirmed fresh sanctions against Iran.

Tehran says the new measures violate its 2015 deal with world powers that eased sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme, an agreement which Trump has repeatedly threatened to tear up.

“We believe that the nuclear deal has been violated and we will react appropriately,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on state television. We will certainly not fall into the trap of US policy and Trump, and our reaction will be very carefully considered.”

The mounting crisis creates a difficult position for Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate who won re-election largely thanks to his efforts to repair relations with the West.

“We will never accept isolation,” Rouhani said as he was sworn in in front of top political and military officials.

“The nuclear deal is a sign of Iran’s goodwill on the international stage,” he added.

Khamenei took a tougher line, saying Iran must not fall for Washington’s “tricks”……

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

USA EPA pledges to clean up thorium contaminated Ridgewood site

EPA pledges $39M to clean Ridgewood site   Five businesses to relocate when radioactive cleanup work begins.  Thursday, August 3, 2017  by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor 

The Environmental Protection Agency is pouring nearly $40 million into the rehabilitation of a former Ridgewood factory that once produced radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project.

More than three years after the EPA first declared the plot of land on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border between 1125 and 1139 Irving Ave. a federal Superfund site, the agency announced last Friday it plans to spend $39.4 million on extensive, long-term remediation efforts there.

“Today’s comprehensive cleanup proposal addresses potential long-term risks through a combination of response actions,” the EPA’s announcement reads, “including permanent relocation of commercial businesses, demolishing contaminated buildings, excavating contaminated soil and cleaning or replacing contaminated sewers.”

To further discuss the plan, the EPA will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the Audrey Johnson Day Care Center, located at 272 Moffat St., just one block south of the site in question.

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Co. occupied the plot of land in question from 1920 until 1954 and processed imported monazite sand among other chemicals.

Monazite contains up to 8 percent thorium, a radioactive element that the company sold to the federal government for use in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret program aimed at developing the atomic bombs that were eventually dropped on Japan during World War II.

During and after Wolff-Alport’s aiding of the Manhattan Project, the company regularly dumped thorium waste into the sewer system and on its property until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission ordered it to stop.

Wolff-Alport continued to sell thorium products to the government until 1954.

The EPA began investigating the level of contamination at the site in 2012, with the agency discovering radon gas leaks at two locations in and around it — in addition to higher than normal contamination levels below public sidewalks and in the sewer system.

About $2 million in short-term remediation efforts to curb the leaking of the harmful gas was spent at the time.

To further rectify the situation, the EPA plans to permanently relocate five businesses -— including a deli, a pair of auto body shops, a construction company and a warehouse — before tearing down the former factory buildings they reside in.

The EPA said it will “support and assist” the relocation of those entities.

Once that is complete, the agency will then excavate about 24,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and dispose of it off-site, eliminating the potential threat of long-term health impacts posed by the radiation.

That solution is something Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. advocated for years ago. Citing Wolff-Alport’s role in the secretive Manhattan Project, he told the Chronicle in 2014 there may have been operations at the former factory that weren’t ever made public — resulting in more contamination than believed.

“The real approach is to demolish and excavate the entire site,” Arcuri said, “in order to see what the extent of the contamination is.”

Also in 2014, the EPA released a 39-page report about the hazards at the Ridgewood site. While it was strongly worded at times, the report said radiation levels of 1,133 picocuries per gram were observed during one on-site visit.

That amount equates to about one-millionth of a millicure. In comparison, a heart scan produces about 30 millicuries of radiation.

Despite the seemingly low levels of hazardous materials, the EPA plugged a hole in an unoccupied storage area of nearby IS 384, from which radon gas was seeping, in addition to placing lead and steel shields underneath area sidewalks and building floors.

The agency said last Friday that those actions have sufficiently brought down the levels of radiation, while EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the school will not be subjected to any further remediation efforts.

“Our sampling and assessment shows that IS 384 is not being impacted by the contamination at Wolff-Alport,” Rodriguez said in a Monday email.

In addition to the Aug. 16 meeting, the EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal through Aug. 28.

They can be emailed to EPA Remedial Project Manager Thomas Mongelli at

August 5, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump’s pattern of non stop lying is much the same as Putin’s

A Chilling Theory on Trump’s Nonstop Lies, His duplicity bears a disturbing resemblance to Putin-style propaganda, Mother Jones  “26 hours, 29 Trumpian False or Misleading Claims.”

That was the headline on a piece last week from the Washington Post, whose reporters continued the herculean task of debunking wave after wave of President Donald Trump’s lies. (It turned out there was a 30th Trump falsehood in that time frame, regarding the head of the Boy Scouts.) The New York Times keeps a running tally of the president’s lies since Inauguration Day, and PolitiFact has scrutinized and rated 69 percent of Trump’s statements as mostly false, false, or “pants on fire.”

Trump’s chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the “Firehose of Falsehood.”

In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in Kremlin-controlled media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”

The result of those tactics? “New Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”

Indeed, Trump’s style as a mendacious media phenomenon resonates strongly with RAND’s findings from the study, which also explains the efficacy of the Russian propaganda tactics. Here are the key examples:

RAND: “Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels.”

Trump is known for his high-volume use of Twitter, tweeting about 500 times in his first 100 days in office, using both his personal account and the official @POTUS account. His tweets often become the subject of news stories and sometimes provoke entire news cycles’ worth of coverage across the mainstream media……..

Trump is also a prolific liar on stage: Of the 29 false statements the Washington Posttracked last week, five came in a speech to Boy Scouts, two came from a news conference, and a whopping 15 came from a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. (Seven others came from, where else, his personal Twitter feed.)

The deluge matters, notes RAND: “The experimental psychology literature suggests that, all other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive.”

RAND: “Russian propaganda is rapid, continuous, and repetitive”

Trump often repeats misleading statements in rapid, successive tweets……..

Why the technique works: RAND explains that “repetition leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to acceptance.”

RAND: “Russian propaganda makes no commitment to objective reality”

Phony news stories are a staple of Vladimir Putin’s Russia—and as Mother Jones has detailed, Trump and his team have been caught repeating several that originated in Russian news outlets.

Trump also has a habit of repeating false statements that can be very easily checked—such as lies about the number of bills he has signed. …….

RAND: “Don’t expect to counter the firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth.”

The Washington Post has called Trump “the most fact-checked politician.” Yet, the RAND research found that pointing out specific falsehoods was an ineffective tool against the propaganda techniques they studied in Russia because “people will have trouble recalling which information they have received is the disinformation and which is the truth.” …..

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. Senate approves Trump’s energy deputy secretary amid talk of Rick Perry leaving

Senate approves Trump’s energy deputy secretary amid talk of Rick Perry leaving, Examiner, by John Siciliano | , The Senate on Thursday confirmed Dan Brouillette to be the Department of Energy’s deputy secretary and second in command to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

The 79-17 confirmation vote comes a day after reports said President Trump may move Perry from the energy agency to head the Department of Homeland Security…….

August 5, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Radioactive tourism in Ukraine

by Cheryl L. Reed

The button that could have started a nuclear holocaust is grey – not red.

I learned this after climbing into a nuclear rocket command silo, 12 floors below ground, and sitting in the same green chair at the same yellow metal console at which former Soviet officers once presided.

Here, they practised entering secret codes into their grey keyboards, pushing the launch button and turning a key – all within seven seconds – to fire up to 10 ballistic missiles. The officers never knew what day their practice codes might become real, nor did they know their targets.

This base in Pervomaysk, Ukraine – about a four-hour drive from Kiev – once had 86 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying cities in Europe and the United States. Though the nuclear warheads have been removed, the command silo with much of its equipment, giant trucks that carried the rockets to the base and an empty silo were preserved so that people could see what had been secretly going on at nuclear missile bases in the former Soviet Union.

Tourists go to Paris to marvel at the majesty of the Eiffel Tower, to Rome to stroll the cobbled streets of the Vatican, to Moscow to behold the magnificent domes of Red Square. And while Ukraine has its own plethora of domed cathedrals, including monasteries with underground caves, thousands of tourists are trekking to this country for a uniquely Soviet experience.

Here, they stand outside an exploded nuclear reactor at Chernobyl and rifle through the remains of a nearby abandoned city – Geiger counter in hand. In Chernobyl’s shadow, they marvel at the giant “Moscow Eye”, an anti-ballistic-missile detector that rises 50 storeys high and looks like a giant roller coaster.

Every day, a handful of travel companies ferry mostly foreigners to Chernobyl’s 30-kilometre “exclusion zone”. In 2016, Solo East Travel hauled 7500 people there, up from only one trip in 2000………

The museum tour guides are all former Soviet officers who once worked at the missile base. Ours, Gennadiy Fil’, once manned the nuclear controls. When American tourists dallied, snapping photos of the rockets above ground, he barked, “Ledz go!”

Then he darted through a heavy door of a squat building, down a series of winding stairs and through an underground tunnel, navigating by memory through the narrow, 150-metre-long passageway to the control centre in a silo. The narrow cylinder is suspended from the ground – theoretically, to withstand the shock of a counter-attack…….

No moral objections

Fil’, 55, said he never knew when he would be ordered to input real codes. It was his job, he said, shrugging. He said he had no moral objections to pushing the button. Launching nuclear missiles was a “political decision”, something that people on top of the ground decided, not him……..

In 1994, three years after Ukraine became independent, it joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty and agreed to dismantle its 1900 Soviet missiles. At the time, Ukraine boasted the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear warheads after Russia and the United States. Ukraine shipped its nuclear warheads to Russia and dismantled its silos, often blowing them up or filling them with cement. The control silo at Pervomaysk was the only one spared – so it could become a museum. The 46th Rocket Division, part of the 43rd Rocket Army, was disbanded in 2001……..

Nuclear ghost town

The city of Pripyat was once a secret Soviet city, closed to anyone but workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and their families. Now the city, an hour-and-a-half drive from Kiev, is a nuclear ghost town. Forty-nine thousand people were forced to evacuate the day after Chernobyl’s Reactor No.4 exploded on April 26, 1986.

Nearly all the first responders and soldiers died from radiation poisoning while trying to contain the graphite fire and the radioactive particles spewing from the destroyed reactor, explained Bodnarchuk, our tour guide. Officially, only 31 firemen and soldiers were killed. But some believe that the disaster claimed at least 10,000 lives as wind carried radioactive material into Belarus and Northern Europe.

Even though critics have said that the designs of Chernobyl are outmoded and inherently unsafe, Russia reportedly is still using 11 similar nuclear reactors.

Today, visitors can stand across the street from the damaged reactor at Chernobyl, which recently was covered by a huge, $US2.3 billion shield. But the highlight of the tour is, by far, the crumbling city of Pripyat. Though tour operators are warned to stay out of Pripyat’s buildings, tourists routinely stomp through the city, including the hospital where dying first responders were taken……..

driving through the red forest near the Chernobyl reactor – where the radiation burned up all the trees, which were then bulldozed and buried. Our Geiger counters went crazy as we drove through the new-growth forest, registering 26 sieverts per hour.

Our guide tried to calm fears about our exposure to radiation by assuring us that any high levels on our body would be detected by the machines we had to pass through on the way out of Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. Those machines – old Soviet steel contraptions that look like retro airport metal detectors – hardly inspire confidence……..

August 5, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, marketing, Ukraine | Leave a comment