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Survivors of nuclear radiation exposure are at greater risk from COVID-19.

Nuclear Weapons, Frontline Communities, and the COVID Stimulus. What You Need to Know. Union of Concerned Scientists, LILLY ADAMS GUEST COMMENTARY, UCS | MAY 4, 2020, The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to confront the vast inequities in our society that have made this virus more deadly in some communities than others. This is also true in the world of nuclear weapons policy: US nuclear weapons activities have, and continue to, hurt communities through harmful and sometimes deadly radiation exposure. Now, the survivors of this radiation exposure are also at greater risk from COVID-19. Effective COVID-19 response requires that those who need care can receive it. It also means recognizing who is at greatest risk, and addressing their needs. As we gear up for another stimulus package, UCS and more than 100 other organizations across the country are calling for Congress to include funding for health care access for communities directly harmed by US nuclear activities.

Nuclear Frontline Communities

Our race for nuclear dominance during WWII and the Cold War left many casualties in its wake: workers in the uranium industry, workers and those downwind of nuclear production sites, soldiers and civilians exposed to above-ground nuclear testing, those who attempt to clean-up and dispose of nuclear waste, and those unlucky enough to live near that waste. These people were exposed to radiation and other toxic chemicals, in many cases causing severe health problems, while never being told by their government or their employers about the risks. To add insult to injury, these exposed populations are disproportionately from Indigenous communities, communities of color, low-income, or rural communities, and often face significant barriers to receiving adequate health care even in the best of times.

Today, the injustice of their exposure stings a little sharper because they have an added fear of contracting COVID-19. Many factors may increase their risk: age, radioactive and toxic chemical exposures, air, soil, and water pollution, existing health conditions such as cancer, poverty, institutionalized racism, etc. These factors can also all contribute to a suppressed immune system.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act

Some of the individuals in these communities are able to apply for compensation from the US government through a program called the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). RECA is meant to offset what are often debilitating health care costs, though the funds can be hugely insufficient. The program is set to expire in 2022, and many exposed communities are still not covered by RECA. This includes those downwind of the 1945 Trinity Test in New Mexico, downwinders of the Nevada Test Site in states and counties originally excluded from RECA, residents of Guam, veterans who cleaned up radioactive waste in the Marshall Islands, uranium workers past 1971, and civilians downwind of nuclear production sites.

The deficiencies of RECA, and the threat of it disappearing entirely, are already a huge disservice to these communities. But in the face of an international pandemic, those already struggling to manage extreme health consequences from radiation exposure must now also face the spectre of COVID-19.

One of the most common illnesses suffered by those exposed to radiation is cancer. Recent studies show that those with cancers are up to three times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those without cancer – especially blood and lung malignancies, two common cancers that are eligible for RECA compensation.

Tina Cordova, a downwinder of the Trinity Test and co-founder of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium adds: “Many of us live in fear of the virus now not only because it is highly infectious and deadly to most but because we also know we are highly susceptible to getting the virus and dying from it due to our underlying health issues as a result of being exposed to radiation. Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and been through the radiation and chemotherapy necessary to save your life you know your immune system has been compromised.”

While flawed, RECA is a crucial program. It can mean the difference between care and no care, financial stability or bankruptcy, losing or keeping your house, and even life or death.

These communities must not be left without health care. The good news is that there is a solution. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments Act of 2019 – HR 3783 and S. 947 – would extend RECA to 2045 and expand access to many of the communities currently excluded. Many members of Congress have already been championing the effort to pass this bipartisan legislation, including Congressman Lujan (D-NM), Senator Crapo (R-ID), and Senator Udall (D-NM).

Given the urgency of health care access for these communities today, UCS is calling on Congress to include the provisions of the RECA Amendments Act in upcoming stimulus packages………..

May 5, 2020 Posted by | health, USA | 1 Comment

As with viruses, containment of atomic weapons may be good, but eradication is best.  

The Novel Coronavirus and Nuclear Weapons  As with viruses, containment of atomic weapons may be good, but eradication is best.  Common Dreams by Sergio Duarte Ira Helfand  4 May 20 

The entire international community is justifiably concerned and disturbed with the serious consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Thousands have already died and many more are in danger. Local and national governments find it increasingly difficult to deal adequately with the sanitary and social emergency deriving from the spread of the virus. It will take many months before the situation can come back to normal.

What has this to do with nuclear weapons?

In the current climate of fear, uncertainty and helplessness, it is impossible not to think about what would happen in the case of a different and more ominous disaster: a nuclear conflagration, albeit of limited proportions. The possessors of nuclear weapons are relentlessly increasing the destructive power of their arsenals and seem willing to use them as they see fit to respond to their perceived security concerns. This, in fact, brings insecurity to all. Command and control systems are not immune against cyber viruses and accidents, nor are they protected against whimsical or emotionally unstable rulers.   ……..

The entire international community is justifiably concerned and disturbed with the serious consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Thousands have already died and many more are in danger. Local and national governments find it increasingly difficult to deal adequately with the sanitary and social emergency deriving from the spread of the virus. It will take many months before the situation can come back to normal.

What has this to do with nuclear weapons?

In the current climate of fear, uncertainty and helplessness, it is impossible not to think about what would happen in the case of a different and more ominous disaster: a nuclear conflagration, albeit of limited proportions. The possessors of nuclear weapons are relentlessly increasing the destructive power of their arsenals and seem willing to use them as they see fit to respond to their perceived security concerns. This, in fact, brings insecurity to all. Command and control systems are not immune against cyber viruses and accidents, nor are they protected against whimsical or emotionally unstable rulers.

It may well be impossible to eliminate all disease-causing viruses; yet nuclear disarmament is not only possible, but a legally binding obligation embedded in Article VI of the NPT. Fifty years after the Treaty’s inception, it is high time for the possessors of nuclear weapons to effectively comply with this obligation. As with viruses, containment may be good, but eradication is best., Common Dreams

May 5, 2020 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | 2 Comments

Workers at ‘most toxic place in America’ – Hanford nuclear site – in fear of coronavirus

May 5, 2020 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

A small window of opportunity to stave off rapid global heating

May 5, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Pacific Islanders, victims of nuclear radiation from bomb tests, are more susceptible to coronavirus

May 5, 2020 Posted by | health | Leave a comment

SPD, junior partner in Germany’s coalition government, calls to withdraw US nuclear arms

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Germany, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

NRC rejects contentions raised by Beyond Nuclear and others against nuclear waste proposed site

Federal government rejects contentions to nuclear waste site near Carlsbad and Hobbs  BY ADRIAN HEDDEN / CARLSBAD CURRENT-ARGUS, N.M. (TNS) Monday, May 4th, 2020 A proposed nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad and Hobbs proceeded through the federal licensing process despite protests from environmental groups who questioned the legality of the project.

Holtec International applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to build and operate a facility that would temporarily store spent nuclear fuel rods in a remote location of southeast New Mexico while a permanent repository is developed.

The consolidated interim storage facility was challenged by Beyond Nuclear and other organizations who questioned Holtec’s application for suggesting the U.S. Department of Energy could take ownership of the waste.

Opponents argued federal law prohibited the government from taking legal possession of spent nuclear fuel.

They also argued against Holtec’s plan to transport the waste via rail, potentially putting communities along the route at risk of exposure to radiation.

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear argued Holtec’s application was in violation of the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), and the proposed temporary storage facility could become permanent as so such repository exists.

“(The NWPA) is the public’s best protection against an interim storage facility becoming a de facto permanent, national radioactive waste dump at the surface of the Earth.” Kamps said. “Congress knew, in passing the NWPA, that the only safe long-term strategy for care of irradiated reactor fuel is to place it in a permanent repository for deep geologic isolation.

Last year, the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board rejected about 50 contentions raised by various organizations, citing their lack of standing or adequate factual basis.

And in an April 23 decision the NRC upheld several of the rejects on appeal as either being irrelevant to the licensing process or already addressed in the application itself.

A proposed new contention issued by Fasken Oil and Ranch, questioning if Holtec owned the mineral rights beneath the surface of the proposed site location was remanded by the NRC for further consideration, along with

Against contentions that the Holtec facility would require “illegal” contracting with the federal government to take ownership of the waste, the NRC contended the application assured regulators that Holtec “committed to not contract unlawfully with DOE.”

“Holtec envisions that its customers will either be nuclear plant operators or DOE, depending on which entity holds title to the spent nuclear fuel,” read the NRC report. “Holtec also acknowledged that it hopes Congress will change the law to allow DOE to enter into temporary storage contracts with Holtec.

“The Board concluded that Holtec seeks a license that would allow it to enter into lawful customer contracts today, but also permit it to enter into additional customer contracts if and when they become lawful in the future.”

While the NRC affirmed the Sierra Club’s standing in the proceedings, as some members of the organization live in close proximity to the proposed site, it found that Sierra Club’s contentions around the transportation of the waste and risk of an accident or release were unfounded.

The NRC contended that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) does not require a “worst-case-scenario” analysis be conducted in issuing the license and that the Sierra Club presented “no expert opinion” to support its assertions on the danger of rail transportation.

Against arguments that the storage casks were flawed or insufficient to hold the waste safely, the NRC upheld that Holtec’s HI-STORM UMAX system that it would use at the facility was already federally certified and cannot be questioned in the proceedings unless a rule waiver was granted.

No such waiver was granted at the time of the NRC’s recent decision.

“Because certified designs are incorporated into our regulations, they may not be attacked in an adjudicatory proceeding except when authorized by a rule waiver,” the report read.

“A contention cannot attack a certified design without a rule waiver because this would challenge matters already fully considered and resolved in the design certification review.”

See what others are reading in Carlsbad news:

Mindy Goldstein, a lawyer from Beyond Nuclear said the NRC’s denial of the appeals was illegal as it contemplated the hope that the law would change to allow the DOE to take title to the waste but was still contrary to present law.

“The NRC’s decision flagrantly violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which prohibits an agency from acting contrary to the law as issued by Congress and signed by the President,” she said.

“The Commission lacks a legal or logical basis for its rationale that the illegal provisions could be ignored in favor of other provisions that are legal, or that an illegal license could be issued in ‘hopes’ that the law might change in the future.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

More delay for Japan to open Onagawa nuclear power plant Unit 2: Unit 1 to be closed

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Indian Point nuclear power station – Unit 2 permanently closed

May 5, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogues Consensus Statement 

Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogues Consensus Statement  News, 4 May 2020
United States, Americas, France, Proliferation and Nuclear Policy, UK, Europe

In collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique (FRS), RUSI co-hosted the 2019 Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogues. These dialogues bring together former senior officials, nuclear policy experts and government representatives from the US, France and UK to discuss nuclear deterrence, arms control and non-proliferation policy issues.

The 2019 Consensus Statement, signed by all track 2 delegates and published on 13 March 2020, can be found here. Topics discussed during the 2019 dialogues include: the future of the rules-based international nuclear order; the role of alliances; new risks and challenges for escalation and strategy; nuclear responsibility and transparency.

The project leads at RUSI and UK track II signatories have given the following quotes on the Trilateral dialogues.

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, RUSI’s Deputy Director-General, states:

The international nuclear arms control order is under severe strain, with the collapse of the INF Treaty, the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, North Korean defiance of international sanctions, and the growing possibility that the New START Treaty could expire at the start of 2021. In these troubled times, it is even more important that senior officials and experts from the US, UK and France can take part in frank and informed exchanges on these. I know of no other forum which does this with such success.

Tom Plant, Director of RUSI’s Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme, observed that:

The 2019 Consensus Statement makes several striking recommendations – on the need for extension of New START, on the role of the Iran nuclear deal as the starting point for any new arrangement, and on the importance of reaffirming at the highest levels the principle that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought” – but perhaps most significant is its call for the UK, US and France to be more open on nuclear weapons issues. In highlighting the potential for information operations to exploit unnecessary secrecy to weaken public and international trust, and to undermine efforts to maintain stability and deterrence, it indicates a valuable and urgent area of focus for our three governments.

Peter Watkins, formerly Director General in the UK Ministry of Defence responsible for strategic defence policy, and currently an Associate Fellow with Chatham House, comments that:

At a time of growing risks to international stability and increasing pressure on the international arms control framework, it is more critical than ever to build political and public understanding of the achievements of arms control – not least the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself – and the role of credible, responsible deterrence policies. That is the essential mission of these trilateral talks.

Sir Tony Brenton, formerly the British Ambassador to Russia, and currently a Fellow at Wolfson College Cambridge, highlights that:

In the last few years North Korea has become the world’s ninth nuclear armed state, Russia has announced a radical modernisation of its nuclear arsenal, the deal holding Iran back from going nuclear has collapsed, and the world’s nuclear arms control regime may be on its deathbed. These are deeply worrying developments which underline the importance of the trilateral nuclear dialogue as a way of helping the three Western nuclear powers to stay in close touch on them.

Professor Sir David Omand of the War Studies Department of King’s College London states:

These trilateral discussions provide a unique opportunity to bring together those in the US, UK, and France who had long experience in maintaining responsible nuclear stewardship over many years with current officials who are carrying the responsibility today. It is important that governments, amongst all the other pressing issues facing them, recognise the importance of the nuclear policy and arms control issues that were raised in these discussions.

Tom McKane, formerly Director General for strategy in the UK Ministry of Defence, and currently a Distinguished Fellow at RUSI, outlines that:

At a time when the world felt increasingly unsafe and there are well-founded concerns about the potential for miscalculation and misunderstanding in relation to nuclear deterrence and proliferation, the Trilateral discussions promote real understanding of these important subjects.

Sam Dudin, the UK Nuclear Policy Research Fellow at RUSI, comments that:

These dialogues have called on P3 governments to do more to develop and communicate a narrative supporting their nuclear deterrence policies and nuclear arms control, as part of a genuine, substantive and well-informed debate on nuclear weapons, facilitated by greater transparency with our publics. At a time when the old architecture of nuclear arms control is collapsing, such a debate might outline where there is potential to strike a new arms control deal.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Bahrain’s new environmental bill – strict laws against nuclear waste dumping

New environmental bill referred to Parliament

04 May 2020  The government has referred to Parliament a new environmental bill aiming to strengthen Bahrain’s environmental legislative system. Under the 125-article draft law, anyone who imports, brings in, buries, dumps, stores or disposes of nuclear waste, under any circumstances or conditions, shall face death penalty or life imprisonment and a fine of no less than BD100,000 and no more than BD1 million ….. (subscribers only)

May 5, 2020 Posted by | ASIA, wastes | Leave a comment

Workers at Connecticut’s nuclear power plant worried about coronavirus precautions

Nuclear plant workers cite lack of precautions around virus, myrecordjournal. 4 May 20, HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Workers at Connecticut’s only nuclear power plant worry that managers are not taking enough precautions against the coronavirus after 750 temporary employees were brought in to help refuel one of the two active reactors.

Ten employees at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford have tested positive for the virus, and the arrival of the temporary workers alarms some of the permanent employees, The Day newspaper reported Sunday.

“Speaking specifically for the guard force, there’s a lot of frustration, there’s a lot of concern, and I would say there’s anger,” said Millstone security officer Jim Foley.

Foley, vice president of the local chapter of the United Government Security Officers of America, said security personnel have had to fight for personal protective equipment and for partitions at access points to separate staff from security.

Foley also has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration saying Millstone staff are using ineffective cleaning materials and citing a lack of cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning activity was not scheduled during three weekends in April, he said.

Officials at Millstone, owned by Dominion Energy, have not heard internal criticism about the plant’s virus precautions, Millstone spokesman Kenneth Holt said……..

Millstone recently increased cleaning staff on the weekends, Holt said, and there is regular disinfecting at the plant. …….

The deaths of nearly 2,500 Connecticut residents have been linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. More than 29,000 state residents have tested positive. As of Sunday, hospitalizations had declined for 11 consecutive days, to over 1,480…….

May 5, 2020 Posted by | employment, health, USA | Leave a comment

RUSI Joins Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy

RUSI Joins Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy   News, 4 May 2020  RUSI to become fifty-first member of the Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy Initiative.

Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy is a leadership network that brings together heads of organisations working in nuclear policy who are committed to break down gender barriers and make gender equality a working reality in their spheres of influence. RUSI Director General Dr Karin von Hippel will become the initiative’s latest Gender Champion.

RUSI’s commitment to the initiative involves taking substantive action to address some of the specific issues around gender equality in the nuclear policy field.

Staff across the Institute have worked to develop pledges for actions over the next year that will solidify this commitment. The hope is that these undertakings will have positive effects well beyond our Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme. RUSI aims to:

  1. Look at recruitment policy and practices, to make sure we are being as inclusive as we can be at every stage from role definition to hiring.
  2. Look at our approach to research, to make sure that we track and implement best practice in ensuring diversity of sources, voices, partnerships, authorship and peer review, with particular emphasis on the work of our Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme.
  3. Launch Rebalancing Expertise in Defence and Security, an initiative that will showcase the work of communities underrepresented in defence and security, starting with those who identify as women.

RUSI’s Director General, Dr Karin von Hippel, said, “We at RUSI are determined to make progress in all dimensions of diversity, so I am proud for the Institute to be joining this initiative. We will become part of a strong cohort of organisations taking action around gender equality in the nuclear policy field and defence and security.”

RUSI’s Director of Proliferation and Nuclear Policy, Tom Plant, said, “I’m delighted that RUSI has signed up to this important initiative, and enjoyed working with my team and others around the Institute to develop what I think are some very substantive pledges for positive action. We’re looking forward to implementing them and working with the rest of the Gender Champions network to improve diversity and inclusion in our field.”

More information about Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy can be found here.

RUSI’s Proliferation and Nuclear Policy programme conducts a wide range of research and implementation activities on WMD issues, such as UK nuclear deterrence, arms control and disarmament policy; countering North Korean nuclear proliferation; assessing and verifying North Korean WMD capabilities; Track II dialogues; advanced technologies and strategic stability; and the UK Project On Nuclear Issues, our free-to-join initiative for emerging nuclear scholars and professionals.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) gags staff on subject of Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland.

Ferret 3rd May 2020, The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has banned its military and civilian staff
from speaking publicly about Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland. All
members of the armed forces and MoD civil servants have been instructed not
make any public comment, or have any contact with the media, on
“contentious topics” such as “Trident/Successor” and “Scotland
and Defence”. The instructions have been condemned as a “gagging order
worthy of a dictatorship” by campaigners. They have also been criticised
by the Scottish National Party as “an infringement too far”.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Raytheon selected to Build New Nuclear Cruise Missile [ Trump has shares]

Raytheon to Build New Nuclear Cruise Missile ,  Arms Control Association, May 2020, By Kingston Reif

The U.S. Air Force announced last month that it plans to continue development of a new fleet of nuclear air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) with Raytheon Co. as the sole contractor.

“After an extensive evaluation of contractor programmatic and technical approach during…preliminary design reviews, the Air Force decided to focus on Raytheon’s design,” according to an April 17 service press release.

In August 2017, the Air Force awarded a $900 million contract to Raytheon and a $900 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. to proceed with development of the ALCM replacement, known as the long-range standoff (LRSO) weapon. (See ACT, October 2017.) The contracts were intended to cover a 54-month period of development after which the Air Force would choose one of the contractors to complete development and begin production.

The service’s rationale for focusing on one contractor roughly two years earlier than planned is unclear………The Trump administration is requesting $1.5 billio

May 5, 2020 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment