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Washington now a great place for warmongers

Donald Trump needs to reclaim control over his policy toward Iran.  National Interest, by Paul R. Pillar  22 May 19, The current crisis atmosphere in U.S.-Iranian relations, in which the risk of open warfare appears greater than it has been in years, is solely, unequivocally due to the policies and actions of the Trump administration. To point this out does not mean that actions of the Iranian regime have not come to be part of the crisis atmosphere as well. It instead means that such an atmosphere would never have existed in the first place if the administration had not turned its obsession with Iran into the relentless campaign of stoking hostility and tension that has become one of the single most prominent threads of the administration’s foreign policy.Without that campaign, and without the administration’s assault on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the agreement that restricts Iran’s nuclear program—Iran would continue to comply with its obligations under the JCPOA and all possible paths to an Iranian nuclear weapon would remain closed.

The channels of communication established during negotiation of the JCPOA would continue to be available to address other issues and to defuse any incidents that threatened to escalate into war (as was done during the previous U.S. administration). Whatever Iran has been doing for years in the Middle East, such as assisting Iraq in defeating the Islamic State and assisting its longtime ally in Syria, it would continue to do. In short, there would be no new threat and no crisis.

Some of the current discourse about Iran nonetheless makes it sound not only as if there is something new and threatening but that the Iranian regime is the initiator of the threat. At least seven reasons account for this misconception.

One is the demonization of Iran that is rooted in genuinely nefarious things the Iranian regime did in the past and dates back to when Ted Koppel was talking to Americans every weeknight about U.S. diplomats held hostage in Tehran. Over the years other factors have contributed to the demonization, including domestic American political pressures connected to certain regional rivals of Iran that want to keep it weak and isolated. The result is lasting and pervasive suspicion that colors American perceptions of everything involving Iran, regardless of the facts of whatever is the issue at hand……….

May 23, 2019 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

A devastating threat to the marine ecosystem – the Impact of Ocean Acidification

What Is the Impact of Ocean Acidification?  Ocean acidification could have a massively damaging impact on millions of people all over the world in the coming years and decades, according to a new study from the University of Plymouth. By concentrating on heavily acidified hotspots in Japan and the Mediterranean, the study’s authors claim they can predict what may happen on a global scale if carbon continues to seep into the sea.The study is just latest in a growing body of work from its two authors, who have demonstrated that acidification can have a potentially devastating effect on marine ecosystems, with reefs under particular threat. This not only endangers the coral and oysters which comprise the reefs themselves, but also the myriad fish, crustaceans and other marine organisms which call them home.

What is ocean acidification?

Ocean acidification can be defined by a fall in pH levels in the water, caused primarily by carbon seeping into their vicinity. This can be caused naturally by volcanic fissures, such as at the two sites monitored by the study’s authors, but is becoming more and more commonplace through anthropomorphic activity, given that we release around a million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every hour.

Roughly one quarter of that amount finds its way into the ocean and dissolves; once that happens, it reacts with the salty seawater to create a weak acidic substance. This causes surface ocean water to experience a fall in pH levels of approximately 0.002 units per year. That might not sound like much, but cumulatively it could have a sizable impact on the harmony of the water upon which so many marine creatures depend to survive and thrive.

Reefs at risk

The warming temperatures of the world’s oceans have already done significant damage to marine reefs; one only need to look at what’s happened to the Great Barrier reef for confirmation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the acidification studied by Professor Jason Hall-Spencer and Dr Ben Harvey has been found to further jeopardise their longevity, especially for those composed of oysters or corals, which are particularly sensitive to the acidic effect.

The degradation of reefs not only spells trouble for the corals themselves, but also for the more than 25% of all marine animals which use them as a habitat. As well as being a hammer blow for biodiversity, this could also deplete stocks of many varieties of fish and shellfish which are popular for human consumption. Finally, reefs also provide an important breakwater for coastal communities; losing them would mean reduced protection against extreme weather events at sea.

What can be done?

In a world in which our seas and oceans are already suffering from myriad different problems, such as plastic pollution, dangerous blue green algae, habitat disruption from shipping, oil spills and many more, the last thing that the Earth’s waterways need right now is another threat in the form of increased oceanic temperatures and acidification. As a result, the lead author of the study Professor Hall-Spencer has called for immediate action.

“The Paris Agreement on climate change was welcome, but it does not mention ocean acidification, nor the fact that this rapid change in surface ocean chemistry undermines the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development,” he remarked. “The time is ripe for a ‘Paris Agreement for the oceans’, with the specific target to minimise and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels.”


May 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, oceans | 2 Comments

Danger in foreign workers at Fukushim nuclear clean-up – Tepco abandons plans for them

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

How the nuclear industry abuses tax-payers’ subsidies

May 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

New nuclear power is not competitive, and not a viable way to deal with climate change

May 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Ecuador will hand over Julian Assange’s entire legal defense to the United States

  1. Ecuador to hand over Assange’s entire legal defense to the United States  20 May 2019

Three weeks before the U.S. deadline to file its final extradition request for Assange, Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow U.S. prosecutors to help themselves to Assange’s belongings.

Neither Julian Assange nor U.N. officials have been permitted to be present when Ecuadorian officials arrive to Ecuador’s embassy in London on Monday morning.

The chain of custody has already been broken. Assange’s lawyers will not be present at the illegal seizure of his property, which has been “requested by the authorities of the United States of America”.

The material includes two of his manuscripts, as well as his legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment. The seizure of his belongings violates laws that protect medical and legal confidentiality and press protections.

The seizure is formally listed as “International Assistance in Criminal matters 376-2018-WTT requested by the authorities of the United States of America”. The reference number of the legal papers indicates that Ecuador’s formal cooperation with the United States was initiated in 2018.

Since the day of his arrest on 11 April 2019, Mr. Assange’s lawyers and the Australian consul have made dozens of documented demands to the embassy of Ecuador for the release and return of his belongings, without response. Continue reading

May 23, 2019 Posted by | civil liberties, SOUTH AMERICA, USA | Leave a comment

Responsible journalism would be covering the climate chaos like we did the start of the second world war

What if we covered the climate crisis like we did the start of the second world war?  In the war, the purpose of journalism was to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it. We must approach our climate crisis the same way

I have been asked to bring this gathering to a close by summing up how we can do better at covering the possible “collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world,” to quote the noted environmentalist David Attenborough, speaking at the recent United Nations climate summit in Poland.

I don’t come with a silver bullet ……

Many of us have recognized that our coverage of global warming has fallen short. There’s been some excellent reporting by independent journalists and by enterprising reporters and photographers from legacy newspapers and other news outlets. But the Goliaths of the US news media, those with the biggest amplifiers—the corporate broadcast networks—have been shamelessly AWOL, despite their extraordinary profits. The combined coverage of climate change by the three major networks and Fox fell from just 260 minutes in 2017 to a mere 142 minutes in 2018—a drop of 45%, reported the watchdog group Media Matters.

Meanwhile, about 1,300 communities across the United States have totally lost news coverage, many from newspaper mergers and closures, according to the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism. Hundreds of others are still standing only as “ghost newspapers.” They no longer have resources for even local reporting, much less for climate change. ……

he networks put their reporters out in raincoats or standing behind police barriers as flames consume far hills. Yet we rarely hear the words “global warming” or “climate disruption” in their reports. The big backstory of rising CO2 levels, escalating drought, collateral damage, cause and effect, and politicians on the take from fossil-fuel companies? Forget all that. Not good for ratings, say network executives.

But last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientifically conservative body, gave us 12 years to make massive changes to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels and to net zero by 2050. On his indispensable site,, Tom Engelhardt writes that humanity is now on a suicide watch.

Soon, some of you will be traveling to the ends of the earth to report on this Great Disruption. To Indonesia, where oil-palm growers and commodities companies are stripping away forests vital to carbon storage. To the Amazon, where President Bolsonaro’s government plans to open indigenous reserves to industrial exploitation, threatening the lungs of the Earth. To India, where President Modi pretends to be an environmentalist even as he embraces destructive development. To China, where President Xi’s Belt and Road initiative, the biggest transportation-infrastructure program in the history of the world, threatens disaster for earth systems. You will go to the Arctic and the Antarctic to report on melting ice, and to the shores of African cities, Pacific atolls, and poor Miami neighborhoods being swallowed by rising oceans. And to Nebraska, and Iowa, and Kansas, and Missouri, where this spring’s crop is despair as farmers and their families grieve their losses.

And some of you will go to Washington, to report on the madness—yes, I said madness—of a US government that scorns reality as fake news, denies the truths of nature, and embraces a theocratic theology that welcomes catastrophe as a sign of the returning Messiah.

Madness! Superstition! Destruction and death.

Can we get this story right? Can we tell it whole? Can we connect the dots and inspire people with the possibility of change?

What’s journalism for? Really, in the war, what was journalism for, except to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it?

Here’s the good news: While describing David Wallace-Wells’s stunning new book The Uninhabitable Earth as a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet, The New York Times reports it also offers hope. Wallace-Wells says that “We have all the tools we need…to aggressively phase out dirty energy…”; [cut] global emissions…[and] scrub carbon from the atmosphere…. [There are] ‘obvious’ and ‘available,’ [if costly,] solutions.”

What we need, he adds, is the “acceptance of responsibility.”
Our responsibility as journalists is to tell the story so people get it……..


May 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, media | 1 Comment

Companies like Holtec planning to make $billions by a quick fix for nuclear wastes

Companies are buying defunct nuclear reactors, planning to demolish them quickly BOB SALSBERG, 22 May 19 Companies specializing in the handling of radioactive material are buying retired U.S. nuclear reactors from utilities and promising to clean them up and demolish them in dramatically less time than usual — eight years instead of 60, in some cases.

Turning nuclear plants over to outside companies and decommissioning them on such a fast track represents a completely new approach in the United States, never before carried to completion in this country, and involves new technology as well.

Supporters say the accelerated method can get rid of a hazard more quickly and return the land to productive use sooner. But regulators, activists and others question whether the rapid timetables are safe and whether the companies have the expertise and the financial means to do the job.

We were up in arms that it was 60 years,” Janet Tauro, head of the environmental group New Jersey Clean Water Action, said of the initial plans for decommissioning the Oyster Creek plant in Forked River, N.J. “And then we hear it’s going to be expedited to eight years. It’s great to get it over with, but are there corners that are going to be cut?”

Once a reactor is shut down, the radioactive mess must be cleaned up, spent nuclear fuel packed for long-term storage and the plant itself dismantled. The most common approach can last decades, with the plant placed in a long period of dormancy while radioactive elements slowly decay.

Spent fuel rods that can no longer sustain a nuclear reaction remain radioactive and still generate substantial heat. They are typically placed in pools of water to cool, staying there at least five years, with 10 years the industry norm, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. After that, they are removed and placed in giant cylindrical casks, typically made of steel and encased in concrete.

But Holtec International, which in the last year has been buying up several retired or soon-to-be-retired nuclear plants in the United States, has designed a cask it says can accept spent fuel after only two years of cooling.

Holtec, a corporation with more than 30 years of experience in handling radioactive waste, struck a deal last year to buy the Oyster Creek plant.

It also has deals in place to buy several plants owned by Entergy Corp., including Pilgrim, in historic Plymouth, Mass., closing May 31; Palisades, in Covert, Mich., set to shut down in 2022; and two reactors expected to close within two years in Buchanan, N.Y.

Our commitment to the nuclear industry includes taking ownership of shut-down nuclear plants so that we can safely and efficiently decommission the plants so that the land can be returned to productive use,” Holtec spokeswoman Joy Russell said in an email.

The proposed sales await NRC approval, with decisions expected in the coming weeks and months.

Similarly, in January, NorthStar Group Services, a specialist in nuclear demolition, completed the purchase of Vermont Yankee from Entergy with plans for its accelerated decommissioning.

The full financial details of the pending deals have not been disclosed. But if the agreements are approved, Holtec will inherit the multibillion-dollar decommissioning trust funds set up by the utilities for the plants’ eventual retirement.

The company could keep anything left over in each fund after the plant’s cleanup. Holtec and Northstar are also banking on the prospect of recouping money from the federal government for storing spent fuel during and after the decommissioning, because there is no national disposal site for high-level nuclear waste.

The companies jumping into the business believe they can make a profit. For the utilities, such deals free them from having to oversee long, complex projects involving decades of work and round-the-clock guarding of the dangerous waste.

While there are risks in transferring spent fuel too quickly, experts also note there are dangers while the fuel rods are sitting in the pools, including the chances of a catastrophic fire or leak resulting from a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other event.

There’s a natural tendency to say, ‘Oh, they’re doing it fast, they’re going to make mistakes, it’s not going to be safe,’” said Rod McCullum, senior director of decommissioning and used fuel at the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington-based advocacy group for nuclear power. “You’re actually getting safer by getting faster.”

In legal briefs filed with the NRC, however, Massachusetts state officials have expressed skepticism about Holtec’s plan to decommission Pilgrim on an expedited schedule “never before achieved.” Holtec has never managed a decommissioning start to finish.

Holtec has come under scrutiny over its role in a mishap last August during the somewhat less aggressive decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northwestern edge of San Diego County, where two reactors were retired in 2013 and the estimated completion date is 2030.

Holtec contractors were lowering a 45-ton spent fuel cask into an underground storage vault at San Onofre when it became misaligned and nearly plunged 18 feet, investigators said. No radiation was released.

Federal regulators fined Southern California Edison, the plant’s owner, $116,000, and an investigation found that some Holtec procedures had been inadequate or not properly followed.

Massachusetts officials have stopped short of asking the NRC to block Pilgrim’s sale but have cited the San Onofre incident while questioning whether the money in Pilgrim’s decommissioning trust fund is sufficient to cover unexpected delays or overruns.

By Holtec’s accounting, the Pilgrim decommissioning will cost an estimated $1.13 billion, leaving $3.6 million in the fund. State officials have described that cushion as “meager” and have warned of “significant health, safety, environmental, financial and economic risks.”

Holtec said its equipment has never been involved in a major accident and stands by its cost estimates.

Pilgrim, which is along scenic, environmentally sensitive Cape Cod Bay and is being retired after 47 years, has a history of unscheduled shutdowns and was only recently removed from an NRC list of the nation’s least safe reactors.

The citizen group Pilgrim Watch, which has long pushed for the closing of the plant, is leery of what lies ahead during the decommissioning.

The story isn’t over. There’s a sequel,” said Mary Lampert, the organization’s director. “And sometimes the sequel, like in the movies, is worse than the main show.”

May 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA, wastes | 1 Comment

Hibakusha: Nagasaki activist, 79, looks to entrust nuclear movement to next generation

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Japan, opposition to nuclear, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nothing to stop angry, entitled Donald Trump, from making a nuclear attack


As president of the United States, Trump has absolute authority to launch nuclear weapons – without anyone else’s consent. In the past, it was taken for granted that the president would follow an established protocol that included consultation with the military, his cabinet, and others before taking such a grave step, but Trump is not legally bound to these procedures. Presidential launch authority is a matter of directive and precedent rather than specific law.

Trump’s bravado, penchant for inflated rhetoric, and impulsive decision-making style—including catching his leadership off guard by informing them of policy directives via tweet—have stoked old fears about placing the authority to launch in the wrong hands. So has his constant violation of once cherished presidential norms, including refusing to make public his tax returns and failing to read his daily intelligence brief.

Debates about launch authority have always been intimately bound up with whether we consider nukes’ function to be primarily military or political. Nuclear weapons are so destructive that, since the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even the explicit threat of their use has been sparing. They have been used as political deterrents and levers, instead of direct weapons of war.

Reserving launch authority for the president was a key way to emphasize the political nature of the nuclear mission.

Historians trace the precedent of presidential launch authority to President Harry Truman’s decision to check his generals’ use of nuclear weapons.

After destroying  Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they planned to bomb a third Japanese city, but Truman forbade them to carry out the attack without his express consent and ultimately decided against it. According to Truman’s commerce secretary, Henry Wallace, the president thought killing “another 100,000 people was too horrible.” By assuming personal responsibility for the launch order, Truman started a tradition of differentiating this new technology from conventional weapons.

Reserving launch authority for the president not only underscored the special status of nuclear weapons as a political asset, but it also took them out of the hands of the generals—men like Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay was a laconic man’s man, known for his ruthlessness and impolitic statements. During World War II, he directed the firebombing of 63 Japanese cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It was LeMay who relayed the orders for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and later, as the head of Strategic Air Command (SAC), oversaw the war plans for an all-out nuclear attack against the Soviet Union. LeMay had no patience for subordinating operational effectiveness to moral concerns, or what he referred to as an American “phobia” against the use of nuclear weapons.

LeMay resented the fact that SAC was subject to presidential launch authority. According to the historian Richard Rhodes, he had his own launch plans, ignoring national policy. While LeMay continued to believe that the United States could obliterate the Soviet Union while minimizing its own losses, in the civilian world ideas about the use of nuclear weapons were evolving. A new breed of defense intellectual was pushing the idea that the primary purpose of nuclear weapons was not to decimate U.S. adversaries but to prevent such weapons being used at all. Anchored in a game theoretic approach, these intellectuals assumed that the holders of nuclear weapons would be rational and that what each side believed about the other—credibility—was central to deterring nuclear use.

Robert McNamara, who served as President John F. Kennedy’s defense secretary, was emblematic of this new approach and responsible for introducing this new breed of defense intellectual into the Pentagon. …….

Where LeMay’s approach openly celebrated slaughter, McNamara’s bloodlessness could lead to just as much destruction. The fact that teams of scientists provided mathematical justifications for the Cold War buildup in nuclear arms did not make the possibility of their use any less brutal……….

McNamara’s approach prevailed—not only politically but culturally. The 1964 movie Dr. Strangelove rejected LeMay’s approach to nuclear weapons. The cigar-chomping Gen. Jack D. Ripper is portrayed as insane, his paranoia leading him to release an airborne nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Maj. T.J. “King” Kong rides the bomb down, brandishing his cowboy hat.

LeMay and McNamara not only represent two different approaches to nuclear strategy but two different ideals of masculinity.  The election of Trump has reversed the usual stereotypes of generals and civilians. In the Trump White House, generals like H.R. McMaster and James Mattis inspired confidence in their respect for social norms and display of restraint, while Trump represents the rejected LeMay model of masculinity—without the virtues of actual service and endurance that LeMay also exemplified.

Trump’s personal manner is like LeMay’s—belligerent, inarticulate, refusing meaningful discussion, and deflecting criticism. And, like LeMay, his statements about nuclear weapons prioritize use over doctrine………

Trump’s focus on the individual, the leader is not just narcissistic but also deeply patriarchal. For Trump’s supporters, it is precisely the hope that Trump might “make America great again” by restoring their social world to its “natural” order, one in which the (white) man’s home is once again his castle. His masculine bravado and willingness to eschew social norms in favor of social aggression and emotional combativeness are his attractive qualities, but it is precisely these characteristics that lead to senseless and irrational conflicts—conflicts that could quickly become global catastrophes in the nuclear era. These days Trump not only brags about grabbing women by the pussy but also boasts about how his nuclear button is bigger than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s………..
Would Trump be willing to use nuclear weapons? That’s unknowable—but he certainly doesn’t need your, or anyone else’s, consent to do it.
Anne Harrington is a Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University.
Cheryl Rofer writes scientific and political commentary. She was a chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for 35 years.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Renewable energy, replacing nuclear plans with solar, is the obvious way forward for Jordan

Since renewable sources of energy are getting more promising in the country, and domestic gas production has risen, it is time to close the door on nuclear projects and rely more on other sources of energy.

Replace nuclear with renewables May 22,2019  Head of the Lower House’s Energy and Mineral Resources Committee Haytham Ziadin raised recently, and rightly so, the viability of the plan to build a nuclear plant to satisfy the energy needs of the country. Ziadin went as far as calling for ending altogether all plans to build such a plant, and called them simply as squandering of badly-needed funds.


The comments of the head of the Lower Houses’ Energy and Mineral Resources Committee must be seen against the backdrop of an earlier ambitious plan to construct a huge nuclear plant, by signing first an agreement to do so with Russia’s Rosaton agency in 2015 for this purpose that would cost $10 billion at a time when the country is dry of funds and nearly broke! The defunct nuclear plant project would have generated only 2,000 Megawatts of electricity anyway. The cancelled deal was replaced by a less ambitious project to build smaller nuclear reactors.

In retrospect though, the idea to go nuclear in the country was marred with strong objections from several well-informed sources in the country, which raised the spectrum of its safety and the non-availability of sufficient amounts of water anywhere in the country for cooling purpose.

The economic feasibility of any such project was always on the minds of various shades of opinion on a national nuclear plant. When Aqaba was dropped as a site for this purpose due to strong objections from different circles, the sponsors of the nuclear plant project shifted their attention to other regions of the country, despite the fact that water resources are scant and the country can ill-afford depleting whatever is left of precious water on a dubious nuclear plant.

An increasing number of developed countries with a wide experience in nuclear energy have begun to phase out nuclear energy plants for safety reasons, among them Germany, so why would Jordan opt to go the other way?

When all is considered, the limited financial resources available to the country, in addition to rising safety hazards associated with nuclear plants, Ziadin and like-minded cautious people are right in objecting to the construction of even small nuclear reactors.

According to the Minister of Energy and Minerals Resources Hala Zawati, the country is now producing 11 per cent of our electricity by renewable energy sources and is projected to produce no less than 20 per cent of its energy needs by solar and wind sources of energy by 2021.

On balance, whatever benefits that nuclear plants may have for Jordan, they are outweighed by lack of financial resources, high safety risks associated with nuclear plants, shortage of water resources in all parts of the country and the lack of an appropriate geographic area for any such nuclear project.

Since renewable sources of energy are getting more promising in the country, and domestic gas production has risen, it is time to close the door on nuclear projects and rely more on other sources of energy.


May 23, 2019 Posted by | Jordan, renewable | Leave a comment

UN arms research c hief warns that nuclear war risk is at highest since WWII

May 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Funding for Yucca nuclear waste dump rejected in U.S. Congress House committee

May 23, 2019 Posted by | politics, wastes | 1 Comment

New research into plutonium workers’ internal radiation exposure.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | - plutonium, employment, Reference, UK | 1 Comment

Risky incident at South Korean nuclear reactor

Hankyoreh 21st May 2019 According to South Korea’s nuclear power regulator, a nuclear reactor whose thermal output exceeded safety limits was kept running for nearly 12
hours when it should have been shut down manually at once.
Furthermore, the regulator said, an individual who wasn’t licensed to operate the reactor
was holding the control rods, which regulate the reactor’s output, at the
time. A continuing increase in output could have led to a thermal runaway,
potentially causing the reactor to explode.

May 23, 2019 Posted by | incidents, South Korea | Leave a comment