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Harsher anti-protest laws targeting environmentalists are putting greed before green 

Guardian, Bob Brown 27 June 22,

Penalties for peaceful action are now the same as for aggravated assault.

Last Friday dozens of armed New South Wales police officers raided a camp near Sydney and arrested two environmentalists. One was Aunty Caroline Kirk, an Aboriginal elder. She was charged with “wilfully obstructing and intimidating police”.

“I can’t run, I can’t climb,” she said. “All I can do … is teach my culture. Why are they doing this?”

The answer lies in the showdown of our age between greed and green.

At the heart of this is greenophobia, the fear of things green, including environmentalists. It involves the blighted idea that people should be stopped from taking action to defend the environment, especially if it gets in the way of making money.

It has infected the world of natural resource extractors and they have found the established political parties around the world extra helpful. So, in this year’s Queen’s speech, Boris Johnson announced a bill to jail peaceful UK protesters for up to 10 years. The proposal of those measures was one of the triggers that brought 400 alarmed scientists out to support environmental activists last year.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a greenophobe who is letting the Amazon rainforest and its Indigenous cultures be destroyed. His nation has descended into environmental lawlessness in which two rainforest defenders, British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira, were murdered this month. Globally, 220 environmentalists were murdered last year and thousands more were injured, terrorised or imprisoned. Most of the perpetrators have not been arrested or charged.

MMG’s lobbying helped influence the Tasmanian parliament to vote last week for harsher penalties for the defenders of the Tarkine and its giant masked owls. A clear majority of Tasmanian MPs want MMG to get its toxic waste dump in the Tarkine and Tasmania’s defenders of nature to get a cell in Risdon prison.

Tasmania’s laws match those of NSW, with penalties of up to $11,000 for peaceful environmental protest and double that, or two and a half years in jail, for a second offence. Had these laws been in place in other jurisdictions at other times, the Franklin River would be dammed, the Daintree rainforest razed and much of Kakadu national park mined.

Victoria has also introduced legislation, one aim of which is to deter scientists who have previously gone into the highlands and found forests with protected species – such as the greater glider and the state’s critically endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum – being logged. That’s illegal. While the loggers faced no charges, the intention of the new laws is to stop or arrest those scientists next time.

In Newcastle last year a young man was sentenced to a year in jail for delaying a coal train. The court did not hear the assessment of the former chief scientist at Nasa who told the US Congress that, in this world of dangerous global heating, transporting coal is a criminal activity.  

Greenophobia is percolating down. On the Monday before Aunty Caroline’s arrest, 100 or so officers raided Blockade Australia’s camp for peaceful protest at Colo near Sydney after four undercover officers who failed to identify themselves “feared for their lives” – though the police had the guns and the people in the camp, including the children, had none……………………………..

Corporate PR machines, with the rightwing media ready to go, are developing greenophobia to divert attention to their business wellbeing and away from the graver threat of the collapse of Earth’s biosphere, including through global heating and species extinctions. As the NSW attorney general, Mark Speakman, put it: “What we are stopping, or criminalising even further, are protests that shut down major economic activity.” It’s money before the planet.22

The new federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is now Australia’s most powerful environmentalist. She will decide if MMG should treat its toxic wastes inside or outside the Tarkine rainforest. In doing so she will also decide if Tasmania’s environmentalists will face the new draconian sentences there. Those penalties, for peaceful environmental action, are now the same as for aggravated assault or for threatening neighbours with a shotgun.

Such laws may be tested in the high court as earlier laws were, after I was among those arrested in Tasmania’s Lapoinya rainforest in 2017. The court found those laws unconstitutional because they took away the right to peaceful protest. Meanwhile the Lapoinya forest was flattened and burnt, along with its rare wildlife. No one was arrested for that… The court found those laws unconstitutional because they took away the right to peaceful protest. Meanwhile the Lapoinya forest was flattened and burnt, along with its rare wildlife. No one was arrested for that.

If MMG’s needless waste dump is given the go-ahead I, for one, will help defend that vital forest, its owls, kingfishers and Tasmanian devils. They can take us out of nature but they can’t take nature out of us.

As for the “terrifying” Aunty Caroline, I would like to meet her and thank her. She may not be able to run or climb but she is an inspiration.  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/27/harsher-anti-protest-laws-targeting-environmentalists-are-putting-greed-before-green-bob-brown

  • Bob Brown is a former senator and leader of the Australian Greens and is patron of the Bob Brown Foundation……
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June 28, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, Legal | 2 Comments

Assange’s wife sounds alarm over his treatment

Assange’s wife sounds alarm over his treatment,  https://www.rt.com/news/557738-assange-wife-treatment-extradition-us/ 27 June 22.WikiLeaks founder was subjected to ‘especially cruel’ treatment after extradition to US was approved in UK, Stella Moris has said.

Julian Assange was strip-searched and moved to a bare cell on the very day the UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved his extradition to the US, the WikiLeaks founder’s wife, Stella Moris, told journalists on Thursday. The 50-year-old remained there for a weekend as prison guards searched his own cell, she added.

“Prison is a constant humiliation but what happened on Friday felt especially cruel,” Moris, who married Assange in March, has said, adding that the guards had told their inmate that it had all been done “for his own protection.”

According to Moris, the guards were looking for any things that could be used by a person to take their own life. In the bare cell where Assange was placed, the guards checked his status every hour until he was allowed to return to his cell on Tuesday.

The WikiLeaks founder currently remains in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in south-eastern London, having been placed there in April 2019 as the UK was deciding on his extradition to the US. On June 17, Patel approved his transfer to US custody.

A British court had initially refused the extradition request on the grounds that Assange may otherwise kill himself, or that he’d be subjected to inhumane treatment in US detention. But Washington successfully appealed the ruling, offering the UK assurances that the Australian’s rights would be observed.

“The fact he is imprisoned while this outrageous extradition proceeds is a grave injustice in itself. He needs to deal with all that, while preparing for a complex appeal to the High Court,” Moris said. Assange still has a right to appeal the decision within 14 days of June 17.

“This kind of thing never becomes more tolerable. Any person would find it degrading. The mental strain on Julian is enormous as it is, having to process what is essentially a death sentence,” Moris said, adding that extradition to the US would “drive him to take his own life.”

It is not some “regular discussion about mental health,” she has insisted, adding that “we are talking about driving a person to take their own life.”

Moris, who has two children with Assange, has vowed to “use every available avenue” and “every waking hour fighting for Julian until he is free.” John Rees, a leading member of the campaign aimed at making the authorities free Assange has also branded Patel’s ruling “illegal” and said the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters “need to redouble our efforts to stop the extradition.”

The UK Home Office said last week that the British courts “have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange,” adding that they also believed his rights would be observed.

Assange has been a target for the US since 2010, when WikiLeaks published a trove of State Department cables and Pentagon documents that depicted alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has since been accused of attempting to hack Pentagon computers and is charged under America’s Espionage Act, over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified materials. If extradited to the US, he might face up to 175 years behind bars.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Ukraine won’t pursue NATO membership – Zelensky adviser

Ukraine won’t pursue NATO membership – Zelensky adviser  https://www.rt.com/russia/557824-ukraine-doesnt-want-to-join-nato/ 27 June 22,

However, Kiev wants the bloc to acknowledge its role as a “cornerstone” of European security.

Ukraine has accepted that NATO membership is off the table, and will not take any further steps toward joining the US-led military bloc, Igor Zhovkva, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told the Financial Times on Saturday. Nevertheless, Kiev wants a say in NATO’s policy making.

The bloc’s leaders are set to meet in the Spanish capital of Madrid next week. During two days of meetings and consultations, the organization will unveil its Strategic Concept – a document that outlines its mission and stance toward perceived threats, including China and Russia. 

Zhovkva told the Financial Times that Zelensky’s government wants NATO to acknowledge that Ukraine is “a cornerstone of European security,” and to reaffirm its partnership with Kiev, first established in 1997.

However, he said that Ukraine will not push to become a member of the bloc.

“Nato members have declined our aspirations. We will not do anything else in this regard,” he said.

Ukraine’s prospective membership was a key factor behind the current conflict with Russia. The previous Petro Poroshenko-led government added the goal of becoming a NATO member to the country’s constitution in 2019, despite Moscow’s warnings that having the bloc’s forces and weapons on its border would constitute an unacceptable security threat.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has insisted that membership remains open for interested nations, but has not promised or ruled out accession for Ukraine in the near term. Under the 2008 Bucharest Declaration, NATO’s official position is that Georgia and Ukraine “will become members of NATO” at an unspecified future date.

NATO’s Strategic Concept has not been updated since 2010. That version of the document states that the alliance seeks “a true strategic partnership” with Russia.

Zhovkva wants NATO to purge any mention of Russia as a “partner” from the coming update. 

“We expect in the Nato strategic concept . . . there will be more strict and severe warnings to the Russian aggressor,” he said, urging the alliance “don’t be shy” in inserting anti-Russian text.

Furthermore, Zhovkva said that he wants the Ukrainian conflict to be described in the strategy document, arguing “it’s not enough just to cross out the word ‘partner.’”

June 28, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Eva Bartlett: Here’s what I found at the reported ‘mass grave’ near Mariupol


 https://www.sott.net/article/467261-Eva-Bartlett-Heres-what-I-found-at-the-reported-mass-grave-near-Mariupol Eva Bartlett, RT Thu, 28 Apr 2022, According to recent Western media, Russian forces have buried up to 9,000 Mariupol civilians in “mass graves” in a town just west of the Ukrainian city. These reports use satellite imagery as supposed evidence and repeat the claims of officials loyal to Kiev that “the bodies may have been buried in layers” and “the Russians dug trenches and filled them with corpses every day throughout April.”

I went to the site in question and found no mass graves.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

‘Lacking in scientific rigour’: Damning verdict of marine expert on UK’s Nuclear Waste Services seismic testing plan

Radiation Free Lakeland (RFL) and the Nuclear Free Local Authorities
(NFLA) have announced the publication of a report by a renowned marine
expert which is highly critical of Nuclear Waste Services’ (NWS) proposal
to carry out a seismic survey in the Irish Sea to further a plan for an
offshore nuclear waste dump.

The report, ‘The West of Copeland Acoustic
Airgun Survey Proposal: A critical analysis Review Briefing’, was
commissioned by Radiation Free Lakeland and supported wholly through
financial contributions made by members of the public concerned about the
harm that could be caused to marine life by seismic testing.

The report was written by Tim Deere-Jones, a highly-regarded marine radioactivity and
pollution researcher and consultant who has been working independently in
this field since 1983. The NWS, an operating division of the Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority, is responsible for finding a site for a
so-called Geological Disposal Facility, either below ground or beneath the
seabed.

This nuclear waste dump will be filled with the toxic radioactive
waste that is the legacy of Britain’s seven decades of the civil nuclear
power production; much of it will remain radioactive for many tens of
thousands of years.

Three search areas in Cumbria, falling within the local
authority areas of Allerdale and Copeland and offshore up to 22kms, are
under consideration. Seismic testing will enable NWS to determine if the
geology beneath the bed of the Irish Sea is suitable to host a repository
for the nuclear waste.

This involves firing blasts of sound from air guns
below the waves every 10 seconds for four weeks or longer. This sound
penetrates under the ocean floor to help scientists discover more about the
suitability of the geology to store nuclear waste. Seismic testing can
seriously impair the health of marine life, which in the Irish Sea includes
whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals, but some scientific reports also
suggest that even tiny shellfish and plankton can be adversely impacted,
hazarding the whole marine ecosystem.

NWS have claimed an exemption from
the requirement to seek a Marine Licence from the MMO citing their survey
as furthering ‘scientific research’ and in so doing have prevented
public analysis of their proposals or commentary from academics and marine
welfare organisations.

 NFLA 27th June 2022

June 28, 2022 Posted by | oceans, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

The whole idea of a GDF (geological disposal facility) is flawed thinking and needs to be revisited.

John Laband   https://www.facebook.com/groups/radiationfreelakeland 27 June 22, The whole idea of a GDF (geological disposal facility) is flawed thinking and needs to be revisited. CoRWM (committee on radioactive waste management) must face up to the harsh reality that there is no informed expert opinion that doesn’t acknowledge that the physical barrier between the environment and the high level waste material (spent nuclear fuel rods) will likely break down long before the radioactivity has decayed to safe levels.

What went wrong was the way the committee, 10 yrs ago, dealt with all the alternative suggestions for dealing with the waste material and there were about 10 of them. It literally drew a red line through each of the alternative suggestions and there was no discussion about their merits.

The excuse given was that at the time there was no worldwide precedent or experience of each of them. The exception was the GDF plan which already existed in the USA at Yucca mountain in Nevada and the WIPP pilot project in New Mexico. So the UK approach was to jump on that bandwagon and CoRWM has spent the intervening time trying to induce local communities into accepting their plan for an underground nuclear dump. Including attaching the idea to a plan for an undersea coal mine.

Unfortunately for CoRWM the Yucca mountain site has been abandoned. There is nothing there now except a boarded up exploratory tunnel and an accident has happened at the WIPP site leading to radioactive contamination on the surface.

In addition the US is no longer adding to its fund to provide a national disposal site. It has gone back to dry storage of waste on site in concrete casks.

In my opinion CoRWM needs to abandon it’s one track policy and go back to the drawing board and look at all suggested schemes in detail. In the meantime safe modern storage facilities need to be constructed on the surface and a moratorium adopted on the production of anymore waste from fission reactors.

Cancel any further expansion of nuclear electricity generation and scale down existing facilities to zero. We cannot at the moment handle the mounting pile of high level radioactive waste.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

The Chernobyl disaster: Five interesting facts about the worst nuclear accident in history

Was it human error or not?

Interesting Engineering, By Maia Mulko 27 June 22, The Chernobyl disaster occurred on  26 April 1986 at the No. 4 reactor of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near the city of Pripyat, in the north of Ukraine, in what was then the Soviet Union. It occurred when an RBMK 1000 reactor overheated and exploded during a safety test, releasing at least 5% of the radioactive reactor core into the environment and depositing radioactive material across a wide swathe of Europe.

The explosion itself killed two engineers. Another 28 to 30 operators and firemen who helped fight the blaze died of acute radiation syndrome within a few weeks of the accident, and a number of workers later died of causes related to suspected radiation exposure.

Workers of the plant, firefighters, and residents of the nearby city of Pripyat received dangerous doses of ionizing radiation. 

The event also likely had a significant environmental impact. Radiation contaminated drinking water and fish over large distances, destroyed 1.5 square miles (4 square kilometers) of pine forest, and killed or induced mutations in other plants or animals. Large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and parts of Europe were contaminated to varying degrees……..

Here are some interesting facts about Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

1) The reactor had design flaws

The Chernobyl disaster is usually attributed to human error. Viktor Bryukhanov, the manager of construction and director of the nuclear plant, was held responsible for the accident and imprisoned for violation of safety regulations in 1987. He was released in 1991.

But now we know that the cause of the accident was most likely a combination of human error and design deficiencies in the Soviet-era RBMK 1000 reactors and that many of these faults were known by Soviet experts but kept secret from Bryukhanov.

1) The reactor had design flaws

The Chernobyl disaster is usually attributed to human error. Viktor Bryukhanov, the manager of construction and director of the nuclear plant, was held responsible for the accident and imprisoned for violation of safety regulations in 1987. He was released in 1991.

But now we know that the cause of the accident was most likely a combination of human error and design deficiencies in the Soviet-era RBMK 1000 reactors and that many of these faults were known by Soviet experts but kept secret from Bryukhanov.

Some of these flaws were:………………………………..

Additionally, the power plant operators weren’t adequately trained to work with this type of reactor. Unaware of its weaknesses, the reactor crew disabled automatic shutdown mechanisms to prepare for a test on the reactor would perform following a loss of main electrical power supply.

As the reactor began overheating, a peculiarity of the design of the control rods caused a dramatic power surge as they were inserted into the reactor, leading to the rapid increase in core reactivity.

2) The real death toll of the disaster is unknown

It took almost two weeks after the explosion for firefighters to put out the graphite-fueled fire. 

But the fire wasn’t the only threat, as toxic fumes —composed mainly of fission products iodine-131, cesium-134, plutonium-239, and cesium-137— were still in the air. 

Apart from the two engineers killed at the blast, 28-31 emergency workers and plant operators died of acute radiation sickness in the first three months after the accident. 

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there were also 1,800 documented cases of thyroid cancer in children living in the region who were between 0-14 years old at the time of the accident, which is “far higher than normal”. This is likely related to the release of iodine-131, which accumulates in the thyroid.  

2005 report by the United Nations estimated that up to 4,000 deaths might ultimately result from radiation exposure from the accident..

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster also increased unnecessary induced abortions due to fear of birth defects ……..

3) Evacuations started 36 hours after the accident

Many people in Pripyat —located around 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant— began suffering from symptoms like headaches and vomiting within a hours after the accident, but an evacuation wasn’t ordered until 36 hours after the accident

This was likely due to the fact that the Soviet authorities were reluctant to acknowledge first that an accident had occurred and then the full extent of the accident. On April 28, radiation levels set off alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden, around 620 mi (1,000 km) from Chernobyl. However, when the Swedish government contacted the Soviets, they initially denied an accident had taken place at all and only admitted it once the Swedish government said they were about to file a report

 with the International Atomic Energy Agency

Although Pripyat inhabitants were initially told that they would only be away for three days, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (officially called the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation) was created about 10 days later with a radius of 30 kilometers (19 miles) of the nuclear plant. 

Residents never went back and Pripyat is a ghost city since then. 

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone now measures approximately 1,000 square miles (2,600 square kilometers). Around 7,000 people live and work in and around the plant (or did until the beginning of the war with Russia), and around 150 have returned to the surrounding villages, despite the risks. 

4) The “liquidator” status

Civil and military personnel exposed to radiation while trying to mitigate the effects of the nuclear disaster were termed “liquidators”. Those who worked as liquidators have a similar status to veterans and are entitled to certain social benefits, although many have since complained of a deterioration in their compensation and medical support over time.

Around 600,000 people were granted the status of “liquidator.” They were mainly men and women who worked on the clean-up and decontamination of the area —such as those who removed contaminated debris from the nuclear plant, those who worked on the construction of the “sarcophagus” (a steel and concrete structure to cover the exploded reactor and prevent further contamination), those who helped build settlements for evacuees, etc. 

Fortunately, many radioactive elements released into the air are short-lived, but strontium-90 and cesium-137 each have around a 30-year half-life. These elements have been found in lakes, and they are also present in the water and fish of rivers of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, as well as in the air of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.  https://interestingengineering.com/chernobyl-disaster-facts-worst-nuclear-accident

June 28, 2022 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Ukraine shuts down its co-operative agreements with Russia in the matter of nuclear power safety

Ukraine terminates Russia nuclear agreements, WNN, 27 June 2022,

The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU) says it has terminated international agreements concerning cooperation between the country and Russia in the field of nuclear safety

In a statement posted on its website on 27 June, SNRIU said that “due to the military aggression of the Russian Federation, the State Inspectorate for Nuclear Regulation of Ukraine terminates international agreements concerning cooperation between countries in the field of nuclear safety”.

It said the order was signed on 24 June by Acting Chairman Oleg Korikov and terminated an agreement on cooperation between the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine and the Federal Supervision of Nuclear and Radiation Safety of Russia which was signed in Vienna in September 1996. It also terminates the agreement between the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine and the Federal Nuclear and Radiation Safety Supervision of Russia on the exchange of information and cooperation in the field of safety regulation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, which was signed in Moscow in August 2002……………………….

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned about the number of key nuclear safety rules which have been broken as a result of the military action in and around nuclear power plants, and the continuining occupation of Zaporizhzhia.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who has been trying to organise a mission for its inspectors to Zaporizhzhia, said he was becoming increasingly concerned……………..  https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Ukraine.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

USA now desperately trying to flog off NuScam’s small nuclear reactors to Europe, starting with Romania

U.S. funds study for NuScale SMR deployment in Romania,  https://www.power-eng.com/nuclear/u-s-funds-study-for-nuscale-smr-deployment-in-romania/

By Kevin Clark 6.27.2022 The United States will commit $14 million toward a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study for the basis of deploying NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) in Romania.

President Biden made the announcement June 26 at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Germany. The funding is part of the administration’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), aimed at narrowing infrastructure gaps around the world, including through clean energy deployments.

NuScale and Romania’s state nuclear power corporation S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A. (Nuclearelectrica) plan to conduct engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti, Romania, the preferred location for the deployment of the first NuScale VOYGR power plant. The partners signed an MOU in May 2022.

The 8-month effort, expected to cost $28 million in total and including contributions from Nuclearelectrica and NuScale, will provide Romania with key site-specific data – cost, construction, schedule, and licensing details – necessary for the deployment of a NuScale’s 462 MWe VOYGR-6 SMR nuclear power plant.

The aim of the project is to show the ability of advanced nuclear reactors to replace coal generation, while creating thousands of jobs. NuScale President John Hopkins recently spoke with Power Engineering about how the company’s SMR plants are ideal for coal replacement.

NuScale believes Romania has the potential to accommodate the first SMR deployment in Europe and become a catalyst for SMRs in the overall region.

“Nuclear energy, including small modular reactors, represent a critical tool in the fight against climate change, and can also enhance energy security and boost economic prosperity,” said U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The PGII initiative is funding projects in four major categories: clean energy, health systems, gender equality and information and communications technology.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | marketing, USA | Leave a comment

World is not going to avoid 1.5C global warming ‘tipping point’, researchers warn

World is not going to avoid 1.5C global warming ‘tipping point’, researchers warn

Two scientists have reviewed data around global warming, and concluded that the battle to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius by 2050 is doomed.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Atoms and Ashes—lessons from six of the world’s worst nuclear disasters

This is a powerful and timely book. At a time when arguments for nuclear power are returning as a way to solve both climate change and the energy crisis, we need to arm ourselves with the arguments.  Not only is nuclear power not a solution to the problems we face, the lesson from this book is that it’s inherently dangerous and could have devastating consequences for life on earth.

https://socialistworker.co.uk/long-reads/atoms-to-ashes-lessons-from-six-of-the-wo2 27 June 22, Atoms and Ashes—from Bikini Atoll to Fukushima, the new book by Serhii Plokhy, is a compulsive but terrifying read, writes Amy Leather

Standing in front of Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, Boris Johnson launched the Tories’ Energy Security Strategy in April. Nuclear energy was central to the plan. Johnson claimed the strategy would deliver “clean, affordable, secure power to the people for generations to come”. He called for 25 percent of our electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050—up from the current 16 percent. That means greatly increasing capacity, with Johnson bragging the first phase of the plan will involve building eight new nuclear reactors.

Reading Atoms and Ashes by Serhii Plokhy in this context is chilling. As Plokhy says at the start, his main purpose is to take a fresh look at the history of nuclear accidents. He looks at why they happened, how bad they were, what we can learn, and assesses if they could ever happen again.

To do this, he examines six of the world’s worst nuclear disasters—although he is very clear these are by no means the only accidents that have occurred. In fact, there have been hundreds of known incidents and probably even more that have been kept secret or covered up.

Plokhy starts with the Castle Bravo nuclear test that took place in March 1954 at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, in the Pacific. A miscalculation of the hydrogen bomb’s radiation yield and wind direction significantly damaged human health and the environment. The book ends with the Fukushima disaster of 2011, when a 43-foot-high tsunami crashed over the Japanese nuclear plant causing three reactors to go into meltdown.

In between these terrible events Plokhy explores the 1957 Kyshtym disaster in Russia’s Ural Mountains. The explosion of a nuclear waste tank released a massive amount of radiation into the atmosphere. He examines the reactor fire at the Windscale works in Cumbria in the same year. And then he looks at the reactor meltdowns at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine.

It confirms in revealing detail what many of us who’ve campaigned against nuclear power already know—that it is neither clean nor safe. And, rather than a legacy of “secure power”, it will leave future generations nuclear waste, contaminated water and land, and the cost of clean ups, decontamination and decommissioning.

The catastrophic explosion at the Chernobyl plant made the entire region uninhabitable, with up to half a million people permanently displaced. A report in September 2005 put the predicted final death toll from radiation induced cancers at 4,000 people.  The Union of Concerned Scientists suggests it could be more than six times that. Recent estimates put the number of deaths from the Fukushima disaster at 2,202 with some predicting thousands more extra cancer deaths. Around 150,000 people had to evacuate the region.  

Lots of dangerous material is generated from nuclear power. One of the solutions is to bury high level nuclear waste underground.  The US government buries its waste from weapons in New Mexico. The land will still be contaminated in 300,000 years’ time. Meanwhile in Japan, the future of over one million tons of contaminated water stored in a thousand tanks on the site of the Fukushima nuclear plant is unresolved. Last year the Japanese government decided to start releasing the water into the ocean—a process that could last decades and cause environmental damage.

Plokhy charts how the race to make atomic and hydrogen bombs drove the development of nuclear power during and just after the Second World War. Nuclear plants were first built to produce the plutonium needed for bombs, not to generate electricity. The first nuclear bombs were dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945, with devastating consequences.

It wasn’t until the end of 1953 that the US launched the concept of “atoms for peace”. President Dwight Eisenhower claimed that the nuclear industry could produce “good atoms” for energy. It was an attempt to reassure people after concerns were raised about nuclear energy. He wanted to change public perception in the US in order to win support for more investment in nuclear arms and weapons.

In Britain the first nuclear plant was Windscale, built in the village of Seascale on the Cumbrian coast. Construction began in 1947 and it went operational in 1950. The purpose of the nuclear reactors was to produce the material for a British bomb. Successive prime ministers—Labour and Tory—wanted to boost British nuclear capabilities. In the context of the Cold War’s imperialist competition between the US and Russia and British imperial decline, they sought to prove

Britain’s worth to the US. That meant developing a nuclear bomb as quickly as possible.

From the very beginning this competition between states to develop nuclear weapons meant great secrecy, cutting corners, taking risks and an often-cavalier attitude to safety. It becomes clear as each disaster plays out that—whether it was in the US, Russia or Britain—there was little care about that or the people affected by accidents and tests.

For example, when it came to the nuclear bomb tests in the Marshall Islands, those in charge proceeded despite knowing the risks. The people living on some nearby islands were not even told the tests were happening. The colonial mindset of the US meant the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands were either ignored or moved at will. And once suffering from radiation, they were subject to studies—not to help them recover but to help the industry assess the effects of radiation.

For example, when it came to the nuclear bomb tests in the Marshall Islands, those in charge proceeded despite knowing the risks. The people living on some nearby islands were not even told the tests were happening. The colonial mindset of the US meant the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands were either ignored or moved at will. And once suffering from radiation, they were subject to studies—not to help them recover but to help the industry assess the effects of radiation.

.Competition and secrecy meant that scientists developing and building the new nuclear reactors could not properly learn from each other. For example, those building the Windscale Works in the 1950s only learnt of new developments piecemeal from the US. Often it was too late to incorporate them into the reactor design. Plokhy describes how the scientists and engineers at Windscale didn’t find out about the need for radiation filters to be fitted on the chimneys until after construction had begun.  Rather than start again, they were put at the top of the chimneys where they were less effective. Tellingly even this addition was nicknamed “Cockcroft’s Folly” after the man who insisted they had them at all. In fact, these filters helped trap much of the radiation when the reactor fire broke out.

From the start, Russia chose to use outdated and unsafe reactor designs. Safer ones would have taken longer to build and they had no time to spare when racing against the US. The operators and nuclear engineers at Chernobyl had not even been told about the previous accidents with this type of reactor. Similarly, no manager or operator at Three Mile Island had been told of problems with the type of reactor they were using. It had previously caused an accident at another plant.

The pressure to produce plutonium as quickly as possible meant cutting corners with safety. For example, something called “Wigner energy” builds up in the main body of the reactor while the fission reaction is taking place. This needs to be regularly released otherwise it ignites the graphite used to moderate the reaction. This special operation to release the excess energy is called “annealing”. But the procedure at Windscale required stopping the reactor, so reducing operational hours and productivity.  Under pressure from the government to produce more bomb fuel the Windscale Technical Committee had decided to reduce the number of anneals. By the time the anneal finally took place the day before the reactor fire in October 1957, it was long overdue.

At the Chernobyl nuclear plant, in order to meet the deadline of December 1983, the fourth reactor had gone operational before a key safety test.  It was not until April 1986 that plans were made to carry out this test. It meant shutting down the reactor. This is a very challenging operation and can lead to the reactor becoming unstable. What followed led to two massive blasts that flung off the shield that covered the top of the reactor. Masses of radioactive particles escaped into the atmosphere.

Prior to the disaster at Fukushima a scandal had broken out over the falsification of safety reports by the company—Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). According to Plokhy, from as early as 1977 “there were at least two hundred cases in which the company had supplied false information about inspections not carried out and issued reports that papered over existing problems”.

Nuclear power stations are often portrayed as calm laboratories where the experts are in charge. Bill Gates, a founder of nuclear innovation company TerraPower, has said that any problems will be solved by “innovation” and the “laws of physics”.

However, the descriptions in the book show the complete opposite of a calm, controlled environment. As Plokhy says, “Hazard is inherent in all nuclear power.” Atomic fission itself is dangerous, and nuclear reactors can be unreliable and unpredictable.  The book makes clear how competition, secrecy, lack of communication as well as miscommunication make it extremely unsafe.

Plokhy describes almost minute by minute the trajectory of each disaster. In all of them, there comes a point when the scientists, the operators, the experts simply don’t know what to do to prevent the accident from worsening. In the end, due to the conditions they are operating under, they sometimes make decisions that actually make the situation worse. Or, by solving one problem, another one is created. At Windscale, they simply did not know how to stop the fire. At Chernobyl one issue among many was that they did not know if the radiation would get into the groundwater. And at Three Mile Island, two scientists were having a raging argument about what next steps to take in the midst of the emergency. Meanwhile, in every case, the authorities delayed evacuation plans.

.This is in no way to blame the individuals working at the time or those who had to deal with the accidents. They acted with immense bravery and sacrificed their own health, and even lives, to prevent greater disaster. Plokhy highlights how often the subsequent reports into accidents wrongly blame personnel and not the reactor designs. He illustrates how the conditions they were operating in and the nature of nuclear power led to such problems.

After each major accident, the authorities say they’ve learned the lessons and developed new technology that will prevent anything similar from happening.  However, Plokhy highlights that there was – and still is—an inherent safety problem with nuclear reactors being used to generate power. They were never designed for that purpose. The reactors were developed from military prototypes to produce plutonium or to power nuclear submarines. 

Many of the new, smaller reactors that have been designed from scratch to produce energy, are still at the computer-simulation stage and years away from construction. Plokhy predicts that the expansion in the number of plants now being proposed will increase the probability of accidents.  

Although it is not discussed in the book, it is worth remembering that nuclear power is not carbon neutral. While nuclear fission itself does not release carbon emissions, every other stage of the production process means greenhouse gases are pumped into the atmosphere. More than almost any other form of energy generation nuclear power requires a complex cycle of mining, generation, storage and disposal. And in 2022 there are new risk factors. As Plokhy has written elsewhere, “Warfare, economic collapse, climate change itself—all of these increasingly real risks make nuclear sites potentially perilous places.”

This is a powerful and timely book. At a time when arguments for nuclear power are returning as a way to solve both climate change and the energy crisis, we need to arm ourselves with the arguments.  Not only is nuclear power not a solution to the problems we face, the lesson from this book is that it’s inherently dangerous and could have devastating consequences for life on earth.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, media, politics international, Reference | Leave a comment

Campaigners are raising some very awkward questions about the financing of UK’s £20billion Sizewell C nuclear power plant.

 Campaigners have raised questions after it was reported funding for a new
nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast is to be signed off by ministers
within a fortnight.

Funding for the £20billion Sizewell C plant is set to
be approved by the government by next month, paving the way for private
investment, according to The Telegraph. The decision would be a major boost
for EDF Energy, which is said to be in advanced talks with the government
over further cash to move the scheme forward ahead of a final investment
decision next year.

Reacting to the funding news, Alison Downes, from the
group, said: “Why do ministers appear willing to throw more cash at
Sizewell C, despite the risk and questionable value for money, when there
is none for hard stretched workers and – as Lord Deben pointed out – when
the nuclear industry ‘doesn’t deliver things on time and it doesn’t

deliver them to budget’?

“Nobody is even owning up to how much Sizewell C
would cost: the last estimate is more than two years out of date.” A
funding deal is not expected until after planning consent for Sizewell C is
granted, with the deadline for that decision set for July 8.

 East Anglian Daily Times 26th June 2022

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/business/sizewell-c-funding-to-be-signed-off-9098750

June 28, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment

To Bella Lack – being called a ”snowflake” is a badge of honour

Most teenagers would take offence at being labelled a snowflake, the
disparaging moniker given to young people perceived to be too easily
offended by un-PC terms or environmental damage. For Bella Lack, who at
nineteen-years-old is already one of the UK’s leading environmental
activists, the label is a badge of honour.

“Is it fragile to care about
the future of the planet and our species? I don’t think so,” she says.
“I think it’s quite a powerful term to be honest, because lots of
snowflakes create a snowstorm.” In the UK, the youth climate movement is
largely credited with pushing the UK government to set a target for net
zero emissions by 2050, and for introducing swathes of new environmental
legislation to curb the use of disposable plastic.

Bella has quickly
emerged as one of the leading lights of Britain’s youth activist circles.
She is an ambassador for the Born Free Foundation, spent her teenage years
campaigning on everything from palm oil to circus animals, and spent 2020
filming wildlife documentary Animal alongside Jane Goodall. Her Twitter
account boasts 138,000 followers.

 iNews 27th June 2022

https://inews.co.uk/news/environment/bella-lack-teenage-activist-why-people-list-snowflake-generation-1705469

June 28, 2022 Posted by | environment, UK | Leave a comment

Greta Thunberg has warned that the world faces “total natural catastrophe” unless citizens take urgent action

Greta Thunberg has warned that the world faces “total natural
catastrophe” unless citizens take urgent action as she made a surprise
appearance at Glastonbury festival. The 19-year-old activist led chants of
“climate … justice” after delivering a rousing speech from the
Pyramid stage which painted an apocalyptic picture of the future of the
planet.

To cheers from thousands of festival-goers, Thunberg said: “We
are approaching the precipice and I would strongly suggest that all of
those who have not yet been greenwashed out of our senses to stand our
ground. “Do you not let them drag us another inch closer to the edge.
Right now is where we stand our ground.”

 Guardian 25th June 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/25/greta-thunberg-makes-surprise-appearance-at-glastonbury-festival

June 28, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Put women’s rights ‘front and centre’ of climate policies: Bachelet

Put women’s rights ‘front and centre’ of climate policies: Bachelet

Although climate change threatens everyone, women and girls often suffer its harshest and most violent consequences, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment