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New Mexico’s revolving nuclear door: top environment officials sell out to nuclear weapons lab. 28 Nov 22

Santa Fe, NM – As part of a long, ingrained history, senior officials at the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) have repeatedly resigned to go to work for the nuclear weapons labs, the Department of Energy, or DOE contractors. In a number of cases that is where they came from to begin with.

The hierarchy of leadership at NMED starts with the Secretary, Deputy Secretaries and then Division Directors. The position of Resource Protection Division Director is particularly critical because it oversees the two NMED bureaus most directly involved with DOE facilities in New Mexico, the Hazardous Waste Bureau and the DOE Oversight Bureau. However, all four former or current Resource Protection Division Directors have gone or are going to work for the nuclear weapons labs, the DOE or its contractors. They are:

•     Chris Catechis, currently Acting Resource Protection Division Director, is reportedly assuming a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) within days. Prior to NMED he had worked at the Sandia National Laboratories for 22 years.[1]
•     Catechis’ immediate supervisor Stephanie Stringer resigned October 31 to go to work for DOE’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). She was Resource Protection Division Director prior to being promoted to Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Operations (second only to NMED Secretary James Kenney).

•     J.C. Borrego resigned as NMED Acting Deputy Secretary and Acting Resource Protection Division Director in the last months of the Governor Martinez Administration to go to work for the Sandia National Laboratories.

•     During the Martinez Administration, Kathryn Roberts resigned as Resource Protection Division Director to go to work for a DOE contractor. Prior to NMED she had worked at LANL for four years as Group Leader for Regulatory Support and Performance.

This begs the question of whether the positions of NMED Deputy Directors and Resource Protection Division Directors are being intentionally targeted for co-optation by the nuclear weapons industry. The Environment Department remains underfunded and understaffed, but in contrast DOE will spend $9.4 billion in FY 2023 on nuclear weapons and related programs in New Mexico. [2] This is astonishing when the state’s entire operating budget is $8.5 billion. Exactly what the benefits are for New Mexicans from all of this nuclear weapons spending is not clear. On the downside, the Land of Enchantment is a target for nuclear waste dumping. At the same time, New Mexico is rated dead last in education[3] and quality of life for children.[4]

DOE’s largest expenditures in New Mexico are for the aggressive expansion of the production of plutonium “pits,” the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons. This will generate yet more radioactive wastes and contamination that should require robust regulation and enforcement. Despite that, top NMED officials are subverting their loyalties during an ongoing lawsuit by the Environment Department against DOE seeking to terminate a 2016 “Consent Order” that condones weak cleanup at the Lab.

The Deputy Directors and the Resource Protection Division Directors serve at the pleasure of the Governor. Yet their actions seemingly conflict with a “Code of Conduct” that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham stipulated for state employees. It decreed:
“You shall treat your government position as a public trust… only to advance the public interest and not to obtain personal benefits… Full disclosure of real or potential conflicts of interest shall be a guiding principle… You shall not engage in any other employment or activity that creates a conflict of interest… you shall disclose any anticipated outside employment before it begins… violating some provisions of this Code of Conduct may subject you to potential civil enforcement actions and criminal penalties under the law.”[5]

To illustrate how these changing loyalties can potentially compromise environmental protection in New Mexico, Stringer and Catechis were centrally involved in recent and pending NMED decisions on:

•     Granting “temporary authorization” to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s only designated permanent radioactive waste dump, to drill a new ventilation shaft to support its expansion.

•     Extending WIPP’s hazardous waste permit. The current permit expired in 2020 but has been administratively continued. DOE is now seeking to have it indefinitely extended. More than half of WIPP’s future capacity will be reserved for plutonium wastes from expanded nuclear weapons production.

•     Allowing or not allowing LANL to release up to 100,000 curies of gaseous radioactive tritium into the air.
•     Approving or not LANL’s request to “cap and cover” existing buried radioactive and toxic wastes, instead of comprehensive cleanup that would eliminate the threat to groundwater.  
•     NMED’s lawsuit against DOE to terminate the ineffective 2016 Consent Order governing cleanup at LANL.

NMED Deputy Secretary Stephanie Stringer doubled as Chair of New Mexico’s Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC). She recently opposed a motion by the citizen groups Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) and Honor Our Pueblo Existence to reverse a state groundwater discharge permit. CCNS’ Joni Arends questioned Stringer’s decision, saying, “The important LANL Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) handles, treats and stores hazardous wastes, hence it is required to be regulated by the NM Hazardous Waste Act. But under her leadership, the Water Quality Control Commission rejected our petition for review of the permit on jurisdictional grounds, while granting a stay of the proceedings as requested by NNSA.”

“We learned that Stringer submitted her job application to NNSA on August 7, two days before a WQCC hearing that she presided over as Chair. On August 30, she signed the Commission’s order granting the NNSA’s motion to stay all proceedings on the RLWTF. The very next day NNSA offered Stringer a salaried position. On October 31, 2022, Stringer resigned her position with NMED and on November 6 reported for work at NNSA. At no time did Stephanie Stringer disclose her new job before leaving NMED. Her conduct disqualified her from serving on the WQCC and is highly improper and in violation of the Governor’s Code of Conduct – all to the detriment of the citizens and environment of New Mexico.”[6]

The example of former Resource Protection Division Director Kathryn Roberts is particularly troubling. After working at LANL she was employed at NMED and in time became the Resource Protection Division Director. In that capacity she was the lead negotiator with Christine Gelles, then-manager of the DOE Environmental Management Los Alamos field office, for a revised 2016 Consent Order that weakened cleanup at LANL. Roberts resigned from NMED a half year after the revised Order went into effect, joining Gelles at Locknecker and Associates, a LANL cleanup contractor.[7] The new Consent Order allowed the Lab to settle any outstanding violations of the more stringent and enforceable 2005 Consent Order. Existing violations were waived when New Mexico could have collected more than $300 million in stipulated penalties had NMED vigorously enforced the 2005 Consent Order. At the time, the Land of Enchantment was facing a budget crisis with a projected $600 million deficit. In effect, NMED gave away half of that deficit to a polluting nuclear weapons site that now has an annual budget of $4.5 billion.

Other examples of NMED’s revolving door of regulators selling out to the regulated:

•     Katheryn Robert’s immediate boss at the time, NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn, resigned to become executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association that lobbies against environmental regulations.

•     In the 1990’s, after drafting state regulations governing the release of mixed radioactive and hazardous air emissions, NMED air quality specialist Bill Blankenship left to work at LANL, in part to enable a Clean Air Act permit for a major plutonium facility for nuclear weapons.

•     Pete Maggiore, NMED Secretary July 1998 – August 2002, joined NNSA’s Los Alamos Office in 2011.  

•     Susan McMichael, NMED Office of General Counsel in the late 1990’s, resigned to become an attorney for LANL.

•     Kathryn Lynnes, Environmental Compliance Specialist, Hazardous Waste Bureau 2004 – 2006, subsequently worked for LANL and then for the Air Force on the Kirtland Air Force Base’s aviation fuel groundwater contamination, a very contentious issue for the State of New Mexico.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “New Mexico needs to quit being a nuclear banana republic. We can’t have our top Environment Department officials selling out to the state’s largest polluters. I call upon the Governor to enforce the Code of Conduct that she stipulated. Moreover, state legislators should pass a law that the regulators can’t go to work for the regulated for at least two years after leaving their positions with the New Mexico Environment Department.”


November 28, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, weapons and war | Leave a comment

‘Deliberate ambiguity’: Israel’s nuclear weapons are greatest threat to Middle East

Middle East Monitor Dr Ramzy Baroud, November 28, 2022 ,

As western countries are floating the theory that Russia could escalate its conflict with Ukraine to a nuclear war, many western governments continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s own nuclear weapons capabilities. Luckily, many countries around the world do not subscribe to this endemic western hypocrisy.

‘The Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction’ was held between November 14-18, with the sole purpose of creating new standards of accountability that, as should have always been the case, be applied equally to all Middle Eastern countries.

The debate regarding nuclear weapons in the Middle East could not possibly be any more pertinent or urgent. International observers rightly note that the period following the Russia-Ukraine war is likely to accelerate the quest for nuclear weapons throughout the world. Considering the seemingly perpetual state of conflict in the Middle East, the region is likely to witness nuclear rivalry as well.

For years, Arab and other countries attempted to raise the issue that accountability regarding the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons cannot be confined to states that are perceived to be enemies of Israel and the West.

The latest of these efforts was a United Nations resolution that called on Israel to dispose of its nuclear weapons, and to place its nuclear facilities under the monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Resolution number A/C.1/77/L.2, which was drafted by Egypt with the support of other Arab countries, passed with an initial vote of 152-5. Unsurprisingly, among the five countries that voted against the draft were the United States, Canada and, of course, Israel itself.

US and Canadian blind support of Tel Aviv notwithstanding, what compels Washington and Ottawa to vote against a draft entitled: “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East”? Keeping in mind the successive right-wing extremist governments that have ruled over Israel for many years, Washington must understand that the risk of using nuclear weapons under the guise of fending off an ‘existential threat’ is a real possibility.

Since its inception, Israel has resorted to, and utilised the phrase ‘existential threat’ countless times. Various Arab governments, later Iran and even individual Palestinian resistance movements were accused of endangering Israel’s very existence. Even the non-violent Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was accused by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 of being an existential threat to Israel. Netanyahu claimed that the boycott movement was “not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence.”

This should worry everyone, not just in the Middle East, but the whole world. A country with such hyped sensitivity about imagined ‘existential threats’ should not be allowed to acquire the kind of weapons that could destroy the entire Middle East, several times over.

Some may argue that Israel’s nuclear arsenal was intrinsically linked to real fears resulting from its historical conflict with the Arabs. However, this is not the case. As soon as Israel finalised its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their historic homeland, and long before any serious Arab or Palestinian resistance was carried out in response, Israel was already on the lookout for nuclear weapons…………………..

With no international monitoring whatsoever, thus with zero legal accountability, Israel’s nuclear quest continues until this day. In 1963, Israel purchased 100 tons of uranium ore from Argentina, and it is strongly believed that, during the October 1973 Israel-Arab war, Israel “came close to making a nuclear preemptive strike”, according to Richard Sale, writing in United Press International (UPI).

Currently, Israel is believed to have “enough fissionable material to fabricate 60-300 nuclear weapons,” according to former US Army Officer, Edwin S. Cochran.

Estimates vary, but the facts about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are hardly contested. Israel itself practices what is known as ‘deliberate ambiguity’, as to send a message to its enemies of its lethal power, without revealing anything that may hold it accountable to international inspection.

What we know about Israel’s nuclear weapons has been made possible partly because of the bravery of a former Israeli nuclear technician, Mordechai Vanunu, a whistleblower who was held in solitary confinement for a decade due to his courage in exposing Israel’s darkest secrets.

Still, Israel refuses to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), endorsed by 191 countries…………..

The US support for Israel is not confined to ensuring the latter has ‘military edge’ over its neighbours in terms of traditional weapons, but to also ensure Israel remains the region’s only superpower, even if that entails escaping international accountability for the development of WMDs.

The collective efforts by Arab and other countries at the UNGA to create a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons are welcomed initiatives. It behoves everyone, Washington included, to join the rest of the world in finally forcing Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a first but critical step towards long-delayed accountability.

November 28, 2022 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Ineos corporation to join Rolls Royce’s messy consortium, to push for Small Nuclear Reactors in the Great British Nuclear Swindle

 Rolls-Royce is in talks with Ineos to build a mini nuclear reactor to power the chemicals group’s Grangemouth refinery.

Rolls is heading a government-backed consortium to develop between 20 and 30 small modular nuclear reactors but is in need of customers to help to reduce the risk of the venture.

Ministers are finalising plans to support SMRs through a body called Great British Nuclear, which will be responsible for getting
planning permission and undertaking the preparation work on the new sites. Rolls’ talks with Ineos, first reported by The Sunday Telegraph, are understood to be at an early stage. Ineos’s Grangemouth refinery in Scotland is a joint venture with PetroChina and refines crude oil and produces chemicals.

 Times 28th Nov 2022

November 28, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

UK government PR exercise “Great British Nuclear” headed for financial failure.

 Letter Steve Thomas: Six months after it was announced, it is clear that
Great British Nuclear was no more than a government PR exercise. You report
that it “could prevent a repeat of the Wylfa and Cumbria farragoes”.
That would be remarkable.

The Cumbria project failed because the reactor
supplier, Westinghouse, went bankrupt; Wylfa failed because, although the
government offered to take a 30 per cent stake, no other investors came

he problem with nuclear is not that we don’t have the
organisation quite right. It’s that nuclear is far too expensive and
economically risky and takes much too long to build to be any use.

 Times 25th Sept 2022

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

Nuclear colonialism: indigenous people say no to uranium mining at Mulga Rock, Western Australia

Sam Wainwright, Perth, November 28, 2022

Nuclear Free WA protested outside Deep Yellow’s annual general meeting on November 25 against the company’s plans to mine uranium at Mulga Rock, north west of Kalgoorlie. The Upurli Upurli traditional owners absolutely oppose it.

Deep Yellow holds the only uranium deposit in Western Australia. This was the company’s first AGM following its merger in August with Vimy Resources.

Mia Pepper, Nuclear Free Campaigner at the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), who has been tracking the mine plans for more than 10 years, said it faces more opposition than ever.

Deep Yellow does not have “any agreement with the Native Title claim groups” and “it doesn’t have the finance”, she said.

It has just started a third Definitive Feasibility Study into the beleaguered project, expected to be completed mid-2024. The latest project delay casts further doubt on the future of the site, campaigners said.

“Deep Yellow is the only company beating the uranium drum in Western Australia and even their own executive team has been clear they have no intention to mine at the current uranium price,” Pepper said.

“For a company with a highly speculative business model, no operating mines, many regulatory hurdles still to clear, and a sizeable pricing disincentive, it’s astounding that shareholders would endorse the proposed remuneration package for the Deep Yellow executive team, with the CEO alone receiving over $1 million,” she continued

First Nations communities have been continuing their protests.

WA Greens Legislative Council member Brad Pettitt read a statement in parliament on November 17 on behalf of Upurli Upurli and Spinifex women.

“We are Upurli Upurli and Spinifex women and we are writing because we face the unprecedented threat of uranium mining at Mulga Rock, east of Kalgoorlie … We have been saying no to uranium mining at Mulga Rock for a long time”

Their statement also detailed concerns about Deep Yellow’s executive who held senior roles in companies responsible for the destruction of Juukan Gorge, as well as several incidents of environmental pollution, industrial relations controversies and workplace fatalities at uranium mines in Malawi and Namibia.

The CCWA is delivering a WA Uranium Free Charter to WA MPs. It demands they “review and remove any approval for uranium mining at Mulga Rock” as well as withdraw the approvals of the stalled proposed uranium mines at Kintyre, Yeelirrie and Wiluna.


November 28, 2022 Posted by | indigenous issues, opposition to nuclear, Uranium | Leave a comment

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine remains under Russian control, despite media reports

 The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine remains under
Russian control, authorities installed by Moscow in the nearby city of
Enerhodar said on Monday, after a Ukrainian official suggested Russian
forces were preparing to leave.

“The media are actively spreading fake news
that Russia is allegedly planning to withdraw from Enerhodar and leave the
(plant). This information is not true,” the Russia-installed administration
wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

 Reuters 28th Nov 2022

November 28, 2022 Posted by | media, Ukraine | Leave a comment

US ‘success’ is Ukraine’s disaster

In adopting “Success is confrontation” as a credo toward Russia, NATO states have invited catastrophe and undermined Ukrainian voices for peace. Aaron Maté 29 Nov 22

In recent weeks, the New York Times reports, “Moscow has opened what amounts to a separate war: missile and drone strikes aimed at destroying Ukraine’s infrastructure, degrading the quality of life for millions of civilians in an effort to demoralize them.” Russia’s attacks, the Washington Post adds, have “battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster,” cutting off electricity, heat and running water. Ukrainian officials estimate that Russia has damaged or destroyed half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. “This winter will be life-threatening for millions of Ukrainians,” a senior World Health Organization official warns.

Russia claims that it only targets infrastructure that serves a military purpose. No matter what legal rationale Moscow can construe, the attacks are a clear act of collective punishment against Ukrainian civilians.

Without ignoring Russia’s criminal liability, another reality can be acknowledged: The fact that Russia “opened” a “separate war” on civilian infrastructure eight months into the invasion, and not beforehand, also results from decisions taken by Ukraine’s far-right and their allies in Washington.

The intensified Russian strikes were predicted by NATO states, whose leaders chose to prolong the proxy war by shunning diplomacy and — most likely — blowing up possible off-ramps, namely the now-forgotten Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The New York Times reported in September that Western officials were “baffled” that Russia, at that point, had “avoided escalating the war” and “made only limited attempts to destroy critical infrastructure”, leading them to fear that “the most dangerous moments are yet to come.” Rather than seeking a diplomatic solution, the US-led NATO alliance chose to help push Ukraine into the predicted danger. After all, the US “strategy for the war,” the Washington Post noted that same month, has entailed “fueling a war with global consequences, while attempting to remain agnostic about when and how Kyiv might strike a deal to end it.”

One does not need to justify Russia’s actions to acknowledge that the Kremlin, by contrast, has adopted positions that offered the chance of a preferable – or at minimum, pursuable – negotiated settlement.

The Minsk II Accords, the framework for ending the post-2014 Donbas war between Kiev and Russia-backed Ukrainian rebels, were officially supported by both Ukraine and the U.S., yet both refused to implement them. Ukraine’s far-right nationalists intimidated President Volodymyr Zelensky into abandoning his peace mandate with direct threats of a coup and even murder. The Biden administration, by refusing to even discuss NATO expansion prior to the invasion; sitting idle as Zelensky refused to negotiate with the Donbas rebels; and apparently sabotaging a Ukraine-Russia peace deal in April, has effectively taken the nationalists’ side.

Even Ukrainian officials and establishment US media outlets concede that Russia’s current war aim is to compel diplomacy.  The strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, the New York Times notes, “are meant to force Kyiv to the negotiating table.”

“It is clear they want to impose certain conditions, they want to make us negotiate,” Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Col. Yuriy Ihnat said. But Ukrainian officials, the Times adds, “are in no mood to negotiate.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has issued the same message, describing the strikes as “the consequences” of Ukraine’s unwillingness to “enter into negotiation.”

Ukrainians have every right to reject negotiations with their invader. Yet there can also be no denying that a significant percentage of the population – including people around Zelensky — has, for years, favored positions that could have avoided the war, and end it today.

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

Most NATO members have run out of weapons for Ukraine – NYT 27 Nov 22Only larger states have untapped potential to continue arming Kiev, newspaper claims

Arms transfers to Ukraine have left Western weapon stockpiles strained, making it increasingly difficult for NATO militaries to honor politicians’ pledges to supply Kiev, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

“Smaller countries have exhausted their potential,” and according to one NATO official, at least 20 of the bloc’s 30 members are “pretty tapped out,” the newspaper wrote. Only “larger allies,” including France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, have enough stockpiles to continue or potentially increase their weapon shipments to Ukraine.

Since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine in late February, the US and its Western allies have been providing Kiev with billions of dollars in security assistance, to the tune of nearly $40 billion, now comparable to the entire annual defense budget of France. Moscow has repeatedly warned that the weapon shipments will only prolong the conflict and increase the risk of a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

As Ukraine continues to call for more weapons, EU stockpiles are running low, with Germany already “reaching its limit as of early September. Meanwhile, Lithuania, which does not have any more weapons to donate, has urged the allies to give Ukraine “everything we have.”

US President Joe Biden has vowed to keep the arms pipeline open for “as long as it takes,” but even American military stockpiles have taken a toll after repeated shipments to Kiev. As early as March, just weeks after the conflict in Ukraine kicked off, the US Defense Department was already scrambling to replenish thousands of shoulder-fired missiles supplied to Kiev. By August, US stockpiles of 155mm artillery ammunition were uncomfortably low,” according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The Pentagon’s latest fact sheet detailed more than $19 billion in direct military aid approved since February, including over 46,000 anti-armor systems, nearly 200 Howitzers, 38 long-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), and a litany of other heavy weapons, vehicles and ammunition – as well as over 920,000 of 155mm artillery rounds.

The US think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) previously pointed out that the American military is “not structured to fight or support an extended conflict,” while the defense industry is “sized for peacetime production rates,” and expanding capabilities would take years.

NATO is heavily invested in Ukraine, with the alliance’s members also providing training and intelligence capability. Despite this “unprecedented support,” the military bloc’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has repeatedly claimed that “NATO is not a party to the conflict.”

Moscow sees things differently. Multiple top officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have accused NATO of waging war against Russia “by proxy,” while Putin has described Russia as fighting “the entire Western military machine.”

November 28, 2022 Posted by | EUROPE, weapons and war | Leave a comment

France opens archives related to nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific 29 Nov 22, France has opened its archives to the vast majority of documents related to its nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific.

The defence ministry said President Emmanuel Macron had acknowledged that France owed a debt to French Polynesia for having carried out nearly 200 nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996.

It said Marcon had asked for the complete opening of the archives with the exception of the most sensitive military data.

According to the ministry, 594 boxes at the Defence History Service have so far been identified and processed, meaning 81,980 documents are now declassified and accessible for researchers.

It said only 40 documents were withheld.

Another 27 boxes of documents were yet to be examined.

Three years ago, the partial opening of the archives had been rescinded.

A leading historian in French Polynesia Jean-Marc Regnault said no reason for the closure has been given.

At the time he said a 2008 law already restricted access to an entire file if one document in it was deemed classified.

More than a quarter of a century after the last weapons test, the compensation question is yet to be settled and the test sites remain no-go zones monitored by France.

Until 2009, France claimed that its tests were clean and caused no harm, but in 2010, under the stewardship of defence minister Herve Morin, a compensation law was passed.

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

Kim Jong Un Emphasizes Nuclear Development as North Korea’s ‘Ultimate Goal’

Kim continues to double down on the importance of the nuclear program for his country.

 The Diplomat, Mitch Shin, November 28, 2022, Following the successful test of its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on November 18, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un praised the work of those who contributed to the development of the missile, Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), one of the North’s main state-controlled media, reported on Sunday.

During a photo session with the contributors, Kim reiterated the importance of developing nuclear weapons as a means to protect North Korea…………….

As the Korean War stalled with a truce in 1953, the two Koreas are technically still at war………………………….

Considering Kim’s latest order to his scientists and technicians and his speech in September, he seems to have concluded that nuclear development is the only way to survive. With nuclear development described by Kim as the “ultimate goal,” it indicates that he will never preemptively denuclearize his country………………. more

November 28, 2022 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Iran ‘not optimistic’ about nuclear deal revival talks

Argus, By Nader Itayim, 28 November 2022,

Iran’s foreign ministry said today the country is committed to finding a diplomatic solution to its nuclear dispute with the US and European countries, but said it is “not optimistic” the negotiations with Washington to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement will bear fruit.

Tehran and Washington began talks in Vienna in April 2021 aimed at reviving the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former US President Donald Trump reneged on in 2018 before he reimposed sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sectors. After good signs of progress earlier this year, the negotiations stalled some months ago over several points of contention primarily concerning the extent of US sanctions relief for Iran should the deal be revived…………………….

Last week Iran said it had begun enriching uranium to 60pc purity at its Fordow nuclear site, in response to a resolution passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors urging Tehran to co-operate with a long-standing investigation into uranium traces it found at three undeclared Iranian nuclear sites. This is the first time enrichment would reach such a level at Fordow, although enrichment to 60pc purity has been happening at Iran’s other site, Natanz, since the first half of 2021.

The US, EU, and UK, meanwhile, have been imposing new sanctions on a host of Iranian individuals and entities for their involvement in the production and supply of drones to Russia for use against Ukraine………

November 28, 2022 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

No country has the solution to nuclear waste. Nuclear is no preventer of global heating – in fact, it’s quite the reverse.

  • uranium mining and 
  • milling, 
  • conversion of ore to uranium hexafluoride  
  • construction and
  • decommissioning
  • fuel reprocessing
  • waste management
  •  rehabilitation of mining sites
  • transport throughout all stages. 

 In the words of Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace Germany, “not a single country can claim that it has the solution to manage the most dangerous radioactive wastes.”

Several storage facilities, the NGO argues, are on the verge of saturation, and spent fuel sitting in the power plants is at risk of overheating, sometimes without emergency generators for cooling. Deep geological disposal is not a credible option for Greenpeace.

The World Nuclear Waste Report agrees that, apart from the current construction of a permanent repository in Finland (see box), there is still no real solution for the waste. It points out that it is even difficult to quantify global nuclear waste, as various countries apply different definitions.

But waste is not the only objection of some experts to this new “nuclear gold rush.” Although electricity production itself does not emit GHGs, the rest of the associated processes do. According to the list compiled by sustainability expert Manfred Lenzen of the University of Sydney, GHGs are emitted in all the stages of the nuclear power cycle:  uranium mining and
milling, conversion of ore to uranium hexafluoride, enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactor construction and decommissioning, fuel reprocessing, waste management, rehabilitation of mining sites, and transport throughout all stages. 

 Other experts point to an additional risk caused by climate change itself. According to energy expert Paul Dorfman of University College London, two out of five power plants operate on the coast because of the need for cooling water, and at least a hundred are only a few metres above sea level. As the oceans rise due to global warming, their safety could be compromised; although the Fukushima disaster was caused by an
earthquake, it was a good illustration of what happens when a nuclear power plant is flooded.

Inland power plants are also at risk, in this case because of the opposite, the risk of drought in the watercourses that provide cooling water. Perhaps science and technology will eventually solve the major hurdles of nuclear power (see box), but they will hardly put an end to a controversy that continues to rage.

 Open Mind 15th Nov 2022

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

The coming Sinophobic calamity

Expect to see such China-hating maniacs back in government in the unlikely event that Trump regains the white house.

powerful Dems like Biden and Nancy Pelosi went out of their way prior to the election to prove that they, too, are tough on China; Pelosi with her idiotic and inflammatory jaunt to Taiwan last summer and Biden, with his many pronouncements that Washington backs Taipei to the hilt and will go to war to prove it.

there are people in his administration who walk back his bellicose yowls….. they ARE oblivious. They aim to drag the Ukraine war out as long as possible By Eve Ottenberg, Nov 24, 2022,

Neither the red wave nor the blue one materialised in the latest USA election, which removes some of the impetus for the coming congressional Sinophobic rampage.

Some, not all. The relatively good results for Biden mean that for the moment he no longer needs the Beijing boogeyman and could afford to be gracious toward China’s leader, Xi Jinping at the G20 summit. But the GOP won by enough last week to say that so did Sinophobia. The Dems may be, quite despicably, all about World War III with Moscow, but it is a partisan endeavour, because a recent poll revealed that 48 percent of Republicans think we spend too much on the Ukraine war. And the congressional GOP responds to its base.

But war with Beijing, the GOP project, is not a partisan effort; it is bipartisan, and the Republicans are quite proud of and open about that. So their House win last week means one thing: the military and the security state will push ferociously for the assault on China that they have long lusted for, though they are happy, for now, for that assault to remain economic. But don’t be fooled. There is real danger afoot. Those Dems who really want to avert World War III with Beijing will have to be very nimble. And they will have to go about it in a relentless, low-profile manner, because anyone perceived as standing up to the bash-China juggernaut will be crushed, regardless of the lull in Biden’s incendiary rhetoric.

At the top of the GOP foreign affairs agenda is economic war with China – no matter what price we pay (and it will be high) in inflation. Because you can’t slap economic sanctions on your biggest trading partner with impunity. You can’t even slap economic sanctions on any major economy, like Russia’s, without them backfiring badly, as Biden and birdbrain Eurocrats found out when their precious sanctions on Moscow started destroying western economies. Regardless, an economic fight to the death with Beijing is the first item on the GOP to-do list. The second item is actual, all-out, military hot war with China, if it makes any hostile move on Taiwan. Or, for some congressional Neanderthals, even if it doesn’t.

GOP congressmen are all keyed up about confronting Beijing militarily and have been since the Trump administration, with its Sinophobic fanatics like his trade advisor Peter Navarro and Trump national security council member, a foaming-at-the-mouth China-basher, Matt Pottinger, both egging Trump on to heights of folly that could have culminated in a planet-killing nuclear war. Navarro and Pottinger hyped the insane hysteria that China deliberately created covid in a lab and unleashed it (on its own population, an oddity that these two geniuses never bothered to explain), with Navarro proclaiming the arrant nonsense that the “virus was a product of the Chinese Communist Party.” Expect to see such China-hating maniacs back in government in the unlikely event that Trump regains the white house.

According to Trump’s NSC advisor H.R. McMaster, quoted by the Washington Post in April 2020, Pottinger is “central to the biggest shift in U.S. foreign policy since the cold war, which is the competitive approach to China.” So, not to put too fine a point on it, Pottinger bequeathed us disaster. And don’t forget Trump secretary of state Mike Pompeo, no slouch in the anti-China psychosis department, jetting into Taiwan last year to inflame the separatist movement by lauding the Chinese territory as a great “nation,” and hectoring Europeans, as he did in 2020, to sever economic ties with Beijing. This crabby approach to Europe’s Chinese links is now de rigueur in Washington.

And when the Exceptional Empire gets crabby, watch out! The empire carped and groused about Nordstream 1 and 2 for years. Then came the imperial news – from Biden of course – that if Russia invaded Ukraine, Washington would stop Nordstream 2. When asked how this would happen, he said, “I promise you, we will be able to do it.” No one speculated back then that this pronouncement might mean Washington was ready to go full-on Don Corleone. Because Biden didn’t specify how. But barely a year later – voila! Some mysterious somebody blew up both pipelines. Whoever could it be?

So it’s time for imbecile Eurocrats to wake up. The gangsters who exploded their gas pipelines now eye their trade with China, though admittedly blowing up tankers shipping manufactured goods is a more complicated affair. But the Empire is nothing if not creative when it comes to destroying what it perceives as a threat. Assassinations, riots, coups, curating Nazi movements, bombing pipelines – and I’m sure the list includes things we haven’t even thought of or don’t know about. So who knows what could be afoot. Who knows? I’ll tell you: Bipartisan anti-China thugs, led by the GOP, the same GOP whose senator Ted Cruz made a cause celebre out of blocking Nordstream.

Knowing all this, powerful Dems like Biden and Nancy Pelosi went out of their way prior to the election to prove that they, too, are tough on China; Pelosi with her idiotic and inflammatory jaunt to Taiwan last summer and Biden, with his many pronouncements that Washington backs Taipei to the hilt and will go to war to prove it. But at least the election soothed and lowered the temperature of Biden’s bullying, and at least there are people in his administration who walk back his bellicose yowls. They know what a global nuclear catastrophe such a war would be, even if they appear oblivious to the same thing in Ukraine. And they ARE oblivious. They aim to drag the Ukraine war out as long as possible, something Moscow, with its repeated warnings that more NATO weapons only prolong the war, seems not to have taken note of.

Thus the two hydra heads of the bipartisan war party, demonstrating that if indeed the next stage of development after imperial, late-capitalist oligarchy is outright fascism (and if it is, we better figure out a way to stop it, fast), the death wish remains the same. Because no, fascists are not pacifists, no matter how much they demur over the cost of Washington’s abominable proxy war with Moscow in Ukraine. Biden risks global conflagration in Europe, while whoever the GOP vomits up to replace him will simply refocus the nukes onto East Asia.

Expect the worst. “House Republicans plan to put sharp scrutiny on China next year if they win the majority, including establishing a select committee to take on Beijing on a range of economic and military issues,” led an article in the Hill October 28. The GOP believes this work would largely be bipartisan. Gee, I wonder how they got that idea? Could Biden’s war whoops directed at Beijing have anything to do with it? If those whoops and hollers were cynical politics as usual (I suspect they were), this is a very dangerous game. They may box the white house into a policy it didn’t really mean to adopt and one that could leave tens of millions of Americans and an equal number of Chinese, uh, radioactive. But Biden’s played that game before. During the Reagan years and after, while in congress, he tacked right, leaving a ghastly legislative legacy that the great cowards in the progressive caucus would do well to ponder.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has long wanted a China select committee, the Hill reports, and “tried to work with Democrats to create one in 2020.” But Pelosi pulled Dems out of this potential quagmire – quite surprisingly, considering her characterisation of the very violent and brutal Hong Kong riots as “beautiful” and her later incitement of Taiwan’s independence, that is, incitement of war – with a foresight she has since lost and one can only hope she quickly recovers.

But intermittent Dem common sense isn’t the only hope. Hard at work to avert the coming debacle between the U.S. and China has been Code Pink. This organisation currently runs campaigns to urge the senate to oppose the Taiwan Policy Act, which would arm Taiwan to the teeth and end the One China policy – a huge blow to peace prospects; to tell congress to stand for peace with China; and condemning “the escalating U.S. militarisation of Guam and the wider Asia-Pacific region.” Code Pink does great work to contain the U.S. anti-China lunacy. But that’s only one organisation.

The GOP wants war with China. The Dems want – and have got – war with Russia, one they intend to drag out for years. Either way, ordinary people all over the globe lose badly. If there’s anyone in government with the sense and the power to stall or, better yet, undo Washington’s coming confrontation with Beijing, now would be a good time to get cracking.

First published in COUNTERPUNCH Nov 19

November 28, 2022 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Russia’s former southern capital renounces its past: How Ukraine is destroying its heritage 27 Nov 22, Ukraine is turning into a significantly more homogeneous and far less culturally diverse country.

In recent years, Ukraine has become the battleground for a ‘war of monuments’ waged among various political forces. In 2014, the process reached a peak during the mass demolition of statues of Vladimir Lenin and other Soviet politicians. These events fundamentally changed the symbolism and policy of the country’s historical memory, paving the way to a reality in which any public speech must now be accompanied by the words ‘Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!’

This was the slogan of Stepan Bandera’s World War Two nationalist movement, which collaborated with Adolf Hitler’s Nazis and took part in the Holocaust. 

Although Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s team initially tried to ‘reset’ the historical memory policy, radical nationalism got the upper hand in this symbolic battle. Following the start of Russia’s military operation, this year, the so-called ‘decommunization’ policy became openly known as ‘de-Russification’ – even with over half of the population officially recognized as Russian-speaking.

Memory wars

After Russian troops entered Ukraine in February, many locals projected their hatred of Moscow onto objects of cultural and historical heritage that were in any way linked to the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, politicians actively supported such sentiment, using it as a cheap way to boost their personal ratings.

Over the past months, the number of initiatives aimed at the cultural and historical ‘de-Russification’ of Ukraine have ballooned. Examples abound. The Kiev City Council recently renamed 11 streets having any reference to Russia (Lomonosov, Magnitogorsk, and Belomorskaya streets, among others). It also completely excluded the Russian language from the curricula of the capital’s kindergartens and schools. 

The decision was supported by 64 out of 120 deputies. Vadim Vasilchuk, head of the Standing Committee on Education, Science, Family, Youth and Sports of the body, commented that teaching Russian in the current situation is “inappropriate.” In fact, Kiev’s educational institutions stopped teaching the language in any shape or form (including as electives) at the beginning of the academic year.

Meanwhile, other Ukrainian cities saw a wave of ‘de-Pushkinization’ sweep through. In November, monuments to the great Russian poet were toppled in Kharkov and Zhitomir, while the monument in Odessa was painted over with the inscription ‘Get out!’ In Kiev, one of the oldest monuments to the bard had been taken down a few weeks earlier.

The demolition of monuments to Russian and Soviet statesmen has continued as well. The Ukrainian Ministry of Culture’s expert council on ‘overcoming the consequences of Russification and totalitarianism’ decided to demolish monuments to Soviet military commanders Nikolay Vatutin and Nikolay Shchors (even though Leonid Kravchuk – a student at the time and later the first president of Ukraine – posed for the Shchors monument).

A memorial to Soviet soldiers erected on May 8, 1970 on the 25th anniversary of victory in WWII was demolished in Uzhgorod in November. The decision dates back to October 13. In its place, Kiev proposed a memorial to the soldiers of the 128th separate mountain assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine – a military unit that took an active part in the Donbass war unleashed by Kiev in 2014.

The story of one monument

Perhaps the most dramatic case of ‘de-Russification’ unfolded in the port city of Odessa. The city’s history dates back to the end of the 18th century, when the Russian Empire colonized the northern Black Sea region. In November, Odessa’s mayor, Gennady Trukhanov, announced the impending demolition of one of the historical city symbols – a monument to its founders that shows Catherine the Great and her associates, thanks to whom the city became the southern capital of the Russian Empire by the end of the 19th century………………………………………………………………….

How has this become possible? When Ukraine gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, its political (electoral) geography acquired stable borders and became integrated into the self-consciousness of the country’s two parts. In fact, several population groups with powerful national identities emerged at the time: Ukrainian-speaking (mostly living in the western and central regions, and professing a purely ethnic narrative), Russian-speaking (mostly living in the center, south and east, for whom Russians were not ‘strangers’ or ‘enemies’), and actual Russians.

These groups, particularly the Ukrainian speakers and Russian speakers, long had their own heritage, language, and political representation. Recall the Orange Revolution of 2004 or the Euromaidan of 2014, during which the ‘pro-Ukrainian’ part of society opposed the ‘pro-Russian’ leader Viktor Yanukovych. Who, in reality, had spent years negotiating with the EU about eventual Ukrainian membership. ………………………………………….

A few years ago, residents of Ukraine’s south and east spoke Russian while recognizing themselves as Ukrainians. Now, the Russian language and its cultural and historical symbols are undergoing irreversible changes and becoming a marker of political affiliation – namely, of being pro-Russian.

Conscious of this, the authorities are striving to gain control over historical heritage and memory policies and expect to win this battle for public opinion. The current southern and eastern regions are turning into a testing ground for experimental nation-building. Their political self-determination fully depends on the historical memory and language policies. Meanwhile, nationalism offers all the necessary tools for constructing a cohesive socio-political community. That is why such a striking ‘de-Russification’ initiative as the demolition of the monument to Catherine the Great in Odessa will not be the last.

For many years, the main political and cultural debate in Ukrainian society has revolved around the question of preserving or eradicating its Russian and Soviet cultural heritage. In the present situation of armed conflict, supporters of the latter skillfully use public outrage to achieve their aims. Should the process continue (and there’s little reason to think it won’t), in a few years Ukraine will turn into a significantly more homogeneous and far less culturally diverse country – one that has willingly renounced a major part of its heritage.

By Alexander Nepogodin, an Odessa-born political journalist, expert on Russia and the former Soviet Union.

November 28, 2022 Posted by | culture and arts, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Why small modular reactors are a climate liability, not a solution, (but good for nuclear weapons development)

Touted as a solution to global heating – small nuclear reactors have zero usefulness

Beyond Nuclear International, By Linda Pentz Gunter, 27 Nov 22

“……………………………………………………. SMRs will be needed in their hundreds if not thousands, requiring up front investment in factories and a known source of readily available fuel. None of this is in place. The typical timeframe for even a known reactor design is more than a decade — sometimes several decades. We don’t have that kind of time.

Small modular reactors would deliver electricity that is more expensive than that provided by traditional large reactors today

SMRs will actually produce more radioactive waste per unit of electricity generated than today’s reactors, waste for which there is still no safe and permanent solution.

Every dollar sunk into new small modular reactor plans could have reduced more carbon faster if invested instead in renewable energy and energy efficiency. It’s a no-brainer simple equation that an elementary school kid could work out. But not, apparently, our leaders. Why not?

See above (follow the money) and then there’s the weapons link.

“A strong domestic supply chain is needed to provide for nuclear Navy requirements,” said the Energy Futures Initiative in its report — The U.S. Nuclear Energy Enterprise: A Key National Security Enabler. “This supply chain has an inherent and very strong overlap with the commercial nuclear energy sector and has a strong presence in states with commercial nuclear power plants.”

SMRs would keep that supply chain — and the civil nuclear sector — alive. A 2019 Atlantic Council report — The Value of the US Nuclear Power Complex to US National Security — agrees. “Civil nuclear underpins military nuclear,” it said. “The lack of a civilian nuclear sector would present an immediate and significant economic shock (and impact on the labor force) — which, in turn, would have immediate and longer-term budgetary implications for the US government.”

At least two of the companies striving to develop SMRs in the US have direct links to the nuclear weapons sector. Bill Gates’s TerraPower — whose reactor can be modified to “dual purpose” for weapons and power — has research and development partnerships with Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex, both of which design and test nuclear weapons. NuScale is majority owned by Fluor Corporation, which operates the U.S. Pantex and Y-12 nuclear weapons complexes. 

Furthermore, SMRs are largely destined for export, and hardly for any domestic use at all. That hands proliferation-friendly materials, technology and know-how to countries not presently in possession of this relatively straightforward pathway to nuclear weapons.

If we are to understand the blind obsession with SMRs, the weapons connection offers one of the only plausible explanations. The stranglehold in the halls of power is the other — sound science, economics and our future be damned.

Only we can change this. Please use this latest edition of our Talking Points [Our newest edition — Unfounded Promises: Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) solve none of the challenges of nuclear power and make climate change and proliferation worse ] to contribute to a tsunami of our own — decrying the reckless waste of precious time and taxpayer money that would favor an elusive SMR program. These funds must urgently be directed to renewable energy, an industry that is here now, growing fast and one that can both reduce carbon emissions and provide good, long-term jobs into the future.

Note: In the interest of brevity, the Talking Points do not include footnotes. However, the sources and references used for the SMR Talking Points can be found in a separate document here.

November 28, 2022 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment