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Tense political situation of mass migration – climate change compound s this problem

A Warming World Creates Desperate People, NYT, By Lauren Markham, Ms. Markham is a freelance reporter who writes about migration and the environment. June 29, 2018 Last year I traveled to southern Guatemala, the source of one of the largest migrations of unauthorized immigrants to the United States in recent years. It’s clear why people are leaving: Guatemala is a country rife with political conflict, endemic racism against indigenous people, poverty and, increasingly, gang violence.

But there’s another, lesser-known dimension to this migration. Drought and rising temperatures in Guatemala are making it harder for people to make a living or even survive, thus compounding the already tenuous political situation for the 16.6 million people who live there.

……….. Long before the unconscionable family-separation catastrophe at our southern border, President Trump had made the battle against illegal immigrants the rallying cry of his campaign and administration. He wants to lock up more immigrants — including toddlers — as a deterrent while casting all new unauthorized immigrants as potential, if not probable, violent criminals. Simultaneously, the president’s team has taken on the environment, doing nearly everything it can to walk back decades of regulation intended to protect our air, water and land. Last June, Mr. Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord. Meanwhile, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is doggedly eviscerating the agency he runs.

Today, according to global relief agencies, over 68 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, often because of war, poverty and political persecution. As a writer, I focus largely on issues of forced migration. The hundreds of migrants I’ve interviewed in the past few years — whether from Gambia, Pakistan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Yemen or Eritrea — are most often leaving because of some acute political problem at home. But I’ve also noticed something else in my years of reporting. If you talk to these migrants long enough, you’ll hear about another, more subtle but still profound dimension to the problems they are leaving behind: environmental degradation or climate change.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that since 2008, 22.5 million people have been displaced by climate-related or extreme weather events. This includes tragedies like the widespread famine in Darfur, monsoons and flooding in Bangladesh and the catastrophic hurricane in Puerto Rico. The more out of whack our climate becomes, the more people up and leave their homes. As our world heats up and sea levels rise, the problem of forced migration around the world is projected to become far worse.

And in refusing to take climate change or responsibility for our planet seriously, the Trump administration is encouraging the conditions that will increase unauthorized migrations to the United States and elsewhere.

…….. Many things are exacerbating the effects of the drought in Central America, including pervasive deforestation and farmers overtaxing their land. But according to Climatelinks, a project of the United States Agency for International Development, the average temperature in El Salvador has risen 2.34 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1950s, and droughts have become longer and more intense. The sea has risen by three inches since the 1950s, and is projected to rise seven more by 2050. Between 2000 and 2009, 39 hurricanes hit El Salvador, compared with 15 in the 1980s. This, too, is predicted to get worse………..

Like El Salvador, Gambia, Bangladesh and Guatemala, Ethiopia has been hit hard by climate change, though it is not even in the top 100 emitters of greenhouse gases. But the problem with climate change, of course, is that it is a problem that crosses borders.

The anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Trump administration has made for elaborate and bombastic theater — but with real, and sometimes deadly, human consequences (see again the children separated from their parents at the border). But Mr. Trump means what he says: He wants immigration from poor countries to stop. He sees the problems in those countries as theirs, not ours — never mind the centuries of catastrophic foreign intervention in places like El Salvador and the rest of the Americas, the Arab world and sub-Saharan Africa, or the growing menace of the changing climate.

If President Trump really wants to curb “illegal” migration to the United States for the long haul, he’d better get serious about climate change. The Trump administration can continue to eviscerate the E.P.A. and thumb its nose at global efforts to protect the climate. Or he can work responsibly to try to curb international migration by addressing the challenges of a warming planet.

He can’t have it both ways.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, politics international | Leave a comment

After the Trump-Kim summit, North Korea is probaably making more nuclear bomb fuel

North Korea agreed at the summit to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but the joint statement signed by Mr Kim and Mr Trump gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might surrender its nuclear weapons.

Ahead of the summit, North Korea rejected unilaterally abandoning an arsenal it has called an essential deterrent against US aggression.

Where can North Korea’s missiles reach? 

North Korea likely making more nuclear bomb fuel despite Trump-Kim talks, report says

US intelligence agencies believe North Korea has increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months and may try to hide these while seeking concessions in nuclear talks with the United States, NBC News has quoted US officials as saying.

Key points:

  • Unidentified US officials told NBC North Korea had stepped up production of enriched uranium
  • North Korea may have three or more secret nuclear sites
  • Mr Trump said last week North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites

Continue reading

July 2, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) policy is alive and well, but hidden under the oceans

Beneath the surface, a quiet superpower race for nuclear supremacy, USA Today Yingjie Gu and Matt Sussis, Medill News Service  June 30, 2018 

July 2, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Danger of corrosion in Hanford’s nuclear waste tanks

an inspection in 2017, after most of the waste was retrieved from the tank, found widespread pitting on the bottom of the inner shell, allowing waste to seep through. The finding pointed to a corrosion problem.

Experts don’t know enough about the issue yet to tell if the thinning is recent or definitely say what caused it.

More Hanford nuclear waste tanks at risk of leaking, BY ANNETTE CARY, 1 July 18 

July 2, 2018 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Depleted Uranium and the movement to ban radioactive weapons

“Nuke ‘Em All, and Let Allah Sort It Out”, History News Network   by William Schroder, 1 June 18  

“……….A left over by-product of Cold War weapons building, thousands of tons of Depleted Uranium(DU) – only 60% as powerful as natural uranium and therefore useless to the thermonuclear arms industry – pile up in temporary storage facilities such as Yucca Mountain, Nevada and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. What to do with it? In the late 1950s, U.S. and U.K. weapons experts discovered a use for at least some of it. Far denser than lead, a DU coating gives conventional rockets, missiles and small arms ammunition extraordinary armor penetrating capability, a definite advantage against Soviet tanks and other “hard targets.” In the 1990s, as the Cold War waned, the U.S. and British arms manufacturers continued to produce DU ordinance. First used in combat in the Gulf War, an estimated250-300 tons of DU ammunition was expended during Operation Desert Storm and many times that in Bosnia, Kosovo and the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

DU munitions persist despite the fact their use violates the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the 1925 Geneva Poison Gas Protocol. DU also meets the definition of a WMD in US Code Title 50, Chapter 40 Sec. 2302: “The term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors; (B) a disease organism; or (C) radiation or radioactivity.”

In addition, the UN Commission on Human Rights passed resolutions in 1996 and 1997stating the use of uranium ammunition is not in conformity with existing international Human Rights Law.

Although only 40 percent as radioactive as natural uranium, DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years and places all life forms at risk. As the material decays, alpha, beta and gamma radiation is released into the environment and contaminates the air, water and soil. Laboratory tests on animals show internalized alpha particles do more chromosome damage than 100 times that of an equivalent amount of other radiation. In an article published in the International Journal of Health Services, Dr. Rosalie Bertell wrote during the height of the war in Iraq, “The chief radiological hazard from DU is alpha radiation. In one day, one microgram (one millionth of a gram) of DU can release 107,000 alpha particles, each particle charged with more than four million electron volts of energy – and it only requires 6 to10 electron volts to break a DNA strand in a cell.

In the years following the 1991 Gulf War, tissue analysis reports from a hospital in Basra, Iraq showed a 160 percent increase in uterine cancer among Iraqi civilians, a 143 percent increase in thyroid cancer, a 102 percent increase in breast cancer and an 82 percent increase in leukemia. Doug Weir, the Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons, quotes Iraqi oncologist, Dr. Jawad Al-Ali: “We have also seen a rise in the presence of double and triple cancers in patients. We know many carcinogenic factors are available in our environment, but the (cancer) rates increased only a few years after the 1991 war, and now after the 2003 conflict, we have started to have another alarming increase.”

While the U.S. is by far the largest user of DU munitions, a score of other countries have DU weapons in their arsenals. Why? Who profits? In the United States, three companies produce uranium enhanced ordinance – Alliant Techsystems of Edina, MinnesotaDay & Zimmermann of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and General Dynamics of Falls Church, Virginia. According to a November 2007 article in theNew Internationalist, “DU is expensive and hazardous to store, so it is produced at a very low cost to arms manufacturers. Arms manufacturer, Alliant Techsystems has produced more than 15 million 30mm PGU-14 shells for the U.S. Air Force and over a million M829 rounds for the U.S. Army. They also produce small caliber rounds (25mm, 30mm) for guns on U.S. aircraft and fighting vehicles… In February 2006, the U.S. Army placed an order for $38 million of M829 rounds, bringing the total order from Alliant Techsystems to $77 million for that fiscal year.”

Despite the huge profit motive behind the manufacture and use of DU ordinance, the movement to ban radioactive weapons grows. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) has 80 member organizations worldwide and campaigns “for an explicit international treaty that would not only ban uranium weapons but also cover the decontamination of battlefields and rules on compensation for victims.” The European Organization of Military Associations (EUROMIL), consisting of 34 military associations from 22 countries, also calls for a ban. “EUROMIL recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of soldiers performing duties in areas where DU weapons were used. To counteract such effects, governments should ensure measures are put into place that guarantee the safety and protection of troops during their missions in areas contaminated as a result of the use of DU. EUROMIL also recognizes that there may be long-term implications for the health of the population in the area where DU weapons were used. Therefore, EUROMIL strongly urges governments to ban the use of DU weapons and to use their influence to appeal to their worldwide partners to abandon the use of these weapons.”

Disseminating nuclear waste among the innocent civilians of the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria is malfeasance of the highest order. For America to hold her reputation as a nation of justice and high moral purpose, it must reverse present policy and take the lead in a worldwide ban on depleted uranium weaponry.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, depleted uranium, Reference | Leave a comment

 The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing 

Children were dying. They took action The British campaigners who shed light on deadly nuclear fuel reprocessing, By Linda Pentz Gunter 1 June 18

The road winds steeply up through bucolic countryside, some of the most spectacular in Britain. There are sheep bleating in the distant meadows. Then suddenly, you are out on the fell, stripped almost barren, black, empty. But still there are sheep, their wool the same smoky color as the landscape, dotted like the rocks that are scattered across these bleak tops, the hallmark of the storied Lake District. Then down we go again, past a stone-walled pub, up another hill, and we are pulling up in front of a whitewashed cottage straight from a Beatrix Potter film.

And indeed, that is where we are — in Potter country — about as far removed in atmosphere and idyll as it is possible to be from the ugly, industrial, and deadly blight that sits just a few miles away on the Cumbria shore. That would be the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, which spews radioactive waste into the sea, pumps it into the air, and has accumulated 140 tonnes of plutonium to absolutely no purpose.

A sheepdog runs out to greet us. A pair of elderly cats languish contentedly on a warm stone wall, basking in some late afternoon sunshine. Later, we are introduced to a small flock of Herdwick sheep who are “pets,” and a flock of pigeons, of which more later.

The people who live in the house are Janine Allis-Smith and Martin Forwood, the heart of the aptly named small activist group CORE — Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment. They have dedicated more than three decades to challenging the continued operation of Sellafield and calling out the harm it has caused. 

Martin and Janine, partners in life as well as activism, embody the longstanding and tenacious anti-nuclear fight in Cumbria, the most nuclear county in the United Kingdom. Without their watchdog vigilance and their educational advocacy, far less would be known about the dangers posed by the British nuclear industry, and particularly by the Sellafield reprocessing and nuclear waste site.

Martin and Janine have been at the heart of the struggle against the Sellafield operations since the mid-1980s. They have exposed the facility’s clandestine activities, especially emissions of radioactive wastes into the environment. For Janine, formerly from the Netherlands, this hit home especially hard when her own son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1983. He survived, but as Janine began to look into the issue, she found far too many other instances of childhood leukemias among children living close to Sellafield, many fatal.

The pair began to suspect that radioactive discharges from Sellafield were contaminating local beaches and tide pools where children loved to play. And, as Allis-Smith, recounted, “it was not just leukemia, but other cancers. Some were stillborn, while other suffered unexplained deaths at a very young age.”

This launched Janine and Martin on a relentless campaign to expose the on-going violations at the Sellafield site where radioactive discharges have made the Irish Sea one of the most radioactively contaminated bodies of water in the world. In 2017, CORE released a damning report which showed how, “during the 1995-2013 period, the radioactive discharges to the marine environment from Sellafield’s reprocessing facilities B205 (magnox) and THORP (oxide) have dominated those from all other UK facilities and are recognized as being the major contributor to the levels of radioactive substances recorded in the Irish Sea and wider oceans.”

Both Martin and Janine were new to the issue when they began their work. But they quickly educated themselves, then others. They perfected an ideal and complementary presentation style — with Martin offering a simple, lay explanation of reprocessing itself, then Janine describing its impact, especially on the health of children. They quickly moved hearts and minds in equal measure. Politicians, the media, and the public at large were forced to take notice.

Over the years, the pair have collected numerous mud samples from local beaches and estuaries that have been analyzed for radioactive contamination, confirming their suspicions.

The pair uncovered scandals involving illegal activities at the Sellafield site. They fought the THORP reprocessing plant, due to close permanently in 2018; the rash decision to develop a MOX fuel manufacturing plant, which closed after just 10 years of operation; and the global transport of radioactive materials.

In 1990 Martin gave his first guided “Alternative Sellafield Tour”, highlighting the spots where the reprocessing plant endangers the environment.

More recently, the pair were part of a successful effort to prevent the Nuclear Waste Agency NIREX from building a subterranean depository for British and international nuclear waste at the edge of the Lake District National Park.

Currently, they are at the forefront of the fight to block new nuclear power plants planned for Moorside adjacent to Sellafield. Their landmark 2015 report, “Moorside Build & Job Projections – All Spin and No Substance,” has proven an essential tool for the broad opposition to this deadly scheme.

The couple are not without a sense of fun either. In 2005, Martin made and delivered a radioactive “Pizza Cumbriana” to the Italian Embassy in London — Italy was shipping radioactive waste to Sellafield for reprocessing at the time. The box was marked “Best before 26005”, a reference to plutonium 239, which has a half-life of 24,400 years. The pizza was immediately seized by the Environment Agency, stored, then buried eight years later at the Drigg nuclear waste dump in Cumbria, adjacent to the Sellafield site.

Also buried as radioactive waste was the garden of two elderly ladies living along the sea front in the drab town of Seascale adjacent to the Sellafield plant. The sisters had devotedly fed flocks of pigeons who visited their garden — birds that also roosted on the Sellafiled roofs. After the guesthouse next door complained about excessive bird poop and called for the birds’ removal, the entire garden had to be excavated down to several feet and hauled away as radioactive waste. Martin and Janine took in a few of those pigeons. Their descendants still live with them today and appear each morning and evening on the garage roof for feeding time.

Last year, Forwood and Allis-Smith received some long-overdue recognition for their commitment to a safer, cleaner, greener environment when they received the Nuclear-Free Future Award in the category of Education, a prize that carries a $10,000 cheque, a rare and much needed boon in a movement largely deprived of meaningful or consistent funding. (Disclaimer, I nominated them for the award.)

The couple were unable to attend the ceremony, but wrote in a press release: “We are honoured to have received NFFA’s Education Award for 2017 and humbled to be joining the list of diverse and distinguished winners of the past. Since the 1980s, when Sellafield was preparing to double its commercial reprocessing activities, we have focused not only on acting locally but also being the ‘eyes and ears’ for the many interested parties world-wide on Sellafield and its many detriments which include site accidents, environmental contamination, health risks, plutonium stockpiles and nuclear transports.

“With decades of uniquely difficult decommissioning yet to come, and with plans for new-build at Moorside, we still have much to do and will face the challenges with the same determination that has seen us through the many highs and lows experienced over the last thirty years in our campaign against an industry we believe still has much to answer for.” (You can view their full acceptance remarks in the video higher up in this article.)

This article was adapted from its original publication in The Ecologist.


July 2, 2018 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, PERSONAL STORIES, UK | 1 Comment

Beyond Nuclear reports on little known Nigerian town and AREVA’s uranium mining

A forgotten community  The little town in Niger keeping the lights on in France, Beyond Nuclear By Lucas Destrijcker & Mahadi Diouara, 1 July 18 
Reprinted with kind permission from African Arguments

Welcome to Arlit, the impoverished uranium capital of Africa.

From Niamey, the capital of the landlocked West African nation of Niger, we call ahead to a desert town in the remote north of the country.

“Journalists? On their way here? It’s been a while”, we hear down the phone from our contact. “We welcome you with open arms, but only on the pretence that you’re visiting to interview migrants on their way to Algeria. If they find out you’re poking your nose in their business, it’s a lost cause.”

That same evening, the public bus jolts as it sets off. Destination: the gates of the Sahara.

The stuffy subtropical heat gradually fades into scorching drought and plains of seemingly endless ochre sands. About two days later, we pass through a gateway with “Arlit” written on it in rusty letters.

The town of about 120,000 inhabitants is located in one of the Sahel’s most remote regions, not far from the Algerian border. The surrounding area is known to be the operating territory of numerous bandits and armed groups, including Islamist militants. It is like an island in the middle of the desert, an artificial oasis with only one raison d’être: uranium………

approximately 150,000 tonnes of uranium have been extracted by the majority state-owned French company Areva, which is now one of the largest uranium producers in the world. The two mines around Arlit – Somaïr and Cominak – account for around a third of the multi-billion-dollar company’s total global production.

France uses this uranium to generate nuclear power, some of which is sold on to other European countries. According to Oxfam, over one-third of all lamps in France light up thanks to uranium from Niger.

However, in contrast to France, Niger has failed to see similar benefits. The West African country has become the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium, which contributes tens of millions to the nation’s budget each year. Yet it has remained one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries, with almost half its 20 million population living below the poverty line. Its annual budget has typically been a fraction of Areva’s yearly revenue.

The main reason for this is the deal struck between Areva and Niger. The details have not been made public, but some journalists and activists such as Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry, have seen the agreement. Amongst other things, the documents suggest that the original deal generously exempted Areva from customs, export, fuel, materials and revenue taxes………

Apart from criticising the Nigerien government for not spending its uranium revenue where it is most needed – such as in health care, education and agriculture – Idrissa ( Ali Idrissa, who campaigns for more transparency in the industry ) emphasises the bigger geopolitical picture: “Don’t forget that Niger isn’t just negotiating with a regular company, but with the French state. Their development aid, military and political support means that we cannot ignore our former coloniser. Our dependency from France goes hand in hand with crooked business deals.”

Forgotten in the desert

Exhausted from the long journey to Arlit, we’re received in the dingy office of Mouvement Unique des Organisations de la Société Civile d’Arlit (MUOSCA), a local umbrella group for environmental and humanitarian NGOs.

“If either Areva or the government were to find out you’re poking your nose in their business, they’ll go to any length to make your work very difficult”, says MUOSCA’s director Dan Ballan Mahaman Sani as he wipes the sweat from his brow. “Besides that, Westerners are attractive targets in this region.”

Indeed, there is a history of Islamist militant attacks and kidnappings in the area, including some directly targeting Areva. In 2010, seven of the company’s employees were abducted, including five French nationals. In 2013, an attack on the Somaïr mine left one dead and 16 injured.

While the world held its breath as armed groups stepped up operations in the region, Areva, managed to extract over 4,000 tons of uranium, up from two years before, without too much trouble.

Dan Ballan says this illustrates how far the Nigerien uranium industry stands apart from the country’s social environment and how isolated Arlit has become especially amidst regional insecurity.

“International NGOs or UN agencies don’t exist here, and Areva has nothing to fear from the Nigerien government,” he says. “We’re literally a forgotten community, completely left to the mercy of the multinational.”

Finding water

According to Dan Ballan and others, the uranium mining industry has taken a huge toll on Arlit and the region. While Areva has a multi-billion-dollar turnover, the majority of people here live in a patchwork of corrugated iron shelters on sandstone foundations. Poverty is rife. Power outages lasting two or more days are regarded as normal.

Moreover, while the uranium mines consume millions of litres each day, only a small proportion of Arlit’s Nigerien population enjoy running water. A 2010 Greenpeace study estimated that 270 billion litres of water had been used by the mines over decades of operations, draining a fossil aquifer more than 150 metres deep. The depletion of these ancient water reserves has contributed to desertification and the drying up of vegetation.

The water in Arlit, however, is not only scarce. Researchers over the years also suggest that, along with the soil and air, it contains alarming levels of radiotoxins.

Bruno Chareyon, director of the French Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radiation (CRIIAD), has been measuring radioactivity in and around Arlit for over a decade. His studies from 2003 and 2004 suggested that the drinking water contains levels of uranium at ten to hundred times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety standards.

“Despite these findings, Areva has stated continuously that they haven’t measured any excess radioactivity during their biannual examinations,” he says.

In 2009, Greenpeace conducted their own tests and found that five of six examined wells – all used to get drinking water – contained excess radioactivity as well as traces of toxins such as sulphates and nitrates.

……… Toxic waste

At the bustling local market in Arlit, down some meandering alleyways, there are the normal wares, but among them one finds some more peculiar items: large industrial cogs; parts of metal cranes; digging equipment; and even a dump truck.

“All of these are cast-downs from the mines,” says Dan Ballan. “Useless material finds its way to local merchants, who recuperate it and sell it on. Most of them have no idea of the risks.”

CRIIRAD readings of goods at the market from 2003 and 2004 showed radioactivity levels at up to 25 times the maximum standards. “People buy radioactive material to cook with, build their homes with, or raise their children with,” says Dan Ballan…….

Greenpeace and CRIIRAD confirm that radioactive dust spreads far and wide, sometimes to hundreds of kilometres away. But contrary to claims of a “superfast decay”, they say that while some products have half-lives of just days, others have half-lives of tens of years.

Furthermore, researchers say that radioactive waste is not simply dispersed. “The same radioactive rubble was used in Arlit on more than one occasion for landfills or building roads and homes”, alleges Chareyron. In 2007, CRIIRAD found that some road surfaces had radioactive values over a hundred times standard values.

………. Living with uranium

It is not difficult to come across Arlit residents suffering from serious health problems. ………..

The only hospitals in Arlit are run by Areva, with all the medical staff on the company payroll. The government provides no healthcare here. At the Cominak facility, Dr Alassane Seydou claims to have never diagnosed someone with a disease that could be linked to radiation or toxins. He says that in more than 40 years, not a single case of cancer has been discovered. “All employees are systematically examined, but we haven’t encountered any strange diseases,” he claims.

In 2005, the French law association Sherpa launched an investigation into Areva’s activities in Arlit. Speaking to them, one former employee at Somaïr hospital alleged that patients with cancer had been knowingly miscategorised as having HIV or malaria. The surgeon-in-chief at the hospital denied those claims.

There have been no official, large-scale health studies conducted in Arlit, but some smaller-scale studies give an indication of the prevalence of illness among residents and former Areva employees.

In 2013, the Nigerien organisation Réseau Nationale Dette et Développement interviewed 688 former Areva workers. Almost one quarter of them had suffered severe medical issues, ranging from cancer and respiratory problems to pains in their joints and bones. At least 125 had stopped work because of these health issues.

A similar survey was carried out on French former employees around the same time. In 2012, Areva was found culpable in the death of Serge Venel, an engineer in Arlit from 1978-1985. A few months before his passing, doctors had found that his cancer was caused by the “breathing of uranium particles”. The case went to court, with the judge ordering Areva to pay compensation for its “inexcusable fault”. Before the court of appeals, only the Cominak mine was found responsible.

Following the verdict, Venel’s daughter, Peggy Catrin-Venel, founded an organisation to protect the rights of former Areva employees. As part of this project, she managed to trace around 130 of about 350 French workers who had lived in Arlit at the same time as her father. 60% of those she was able to find information on had already died, most of them from the same cancer as her father.

Standing up

Catrin-Venel continues to fight against Areva, but she is not alone. As shown in the documentary Uranium, L’héritage EmpoisonnéJacqueline Gaudet is also standing up to the company.

She founded the organisation Mounana after she lost her father, mother and husband all to cancer in the space of just a few years. Her husband and father had worked at an Areva uranium mine in Gabon, while her mother lived there in a house built from mining rubble. Their cancers were reportedly caused by excessive exposure to radon, which is released during uranium extraction. In collaboration with lawyers from Sherpa and Doctors of the World, Gaudet’s organisation works to collect testimonies from former employees in order to build cases.

For Michel Brugière, former director of Doctors of the World, it’s still unthinkable that so many employees of the French state-owned company could fall ill like this. Speaking in the documentary, he commented: “How can one allow one’s staff to live and work in such a polluted environment? This is unbelievable. It’s reminiscent of long gone abuses.”

In the same vein, Greenpeace describes Arlit as a forgotten battlefield of the nuclear industry. “There are few places where the catastrophic effects of uranium mining on nearby communities and the environment are felt more distinctly than in Niger”, said researcher Andrea Dixon.

Back in Arlit, the stories of French former employees standing up to Areva are well-known. But the struggle for Nigerien workers to get recognised is even steeper than in Europe. “Both the legal system and the financial means to stand up for our rights are lacking”, says Dan Ballan. “In a couple of years, the uranium reserves will be depleted and Areva will leave, however the pollution and underdevelopment will stay behind.”

He may be right, but Areva will not be going far. About 80km away, a third and enormous new Nigerien uranium mine called Imouraren is being developed. “Lacking any perspective of another job, the workers will eventually move 

wherever the mine is”, says the local activist……..

……Arlit, the little town that pays the ultimate price to keep the lights on in France.

This story was realised with the support of Free Press Unlimited and the Lira Starting Grant for Young Journalists of the Fonds voor Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.

The article originally appeared July 18, 2017 on African Arguments

July 2, 2018 Posted by | environment, health, Niger, Uranium | Leave a comment

In the race to sell off nuclear power to Saudi Arabia, South Korea looks like the winner

South Korea’s KEPCO shortlisted to bid for Saudi nuclear project, Reuters Staff, 1 July 18   SEOUL  – State-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (015760.KS) (KEPCO) had been shortlisted to bid for a nuclear project in Saudi Arabia along with the United States, France, China and Russia, South Korea’s energy ministry said on Sunday.

“We were informed by our Saudi counterpart, King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, that KEPCO was shortlisted for a nuclear project in Saudi Arabia,” the ministry said in a statement.

The statement said the winner of the tender was expected to be chosen in 2019. Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil producer, plans to build two nuclear plants to diversify its energy supply and has been in talks with companies from South Korea, the United States, Russia and China for the tender.

In May, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih met South Korean Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu in Seoul. Falih told reporters on the sidelines of an industry event that he was “optimistic” about South Korea being on the tender shortlist.

South Korea, the world’s fifth-biggest nuclear power user, is seeking to export its nuclear reactors abroad.

In 2009, a South Korean consortium led by KEPCO won an $18.6 billion (14.08 billion pounds) deal to construct four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates, the country’s ever nuclear export success.

KEPCO was also selected as a preferred bidder in December last year for Toshiba’s NuGen nuclear project in Britain and the Korean company planned to talk with Toshiba to buy a stake in the project.

Reporting By Jane Chung and Cynthia Kim. Editing by Jane Merriman

July 2, 2018 Posted by | marketing, Saudi Arabia, South Korea | Leave a comment

The UK’s Hitachi nuclear bailout- a classic case of crony capitalism

Morning Star 29th June 2018 , ENVIRONMENT Secretary Michael Gove promised earlier this month to crack
down on “crony capitalism.” At the same time his cabinet colleague
Energy Secretary Greg Clark was offering a £5 billion bailout to Japanese
nuclear firm Hitachi.

It looks like a classic crony capitalist deal. Gove
argued: “Crony capitalists have rigged the system in their favour and
against the rest of us.” A classic crony capitalist deal is where a big
firm uses its power and lobbying to squeeze a contract from the government
that is good for the capitalists but bad for us.

The Hitachi bailout looks like such a rigged deal. Hitachi Europe chief executive Sir Stephen
Gommersall isn’t an expert in nuclear power or engineering. He is the
former British ambassador to Japan. Gommersall was hired right out of the
Foreign Office to help open doors for Hitachi. Tim Stone sits on the board
of Horizon Nuclear Power, Hitachi’s British nuclear arm. Stone, a former
KPMG consultant, was chief adviser to the energy secretary from 2008-13,
helping shape both Labour and Tory-Lib Dem governments’ nuclear energy
policy. Before that Stone advised the government on many PFI deals,
including famously bad-value ones.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

75 industry, government, and military dignitaries applaud Trump’s nuclear bailout plan

Government, military officials in favor of Trump’s nuclear bailout plan, Tom Henry 

July 2, 2018 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s national security adviser John Bolton says USA has plan to dismantle NK nuclear program in a year

Bolton: US has plan to dismantle NK nuclear program in year , WP ,July 1 Washington The United States has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday, although U.S. intelligence reported signs that Pyongyang doesn’t intend to fully give up its arsenal.

John Bolton said top U.S. diplomat Mike Pompeo will be discussing that plan with North Korea in the near future. Bolton added that it would be to the North’s advantage to cooperate to see sanctions lifted quickly and aid from South Korea and Japan start to flow.

Bolton’s remarks on CBS’ ”Face the Nation” appeared to be the first time the Trump administration had publicly suggested a timeline for North Korea to fulfill the commitment leader Kim Jong Un made at a summit with President Donald Trump last month for the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

Despite Trump’s rosy post-summit declaration that the North no longer poses a nuclear threat, Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate the terms under which it would relinquish the weapons that it developed over decades to deter the U.S. ……..

July 2, 2018 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Holtec’s plan for interim nuclear waste storage park has fatal flaws

Fatal flaws in Holtec’s plan, By John Buchser, 1 July 18 

Holtec International has proposed placing used fuel rods from all U.S. nuclear reactors in a shallow burial site near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Recently, The New Mexican reprinted a Carlsbad Current-Argusarticle featuring the point of view of Holtec executives, who painted too rosy a view of the safety issues this proposed facility could present.

There is pressure from the public to move used fuel rods away from their current locations — the reactor sites — especially when reactors have been shut down. The risks of storage in casks are low, the risks of transport are higher; in either case, the failure of a single cask, whether through natural degradation processes or terrorism, could release more radiation than did the accidents at Chernobyl or Fukushima.

After removal from a reactor, the fuel rods are placed in pools of water, which allow this high-level waste to cool. After several years of cooling, they are placed into casks. Radioactivity given off by these fuel rods remains dangerous to all life for at least 10,000 years. They are much more radioactive than the waste at WIPP.

The canister design approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Holtec proposes is a thin-walled design, with an interior five-eighth-inch stainless-steel cask holding fuel rods. That is placed into another stainless-steel cask, with lead and boron in between to abate radiation. Two vent holes in the exterior cask allow cooling air to flow. Casks need to cool to 400 degrees Celsius to allow safe transport.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimates very low risk of cask failure for at least 20 years. However, it will take 20-30 years for the casks to cool enough for transport. Given that cask cracking has been observed after 10 years, ultimate failure seems likely.

The long-term solution is likely to be underground burial at a well-researched location. It is unlikely that this high-level waste will be cool enough for a long-term underground repository until about 60 years after it is removed from the reactor.

The proposed Holtec interim storage facility has numerous fatal procedural and structural flaws. Alkaline soils there are corrosive. Fencing the site will not protect the area from armor-piercing artillery launched by terrorists from either of the two roads surrounding the site. There will be no continuous monitoring program to detect leaks. There is no plan on how to deal with leaking canisters. The data on radiation exposure to workers is proprietary. Transport vibration could cause cracking of the fuel rods, after which they cannot be safely transported at all. The best transport is via rail at low speeds, but the railroads have not been contracted. The transportation casks have not been tested to failure: What about a head-on collision of two trains, or trains falling off of a bridge?

The storage plan should be an integrated one, which industry experts admit is not the current approach. The movement of casks should be minimized. Unless a permanent repository is developed, the proposed interim site could become permanent. WIPP was studied as a transuranic radioactive waste site, not a high-level waste site, and no high-level waste repository exists.

It is no wonder that pecan farmers, dairy farmers and the oil, gas and tourism industries are worried. One accident could shut down the entire region. After 10,000 canisters have been sent to southeast New Mexico, at least one serious accident is likely to occur, based on Department of Energy analysis performed by Sandia engineers regarding shipping high-level waste to Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Your grandkids might never get to visit Carlsbad Caverns. Are the 50-100 jobs that Holtec would bring worth the risk of 10 centuries of contamination?

The deadline for comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is July 30. Submit comments to:

For further information, go to   John Buchser of Santa Fe is the immediate past chairman of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club. He is interested in seeking solutions to sustainable use of our water in New Mexico and West Texas.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | 2 Comments

In America, Fascism is Here to Stay – opinion contributor

Ken, opinion contributor  30 June 18 There is little, if nothing, to stop the madness in America now. Fascism is here to stay. The courts are captured, the legislature. Nuclear waste shipments course through america on interstates. At least 60 or 70 reactors are to the point, where any one of them could fail. Trumps reaction, is to extend them, make them less safe, subsidize them, and cut-back, oversight on them. That is fascism. That is america.

There are nuclear catastrophes going on at the St Louis Dump. In Lake Mead. At Hanford. At several reactors and waste sites. In our households, from the highly radioactive water we drink.

There are 20 yo, 30yo, 40 and 50 yo reactors, that are leaking like a sieve, that are on the verge of melt downs, all over the United States. Fuel pools that could loose coolant and burn the most radioactive aubstances into to air for thousands of miles dispersal. Huge radioactive waste containers, blowing up in Idaho.

Trumps answer is to not watch them at all. Allow the owners to monitor their safety. Even when people manifest acute radiation sickness, the fascists will lie.

Will americans do anythhing about the grotesque nuclear hell both america and japan are in now. The despicable fascist govts that have taken over in this depressionary economy where 50% are impoverished and things are and will get worse under the current blatantly, fascist regime?

Look at china: A totalitarian country where Every truckdriver in red china went on strike last week! The totalitarian government, in China did not crackdon on the truck drivers.  The Chinese Government  did the exact opposite. They sat down with the truckers.Their demands are being met,
efficently and pretty thuroughly because, the Chinese  have a dynamic economy. They have hope.

Things are so ugly, amoral and brutal in america now. A man like trump would be likely to call out the troops and call for a crackdown if there were a general truckers strike, in America now.  His ugly supporters would cheer it on

Americans are consumed by smart phones, computers, the internet, twitter.  They in the stranglehold of the bogus tech crapo social platforms. Completely distracted by  gaslighting mind-warped self indulgence and twitter trolls.  Even as everything around us is falling apart. Our livlihoods, our futures, our children’s future, our health, our environment.

Things do not look well.  This country, is held under a very tight vice grip of banality, poverty, insecurity and insanity right now.  Most people are too stupid and pretzle brainwashed to get it. There are multiple prongs to a few multifaceted propaganda machines , controled by EVER fewer puppetmasters.

There is emerging, the very serious and real threat of a machine of terror.  People are not stirring to the bloody realities and horrors of this threat, in any real ways.

I do not hold any illusions about the motives of the fascists , after what happened this week. I could see it coming, when many were deluded into thinking trump, was anything other than a totalitarian psychopath.
Concentration camps for children. Extremists calling for rightwing death squads to kill jornalists. Rightwing fascists, jingoists and nazis, calling for rallys and death squads to kill young people. To kill people on a much grander scale than charlottesville. If that happened it might be an ignition point.

Rightwing deathsquads, massacering people in homeless camps,  may not do much to start demonstrations. It is because, so many americans,  have become amoral . They have become desensitized, to most of the brutal cruelty that is emerging in America. Uncaring, about the mass murder and bombing, carried out by our military, for some time in other parts of the empire and, the world.

Only the more humanistic elements of this society seem to care, at this point. They are actively engaging others about it. They seem to be getting support in a plurality, outside of what is left of mainstream white society.

Perhaps some grotequely, racially motivated atrocity could mobilize that group to the streets and, young people would follow.

During the sixties there were leaders like martin luther king to provide a template for protest and chenge. The young white people, had a very strong impetus to lay down in the cogs of the machine . To try and stop it, or slow it down. That is  because of the depredations of the senseless imperial war in Vietnam.

Although america is mostly controlled by whites now, the fascists are actively and brutally repressing and suppressing a very large, and  diverse part of the population.

The fascists have to play the ugliest race and bigotry cards possible. That is because, this is a depressionary economy where 40% or more, whites included, are in serious poverty.

The fascists are very good at manipulating the internet. Their blue dog coconspirators are very good at gaslighting the  more employed and comfortable in this society, with the mass media and celebrity. This may account for the amorality and desensitization of whites and and others, that are not rightly the ruling class.

The fake celebrity, the  three card monty games, the blue dog media and republican play on them, takes the spotlight, off the open brutality and corrupt evil that has now overtaken us.

Many able bodied people, who could take to the streets are in a fish bowl, where they think nothing will happen to them and the system will right itself

At the same time, trump and the Republican wrecking crew,  are actively destroying everything most americans have cherished and held close to their hearts, for years. By killing off the last of endengered bison, bears, cats, wolverines here and in Alaska. By destroying all commons, public education, national parks, what is left of the middle class.

They  are gutting their access to healthcare. Gutting social security. Gutting medicare. Gutting access to affordable housing to their children and the elderly. The elderly who are becoming homeless, are bowled over by the christofascist bullshit. When people do become homeless, they are neutralized.

The fascists gave trillions of tax cuts, to the billionaires and corporations. They are subsidizing, the absolute poisoning and polluting of our country.  Doing so with chemicals, coal plants , nuclear plants, trillions on crackpot spacewars farces and further massive military intrigues.

This is a highly effective fascist machine rolling over america.

Many able bodied young people are very concerned about health care. Especially if they have children. Maybe they will act soon. In protest.

Many Americans that are  not doing so well, keeping their heads above water. These folks are so very brainwashed and, amoral at this point. They do not care about Yemen. They do not care about the nuclear buildup. Do not care about losing their medicare and social security. They do not care about the masses of homelessness in the streets. Many could care less, about the the evil of child concentration camps at the border. Even if right wing death squads do start murdering journalists.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

The B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb has gone through its first series of tests on the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

Nuclear Gravity Bomb Completes First Qual Tests on B-2 Bomber  , 30 Jun 2018 By Oriana Pawlyk

The B61-12 guided nuclear gravity bomb has gone through its first series of tests on the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The Air Force, together with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, earlier this month released a B61-12 non-nuclear test assembly from the Spirit. The kit included a NNSA-designed bomb assembly and the Air Force’s acquired tail-kit to be used on the B61-12 variant of the bomb, according to a Department of Energy release……….

Using the B61-12 will help consolidate and replace the existing B61 bomb variants in the U.S.’s nuclear stockpile, the release said. The first completed bomb kits are scheduled to debut sometime in fiscal 2020.

In May, top Air Force officials announced trials with the B61-12 were progressing successfully.

“We’ve already conducted 26 engineering, development and guided flight tests,” said Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration. “The program’s doing extremely well.”

The B61-12 modification program, which has been in the works for at least seven years, is slated to be carried by the B-2, as well as the future B-21 Long Range Strategic Bomber, known as the Raider.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office has also been working on integrating the latest modification into its weapons arsenal.

The F-35 was designed with a requirement to carry a nuclear payload. In 2015, an F-35 flew with the B61-12 to measure its vibration in the aircraft’s weapons bay.

Both of the fourth-gen fighters will be able to deploy the B61-12 bomb. The B61-12 also conducted its third and final developmental test flight aboard an F-15E in 2015.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.


July 2, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK: Plaid-Cymru needs to revisit its untenable position on nuclear power

Nation Cymru 28th June 2018 ,Robat Idris: I’ve just returned from Japan as part of a joint Friends of
the Earth Japan/PAWB (People Against Wylfa B) campaign against nuclear.

I saw the ongoing nightmare that is Fukushima – deserted towns, farmland
laid to waste, human tragedies. A similar disaster at Wylfa would be the
end of any hope of a viable Wales – but politicians here discount any
such possibility.

PAWB will host a visit from Fukushima evacuees in July
– so people here can learn what damage nuclear can do. So as an opponent
of Wylfa B who happens to be a Leanne Wood supporter, I welcome her
unambiguous anti-nuclear statement. The untenable position of Plaid on
nuclear is to be revisited. After the Westminster announcement that
“austerity” and privatisation apparently doesn’t apply to nuclear
power at Wylfa, Plaid’s ignoring of the subject in the hope that it would
go away is no longer acceptable.

July 2, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment