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Nuclear news this week, and a look towards next week

In the coming week the “nuclear summit” meeting between USA President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will be a diplomatic conference like no other has ever been. It is remarkable because, between these two dominating national leaders, trading threats and insults, the world has been brought so close to the brink of nuclear war. It is remarkable for being a meeting between two exceptionally narcissistic, sociopathic personalities.

And, behind the scenes, one, Kim Jong Un, risks the loss of his domestic support, even his life endangered, if he should be seen to be weak, or to give up North Korea’s proud achievement of becoming a nuclear weapons State. The other, Donald Trump, proudly ignorant of co-operative negotiating processes, is being advised by a number of belligerent personalities in his closest associates. The world should be relieved if this meeting even comes about, and relieved if there is no outcome, other than pleasant waffle.

A new study suggests several future scenarios – outcomes for the world because of climate change.  Most predict collapse of civilisation.   One, more optimistically, predicts sustainability in both population and global temperatures rise – but only if populations switch to “low-impact” resource use.  It’s  now”Aspiration” rather than a genuine plan for limiting global warming to 2 degrees. Read Climate and Ecological Delusions and Contradictions That Will Rapidly End HumanityAnd listen to Radio Ecoshock. 

International co-operation can prevent nuclear annihilation – not Donald Trump with his “I alone can fix it”. What does “Denuclearisation” actually mean to Kim Jong Un? to Donald Trump?

MALAYSIA.  Malaysia questions why only North Korea, Iran must denuclearise. Why not America, China, Russia, India, Pakistan?

USA.

NORTH KOREA. Even if Kim Jong-un promises to allow nuclear inspections – “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” is really not possible.  A swift verified nuclear disarmament by North Korea is simply not feasible. North Korea’s economic and social health improving – new confidence brings Kim Jong Un to negotiate.

UK. As nations pull out of nuclear power Britain is isolated, in putting taxpayer funds into new nuclear construction.  British Conservative govt overturns its previous opposition to socialising the nuclear power industryEver multiplying financial costs for building new nuclear reactors are hitting UK, and other countries, too Old, unproven, unreliable nuclear technology planned for Britain’s Wylfa nuclear power station. “Temporary” – or rather STRANDED, nuclear wastes for Sellafield, as Britain has no idea what to do with its radioactive trash. UK now setting up an agreement that will replace the nuclear safeguards lost in leaving Euratom.

JAPAN. Niigata governor election centres on the issue of the world’s largest nuclear power plant.  Japan’s divestment campaign from nuclear and coal pits Buddhist priest against banks.  Japan High School Peace Envoys Keen to Deliver Voices of Hibakusha .

Fukushima. Study: Cesium from Fukushima flowed to Tokyo Bay for 5 years. PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?  PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?  Is Fukushima doomed to become a dumping ground for toxic waste?

UKRAINE. Despite Ukrainian Prime Minister’s reassurances, Wildfires near Chernobyl are potentially catastrophic. High levels of radioactive Caesium in Ukraine region around Chernobyl a threat to children.

FRANCE.   Finally a parliamentary debate on the safety of used nuclear fuel rod pools.    Welding defects in the Flamanville EPR nuclear reactor. EDF looks to a profitable industry in decommissioning nuclear reactors.

SOUTH AFRICA. Pelindaba nuclear facility in South Afric a has yet another nuclear safety scare. South Africa: draft Integrated Planning Framework Bill – another attempt to push new nuclear build? South Africa’s Minister of Energy says that S.A. has called off the deal with Russia to develop nuclear power.

BULGARIARussian-designed nuclear power plant causes tension in Bulgaria. Russia, France, China compete to develop nuclear power station in Bulgaria.

MIDDLE EAST. Nuclear power at a huge disadvantage in Middle East – but do they want it for nuclear weapons?

AUSTRALIA. Decades overdue Ranger Uranium Mine rehabilitation plan released The world is watching. Ranger mine closure and rehab to cost $1bn.

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June 9, 2018 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

TEPCO employee dies working inside Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant

The employee working inside the power plant began vomiting suddenly Wednesday morning, and was declared dead in the afternoon
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June 7, 2018
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A worker involved in the clean-up and maintenance of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, died suddenly on Wednesday June 6, according to local media.
 
A 50 year-old male employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was working on dismantling scaffolding within the damaged nuclear plant when he began vomiting inside his protective suit at approximately 10:40 a.m.
 
He reportedly continued to work until a second round of vomiting began around 12:45 p.m, which caused him to collapse.
 
He was immediately rushed out of the radioactive zone to a nearby hospital, but was unresponsive. Doctors declared him dead at 4:00 p.m.
 
Liberty Times reports that the man was wearing the proper protective clothing, and that there had been no signs of illness or problems during the pre-work check. However, TEPCO did report that the man had suffered from an unspecified medical condition prior to his employment with the company.
 
The man had been employed to work at the facility since March 2016. 
 
On March 11, 2011, a catastrophic tsunami struck the northeast coast of Honshu, Japan, resulting in the failure of the Fukushima nuclear fuel storage facilities. The radioactive fallout from the incident has been a continual concern for the Japanese government and global safety and energy organizations. TEPCO has been tasked with cleaning up and managing the hazardous facility. 

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | 3 Comments

‘Nuclear Summit” – what did it mean , (if anything?)- theme for June 18

U.S. President Donald Trump, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un seem to have both achieved their goals at the much hyped ‘nuclear summit’ in Singapore on June 12.

Kim achieved a kind of international recognition as an equal world leader, without having to give up anything, in the showy but fairly meaningless negotiation that went on .

Trump achieved his over-riding aim –  having the eyes of the world on him, his endless craving for attention being satisfied, for the moment, anyway.

The body language is more interesting than the waffly document outcome. We saw Trump’s super-long super-strong handshake, and pats on Kim’s back –  signs of dominance. We saw Kim’s eyes move sideways – a little nervous shiftiness?

It all could have been worse. Trump could have chosen, instead of his effusive praise for Kim, to say there is “a special place in hell” for Kim, (as Trump recently said of USA’s ally, Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau). And with Trump’s new and dangerously bellicose security adviser John Bolton, hovering about,  could have set off the “fire and fury” that he previously promised  North Korea.  I guess that Trump saved that for a later occasion, when he feels that he is not getting enough world attention.

The documented “commitments” include “security guarantees” for North Korea (what are they – no details?),  a new relationship between the two countries – (what does that mean?), efforts for peace – (what efforts ?)

The most interesting one, North Korea commits to work towards “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.” Not a word about  “complete, verifiable and irreversible”. As the Washington Post commented, that one is “empty blather” too. 

The fourth point is a weak statement on North Korea returning the remains of U.S. prisoners of war, from the Korean war.

Why on earth would Kim Jong Un want to give up his biggest bargaining chip – the ability to send nuclear weapons to neighbouring States, and even to the USA?  He saw what happened to Iraq and Libya. He can see how America is now backtracking from the nuclear agreement with Iran.

 

 

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Christina's themes, politics international | 3 Comments

As nations pull out of nuclear power, Britain is isolated in putting tax-payer funds into new nuclear construction

Britain’s nuclear U-turn puts us in a very lonely club, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/08/government-nuclear-dream-north-wales-climate-change Fred Pearce  Pumping £5bn into a new plant in north Wales as a way to fight climate change is a solution at odds with the rest of the world

For once, ministers have put their money where their mouth is – into taking another stab at nuclear power. This week the business secretary, Greg Clark, announced plans to pump £5bn into a new nuclear power station at Wylfa in north Wales. It was a reversal of a longstanding Conservative policy not to underwrite nuclear construction. So why the sudden enthusiasm? And what does Clark know that the rest of the world does not?

For almost everywhere else, governments and corporations are pulling the plug on nuclear. Even in a world fearful of climate change, in which nations have promised to wean themselves off fossil fuels by the mid-century, almost no one wants to touch nuclear.

Germany will be nuclear-free by 2022. France – once Europe’s great nuclear advocates – is backtracking. President Macron is committed to cutting nuclear’s contribution to grid power from the 75% to 50%. Seven years after the Fukushima accident, all but a handful of Japan’s 54 nuclear power plants remain closed.

US utilities are shutting reactors fast too, even those with years of their operating licences yet to run. In America’s deregulated energy markets, nuclear cannot compete. Last week President Trump called for the utilities to suspend closures, citing national energy security. He may resort to the law to get his way, but even Trump is not demanding new reactors.

Meanwhile, the state-sponsored nuclear enthusiasm of China, recently the world’s premier builder, has dimmed. Beijing has issued no new construction approvals for over two years. Only Russia keeps up the momentum – which puts Britain in an embarrassing club.

Britain hasn’t completed a new nuclear power station for 23 years.  …… renewable sources like solar and wind are both now cheaper, and are becoming cheaper still, while nuclear costs only rise.

Some who call themselves “eco-modernists” argue that nuclear and renewables would make a great mix: nuclear could fill in when the sun goes down and the winds drop. But there is a problem. Any effective stand-in for fickle renewables needs to be available at the flick of a switch. Hydropower or natural gas can do the job, but not nuclear. Its forte is to deliver constant baseload power

If nuclear ticked enough other boxes, it might still have a role to play in keeping the lights on. But it has always been a bad neighbour and troublesome citizen. Some of our fears about radiation may be exaggerated, but they are real fears nonetheless. And nuclear power’s links to nuclear weapons are not just about shared technology – at least not while Britain remains home to the world’s largest stockpile of plutonium.

We are sitting on 130 tonnes of a human-made element that lies at the heart of most nuclear weapons. The stockpile is at a warehouse at Sellafield in Cumbria, in defiance of warnings from scientists at the Royal Society a decade ago that in its present form it poses a major security risk, whether diverted for weapons or breached by terrorists.

The plutonium was manufactured over decades from used power-station reactor fuel. Britain wanted to be at the forefront of a new global industry using plutonium to fuel new designs of reactors. But production continues even though there is no sign of a world market for plutonium. And neither the new Hinkley Point reactor under construction in Somerset, nor the proposed plant at Wylfa, will burn the stuff.

The government seems determined to pursue a nuclear dream, even though it has palpably failed to come to terms with the toxic legacy of the country’s nuclear past.

Next to the site of the planned Wylfa plant sits the shell of an old nuclear power station. It was shut in 2015, but is not scheduled for demolition for almost another century, in 2105. It is one of 11 former plants that sit abandoned around our coastlines, from Dungeness in Kent to Trawsfynydd in Snowdonia, and Sizewell in Suffolk to Hunterston in south-west Scotland.

They are currently being put into what the industry terms “care and maintenance” – mothballed while their radioactivity decays, and until the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority can find somewhere to put their remains.

On present form, that day may never come. Britain is today no nearer agreeing a final resting place for its most dangerous and long-lasting radioactive wastes than it was back in 1976, when the royal commission on environmental pollution said we should build no more nuclear power plants until that problem was resolved. Absurdly, the most recent plan has been to bury the waste in tunnels to be dug beneath the Lake District national park.

Nuclear power today is a largely friendless industry: uneconomic without heavy government support, uninsurable, stuck with a military heritage from hell, overtaken by cleaner competitors, beset by waste problems that no one has resolved, and always vulnerable to public panic after the Chernobyl or Fukushima accidents.

Some believe it may have a future when the waste problems are resolved and if radical new reactor designs emerge. That may be so. But the truth is that in the 60 years since the bomb-makers first promised us “atoms for peace”, nuclear power has gone from a sunrise to a sunset industry. Only the British government seems not to realise it.

Fred Pearce is the author of Fallout: A Journey Through the Nuclear Age, From the Atom Bomb to Radioactive Waste

June 9, 2018 Posted by | politics, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

No surprise that Donald Trump is a no-show at G7 climate meeting

Donald Trump Is Reportedly Skipping The G7 Climate Meeting & It’s No Surprise, Elite Daily By Hannah Golden 9 June 18,  The annual Group of 7 (G7) summit of world leaders was just kicking off on Friday afternoon, but for the U.S. president, the conference will be cut short. President Donald Trump is reportedly skipping the G7 climate meetings, the White House announced, per CNN. The announcement came Thursday amid a contentious series of exchanges on trade with his foreign counterparts on Twitter.

The summit — this year held in Canada — begins June 8 and continues through the weekend. This year’s program includes working sessions on oceans, climate change, and clean energy.

The G7 summits began in the 1970s as an informal meeting of the world’s most advanced economies to discuss issues facing them. The U.S. has always been a central fixture in the event, making the president’s decision to forego the meetings a notable one.

Trump reportedly pulled out of the climate meeting following a day of salty Twitter exchanges with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” tweeted Macron on June 7, referring to recent international policy moves by Trump. “Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.”

That Trump decided to leave his international counterparts high and dry on the meeting is no surprise. Just over a year ago, the president pulled out of the international Paris climate accord, setting off a wave of criticism and straining diplomatic leverage. Trump also formally left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also called the Iran nuclear deal, in May.

Washington Post economic policy reporter Damian Paletta summed up Trump’s drama with world leaders in advance of the summit, showing that it was already making out to be a tense affair……..

……..Trump will be leaving early Saturday prior to the climate portion, CNN reports, and an aide is said to be filling in for him at the meetings.https://www.elitedaily.com/p/donald-trump-is-reportedly-skipping-the-g7-climate-meeting-its-no-surprise-9343750

June 9, 2018 Posted by | climate change, politics international, USA | 1 Comment

Even if Kim Jong-un promises to allow nuclear inspections – “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” is really not possible

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 3, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS

Why Donald Trump should stay wary about North Korea’s nuclear plans – even if Kim Jong-un promises to allow inspections
Experts say that the level of know-how and stock of easily concealed materials would make it easy for Pyongyang to start making bombs again,
SCMP,  Liu Zhenzhen.liu@scmp.com, 08 June, 2018,  Experts believe that North Korea has the capability and knowledge to hide hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material from inspectors and could quickly resume its bomb-making programme, even if it agrees to start the denuclearisation process at next week’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

A recent report by a team led by Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the America’s Los Alamos weapons laboratory, calculated that at the end of last year North Korea’s inventory contained between 250 and 500kg (550-1,000lb) of highly enriched uranium-235 (HEU) and 20 to 40kg of plutonium-239 (Pu-239), the two most important materials for making a bomb.

A single atomic bomb needs about 4-10kg of weapons-grade plutonium, or about 15kg of HEU. With additional fusion materials that are much easier to produce, more powerful hydrogen bombs can be assembled.

“With the material, the knowledge, the experienced scientists, North Korea will be able to make the weapons again,” said an expert with Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (CAEP), the country’s nuclear weapons research and manufacturing institution, speaking on condition of anonymity. “A system of knowledge is difficult to eliminate.”

Pyongyang’s nuclear programme will be a primary topic of discussion when the US president and the North Korean leader meet in Singapore on Tuesday. Although they may disagree on what “denuclearisation” actually means, from the US perspective, it would likely require the inspection and surrender of all the fissile materials.

However, no one knows exactly how much material North Korea holds, in particular how much HEU, and enrichment facilities are easy to conceal.

“Enrichment of uranium is one capability that can be most easily hidden and made almost impossible to inspect and verify,” said Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based fellow in the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He said the credibility of North Korea’s “denuclearisation” could be built only on mutual trust and confidence because 100 per cent transparency was impossible.

“Centrifuges can be built underground and covered up in unknown corners of the country,” he said.

…….. The US has said it wants the “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, which will require inspections of all aspects of its nuclear programme, ranging from production facilities to test sites……..http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2149985/why-donald-trump-should-stay-wary-about-north-koreas

June 9, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

International co-operation can prevent nuclear annihilation – not Donald Trump with his “I alone can fix it”

 Next week’s summit between President Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump will help determine the fate of a decades-long international effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons – and prevent the sort of nuclear annihilation that the inventors of the atomic bomb greatly feared.

“I alone can fix it,” Mr. Trump declared two summers ago at the Republican National Convention. Applied to nuclear weapons, that belief is delusional and potentially catastrophic. International co-operation, through mechanisms like the NPT, offers the only real hope of survival.

Ban the bomb: How the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons helped prevent annihilation https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-ban-the-bomb-how-the-treaty-on-the-non-proliferation-of-nuclear/  ERIC SCHLOSSER, 9 JUNE 18 

Eric Schlosser’s books include Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.

At first, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs in August, 1945, was celebrated in the United States. The new weapon had seemingly ended the war with Japan, eliminating the need for a protracted and bloody invasion. But the celebratory feeling was short-lived. That same month, General Henry H. Arnold, commander of the United States Army Air Forces, publicly warned that nuclear weapons might soon be placed atop missiles and aimed at American cities. Once launched, such weapons would be impossible to stop and “destructive beyond the wildest nightmares of the imagination.” Nuclear proliferation – the spread of this lethal technology to other countries – could lead to nuclear wars that threatened the survival of mankind. A few months later, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” gave a farewell speech to his fellow Los Alamos scientists that described how easily proliferation might occur. Nuclear weapons “are going to be very cheap if anyone wants to make them,” he said, “they are not too hard to make … they will be universal if people wish to make them universal.” The invention of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer thought, marked no less than “a change in the nature of the world.”

Almost 73 years have passed since Oppenheimer’s speech – and a great many apocalyptic predictions have proven wrong. No other cities have been destroyed by a nuclear weapon. No nuclear wars have been fought. And only nine countries now possess nuclear arsenals, not dozens. The absence of nuclear catastrophes has multiple causes, among them: sober national leadership, wise crisis management, military professionalism, technical expertise and a remarkable amount of good luck. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the guiding spirit behind it also deserve a prominent place on that list. The NPT is essentially a bargain struck between nations that have nuclear weapons and those that don’t. Former president Barack Obama once explained its three pillars: “Countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy.” But as the NPT approaches its 50th anniversary next month, the treaty faces unprecedented assaults and the prospect of nuclear arms races in Asia and the Middle East. Of the 190 countries that have signed the NPT, North Korea is the only one that’s withdrawn from it and developed nuclear weapons. Next week’s summit between President Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump will help determine the fate of a decades-long international effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons – and prevent the sort of nuclear annihilation that the inventors of the atomic bomb greatly feared.

The NPT began as a 1958 push by Ireland to dissuade the United States from sharing nuclear weapons with its NATO allies, especially West Germany. At the time, four countries had nuclear weapons: the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France. After a slow, uneven start, the non-proliferation movement gained momentum in 1964 when China detonated its first nuclear device. U.S. intelligence estimates had warned the previous year that eight other countries – Australia, Egypt, West Germany, India, Israel, Japan, South Africa and Sweden – could produce nuclear weapons within a decade. An additional six – Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia – might have them by the early 1980s. The Cuban Missile Crisis had demonstrated that a confrontation between two nuclear powers could inadvertently start a nuclear war. And numerous nuclear-weapon accidents suggested that disasters could be caused by simple mistakes and  miscalculations. It seemed obvious that if more countries possessed nuclear weapons, the danger would increase. Working closely with the Soviet Union, the United States played a large role in drafting the NPT. On July 1, 1968, the first day that the treaty was open for signature, 66 countries signed it, and less than two years later, the NPT went into effect. It seemed a triumph of international co-operation on behalf of world peace.

During the next quarter-century, the NPT was more successful at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons than at achieving disarmament. The five nuclear-weapon states recognized by the treaty (the United States, Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union) had promised to seek “cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date … and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” And yet, none of those things happened during the 1970s and ‘80s. Meanwhile, the other NPT signatories had kept their side of the bargain and forsworn nuclear weapons. The four additional countries that eventually did obtain them – Israel, India, Pakistan and South Africa – had never signed the treaty.

During the early 1990s, the threat of nuclear war finally seemed to be diminishing. South Africa not only gave up its nuclear weapons but also signed the NPT. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine had the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. Nevertheless, it surrendered the weapons, as did Belarus and Kazakhstan, two other former Soviet republics with nuclear stockpiles, and all three signed the NPT. The end of the Cold War led the United States and Russia to make enormous cuts in their nuclear arsenals, reducing the number of weapons by about 80 per cent. But grand hopes that the 21st century would see the end of the nuclear threat were illusory.

One of the compromises that made the NPT possible now threatens to make it irrelevant. Article IV of the treaty guarantees its signatories “the inalienable right” to obtain nuclear technology for peaceful uses. Without strict monitoring and enforcement, however, the possession of civilian nuclear-power facilities can enable the development of military nuclear technology. Weapons-grade uranium and plutonium can be made at enrichment and reprocessing plants ostensibly built to make fuel for nuclear reactors. India developed its atomic bomb with civilian nuclear technology obtained from Canada and the United States; Israel got its bomb with civilian technology from France. Despite having signed the NPT, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria secretly launched nuclear-weapon programs under the guise of seeking the peaceful use of nuclear energy. 

Today, all three pillars of the NPT are in grave jeopardy. Instead of disarming, the five nuclear states recognized by the treaty are modernizing their arsenals. The renewed arms race between the United States and Russia is especially dangerous. Thanks to the “inalienable right” to civilian nuclear power, perhaps 20 to 30 NPT signatories have the latent ability to develop nuclear weapons. Japan has stockpiled about 10 tonnes of plutonium, enough to produce thousands of nuclear warheads, and could probably manufacture some within a year. The nuclear threat posed by North Korea may encourage South Korea, as well as Japan, to become a nuclear weapon state. Last year, an opinion poll found that about 60 per cent of South Koreans would like their country to have its own nuclear weapons. Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, thinks that the Middle East now stands on the brink of a volatile and chaotic nuclear arms race. “If Iran resumes its nuclear weapons program,” Mr. Sokolski recently wrote in Foreign Policy, “the Saudis will certainly pursue their own – and Algeria, Egypt and Turkey might well follow.” Given the large petroleum and natural-gas supplies in Saudi Arabia, as well as the ample sunlight available there for solar power, the current Saudi proposal to spend more than $80-billion on nuclear technology suggests that future energy needs aren’t the sole reason for the investment.

To ensure that a treaty written to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons isn’t transformed into one that facilitates their spread, a number of important steps can still be taken. The United States and Russia possess about 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear weapons, and those two countries must be pressured to reduce the size of their arsenals and minimize the risk of nuclear war. Frustrated with the slow pace of disarmament by the NPT’s five nuclear states, a few years ago the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) began to seek a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted by the United Nations last year, and ICAN was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Ray Acheson, a Canadian who serves on ICAN’s steering committee, supports the goal of non-proliferation but strongly defends the group’s strategy of focusing their criticism on the NPT’s five nuclear states. “The nuclear weapons that already exist are more dangerous,” she says, “than the ones that don’t.”

As for the other NPT signatories, Scott Sagan, a nuclear-weapon expert who’s a professor of political science at Stanford University, thinks that an “unalienable right” to the peaceful use of nuclear energy doesn’t mean the right to hedge your bets and develop a latent nuclear-weapon capability. The NPT allows a country to leave the treaty simply by giving 90 days notice. Prof. Sagan argues that violating the treaty should lead to much stronger punishments by the United Nations and that leaving the treaty should be made more difficult. Contracts for the sale of civilian nuclear facilities and technology should have a “return to sender” clause – a requirement that any country that leaves the NPT must return all the nuclear equipment it bought.

The issue of nuclear proliferation is hardly inconsequential for Canada. Although Canada has never formally been a nuclear weapon state, its deployment of American weapons during the Cold War was precisely the sort of arrangement that inspired Ireland to seek a non-proliferation treaty. Between 1963 and 1984, hundreds of American nuclear weapons were assigned to Canadian forces. Two squadrons of BOMARC anti-aircraft missiles, carrying a total of 56 warheads, were based at North Bay, Ont., and La Macaza, Que. About 100 Genie anti-aircraft rockets with nuclear warheads were stationed at Royal Canadian Air Force bases, and Canadian fighter planes assigned to NATO carried low-yield Mark 28 hydrogen bombs. The weapons were technically in the custody of the United States, but Canadian officers were granted the authority to turn one of the two keys that launched the BOMARC missiles – and sole control over firing the Genies and dropping the Mark 28s. A Soviet bomber attack on the United States would have prompted nuclear warfare in the skies over Canada, as BOMARCS and Genies sought their targets. And the three nuclear-weapon systems operated by Canadian forces had serious safety defects that could have caused accidental nuclear detonations. Canada, like the United States, was fortunate to survive the Cold War without nuclear devastation. The effects of nuclear blasts, the electromagnetic pulses and deadly fallout, show little regard for national borders. Even if you don’t have nuclear weapons, having a neighbour who does can pose a considerable threat.

Some academics have argued that nuclear proliferation might make the world safer, suggesting that countries with nuclear weapons are less likely to fight one another. That argument makes about as much sense as the contention that having more guns will reduce the number of people killed by gunfire. A single switch prevented the accidental detonation of an American hydrogen bomb in North Carolina during January, 1961. The following year the vote of a single officer on a Soviet submarine prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo that would have turned the Cuban Missile Crisis into a thermonuclear war. The number of close calls during the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union is terrifying. Multiply that number by multiple arms races and, short of divine intervention, you have a recipe for disaster.

Mr. Trump has an extraordinary opportunity in Singapore to reassert the principles guiding the NPT. If North Korea can be persuaded to give up its nuclear weapons, it will be a tremendous victory for the cause of non-proliferation. But lasting success will never be attained by the kind of unilateral American action that has lately started a trade war with longstanding allies, pulled out of the Iran deal and withdrawn from the Paris agreement on climate change. “I alone can fix it,” Mr. Trump declared two summers ago at the Republican National Convention. Applied to nuclear weapons, that belief is delusional and potentially catastrophic. International co-operation, through mechanisms like the NPT, offers the only real hope of survival. Robert Oppenheimer recognized that fact in his farewell speech to the Los Alamos scientists, at the dawn of the nuclear age. He told them: “I think it is true to say that atomic weapons are a peril which affect everyone in the world, and in that sense a completely common problem.”

June 9, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

National Geographic joins Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom in promoting nuclear power

National Geographic joins nuclear propagandists — the Australian connection, Independent Australia A new documentary series is nothing more than a propaganda tool for nuclear power, writes Noel Wauchope.

IN SEPTEMBER THIS YEAR, National Geographic will launch the documentary series, Wild Edens. It’s all about wilderness areas and is also a soft sell for the nuclear industry. And there’s a proud Australian connection, with the Global Ecology Lab of Flinders University, South Australia. Their energy researcher, Ben Heard, was master of ceremonies at the premiere in Spain in April…….

By 2018, things have changed. The argument that nuclear power is cheap has fallen apart. As for the “peaceful atom” and “no connection with nuclear weapons”, that one has fallen through, too. Recent research in UK and the USA make it clear that nuclear energy and developing new reactors are necessary for the continued development of nuclear weapons.

Hans-Josef Fell, president of the global Energy Watch Group, states in the brief titled ‘The disaster of the European nuclear industry’:

‘The driving force behind the UK government’s affinity to nuclear technology is the cross-subsidization of the military nuclear program

In the 21st Century came changes in technology and in the content of propaganda. Enter the “new nukes” — modern designs, especially small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs — they leave out that unpopular word “nuclear”). After much soul-searching – or, rather, much complex research on public opinion – the proponents of new nukes have now finally settled on environment, climate change and also a nod to space travel as the reasons why the world must embrace SMRs.But it’s not only the content of their propaganda which has changed. It’s the style. It’s the copious wrapping around this 21st Century nuclear birthday present.

And here’s where National Geographic comes in — their new documentary series Wild Edens will be gorgeous:

‘…filmed in the world’s most stunning untouched places and their inhabitants — wildlife and fauna alike, endangered by the effects of climate change.’

The PR for nuclear power will be introduced so slightly and subtly you’d hardly notice. This is the strategy of the SMR propagandists. They also do lobby business and government with sophisticated technical arguments. But for the public – us, the great unwashed and especially the young – it is all beautiful touchy-feely stuff ……..

Ben Heard’s speech, on opening the premiere of Wild Edens, talked about climate change but then moved on to a longer panegyric on nuclear power:

…this beautiful and important film from National Geographic, brought to us with the help of Rosatom, represents…recognition that nuclear technologies are crucial to the protection, restoration and expansion of our natural world.

…it is particularly nuclear technologies that will help us find energy at a global scale, without super-charging the climate change of tomorrow.

And one of the greatest, most hopeful signs I have seen that this can happen, is to see a major corporation like Rosatom step boldly forward in this way and claim this issue on behalf of nuclear technologies.

Wild Edens will surely be very beautiful, informative about wild places and worth watching. Just be aware of the underlying propaganda about:

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

North Korea’s economic and social health improving – new confidence brings Kim Jong Un to negotiate

Kim, the economy and why UN sanctions did not bring North Korea to the summit table
Although UN sanctions have limited growth, North Korea’s financial health – and the physical health of its people – seem to be stabilising,
 SCMP, Lee Jeong-ho, 03 June, 2018  If top officials in Washington and Tokyo are to be believed, the application of “maximum pressure” through United Nations sanctions was decisive in bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the summit table.

Pyongyang has been the target of a string of UN bans from trade to travel for more than a decade, the toughest coming in September when they were expanded to cover crude oil.
Just six months later Kim sent a message offering to meet US President Donald Trump with no strings attached.
Senior US and Japanese officials credited the offer in large part to the international sanctions, which they maintained had battered the already beleaguered North Korean economy.

But there is evidence – anecdotal and data – that North Korea’s economy has stabilised over the past few years, and while UN sanctions are limiting its growth, the country is far from famine or total collapse.

Reliable data on North Korea is hard to get. But information from various sources suggests that it has been making noticeable improvement since Kim came to power in December 2011 – at least before a new round of United Nations sanctions began taking effect this year.

Park En-na, South Korea’s ambassador for public diplomacy, said the general picture was that North Korea’s economy was getting better.

“Kim has introduced many new elements to the economy. To some extent, they even allowed privatisation,” Park said.

Kim has rolled out various measures to accelerate his country’s economic development and loosen the government’s grip on business and industry. In 2012, he offered factories and companies incentives to improve productivity and a year later, he established 13 new economic development zones to try to attract foreign investment. More market-oriented reforms were adopted in 2014 to further liberalise the economy. On top of that, improving living standards is now a national priority.

TICKING OVER

Although the direct effect of these decisions is hard to measure, there are some economic indicators of progress.

The Bank of Korea, the central bank in Seoul, estimated the North Korean economy had grown 1.24 per cent on average since Kim took power, expanding by 4 per cent to US$28.5 billion in 2016, the fastest growth in 17 years.

Pyongyang’s trade figures also reveal signs of economic expansion since 1996.

North Korea’s main exports are minerals, metallurgical products and manufactured goods including armaments, according to the latest Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. Its main imports are petroleum, coking coal and machinery.

………

ON THE GROUND

International observers also report that conditions in North Korea appear stable.

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), made an official trip to North Korea last month, visiting Pyongyang, Sinwon county in South Hwanghae province and Sinuiju city in North Pyongan province.

Beasley said signs of hunger and malnourishment in the country had diminished.

“What I did not see was starvation. In the 1990s, there was famine and starvation, but I saw none of them,” he said…….

NUCLEAR CONFIDENCE

North Korea’s economy-first focus emerged in April when Kim said he would start moving away from the “byungjin” policy, which calls for developing nuclear weapons and the economy simultaneously, to adopt a new strategy focusing on improving the economy.

That message was reinforced – albeit indirectly – during Kim’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian in May. In that meeting, Kim said he anticipated taking “phased and synchronous measures” to “achieve denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula”. That process would involve step-by-step eradication of nuclear weapons in return for economic sweeteners and a gradual lifting of sanctions.

Many analysts said Kim was simply using the weapons as a bargaining chip for aid to offset the effect of the sanctions and thereby realise his much-needed economic goals.

But Chung Jae-heung, a researcher at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said North Korea was emboldened by its nuclear strength rather than bowed by a sanctions-hit economy.

“It’s Pyongyang’s confidence as a nuclear state that brought Kim to the negotiating table, not solely UN sanctions, as its economy is not as bad as many of us think,” Chung said.

“The North Korean regime is not likely to collapse due to UN sanctions, as Beijing is unlikely to cut down its oil supply to the extent that may threaten the survival of the Kim regime.”

Park, the South Korean ambassador, said that having acquired nuclear technology, Kim could next turn his focus to economic development.

“It is difficult to assess how much impact UN sanctions have on North Korea,” she said. “But it is obvious that under the sanctions, they can’t make meaningful economic development as there is no investment from the outside.”

Lim Eul-chul, a North Korea expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said that while the recent UN sanctions may have caused the North Korean economy harm, their implications were limited, and they paled in the context of recent history.

The measures taken by the UN “will never be as bad as the great North Korean famine of the 1990s”, he said.

“North Korea now has an [internal] economic power to bear the sanctions,” Lim said. “It seems like it has decided to speed up development while solving some of its economic problems imposed by sanctions through negotiating directly with the US.”http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2148515/kim-economy-and-why-un-sanctions-did-not-bring-north

June 9, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Despite Ukrainian Prime Minister’s reassurances, Wildfires near Chernobyl are potentially catastrophic

Radio Free Europe 6th June 2018 , Scientists have been concerned for decades about potentially catastrophic wildfires inside the exclusion zone around the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine — the site in 1986 of the world’s worst nuclear accident.

That’s because trees and brush in the zone have absorbed radioactive particles that can be released into the air by the smoke of a wildfire.

Not surprisingly, some experts are skeptical about Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman’s claim on Facebook that “there’s no need to worry” about a June 5 blaze that raced through the so-called Red Forest — one of the most contaminated patches of forest near Chernobyl.
https://www.rferl.org/a/prime-minister-says-don-t-worry-but-scientists-concerned-about-chernobyl-wildfires/29276072.html

June 9, 2018 Posted by | climate change, safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Barbara Lee Condemns GOP for Embracing Mini Nuclear Weapons

“Given the instability in the world and in this White House, provoking nuclear brinksmanship is beyond reckless.”June 08, 2018 Jon Queally, staff writer 

Lamenting the defeat of her amendment to defund the Pentagon’s $65 million program for so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons in a House’s appropriations bill on Thursday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) warned of the existential threat these weapons represent as they fuel a new arms race in an increasingly dangerous world.

There is no such thing as a small nuclear weapon,” Lee declared after the amendment was defeated in a 241 to 177 vote—along mostly partisan lines—in the GOP-controlled House. The full roll call is here.

“Spending $65 million on a low-yield nuclear weapon – with unprecedented submarine-launch capability – heightens the risk of nuclear war,” Lee added. “We should be de-escalating tensions with our allies, not provoking a new nuclear arms race.”

Overall the spending in question involves the 2019 Energy and Water appropriations bill, which covers the nation’s nuclear weapons program, including an estimated $44.7 billion for annual funding—nearly $9 billion more than requested by the president.

Lee’s amendment called for cutting all $65 million for the W76-2 warhead—a 100 kiloton nuclear weapon, which is more than six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima—and transferring those funds to a government nuclear nonproliferation account.

As Defense News reports“The Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review calls for two nuclear designs: a low-yield variant of the W76 on Trident II missiles aboard America’s nuclear submarines and a potential new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.”

The nonproliferation fund, Lee said, operates a program that “is critical to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons here at home and abroad. Instead of sinking more money into nuclear weapons that don’t enhance our national security, we should be preventing the proliferation of nuclear material and enforcing the treaties and arms control agreements on the books.”

She added, “Given the instability in the world and in this White House, provoking nuclear brinksmanship is beyond reckless. Congress should be building peace and diplomacy, not inviting a miscalculation with nuclear consequences.”

June 9, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA Congress should decide on controversial nuclear weapons – not let that be decided by Rick Perry all on his own

If the change is made, members of Congress will unburden themselves of a controversial vote and escape accountability for the potentially grave consequences. Instead, the matter will be unilaterally decided by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, who can draw on whatever expertise he gained as … governor of Texas.

We also fundamentally disagree with the Board’s belief in the utility of limited nuclear use. There is no such thing as a limited nuclear war, and the United States should be seeking to raise the threshold for nuclear use, not blur that threshold by building additional so-called low-yield weapons. 

Now the Senate is all that stands in the way of letting Rick Perry decide whether or not to fundamentally change the geopolitical balance of nuclear weapons.  

A Decision Too Important for Rick Perry https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/06/a-decision-too-important-for-rick-perry/562280/ The Trump administration and its allies in Congress want the secretary of energy to determine whether to develop a new class of low-yield nuclear weapons.  

June 9, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Move to strip Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project funds from Energy spending bill fails 

Move to strip Yucca Mountain funds from Energy spending bill fails https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/nevada/move-to-strip-yucca-mountain-funds-from-energy-spending-bill-fails/By Gary Martin June 7, 2018  WASHINGTON — An amendment backed by Nevada Democrats that would have stripped money for the proposed Yucca Mountain project from a spending bill for the Department of Energy died in the House on Thursday.

The spending bill, which includes appropriations for military construction and other federal departments, contains $267 million to restart the licensing process to open the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository in Nye County, about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

An amendment to strip that spending from the bill died on a voice vote.

The amendment was filed by Rep. Ruben Kihuen and supported by Rep. Dina Titus and Rep. Jacky Rosen, all Nevada Democrats.

A Senate spending bill approved last month does not include funding for Yucca Mountain.

Differences in the two bills must be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee.

June 9, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

After years of ignoring Julian Assange’s plight, at last the Australian govt might help him

Australian officials spotted in mysterious Assange visit https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/australian-officials-spotted-in-mysterious-assange-visit-20180608-p4zk7w.html, 8 June 18 

London: Australian government officials have paid a mysterious visit to Julian Assange in his Ecuadorian embassy refuge in London, in a sign there may be a breakthrough in the stalemate that has lasted almost six years.

Two officials from Australia’s High Commission were spotted leaving the embassy in Knightsbridge in west London on Thursday.

It is the first time Australian consular officials have visited Assange at the embassy.

They were accompanied by Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Robinson confirmed the meeting to Fairfax but said she could not say what the meeting was about “given the delicate diplomatic situation”.  “Julian Assange is in a very serious situation” she said. “He remains in the embassy because of the risk of extradition to the US. That risk is undeniable after numerous statements by Trump administration officials including the director of the CIA and the US attorney-general.”

Assange entered the embassy on June 19, 2012, after he had exhausted his appeals against an extradition order to go to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault allegations.

Swedish authorities have since closed their investigation, saying it couldn’t continue without Assange’s presence in their country.

However Assange still faces arrest if he steps out of the Ecuadorian embassy for breach of his bail conditions, after failing in a legal bid earlier this year to have the warrant cancelled by an English court.

His condition has recently become much worse, with his hosts repeatedly suggesting in public comments that they want the situation resolved and him out of the building. The court proceedings also revealed his worsening health, including serious tooth problems, respiratory infections, depression and a frozen shoulder.

His internet and phone connections were cut off by the Ecuadorian government six weeks ago and he was denied any visitors apart from lawyers, after Ecuador complained he had breached “a written commitment made to the government at the end of 2017 not to issue messages [on social media] that might interfere with other states”.

A spokeswoman from the High Commission said she would have to refer any questions about the meeting to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra confirmed it is providing consular assistance to Assange through the Australian High Commission in London.

Citing privacy obligations, however, DFAT refused to offer further comment.

Assange has complained for years that the Australian government has not offered him consular assistance, despite his being an Australian citizen.

In May last year Assange’s mother Christine Assange called on the Australian Government to give her son a new passport so that he can leave Britain.

“His passport’s been confiscated, the Australian Government should immediately issue him another one and demand safe passage for him to take up legal asylum in Ecuador,” she told the ABC.

June 9, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Safety risks of American missile officers affected by drugs and alcohol

The Malfeasance of the US Military. Fallible and Negligent Men Armed to the Teeth with Missiles and Nuclear Bombs https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-malfeasance-of-the-us-military-fallible-and-negligent-men-armed-to-the-teeth-with-missiles-and-nuclear-bombs/5643493 By Helen Caldicott Global Research, June 08, 2018 

June 9, 2018 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment