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The gas crisis shows it’s time to speed up UK green energy plans — Inside track

For today’s generation a three day week seems difficult to imagine. But Edward Heath’s Conservative government introduced such a measure in 1974, in the context of the oil crisis and facing a strike by coal miners. Last week, in the House of Commons, the business secretary was forced to calm “alarmist” fears that Britain would […]

The gas crisis shows it’s time to speed up UK green energy plans — Inside track

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bold action needed on nuclear weapons — IPPNW peace and health blog

An open letter from local, county, and state officials to President Joe Biden and the US Congress [The following letter to US President Joe Biden and Members of the US Congress was signed by more than 300 local elected officials from 41 states in the US. The complete list of signatories, including mayors, state legislators, […]

Bold action needed on nuclear weapons — IPPNW peace and health blog

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AUKUS and talk of conflict with China could torpedo COP26 climate summit

What role will Australia play in Glasgow? Will we go in good faith, promising bold action on climate change and preparedness to help our neighbouring countries in mitigation and adaptation, in recognition of our shared interests, or will we go as a spoiler? 

History suggests the latter —

U.S.-China talk could torpedo climate conference,15558 By Graeme McLeay | 26 September 2021  If the focus favours an uncertain future threat of U.S.-China conflict when world leaders meet in six weeks to address the real danger of climate emergency at COP26, the summit will likely fail, writes Dr Graeme McLeay.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

~Dwight D Eisenhower

WHEN “IKE” spoke those words in his 1961 valedictory speech as U.S. President, he would not have dreamt that Australia, 60 years later, would become part of the military-industrial complex of the United States. As someone who understood the horrors of war, he understood the dangers of an arms race while at the same time acknowledging the need for defence at a time when America faced a belligerent adversary. He was cautious.

No such caution is evident in Canberra. In the space of a few days, we have been told we are to have nuclear-powered submarines, a larger presence of American armed forces based in Australia and missiles – presumably of the intercontinental variety – if all the China-talk is to be believed.

The very idea of Australia getting into an arms race with China is risible and preposterous. It will take at least 20 years for Australia to have something like the military capability that China has now and the massive spending involved will impoverish the next generation.

We have not been told whether our neighbours in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore, India and the Pacific Islands have been consulted about the AUKUS deal, which brings a whiff of colonialism about it. New Zealand was quick to make it clear nuclear-powered subs will not be welcome there. It is likely they will also not be welcome in Port Adelaide.

The $90 billion French submarine deal is to be scrapped and bigger, more capable, and almost certainly, more expensive submarines will be built in Adelaide. An uncertain future threat of U.S.-China conflict is the justification for this 20-year program — about the time the world will have tipped into runaway, unstoppable climate change if the world’s present emissions trajectory continues.

In six weeks, world leaders come together in Glasgow to address the existential threat of climate emergency. As the war drums beat louder it appears unlikely they will meet in a spirit of cooperation and harmony. Without both China and the United States on board, there is the possibility of a disastrous failure, much worse than the Copenhagen fiasco because the urgency for action is so much greater.

Climate change and conflict are not unrelated. In a recent report from the Climate Council‘Rising to the Challenge: Addressing Climate and Security in Our Region’, authors describe climate change as a driver of insecurity.

Conflicts will arise over water, rising seas, salination, fisheries and crop failures. India, Pakistan and China – not always the best of pals – rely on meltwater from Himalayan glaciers for the survival of millions and internal conflicts over water have the potential to trigger war among neighbours which could drag the United States in, and Australia with it.

Much of Bangladesh, a country with a population of 166 million, is low lying and already experiencing inundation and salination from sea level rise. Food shortages are almost certain to occur when climate-related crop failures happen in multiple regions at the same time.

According to Climate Council spokeswoman and former Australian Defence Department Head of Defence Preparedness Cheryl Durrant:

‘Australia’s unwillingness to deal with climate change is already affecting our security, leading to a loss of geopolitical influence, particularly in the Pacific.’

What role will Australia play in Glasgow? Will we go in good faith, promising bold action on climate change and preparedness to help our neighbouring countries in mitigation and adaptation, in recognition of our shared interests, or will we go as a spoiler? 

History suggests the latter — a history that goes back to the last century and the first Kyoto agreement. A belated promise of zero emissions by 2050 with no change to our weak 2030 target, with talk of future technology fixes, will convince no one.

The World Health Organization has described climate change as the greatest global health threat. Disruption of Earth’s stable climate and the biodiversity which protects us is an immediate health and security risk. A sober assessment of the risk which China poses to Australian security is common sense but failure to address the real and present danger of climate emergency, clearly set out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCSixth Assessment Report, is negligence — negligence which will not go unnoticed by our young.

In his 1961 farewell speech, President Eisenhower also said:

“The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Natrium Fast Reactors’ Also Present a Fast Path to Nuclear Weapons

This is worse than hypocrisy. Once nations have easy access to nuclear explosive material, no inspections can prevent them from making bombs.

‘Fast Reactors’ Also Present a Fast Path to Nuclear Weapons, New “fast reactors” promise sustainable nuclear energy. They also pose serious proliferation risks because they can make lots of plutonium., by Victor Gilinsky Henry Sokolski   6 Sep 21, The Energy Department’s choice for the leading reactor design for reviving nuclear power construction in the United States is so at odds with U.S. nonproliferation policy that it opens America to charges of rank hypocrisy. The Biden administration is proposing to use nuclear fuels that we are telling others—most immediately Iran—not to produce. It will make it difficult to gain the restraints the United States seeks to limit nations’ access to bomb-grade uranium and plutonium.

We are talking here about the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) enthusiastic support of TerraPower’s proposed Natrium “fast reactor” demonstration plant and similar fast reactor projects, which DOE has showered with grants and supports with department-funded enrichment, test reactor, and spent nuclear fuel recycling programs. TerraPower and DOE expect to build hundreds of fast reactors for domestic use and export.  

Unlike conventional nuclear plants that exploit fission reactions triggered by slow neutrons, fast reactors maintain nuclear chain reactions with much more energetic fast neutrons. These reactors are billed as advanced technology, but they are an old idea. The first fast reactor designs date back to post-World War II.

Fast reactors’ main advantage is that they can make lots of plutonium, which can be extracted and used as reactor fuel instead of mining and using more uranium. This sounded good, so good to the Nixon administration that it set a goal to shift electric generation to plutonium-fueled fast reactors by the turn of the century. But the project came a cropper when it ran into safety hurdles that escalated costs. And then the increased awareness of the dangers of putting plutonium—one of the two key nuclear explosives—into the world’s commercial channels finally caused President Gerald Ford to announce the United States would not rely on plutonium fuel until the world could cope with it.   


Continue reading

September 27, 2021 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

How AUKUS May Damage NATO

How AUKUS May Damage NATO 24.09.21 – US, United States – Independent Media Institute   The fallout over the AUKUS deal, as we are now seeing, has been a severe rift in relations between two historic allies, the U.S. and France. And the collateral damage may also include NATO.

By James W. Carden

Only weeks after U.S. President Joe Biden courageously ended the war in Afghanistan—in the face of bitter opposition from the media and Congress—came the announcement of the formation of AUKUS, a new trilateral security alliance between the U.S., the UK and Australia.

The creation of AUKUS is only further confirmation—as if more was needed—that the Biden administration intends to wage a new cold war in Asia with China as its target.

This is not a development we should welcome. As the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft’s Anatol Lieven has recently observed, a new cold war “with China… will continue to lock in place the power of the U.S. military-industrial complex and squander trillions more on wasteful and unnecessary military programs designed to benefit American corporations rather than defend the actual security of actual American citizens.”

And so, as Biden puts an end to one hot war, he finds himself starting yet another cold war: One step forward, two steps back.

AUKUS’s debut has been marred by a high-profile controversy with France, which believed it had reached a deal with Australia to provide it with 12 diesel-electric submarines. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, meanwhile, noted in a statement that, instead, the Americans and the British will be providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

European leaders have come out strongly against AUKUS. Both European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the move. And the French are furious. French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled his ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia, while the former French Ambassador to the U.S. Gérard Araud observed on Twitter, “The new reality of the world rivalry of great and middle powers should lead France to a 2.0 Gaullist stance. Allied but not aligned. Some confrontations are not ours.”

And so, the fallout over the AUKUS deal, as we are now seeing, has been a severe rift in relations between two historic allies, the U.S. and France.

And the collateral damage may also include NATO.

The AUKUS controversy puts the future of the transatlantic alliance in question. Recall that Macron has long been a vocal and perceptive critic of the nearly 75-year-old alliance. A self-described disciple of France’s wartime leader and former President Charles de Gaulle, Macron has criticized the foreign policy of his immediate predecessors as a kind of “imported neoconservatism.” His own foreign policy forays can be characterized as a quest for strategic autonomy, away from the dictates of Washington and London.

Biden’s AUKUS debacle just may give Macron the leverage he needs to move the rest of Europe in his direction, toward a foreign policy that rejects the decades-old Atlanticist consensus in favor of a continental security architecture that takes into account the interests of all of Europe, as de Gaulle once put it, “from the Atlantic to the Urals.”

At a minimum, the AUKUS debacle may have the effect of pushing France closer together with its old ally Russia. Macron may double down on his policy of detente with the Kremlin, which only recently was the target of criticism by his partners in the EU.

This would leave Anglo-American neoconservatives and liberal hawks seething, but such a development might be just what is needed for a stable and peaceful future for Europe.

This article was produced by Globetrotter in partnership with the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord. James W. Carden is a writing fellow at Globetrotter and a former adviser to the U.S. State Department. Previously, he was a contributing writer on foreign affairs at the Nation, and his work has also appeared in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, the American ConservativeAsia Times, and more.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international | Leave a comment

Uncertainty on how UK will exclude Chinese involvement in Sizewell and Bradwell nuclear projects

China set to be banned from investing in the UK’s nuclear power stations on security grounds – leaving a huge financial gap which may be plugged by pension funds.

Chinese investment in Britain’s next generation of nuclear power stations is set to be banned on security grounds, leaving a multi-billion pound funding hole in the plans……

The Government has committed to making a final investment decision on at least one large nuclear project during this parliament.

Officials are understood to be keen to publish a decision on the future of Sizewell C ahead of next month’s spending review and the UN climate change conference in Glasgow in November.

A senior industry source said: ‘The Chinese will not be involved at Sizewell. This is part of a long journey and is politically much bigger than just one plant.’     Exactly how the Chinese will be frozen out of Sizewell, on the Suffolk coast, is unclear.

They have a 20 per cent stake in development of the project and an option to remain once it is built.

CGN is also involved at Bradwell in Essex, where progress is understood to have stalled, and in the EDF-led Hinkley Point in Somerset, due to be completed in 2026.

Treasury officials have studied several options to replace China’s funds at the plant.

Sources said the favoured option is a regulated asset base (RAB) model, which has been used in other big infrastructure projects such as the Thames Tideway and requires legislation.

Last week, it emerged that Ministers are in talks with the US nuclear reactor manufacturer Westinghouse over a proposal to build a new plant in Anglesey, North Wales.

Separate proposals have been mooted for a series of small modular reactors (SMRs) to complement larger plants, including a programme led by Rolls-Royce.

A Government spokeswoman said: ‘CGN is currently a shareholder in Sizewell C up until the point of the Government’s final investment decision. Negotiations are ongoing and no final decision has been taken.’

September 27, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Japan’s election campaign – Liberal Democratic Party candidates’ differing views on nuclear recycling.

Three of the four candidates vying to lead the Liberal Democratic Party
called Sunday for Japan to maintain its nuclear fuel recycling program as
they geared up for the last few days of campaigning prior to Wednesday’s
vote. During a Fuji TV program, vaccination minister Taro Kono, the only
contender who has pushed for phasing out nuclear power generation, went
against his leadership rivals and said Japan should pivot away from fuel
recycling “as soon as possible.”

 Japan Times 26th Sept 2021

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

UK government close to deal for Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding for Sizewell nuclear project

 Ministers close to deal that could end China’s role in UK nuclear power station. Exclusive: deal in which UK government would take stake in Sizewell C would risk inflaming geopolitical tensions. Ministers are
closing in on a deal that could kick China off a project to build a £20bn nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast and pump in tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer cash instead – a move that would heighten geopolitical tensions.

The government could announce plans to take a stake in Sizewell C power station, alongside the French state-backed power giant EDF, as early as next month, ahead of the Cop26 climate summit. That would be likely to result in China General Nuclear (CGN), which currently has a 20% stake in Sizewell, being removed from the project.

Under plans for Sizewell being discussed by Whitehall officials and EDF, the government could take a stake in a development company that will push it through various stages of planning and bureaucracy, sharing the costs with EDF.

Private sector investors such as the insurance funds L&G and Aviva would then be lured in
at a later stage in return for a government-backed funding model called the regulated asset base (RAB), diluting the taxpayer and EDF. Legislation on RAB funding – the same model used to fund airports such as Heathrow and water companies – is due to progress through parliament next month.

 Observer 25th Sept 2021

September 27, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

Democrat politicians, who get big donations from weapons corporations, vote against cuts to Pentagon spending

Since fiscal year 2001, military contractors have received over 54% of Pentagon spending, totaling about $8 trillion,” Sludge noted. “Over $2.2 trillion of that went to the five largest weapons firms: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. These five firms comprise about 40% of military industry cash given to federal candidates.” 

Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers,   Common Dreams The latest passage of the NDAA “is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors’ interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress,” said one critic.   

Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers,   Common Dreams The latest passage of the NDAA “is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors’ interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress,” said one critic.   

Common Dreams, September 24, 2021
 In a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday night, the U.S. House authorized a $778 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022. Every Republican voted against two amendments to reduce Pentagon spending, but Democrats were split, and a new analysis reveals that lawmakers who rejected the proposed cuts received far more campaign cash from the weapons industry than those who supported the cuts.

One amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), would have slashed the overall spending authorization level by 10%, exempting the paychecks and health benefits of military personnel and the Defense Department’s federal civilian workforce.

The measure failed by a tally of 86-332. According to an analysis of OpenSecrets data by the Security Policy Reform Institute (SPRI) and Sludge, the Democrats who voted against the 10% Pentagon budget cut have taken, on average, 3.7 times more campaign money from arms manufacturers since January 2019 than the Democrats who voted for it.

Sludge‘s Donald Shaw and SPRI’s Stephen Semler wrote Friday that “the average amount of defense cash received by Democrats who opposed the amendment was $60,680, while the Democrats who supported it received an average of $16,497” in contributions from the PACs of Defense Department contractors “as well as donations larger than $250 from those companies’ employees.”

“The vote was a step backwards for House progressives,” noted Shaw and Semler, who added that:

Last year, an identical amendment was put forward and it received 93 votes in favor, seven more than it received yesterday. Nine Democrats switched from supporting the 10% reduction last year to opposing it this year: Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Dwight Evans (Pa.), Al Green (Texas), Bill Keating (Mass.), Robin Kelly (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Richard Neal (Mass.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), and Bennie Thompson (Miss.).

Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored amendment to add $23.9 billion on top of President Joe Biden’s proposed $753 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022—already up from the $740 billion approved for the previous fiscal year under the Trump administration.

A second NDAA amendment, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would have restored military spending to the level requested by the president. That proposal for a modest 3% cut to the NDAA’s top-line figure garnered the support of a majority of—but not all—House Democrats and was shot down in a 142-286 vote.

Sludge reported that “the 77 Democrats who opposed the 3% cut have received, on average, $52,211 from the defense sector since January 2019, and the 142 Democrats who supported it have received an average of $35,898.”

Lindsay Koshgarian, program director of the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), told Common Dreams on Friday that “the passage of the $23.9 billion increase in the House is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors’ interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress.”

As she spoke in support of Pocan’s amendment on Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pushed back against the narrative that cutting Pentagon spending would make Americans less safe, emphasizing how easy it would be to find the funds.

“The Pentagon could save almost $58 billion by eliminating obsolete weapons, weapons like Cold War-era bombers and missiles designed and built in the last century that are completely unsuitable for this one,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

“We could find another $18 billion by simply preventing the end-of-year spending sprees that lead to contract money being shoveled out the door every September,” she added, echoing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) observation earlier this week that the Pentagon—which has never passed an audit—is “inherently susceptible to fraud.”…………………

The House passage of the NDAA came just over a week after researchers at Brown University’s Costs of War project estimated that as much as half of the $14 trillion that the Pentagon has spent since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan two decades ago has gone to private military contractors. IPS’ Koshgarian and SPRI’s Semler, meanwhile, have both said that corporations gobbled up more than half.

“Since fiscal year 2001, military contractors have received over 54% of Pentagon spending, totaling about $8 trillion,” Sludge noted. “Over $2.2 trillion of that went to the five largest weapons firms: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman. These five firms comprise about 40% of military industry cash given to federal candidates.”

September 27, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Maralinga – ushered in Australia’s nuclear age

A picture in time: Maralinga, the blinding flash that ushered in Australia’s atomic age.

Nuclear tests conducted in South Australia from 1956 resulted in swaths of countryside obliterated and decades of highly contaminated land.

The atomic age reached Maralinga with a blinding flash. At 5pm on 27 September 1956, a 15-kilotonne atomic device was detonated at the site in the western plains of South Australia.

The ensuing blast had as much explosive strength as the weapon which fell on Hiroshima 11 years earlier.

More than a decade after that horror struck Japan, Australia had become tangled up in the UK’s nuclear testing program, which saw swaths of countryside obliterated to further the nuclear arms race.

The atomic test at Maralinga was carried out by the British government as part of Operation Buffalo, run by the UK’s Atomic Weapons Research establishment.

In the moments after the detonation, RAAF personnel flew through the mushroom cloud to carry out tests with little instruction or protective equipment to shield them from the radiation.

For the next seven years, major and minor nuclear tests were carried out at Maralinga. The minor tests led to contamination of the area with plutonium-239, which has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

Prior to the test, very little effort was put into finding and notifying the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people who lived on the land. In addition to the obvious immediate dangers of nuclear fallout in the area, the Indigenous community would endure the long term hazards of poisoned land and water for more than thirty years.

Maralinga was not the first nuclear weapons test conducted on Australian soil. Three years earlier, on 3 October 1952, Britain detonated a nuclear weapon on the Montebello Islands off the coast of Western Australia.

A further two detonations were carried out at Emu Field. Britain moved the testing site to Maralinga after previous locations were deemed to be too remote for nuclear weapons tests.

When Maralinga was eventually closed as a testing site in 1967, the British government began the process of cleaning the 3,200 sq km of contaminated land.

By 1968, the Australian and British governments agreed that Britain has successfully decontaminated the area by covering contaminated debris in concrete and ploughing the plutonium-laden soil into the ground.

In 1984, as the land was slated to be returned to the Tjarutja people, scientists found the land was still highly contaminated.

Nine years later, in 1993, following a royal commission, and after mounting pressure, the British government agreed to pay a portion of the estimated $101m cleanup cost.

It wasn’t until 1994, 38 years after the initial blast, that the Australian government paid $13.5m to the Indigenous people of Maralinga as compensation for what had been done to the land.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, history, indigenous issues, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Sizewell C nuclear project no longer viable, with new developments in cheaper wind power- energy expert

Nuclear power has become “outdated by technology” and offshore wind can
produce power more quickly and cheaply, an energy scientist told the BBC.

Professor in energy and climate change Charlie Wilson said there was no
longer a good case for a new £20bn Sizewell C plant on the Suffolk coast.
He said new ways to store wind turbine energy meant supplies could be
maintained even in low winds.

EDF, the firm behind Sizewell C, said nuclearwas key for UK energy needs.

The government said nuclear was vital for the
“UK’s low-carbon energy future”. Prof Wilson, of the the Norwich-based
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East
Anglia, said nuclear power cost twice as much as wind power. Electricity
generated by wind turbines costs about £40 per megawatt hour, compared to
£92.50 which is the projected cost of the latest nuclear plant being built
at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, he added.

He said in the past nuclear power
was seen as key because in any weather it provides the same baseload power
– baseload refers to the minimum amount of electric power needed to be
supplied to the electrical grid at any given time. “The view in the
1970s-1990s was that you needed this large firm baseload power generation
like nuclear,” he said.

“The game-changing technologies around storage and
flexibility mean intermittent renewables – like large offshore wind farms –
are now viable as a reliable generation source.

 BBC 25th Sept 2021

September 27, 2021 Posted by | business and costs, politics, renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Novel chemical entities: Are we sleepwalking through a planetary boundary?

Novel chemical entities: Are we sleepwalking through a planetary boundary?

Our pollution of the planet with heavy metals, plastics, industrial chemicals, pesticides and more is pushing Earth systems to the limit, and us closer to crossing a dangerous planetary boundary we don’t understand.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Far from being the solution to climate change, nuclear power will be a victim of global heating

Rae Street: Given the discussion at TUC Congress of a new generation of
nuclear plants, it is worth looking at the case against nuclear energy.
First, the question of climate change, where the proponents of nuclear
power say nuclear energy is “vital.”

According to Andrew Blowers, emeritus professor of social sciences at the Open University: “Far from
being a solution to the problem of climate change, new nuclear power
stations like Sizewell C and Bradwell B on the fragile and vulnerable east
coast, are likely to become victims of the inevitable, imminent and
irreversible consequences of global warming.” He continued:

“Put simply, there is little justification for these huge structures in terms of
need. But, regardless of need, given the threat to the integrity of the
sites and the risks to present and future generations and environments, the
proposals should be scrapped forthwith.”

 Morning Star 23rd Sept 2021

September 27, 2021 Posted by | climate change, UK | Leave a comment

‘Humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation, says UN chief on International Day

‘Humanity remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation, says UN chief on International Day  26 September 2021Peace and Security

“Now is the time to eliminate nuclear weapons from our world , and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace”, declared UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Sunday, marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Addressing the threat of nuclear weapons, said Mr, Guterres, has been central to the work of the United Nations since its inception; the first General Assembly resolution in 1946 sought “the elimination from national armaments of atomic weapons and of all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction.” 

The UN chief pointed out that, although the total number of nuclear weapons has been decreasing for decades, some 14,000 are stockpiled around the world, which is facing the highest level of nuclear risk in almost four decades: “States are qualitatively improving their arsenals, and we are seeing worrying signs of a new arms race.” Humanity, continued the UN chief, remains unacceptably close to nuclear annihilation.

Comprehensive ban in ‘state of limbo’

On Thursday, the UN chief called for all countries holding nuclear technology to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which was adopted in 1996, and has been signed by 185 countries.

However, for the CTBT to enter into force, it must be signed and ratified by 44 specific nuclear technology holder countries, eight of which have yet to ratify the Treaty: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

“We have remained in this state of limbo for too long,” he said.  

Signs of hope

However, Mr. Guterres said that he sees the decision by Russia and the United States to extend the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) and engage in dialogue, as a sign of hope. He added that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in January, also constitutes a welcome step.

The responsibility to build on these developments, said the Secretary-General, falls on Member States. He described the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, scheduled to take place in January 2022, as a window of opportunity for all countries to take practical steps to comprehensiely prevent the use of, and eliminate, nuclear weapons. 

“Now is the time to lift this cloud for good, eliminate nuclear weapons from our world”, exhorted Mr. Guterres, “and usher in a new era of dialogue, trust and peace for all people”.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Will Fukushima’s Water Dump Set a Risky Precedent?

Will Fukushima’s Water Dump Set a Risky Precedent? IEEE Spectrum 
Questions raised over new norms the disaster’s radioactive wastewater cleanup efforts may foster
, RAHUL RAO 24 SEP 2021   Since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, groundwater has been trickling through the damaged facilities at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, filtering through the melted cores and fuel rods and becoming irradiated with a whole medley of radioisotopes. Japanese authorities have been pumping that water into a vast array of tanks on-site: currently over a thousand tanks, and adding around one new tank per week.

Now, Japanese authorities are preparing to release that water into the Pacific Ocean. Even though they’re treating and diluting the water first, the plan is meeting with vocal protests. From that opposition and from scientists’ critiques of the process, the ongoing events at Fukushima leave an unprecedented example that other nuclear power facilities can watch and learn from.

The release is slated to start in 2023, and potentially last for decades. This month, observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency have arrived in the country to inspect the process. And efforts are also underway to build an undersea tunnel that will discharge the water a kilometer away from the shore.

Before they do that, they’ll treat the water to cleanse it of radioactive contaminants. According to the authorities’ account of the situation, there’s one major contaminant that their system cannot cleanse: tritium.

It’s actually normal for nuclear power plants to release tritium into the air and water in their normal operations. In fact, pre-disaster, Fukushima Daiichi held boiling-water reactors, the lowest-tritium type of nuclear reactors. The Japanese government’s solution is to dilute the tritium-contaminated water down to comparable levels. That’s part of the reason the discharge will likely last several decades.

“While one can argue whether such release limits are appropriate in general for normally operating facilities, the planned release, if carried out correctly, does not appear to be outside of the norm,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Even so, the plan has—perhaps expectedly—encountered some rather vocal opposition. Some of the loudest cries have come from within Japan, particularly from the fishing industry. Radiation levels in seafood from that coast are well within safety limits, but fishing cooperatives are concerned the plan is (once again) putting their reputations at stake………….

can the events at Fukushima offer other energy facilities around the world any lessons at all?

For one, they’re a good show of the need for emergency planning. “Every nuclear plant should be required to analyze the potential for such long-term consequences,” says Lyman. “New nuclear plants, if built, should incorporate such evaluations into their siting decisions.”

But there’s other things experts say that facilities could learn. For example, something that hasn’t always been present in the Fukushima matter—working against it—has been transparency.

Authorities at the plant haven’t fully addressed the matter of non-tritium contaminants, according to Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has studied radioactivity in the ocean off Fukushima. Some contaminants—like caesium-137 and strontium-90—were present in the initial disaster in 2011. Others—like cobalt-60 and cerium-144—entered the water later.

It isn’t something the authorities have completely ignored. “Japan plans to run the water again through the decontamination process before release, and the dilution will further reduce the concentrations of the remaining isotopes,” says Lyman.

But Buesseler isn’t convinced that it will be enough. “Theoretically, it’s possible to improve the situation a lot,” he says. “In practice, they haven’t done that.” Japanese authorities insist they can do so, but their ability, he says, hasn’t been independently verified and peer-reviewed……….

“I’d hate to see every country that has radioactive waste start dumping waste into the ocean,” he says. “It’s a transboundary issue, in a way. It’s something bigger than Japan, and something different from regular operation. I think they need to be at least open about that, getting international approval.”

Here, Lyman agrees. “This situation is unique and the decision to release the water into the sea should not set a precedent for any other project.”

But even taking all of that into account, some believe that, if anything, this is an example of a time when there simply is no choice but to take drastic action.

“I believe that this action is necessary to avoid potentially worse consequences,” says Lyman.

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Japan, oceans, wastes | Leave a comment