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The ‘fatally flawed’ nuclear waste storage facilities at the decomposing San Onofre nuclear site

Reports: San Onofre nuclear site ‘fatally flawed’, Taylor January 17, 2019,

REGION — Nuclear waste storage facilities at the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are “fatally flawed” and could cost Southern California nearly $13.4 trillion over a 50-year period if a major release of radiation occurs, according to two reports recently published by the Samuel Lawrence Foundation.

The reports were published during an ongoing Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation into electric supply company Southern California Edison and its contractor, Holtec International, which designed and built the storage facility.

The investigation stems from an incident on Aug. 3, 2018, when a full canister of spent nuclear fuel came within a quarter-inch of falling 18 feet.

Edison’s plan is to move 73 canisters into the oceanfront storage vault, having already moved 29 by the reports’ publication.

After the August incident, regulators stopped any more canisters from being loaded into the vault, built to hold 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste at the San Onofre site, located on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton on the coastal side of I-5.

The report notes how storage tanks at gas stations in California must be double-walled after experiencing how single-walled containers can leak gasoline into groundwater.

“With a double-walled fuel tank, if a leak occurs it can be detected and the storage container can be repaired or replaced before any gasoline is released,” the report states. “At San Onofre, we certainly should expect that some kind of leak prevention system would be in place to contain extremely toxic high-level radioactive waste.”

At an Aug. 9, 2018, community engagement panel discussing the decommissioning of San Onofre, Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector David Fritch told attendees about a near-accident at the storage facility.

When workers using a crane were moving a canister containing spent nuclear fuel, it became lodged at the top of the cavity enclosure container into which it was being stored.

Investigations revealed the operators and managers could not see the canister as it was being lowered and became stuck for nearly an hour, hanging 18 feet in the air from the guide ring along the top of the container.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) began operating in 1968 and closed in 2012 after continuous leaks were discovered in the plant’s steam generator tubes.

The first report, titled “San Onofre Nuclear Waste Problems,” examines damage caused to the “thin-walled, steel” canisters as they are lowered into the dry storage vaults. The report refers to this damage as “gouging” and considers it the most serious of the issues facing the storage facility.,
The Del Mar-based nonprofit Samuel Lawrence Foundation’s research determined that had the canister fallen, it could have hit the steel-lined concrete floor of the facility with “explosive energy greater than that of several large sticks of dynamite.” The damage could have caused a large radiation release, according to the report, and could have ruined the facility’s cooling system.

According to the report, each nuclear storage canister contains 37 spent fuel assemblies, which generate “enormous amounts of heat” and are cooled by an air duct system, which could have been blocked by the damage from a canister falling.

If that had happened, great quantities of water would be needed to cool the reaction and prevent or control a meltdown. That water would instantly become radioactive steam, similar to wh­­at happened during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

In the report, retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Len Hering, Sr., who previously served as a nuclear weapons safety officer­­­­, provided a scathing assessment of the storage facility’s management practices.

“I find that virtually none of the protocols that should be expected for the safe handling of this dangerous material are present,” he states in the report. “I find that personnel and companies are being hired virtually off the street, no specific qualification standards are present or for that matter even required, training is not specific to the risks of the material involved, and there is no fully-qualified and certified team assembled for this highly-critical operation.”

The report also addresses the risk of storing them so close to the Pacific Ocean, where rising sea levels, frequent high humidity and coastal fog make metal susceptible to short-term corrosion and stress-induced corrosion cracking.

According to the report, the mean high tide level is about 18 inches below the base of the oceanfront storage facility, which means sea level frequently exceeds that height.

It states it’s likely that the present groundwater table will leach into the vault and result in damp storage, which the vault is not designed for.

Rising sea levels due to climate change could make things worse, potentially causing the bottom seven feet of the storage canisters to be submerged and possibility create a similar crisis to Fukushima, where spent fuel was exposed to moisture.

In the second report, titled “Potential Economic Consequences from an Event at the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station Interim Spent Fuel Storage Installation,” uses economic impact modeling software to estimate economic losses from diminished activities within evacuation zones of one, 10 or 50 miles over one year to 50 years.

In a scenario looking at contamination across a one-mile radius, the report states the most significant loss is likely the disruption of regional transportation for up to a year costing $266 million.

The 1-mile radius, which would only represent a minor event, would still affect I-5 and the rail line.

Looking at evacuation zones of 10 to 50 miles over a one- to 50-year period, residential property losses could amount to $11 billion to $500 billion depending on the evacuation scenario. In the 50-mile impact scenario, about $13.4 trillion in gross regional product could be at risk over a 50-year period.

The first report concludes that the nuclear waste at San Onofre requires “much better storage configuration” and needs to be moved to a “technically defensible storage facility” further away from major transportation corridors like I-5.

“If an accident, natural disaster, negligence, or an act of terrorism were to cause a large-scale release of radiation, the health and safety of 8.4 million people within a 50-mile radius would be put at risk,” the report states.

It also demands that a “complete analysis of canister loading procedure and comprehensive risk assessment” be conducted transparently by an independent party, and recommends a permanent stop to the loading of nuclear storage canisters into the seaside vault, to begin placing spent fuel into “reliable canisters that can be monitored, inspected and repaired” and to move them to a facility at a much higher elevation.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | 3 Comments

 Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War – the past and the future

Ground Zero Nagasaki: Living the nuclear past – and future, Asia Times, By SUSAN SOUTHARD JANUARY 18, 2019  “………. Much of Nagasaki and the world have, of course, moved on from that terrible morning when a 5-ton plutonium bomb plunged at a thousand kilometers an hour toward the city of 240,000 people. Forty-three seconds later, it detonated half a kilometer above Nagasaki’s Urakami Valley. A super-brilliant blue-white flash lit the sky, followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of 21,000 tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed

Based on my book Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, I often give talks in the US about that unforgettable (or now often-too-forgettable) day when, for only the second time in history, human beings deemed it right to assault their own species with apocalyptic power. At these book talks, I’ve learned to be prepared for someone in the audience to say that the Japanese deserved what they got. It’s still hard to hear.

At its “burst point,” the Nagasaki blast reached temperatures higher than at the center of the sun, and the velocity of its shock wave exceeded the speed of sound. Within three seconds, the ground below had reached an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius. Directly beneath the bomb, infrared heat rays instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized internal organs. Did the men, women, and children of Nagasaki really deserve that?

As the mushroom cloud rapidly ascended 3km over the city and eclipsed the sun, the bomb’s vertical blast pressure crushed much of the Urakami Valley. Horizontal blast winds tore through the region at two and a half times the speed of a Category 5 hurricane, pulverizing buildings, trees, animals, and thousands of people.

The blazing heat twisted iron, disintegrated vegetation, ignited clothing, and melted human skin. Fires broke out across the city, burning thousands of civilians alive.

And though no one knew it yet, larger doses of radiation than any human had ever received penetrated deeply into the bodies of people and animals.

…………. the United States bombed and incinerated all or parts of 66 Japanese cities, killing, maiming or irradiating more than 668,000 civilians. In Nagasaki alone, by the end of 1945 when a first count was possible, 74,000 men, women and children were dead. Of those, only 150 were military personnel. Seventy-five thousand more civilians were injured or irradiated.

Today, this kind of indiscriminate killing and harm to civilians would be called “terrorism.”

Despite the history most Americans have learned – that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military necessities that ended World War II and saved a million American lives by obviating the need for an invasion of Japan’s home islands – there is no historical evidence that the Nagasaki bombing had any impact on Japan’s decision to surrender.

What we aren’t taught are the political and military complexities of the last few months of the war or how, in the postwar years, the US government crafted this end-of-war narrative to silence public opposition to the atomic bombings and build support for America’s fast-expanding nuclear-weapons program.

What many don’t realize is that this misleading version of history allows us to turn away from what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and continue to support the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons without ever having to think about what those weapons do.

Still, so many decades later, in a world in which the Trump administration is preparing to withdraw from a key Cold War nuclear agreement with Russia and the US nuclear arsenal is being modernized to the tune of up to $1.6 trillion, it’s worth recalling the other side of the story, the kind of suffering the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings caused in August 1945 and long after.

Within weeks, people in both cities began experiencing mysterious symptoms: vomiting, fever, dizziness, bleeding gums, and hair loss from what doctors would later understand as radiation-related sickness. Purple spots appeared all over their bodies. Many died in excruciating pain within a week of the first appearance of such symptoms. Fear gripped Nagasaki. From one day to the next, no one knew when his or her time might come.

In those first nine months, pregnant women suffered spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, or the deaths of their newborn infants. Many of the babies who survived would later develop physical and mental disabilities.

Five years after the bombings, thousands more began dying from leukemia and other illnesses caused by high-dose radiation exposure, initiating cycles of higher than normal cancer rates that would last for decades. The bombs had, from the survivors’ perspective, burned their bodies from the inside out. Parents exposed to radiation feared possible genetic defects in their children and hovered over them year after year, terrified that what looked like a simple cold or stomach ache would lead to severe illness or death.

Even today, radiation scientists are still studying second- and third-generation hibakusha (atomic-bomb-affected people) for genetic effects passed down from their parents and grandparents, reminding us how much we still don’t understand about the insidious nature of radiation exposure to the human body……..

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Britain’s severe nuclear financial headache

Times 18th Jan 2019 , One thing that all these new power plants had in common was a reliance on foreign money. The same is true for proposed plants at Bradwell B and Sizewell C.  Hitachi, too, was involved in a proposed plant in Gloucestershire, which is now unlikely to progress.

Such is the vast cost of nuclear projects that few companies in the world can afford to finance them alone, and even governments struggle.

In today’s money, Hinkley C is expected to cost twice as much as the Channel tunnel. George Osborne, as
chancellor, guaranteed a return of £92.50 at 2012 prices per megawatt hour (Mwh) generated. For context, one Mwh of offshore wind power, once thought ridiculously expensive, guarantees suppliers £57.50.

Britain now finds itself with a headache. With many already regarding the Cameron government’s trust in Chinese involvement as a potential compromise of national security, it is unlikely that there would be further appetite for
a replacement Chinese partner, even if one could be found.

The French may also consider themselves already overcommitted to British projects.

Ministers will be wary, at any rate, of offering guarantees as expensive as Hinkley. Greg Clark, secretary of state for business and energy, confirmed yesterday that the government planned an energy white paper in the summer
to propose new methods for attracting nuclear financing. Pressing ahead without new nuclear capacity is plausible, but not without a considerable expansion of renewable energy and its storage capabilities. Customers may need to pay more for energy at busier times or invest in domestic storage of their own.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says that Los Alamos National Laboratory still has long-standing safety problems

Nuclear board sees no quick fix for LANL safety issues, By Rebecca Moss |, Jan 17, 2019 

      A national nuclear safety board says long-standing problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory persist several years after work was halted at its plutonium facility and are unlikely to be resolved in less than five years.

Under its former management contractor, the lab in 2017 issued an improvement plan, saying it had created “a significant culture change” at the plutonium facility. But in a report released in late November, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said it disagreed with that assessment, adding managers still have hurdles to overcome.

The board based its conclusions on an August review of incidents in which workers exceeded safety limits for the amount and type of nuclear material that can be placed in a given location, as well as on other rules meant to prevent a runaway nuclear reaction. They said improvements had been slow, staffing levels were inadequate and problems have continued to recur for the same issues.

There also have been several incidents of worker contamination, separate board reports show.

The board is an independent panel that advises the president and Energy Secretary Rick Perry on safety issues at many of the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities.

The lab’s safety program, intended to prevent a runaway chain reaction of nuclear materials, remains short-staffed and has not met many industry standards, the board said in the review, which was sent to Perry in late November.

The board’s report said Los Alamos, which came under a new management contractor in November, has made some improvements — including better labeling of fissile material and some improvements related to safety evaluations — but still failed to fix many recurring problems and likely won’t resolve them in less than five years, in part because of staffing shortages.

Until then, the board wrote, the lab “will continue to operate with elevated risk.”

Matt Nerzig, a spokesman for Los Alamos National Laboratory, declined to comment on the safety board report and referred questions to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In written comments related to the report, board member Joyce Connery wrote, “Given that there is a new prime contractor operating LANL as well as a significant increase in mission scope in the near future, I believe it is important to convey the challenges that remain within the Nuclear Criticality Safety Program.”

In particular, the board found repeated issues at the plutonium facility, known as PF-4, which handles some of Los Alamos’ most high-risk work and is tasked with increasing production of plutonium pits, the grapefruit-sized plutonium metal cores used to trigger nuclear weapons.

The government has outlined plans for Los Alamos to produce dozens of pits every year by 2030, a nuclear weapons modernization mission that has been supported by New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

But the lab so far has developed only five test pits. Production has been plagued by safety concerns, infrastructure problems, work shutdowns and staffing problems, according to letters and reports written by the board and the Department of Energy dating back more than five years.

Increasing plutonium work at Los Alamos could further strain already tenuous conditions at the lab, the safety board said in its report.

Efforts to improve safety procedures are progressing slowly, the board said, in part because the lab did not create clear goals to resolve the problems.

As of October, the board said, the lab had failed to meet standards for more than half of about 400 nuclear safety program measures, and only 11 out of 25 staffers needed for the program were considered fully qualified.

There also are “significant challenges in hiring, qualifying, and retaining sufficient personnel to accomplish … safe operations,” the board said.

In June 2013, federal regulators paused all work at the lab’s plutonium facility for more than a year to address nuclear safety problems.

Since 2017, when the lab reported it had made significant improvements at PF-4, there have been numerous reported safety issues.

In the last two months, the board reported, a four-person crew was contaminated with plutonium-238 at the plutonium facility and a room had to be decontaminated. Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark said employees were wearing protective equipment at the time of the event and “all safety systems worked as designed.”

Water also pooled and leaked into a basement in the facility in late November. The board wrote that it was similar to an incident nine months prior, when water had leaked and collected in a basement room that held nuclear waste drums.

Roark, however, said the November incident did not occur where nuclear material is processed, and managers are working to replace the type of faucet that caused the leak with more modern equipment.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | safety, USA | 2 Comments

Germany urges Russia to destroy missile to save nuclear treaty German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday called on Russia to destroy a controversial missile system Washington says breaches a key arms control treaty.

“We believe Russia can save this treaty,” Maas said after talks with Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF).

“It affects our security interests in a fundamental way.”

Tensions have raged between Russia and the United States over the fate of the INF agreement signed in 1987 by then US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

US President Donald Trump has promised to walk away from the agreement and Russian leader Vladimir Putin threatened a new arms race, saying Europe would be its main victim.

Washington says Moscow’s 9M729 missile system violates the treaty and warned it would withdraw from the agreement if Russia does not get rid of it.

Russia denies the claim, accusing the United States of violating the treaty which forbids ground-launched short- and intermediate-range missiles.

“Like other NATO members, we believe that there is a missile violating this treaty and it should be destroyed in a verifiable manner to get back to the implementation of this agreement,” Germany’s Maas told reporters.

Maas commended Moscow for trying to salvage the agreement and expressed hope that talks between Russian and US negotiators would resume in the near future.

Last month Washington gave Russia a 60-day deadline to dismantle missiles that it claims breach the INF treaty or the US would begin the six-month process of formally withdrawing from the deal.

Lavrov for his part said Washington provided no evidence that Russia’s tests of the missile violated the INF treaty.

He said Washington’s demands to destroy the missiles and have regular access to Russian sites were just “a pretext to exit the treaty.”

“During official contacts on arms control and disarmament issues back in October the United States said the decision is definitive and their announcement of the withdrawal from the INF treaty is not an invitation to dialogue. This is a quote.”

Earlier this week, talks between US and Russian officials in Geneva to salvage the deal led nowhere. Moscow said Washington did not appear to be in the mood for more talks while a US official said Russia was just paying “lip service” to transparency.

Russian officials said US representatives had confirmed Washington’s intention to begin withdrawing from the treaty from February 2.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Germany, politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA to begin pullout from Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, rejecting Russian offer

US to begin nuclear treaty pullout next month after Russia missile talks fail, Guardian, Julian Borger in Washington, 17 Jan 2019 

    • Officials reject Russian offer to inspect new missile
    • US says it will suspend observance of INF treaty on 2 February

The US has rejected Moscow’s offer to inspect a new Russian missile suspected of violating a key cold war-era nuclear weapons treaty, and warned that it would suspend observance of the agreement on 2 February, giving six-months’ notice of a complete withdrawal. The under secretary of state for arms control and international security, Andrea Thompson, confirmed the US intention to withdraw from the treaty after a meeting with a Russian delegation in Geneva, which both sides described as a failure.

Donald Trump took US allies by surprise when he announced his intention to leave the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in October. The agreement led to the destruction of thousands of US and Soviet weapons, and has kept nuclear missiles out of Europe for three decades.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, accused the US of intransigence, saying Moscow had offered to allow US experts to inspect the suspect missile, which it insists does not infringe the limits laid down in the treaty.

“However, US representatives arrived with a prepared position that was based on an ultimatum and centred on a demand for us to destroy this rocket, its launchers and all related equipment under US supervision,” Lavrov said.

Thompson noted that the US had been demanding Russian transparency over the missile for more than five years. She confirmed that the offer of inspections was not enough and that the US was demanding the destruction of the missile system, known as the 9M729……..

She said that there were currently no plans for follow-up talks on the INF before the 2 February deadline laid down by the Trump administration, though US and Russian diplomats would be meeting, including at a summit of the Nato-Russian council next week.

Thompson said that if Russia did not show willingness to comply with the treaty by the deadline, the US would suspend its own obligations, meaning that the US defense department could start research and development on missiles with ranges currently banned by the INF, from 500 to 5,500km.

At the same time, she told reporters, the US would formally give notice of its withdrawal from the treaty, which could come into effect on 2 August.

After that, there would be no restrictions on deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe or the Pacific………..

The Trump administration was criticised by former officials and arms control advocates for not pursuing the Russian offer of inspections.

“We’ve spent years trying to get something – anything – out of the Russians on INF. The Russian offer of an exhibition of the 9M729 is not enough, but it is something,” Alexandra Bell, a former senior state department official who is now senior policy director at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

“Perhaps it is a foundation on which to build. Not trying to take advantage of this opportunity is to leave diplomatic options on the table and that’s just foolish.”

Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association said: “If the INF is terminated on 2 August, there will be nothing to prevent Russia from deploying nuclear missiles that threaten Europe and the Trump administration will have no hesitation in pursuing the deployment of INF-prohibited weapons in Europe.”  


January 19, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Costly saga of Hitachi nuclear power project in North Wales comes to an end

Hitachi to Cease Work on Nuclear Power Plant in North Wales, NYT,   Stanley Reed, Jan. 17, 2019, Hitachi said on Thursday that it was suspending work on a 15 billion pound, or $19.3 billion, nuclear power project in North Wales after failing to agree on financial terms with the British and Japanese governments.

“The decision was made from the viewpoint of Hitachi’s economic rationality as a private enterprise,” the company, based in Japan, said.

Ben Russell, a spokesman for Hitachi’s British venture, Horizon Nuclear Power, said that discussions with the governments would continue but that its staff, currently around 300 people, would be cut to “a minimal handful.”

Hitachi will also stop planning work on a second project, in Oldbury, England. The company said it planned to take a write-off of 300 billion yen, or $2.75 billion, on the projects.

The decision by Hitachi is a blow to the British government, which is betting heavily on nuclear installations to help meet the country’s electric power needs in the coming decades.

The big question is whether Hitachi’s move will be a death knell for Britain’s campaign to build nuclear plants, which so far has resulted in only one project under construction.

While there are signs that the government is rethinking its energy policy, it was willing to go a long way toward trying to keep Hitachi on board.

In a statement to Parliament on Thursday, Greg Clark, the secretary of state for business and energy, said the government had been willing to consider providing one-third of the equity financing for the project and to take on all of the construction debt. When Hitachi continued to balk, Mr. Clark said, “I was not prepared to ask the taxpayer to take on a larger share.”

…….For Hitachi, though, the announcement could mark the end of a long and expensive saga. The company acquired the Horizon sites from two German utilities in 2012 for £697 million, or about $900 million, and wound up spending around £2 billion in total on design approvals, staff and other matters. It has been hiring apprentices, who have been training at a technical college on the island and going to Spain and Japan for work experience. At times in recent months more than 100 archaeologists were on the site, excavating and recording ancient structures that the construction would have destroyed.

Hitachi hoped Britain would prove to be an international showcase for its reactor designs. Ultimately, the company lost patience with the high level of spending required to land such a project there.

Hitachi had sought to arrive at a financial arrangement that would attract long-term investors like pension funds to the project and reduce its own exposure. But the offers of support from both the British and the Japanese sides were not enough………

January 19, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Top North Korea envoy meets Trump at White House for nuclear talks

Straits Times, WASHINGTON (REUTERS) 18 Jan 19, – A top North Korean nuclear envoy met President Donald Trump at the White House after holding talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday (Jan 18) in a diplomatic flurry aimed at laying the groundwork for a second US-North Korea summit.

The visit of Kim Yong Chol, Pyongyang’s lead negotiator with the United States and a hardline former spy chief, marked a rare sign of potential movement in a denuclearisation effort that has stalled since a landmark meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year.

Kim Yong Chol and Pompeo, with tight smiles, posed together for photographs at a Washington hotel before holding about 45 minutes of talks that could help determine whether the two sides can make headway.

After that meeting, the White House said Trump hosted Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office to “discuss relations between the two countries and continued progress on North Korea’s final, fully verified denuclearisation.”

There has been no indication of any narrowing of differences over US demands that North Korea abandon a nuclear weapons programme that threatens the United States or over Pyongyang’s demand for a lifting of punishing sanctions.

Hours before Kim Yong Chol’s arrival on Thursday, Trump – who declared after the Singapore summit in June that the nuclear threat posed by North Korea was over – unveiled a revamped US missile defence strategy that singled out the country as an ongoing and “extraordinary threat.”

The State Department said after Friday’s meeting that Pompeo had a “good discussion” with Kim Yong Chol “on efforts to make progress on commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.”

But it provided no specifics.

The high-level visit could yield an announcement of plans for a second summit. Both Trump and Kim have expressed an interest in arranging but some US-based analysts say it would be premature due to the lack of obvious progress so far……….

January 19, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

We must not forget the Hibakusha

Ground Zero Nagasaki: Living the nuclear past – and future, Asia Times, By SUSAN SOUTHARD JANUARY 18, 2019  “…………….Hibakusha stories

It’s essential for us to remember such grim details, not just for the sake of history, but for our future, because nuclear weapons far more powerful and devastating than the Nagasaki bomb are now commonplace.

In a small area of Nagasaki that includes Hypocenter Park, the  Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, and Peace Park, dedicated teams of Japanese men and women still work tirelessly to counter the world’s inclination to forget what happened. For the past 35 years, one organization, the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace, has assembled cadres of hibakusha speakers – typically about 40 at any time – willing to tell their stories. They are now aging women and men with unique memories of the day of that bombing and the weeks, months and years that followed.

Sixteen-year-old Taniguchi Sumiteru was delivering mail on his bicycle about a kilometer and a half from the hypocenter when, a split-second after the bomb detonated, its tremendous force and searing heat blew him off his bicycle and slammed him face-down on to the road. His entire back was burned off. By all rights, he should never have survived. Three months later, he finally received medical treatment. Still in constant pain 10 years after the bombing, he became one of Nagasaki’s earliest anti-nuclear activists.

Wada Koichi, an 18-year-old streetcar driver at the time of the bombing, decided to speak out when he held his first grandchild and flashed back to the charred corpse of a baby he’d stepped over as he searched for his missing colleagues.

Do-oh Mineko, then 15, suffered critical injuries to her head and lingered near death for months. Though those injuries eventually healed, radiation exposure had caused all her hair to fall out. For nearly a decade, she hid in her house until her hair finally grew back. As an adult, she kept her identity as a hibakusha secret until, in her late 60s, she found new meaning for her life by telling her story to schoolchildren.

Yoshida Katsuji, only 13, was looking up in the direction of the bomb at the moment it exploded. His entire face was scorched. Years later, as friends and colleagues told their stories publicly, he remained silent, afraid of looks of disgust from audiences due to his disfigurement. He finally began speaking out in his late 60s after deciding that being shy was not a good reason to keep silent when it came to the terrorizing impact of nuclear weapons.

These four and many others dared to cross boundaries in Japanese culture to tell their personal stories of suffering and help others grasp what nuclear war would mean for the world. Unfortunately, most  hibakusha – at least those who were old enough to have vivid memories of the bombing and its aftermath – have died or are reaching the end of their lives. They are the only people capable of telling us first-hand about the experience of nuclear war, and each year their numbers diminish. …………..

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan, PERSONAL STORIES, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Pentagon report on China’s nuclear weapons program, still “significantly below” the U.S.

The Pentagon Believes China Is Likely Developing A Long-Range Nuclear Bomber, Task and Purpose, Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News, January 17, 2019 WASHINGTON — China is likely developing a long-range bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and a space-based early warning system it could use to more quickly respond to an attack, according to a new report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

The development of the bomber, when combined with China’s land-based nuclear weapons program and a deployed submarine with intercontinental ballistic missile technology, would give Beijing a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems similar to the U.S. and Russia, according to the report published Tuesday.

“China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” the report’s author, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, said in the introduction.

The report comes as President Donald Trump’s administration focuses on the potential for “great power” conflict with countries like China and Russia as part of its national defense strategy. It also comes amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, and continuing disputes about China’s posture in the South China Sea.

……… The DIA assessment released Tuesday underscores that China maintains a “no first-use” nuclear policy but adds that there is “some ambiguity, however, over the conditions under which China’s NFU policy would apply.”

Despite a slew of disputes over Taiwan, the South China Sea and global trade, the review also says there is no indication in Chinese military strategic documents that Beijing views war with the U.S. as looming.

Moreover, while China’s defense spending climbed an average of 10 percent per year from 2000 to 2016, total spending remains “significantly below” the U.S., the report said. Spending was about 1.3 percent of gross domestic product from 2014-2018, compared to more than 3 percent of GDP for the U.S. over the same period.

China is trying to strike a balance between expanding its capabilities and reach without “alarming the international community about China’s rise or provoking the United States, its allies and partners, or others in the Asia-Pacific region into military conflict or an anti-China coalition,” the report adds.

Underlying China’s concerns are its view that the U.S.-led security architecture in Asia seeks to constrain its rise and interfere with its sovereignty, particularly in a Taiwan conflict scenario and in the East and South China Seas, said DIA.

The DIA’s observations will likely be used by proponents of the Pentagon’s drive to modernize the U.S. aging nuclear weapons infrastructure over 30 years, an effort that, when operations and support costs are included, could total about $1 trillion……….

January 19, 2019 Posted by | China, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Trump administration’s dangerous strategy of provocation – led by John Bolton

January 19, 2019 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Wind energy ready to supply UK electricity: time to remove the ban on onshore subsidies

Windfarm industry urges UK to lift onshore subsidies ban, Guardian, Adam Vaughan,  @adamvaughan_uk,  19 Jan 2019

Firms say 800 renewable projects ready to plug gap left after Wylfa nuclear plant scrapped  Ministers have been urged to drop their block on subsidies for onshore windfarms, as industry figures showed that nearly 800 renewable projects are ready to plug much of the power gap left by the abandonment of the Wylfa nuclear project.

Hitachi dropped plans for the nuclear plant in Wales this week, raising questions over what would replace it and leading the business secretary, Greg Clark, to admit that renewable energy sources are more competitively priced than nuclear.
The wind industry said if a bar on onshore windfarm subsidies was lifted it would allow the construction of 794 projects which have won consent through the planning system and are ready to build. Together they would generate around 12 terawatt hours of energy a year; two thirds of what Wylfa would have produced.

A dozen firms are behind the schemes, including small players and big names such as Scottish Power, Vattenfall, E.ON, EDF Energy and npower’s owner Innogy. But onshore windfarm installations have stalled since the government banned them from securing subsidies.

Emma Pinchbeck, the executive director of RenewableUK, which compiled the figures, said: “We have ready-to-go onshore wind that can help close the gap between the low carbon power we need and the amount government policy is actually delivering, and this week’s announcement on nuclear power has made this mammoth task even harder.”

But she said the government had “stacked the odds” against building the onshore windfarms needed to hit the UK’s carbon targets, by excluding developers from competing for subsidies in auctions. Only offshore windfarms can compete for state funds currently.

The government’s figures show onshore windfarms are the cheapest source of new electricity generation. The Hinkley Point nuclear project in Somerset won a guaranteed price of £92.50 per megawatt hour, compared with £57.50 for offshore windfarms in the early 2020s. Experts think onshore windfarms could hit around £50 per MWh…….

The Scottish energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, said that after the failure of Hitachi’s projects, it was time for the UK to prioritise onshore windfarms and other renewable technologies over nuclear.

The government’s infrastructure advisers, the National Infrastructure Commission, urged a rethink that would allow onshore windfarms to compete for support…….

January 19, 2019 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Hibakusha and anti-nuclear activists versus the corporate nuclear goliaths 


Ground Zecorporatero Nagasaki: Living the nuclear past – and future, Asia Times, By SUSAN SOUTHARD JANUARY 18, 2019  A David-and-Goliath nuclear world

“………..I returned to Nagasaki in November to participate in the city’s sixth Global Citizens Assembly for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Specifically, I was invited to present on a panel tasked with exploring ways to carry forward the hibakusha stories.

What made the conference unique was the participation of both  hibakusha and other citizens of Nagasaki, including high-school and university students, scholars, activists, artists, musicians, writers and interpreters. All of them were intent on exploring new ways to communicate stories of survival, from August 1945 to now, experiences that should remind us why the vision of a world without nuclear weapons matters.

Both panelists and participants again confronted the intensity of nuclear war. As hibakusha Kado Takashi, 83, prepared to stand before the assembly and tell his story for the very first time, he turned to me and pounded his heart with his hands to show me how terrified he was. Then, summoning his courage, he began to speak.

Yamanishi Sawa, 17, tenderly told her grandmother’s story of survival and her own tale of teenage activism both at her school and in meetings with anti-nuclear activists in Geneva, Switzerland. Everyday citizens adopted the stories of hibakusha no longer with us, using the survivors’ own words to recall the hell – and humanity – of nuclearized Nagasaki.

All of this, and more, reminded us of what those survivors have long known but the rest of the world seldom stops to grasp: that there’s nothing abstract about nuclear war and that nuclear weapons can never be instruments of peace.

They know what the world’s top nuclear physicists (and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists with its doomsday clock) have been telling us for decades: Whether by intentional use, human error, technological failure, or an act of terrorism, our world remains at high risk of a nuclear conflagration that could leave Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the shade. Rather than a great-power war, even a regional nuclear conflict between, say, India and Pakistan could create a planetary “nuclear winter” that might, in the end, kill up to a billion people.

Keep in mind, as these Nagasaki activists do, that today there are nearly 15,000 weapons in the nuclear arsenals of nine countries. Of these, almost 4,000 are actively deployed across the globe. Theoretically, they are meant to deter another country from launching a nuclear attack, but the success of such deterrence policies relies, in part, on both technological invulnerability and relatively rational decision-makers. Need more be said in the age of Trump, Kim Jong Un, and others?

Most important, for nuclear deterrence to work, a nation must be committed to – and believed by other nations to be committed to – the mass murder, injury and irradiation of huge civilian populations. We rarely consider what this really means.

It was difficult to tell an audience like the one in Nagasaki that many Americans still wholeheartedly support both the atomic bombings of Japan and their country’s continuing development of its nuclear arsenal. To mitigate this discouraging truth, I cited something Wada Koichi told me years ago.

Now 91, Wada was inside Nagasaki’s streetcar terminal when the bomb brought the building crashing down on top of him and his coworkers. If you can call anything about surviving nuclear war lucky, he was one of the lucky ones. He suffered only minor injuries and mild radiation sickness, and all of his family members survived.

The rest of them evacuated Nagasaki after the bombing, but he stayed to work, day after day, on rescue and recovery teams. He watched his best friend die, lighting the match to the boy’s makeshift funeral pyre. In November 1945, when seven streetcars resumed operation on a few routes in the city, he drove the fourth one, thrilled to be a part of

Nagasaki’s recovery.

Sixty years after the bombing, Wada would awaken every morning at 5am, open his bedroom window, and look out on to the Urakami Valley, marveling at how the city had been rebuilt from those atomic ruins. “One person can’t do anything,” he told me, “but if many people gather together, they can accomplish unimaginable things. If it’s possible to rebuild this city out of nothing, why isn’t it possible for us to eliminate war and nuclear weapons, to create peace? We can’t not do it!”

Before I left Nagasaki, I visited the hypocenter memorial and looked up into the blue sky at the spot where, I imagined, the atomic bomb had exploded, changing human history forever. I spent 12 years writing  Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, and the stories of that city and its hibakusha remain part of every breath I take.

The hibakusha of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and the other anti-nuclear activists across the globe – including members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in passing the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – are the Davids of our world. They face the Goliaths – those nuclear-weapons states that cling to arsenals capable of destroying humanity.

In the face of such resolute, immensely powerful Goliaths, the Davids are the next generation of energetic, passionate, creative thinkers who single-mindedly refuse to let us forget or rationalize Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and who believe in a world of mutually supported international safety without nuclear weapons.

On behalf of Wada Koichi, all hibakusha past and present, and the entire human race, my bet is on them.

This article appeared previously at TomDispatchRead the original here.


January 19, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Arclight's Vision, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

UK Secretary for Energy reveals the staggering amounts of tax-payer money offered to Hitachi to build nuclear reactors inWales

Jim Green Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia shared a link. 19 Jan 19

UK Secretary (Minister) for energy and business on the staggering subsidies offered to Hitachi to build reactors in Wales … and the project collapsed anyway!

Mr. Speaker, while negotiations were ongoing, I am sure the House will understand that the details were commercially sensitive, but following Hitachi’s announcement I can set out in more candid terms the support that the government was willing to offer in support of the project.

Firstly, the government was willing to consider taking a one third equity stake in the project, alongside investment from Hitachi and Government of Japan agencies and other strategic partners.

Secondly, the government was willing to consider providing all of the required debt financing to complete construction.

Thirdly, the government agreed to consider providing a Contract for Difference to the project with a strike price expected to be no more £75 per megawatt hour.

I hope the House would agree that this is a significant and generous package of potential support that goes beyond what any government has been willing to consider in the past. Despite this potential investment, and strong support from the government of Japan, Hitachi have reached the view that the project still posed too great a commercial challenge, particularly given their desire to deconsolidate the project from their balance sheet and the likely level of return on their investment.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Why the UK government is losing its enthusiasm for nuclear power

Why is the government cooling on nuclear?, BBC News, 17 January 2019

There was a time – not so long ago – that government ministers talked enthusiastically about a new nuclear age. A fleet of brand new reactors producing reliable, low carbon electricity for decades to come. Not only that, but the government wouldn’t be taking any of the risks associated with financing and building them.

Hinkley, Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury, Bradwell and Sizewell were identified as the sites for the most significant national wave of new nuclear power construction anywhere in the world.

Of those six, only one is under construction, three have been abandoned, and two face an uphill battle to get the green light.

Under those circumstances, you might think the government would be embarrassed that its energy policy was in disarray. But it’s not.

The collapse of the Wylfa and Oldbury projects today (following the abandonment of Moorside) is evidence of some new economic realities that have seen government enthusiasm for new nuclear fade.

High price

The first and most obvious is the cost of building the darn things.

At £20bn Hinkley Point is the most expensive UK construction project to date – HS2 will beat it.

The good news is that the UK government isn’t paying a penny of it.

The bad news is that the electricity it will one day produce will be expensive.

EDF, the French contractor that’s paying for its construction, could only raise the money to do it by extracting a guarantee from the UK government that it would receive more than double the current going rate – for 35 years.

That’s one way to finance it. Let EDF raise the money and take the risk but ultimately foist the cost onto future generations of energy customers.

Who pays?

One of the reasons Hinkley is so expensive is that EDF needed to go out and borrow huge sums for a risky project at interest rates of over 9%. In fact, of the total £20bn bill for Hinkley, well over half of it was the cost of raising the money over the lifetime of the project.

The government can borrow money much more cheaply than anyone else. Right now it could get a £20bn 10-year loan at 1.3% and use that money to build the thing itself. There are financial and political problems with that.

First, it adds to the public debt – which successive recent governments have been keen to reduce.

Second, if there are massive cost overruns (and that is almost a rule with nuclear projects), the government foots the spiralling bill, taking commensurate political flak.

Third, if the government is suddenly in the business of building nuclear power stations, why not other things – in fact why not nationalise the infrastructure we have already got? That is not comfortable territory for a Conservative government.

Doing the sums

There is a another way. Pay-as-you-go. Rather than lumber future generations with more expensive energy, get current consumers to pay a little extra on their bills (amount decided by the regulator) during the construction. This removes the need for massive borrowing and means you don’t have to offer a juicy price guarantee to the contractor at the end as a reward for taking the operational and financial risk.

This is the model the government now prefers and is testing on the Thames Tideway project. If Sizewell and Bradwell are ever built – this is how they will be financed.

I say “if” because the truth is, the sums for new nuclear have been made very tough by the sharp falls in the cost of renewables. In 2015, the cost of offshore wind was over £140 per megawatt hour. That makes Hinkley Point look cheap at £92.50. The price of offshore wind is now £57.50…….

January 19, 2019 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment