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America’s choice – stop the nuclear weapons obsession, or take the road to extinction

HELEN CALDICOTT: Our nuclear arms obsession is a countdown to extinction,13408, By Helen Caldicott | 14 December 2019  America could lead the way in reallocating its arms budget towards fixing the planet’s problems, writes Dr Helen Caldicott.

I WRITE THIS PIECE as a physician expertly trained to make accurate diagnoses to either cure the patient or to alleviate their symptoms.

I, therefore, approach the viability of life on Earth from a similar and honest perspective. Hence, for some, this may be an extremely provocative article but as the planet is in the intensive care unit, we have no time to waste and the startling truth must be accepted.

As TS Elliott wrote so long ago, ‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper’.

Will we gradually burn and shrivel the wondrous creation of evolution by emitting the ancient carbon stored over billions of years to drive our cars and to power our industries, or will we end it suddenly with our monstrous weapons within which have captured the energy powering the sun?

Here’s the stark diagnosis from a U.S. perspective.

The Department of Defence has nothing to do with defence, because it is, in effect, the Department of War. Over one trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money is stolen annually to create and build the most hideous weapons of death and destruction, even to launch killing machines from space.

And since 9/11, six trillion dollars have been allotted to the slaughter of over half a million people, almost all of whom were civilians — men, women and children.

Brilliant people, mostly men, are employed by the massive military-industrial corporations – Lockheed MartinBoeingBAEUnited Technologies, to name a few – deploying their brainpower to devise better and more hideous ways of killing.

From an unbiased perspective, the only true terrorists today are Russia and the United States of America, both of which have several thousand hydrogen bombs larger by orders of magnitude than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched with a press of a button in the U.S. by the President.

This so-called nuclear “exchange” would take little over one hour to complete. As in Japan, people would be seared to bundles of smoking char as their internal organs boiled away and, over time, the global environment would be plunged into another ice age called “nuclear winter”, annihilating almost all living organisms over time, including ourselves.

But the stark truth is that the United States of America has no enemies. Russia, once a sworn communist power is now a major capitalist country and the so-called “war on terror” is just an excuse to keep this massive killing enterprise alive and well.

Donald Trump is right when he says we need to make friends with the Russians because it’s the Russian bombs that could and might annihilate America. Indeed, we need to foster friendship with all nations throughout the planet and reinvest the billions and trillions of dollars spent on war, killing and death to saving the ecosphere by powering the world with renewable energy including solar, wind and geothermal and planting trillions of trees.

Such a move would also free up billions of dollars to be reallocated to life such as free medical care for all U.S. citizens, free education for all, to house the homeless, to hospitalise the mentally sick, to register all citizens to vote and to invest in the abolition of nuclear weapons.

The United States of America urgently needs to rise to its full moral and spiritual height and lead the world to sanity and survival. I know this is possible because, in the 1980s, millions of wonderful people rose up nationally and internationally to end the nuclear arms race and to end the Cold War.

This, then, is the sound template upon which we must act. You can follow Dr Caldicott on Twitter @DrHCaldicott. Click here for Dr Caldicott’s complete curriculum vitae.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Nuclear cost and water consumption – The elephants in the control room

Nuclear cost and water consumption – The elephants in the control room, Open Peter Farley | December 20, 2019 
Cost  There are four nuclear plants being built around the world where public information on costs is reasonably reliable.

These are Plant Vogtle in the US (US$27.5bn, 2.2GW), Framanville France (12.4bn+, 1.6 GW), Olkiluoto in Finland (around €10 bn+, 1.6 GW) and Hinckley Point in the UK (₤22 bn+, 3.2 GW).

There are two further plants whose power costs have been published, Akkuyu in Turkey US$127/MWh and Barakah in the Emirates US$110/MWh.

It should be emphasised that none of these costs are the full cost recovery. For example in the British case it is estimated that some $10 bn has been spent by others on upgrading the grid and backup power supplies. In Turkey the cost of the plant is just that, and doesn’t include civil works, grid connections, cooling water supply.

In the US plant Vogtle has benefited from some US$8bn of federal government loan guarantees and an unusual form of financing where customers have paid about 8% premium on their bills for 10-12 years before the plant is to be commissioned.

All of the plants get catastrophe insurance and some security from their government and most have inadequate bond structures for long term waste storage. They also rarely pay for cooling water. Many have preferential supply agreements which will require other cheaper sources of power to turn off to allow the nuclear plants to keep running.

However, even on the published information, nuclear power plants in democracies are running at about A$13m/MW………

 “…..Cooling Water

A key issue with nuclear plants is cooling. Because of the cost of shutdowns and the degradation of materials by irradiation, the plants are designed to run at lower peak temperatures (260-320 C) than coal (500-670 C), gas turbines (1,300-1430C) or internal combustion plants (2,000 C).

The thermal efficiency of a plant is directly related to the difference between the peak temperature and the cooling medium – what is termed Carnot efficiency.

Lower temperature means lower efficiency, as less of the heat energy is converted into work and more is removed by the cooling system. So for a given amount of electrical energy delivered, more cooling is required in a nuclear plant. Furthermore the warmer the cooling water or air the more coolant is required.

Thus the Barrakah plants require 100 tonnes of Gulf seawater per second for each generator. In higher latitudes with seawater temperatures in the range of 2-12C, water requirements can still be 40-60 tonnes per second per GW…….

It is enough to change the local environment for all sea life, so finding a suitabable site is very difficult. There are currently no nuclear plants operating using warm seawater for cooling although Barrakah is soon to be commissioned.

The problem there is not just the temperature but the accelerated rates of corrosion and biofouling which will mean the heat exchangers need to be larger, pumping losses will be higher and maintenance bills higher still…..

On land in very cold climates, a small number of air cooled plants have been built but the offset is that about 5% of the output of the power plant is used to run the fans. However in warm climates it is virtually impossible to run an air cooled nuclear power plant……

A closer look at Barrakah

There are a range of risks with all nuclear designs, but the business risks assoctiated with the Barrakah style APR 1400 seem even larger than most.

The Barrakah plants were supposed to progressively come on line in early 2017 but they have yet to generate powerThis delay is adding US$1.2-2 bn per year to the eventual liabilities that have to be paid off.

They are designed for an 18 month refueling cycle – unlike the AP1000 at plant Vogtle which has a 3 year refueling cycle. This means lower lifetime capacity factors and higher backup requirements with gas or pumped hydro. The design goal is 90% availability.

They have largely been built with very low finance costs from both Korea and the Emirates together with cheap expat Indian and Pakistani labour which significantly understates their real cost of construction.

The Barrakah plant is a 4 unit plant, which allows useful economies of scale, and there is nowhere in Australia where a 4 unit plant can safely be intergrated into the grid.

Recent problems with the single unit 750MW Kogan Creek generator in Queensland have shown that the grid can be destabilised with the failure of a single unit.  As demand is gradually falling, a single unit of that magnitude is even harder to manage. The APR 1400 units are 1,350-1,400 MW so would be even more difficult to integrate into the grid.

These reactors have not yet been shown to work in a hot environment so their reliability is unknown, in fact there is only one other reactor of this type operating in the world with two more under construction.

The Moorside project in the UK which was to use KEPCO designs has been abandoned and plans for two more units in Korea have been frozen. KEPCO was offered all the development work already done on the Oldbury and Wyfla plants in the UK and did not take them up.

These plants came with billions of pounds worth of development work already done, project teams and permits in place and an offer from the UK government of a guaranteed ₤75/MWh + inflation for 25+ years.

There is a reasonably held belief that the price was artificially supported by the previous Korean government which viewed nuclear technology as a new export industry and this project as a flagship demonstrator. In contrast the current Korean government was elected on an anti-nuclear program and has pledged to build no more plants after the current two units under construction are completed.

There are some doubts about the level of safety in the design and a new design, APR1400+ was developed to reduce the possibility of a melt down. However no plants of this design have been ordered. So which one would you choose?

December 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, environment | Leave a comment

5.1 magnitude earthquake near Iran nuclear power plant

Magnitude 5.1 earthquake strikes Iran near nuclear power plant

By Ben Westcott and Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN, December 27, 2019  A 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Iran early Friday morning in a region which houses the country’s first nuclear power plant.
The quake occurred just after 5 a.m. local time, 44 kilometers (27 miles) southeast of the city of Borazjan in Bushehr province, at a depth of 38.3 kilometers (23.7 miles), according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
The Bushehr nuclear plant is located on the Iranian coastline to the southwest of Borazjan, not far from the epicenter of the earthquake.
Opened in August 2010, Bushehr is not only Iran’s first nuclear plant but the first civilian reactor in the Middle East.
So far there has been no official word on whether or not the plant was damaged by the earthquake.

History of deadly quakes

Iran is no stranger to tectonic activity. The country sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates and has experienced many earthquakes in the past…….

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Iran, safety | Leave a comment

Further delay in removal of spent nuclear fuel at Fukushima No. 1

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Goats irradiated in 1950s now pose possible environmental danger in Berkshire, UK

Contamination in Berkshire, Berkshire Live 21st Dec 2019, Goats injected with radioactive chemicals could be buried in Berkshire. The
animals, said to have been experimented on in the 1950s and 60s, could now
be buried on land in Shinfield.

Those living nearby have raised concerns
after learning scientists at the University of Reading injected the goats
with radioactive isotopes. The experiments were said to have been looking
into how radiation affected milk and metabolism.

It formed part of research
into milk production and the dairy industry, by The National Institute for
Research in Dairying (NIRD), based in Shinfield and closed in 1985. The
goats were apparently ‘famous in folklore’, according to one American
professor, Margaret Neville. Burying dead livestock is now banned to stop
the spread of disease. But before the 2003 ban, farmers would reportedly
often bury dead animals in pits on their own land.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Hawaii’s law-makers very worried about the nuclear coffin at the Marshall Islands

How A Nuclear Waste Site 2,800 Miles Away Became A Hawaii Priority

The Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands is cracked and in danger of spilling its radioactive contents into the Pacific Ocean.  By Nick Grube    / December 26, 2019  WASHINGTON — A concrete dome built decades ago by the U.S. government on a Marshall Islands atoll 2,800 miles from Hawaii has the state’s federal lawmakers worried.

The Runit Dome is a relic of America’s atomic past. It’s home to 3 million cubic feet of radioactive waste that was buried there as part of the government’s effort to clean up the mess left from dozens of nuclear tests in the 1940s and ’50s that decimated the atoll.

A warming climate and rising sea levels now threaten the integrity of the saucer-shaped structure, which, if it fails, could spill its radioactive contents into the Pacific, a scenario that would threaten both people and the surrounding environment.

Members of Hawaii’s federal delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, recently secured a provision in the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act to study what it would take to repair the dome.

It was among the top priorities for Hawaii, at least in the House. Hawaii Congressman Ed Case, who is a founder of the Pacific Islands Caucus, said the Runit Dome is of critical importance, not only for the islands but the U.S. as a whole.

“This is a concern on a number of levels,” Case said. “The basic one being: Is the Runit Dome capable, especially in a time of rising sea levels, of containing the very deadly radioactive waste that we deposited into that dome? The short answer is we’re not sure.”

Columbia University researchers published a study in July that found that the amount of radiation on Enewetak atoll, where the dome is located, and other parts of the Marshall Islands rival what’s been detected around Chernobyl and Fukushima, two locations synonymous with nuclear catastrophe.

The NDAA provision calls on the Secretary of Energy to submit a report to Congress within 180 days that includes a detailed plan to repair the Runit Dome and ensure that it “does not have any harmful effects to the local population, environment, or wildlife.”

The report should include an assessment of the current structure, cost analysis for the repair and a summary of discussions between the U.S. government and Marshall Islands regarding the dome.

In addition, the report will analyze how rising sea levels will affect the ability of the dome to contain the radioactive contents.

Case said the U.S. has an obligation to the Marshall Islands to at least analyze whether the Runit Dome is in danger of failure after it absolved itself of any responsibility through the execution of a Compact of Free Association, a treaty that effectively settled any claims related to past nuclear testing.

“The Marshall Islands obviously does not have the financial or human resources or expertise to effectively manage any issues that might be arising at the Runit Dome,” Case said.

“I think we owe it not only to the Marshalls but to the other islands of the Pacific to be sure we’re comfortable with what’s happening there, and, if we’re not comfortable with it, to determine what exactly we need to do to secure that waste.”

Case’s concerns about being a good ally come as the U.S. attempts to renegotiate its Compacts of Free Association with the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

The compacts give the U.S. military control over the countries’ land, airspace and surrounding waters, and are strategically important to American interests, especially as China tries to exert more influence in the region.

Gabbard did not respond to a Civil Beat request for an interview about the NDAA or the Runit Dome.

In June, Gabbard issued a press release stating that she was successful in including the provision for a public study in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA.

She also noted that she was a co-sponsor of legislation named after former Hawaii Congressman Mark Takai that aimed to make it easier for veterans involved in the clean-up at Enewetak atoll to seek treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Takai died in 2016 of cancer.

“The Marshallese people are gravely concerned about environmental threats to the integrity of the storage site and the impact on their country,” Gabbard said in the statement. “The U.S. government is responsible for this storage site and must ensure the protection of the people and our environment from the toxic waste stored there.”

December 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress Demands Investigation Into the U.S.’s Nuclear Coffin, The Runit Dome

December 28, 2019 Posted by | OCEANIA, oceans, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia deploys first hypersonic missiles

Guardian, 28 Dec 19, Avangard capable of carrying 2-megaton nuclear weapon at 27 times the speed of sound

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own.

The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are.

The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept…….

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

European Union split on nuclear energy, but manages a draft Green Finance deal.

Green-finance deal survives EU split on nuclear energy. European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde has underlined the importance of the reform, with sustainable finance deals reaching one half a trillion dollars in 2018.

But the long-standing disagreement over nuclear energy has undermined the EU’s efforts to cut greenhouse emissions, with a promise last week by EU leaders for carbon neutrality by 2050 nearly scuppered by a feud over atomic energy. 23 Dec 19, EU negotiators have been struggling for weeks to finalise a harmonised classification system for green finance in Europe that could decide the fate of hundreds of billions of euros in investment.

The lobbying frenzy in Brussels over the new EU norm has been immense, with soon to Brexit Britain also making its voice heard while protecting the interests of the City of London financial hub.

“This is a historic moment… the much-needed enabler to get green investments to flow and help Europe reach climate neutrality by 2050,” said EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis.

Late on Monday, EU lawmakers approved an offer by member states that delayed the nuclear question – as well as the role of natural gas cherished by Berlin – until the end of 2021.

“I am fully aware that the nuclear problem will return in two years’ time. We pushed back the matter,” said the chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, French centrist MEP Pascal Canfin.

“The risk was to take the whole classification hostage,” he added.

Ever since the European Commission’s proposal was put on the table in May 2018, nuclear energy has been the subject of a huge fight between its supporters, led by France and backed by Eastern European countries.

But opponents of nuclear power – such as Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Greece – have refused to back down, with domestic opinion fearing atomic energy disasters, such as Fukushima or Chernobyl.

The compromise suggested by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, was reached with MEPs behind closed doors and needs final approval by member states envoys on Wednesday.

Once approved, the European Commission will then have two years to draw up detailed lists of sectors eligible for a Green finance label, based on the criteria.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment

Germany’s next nuclear reactor closure on December 31st

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Germany, politics | Leave a comment

Ionising radiation damages brain connections

December 28, 2019 Posted by | radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Seafloor mapping reveals the degradation of ocean floor by Bikini nuclear bomb tests

Bikini Seafloor Hides Evidence of Nuclear Explosions,  Seafloor mapping has revealed a crater and several shipwrecks persisting 73 years after the world’s first underwater nuclear test.  Eos,  Amanda Heidt  28 Dec 19

Seventy-three years after serving as the site of the world’s first underwater nuclear test, the seafloor around the Bikini Atoll remains scarred by finely detailed craters and littered with derelict ships.

Today, an interdisciplinary team of scientists is using sonar to assess the complex submarine environment. The results provide a sobering assessment of humanity’s capacity to alter nature…..

Unleashing the Power of the Atom

In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. Navy chose the Bikini Atoll for a series of controlled nuclear explosions. Between 1946 and 1958, 23 confirmed tests were conducted throughout the area.

Trembanis and his team studied Able and Baker, a pair of tests conducted in July 1946 as part of Operation Crossroads. Both Able and Baker involved plutonium fission bombs with a yield of between 21 and 23 kilotons, but they were deployed differently……….

Clustering around a laptop, Trembanis and his team witnessed the real-time rendering of an underwater crater more than 800 meters across—big enough to fit three Roman Colosseums. ….

Littered throughout the atoll are the husks of strategically placed ships—decommissioned dreadnaughts, aircraft carriers, and submarines meant to bear the brunt of the Able and Baker explosions. …..

Even independent of their place in nuclear history, the Pilotfish and other Bikini shipwrecks attest to the long-lived effects of human activities on the environment.

As old ships decompose, they become ecological burdens, and researchers found that several wrecks on the Bikini seafloor are leaching plumes of oil. Trembanis and his team looked at sketches from surveys the National Park Service conducted in the late 1980s and saw the degradation of the past 40 years…….


December 28, 2019 Posted by | OCEANIA, oceans | Leave a comment

U.S. Congress votes $billions of tax-payers’ money for a new nuclear weapon for Trump

December 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Kim Jong Un refers to North Korea being ‘prepared’ for war, hinting at nuclear capabilities

December 28, 2019 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Philippines prone to natural disasters, but still contemplates nuclear power

Philippines seeks to relaunch nuclear power ambitions, Country prone to natural disasters eyes potential suppliers including Russia and US, 27 Dec 19. The Philippines plans to revive its long-discontinued nuclear energy programme to combat the threat of a future power supply crunch — a prospect likely to raise safety concerns in a country prone to typhoons and earthquakes. The country is working with the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet the UN watchdog’s safety and other requirements, and investigating potential suppliers from Russia, South Korea, China and the US, said Alfonso Cusi, the energy secretary.  

The Philippines built a nuclear plant on the Bataan peninsula near Manila during the rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but it faced public opposition and the project was shelved when successor Corazon Aquino took power in 1986.
Any nuclear plant would probably face popular opposition. Critics say the Bataan plant sits on a dormant volcano in a region prone to earthquakes, a notion that the government, which has played down safety concerns, rejects.
 “Wherever you build nuclear plants, it is doubly risky. You could have the danger of nuclear contamination which could be worsened by the geological conditions of the country,” said Lea Guerrero, country director for Greenpeace. “We are in the Ring of Fire,” he added, referring to the circle of active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean.
In a sign of its renewed interest, the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte signed a letter of intent with Russia’s state nuclear company to co-operate on reactor technology during a trip to Moscow in October. Mr Cusi said the Philippines was also considering rehabilitating the Bataan plant with South Korean help. Westinghouse, which has its headquarters in the US, built the original plant, which was completed but never put into operation, and could also build a new facility, he said, but there was “nothing definite” on this front.
 ……. Some analysts voiced scepticism over the Philippines’ ability to execute a nuclear project because of the cost, as well as delays other big infrastructure projects have faced.  “The Philippines struggles to get far less technically complicated and far less politically controversial infrastructure projects through its bureaucracy and completed,” said Jon Morales of the Singapore-based Vriens & Partners consultancy.
“Seven years to nuclear power is overly optimistic.”  Andrew Harwood, Asia-Pacific research director for the consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the Bataan plant required “quite a bit of investment to restart”, and that coal and renewables were the cheapest available option.

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Philippines, politics | Leave a comment