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Message of climate hope

one of the world’s most influential climate advocates, Christiana Figueres, the architect of the Paris Agreement (as head of the UN climate change convention), is defined by her optimism. It is her superpower.

“So, for me, optimism is not simply the result of having attained something. It is rather a strategy, the input, the approach with which we must face climate change because it is the only way to enhance the probability of success.”

It’s an arresting thought – the only way to succeed, or merely survive, is to hope. Not a passive hope, but a hungry and angry hope, one that will force us to act.

Christiana Figueres’s superpower could save the planet,  https://www.smh.com.au/national/christiana-figueres-s-superpower-could-save-the-planet-20200313-p549q7.html  Julia Baird, Journalist, broadcaster, historian and author, March 14, 2020 Optimism seems like sheer folly in many ways, especially today. The optimism of political leaders too often is deceptive and self-serving, more rooted in denial and ignorance than hope as they choke on smoke: “Climate change? Nothing to see here! Just the same old cataclysmic events as ever!” How can we be optimistic about a future in a world of flaming coastlines, disappearing species, smoke-dense CBDs, shelves emptied of basics like toilet paper and looming global recession?
Now we are all trying to wrap our heads around the potentially enormous impacts of the coronavirus pandemic; every day we sit an inch higher, meerkats scanning the news, on high alert, high adrenalin, ready to dive into our burrows at a moment’s notice.The bushfires snapped fingers in the faces of millions around the world, alerting those of us who weren’t aware to the real, catastrophic impacts of climate change – both today and in the future – and stirred many to argue for immediate action.
Then, too quickly, came the challenge and fear of a global pandemic. Calm is crucial, shutdowns widespread, recessions lie ahead. But beyond this threat, we cannot forget the need to secure the future of the planet.

No wonder people are overwhelmed about the future of the planet, feel helpless, overcome with grief and worried nothing is being done, that nothing can be done, that it’s all too late. Our children are having nightmares, wracked with a sense of loss before they full possessed anything. The term “eco-anxiety” was defined by the American Psychological Society as “”a chronic fear of environmental doom” in a 2017 report which cited evidence of people “deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change”.

If you search for eco-anxiety online, the first question to pop up is: “How do I stop eco-anxiety?” Then comes “how to ease anxiety about  climate change” and “how to feel better about climate change”. Continue reading

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 1 Comment

Greta Thunberg calls for Friday climate rallies to be held online

Greta Thunberg calls for Friday climate rallies to be held online, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/greta-thunberg-calls-for-friday-climate-rallies-to-be-held-online    Climate activist Greta Thunberg has called on fellow climate activists to move their weekly rallies online to prevent the spread COVID-19.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | general | 1 Comment

Pentagon’s latest scam for tax-payers’ money; dangerous, costly portable nuclear reactors

Pentagon hands out contracts for PORTABLE nuclear reactors… yet another gold vein for cash-savvy military? https://www.rt.com/news/482942-us-military-nuclear-microreactor/ 13 Mar, 2020 There’s no shortage of hefty defense deals awarded by the US Department of Defense, but the $40 million contract for micro-reactors definitely stands out, as it hides safety risks and raises doubts over its economic efficiency.

The nuclear device that the DoD strategists want must have the capability to be safely and rapidly transported by road, rail, sea or air (sic!) as well as swiftly set up and shut down. The project split between three companies — BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services and X-energy — calls for a “safe, mobile and advanced nuclear micro-reactor.” 

The safety part sounds particularly soothing, but how would it look on the ground? What if those miniature reactors, when moved by land, become targets of high-profile terrorist attacks? And will it prove to be a real alternative (which means cheaper price, of course) to conventional energy sources?

‘The more reactors — the greater the danger’

“Any nuclear reactor attracts terrorists,” Andrey Ozharovsky, nuclear scientist, program expert at the Russian Social Ecological Union, told RT. “It doesn’t matter if it’s located at a nuclear power plant [or inside a portable device]… if you remember, the terrorists planned directing one of the planes at a nuclear plant during 9/11.”

The logic here is simple, he pointed out: “the more reactors are out there — the greater the danger.” If the US builds hundreds, or even dozens of such devices, it’ll be really hard for them to properly defend them all.

Another vital safety issue is the reliability of the nuclear micro-reactors. Interestingly enough, the US military had already experimented with them back in the 1950s and 1960s — and it ended in a tragedy.

Several portable reactors were built and setup in Greenland and Panama, but one of them blew up in 1961, killing three operators. The Army Nuclear Power Program was shut down shortly after that.

“There were eight US micro-reactors and one of them exploded. That’s how safe they are,” Ozharovsky said, adding that the Pentagon’s idea of bringing them back will “likely create more risks instead of solving any problems.”

‘Micro-reactors yet to prove their economic efficiency’

But even if the portable reactors will be shielded from the perils of the battlefield and operate without failure, what’s the Pentagon’s rationale behind bringing the radioactive fuel to their military bases? For decades, the army had been successfully running on gasoline, diesel and fuel oil; when going off-grid, it would switch to generators and high-power accumulators.

“The main problem has nothing related to safety,” Anton Khlopkov, director of Energy and Security Center and member of Russian Security Council’s Scientific Council argued.

Micro-reactors must prove their viability from the economic point of view, since such plants always have alternatives.

It is yet to be proven that micro-reactors won’t be “many times more” expensive than other conventional sources of energy. Electricity produced by such devices should be at least comparable in cost to the one produced by diesel generators, he said.

‘Some kind of a soap bubble’

If micro-reactors are such a questionable solution, why is the Pentagon pushing for their development? The answer isn’t lying on the surface, but it isn’t buried too deep.

“They work against the trends,” Ozharovsky suggested. And those trends are that the world is giving up on the use of civilian nuclear energy due to being too expensive.

Washington may be trying to “support the US the nuclear industry that’s dying out with the use of the military budget; sponsor their research and development — which is an expensive thing.”

Ozharovsky didn’t rule out the possibility that the whole thing “is some kind of a soap bubble.” The research will be made, some prototypes may even be put together, but no actual mini-reactors will be ordered by the Pentagon, he said.

The DoD’s was never shy to spend the US taxpayer dollars: its F-35 program was worth a whopping $1.4 trillion in procurement and operating costs over its lifetime, while Pentagon also acquired such items of prime necessity as… $640 toilet seats and $7,600 coffee makers. The micro-reactors may well become another entry in this wasteful list.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power

Starting the Olympic torch relay in Fukushima should remind us of the dangers of nuclear power https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2020/03/13/commentary/japan-commentary/starting-olympic-torch-relay-fukushima-remind-us-dangers-nuclear-power/#.XmvxdqgzbIU

BY CASSANDRA JEFFERY AND M. V. RAMANA  13 Mar 20, If the Tokyo Olympics are held on schedule, thousands of athletes will soon come to Japan. Considering the multiple reactors that melted down there nine years ago, in March 2011, the government’s decision to start the ceremonial torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture seems a bit odd, to say the least.

While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hot spots in the prefecture, including near the sports complex where the torch relay will begin and along the relay route. The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power.

Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future.

Japan is not alone in having experienced severe nuclear accidents. The 1986 Chernobyl accident also contaminated very large areas in Ukraine and Belarus. As in Japan, many people had to be evacuated; about 116,000, according to the 2000 report of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Many of them never did return; 34 years after the accident, thousands of square kilometers remain closed off to human inhabitation.

Events such as these are, naturally, traumatic and result in people viewing nuclear power as a risky technology. In turn, that view has led to persistent and widespread public opposition around the world.

This is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming opposition to the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down. One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to, with only 32 percent in favor of, resuming nuclear operations. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of Miyagi Prefecture. Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind and hydro power.

There is also the immense cost of cleaning up after such accidents. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt-hour of nuclear electricity, more than three times the corresponding estimates of around $40 per MWh each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years. In the face of the high costs of nuclear power — economic, environmental and public health — and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off. Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and promoting nuclear power. Efforts by Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that controls nuclear and energy policy.

Moreover, Abenomics involves exports of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms, as an important component. So far, despite many trips by Abe to various countries, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs.

This suggests one possible explanation: Perhaps Abe realizes that before exporting nuclear reactors, he first has to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and prove that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But is that worth the risk?

Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. Regardless of who we cheer for at the Olympic Games, nuclear power does not deserve our applause.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Steps to nowhere on nuclear disarmament – USA’s “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (CEND)

The Virus of Nuclear Proliferation https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/03/12/virus-nuclear-proliferation, March 12, 2020, by In Depths News

Rather than addressing the promising path forward provided by the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to finally ban the bomb, the U.S. launched a new initiative, by Alice Slater   

In an avalanche of reporting we are now assaulted with information about how the world is urgently attempting to batten down the hatches to avoid the possibility of deathly consequences from the broadly publicized outbreak of the coronavirus, causing the possibility of postponing or perhaps downsizing the upcoming five year mandatory Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ironically, it is not nearly so well-reported, that the 50-year old NPT is threatening the world with an even worse illness then the new terrifying coronavirus.

The NPT’s critical requirement that the nuclear armed states, which signed the treaty in 1970, must make “good faith efforts” for nuclear disarmament is virtually moribund as nations are developing new nuclear weapons, some characterized as more “usable” and  destroying treaties that contributed to a more stable environment.

These include the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which the U.S. negotiated with USSR and walked out of in 2002, and its repeated rejections of offers from Russia and China to negotiate a treaty to keep weapons out of space, and from Russia to ban cyberwar, all of which would contribute to “strategic stability” which would enable the fulfillment of the NPT’s nuclear disarmament promise.

Further, this year the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate Nuclear Force agreement it made with Russia in 1987, left the nuclear deal it had negotiated with Iran as well, and just announced it would not meet with Russia to discuss a renewal of the Strategic Arms Control Treaty (START), due to expire this year,  which limits nuclear warheads and missiles.

It also created a whole new branch of its military, the Department of Space, which was formerly housed in the U.S. Airforce.  And in an obvious breach of “good faith” [i] ,this February the US staged a “limited” nuclear battle against Russia in a war game!

It cannot be denied that the NPT contributes to even more burgeoning nuclear proliferation by extending its misbegotten “inalienable right” to “peaceful” nuclear power, currently promoting this lethal technology to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Belarus, Bangladesh and Turkey which are all constructing their first nuclear power plants — expanding the keys to the bomb factory in more and more countries, while almost all of the current nuclear weapons states have new nuclear weapons under development.

The U.S., for example, is planning to spend over a trillion dollars over the next 10 years and is working with the UK to replace Britain’s Trident nuclear warheads.

Rather than addressing the promising path forward provided by the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to finally ban the bomb, the U.S. launched a new initiative, Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (CEND), to develop yet another set of possible new steps to comply with its 50 year old “good faith” promises for nuclear disarmament.

At a recent meeting in Stockholm with fifteen of its allies, new measures were announced for nuclear disarmament now being described as “stepping stones”, having graduated from various commitments over the years for “steps” and “an unequivocal commitment” to those steps, since the NPT was extended in 1970, indefinitely and unconditionally.

These new “stepping stones” bring to mind M.G. Escher’s stunning drawing of a series of steps to nowhere with people endlessly trudging up a staircase, never to reach their destination!

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Reference, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Polar ice melting at an accelerating rate

Polar ice caps melting six times faster than in 1990s  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/11/polar-ice-caps-melting-six-times-faster-than-in-1990s

Losses of ice from Greenland and Antarctica are tracking the worst-case climate scenario, scientists warn  Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington,Thu 12 Mar 2020   The polar ice caps are melting six times faster than in the 1990s, according to the most complete analysis to date.

The ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica is tracking the worst-case climate warming scenario set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists say. Without rapid cuts to carbon emissions the analysis indicates there could be a rise in sea levels that would leave 400 million people exposed to coastal flooding each year by the end of the century.

Rising sea levels are the one of the most damaging long-term impacts of the climate crisis, and the contribution of Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating. The new analysis updates and combines recent studies of the ice masses and predicts that 2019 will prove to have been a record-breaking year when the most recent data is processed.

The previous peak year for Greenland and Antarctic ice melting was 2010, after a natural climate cycle led to a run of very hot summers. But the Arctic heatwave of 2019 means it is nearly certain that more ice was lost last year.

The average annual loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica in the 2010s was 475bn tonnes – six times greater than the 81bn tonnes a year lost in the 1990s. In total the two ice caps lost 6.4tn tonnes of ice from 1992 to 2017, with melting in Greenland responsible for 60% of that figure.

The IPCC’s most recent mid-range prediction for global sea level rise in 2100 is 53cm. But the new analysis suggests that if current trends continue the oceans will rise by an additional 17cm.

“Every centimetre of sea level rise leads to coastal flooding and coastal erosion, disrupting people’s lives around the planet,” said Prof Andrew Shepherd, of the University of Leeds. He said the extra 17cm would mean the number of exposed to coastal flooding each year rising from 360 million to 400 million. “These are not unlikely events with small impacts,” he said. “They are already under way and will be devastating for coastal communities.”

Erik Ivins, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California, who led the assessment with Shepherd, said the lost ice was a clear sign of global heating. “The satellite measurements provide prima facie, rather irrefutable, evidence,” he said.

Almost all the ice loss from Antarctica and half of that from Greenland arose from warming oceans melting the glaciers that flow from the ice caps. This causes glacial flow to speed up, dumping more icebergs into the ocean. The remainder of Greenland’s ice losses are caused by hotter air temperatures that melt the surface of the ice sheet.

The combined analysis was carried out by a team of 89 scientists from 50 international organisations, who combined the findings of 26 ice surveys. It included data from 11 satellite missions that tracked the ice sheets’ changing volume, speed of flow and mass.

About a third of the total sea level rise now comes from Greenland and Antarctic ice loss. Just under half comes from the thermal expansion of warming ocean water and a fifth from other smaller glaciers. But the latter sources are not accelerating, unlike in Greenland and Antarctica.

Shepherd said the ice caps had been slow to respond to human-caused global heating. Greenland and especially Antarctica were quite stable at the start of the 1990s despite decades of a warming climate.

Shepherd said it took about 30 years for the ice caps to react. Now that they had a further 30 years of melting was inevitable, even if emissions were halted today. Nonetheless, he said, urgent carbon emissions cuts were vital. “We can offset some of that [sea level rise] if we stop heating the planet.”

The IPCC is in the process of producing a new global climate report and its lead author, Prof Guðfinna Aðalgeirsdóttir, of the University of Iceland, said: “The reconciled estimate of Greenland and Antarctic ice loss is timely.”

She said she also saw increased losses from Iceland’s ice caps last year. “Summer 2019 was very warm in this region.”

March 14, 2020 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Renewables surpass coal and nuclear says USA’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

US: Renewables to rise above coal and nuclear says FERC  https://www.smart-energy.com/renewable-energy/us-renewables-to-rise-above-coal-and-nuclear-says-ferc/  Renewables are estimated to add nearly 50,000 MW, being more than a quarter of the total capacity according to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data, issued last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 13 Mar 20,

According to the report, the mix of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided 57.26% of new U.S. electrical generating capacity added in 2019 – swamping that provided by coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power combined.

FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through to December 31, 2019) reveals renewable sources (i.e. biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 11,857 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity by the end of the year. That is a third more (33.97%) more than that of natural gas (8,557 MW), nuclear (155 MW), oil (77 MW), and coal (62 MW) combined.

Renewables have now also surpassed 22% (i.e., 22.06%) of the US’ total available installed generating capacity – further expanding their lead over coal capacity (20.89%). Among renewables, wind can boast the largest installed electrical generating capacity – 8.51% of the U.S. total, followed by hydropower (8.41%), solar (3.49%) [2], biomass (1.33%), and geothermal (0.32%). Thus, wind and solar combined now account for 12.0% of the nation’s electrical generating capacity.

Moreover, the FERC foresees renewables dramatically expanding their lead over fossil fuels and nuclear power in terms of new capacity additions during the coming three years (i.e., by December 31, 2022). Net generating capacity additions (i.e., “proposed additions under construction” minus “proposed retirements”) for renewable sources total 48,254 MW: wind – 26,403 MW, solar – 19,973 MW, hydropower – 1,460 MW, biomass – 240 MW, and geothermal – 178 MW.

By comparison, net additions for natural gas total 21,090 MW while the installed capacities for coal, nuclear, and oil are projected to drop by 18,857 MW, 3,391 MW, and 3,085 MW respectively. In fact, FERC reports no new coal capacity in the pipeline over the next three years.

Thus, while net new renewable energy capacity is projected to be nearly 50,000 MW greater within three years, that of fossil fuels and nuclear power combined will decline by over 4,200 MW. Between now and the end of 2022, new wind capacity alone will be greater than that of natural gas while that of wind and solar combined will more than double new gas capacity.

Moreover, if FERC’s data prove correct, then by the end of 2022, renewable sources will account for more than a quarter (25.16%) of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity while coal will drop to 18.63% and that of nuclear and oil will decrease to 8.29% and 2.95% respectively. Natural gas will increase its share — but only slightly – from 44.67% today to 44.78%.

As the Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, I believed that the rapid growth of renewables and corresponding drop in electrical production by coal and oil in 2019 provides a glimmer of hope for slowing down the pace of climate change. In addition, renewables’ continued expansion in the near future – as forecast by FERC – suggests that with supportive governmental policies, these technologies could provide an even greater share of total U.S. electrical generation.


Statistics presented in this article can be found here. Read the full FERC report.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Bradwell BNuclear power plant consultations cancelled amid coronavirus fears

Nuclear power plant consultations cancelled amid coronavirus fears, East Anglian Daily Times, 13 Mar 20,  Public consultations for the proposed Bradwell B power plant in Essex have been cancelled amid growing coronavirus uncertainty.

Project partners EDF and China General Nuclear (CGN) took the decision to cancel the stage one events in the interest of public safety.

In total, 10 of the events will no longer take place, including exhibitions in Brightlingsea, Great Barrow and South Woodham Ferrers.

A spokesman for the project said: ‘The Bradwell B project has been closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation relating to Covid-19 and listening both to advice from Public Health England and to the concerns of the public, our staff and other stakeholders……

Those who wish to have their say on the plans can still do so until May 27, with consultation documents still available online and at various libraries and council offices in the county.  ……

So far, 590 people have been diagnosed with the virus – including six in Essex.

Those who wish to obtain hard copies of the documents or have questions about the proposals can contact developers on 01621 451451 or by email here.     https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/bradwell-b-events-cancelled-amid-coronavirus-fears-1-6559799

March 14, 2020 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Coronavirus poses threat to climate action

Coronavirus poses threat to climate action, says watchdog
IEA warns that Covid-19 could cause a slowdown in world’s clean energy transition,
Guardian,  Jillian Ambrose, Fri 13 Mar 2020 The coronavirus health crisis may lead to a slump in global carbon emissions this year but the outbreak poses a threat to long-term climate action by undermining investment in clean energy, according to the global energy watchdog.The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects the economic fallout of Covid-19 to wipe out the world’s oil demand growth for the year ahead, which should cap the fossil fuel emissions that contribute to the climate crisis.

But Fatih Birol, IEA’s executive director, has warned the outbreak could spell a slowdown in the world’s clean energy transition unless governments use green investments to help support economic growth through the global slowdown……..https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/12/coronovirus-poses-threat-to-climate-action-says-watchdog

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 1 Comment

Nuclear modernisation, cyber operations, raise a dilemma for nuclear deterrence

 As the character Dr. Strangelove makes clear in the eponymous classic movie, nobody is frightened of capabilities that are kept secret.

 Nuclear capabilities must be revealed to be useful for deterrence. Nuclear deterrence works because nuclear weapons states can deliberately reveal their nuclear capabilities and thus signal the potential consequences for crossing red lines. By contrast, offensive cyber operations against sensitive targets cannot be revealed if they are to be useful at all. 

Digital Strangelove: The Cyber Dangers of Nuclear Weapons, https://www.lawfareblog.com/digital-strangelove-cyber-dangers-nuclear-weapons By Jon Lindsay Thursday, March 12, 2020,  : This post article is part of a series exploring the findings and recommendations of the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

Cyberspace is the most complex sociotechnical system ever created, while nuclear weapons are the most destructive military tools in history. They are increasingly entangled in ways that we do not fully understand. Partly this is due to a lack of information—cyber operations and nuclear weapons are both highly classified realms. Partly this is due to the increasing complexity of interactions, which are hard to model. Yet the greater challenges, perhaps, are political.
Nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) is the nervous system of the strategic deterrent. NC3 enables critical informational functions such as early warning and situation monitoring, operational planning and assessment, strategic decision-making and tactical force direction. Commanders aim to ensure that weapons are always available for authorized use and never usable without authorization. There is some tension between these requirements, insofar as a highly alert posture to ensure usability increases the risk of accident, and some close calls resulted during the Cold War.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in NC3 and strategic stability among academics and arms controllers. This new wave of concern has been prompted, variously, by revelations about U.S. operations allegedly targeting Iranian enrichment and North Korean missile tests; concerns about interactions with artificial intelligence or social media; and fears of inadvertent escalation due to cyber-nuclear interaction or the entanglement of nuclear and conventional forces.
As the Defense Science Board recommended in 2013, “[I]mmediate action to assess and assure national leadership that the current U.S. nuclear deterrent is also survivable against the full-spectrum cyber … threat.” NC3 modernization also features prominently in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The U.S. Air Force has, accordingly, designated NC3 as a weapon system (AN/USQ-225), which consists of as many as 160 different systems. Upgrades of NC3 to leverage digital technology have the potential to improve reliability and accountability. It is a truism, however, that complexity is the enemy of cybersecurity. Greater reliance on software components offers convenience and flexibility at the price of new logical failure modes that are difficult to model. The interactive complexity of digital components, sophisticated weapons and demanding deterrent postures could increase the chance of accidents and unintended consequences.
Yet there is another category of problems that is in some ways more insidious. Covert capabilities, like offensive cyber operations, may create strategic incentives for actors to act deliberately in ways that could undermine the stability of deterrence. For example, the U.S. had a covert program of electronic warfare options targeting Soviet NC3 in the Cold War. These options might have helped to limit the damage the Soviet arsenal could inflict in a nuclear war, but they could not be revealed to the Soviets for the sake of deterrence. As the character Dr. Strangelove makes clear in the eponymous classic movie, nobody is frightened of capabilities that are kept secret. Indeed, the Soviets learned about the American program through a well-placed spy in NATO and changed their communications protocols.
This problem is even more acute today. Nuclear capabilities must be revealed to be useful for deterrence. Nuclear deterrence works because nuclear weapons states can deliberately reveal their nuclear capabilities and thus signal the potential consequences for crossing red lines. By contrast, offensive cyber operations against sensitive targets cannot be revealed if they are to be useful at all. Cyber actors deliberately conceal or obfuscate their cyber capabilities and operations because compromise would enable the target to patch or take countermeasures that mitigates the capability. This cyber commitment problem is one reason why cyber is ill suited for coercive bargaining. This is most problematic for offensive cyber operations designed for nuclear damage limitation and counterforce missions, which must be prepared well in advance in strict secrecy.

The crucial strategic conundrum, therefore, is how to manage the interaction of two domains with dangerously opposed strategic characteristics. If opponents do not agree on the balance of power in a crisis bargaining situation, for whatever reason, bargaining is more likely to fail. Offensive cyber operations targeting NC3 create just such an information asymmetry. Cyber capabilities that are needed only in the event that deterrence fails can thus make it more likely that deterrence will fail in the first place. Precisely because cyber conflict takes place below the threshold of armed conflict, the dangerous combination of offensive cyber operations and NC3 can, in effect, lower the nuclear threshold.

What is to be done? The cybersecurity of every segment of the NC3 enterprise must be assessed, to include NC3 interactions with the broader cyberspace environment. It is important not to limit analysis to technical penetrations, as social engineering or blackmail targeting operators, administrators or their families cannot be ruled out. Defense in depth for NC3 systems should include redundant communications, error correction protocols, isolation of critical systems, reduced reliance on complex software where possible, avoidance of software monocultures vulnerable to class exploitations and active network security monitoring with a threat-hunting counterintelligence mindset.

Translating defensive capacity into deterrence requires taking the additional, and politically difficult, step of advertising NC3 redundancy and resilience to potential adversaries, even in a cyber-degraded environment. Perhaps the most important thing to be done is to sensitize operators, nuclear policy makers and allied counterparts throughout the NC3 enterprise to the risks of cyber-nuclear interaction. Human interpretation and intervention will be the key to mitigating many of these scenarios as they emerge. It is thus important for governments to develop and exercise concepts and methods for noticing and evaluating the likelihood of different types of cyber-nuclear risks as they emerge in various scenarios.

The truly difficult policy questions concern the use of offensive cyber operations targeting foreign NC3. Coordination among stakeholders is more difficult because tailored cyber options, and nuclear warfighting plans generally, are highly classified in special access programs. It is precisely this level of security that gives rise to the cyber commitment problem described above. Moreover, it may be completely reasonable, or even desirable, to have just such options for damage-limiting warfighting scenarios or counterforce preemption in the event that deterrence fails. Yet it is critical that policymakers and commanders make a mindful decision about the strategic benefits of cyber options and the risks of deterrence failure they may entail. These are hard policy questions without clear technical fixes.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Hypocrisy: new commitments to Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) include push for nuclear power

Five Nuclear Weapon States Pledge Commitment to NPT  In Depth News, By J C Suresh, 13 Mar 20, WASHINGTON, DC (IDN) — Five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council – USA, China, France, Russia and Britain – who together possess an overwhelming majority of 13,865 nuclear weapons have pledged “unstinting commitment to preserving and deepening … for future generations” the legacy of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).A joint statement by Foreign Ministers of the five countries on the 50th anniversary of the entering into force of the NPT on March 5, 2020 says “we celebrate the immeasurable contributions this landmark treaty has made to the security and prosperity of the nations and peoples of the world.”

While reaffirming their “commitment to the NPT in all its aspects”, the five Foreign Ministers say: “The NPT has provided the essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat – then and now – that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe. In so doing, it has served the interests of all its Parties.”

The five Foreign Ministers are: Wang Yi, State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China; Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France; Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia; Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of Britain and Northern Ireland; Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State of the U.S.

The Foreign Ministers adds: “We also celebrate the astonishingly diverse benefits of the peaceful uses of the atom, whether for electricity, medicine, agriculture, or industry. We reiterate our strong support for broadening access to the benefits of nuclear energy and its applications for peaceful purpose. This boon to humanity thrives because the NPT, and the nuclear nonproliferation regime built around the Treaty, has helped provide confidence that nuclear programs are and will remain entirely peaceful.” ……https://www.indepthnews.net/index.php/armaments/nuclear-weapons/3376-five-nuclear-weapon-states-pledge-commitment-to-npt

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

This week’s uranium report- prices fall again, Australia’s “nuclear future” going nowhere

Uranium Week: The Nuclear Debate   https://www.fnarena.com/index.php/2020/03/11/uranium-week-the-nuclear-debate-3/ Mar 11 2020

Moves are afoot once again in Australia to lift bans on both uranium mining and nuclear power. The uranium spot price has slipped once more.

-U3O8 spot prices fall again
-Nuclear debate reopens in Australia
-History suggests it will be no easy road

By Greg Peel   This week’s uranium report could simply be left as “nothing happened”. At least nothing of major uranium industry implication. The same issues remain in place, so rather than rake over old ground yet again, as to why uranium prices are in the doldrums, this week we’ll zoom in Australia’s nuclear dilemma.

For the record, industry consultant TradeTech reported ten transactions completed in the uranium spot market last week totalling 1mlbs U3O8 equivalent. As buyers were again largely MIA, prices fell gradually during the week. TradeTech’s weekly spot price indicator has fallen -US50c to US$24.40/lb.

Term price indicators remain at US$28.25/lb (mid) and US$33.00 (long).

How to React?

The nuclear power debate has heated up in Australia once more. Driving fresh debate is the pending shutdown of ageing coal-fired power stations that provide Australia’s base load electricity. The federal government wants to build new coal-fired power stations. This policy already had its critics but as a result of this season’s bushfire disaster, an electoral groundswell is calling for the government to recognise climate change and act accordingly before it’s too late.

Australians are now generally opposed to both coal-fired power and new thermal coal mines. But not all Australians. The country is the world’s largest exporter of coal. The coal mining industry employs thousands, and thousands more are supported indirectly by that industry. The surprise victory for the coal-friendly Coalition at last year’s federal election was in part due to support from Queensland-based electorates, Queensland being Australia’s premier coal producing state.

Nuclear power has long been proposed as an alternative source to meet Australia’s electricity needs, if for no other reason Australia boasts the world’s largest known reserves of uranium. But from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl and Fukushima, successive governments have considered nuclear power to be electoral suicide. The debate is now back on again nevertheless, to lift bans on uranium mining and build nuclear reactors.

Australia is a federation of six sovereign states and two federal territories. Of those six states, four have bans on uranium mining. Tasmania has no known commercial uranium deposits, leaving South Australia as the only state with operating uranium mines. Of those four operating mines, two are currently under care & maintenance pending improved uranium prices, leaving only BHP Group’s ((BHP)) Olympic Dam and the foreign-owned Beverley in operation. A fifth mine – Ranger in the Northern Territory — is currently producing uranium but only from stockpiled ore.

Over a decade ago, the then Queensland premier decided to lift the state’s ban on uranium mining. So swift and brutal was the backlash from the coal lobby, the premier very quickly changed his mind. In the interim, one Western Australia state government lifted the ban on uranium mining, only to have the next government ban it again. Two mines under construction on the basis of the prior policy were exempted.

The Australian federal government previously limited the number of allowable uranium mines, but that policy has since been abandoned. The federal government is currently content to restrict the number of countries Australia can export uranium to.

Last week the New South Wales deputy premier supported a bill in state parliament to overturn a nuclear power ban, after a parliamentary inquiry recommended that the law prohibiting uranium mining and nuclear facilities should be repealed. The bill has the support of the Minerals Council of Australia, and the Australian Workers Union, which supports uranium mining and nuclear power for the jobs both will create. But the AWU’s stance puts it at odds with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which has long been anti-uranium for what we might call Fukushima reasons.

And support for uranium mining and nuclear power is not split down party lines at either federal or state level. The debate is splitting parties.

A lifting of state uranium mining bans would likely not achieve much in the near term. The marginal cost of new production well exceeds current uranium trading prices. To not build nuclear reactors, on the other hand, when the issue of Australia’s future base load power and electricity prices is paramount, and Australia has abundant uranium resources, is seen by supporters as pure folly.

The debate will rage on, but in the short term at least, likely go nowhere.

March 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

They’ve licensed Exelon’s Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant for 80 Years – but it mightn’t last

Exelon’s Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant Licensed for 80 Years—Will It Make It?   Power, Mar 12, 2020, by Aaron Larson   The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted a 20-year license extension for Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station Units 2 and 3. The extension authorizes the two reactors—both of which began commercial operation in 1974—to continue operating through 2054…….

Exelon, which operates the largest fleet (21 reactors) of nuclear plants in the U.S., has lobbied strongly for years to obtain government support for nuclear power. The company was successful in getting legislation passed in Illinois and New York that provides financial incentives for some of its plants. Government investigations, however, have put Exelon under a microscope as a result of its lobbying activities.

Exelon received a grand jury subpoena in the second quarter of 2019 from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, requiring production of information concerning the company’s lobbying activities in the state. On Oct. 4, 2019, Exelon received a second grand jury subpoena, requiring production of records of any communications with certain individuals and entities. On Oct. 22, 2019, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) notified Exelon that it had also opened an investigation into the company’s lobbying activities. ……..

Other units have also been retired long before their licenses expired, including Kewaunee, Vermont Yankee, Fort Calhoun, and Pilgrim, so obtaining a license extension is no guarantee of long-term operation for the Peach Bottom facility. ………https://www.powermag.com/exelons-peach-bottom-nuclear-plant-licensed-for-80-years-will-it-make-it/

March 14, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Indonesia warned on dangers of nuclear power, advantages of renewable energy

March 14, 2020 Posted by | Indonesia, safety | Leave a comment

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns on doomsday

Nuclear scare sparks doomsday debate   http://thepioneeronline.com/40529/features/nuclear-scare-sparks-doomsday-debate/  March 12, 2020   By Antonio Aguilar,
In mid-Jan., the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists announced that “we are closer to a nuclear climate or technological disaster.”

Our government’s actions and foreign relations situation further influence the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ decision to move the hands forward. Each year, the bulletin collectively evaluates whether we have moved forward or back.
Currently, we are at 100 seconds until doomsday, or “midnight”. The doomsday clock was created to symbolize how dire our current situation is. 100 seconds until midnight means that we are approaching the tipping point or the worst-case scenario. This could mean nuclear war or global warming becoming irreversible.

The bulletin takes a holistic approach in order to move the hands forward or back.

“We have physicists, cosmologists and climate scientists that are nuclear policy experts and… they all sit in this conference room together,” said Halley Posner, program coordinator of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. “They talk about what’s going on in their field the past year.”
The bulletin was founded in 1945 and created by the same scientists that worked on the Manhattan Project.
“The Bulletin is an incredible platform to talk about nuclear risk, climate change and disruptive technologies and the life-changing, world-altering effects…the scientists who made this major, major weapon,” Posner said. “To then say to the public, Oh wait, here’s this catastrophic thing we have unleashed on the world and what now?”
“Our experts have those computers in their own work and they rely on data and everything is very fact-driven and thought out,” Posner continued. “It’s the judgment called by our experts that says now in this year, the world is at greater risk than it has ever been before, which is very, very telling to the state of world affairs.” 

When asked about her opinion on why the threat of nuclear weapons is not taken seriously in the public sphere, Posner had this to say.
“People are tired and desensitized to those images and the thought of duck-cover drills during the cold war… but that summarizes very much the old generation,” says Posner. “So we have seen in the past year, a reduction in global treaty-making and the global sense of treaties.”
“So basically there is a ratcheting up…a new arms race but that is still to be determined and looked by the NPT(Non-Proliferation Treaty), the NPT is the last standing treaty that limits nuclear weapons,” Posner said.
We are in a high tension situation dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons and it does not help the situation when the government releases new low yielding nuclear weapons, the first time in decades.  

March 14, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | Leave a comment