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The American media sanitises the Biden administration’s killings in Syria

March 6, 2021 Posted by | media, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Reuters gives a timeline of events: Fukushima 2011 – 2021

March 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference | Leave a comment

Why the US wastes $billions on nuclear weapons it doesn’t need

Why the US wastes billions on nuclear weapons it doesn’t need

JANUARY 6, 202  Joe Cirincione    There’s a myth in Washington that America’s nuclear posture is developed though sober consideration of complex strategic imperatives. There are risks, we are told, but we need thousands of nuclear weapons to keep America safe. They are our ultimate security. Wise men (it is almost always men) have objectively arrived at the minimum necessary deterrent based on decades of tested theory and practice.

None of this is true. As Randy Newman sang years ago, it’s money that matters. Contracts, not strategy, drive America’s nuclear force posture.

Strategy was never the sole determinant of America’s nuclear arsenal, but in the early decades of the Cold War, however flawed, it was arguably the major driver. No longer. It is now a thin veneer of justification for a collection of legacy systems and new programs promoted for financial and political profit. The entire process is guided by an army of lobbyists. “The defense sector employed 775 lobbyists and shelled out more than $126 million to influence Congress in 2018,” reports John Carl Baker from the Ploughshares Fund,

The path to a saner nuclear strategy, therefore, goes through the budget, not the other way around. Time spent debating alternative postures will be wasted if not joined by equal or greater efforts to shrink the budgets that fuel current and future weapons plans.

The evidence is everywhere. In the midst of a raging pandemic and economic collapse, Congress last month passed a $740.5 billion Pentagon budget that lavishes almost $70 billion on nuclear weapons and related programs, with little debate and few changes to Donald Trump’s request.

The Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, for example, held just three hearings last year and only called government witnesses. It then approved Trump’s budget in full. Major challenges to Trump’s policies and budgets were like pebbles thrown at a closed window: noticed but ignored.

It was similar in the Senate. The testimony of the head of the Strategic Command before the Senate Armed Services Committee provides an example of the vapid justification offered for the dozens of different weapon types and scores of options for thermonuclear war that Congress approved.

“Our deterrent underwrites every U.S. military operation around the world and is the foundation and backstop of our national defense,” Gen. Charles Richmond said, arguing that the United States needs to maintain “a credible [nuclear] deterrent” that “requires us to modernize and recapitalize our strategic forces to ensure our Nation has the capability to deter any actor, at any level.”

That was pretty much it for strategy. Thin gruel, but enough to get his budget approved — and keep a river of money flowing through Washington. The modest $88 billion “modernization” program that President Barack Obama authorized in 2010, as a bridge to the major nuclear reductions he wanted, has metastasized into a $2 trillion plan to replace every Cold War submarine, bomber, missile, and warhead with an entirely new generation of the deadliest weapons ever invented. Obama’s cuts died, but the contracts continued.

This plan will keep thousands of weapons deployed until near the end of this century — and, thus, lucrative deals for Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and General Dynamics, the big five contractors that dominate military and nuclear policy.

They sell nuclear weapons like Kellogg’s sells cereal. It’s not a question of whether we need the product; they just need to convince us to buy it.

They do this in three ways. The first is a pitch that relies on product differentiation, a way to sell essentially the same goods in a variety of shapes, sizes, and packaging. You like shredded wheat? Then maybe you’d like it frosted, or bite-sized, or both. Thus, the familiar triad of bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines is now supplemented by cruise missiles launched from air and sea, a growing variety of ranges and yields, and a new campaign for nuclear hypersonic missiles and weapons in space.

The second is control of the market. These firms dominate in ways that Kellogg’s could only dream of doing. Corporations have thoroughly penetrated the military services generating the weapons requirements through decades of revolving doors and increasing dependence on contractors for core analysis, communication, and even administrative functions. The same is true of the civilian departments that purchase and oversee the weapons development and productions programs.

The Project On Government Oversight, for example, documented at least 380 high-ranking Department of Defense officials and military officers who went to work for weapons contractors. “The truth is,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren, “our existing laws are far too weak to effectively limit the undue influence of giant military contractors at the Department of Defense.”

The third is to do what Facebook and Amazon do so well: eliminate the competition. Contractors have basically absorbed or bought off institutional threats to their programs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the American public and politicians engaged more fully in nuclear strategy, the contractors learned how to game the system. They backed groups and politicians who promoted bogus threats, like a “window of vulnerability” that would allow the Soviet Union to win a nuclear war with a devastating first strike. But the real genius was to place sub-contracts for their biggest, most controversial systems like the MX missile or the B-1 bomber in most or even all of the 435 congressional districts.

The jobs and revenues of these contracts and bases quickly dominated the decision-making processes in these states, They were supplemented by generous campaign contributions that — were they given to a judge and not a congressperson — would be grounds for recusal. Coupled with the fear establishment Democrats have for appearing “weak” on national security, this system of contracts, contributions, and campaigns has effectively gutted meaningful congressional oversight.

Contractors over the past few decades have also constrained the formerly independent analytical establishment. Just as the fossil fuel industry muted criticism of climate change and established alternative experts, when the Cold War ended and bipartisan movements to eliminate nuclear weapons arose, weapons firms flooded think tanks and universities with grants, compromising their independence.

Over just the past five years, at least $1 billion in U.S. government and defense contractor funding went to the top fifty think tanks in America. The key funders from the government, according to a report from the Center for International Policy, “were the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force, the Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department.” The defense contractors contributing the most were Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus.

It worked. Once sources for alternative military budgets and exposés, it is rare to find a major think tank report today that is critical of military spending or, even more rare, a specific weapons program. Institutes that benefit from this largess now churn out reports and events favorable to increased military budgets and “great power competition.” This last argument works perfectly for most centrist politicians and analysts. It has just the right amount of fear and nationalism to provide sound bites on television or the campaign trail.

This lavish funding has created a new generation of advocates for super-sizing the arsenal. While there are some brilliant analysts at the large institutes who are truly independent and do not take contractor funding, it is hard to name a significant nuclear weapons proponent who has not benefited directly or indirectly from corporate or government funding. Experts are not asked to disclose these personal or institutional conflicts of interest in their articles or quotes.

This should not be a cause for despair, but for recalibration.

It could start with a simple step every journalist could take: Disclose conflicts of interest in your sources. If an expert won’t disclose their funding, don’t quote them. In Washington, this is practically a death sentence.

It could come from the research institutes themselves: Reaffirm your independence. Decline donations from weapons firms and military departments. If that is too hard, disclose all such grants up front in your reports. We need the intellectual rigor of alternative analysis, but it must be truly independent — and complete the analysis by including the material factors shaping the current posture, not just the stated strategic justifications.

President Joe Biden could assert his power by cutting the nuclear budget and not rubber-stamping Trump’s weapons. “By acting swiftly to cancel or suspend these programs, and to cut the overall Pentagon budget accordingly, Biden will create considerable leverage for negotiations with Congress,” I wrote recently for The American Prospect. “He will arrive at a much better deal by starting at zero and negotiating up rather than by trimming the programs and negotiating down.”

Finally, the independent non-government groups that represent the last, truly independent organizations promoting a saner nuclear policy must recognize a simple fact of life: No alternative nuclear posture or clever op-ed will impact policy, no matter how brilliant. The only strategy that can succeed is to focus on the money. That means teaming up with those fighting to redefine what makes and keeps us safe, who advocate for increased funding to combat climate change, to battle the pandemic, to improve health care, and to address social inequities. They need the funds that are currently locked up in obsolete and dangerous weapons programs.

By linking up, by making cuts to the Pentagon budget part of the strategy of these groups (and by reimaging national security to include these issues), it may be possible to forge a broad united front that is more powerful than the contractors. It can identify alternative revenue streams for states and districts, shame Congress into restoring investigations and oversight, press journalists to disclose conflicts of interest of the experts they quote, convince experts that their work is not complete if it does not factor money into their analysis, and pressure the government to spend taxpayer money on programs that improve our lives, not threaten them.

And if this is too long a list to remember, just hum a little Randy Newman.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

French report on the unfairness of France’s nuclear history in Algeria

French report grapples with nuclear fallout from Algerian War Austin R. Cooper | March 4, 2021 n January, the French historian Benjamin Stora filed a report commissioned by the French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” which France ruled as the jewel of its colonial empire for more than 130 years.

The Stora Report addressed several scars from the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62), a bloody struggle for decolonization that met savage repression by French troops. One of these controversies stems from French use of the Algerian Sahara for nuclear weapons development.

France proved its bomb in the atmosphere above this desert, naming the inaugural blast , or Blue Jerboa, after the local rodent. Between 1960 and 1966, France detonated 17 nuclear devices in the Algerian Sahara: four atmospheric explosions during the Algerian War, and another 13 underground, most of these after Algerian Independence.

French nuclear ambitions became inextricable from the process of Algerian decolonization. The Saharan blasts drew international outrage, stalled ceasefire negotiations, and later threatened an uneasy peace across the Mediterranean.

The Stora Report signaled that radioactive fallout from the Algerian War has remained a thorn between the two nations. But the document comes up short of a clear path toward nuclear reconciliation.

A United Nations dispute. The French bomb collided with the Algerian War before the first mushroom cloud rose above the Sahara. In November 1959, Algerian allies representing independent states in Africa and Asia contested French plans for the desert in the First Committee on Disarmament at the United Nations.

Part of the French strategy at the United Nations was to drive a wedge between the nuclear issue and what French diplomats euphemistically termed the “Question of Algeria.” French obfuscation continued for decades.

France would not, until 1999, call the bloodshed a war, preferring the line that what happened in Algeria, as part of France, amounted to a domestic dispute, rather than UN business. Macron became, in 2018, the first French president to acknowledge “systemic torture” by French troops in Algeria.

The Afro-Asian challenge to Saharan explosions hurdled France’s diplomatic barricades at the United Nations. The French delegation tried to strike references to the Algerian War as irrelevant. But their African and Asian counterparts painted the desert blasts as a violation of African sovereignty.

The concern was not only for contested territory in Algeria, but also for independent states bordering the desert, whose leaders warned that nuclear fallout could cross their national borders. Radiation measurements taken in the wake of Gerboise bleue proved many of them right.

Nuclear weapons represented another piece of French imperialism on the continent.

Secret negotiations resumed in September 1961, with US Ambassador to Tunisia Walter N. Walmsley serving as France’s backchannel. The US State Department worried that French attachment to the test sites might thwart the decolonization process.

Lead Algerian negotiator Krim Belkacem asked Walmsley if prospects for a ceasefire still hinged on France retaining control of the test sites. Krim got his answer when Franco-Algerian talks resumed the following month, at the end of October 1961.

France did not abandon its goal to continue nuclear explosions in the Sahara. But the Algerian position appeared to have softened. So long as further blasts did not impinge on Algeria’s “eventual sovereignty” over the desert, as one archival document put it, a deal looked possible.

The Evian Accords marked a nuclear compromise. Finally signed in March 1962, the landmark treaty granted France a five-year lease to the Saharan test sites but did not specify terms of use.

Going underground. Advice from the French Foreign Ministry played a key role in pushing France’s weapons program beneath Saharan mountains. French diplomats suggested that underground explosions would present, according to one archival document, “significantly less serious” challenges than atmospheric ones for future relations with Algeria and its African neighbors.

This did not stop Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, from winning political capital with the nuclear issue. In public, Ben Bella cast Saharan blasts as an intolerable violation of Algerian sovereignty, as had his allies at the United Nations. In private, however, Ben Bella acquiesced to the Evian terms and reportedly tried to squeeze French financial aid out of the deal.

The Hoggar Massif shook 13 times before France handed over its two Saharan test sites to Algeria in 1967. An accident occurred during one of these underground blasts, dubbed Béryl, when containment measures failed. Several French soldiers and two high-ranking French officials suffered the highest radiation exposures, but roughly 240 members of “nomadic populations” in the region received lower doses.

Meanwhile, France began construction on its Pacific test range in French Polynesia, the site of nearly 200 nuclear explosions between 1966 and 1996. Most took place underground, but France also conducted atmospheric detonations in Polynesia, and these continued into the 1970s. Even though the Limited Test Ban Treaty had gone into effect in 1963—prohibiting nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space—France refused to sign it.

Contamination and compensation. As part of its reconciliation proposal, the Stora Report encouraged Franco-Algerian cooperation on environmental remediation of the Saharan test sites. An expert report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, concluded in 2005 that environmental interventions were “not required” unless human traffic near the sites should increase.

The Stora Report briefly mentioned compensation linked to radiation exposure from French nuclear weapons development, but this deserves a closer look. In 2010, the French Parliament passed a law recognizing these victims and establishing funds and procedures to provide compensation for illness and injury. So far, France has earmarked 26 million euros for this purpose, but almost none of that has gone to Algerians.

Decades earlier, France’s nuclear allies turned to compensation programs in an attempt to reconcile with marginalized groups affected by weapons development without disclosure or consent. In 1993, for example, the United Kingdom settled with Australia as redress for indigenous people and personnel involved in UK explosions conducted in the former colony.

Facing similar lawsuits, the United States provided monetary compensation and health benefits to the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands, where US nuclear planners “offshored” their most powerful blasts during the Cold War arms race. Other US programs have made compensation available to communities “downwind” of the Nevada Test Site and surrounded by the uranium mines fueling the US nuclear arsenal, including Tribal Nations in the Four Corners region.

Compensation programs map a global history of colonial empire, racial discrimination, and dispossession of indigenous land, but postcolonial inequalities look particularly stark from the Sahara. Including appeals, France has granted 545 of 1,739 total requests filed by French soldiers and civilian participants in the nuclear detonations, as well as exposed populations in Algeria and Polynesia. Only 1 of 52 Algerian dossiers has proven successful.

French officials responsible for evaluating these files report that the ones from Algeria often arrive incomplete or in a shoddy state, and pin the blame on the Algerian government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the geographical, historical, and biomedical evidence that French assessment procedures demand. Claims must demonstrate that an individual worked or lived in a fixed area surrounding one of the two Saharan test sites, between February 1960 and December 1967, and suffered at least one of 21 types of cancer recognized as radiation-linked by French statute.

A step toward reconciliation. If Macron really wants to tackle France’s nuclear history in Algeria—and its aftermath—his government should start here. The French Parliament opened the door to Algerian compensation in 2010, and important revisions to the evaluation procedures took place in 2017, but there has never been a level playing field. Macron could, for example, require that French diplomats posted in Algeria help Algerians build their cases and locate supporting documents.

Another option: Macron could declassify archival materials documenting the intensity and scope of radioactive fallout generated by French nuclear blasts. Draconian interpretations of French statutes on the reach of military secrecy continue to block access to the vast majority of military, civil, and diplomatic collections on France’s nuclear weapons program—including radiation effects. Foreign archives have provided useful information, but official documentation from the French government would help exposed populations—like those in the Sahara—understand what happened, evaluate the risks, bolster their claims, and likely find these more successful.

The Stora Report did well to acknowledge nuclear fallout from the Algerian War. Giving Algerians a fair shot at compensation should mark France’s first step toward reconciliation.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | AFRICA, civil liberties, environment, France, history, indigenous issues, investigative journalism, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Fukushima wrecked nuclear plant: area remains a health and environmental disaster

Decade After Fukushima Disaster, Greenpeace Sees Cleanup Failure, Bloomberg Green,  By

  •  Land identified for cleanup remains contaminated: Study
  •  Long-term threat to human and environmental health remains

Ten years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, land Japan identified for cleanup from the triple reactor meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic power plant remains contaminated, according to a report from Greenpeace.

In addition, Greenpeace said its own radiation surveys conducted over the last decade have consistently found readings above government target levels, including in areas that have been reopened to the public. The lifting of evacuation orders in places where radiation remains above safe levels potentially exposes people to an increased risk of cancer, the report said.

On average, just 15% of land in the “Special Decontamination Area,” which is home to several municipalities, has been cleaned up, according to the environmental advocacy group’s analysis of government data. That’s despite the government’s claims that the area has largely been decontaminated, the group said.

……..While the government has been steadily lifting evacuation orders on towns since 2014, roughly 36,000 people are still displaced.

Greenpeace recommended that Japan suspend the current return policy, which “ignore science-based analysis, including potential lifetime exposure risks to the population” and abandon plans to lift evacuation orders in six municipalities.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Despite the problems, small nuclear reactor salesmen aggressively marketing: it’s make or break time for the nuclear industry.

Entrepreneurs Look to Small-Scale Nuclear Reactors,   The American Society of Mechanical Engineers,  Mar 2, 2021, by Michael Abrams  ‘‘……… even concepts that are predicated on being small, modular, and fast to build seem locked into decades-long development cycles.

The key to reviving the nuclear power industry  is building these small reactors not as projects, but as factory-made products. That’s easier said than done. “Usually, a bunch of nuclear engineers go in a room and then they come out after a year or two, and they have a design that doesn’t have a lot of foundation in realty, and nobody can make it, and the projects dies,” said Kurt Terrani, a senior staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory………..

In terms of reactor physics, the NuScale concept is fairly bog standard: low-enriched uranium, light-water cooling. In essence, their reactor is just a smaller version of the nuclear plants already in operation. That NuScale didn’t go with a more revolutionary design to mitigate waste or utilize an alternative fuel cycle is no accident. To do so would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to come up with an entirely new licensing framework, said José Reyes, cofounder and chief technology officer at NuScale.

“Pressurized water-cooled reactors have benefited from billions of dollars of research and development and millions of hours of operating experience over the past 50 year,” Reyes said. “NuScale went with a more traditional approach to assure a design that is cost-competitive and capable of near-term deployment.”

…………. The containment vessel will also sit underground in a giant pool capable of absorbing radiation from a leak. Multiple reactors would share the same pool. Being underground, they are also earthquake- and airplane-resistant. [ Ed. no mention of what would happen in the case of flooding, or of an emergency requirinfpeople to quickly respond underground] The company believes that its design is robust enough that utilities could site the reactors much closer to population centers, rather than in remote locations surrounded by an emergency planning zone.

So far, the concept and design have been convincing enough to win funding from the DoE and to move NuScale farther along in the regulatory process than any of its would-be competitors.

“NuScale’s small modular reactor technology is the world’s first and only to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,”
NuScale set out to design a reactor that was small enough to transport to site, essentially complete. Not everyone agrees, however, that building out a power plant in 60-MW modules is optimal.

“The whole idea of SMRs is that smaller is better,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. “But within the class of small reactors, larger is still better.  If you can design a reactor that is still simple, that  is still passively safe, that can still be built in a factory, but that generates 300 megawatts, that for sure is going to be more economically attractive than the same thing that generates 60 megawatts.”

Buongiorno points to GE’s BWRX-300 concept as a potentially better option. It, too, is a light-water reactor with fuel rods and passive cooling. But its larger size makes it a more of a plug-and-play replacement for coal plants……
Holtec’s SMR-160 is intended to be installed deep underground; the steel containment vessel is strong enough to keep the core covered during any conceivable disaster. “
…… Other SMR designs are dispensing with solid fuel altogether. These reactors would instead dissolve uranium in a molten salt. Some of these designs are miniaturized versions of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment built by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960s………
The one downside to molten salt reactors is that the salts usually contain fluoride, which is extremely corrosive. Simplifying the mechanical design of the cooling system cuts down on the parts in danger of corroding, but the pins that will contain the fuel are still at risk…..

Make or Break for Nuclear

Moltex is aiming for build costs at around $2,000 per kW—more than wind or solar, but less than newly built coal or gas plants, let alone competing nuclear concepts. “We’ve believe we’ve come up with a concept that can radically reduce the cost of nuclear power,” ……

Other SMR companies are less aggressive with their cost estimates—NuScale has its scopes on a cost of around $3,600 per kW, while GE is aiming for less than $2,500—but still come in under conventional nuclear power. …….
Proof of whether those costs can be achieved will be actual construction and commissioning. “This decade will be very telling,” said Chicago’s Rosner. “It’s the make or break decade for nuclear.”
Furthest along is NuScale, which in September 2020 announced its SMR design had been issued a standard design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That means the design can be referenced in an application for a construction permit—a big step, and one that had not been before achieved by a small modular reactor design. In August 2020, the NRC had completed its Phase 6 review and issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER).
The company also announced in November that it had uprated its Power Module to 77 MW, which should improve its economics by around 25 percent….

March 6, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, marketing, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021: The decontamination myth and a decade of human rights violations.

Greenpeace 4th March 2021, Fukushima Daiichi 2011-2021: The decontamination myth and a decade of human rights violations.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point B nuclear station to close ‘early’ due to aging graphite blocks

Nuclear Engineering International 3rd March 2021, REPORTS IN THE UK THAT EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point B station would close ‘early’, in 2022, sounded a strange note for nuclear industry veterans. They knew that the venerable advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) on the west coast, on its startup in 1979, was originally expected to have a lifetime of around 25 years.
But in fact, it has been in operation for 40 years and could have more than one more year remaining, if owner EDF Energy takes it to its final end date in mid 2022. But those newspapers had noted that EDF  had hoped to delay final shutdown until 2023. For longstanding opponents of the plant, however, closure comes not a moment too soon — and they believe equally that operation should end at the UK’s remaining AGRs.
At issue is the interlocking graphite blocks that in the AGR design form the reactor core. Opponents argue that years of irradiation have caused so much damage to the blocks that the plants should be out of operation. This is indeed one of the ageing issues that affects AGRs, but the situation, and the decision on whether to close the plant, is more complicated.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, safety, UK | Leave a comment

Japan’s daunting task – to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant, over many decades

March 6, 2021 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy proponents downplay its unresolved moral and ethical concerns

Nuclear energy, ten years after Fukushima,  Nature, Ali Ahmad & Francesca Giovannini, 4 Mar 21,      ” …………..Many academics have cast nuclear power as an inevitable choice if the planet is to limit global warming1. But, given the environmental and social concerns, others are more circumspect, or remain opposed2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2018 special report on global warming, acknowledged a possible role for nuclear energy in limiting global temperature rise, but highlighted the crucial role that public acceptance will have in boosting or derailing investments.

Safety and cost are frequently highlighted as the central challenges for the nuclear industry. New technologies are tackling these issues, but such reactors might not become commercialized until mid-century. That time frame could render them obsolete, as competing technologies such as solar and wind energy (plus storage) become increasingly dominant3.

In our view, a larger problem looms: the opaque, inward-looking and inequitable ways in which the nuclear sector has long made technology and policy decisions. Hence, two crucial questions concerning the future of nuclear energy need to be asked. First, can and will the sector ever overcome public disapproval? Second, are its benefits worth the risks and costs to people and the environment?……………
 much of the support for nuclear energy focuses almost exclusively on its techno-economic characteristics, downplaying unresolved moral and ethical concerns. Proponents often fail to consider inequalities in how the benefits and risks of nuclear technologies are distributed at the local, regional and global scale. Nor do they consider who is left out of the decision-making processes about what to build, or who will be most affected by problems that arise7.
Nearly three-quarters of all uranium production globally, for instance, comes from mines that are in or near Indigenous communities, for example in the United States and Australia. These mines, left unremediated after use, have poisoned lands and peoples, and upended traditional ways of life (see Nuclear waste is similarly mired in equity concerns, given that long-term repositories will probably be sited far from communities that have typically benefited from the production of nuclear electricity. The nuclear industry often presents the problem of waste storage as having known technical solutions. The reality of exactly where it should go, and how, is still highly contentious.
In stark contrast, the ‘Green New Deals’ proposed in several countries explicitly aspire to wealth redistribution, social fairness and environmental equity. In the United States and other countries where such discussions have emerged, public support for nuclear energy is mixed.

The nuclear sector has consistently failed to engage meaningfully with the public over such concerns. This failure can be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s. Psychological studies of risk at that time described the public as affective, irrational and neglectful of probability in its assessments of risk, and called on the nuclear industry either to accept and design for the public’s perceptions of risk or to educate the public8.

Industry chose the latter path, typically attempting to engage the public only at the final stages of plant regulation and focusing on educating the public with the industry’s own view of risk. This is a straightforward, quantitative equation that multiplies the probability of disaster and consequence. It often avoids or ignores the public perspective. For example, many people are willing to accept risks that are voluntary or familiar — such as flying, smoking or driving a car — against risks that are unfamiliar and over which they have little control. For involuntary risky activities, most individuals tend to de-emphasize probability and require higher levels of safety and protection for their comfort.

The industry’s mode of engagement with the public has led to an antagonistic expert–public divide. Fukushima, for example, left an undeniable mark on the public psyche. But the nuclear industry consistently plays down the disaster by focusing on the fact that it did not cause any direct casualties. Although no human deaths resulted directly from the accident, disruptions to livelihoods, social ties and irreversible damage to ecosystems have been significant. An estimated 165,000 people were displaced, and, a decade later, some 43,000 residents are unable to return to their home towns9. Industry risk assessments capture the economic impacts of such issues, but usually fail to capture the harder-to-quantify collateral damage to people’s lives and the environment………

March 6, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

In India, Google and Facebook help a vicious government campaign against environmental activists

Naomi Klein: how big tech helps India target climate activists, Guardian, by Naomi Klein 5 Mar 21, Companies such as Google and Facebook appear to be aiding and abetting a vicious government campaign against Indian environmental campaigners

The bank of cameras camped outside Delhi’s sprawling Tihar jail was the sort of media frenzy you would expect to await a prime minister caught in an embezzlement scandal, or a Bollywood star caught in the wrong bed. Instead, the cameras were waiting for Disha Ravi, a nature-loving 22-year-old vegan climate activist who against all odds has found herself ensnared in an Orwellian legal saga that includes accusations of sedition, incitement and involvement in an international conspiracy whose elements include (but are not limited to): Indian farmers in revolt, the global pop star Rihanna, supposed plots against yoga and chai, Sikh separatism and Greta Thunberg.

If you think that sounds far-fetched, well, so did the judge who released Ravi after nine days in jail under police interrogation. Judge Dharmender Rana was supposed to rule on whether Ravi, one of the founders of the Indian chapter of Fridays for Future, the youth climate group started by Thunberg, should continue to be denied bail. He ruled that there was no reason for bail to be denied, which cleared the way for Ravi’s return to her home in Bengaluru that night.

But the judge also felt the need to go much further, to issue a scathing 18-page ruling on the underlying case that has gripped Indian media for weeks, issuing his own personal verdict on the various explanations provided by the Delhi police for why Ravi had been apprehended in the first place. The police’s evidence against the young climate activist is, he wrote, “scanty and sketchy”, and there is not “even an iota” of proof to support the claims of sedition, incitement or conspiracy that have been levelled against her and at least two other young activists.

Though the international conspiracy case appears to be falling apart, Ravi’s arrest has spotlighted a different kind of collusion, this one between the increasingly oppressive and anti-democratic Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Silicon Valley companies whose tools and platforms have become the primary means for government forces to incite hatred against vulnerable minorities and critics – and for police to ensnare peaceful activists like Ravi in a hi-tech digital web.

The case against Ravi and her “co-conspirators” hinges entirely on routine uses of well-known digital tools: WhatsApp groups, a collectively edited Google Doc, a private Zoom meeting and several high-profile tweets, all of which have been weaponised into key pieces of alleged evidence in a state-sponsored and media-amplified activist hunt. At the same time, these very tools have been used in a coordinated pro-government messaging campaign to turn public sentiment against the young activists and the movement of farmers they came together to support, often in clear violation of the guardrails social media companies claim to have erected to prevent violent incitement on their platforms.

In a country where online hatred has tipped with chilling frequency into real-world pogroms targeting women and minorities, human rights advocates are warning that India is on the knife-edge of terrible violence, perhaps even the kind of genocidal bloodshed that social media aided and abetted against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Through it all, the giants of Silicon Valley have stayed conspicuously silent. Their famed devotion to free expression, as well as their newfound commitment to battling hate speech and conspiracy theories, is, in India, nowhere to be found. In its place is a growing and chilling complicity with Modi’s information war, a collaboration that is poised to be locked in under a draconian new digital media law that will make it illegal for tech companies to refuse to cooperate with government requests to take down offending material or to breach the privacy of tech users. Complicity in human rights abuses, it seems, is the price of retaining access to the largest market of digital media users outside China.

After some early resistance from the company, Twitter accounts critical of the Modi government have disappeared in the hundreds without explanation; government officials engaging in bald incitement and overt hate speech on Twitter and Facebook have been permitted to continue in clear violation of the companies’ policies; and Delhi police boast that they are getting plenty of helpful cooperation from Google as they dig through the private communications of peaceful climate activists like Ravi.

The silence of these companies speaks volumes,” a digital rights activist told me, requesting anonymity out of fear of retribution. “They have to take a stand, and they have to do it now.”

…………………. It is this quest for a political diversion, in other words, that helps explain how a simple solidarity campaign has been recast as a secret plot to break India apart and incite violence from abroad. The Modi government is attempting to drag the public debate away from terrain where it is glaringly weak – meeting people’s basic needs during an economic crisis and pandemic – and move it to the ground on which every ethnonationalist project thrives: us versus them, insiders versus outsiders, patriots versus seditious traitors.

In this familiar manoeuvre, Ravi and the broader youth climate movement were simply collateral damage. Yet the damage done is considerable, and not only because the interrogations are ongoing and Ravi’s return to jail remains distinctly possible. As the joint letter from Indian environmental advocates states, her arrest and imprisonment have already served a purpose: “The Government’s heavy handedness are clearly focused on terrorising and traumatising these brave young people for speaking truth to power, and amounts to teaching them a lesson.”

The still wider damage is in the chill the entire toolkit controversy has placed over political dissent in India – with the silent complicity of the tech companies that once touted their powers to open up closed societies and spread democracy around the world. As one headline put it, “Disha Ravi arrest puts privacy of all Google India users in doubt”.

Indeed, public debate has been so deeply compromised that many activists in India are going underground, deleting their own social media accounts to protect themselves. Even digital rights advocates are wary of being quoted on the record. Asking not to be named, a legal researcher described a dangerous convergence between a government adept at information war and social media companies built on maximising engagement to mine their users’ data: “All of this stems from a stronger weaponisation of social media platforms by the status quo, something that was not present earlier. This is further aggravated by the tendency of these companies to prioritise more viral, extremist content, which allows them to monetise user attention, ultimately benefiting their profit motives.”…………..

The new code is being introduced in the name of protecting India’s diverse society and blocking vulgar content. “A publisher shall take into consideration India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context and exercise due caution and discretion when featuring the activities, beliefs, practices, or views of any racial or religious group,” the draft rules state.

In practice, however, the BJP has one of the most sophisticated troll armies on the planet, and its own politicians have been the most vociferous and aggressive promotors of hate speech directed at vulnerable minorities and critics of all kinds. To cite just one example of many, several BJP politicians actively participated in a misinformation campaign claiming that Muslims were deliberately spreading Covid-19 as part of a “Corona Jihad”.

What a code like this would do is enshrine in law the double digital vulnerability experienced by Ravi and other activists: they would be unprotected from online mobs revved up by a Hindu nationalist state, and they would be unprotected from that same state when it sought to invade their digital privacy for any reason it chose……….

The new code, which will impact all digital media, including streaming and news sites, is set to take effect within the next three months. A few digital media producers in India are pushing back. Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of the Wire, tweeted last Thursday that the “lethal” new code is “aimed at killing the independence of India’s digital news media. This attempt to arm bureaucrats with the power to tell the media what can and can’t be published has no basis in law.” ………….

Do not expect portraits of courage from Silicon Valley, however. Many US tech executives regret early decisions, made under public and worker pressure, to refuse to cooperate with China’s apparatus of mass surveillance and censorship – an ethical choice, but one that cost companies like Google access to a staggeringly large, lucrative market. These companies appear unwilling to make the same kind of choice again. As the Wall Street Journal reported last August, “India has more Facebook and WhatsApp users than any other country, and Facebook has chosen it as the market in which to introduce payments, encryption and initiatives to tie its products together in new ways that [CEO Mark] Zuckerberg has said will occupy Facebook for the next decade.”

For tech companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Zoom, India under Modi has heralded a harsh moment of truth. In North America and Europe, these companies are going to great lengths to show that they can be trusted to regulate hate speech and harmful conspiracies on their platforms while protecting the freedom to speak, debate, and disagree that is integral to any healthy society. But in India, where helping governments hunt and imprison peaceful activists and amplify hate appears to be the price of access to a huge and growing market, “all of those arguments have gone out the window,” one activist told me. And for a simple reason: “They are profiting from this harm.”


March 6, 2021 Posted by | environment, India, media, politics | Leave a comment

10 years after Fukushima nuclear disaster, – poor prospects for nuclear revival in Japan

Decade after Fukushima disaster survivor looks back | Tomioka just 10 km from wrecked nuclear plant

Wall St Journal 3rd March 2021. At a seaside nuclear-power plant here, a concrete wall stretching a mile along the coast and towering 73 feet above sea level offers protection
gainst almost any conceivable tsunami. Two reactors are ready to start splitting atoms again to heat water into steam and generate power, the operator has told regulators.
Yet despite safety measures set to cost nearly $4 billion, the Hamaoka plant hasn’t produced a single kilowatt since May 2011, and it has no target date to restart.
The paint on billboards is fading and an old “no trespassing” sign outside the barbed wire lies on the ground—signs of creeping neglect. Even a local antinuclear leader, Katsushi Hayashi, said he spent more time these days fighting an unrelated rail line in the mountains, confident that regulators and public opinion wouldn’t let the plant open any time soon.
“Fukushima gave us all the proof we need. It’s dangerous,” Mr. Hayashi said. A decade after Fukushima, just nine reactors in Japan are authorized to operate, down from 54 a decade ago, and five of those are currently offline owing to legal and other issues.

All of Fukushima prefecture’s reactors are closed permanently or set to do so. Chubu Electric Power Co. , owner of the Hamaoka plant, declined to make an executive available for comment. It has formally applied to reopen two reactors at the plant and told regulators that new measures such as the wall, mainly completed in 2015, make them safe to operate.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics | Leave a comment

France’s Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has safety concerns about Flamanville nuclear power plant

Montel News 3rd March 2021, The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) is worried about “inadequacies” in EDF’s capacity to manage an extreme crisis at its Flamanville plant (2.6
GW), where an EPR is under construction, it reported Wednesday. On the night of January 11 to 12, ASN carried out an unannounced inspection to test the organization of the crisis by simulating an emergency situation resulting from extreme natural aggression, resulting in congestion on the road network and isolation. partial site, it said in a statement

March 6, 2021 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

Hopes in Luxembourg for the closure of Cattenom nuclear power plant.

L’Essentiel 3rd March 2021, Luxembourg has an idea to shut down Cattenom. Claude Turmes hopes the German Greens will come to power to put pressure on France and obtain the
closure of the Cattenom nuclear power plant.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | Leave a comment

Concern about the marketing of radioactively contaminated scrap metal

NFLA 4th March 2021, The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) has submitted a
number of concerns to the Environment Agency with an application by Cyclife Ltd to store 40 shipping containers, which includes within them low levels of radioactively contaminated scrap metal, at the Port of Workington in Cumbria.
The NFLA have been concerned for many years over the large international market that remains with the recycling of scrap metal from the nuclear sector, and the potential for such material, containing low levels of radiation, returning to be used in steel for consumables or buildings.
It is concerned to find out in this case that this market is growing exponentially from the EDF / Cyclife (formerly Studsvik) recycling plant at Lillyhall in Cumbria.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, safety, wastes | Leave a comment