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North Korea likely to follow Pakistan’s nuclear path, not Libya’s

North Korea Wants to End up Like Pakistan, Not Libya poor country made enormous sacrifices to get nuclear weapons—and has them still. DOMINIC TIERNEY 
So are there any models of “rogue” regimes with nuclear programs that might appeal to North Korea? The answer is yes. But, unfortunately, it’s a state that kept its nuclear deterrent intact: Pakistan. If Pyongyang is weighing up two possible futures—Libya vs. Pakistan—it’s not much of a choice.

Pakistan began to seriously pursue nuclear weapons in the 1970s, motivated by a desire to deter its more powerful rival India, as well as match India’s nuclear capability. The Pakistani politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who later became prime minister, claimed, “If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves—even go hungry—but we will get one of our own.” In 1998, on a clear and bright day in the Chagai district, Pakistan carried out a series of nuclear tests. Pakistan’s chief scientific officer said “All praise be to Allah” and pushed the button, causing the mountain to shake in a vast explosion.

In 2016, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists estimated that Pakistan had 130 to 140 warheads and predicted that it would nearly double its arsenal by 2025. Islamabad could deliver nuclear weapons by medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, F-16 fighters, and tactical systems for short-range use on the battlefield.

We can be confident that North Korea is paying close attention to Islamabad’s experience. After all, the two countries share important similarities. They both face an enduring rivalry with a far more powerful democratic state that used to be part of the same country (India and South Korea). Furthermore, both North Korea and Pakistan have, at times, flouted international norms. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pakistan never signed the treaty. For decades, North Korea and Pakistan have been informal allies, trading conventional weapons and supporting Iran in the Iran-Iraq War.

In addition, Pakistan’s nuclear capability led the West to handle the country with kid gloves. The United States provided millions of dollars of material assistance to guard Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile, including helicopters and nuclear detection equipment. Pakistan’s nuclear capability is also one reason why Washington continued to provide billions of dollars in military and economic aid, even though Islamabad supported the Taliban insurgency that battled U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan gained prestige as the only Muslim-majority country with nuclear weapons. The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the nuclear program as “Pakistan’s finest hour.” The nuclear program is also domestically popular. The nuclear tests in 1998 that shook mountains led to jubilant street celebrations.

Of course, all of this came at a cost. The money poured into Pakistan’s nuclear program could have been spent on health or education. The nuclear tests in 1998 were condemned around the world. After refusing to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pakistan faces restrictions on importing civili

civilian nuclear technology. Nuclear weapons may deter India, but they also risk accidents and even escalation to nuclear war.

But for North Korea, the balance sheet still favors the Pakistan model: a poor country that ate grass to build a nuclear deterrent, seeks to be accepted as a recognized nuclear power, supports denuclearization in principle but only as part of a broader international disarmament effort (that will likely never happen), successfully deters a more powerful rival, and gains domestic prestige and international status.

Saddam and Qaddafi made their choices, and they’re both dead. North Korea wants to follow a different path. Why not become the Pakistan of East Asia?


May 30, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Japan’s state-affiliated bank is reluctant to fund Hitachi’s Wylfa nuclear project in UK

State-affiliated bank resists call to fund Hitachi nuclear project, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, May 29, 2018 

A government-affiliated financial institution balked at an agency’s request to pump 75 billion yen ($688 million) into Hitachi Ltd.’s nuclear power project in Britain, while the entire plan came under fire from citizen groups.

The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry asked the Development Bank of Japan (DBJ) for the investment to help finance a new nuclear power plant designed by Hitachi Ltd. on the island of Anglesey off northwest Wales.

A DBJ executive expressed a willingness to invest but is reluctant to finance more than half of the requested amount, saying of the original figure, “The risk is big.”

Under the plan, Hitachi subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power Ltd. will be in charge of constructing two reactors for the new nuclear power plant.

Hitachi plans to disperse the risk of loss and slash its investment ratio from the current 100 percent to less than 50 percent as preconditions for the start of construction.

After the company held an extraordinary board meeting on May 28 to discuss the project, Toshiaki Higashihara, president and CEO of Hitachi, told reporters, “We have not decided anything yet.”

The company intends to make an official decision in 2019 on whether to proceed with the project. The DBJ’s reluctance to invest the full amount requested is clouding Hitachi’s financing plan.

The economy ministry, however, considers Hitachi’s project the “touchstone for exports of nuclear power technology.”

The Japanese and British governments reached a broad agreement around the end of 2017 on providing financial support for Hitachi’s project, but they have not decided on specific measures to come up with the estimated 3 trillion yen in total costs.

Under a proposed blueprint, the British government will guarantee loans worth 2 trillion yen. British companies and institutions, Hitachi, and other Japanese companies and institutions would invest 300 billion yen each to cover the remaining costs, sources said.

However, it may not be enough. Construction costs for nuclear power plants have continued to increase as tighter safety standards are being adopted around the world.

Hitachi intends to recover the construction costs through sales of electricity generated from the plant. But if it cannot sell the power at high prices, the plant could become unprofitable.

The project faces criticism from outside sources.

A community group on the island of Anglesey and a Japanese nongovernmental organization submitted to the ministry on May 28 hastily collected signatures calling for the halt of the use of taxpayers’ money for the new nuclear plant.

They also sent a letter to Hitachi, asking the company to withdraw from the project.

Objections to the nuclear plant in Wales were also expressed through a joint program of PAWB, (Pobol Atal Wylfa-B or the People Against Wylfa-B), and FoE Japan, a member of Friends of the Earth International. About 6,000 individuals or members of groups in 37 countries provided their signatures to call for the scrapping of the nuclear power plant project.

They are also demanding that the Japanese government will not guarantee loans for the project and that Japanese government-affiliated banking institutions will not extend loans.

Mei Tomos, a member of PAWB, told a meeting in Japan that it would be irresponsible to proceed with the project when there is still no solution on how to deal with radioactive waste.

Tomos urged Japanese at the gathering to express their opinions, keeping in mind the experience of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Trump administration could so easily blow the chance of a diplomatic solution for the Korean Peninsula

Korea’s “Season of Summits” May 18 The upcoming “will they—won’t they” US-DPRK summit, either by accident or by design, has the potential to re-set the strategic atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula…but only if Washington and Pyongyang can find a convergence of common interest.

There are limitations on American action on the Korean peninsula that constrain its menu of choice vis-à-vis North Korea (DPRK). The absence of a substantive relationship between the US and North Korea limits Washington’s economic and diplomatic leverage. However, as the more powerful party with overwhelming nuclear superiority and clear capacity to deter the DPRK nuclear threat, the US does have capacity to re-set the terms of the relationship by reducing the heat in negotiations. Washington can do this by changing the focus for the negotiations.

The long game

North Korea can be deterred as a nuclear power. A peace treaty to formally end the Korean War represents the best pathway to managing regional security and ensuring the safety of the people who live in the region. Under the umbrella of a formalised peace regime, human security concerns within North Korea are more likely to be constructively addressed. Engagement and interaction is the best vehicle for this, based on an understanding of complex systems and social change processes within the DPRK.

Summits are symbols that act as markers in a much broader process of relationship-building, based on confidence-building measures and clear, achievable implementation steps. Confidence-building measures develop the relationship between negotiating parties and gradually evolve the level of trust necessary to progress to subsequent steps on the negotiation pathway.

Depth of relationships are also a source of leverage; one of the reasons why the United States has struggled to influence the DPRK is that it does not have substantive economic links through which to influence the government in Pyongyang. This lack of leverage is why US officials have argued for China to play a more substantive role in pressuring North Korea, because China has a relationship with the DPRK that it can leverage. Rightly or wrongly, the US has dealt itself out of direct influence over North Korea through its various policies of strategic isolation and maximum pressure.

We should also understand that from a complex systems perspective, relationships—be they economic, governmental, institutional, or people-to-people—create flows of information, wealth and resources in and out of the DPRK. Those flows interact with and turbo-charge social change processes already underway in the DPRK, as we have seen with such flows between the DPRK and China. The result is a change, developing over time, in the relationship between the North Korean state and its people over time through the marketisation and Yuan-isation of the economy, and proliferation of information technologies into the country.

Focusing on the wrong prize

Regardless of whether or not the US-DPRK summit ultimately goes ahead, it is concerning that the Trump administration could blow an opportunity to meaningfully change the strategic goalposts on the Korean Peninsula by focussing on the wrong prize.

The only real trinket of value that Washington has to offer Kim Jong Un is a formal treaty to conclude the Korean War. It is likely that North Korea very much wants to negotiate an agreement with the United States, but under Pyongyang’s terms. It is no revelation to long-term North Korea watchers that those terms do not include “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation” (CVID).

The problem with Trump’s insistence on CVID is that there is no mutually agreeable starting point for a discussion with North Korea on those terms. There is no outcome in which the regime willingly relinquishes its nuclear weapons program because the Kim regime is so heavily invested in nuclear weapons as the foundation of its security strategy, economic development pathway, and domestic political legitimacy.

The negotiations surrounding the summit need to find a lowest common denominator that both parties can agree on. We saw this in the inter-Korean summit where Moon and Kim settled on easy-win engagement measures and mutually-beneficial security measures as the starting point for a confidence-building pathway.

CVID is a dead-end

The US and the DPRK clearly do not trust each other, and both parties have good reasons to be guarded ahead of a “will they—won’t they” summit. Most media attention coming out of the inter-Korean summit focused on Article 3.4 of the Panmunjom Declaration, which called for “complete denuclearisation” and “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” building on the call in Article 1.1 for both parties to work together on implementing the 2005 Joint Statement on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the 13 February Agreement of 2007.

However, this clause does not mean North Korea has committed to denuclearisation as that concept is understood by the Trump administration. In the wake of his second meeting with Kim Jong-un, Moon Jae-in insisted that the North Koreans are committed to denuclearisation, clearly hoping to maintain the diplomatic momentum to ensure the US-DPRK summit takes place. However, the North Korean interpretation of a nuclear-free Korea implies the full nuclear weapons relinquishment of the United States and ultimate fulfilment of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

North Korea’s recent demolition of tunnels at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site are a gesture of goodwill to Washington, offering up a now-obsolete facility with an eye toward the upcoming US-DPRK summit. We have seen this kind of offering before, when the North Koreans demolished the cooling tower at their Yeongbyeon reactor in 2008.

Moon Jae-in’s tactical ego-stroking comments about Trump deserving the Nobel Peace Prize aside, one can argue that South Korea does not have high confidence in the Trump administration. South Korea’s diplomatic efforts in 2018 have been geared to guiding the US into a more conciliatory position with North Korea and make it politically safer for Trump to negotiate for an agreement with Pyongyang, knowing that there are influential American officials in Trump’s ear counselling for war.

Fears of American bellicosity in Seoul are not unwarranted. American hawks view any kind of engagement with North Korea as a “loss,” as “appeasement”—one of the most juvenile and misapplied terms in the international relations lexicon—and are well aware of the difficulty of getting any negotiated deal ratified in a Republican-majority Congress (recalling the fate of the Agreed Framework). National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent comments comparing North Korea to Libya reinforce this perception. The irony of the present moment is a deal is more likely to stick in the US if it is owned by a Republican president. Such are the ironies and opportunities of Korean Peninsula diplomacy in 2018.

This article was originally published in Australian Outlook.  Access the original article here.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

“Nuclear is N.I.C.E” – the latest spin from the desperate nuclear industry

America Joins With Canada And Japan To Promote Nuclear Power,  Forbes, , 29 May 18, “…… at a summit in Copenhagen, Denmark last week, it was clear the US is now trying a different tact.

A ‘Clean Energy Summit’ was organized bringing together energy ministers from across the world. At the event, the US launched new partnerships to promote nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage technology as alternatives to traditional fossil fuels……

The new nuclear partnership with Japan and Canada, was launched on Thursday. At the summit, the US was able to convince two new partners who are member states of the European Union – Poland and Romania – to join the alliance.

The partnership is called Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future).

“Countries will need to use nuclear energy alongside other forms of clean energy to deliver a sustainable energy mix that is affordable to all and that supports economic development,” Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said at the launch.

The aim of the initiative is to promote nuclear as a solution to climate change….

Separately, the US also promoted a new platform on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) called the Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage Initiative that will focus on obtaining more financing for CCS demonstration projects. Such financing has been hard to come by in Europe, because investors are still sceptical about whether the technology, which stores the carbon underground rather than releasing it into the air, is viable.

The efforts may represent a new phase in America’s climate diplomacy……

Environmental campaigners, however, are having none of it. Hundreds of activists disrupted an event organized by the US government in November to promote nuclear and clean coal. They say the recent US moves are greenwashing a pro-coal agenda that is not actually interested in stopping climate change.

Whether these new US initiatives attract more members remains to be seen.


May 30, 2018 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Fukushima mothers at UN tell their story

Beyond Nuclear International

Evacuees from nuclear disaster urge the Japanese government to comply with UN Human Rights standards

By Linda Pentz Gunter, with contributions from Kurumi Sugita and Akiko Morimatsu

When Kazumi Kusano stood in the CRIIRAD radiological laboratory in Valence, France listening to lab director, Bruno Chareyron, describe just how radioactive the soil sample taken from a school playground back home in Japan really was, she could not fight back the tears.

“This qualifies as radioactive waste,” Chareyron told them. “The children are playing in a school playground that is very contaminated. The lowest reading is 300,000 bequerels per square meter. That is an extremely high level.” (CRIIRAD is the Commission for Independent Research and Information about Radiation, an independent research laboratory and NGO).

Kazumi, a Japanese mother and Fukushima evacuee who prefers not to use her real name, was in France with two other mothers, Mami Kurumada and Akiko Morimatsu — all…

View original post 828 more words

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The nuclear waste time bomb will keep ticking – America’s 60 years of radioactive trash

interim stores in places such as Fort St. Vrain could be in business not just for decades but for centuries. The nuclear-waste time bomb will keep ticking.

The 60-Year Downfall of Nuclear Power in the U.S. Has Left a Huge Mess   The demand for atomic energy is in decline. But before the country can abandon its plants, there’s six decades of waste to deal with.  The Atlantic , FRED PEARCE  It was just another day in the life of the defunct 

There was other stuff down there too. Nobody quite knew what. Record keeping was poor, but the contents of the tunnels certainly included carcasses from animal radiation experiments, including a reported 18 alligators. The emergency lasted only a few hours. The integrity of the waste was restored. But it was a chilling reminder of the site’s perilous radioactive legacy.

Sprawling across 600 square miles of sagebrush semidesert, Hanford is a $100 billion cleanup burden, full of accidents waiting to happen. It is the biggest headache, but very far from being the only one, emerging in what increasingly look like the final years of America’s nuclear age.

It is 60 years since America’s first commercial nuclear power station was opened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at Shippingport, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 26, 1958. But the hopes of a nuclear future with power “too cheap to meter” are now all but over. All that is left is the trillion-dollar cleanup.

Public fear and suspicion about all things nuclear grew sharply after March 1979, when the cooling system at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station failed and triggered a meltdown. In the end, actual releases of radiation were minimal, but the incident left behind a reputational mess in addition to the radiological one. On the day of the accident, the United States had 140 operating nuclear reactors, with 92 under construction and 28 more awaiting official approval. In the next five years, more than 50 orders for new nuclear reactors in America were canceled. New contracts entirely dried up.

Hanford has not produced plutonium for three decades. Nobody is making new material for bombs anymore. President Trump’s plans for more weapons can be met by recycling existing plutonium stocks. And even the civil nuclear industry, which still generates a fifth of America’s electricity, is in what looks like terminal decline. With cheap natural gas and renewable solar and wind energy increasingly available, the numbers no longer add up. Nuclear power plants across the nation are being closed with years of licensed operation unused.

No new nuclear power stations have come on line in the past two decades. The only new build underway, two additional reactors at Georgia Power’s Alvin W. Vogtle plant near Waynesboro, is five years behind schedule and has seen its costs double. Its planned completion in 2022 remains uncertain.

America’s 99 remaining operational nuclear power reactors, which still deliver power to the grid, are too important to be closed overnight. But nearly half are over 40 years old. The only question is how long the regulators and accountants will allow them to keep going.

Oyster Creek in New Jersey disconnects from the grid in October with 11 years left on its license. Indian Point in New York State is to shut by 2021 due to falling revenues and rising costs. In California, Diablo Canyon is being closed by state regulators in 2025. The reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania that survived the 1979 accident will finally shut in 2019.

Shutdown is only the beginning of the end. Final closure and clearance of the sites can take decades, and the waste crisis created by decommissioning cannot be dodged. Lethal radioactive material is accumulating at dozens of power plants, military facilities, and interim stores across the country.

Some, like the train cars buried at Hanford, is evidently in a precarious situation. Much more needs urgent attention. Cleaning up and safely disposing of the residues of the nuclear adventure—much of it waste with a half-life measured in tens of thousands of years—is turning into a trillion-dollar nightmare for the nation. ………..

How did the United States reach this impasse? Back in 1982, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act established that it was the government’s job to deal with this ultimate back-end problem. The act obliged Washington to begin removing used fuel from stores and other facilities by 1998 for eventual disposal at a federal facility. In 1987, Yucca Mountain, near the former Nevada bomb-testing grounds, was chosen to be the sole such facility.In the 1990s, a five-mile tunnel was dug into the remote mountain. Then work stopped, in part because of vehement state opposition and in part because of concerns raised by geologists that a future volcanic eruption could propel buried waste back to the surface. One of President Obama’s first acts on taking office in 2009 was to formally abandon the $100 billion project. Things headed for the courts, which began awarding damages to power companies unable to make use of the nonexistent federal facility. The payouts amount to around half a billion dollars a year, and by 2022 will likely reach $29 billion.

Now President Trump wants to revive Yucca. His 2019 budget request included $120 million for the task. But the state opposition remains as strong as ever, and only $50 million was included in the final budget for Yucca-related items. Maybe Yucca Mountain will make a comeback. If not, then with no alternatives on the horizon, utilities will carry on being paid to keep spent fuel in pools next to abandoned nuclear power plants, and the interim stores in places such as Fort St. Vrain could be in business not just for decades but for centuries. The nuclear-waste time bomb will keep ticking. This piece is adapted from Pearce’s new book, Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age


May 30, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Nuclear power plant construction even more costly than we thought – new analysis shows

Construction delays make new nuclear power plants costlier than ever by Hayley Dunning, 

The cost of building new nuclear power plants is nearly 20 per cent higher than expected due to delays, a new analysis has found.

A new analysis of the history of nuclear power plant projects shows since 2010 delays have contributed 18 per cent the costs.

These delays – which can run into years or even decades – increase the cost compared with older projects and are often overlooked when new projects are planned. The authors say that these extra costs need to be properly assessed when considering new nuclear projects.

They say nuclear projects are more like ‘mega-projects’, such as large dams, which require more rigorous financial assessments due to their high uncertainty and risk.

In the study, published today in the journal Energy Policy, the authors also suggest that because these delay costs make nuclear projects high risk, decision-makers might instead focus on more low-risk low-carbon technologies such as wind or solar power.

When assessing the cost of new nuclear projects, decision makers often use ‘overnight construction costs’, which assume the project is built on time, usually within five years. However, the ‘lead-time’ – the time between initiation of the project and completion – can cause significant extra costs.

The research team, from Imperial College London, the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and the University of Minho, looked at total costs of nuclear projects between 1955-2016, including delay costs.

Usually, as technologies mature and experience is gained in construction, costs come down. However, the team found that for nuclear, there has been a blip in the learning curve, with costs currently increasing, especially for projects since 2010.

Lead author Dr Joana Portugal Pereira, from the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial, said: “Nuclear projects are actually becoming more complex to carry out, inducing delays and higher costs. Safety and regulatory considerations play heavily into this, particularly in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in Japan.”

The analysis is one of the first to assess full financial costs of building nuclear projects throughout time, and not just the ‘overnight’ costs. It also looked at projects around the world, including newer nuclear builders like China, India, and the UAE, rather than just the traditional builders in Europe, the USA and Japan.

They say that while nuclear projects can help bridge the gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy, they could hinder progress if projects stall.

Dr Portugal Pereira said: “If we want to decarbonise our energy system, nuclear may not be the best choice for a primary strategy. Nuclear power is better late than never, but to really address climate change, it would be best if they were not late at all, as technologies like wind and solar rarely are.”

Better late than never, but never late is better: Risk assessment of nuclear power construction projects’ by J. Portugal-Pereira, P. Ferreira, J. Cunha, A. Szklo, R. Schaeffer and M Araujo is published in Energy Policy.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

Hanford – the true heartland of America’s toxic nuclear mess

The 60-Year Downfall of Nuclear Power in the U.S. Has Left a Huge Mess   The demand for atomic energy is in decline. But before the country can abandon its plants, there’s six decades of waste to deal with.  The Atlantic , FRED PEARCE,  

“………  The true heartland of America’s nuclear enterprise has always been Hanford. And it is the biggest and most toxic cleanup legacy too. Straddling the Columbia River, the Hanford nuclear reservation was America’s primary bomb-making factory. It was where they made the plutonium. At peak production, during the 1960s, its nine reactors irradiated 7,000 metric tons of uranium fuel annually. The intense radiation inside the reactors produced plutonium that was then extracted at five reprocessing plants. Hanford produced a total of 67 metric tons of the metal for the American arsenal, before business halted after the Cold War ended.Plutonium production was a huge task. It required much of the electricity generated at the giant Grand Coulee Dam upstream on the Columbia, the largest hydroelectric power producer in the United States. And the mess left behind is equally mind-boggling. Since production ceased, Hanford has been conducting the country’s largest-ever environmental cleanup program. The current expenditure is $2.3 billion a year. By the time it is done the bill will be more than $100 billion.

The site holds an estimated 25 million cubic feet of solid, radioactive waste. Much of it is buried in over 40 miles of trenches and tunnels, up to 24 feet deep, including the stretch that caved in last year. Elsewhere, there are two corroding cooling ponds, each the size of an Olympic swimming pool, containing some 2,000 tons of spent fuel that never got reprocessed.

But the headline Hanford problem is the 56 million gallons of acidic and highly radioactive liquids and sludges, stored in 177 giant tanks, each up to 75 feet in diameter. They are the solvent leftovers from reprocessing, and contain around twice the total radioactivity released from the world’s worst nuclear accident to date, the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl power station in Ukraine.

The tanks have been leaking for over half a century. Around a million gallons are slowly spreading toward the Columbia River, in a plume of contaminated soil covering 80 square miles. Protecting the river and its rich salmon habitat from the radioactive pollution is the number-one cleanup priority for the site’s custodians at the Department of Energy. To head off the flows, engineers are constantly pumping out radioactive water.

A better idea is to stop the leaks at the source by emptying the tanks and solidifying the liquids. The current aim is to heat them with glass-forming materials to create solid blocks that could one day be buried deep underground—maybe at Yucca Mountain. Work on a plant to do this began in 2002. It is currently 25 years behind schedule. Operations are not set to begin until 2036 and, once underway, would take 40 years.

At $17 billion and counting, the project is way over budget. Former plant engineers who have turned whistle-blowers believe it won’t be fit for the job and should be abandoned. They warn of a serious risk that particles of plutonium may settle out in the plant processing tanks, creating the potential for an accidental explosion with a big release of radiation.

The task at Hanford grows ever more daunting. After almost three decades, little of the waste and few of the tanks or processing plants have been cleaned up. Far away in Washington, D.C., some question the continuing money sink. It seems to some like a 21st-century pork barrel. Perhaps, critics say, it would be better to put up a fence and walk away. President Trump, while so far publicly supporting the Hanford cleanup, may privately agree. He has slashed its annual budget by $230 million, or about 10 percent.

Local environmentalists are scandalized. “We have got to clean up the site,” says Dan Serres, the conservation director of Columbia Riverkeeper, a local NGO. The tanks should be emptied and the trenches dug up. “In a hundred years, I’d hope the Native Americans have their treaty rights to this land restored,” agrees Chuck Johnson, of Physicians for Social Responsibility. But Tom Carpenter, the executive director of Hanford Challenge, who sits on an advisory board at the Hanford Concerns Council, told me: “You are never going to dig all the waste there up.” The tanks will have to be dealt with, but “most of Hanford’s waste volume-wise is going to stay put. Hanford is going to be a national sacrifice zone for hundreds of years.”

This piece is adapted from Pearce’s new book, Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age.


May 30, 2018 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Donald Trump – the worst USA presidential negotiator in modern history?

Trump may be the worst presidential dealmaker in modern history

Deputy Editorial Page Editor May 27  When May began, President Trump was presiding over diplomatic negotiations that could have delivered twin triumphs for his administration. Now, on Memorial Day, he’s reaping the wreckage of talks about Iran, and the North Korea process is in limbo. He has badly strained relations with vital U.S. allies and raised the risk of military conflicts in the Middle East and Asia. He has gone from would-be Nobel Prize winner to commander in chief of chaos.

National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the new axis of the president’s national security team, deserve some credit for this mess: Both prefer open confrontation with U.S. adversaries to the more nuanced approaches sold to Trump by their predecessors. But in essence the past month has been a decisive demonstration of Trump’s unwillingness — or, more likely, inability — to grapple with the complexities of international affairs. It’s a deficit that already is being skillfully exploited by U.S. adversaries, such as China — and it could lead to catastrophe before we get through another 2 1 / 2 years.

Trump managed to identify a couple of the most serious foreign policy challenges the country faced when he came to office. In their sole meeting, President Barack Obama warned the incoming president that North Korea and its growing nuclear program could no longer be ignored. It was evident, too, that Obama’s policy for checking Iran’s pursuit of hegemony in the Middle East was failing. Though Tehran was respecting the letter of the 2015 deal limiting its nuclear program, it had doubled down on aggression in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, while exploiting a loophole in the pact to pursue the development of long-range missiles.

For a while, it looked like Trump’s blunt and blustering approach might produce results. Fearful that the president would shred the Iran deal, European governments worked hard to come up with a package that would answer Trump’s objections. They promised multilateral action to sanction and deter Iran’s missile production and its meddling in the Middle East, along with a mutual effort to prevent Tehran from resuming large-scale uranium enrichment when current restrictions expire in the mid-2020s.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, too, seemed impressed by the pressure Trump managed to focus on his regime, with the help of China. In January he launched the first diplomatic initiative of his six-plus years in power; by March he was communicating, through South Korea, the proposal of a summit with Trump, along with a vague promise of denuclearization.

Like virtually all diplomatic openings, the Iran and North Korea talks did not promise decisive victories.

Iran’s regional adventurism and the flaws in the nuclear deal could never be solved in a stroke, and experts on North Korea were virtually unanimous in predicting that Kim was unlikely to surrender his nuclear arsenal in the near term. For Trump, the challenge was to extract the most he could from the negotiations and pocket it. The result could have been partial but significant victories on both fronts: a tougher Western front against Iran, along with a reaffirmation of transatlantic cooperation; and, perhaps, a durable freeze on testing or deployment of nukes and long-range missiles by North Korea, amid negotiations on a long-term peace.

Trump instead blew up both negotiations — and the way he did so was telling. He didn’t plunge into the weeds of the deal with the Europeans and conclude that it would not be strong enough; he never seriously considered it. Senior European officials who lobbied him later said he appeared unfamiliar with its details. His sole focus, it turned out, was to satisfy a campaign promise by repudiating Obama’s principal foreign policy legacy.

Similarly, Trump never seemed to take seriously the reality that Kim was looking not for a quick deal but for a messy multistage process, with denuclearization a distant endpoint.

Trump is now saying the Korea summit may go ahead, even though there is no sign that Kim has changed his position on denuclearization. Still, the past month has taught all sides a lesson about Trump, if they didn’t know it already: He’s not up to serious negotiation. He can’t be expected to seriously weigh costs and benefits, or make complex trade-offs. He’s good at bluster, hype and showy gestures, but little else. In short, he may be the worst presidential deal maker in modern history.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Kim Jong-un knows what he wants from the summit. Does President Trump?

The Korean nuclear roller coaster: Has time run out for a summit? Brookings, Jonathan D. Pollack
Tuesday, May 29, 2018 The turbulence and drama on the Korean Peninsula over the past week defies imagination. On May 24, President Trump withdrew from his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, acting almost as impulsively as when he first agreed to the meeting in early March. Following a conciliatory response from Pyongyang’s senior nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan, the president two days later sharply reversed course and said that the summit might still take place.

Not to be outdone, on May 26 Kim Jong-un abruptly convened a second meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on the North Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom. The next day, American and North Korean officials began to interact on the language of a possible communiqué. Separate consultations between the United States and North Korea in Singapore were expected to begin today, on May 29, with North Korea represented by Kim Jong-un’s de facto chief of staff, Kim Ch’ang-soon. Additional discussions have taken place between Chinese and North Korean officials in Beijing, perhaps connected to a possible stopover by Kim Jong-un while traveling to Singapore, which would be his third visit to China in less than two months. One of Kim Jong-un’s closest aides and a vice chairman of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee, General Kim Yong-chol, is now en route to New York, and is expected to serve as the lead point-of-contact with U.S. officials in deliberations over the Singapore meeting.

These heightened activities all suggest that the summit will indeed go forward, though there has been no formal announcement to this effect.

However, two facts remain incontestable. There is as yet no U.S.-North Korea agreement on the terms of a summit, and time is running out to reach such an understanding. An unspoken but unmistakable anxiety thus pervades these intensified political and diplomatic maneuvers. Only 10 days before President Trump’s presumed departure for Singapore, it is stunning how little remains agreed to, even in broad conceptual terms. Advocates of diplomacy argue that this is the purpose of face-to-face negotiations. But the contrasts in the language and expectations of the two leaderships remain glaring, even after two visits by Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, first as CIA director and subsequently as secretary of state.

The fundamental issue is what the summit is supposed to be about. ……….

Kim Jong-un knows what he wants from the summit. Does President Trump? Is the president prepared to accept the risks of an inconclusive outcome or an outright failure in Singapore? What would U.S. policy options be in the event of such a failure? Time will tell. But for now, time is running out.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

India, a Key U.S. Ally, Plans to Ignore Trump’s Iran Sanctions 

Bloomberg By  and 
  • New Delhi only recognizes UN sanctions, foreign minister said
    Throughout previous sanctions, India purchased Iranian oil

President Donald Trump may have ordered the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, but one of Asia’s biggest oil importers — and a strategic partner of the U.S. — plans on ignoring them.

India, a long-time buyer of oil from both Iran and Venezuela, only complies with United Nations-mandated sanctions and not those imposed by one country on another, said foreign minister Sushma Swaraj at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday.

“India will comply with UN sanctions and not any country-specific sanctions,” Swaraj said at an annual briefing, flanked by her two junior foreign ministers and India’s foreign secretary.

Swaraj later met Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, where they discussed Trump’s plan to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Swaraj said “all parties to the agreement should engage constructively for peaceful resolution of the issues,” according to a foreign ministry statement. ……

 India’s post-independence history as a leader of the “non-aligned” movement — developing nations not allied with the U.S. or the then-Soviet Union — means New Delhi maintains economic relationships that raise eyebrows in western capitals, including with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. India also ignored U.S. requests to close its embassy in North Korea, Swaraj said at her briefing.

In February, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited India and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss energy cooperation and New Delhi’s investments in Iran’s Chabahar port.

Trump is also considering new sanctions on Russia, a historic ally and key supplier of arms to India, related to allegations that Vladimir Putin’s government interfered in the U.S. election.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | India, politics international | Leave a comment

Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant protesters go to Japan  28 May 18 A group of anti-nuclear campaigners have travelled to Japan to petition the government to withdraw support for a nuclear power station on Anglesey.

A petition against the Wylfa Newydd nuclear plant signed by almost 6,000 people was handed to Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Pawb’s (People against Wylfa B) trip comes amid reports of UK and Japanese government investment in the project.

Technological giant Hitachi said there had been “no changes to disclose”.

Hitachi’s Horizon Nuclear Power wants to start building on Anglesey in 2020, but recent reports say the British government is to offer £13.3bn to support the project.

Prime Minister Theresa May met Hitachi’s chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi earlier this month to discuss support.

Speaking to BBC Wales from Japan, Meilyr Tomos from Pawb, said: “There’s huge uncertainty. It’s a scheme that requires two governments to prop it up, so there’s no certainty on anything at this stage.

“It’s not a commercial proposition. You need the biggest bang for your buck, that’s not something nuclear can deliver, it’s far too expensive.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear, UK | Leave a comment

Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge – the cover-up – the cleanup – but radioactive trash is still there

The 60-Year Downfall of Nuclear Power in the U.S. Has Left a Huge Mess   The demand for atomic energy is in decline. But before the country can abandon its plants, there’s six decades of waste to deal with.  The Atlantic , FRED PEARCE, 

“………  Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge is an oasis of prairie biodiversity covering 5,000 acres, home to prairie dogs, elk, monarch butterflies, and rare xeric grasses. It also serves as a buffer zone around the site of the largest completed nuclear cleanup to date in the United States. And David Lucas of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to open it for public access in summer 2018. He’s reckoning on 150,000 visitors a year.During the Cold War, Rocky Flats was secretly machining plutonium manufactured at Hanford into some 70,000 spheres that formed the explosive heart of each weapon in Uncle Sam’s nuclear arsenal. Plutonium pollution was routine. The plant had nowhere to get rid of the day-to-day plutonium waste, which was often dumped in hastily dug landfills or sprayed onto grassland around the plant. At an outdoor compound known as pad 903, where more than 5,000 drums of waste liquids contaminated with plutonium are stored, there’s been substantial leakage. An internal memo reported that rabbits living on the site were heavily contaminated, especially in their hind feet.

A whistle-blower’s allegations about illegal late-night incineration of plutonium waste at the plant led to an FBI raid in 1989. After that—and with demand for plutonium spheres declining following the end of the Cold War—the government closed the site. A federal grand jury sat for three years to hear testimony from the FBI raid. But two days after the jury approved indictments, the Justice Department struck a deal with Rockwell Automation, the company that managed the plant. The company pleaded guilty to some minor charges, but the FBI evidence and grand jury conclusions were sealed forever.

After the cover-up came the cleanup. The core plutonium-handling areas were declared a Superfund site, qualifying for a federal decontamination, which was completed in 2005. The federal government called it “the largest and most successful environmental cleanup in history.” But in reality it was a cut-price job. The original project was estimated at $37 billion, but Congress would sanction only $7 billion. So processing buildings were demolished, but basements and 25 miles of underground tunnels and pipelines were left behind, according to LeRoy Moore, a veteran activist who sat on a public committee in the 1980s that considered the cleanup plans.

Today, the land that housed the industrial complex remains behind a sturdy fence under the control of the Department of Energy (DOE). But the large grassland buffer zone that once protected the complex from prying eyes has been released into the care of the Fish and Wildlife Service for public access.

There are two concerns. First that, as I saw on a tour with Lucas, the fenced-off core area hardly looks self-contained. Earth slips have left ugly gashes up to 300 feet wide across a former landfill site that overlooks a creek running through the wildlife refuge. The DOE’s Scott Surovchak concedes that “slumping is very common” after heavy rain. Only constant repairs, it seems, will prevent the landfills and buried contaminated buildings and pipework from being exposed.

The second concern is the safety of the buffer zone itself. Harvey Nichols, a biologist from the University of Colorado, has found that when the plant was operating snow falling nearby was often “hot.” Falling snowflakes captured tiny plutonium particles that evaded the stack filter. Just two days of snowfall could deposit about 14 million particles on every acre of the site. “There must be tens of billions of particles in the soil today,” he told me.

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed such concerns. In 2006 it found plutonium levels in soil samples in the buffer zone were within acceptable limits and concluded that the lands comprising the refuge are “suitable for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure.” But Moore, the activist, is unimpressed. “Prairie dogs and other critters will burrow down for several feet and bring plutonium to the surface,” he says. “Children will be exposed to plutonium. And people will start taking plutonium out into their communities on boots and cycle wheels. Why would we allow that?”

Lucas is unmoved. “We need to get people out here on the refuge. Then the fears will evaporate,” he told me. But that is just what worries his opponents. Forgetting about the plutonium is the worst thing that could happen, they say……….This piece is adapted from Pearce’s new book, Fallout: Disasters, Lies, and the Legacy of the Nuclear Age

May 30, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Congress has the power to stop squandering the public purse on new nuclear weapons

Congress should shoot down new nuke plan [Editorial]

Do we really need to spend more taxpayer money making new types of nuclear bombs?

The United States already has 6,800 nuclear weapons, according to the latest figures from the Federation of Atomic Scientists. But frankly the published data on America’s atomic arsenal varies so wildly it seems nobody knows how to count all of our nukes. Suffice to say the United States already has enough atomic firepower to blow the world to kingdom come.

Nonetheless, the House Armed Services Committee recently authorized $65 million for development of a new type of nuclear weapon, a low-yield warhead that would be attached to a long-range submarine-launched ballistic missile. During this Memorial Day weekend, a time when we honor those who’ve lost their lives in service of our country, spending that money on veteran services makes a lot more sense than buying more bombs that will be detonated only in the unlikely event of an atomic cataclysm. This proposal is now wending its way around Capitol Hill, and Congress needs to shoot it out of the sky.

Pentagon officials reportedly used some cockamamie logic to justify the expenditure, arguing that if the Russians use tactical nukes on the battlefield, the United States needs the capability to respond with a limited nuclear strike instead of a full-scale attack involving hundreds of warheads. If our planes are rendered incapable of delivering any of the 200 low-yield weapons already in Europe, they reasoned, we need to be able to launch them toward Russia from submarines.

As Walter Pincus, a respected former national security reporter for the Washington Post, pointed out, the problem is that the Russians won’t know the missiles launched from those submarines are carrying low-yield nukes. They’ll probably assume they’re under attack from the more powerful nuclear weapons typically carried by submarines as part of a first-strike intended to destroy their capacity to launch a full-scale response against the United States.

Pentagon officials argued the new bombs would deter the Russians from using tactical nukes, because they’d know the United States could respond with similar low-yield weapons. But the idea that the superpowers can fire smaller nuclear bombs at each other without escalating the conflict to Armageddon stretches credulity.

Adding even more nuclear weapons to the nation’s atomic arsenal won’t enhance deterrence. The United States already spends more on defense than the next eight top defense spending nations combined. It’s noteworthy that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently warned lawmakers the spiraling federal debt could jeopardize national security. Wasting money deploying more nuclear weapons would be a step in the wrong direction

May 30, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear veterans, damaged by radiation, deserve to be recognised as heroes

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes.

Tom Watson: Nuclear test veterans’ long battle for nation’s thanks is cruel shame A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds. ByTom Watson 29 MAY 2018 

Sixty years ago, Britain sent thousands of men to the middle of the South Pacific and ordered them to take part in one nuclear explosion after another.

Our National Servicemen went to Christmas Island and built a runway, a hospital, and officers’ mess. They put up tents, fuel tanks and refrigeration units. Then they were told to watch as RAF crews dropped hydrogen bombs, and they say the only care taken was to tell them to cover their eyes.

Thirty years ago those men got together and the Mirror told their stories: of leukaemia, rare cancers, miscarriages, birth defects. Of troubled wives and sick children. Of ground crew allegedly contaminated washing down the planes, Royal Engineers who fell sick after collecting bomb-damaged equipment, strapping navy stevedores suddenly struck down by ill health. They fought long court battles, to no avail.

Twenty years ago research from Durham University found evidence that 1 in 3 of the nuclear veterans had bone cancer or leukaemia, and that twice as many veterans had multiple myeloma than successive British governments had admitted.

Eleven years ago research in New Zealand showed survivors of British tests had the same rate of genetic damage as survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Ten years ago the Isle of Man Tynwald voted to give 8 of its residents, who were nuclear veterans, £6,000 each in recognition of their service. Five years ago those who still survived and their families marched – with walking sticks and wheelchairs – on Downing Street demanding recognition. Not money: just recognition.

Today, of the 22,000 who saw those tests, just 1,500 survive. I met one of them, a West Bromwich born-and-bred gentleman called John Ward, when he came to Parliament to see me. You can see the video of our chat on the Mirror website. I already knew a little of his story but was stunned to learn that in that powerful flash of light from the bomb’s explosion he saw the bones in his hands as though in an X-ray.

And it was incredibly moving to hear him talk of the troubles his family has suffered since. John went on to work for the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the Birmingham Post and later for the government itself in the Cabinet Office, but meanwhile his wife Margaret had difficult pregnancies and a miscarriage, John and his son Mark both recently had tumours removed from their kidneys, and his daughter Denise is, in his words, “a medical mess”.

What struck me about John was his bravery and dignity in the face of terrible experiences, and that he – quite wrongly – holds himself to blame. That because he was ordered into danger, he feels guilt for the problems suffered by his family. Nobody should have to bear that burden.

But there are not many people like John who feel that worry, because most have died. Thousands of men who were the fittest the British armed forces could find to take part in experiments vital to this nation’s future safety and security have passed away many years before they were expected to.

And still they cannot prove what, if anything, happened to them. The records of the time are missing or incomplete, science is simply unable to link genetic changes definitively to radiation from a bomb, and there are so few veterans left it is hard for scientists to find suitable subjects to help them find that silver bullet.

But there is, nevertheless, something we can do. And something we SHOULD do.

Because while science cannot be certain, common sense tells us why successive governments did not test these terrible new weapons in the skies over Britain. Yet for 60 years governments of every stripe denied, ignored or failed our nuclear heroes. We let people like John, and their families, feel ashamed of something that was never their fault. It is a stain on our nation’s record that for so long we asked these men for proof of what was done to them, when all most of them ever wanted was our thanks for doing it.

Now four survivors of those tests have returned to the Pacific proving grounds to bear witness once again. It has been 60 years since they helped Britain to do the improbable, and now it is time for us to repay that debt. Regardless of whether or not these men, or their children, have suffered ill effects as a result of the nuclear tests it is time the nation honoured their service. A medal from the nation would go a long way to healing some of their wounds.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | health, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment