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What could Biden’s nuclear policy look like?

January 14, 2021 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

As pandemic cripples America, Donald Trump orders funding for military Small Nuclear Reactors in space

January 14, 2021 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, space travel, USA | 1 Comment

Trump chaos highlights risks of sole nuclear launch authority

Trump chaos highlights risks of sole nuclear launch authority,, 12 Jan 2021, |Ramesh Thakur,  Critics of nuclear weapons have long pointed to two sets of risks. First, deterrence stability depends on all fail-safe mechanisms working every single time in every bomb-possessing country. That is an impossibly high bar for nuclear peace to hold indefinitely. Second, it also requires that rational decision-makers be in office in all the world’s nine nuclear-armed states.

In the past four years the latter risk has intensified in particular because of the personality traits of two of the nine leaders concerned, which is why US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were described as the godfathers of the UN nuclear ban treaty. The late Bruce Blair, a former nuclear launch officer and respected anti-nuclear campaigner, said in 2016: ‘The thought of Donald Trump with nuclear weapons scares me to death.’

The issue acquired unexpected urgency amid ugly scenes outside and inside Congress after it duly certified Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election. On 8 January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discussed with General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, precautions for ‘preventing an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike’. Milley’s office confirmed to the New York Times that he had answered her questions about the nuclear command authority.

The US has no extant legal mechanism for addressing Pelosi’s concern. On 22 December 2008, in the final days of the George W. Bush presidency, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed the unchecked presidential authority.

” For 50 years, he said, ”the US president has been ‘followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football [so-called because the code word for the first set of nuclear war plans was ‘Dropkick’] that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use … He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.’

Because of the launch-on-warning posture of nuclear weapons on high-alert status, the US nuclear system is designed to respond to a commander-in-chief’s launch order instantaneously. Missiles would leave their silos just four minutes after the president’s command authorising a strike, so that they launch before they’re destroyed by enemy missiles and hit their targets within 30 minutes of launch.

The one historical occasion on which the president’s unchecked power was an issue was in the dying days of Richard Nixon’s presidency amid the Watergate crisis. Writing in Politico in 2017, Garett Graff recalled how Defense Secretary James Schlesinger had issued an unprecedented set of orders, directing that if Nixon gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders were to check either with him or with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them. This was after Senator Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger to warn him about ‘the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust’. Apparently Nixon had alarmed congressmen by telling them during a meeting: ‘I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead’.

In 1973, Harold Hering, a US Air Force major on training to command nuclear missile silos, asked: ‘How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?’ Good question. Instead of receiving an answer, Hering was eased out of the military, lost his final appeal in 1975 and changed careers to take up long-haul trucking. Recalling Hering’s ‘forbidden question’, Ron Rosenbaum comments in How the end begins: the road to a nuclear World War III:

You might think such a question—the sanity of a president who gives a nuclear launch order—would require some extra scrutiny, but Major Hering’s inconvenient query put a spotlight on the fact that the most horrific decision in history could be executed in less than fifteen minutes by one person with no time for second-guessing.

According to law professor Anthony Colangelo, military officers have ‘a legal duty to disobey illegal nuclear strike orders’ and the use of nuclear weapons wouldn’t satisfy the tests of legality under international humanitarian and human rights laws. However, a Congressional Research Service note on 3 December restated the prevailing consensus: ‘The US President has sole authority to authorize the use of US nuclear weapons.’

A former head of US Strategic Command, General Robert Kehler, notes that military officers are bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice ‘to follow orders provided they are legal and have come from competent authority’. In a statement on 7 January, even the International Crisis Group, whose primary field of interest is the conflict-riven regions of the world, highlighted the president’s ‘unfettered power to launch nuclear weapons’ among the perils of the chaotic transition from Trump to Biden.

An angry and vengeful president in denial about the election outcome but with his finger still on the nuclear button—the same one that he’d boasted was ‘bigger and more powerful’ than Kim’s—has helped to reconcentrate minds. In the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy kept his head while the military advisers around him, led by the notorious General Curtis LeMay, wanted to deploy nuclear weapons and invade Cuba.

Since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, the world has desperately hoped that, given the strategically challenged president’s unpredictability and unreliability, former generals in his cabinet would act as the adults in the room in any crisis situation. It was in the context of Trump’s failure to grasp core nuclear realities that his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, famously remarked that Trump was a ‘fucking moron’.

The sole launch authority is so powerful and so unchecked that it’s truly scary. Bruce Blair’s two-step recommendation was adoption of a no-first-use policy in the short term and total elimination of all nuclear weapons through ‘global zero’ in the medium term. Biden can and should change the nuclear command structure once he’s in office and require the agreement of at least one other senior official for authorisation of a nuclear strike to be legal.

If this can be of more than theoretical concern with respect to the US, we surely are justified in having even graver concerns about the potential for nuclear weapons being used irresponsibly by some of the other leaders with their fingers on nuclear triggers. Having put ‘guardrails around the sole authority of the US president … to launch nuclear weapons’, Biden could then focus on the urgent need to reduce nuclear risks globally.


Ramesh Thakur, a former UN assistant secretary-general, is emeritus professor at the Australian National University and director of its Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA will be bound by nuclear weapons ban treaty, and should join it.

U.S. should join nuclear weapons ban treaty–  Michaela Czerkies Jan 13, 2021

On Jan. 22, the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force. This treaty is a historic achievement in the global movement to abolish nuclear weapons, making it illegal under international law for participating nations to “develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess, or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The treaty also acknowledges the suffering that nuclear weapons testing and use have inflicted around the world, and includes provisions for environmental remediation and assistance to people affected.

It is fitting that the TPNW enters into force just after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King clearly stated that nuclear disarmament was deeply linked to racial justice and essential to our survival. He called for a ban on nuclear weapons, understanding that, “a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic.”

It is unconscionable that neither the United States nor any of the other eight nuclear-armed countries have signed the TPNW and are therefore not bound by it. The national Back from the Brink campaign outlines five common-sense steps that the U.S. should take to reform its nuclear policy, the final step being to pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals — i.e., the TPNW. Organizations, faith communities, and elected officials can endorse and amplify the Back from the Brink campaign’s call to action and move us closer to a world free of the nuclear threat. Contact the Syracuse Peace Council at to get involved.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scientists must tell the truth on our consumerist, ecology-killing Ponzi culture

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise. 

Worried about Earth’s future? Well, the outlook is worse than even scientists can grasp , The Conversation, Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Matthew Flinders Professor of Global Ecology and Models Theme Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, Flinders University.  Daniel T. Blumstein, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, Paul Ehrlich, President, Center for Conservation Biology, Bing Professor of Population Studies, January 13, 2021 

Anyone with even a passing interest in the global environment knows all is not well. But just how bad is the situation? Our new paper shows the outlook for life on Earth is more dire than is generally understood.

The research published today reviews more than 150 studies to produce a stark summary of the state of the natural world. We outline the likely future trends in biodiversity decline, mass extinction, climate disruption and planetary toxification. We clarify the gravity of the human predicament and provide a timely snapshot of the crises that must be addressed now.

The problems, all tied to human consumption and population growth, will almost certainly worsen over coming decades. The damage will be felt for centuries and threatens the survival of all species, including our own………

academics tend to specialise in one discipline, which means they’re in many cases unfamiliar with the complex system in which planetary-scale problems — and their potential solutions — exist.

What’s more, positive change can be impeded by governments rejecting or ignoring scientific advice, and ignorance of human behaviour by both technical experts and policymakers.

More broadly, the human optimism bias – thinking bad things are more likely to befall others than yourself – means many people underestimate the environmental crisis.

Numbers don’t lie

Our research also reviewed the current state of the global environment. While the problems are too numerous to cover in full here, they include:…………

A bad situation only getting worse

The human population has reached 7.8 billion – double what it was in 1970 – and is set to reach about 10 billion by 2050. More people equals more food insecurity, soil degradation, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss.

High population densities make pandemics more likely. They also drive overcrowding, unemployment, housing shortages and deteriorating infrastructure, and can spark conflicts leading to insurrections, terrorism, and war.

Essentially, humans have created an ecological Ponzi scheme. Consumption, as a percentage of Earth’s capacity to regenerate itself, has grown from 73% in 1960 to more than 170% today.

High-consuming countries like Australia, Canada and the US use multiple units of fossil-fuel energy to produce one energy unit of food. Energy consumption will therefore increase in the near future, especially as the global middle class grows.

Then there’s climate change.  Humanity has already exceeded global warming of 1°C this century, and will almost assuredly exceed 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052. Even if all nations party to the Paris Agreement ratify their commitments, warming would still reach between 2.6°C and 3.1°C by 2100.

The danger of political impotence

Our paper found global policymaking falls far short of addressing these existential threats. Securing Earth’s future requires prudent, long-term decisions. However this is impeded by short-term interests, and an economic system that concentrates wealth among a few individuals.

Right-wing populist leaders with anti-environment agendas are on the rise, and in many countries, environmental protest groups have been labelled “terrorists”. Environmentalism has become weaponised as a political ideology, rather than properly viewed as a universal mode of self-preservation.

Financed disinformation campaigns against climate action and forest protection, for example, protect short-term profits and claim meaningful environmental action is too costly – while ignoring the broader cost of not acting. By and large, it appears unlikely business investments will shift at sufficient scale to avoid environmental catastrophe.

Changing course

Fundamental change is required to avoid this ghastly future. Specifically, we and many others suggest:

  • abolishing the goal of perpetual economic growth………..

Don’t look away………

Scientists must not sugarcoat the overwhelming challenges ahead. Instead, they should tell it like it is. Anything else is at best misleading, and at worst potentially lethal for the human enterprise.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, culture and arts, environment | Leave a comment

Joe Biden under pressure from nuclear lobby, despite the failing state of their industry

Nuclear power backers hopeful Biden’s climate focus will boost industry, By Nina Chestney, Timothy Gardner, Reuters, 13 Jan 20,  – Backers of nuclear power hope U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s focus on curbing climate change will boost the industry which is currently plagued with shutdowns, executives told a Reuters Next conference on Monday.
This is a great opportunity for our country to get our groove back after a number of years of challenges,” said Dan Poneman, the president and chief executive officer of Centrus Energy Corp, a maker of fuel for advanced nuclear reactors that are expected to become commercial in coming years.
Biden, who takes over on Jan. 20, wants to make curbing climate change one of the pillars of his administration and has supported research and development for advanced nuclear technologies……..

The United States has about 94 traditional reactors, out of the 440 worldwide, but rising costs have forced many plants to shut with five more expected to close this year in Illinois and New York.

Nuclear power faces competition from electricity stations that burn cheap, plentiful natural gas and from renewable power, including wind and solar.

In addition, around the world, nuclear plants face rising maintenance and safety costs, including protection against attacks by militants or regulatory responses to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan…….
It is not clear how Biden’s administration will prevent more of the current reactors from shutting. Rick Perry, President Donald Trump’s former energy secretary, tried to set up subsidies for nuclear power, but the idea was rejected by energy regulators.
In addition, non-proliferation experts have concerns about the supply chains of advanced nuclear, which could involve small plants in more remote locations, and that the waste that they generate could be even more concentrated than spent nuclear fuel from traditional plants……..

January 14, 2021 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

As Britain’s plan for Wyfla nuclear project founders, it’s time to start a green revolution

PAWB 11th Jan 2021, On the last day of troubled 2020, the Westminster Government has deferred a decision on a Development Consent Order for a nuclear power station at Wylfa until the end of April 2021.

This is the fourth time this has happened, and the second time in a row for Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive Horizon, to ask for a deferral.

On January 10 the Times revealed that Hitachi is winding Horizon up completely by March 31, 2021. This is the logical conclusion of the process that started exactly two years ago when Hitachi suspended Horizon’s operations at Wylfa. Then in September 2020, they announced that they were ditching their plans to build two huge reactors at Wylfa completely.

The attempt to build Wylfa B has been shambolic from the start. It’s high time to abandon the foolish dream that has paralyzed Anglesey’s development since 2006. As we approach the 10th
anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, the latest to be mentioned as ‘saviours’ of the radioactive poisoning project that would threaten the health of everyone on the island and beyond are three US companies.

Here they are: Bechtel Corporation, Westinghouse and Southern Company. Here are
some of the trio’s transgressions: Bechtel – recently fined nearly $58million for financial fraud with another company over a 10-year periodat Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most radioactively contaminated site in the United States. This followed a fine of $125million for low quality work on the same site in 2016. Much more could be said about Bechtel. Westinghouse and Southern Company – Westinghouse went bankrupt while trying to build Vogtle Power Station in the state of Georgia.

The two AP1000 reactors of the type destined for Wylfa are five years behind Schedule, have doubled in cost to $25billion, and there is no guarantee that thepower station will ever be completed. Another of their projects was the V C Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina. It was abandoned unfinished in 2017, and is still being paid for by taxpayers.

However, with this latest information, it looks very unlikely that these three American companies are prepared to pay through their noses for two white elephant sites at Wylfa and Oldbury.

This is the end of Horizon’s journey. And the end once and for all of the nuclear industry’s plans to destroy an especially beautiful part of northern Ynys Môn. It is high time that politicians on Ynys Môn andGwynedd Councils, the Senedd in Cardiff, and at Westminster to recognise
this fact and to turn their attention towards cleaner, cheaper and more sustainable ways of producing electricity. The renewable technologies are available. This is the time to start a real green revolution.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Czech government plans to impose nuclear dump on municipalities against their will

Euractiv 12th Jan 2021, Czech municipalities fight against nuclear waste repository. Czech
municipalities chosen to provide space for a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel are ready to fight against the government’s decision “with all possible means”.

On 21 December, the Czech government decided that a radioactive waste repository will be created in one of the four selected sites.

However, although the government intends to launch exploratory works in order to find the most suitable location, there is no possibility for affected areas to have their say in this matter. Four municipalities hoped that their negotiating position would be strengthened by a new law but it has never been proposed by the government despite its previous promises.

January 14, 2021 Posted by | politics, wastes | Leave a comment

Amid ongoing lawsuits about nuclear corruption, Ohio regulators will stall the nuclear bailout law

January 14, 2021 Posted by | legal, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Quakers welcome nuclear weapons ban treaty 

January 14, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment