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Back to “normal” or on to “new normal” ? But NORMAL IS the problem!

June 2, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

The world is sleepwalking toward a period free of nuclear arms control

Nuclear arms control: What happens when US and Russia let it lapse?  WHY WE WROTE THIS
In less than a year, the world could enter a period free of nuclear arms control treaties for the first time in more than a half-century. Is such a state of affairs sustainable? Christian Science Monitor By Fred Weir Correspondent, 2 June 20, MOSCOW

The world is sleepwalking toward a period free of nuclear arms control, as New START, the last remaining nuclear weapons treaty, is set to expire next February.

This dark horizon has been approaching for quite a while, but the political will to avert it has collapsed. The Trump White House has spent its term withdrawing from arms control treaties – the latest being the Open Skies Treaty last month – and shows little interest in extending New START. And Russia has not been able to woo the U.S. back to the negotiating table, despite a desire to keep the process going.
Now the biggest nuclear powers appear ready to plunge back into the strategic chaos that prevailed in the early 1960s, before the Cuban missile crisis focused the minds of terrified U.S. and Soviet leaders and led them to initiate a multigenerational effort to construct what became a comprehensive system of nuclear arms control.
In the early 1960s “we walked up to the edge of the nuclear abyss with the Cuban missile crisis. Then we walked back and started negotiating,” says Alexandra Bell, senior policy director for the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. “In retrospect, we were lucky to make it out of there alive the first time. Arms control gave us guard rails against chaos. It will be really bad if, for the first time in 50 years, we don’t have any on-the-ground insight into each other’s military forces.”

Arms control waning

The wake of the Cuban missile crisis brought not only restraints on the once-burgeoning numbers and types of new weapons, but also reduced tensions with trust-building measures, channels of regular communication, and reliable verification mechanisms. That structure survived the end of the Cold War, as did the massive, global-life-threatening nuclear forces of the U.S. and Russia.

Several U.S. presidents added their own contributions to the network of accords. As recently as a decade ago Barack Obama inked New START, the deal that made the deepest-ever reductions to strategic nuclear arsenals, with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

But the edifice erected by Cold War-era leaders has been gradually unraveling since George W. Bush unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which had served as a keystone for the whole system by placing tough caps on defensive systems. That had ensured absolute mutual deterrence in the form of mutual assured destruction (MAD), thus making the very idea of nuclear war unthinkable.

Things have been shaky ever since, though arms control experts on both sides have insisted until recently that the system might be revived if leaders wanted it. But the Trump administration, which seems averse to any limitations on U.S. power, has buried the whole idea by tearing up quite a few international treaties. Specifically, it recently pulled out of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which had banned an entire class of nuclear missiles and was dubbed “the treaty that ended the Cold War.”

In May, Mr. Trump announced the U.S. will be leaving the Open Skies Treaty, a 2002 agreement signed by 34 nations, which supports arms control by allowing countries to overfly each other’s territory on demand. Most U.S. allies have complained that leaving it will be a destabilizing act. Next, Mr. Obama’s New START, which had allowed for 18 on-site inspections per year, will expire in February without earnest efforts – of which there is little sign – on both sides to extend it………

No choice but to come back to the table

Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, which is affiliated with the Foreign Ministry, says new forms of arms control will undoubtedly be needed in the future. The most dangerous thing about the present moment is that the old tried-and-true framework is being destroyed before any new controls have been even envisioned. The dangers of miscalculation or misunderstanding will multiply amid that vacuum, he says.

“Over the past 50 years we have developed a common strategic culture with our American counterparts. We were talking the same language, and everyone knew what the terms meant.”

If that common culture, all the mechanisms of dialogue, trust-building, and verification are lost, Russia will probably not try to match the U.S. missile for missile as the USSR did in the past, he adds.

“In the absence of any arms control, it will become almost impossible for the U.S. to know what we really have or what we may be able to do. Russia is likely to follow a policy of ‘strategic ambiguity,’ to keep them guessing as a means of deterrence. That would be a very dangerous state of affairs, one that nobody would wish for,” Mr. Kortunov says……..

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

Species are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate

June 2, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment | Leave a comment

Global ‘hot spots’. Australia very vulnerable to droughts, as planet heats

Australia among global ‘hot spots’ as droughts worsen in warming world, The Age, By Peter Hannam, June 1, 2020 The world’s major food baskets will experience more extreme droughts than previously forecast as greenhouse gases rise, with southern Australia among the worst-hit, climate projections show.

Scientists at the Australian National University and the University of NSW made the findings after running the latest generation of climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Future drought changes were larger and more consistent, the researchers found.

“Australia is one of the hot spots along with the Amazon and the Mediterranean, especially,” said Anna Ukkola, a research fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and lead author of the paper published in Geophysical Research Letters.

For southern Australia, the shift to longer, more frequent and more intense droughts up to 2100 will be due to greater variability in rainfall rather than a reduction in average rainfall. For the Amazon, both mean rain and variability changes…….

One reason for the prediction of worse droughts is that the latest models assume the climate will respond more than previously understood to increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Some of the models used for CMIP6 predict changes of more than 7 degrees in global and Australian temperatures by the end of the century.

Australia’s vulnerability to big shifts in annual rainfall already challenge the country’s farming sector, while also leaving much of the country’s south more at risk of bad bushfire seasons – such as last summer’s – as forests dry out.

The CSIRO has long forecast a large reduction in stream flows in the Murray-Darling Basin, for instance, as reduced cool-season rainfall combines with higher temperatures. Such a trend appears to have already begun.

While a more moderate emissions trajectory will still produce more intense, frequent and longer lasting droughts in most of the world’s mid-latitude regions than current conditions, the shift will be less than if carbon emissions remain near the top of forecasts. ……..

June 2, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

China’s nuclear power ambitions face delays, waste problems, and the growing success of renewables

It’s a pity that nuclear energy is so easily described as “climate-friendly”. Yes, the actual nuclear reactor can be said to be cutting carbon emissions. But why does everyone ignore the huge carbon emissions from the entire nuclear fuel chain, from uranium mining through to burial of radioactive wastes? Why ignore the emissions of ionising radiation, another unseen, but dangerous pollutant?

And why ignore climate change’s effects on nuclear power? Far from nuclear energy stopping global heating, it’s more likely that global heating will stop nuclear power. Nuclear is highly water-guzzling, so most reactors are perched neat the sea, or near rivers – meaning in danger of sea level rise, as well as other extremes such as hurricanes. The water requirements mean that nuclear is affected by extreme heat – and plants have to cut down, or even shut down.

The nuclear propagandists now tote “small” nuclear reactors, which would be even more useless as the planet heats.


China to Dominate Nuclear as Beijing Bets on Homegrown Reactors 
China probably won’t hit its nuclear energy target this year, but that’s unlikely to derail a broader ambition to become the planet’s chief proponent of the  climate-friendly  [what!!]   fuel
Bloomberg, 1 June 20

In the meantime, China looks like it’ll miss its goal of 58 gigawatts of nuclear by the end of this year. Why that is, as with virtually every recent stumble associated with atomic energy, dates to the catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan nine years ago, which has slowed new projects and halted approval….
New plants, or adding reactors at existing facilities, takes years to plan and construct, and a three-year freeze on approvals that ended in 2019 has thinned the pipeline for this decade, according to BloombergNEF’s lead nuclear analyst, Chris Gadomski…….
Obstacles? So what could upset the predictions? While China’s vast bureaucracy and competing fiefdoms create their own risks around the number and pace of approvals, among external pressures, the coronavirus looms large. Reduced power demand due to China’s lockdown earlier in the year has already seen CGN Power delay projects and cut spending for 2020.  Further waves of infection unchecked by a vaccine would only see the industry hunker down even more, and could throw its longer term goals into doubt. And then there’s the potential for public opposition to nuclear, which has hobbled the restart of Japan’s fleet of reactors. Protesters have successfully forestalled the industry’s spread inland from coastal areas, and a nuclear fuel factory in  Guangdong province was canceled in 2013 amid local opposition. The effective disposal of nuclear waste remains a concern, with the development of a site in Jiangsu halted in 2016 after drawing protests. But the resistance to nuclear has died down somewhat in recent years.
So perhaps the biggest threat comes from elsewhere in China’s clean energy stable. The nation’s growing expertise and emphasis on solar and wind power, and the chunky up-front costs for nuclear and its troubled safety record, suggest that if atomic energy does end up taking a backseat, it could be due to the broader success of renewable energy.Which brings the discussion back to technology. New reactors “will need to offer the benefits of being cheaper, safer and smaller, and perceived as complementary to renewables,” said BNEF’s Gadomski.

June 2, 2020 Posted by | China, politics | Leave a comment

An American nuclear reactor flooded by an extreme rainfall event – during the pandemic

COVID Infects World Nuclear Plants , by Radio Ecoshock


Grant Smith mentioned the climate threat to nuclear installations. We have a case of that right now. The American mid-West has experience record-setting extreme rainfall events. The City of Chicago just had it wettest May, for the third year in a row. All that rain burst two dams in Michigan, flooding out the city of Midland, population 42,000. It also flooded the Dow Chemical plant that has produced noxious chemicals for years, including Agent Orange. The company acknowledges their chemicals have leaked out over the years. It has been declared a Superfund site, among the worst in the country requiring federal cleanup funds. There are chemicals lining the river, now being stirred up by the flood, and washing down into Lake Michigan.

What is less reported is the Dow nuclear reactor at that flooded site. It is a smaller research reactor built in the 1960’s, called a TRIGA 1 model. The reactor is sunk down into the ground. It doesn’t have cooling rods, but depends on convection for water cooling. Although the reactor was not operating at the time of the flood in late May, the design suggest it probably still had nuclear materials inside. Are they now leaking out into the river and Lake Michigan. So far, the company says “no”. With no federal oversight reporting we can rely on, you just have to take the word of Dow Chemical that this reactor is perfectly safe during this extreme rainfall event. Nothing to worry about here, they say. Beyond nearly 400 very large nuclear power plants in the United States, there are thousands of smaller reactors scattered around the country, at Universities, military bases, and private companies. Who is keeping track of those as climate change and a pandemic come knocking at the door?

Here is that unusual event report to the NRC about the Dow Chemical reactor in Michigan. For those who want to dive deeper, here is a description of that Triga Mark I reactor………

June 2, 2020 Posted by | climate change, safety, USA | Leave a comment

The European Union plus France, Germany and the UK “deeply regret” US decision on Iran sanctions

EU and others ‘regret’ US decision on Iran sanctions, WNN 01 June 2020  The European Union plus France, Germany and the UK have said they “deeply regret” the USA’s decision to end three sanction waivers covering Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) projects in Iran. Separately, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said the US decision “hampers” international non-proliferation progress…….

“We deeply regret the US decision to end the three waivers covering key JCPOA nuclear projects in Iran, including the Arak Modernisation Project,” the spokespersons of the High Representatives of the EU and the Foreign Ministries of France, Germany and the UK said in a joint statement issued on 30 May. “These projects, endorsed by UN Security Council resolution 2231, serve the non-proliferation interests of all and provide the international community with assurances of the exclusively peaceful and safe nature of Iranian nuclear activities.

“We are consulting with our partners to assess the consequences of this decision by the United States.

“The JCPOA is a key achievement of the global non-proliferation architecture and currently the best and only way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. That is why we have worked continuously with the aim of ensuring the full and effective implementation of commitments under the JCPOA, in particular the return of Iran to full compliance with its nuclear commitments without delay.”

Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, on 29 May said the US decision to end the waiver “hampers” international non-proliferation progress and shared efforts to preserve the JCPOA.

“The Arak reactor conversion is an important part of the JCPOA and a joint project of parties to the agreement,” he said. “China is ready to work with other parties to continue upholding the deal and safeguarding its own legitimate rights and interests.”

The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 by Iran and the E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the USA – also referred to as the P5+1 – plus the European Union) and implemented in January 2016, clearing the way for the lifting of nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran. Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment activities, eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and limit its stockpile of low-enriched uranium over the subsequent 15 years……

US President Donald Trump in 2018 announced the termination of the USA’s participation in the JCPOA, directing the US administration to begin the process of re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

June 2, 2020 Posted by | EUROPE, Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear Weapons: The Reason Why Even Iran Fears Israel

Nuclear Weapons: The Reason Why Even Iran Fears Israel, Kyle Mizokami,The National Interest•June 1, 2020

………Israel does not confirm nor deny having nuclear weapons. Experts generally assess the country as currently having approximately eighty nuclear weapons, fewer than countries such as France, China and the United Kingdom, but still a sizeable number considering its adversaries have none. These weapons are spread out among Israel’s version of a nuclear “triad” of land-, air- and sea-based forces scattered in a way that they deter surprise nuclear attack.  …….

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Israel | Leave a comment

German Parliament in debate on basing of nuclear weapons

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Germany, politics | Leave a comment

Discussion on Poland, Germany hosting nuclear weapons

Playing Warsaw against Berlin on nuclear weapons, European Leadership Network, Katarzyna Kubiak |Policy Fellow 1 June 20, The German domestic dispute about its future role in NATO nuclear sharing is heating up again. But the discussion took a new turn when in May 2020 US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher tweeted “If Germany wants to diminish nuclear capability and weaken NATO, perhaps Poland – which pays its fair share, understands the risks, and is on NATO’s eastern flank – could house the capabilities.” How much merit does this “perhaps” have?

NATO nuclear sharing is an arrangement in which the United States deploys about 150 nuclear free-fall bombs in Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey, of which about 80 are for delivery by European NATO aircraft. Berlin, Rome, Brussels and Amsterdam possess nuclear-certified planes and train their pilots on the nuclear mission, while several other Allies, including Poland, would support NATO nuclear operations with conventional air tactics (SNOWCAT).

In December 2015, asked if Poland would want to join NATO’s nuclear sharing program, Deputy Defence Minister Tomasz Szatkowski said, “concrete steps are currently under consideration.” The interview stirred confusion. The Polish Ministry of Defence rectified that it was not working on Poland’s accession to the program. It pointed out that Szatkowski’s statement should be read in the frame of the then on-going international discussion about widening allied participation in NATO’s nuclear sharing. It also made clear that Warsaw did not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and that any form of Polish participation in NATO nuclear sharing requires domestic and allied political arrangements. Yet since the interview, rumours that Poland is interested in joining NATO’s nuclear sharing have become prevalent.

Limited technical merit

Poland does not host American nuclear weanuclear pons. It does not have the necessary infrastructure to do so, nor does it possess aircraft certified for the mission. Poland participates in SNOWCAT and observers spotted Polish F-16 aircraft supporting NATO’s nuclear strike exercises in 20132014 and 2017. Warsaw has recently ordered 32 F-35A aircraft with the first anticipated for delivery between 2025 and 2026. The United States certified the F-35 to carry tactical nuclear weapons. Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands already procured or ordered the jets to replace their ageing dual-capable aircraft prescribed to NATO’s nuclear mission. While the Polish procurement of the F-35 could be interpreted as building readiness to receive weapons, it should be remembered that other NATO allies with no roles in nuclear sharing (like Denmark and Norway) also bought F-35.

Legal uncertainty

Moving American nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland and Polish participation in NATO nuclear sharing is not a clear-cut matter legally either. Poland is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article I of this treaty, applicable to nuclear-weapons states, prohibits the transfer of “control” of nuclear weapons “to any recipient whatsoever.” While some experts view existing NATO nuclear sharing arrangements compatible with the NPT, others voice scepticism.

A clear breach of political commitments……

Vague political benefits……

Questionable militarily benefits  ……

The merit……

The United States never publicly offered Poland to become a host state. In October 2019, when the US government was reviewing plans for evacuating its nuclear weapons from Turkey out of political concerns, no US government representative openly suggested relocating these weapons to Poland. Ambassador Mossbacher seems to have simply instrumentalised Poland, playing

June 2, 2020 Posted by | EUROPE, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

French Polynesia – call to France to pay medical costs of nuclear test victims

French nuclear compensation law snagged in Senate, RNZ,   1 June 2020 
 The French Senate has changed its position on a proposed law which would tighten the criteria for those seeking compensation for ill health because of the nuclear weapons tests in French Polynesia.
From Dateline Pacific, 6:02 am on 28 November 2019

French Polynesia’s social security agency, the CPS, has again called on France to cover the costs of caring for the victims of the French nuclear weapons tests.

The demand by the CPS coincides with a push to change the compensation law – this time by a French Polynesian advisory body, the Economic, Social, Environmental and Cultural Council.

The French military carried out more than 40 atmospheric nuclear tests, with fallout affecting islands well beyond the Moruroa test site.

Walter Zweifel has been following the debate and Don Wiseman asked him what the specific demands are.


WZ: The social security agency the CPS has calculated that it has so far spent $US770 million on health care costs for people deemed to have radiation-induced illnesses. The CPS covers medical expenses as well as pension payments but it is struggling financially. It has now again asking for France to assume responsibility for problems caused by its tests. The demand to be reimbursed however is not new. The CPS asked in 2010 for $US240 million, a sum which rose to $US540 million in 2015.

DW: How many people have been affected?

WZ: According to the CPS, just over 9,500 people have been taken care of for cancers caused by the tests. ……..

DW: What have the implications of the latest change been?

WZ: Well, still more claims are recognised than earlier in this decade but French Polynesia’s Economic, Social, Environmental and Cultural Council wants the law to be changed again to say that the defence ministry is responsible for the effects of the tests. This is a difficult undertaking because a French court has already ruled that the French state was not liable because there was no proof that the state was directly responsible for the damage. The payments made through the French compensation commission are defined as money given out of national solidarity and not because of any liability.

June 2, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Deep boreholes for nuclear waste disposal?

June 2, 2020 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment