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TODAY. The media – dishonest – or just sloppy and incompetent ?- nuclear fusion coverage as a case in point.

A part of me thinks that it is some sort of giant conspiracy – the media being told by military-industrial-corporate-government-complex to never criticise the nuclear priesthood.

The more sensible part of me suggests that the journalists are probably overworked people who must get the news out FAST, and are relieved to get the helpful handouts from the nuclear priesthood.

After all, journalists are not qualified nuclear physicists, and we all know that only qualified nuclear physicists can have an opinion on matters nuclear, don’t we?

Well, either way, it comes out as sloppy and incompetent reporting – never better shown that the present chorus of media joy over a nuclear fusion experiment.

Fortunately, there are a few mainstream journalists out there who do bother to do their homework. Arianna Skibell of Politico wrote a piece headed “Here’s a reality check for nuclear fusion.” Henry Fountain in his New York Times online column queried the costs and the claims about action on climate. The Washington Post and The New Statesman deplored the hype..And I’m hoping that there will be more journalists today, who bother to find out the facts on the usefulness or non-usefulness of nuclear fusion development.


December 16, 2022 Posted by | Christina's themes | Leave a comment

Mothering a Movement: Notes from India’s Longest Anti-Nuclear Struggle

 It was striking how these women activists situated their politics in motherhood and in their responsibility as the guardians for future generations. Prayers to Lourde Matha at the main church, floral tributes to Kadalamma, and protests against the nuclear plant all lie on a continuum as acts of reverence for life. While this politics around maternity might not sit well with a certain progressive outlook, these women are clear about their feminist goals.

A time will come. We will take over the village and remove the nuclear power plant.

Radiowaves Collective, Half-Life, December 2022

‘……………………………………………………………………… Both Idinthikarai and Kudankulam, the other settlement that abuts the northern boundary of the nuclear plant, lie off the beaten path for the tourists that come to Kanyakumari—a narrow strip of “Land’s End” with an old temple, newer memorials to regional and national personages, and the Indian Ocean—located a little over twenty-five kilometers away. Yet in 2011 and 2012, Kudankulam and its nearby villages had commanded significant media attention. Putting aside their caste and religious differences, the locals around Kudankulam had put up a remarkable non-violent resistance against the nuclear establishment. We want to find out what has happened to that movement a decade later.

Next morning, en route to Kudankulam, our bus lurches past the bustling town of Anjugramam and other smaller settlements, surrounded by farmlands and coconut and palmyra trees. But it is the giant windmills, mushrooming all over, that dominate the landscape and serve as a reminder that India is a country hungry for energy. All of this area, Anjugramam onwards, falls under what is called the emergency planning zone: a sixteen-kilometer radius around the nuclear plant that would need evacuation in case of a disaster. Our fellow passengers include some non-locals, who form the bulk of the workforce at the plant. When we do not get off at either the Anuvijay— “Victory of the Atom”— town, a gated community for staff and their families, or the plant some seven kilometers away, the few remaining people on the bus start eyeing us.

Once at the busy main market in Kudankulam, our local guide and a few other men quickly whisk us away to a house where we are scheduled to interview women activists who were involved in the 2012 protests. However, before we can start a conversation with them, a man in a striped blue shirt asks us to write down our names and contact details. “CID [Criminal Investigation Department],” he replies softly when we ask why. “He is a policeman. He is just doing his job,” another man chimes in, matter of factly. The sprawling nuclear plant across the road reaches far into the lives of the people here. Police surveillance is part and parcel of the architecture of the nuclear establishment.

The KKNPP is India’s largest nuclear power plant, housing two Russian VVER-1000 reactors—similar to the ones under siege now in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine—and has four others in the pipeline. As far as one can tell, it has little to do with nuclear weapons, but the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)—the agency which oversees all things nuclear in India—makes it easy to indulge in wild speculations. Right from its inception in 1954, the DAE has been notoriously opaque, with little independent or public scrutiny, and prone to misinformation and grandiose statements.

While the US launched its “Atoms for Peace” program in 1953, the motto of the DAE has always been “Atoms in the service of the nation.” But the nebulous nature of these slogans is often put on display. For instance, in 1974, the DAE tested nuclear weapons in the guise of a peaceful nuclear program, calling them “peaceful nuclear explosives” for the development of the nation.1 Things have been equally farcical in the case of the civilian nuclear energy program, where, in the name of national security, the DAE has refused to share details about basic public matters such as energy costs and nuclear safety. And even though the DAE is currently (and consistently) decades behind in meeting its own projections for power generation, it still proclaims a fifty-fold increase in nuclear power by 2050.2 The message is loud and clear: the future is nuclear, and only fools worry about the past—or the present.

“If we say anything against [the plant], they will file a case against us,” says a young woman who teaches science at a nearby school. “We don’t have permission to talk about this issue with the students. We can only teach things that are mentioned in the books,” she continued. While adding that the KKNPP supports some schools in its vicinity, like many others in Kudankulam, she is more concerned about the dismal state of affairs. “We do not have any facilities, we have long power cuts, we receive drinking water only once every ten days, and there are all sorts of diseases. Now, it is not possible to remove the plant, but at least our people should get better jobs. Outsiders have all the permanent positions there.” She is sympathetic to the DAE’s rhetoric of nation-building, but dismayed with the lopsidedness of it all. Why should people who live in metropolitan India receive the benefits of nuclear energy while people from Kudankulam take on the risks?

“People protested a lot, and nothing happened. Many who protested can’t get jobs there. It was a waste,” the teacher concluded. “People have accepted that they must live with the diseases. They have made up their mind to live happily until they die. They have started building bigger houses. And since people have come from other places, the land rates have increased, like in the big cities.” Indeed, right outside the nuclear plant, locals have opened new shops selling food, cellphones, and other sundry items. The area has become a real estate hotspot………………..

The region has seen sporadic protests ever since India and the erstwhile Soviet Union had signed an agreement to build these reactors in 1988, as part of post-Chernobyl nuclear diplomacy.3 With the fall of Soviet Union, the project went nowhere for a decade. In the wake of its Pokhran-II nuclear weapons tests in May 1998 and the sanctions that followed, however, India sought Russia’s help. Construction work at the Kudankulam plant finally began in 2000. However, it was the 2011 Fukushima accident in the aftermath of a tsunami that hit close to home…….

A few days after the Fukushima accident, a senior DAE official announced that “there [was] no nuclear accident or incident [in Fukushima],” instead claiming that “it was purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency.”4 Such technocratic stonewalling, typical of the DAE, did little to allay the anxieties of people living around the plant. Following a test run at the nuclear plant in July 2011, which involved generating high pressure steam to check safety mechanisms, residents started protesting non-violently. The DAE sought to further counter the heightened fear of locals with high-handedness and by flexing its scientific, economic, and legal authority.

Former Indian president A. P. J. Abdul Kalam—uniquely positioned as both a leading defense scientist and a member of the coastal fishing community in Tamil Nadu—visited KKNPP in November 2011. He declared the nuclear plant to be safe and recommended introducing four-lane highways, hospitals, jobs, and bank subsidies to the area. However, the former President refused to meet those in the village with anti-nuclear sentiments, declaring instead that “history is not made by cowards. Sheer crowd cannot bring about changes. Only those who think everything is possible can create history and bring about changes.”

Months later, tired of intransigent protestors, the state enlisted the help of India’s leading mental health hospital to counsel them. Meanwhile, the police and additional security agencies dealt with dissenting locals in their own style. By the first anniversary of the non-violent protests in August 2012, nearly 7,000 people had been accused of sedition and waging war against the state. Many in Idinthakarai still refuse to forgive the state for how they responded to the protests.

Mildred, a fifty-year-old leader of the Idinthikarai protests with dozens of legal cases against her recounted the day they had marched on the nuclear plant in September 2012. “We were frightened by the gun fire. I was in the front with other women and the hot gas fell between our legs. We couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t see for many days. They captured six other women, but I escaped by swimming into the sea,” For Mildred and other villagers from Idinthikarai, marching on the plant was a last-ditch effort to stop the loading of the nuclear fuel rods and the commissioning of the first reactor at KKNPP.

“That changed everything. We decided to protect the village by destroying the roads. We rang the church bell to warn people about the arrival of the police. We were hurt in our hearts,” Mildred continued. Throughout, the state could only see the irrationality and naïveté of this resistance, with the Prime Minister and Home Minister alleging that “foreign NGOs” were instigating the locals against the KKNPP. However, most apprehensions of the women activists we met in Kudankulam and Idinthakarai were grounded in their personal experience and knowledge…………

In Idinthakarai, this fierce sense of belonging to the soil and sea is a common refrain, even among different generations of women. A senior government official once put this down to their “primitive” mindset—calling them a “sea-tribe”—and to their inability to understand modern society. This framing is, of course, an attempt to dismiss these people as relics of a bygone era. “Mobile phones came around [the protest] time. We started googling the effects [of radiation]. Only then did we realize how dangerous this could be. We saw the fate of Chernobyl, of Fukushima,” a twenty-seven-year-old nurse, Preeka, who was shortly leaving to work at a hospital in Qatar, told us.

…………………there is little substantive dialogue around nuclear safety with the local communities. To date, let alone independent monitoring, plant authorities do not make their environment survey lab reports publicly available.

Albeit without recourse to scientific data, these women read the nuclear plant and its effects on their lives in anecdotal terms and in stories that make sense to them. The fish catch, the illnesses, the changing climate, and the sea all have become signs of things to come. Preeka observed, “the sea is my favorite. But now it is not good and it angers me. Many babies are affected with diseases, such as cancer and thyroid, these diseases are coming to our people… And since people get affected by diseases without doing anything wrong, they can’t control it. It makes me very sad.”

…………………….. these women are not far off from the scholars who see human-made radioactive nuclides as a marker of the Anthropocene.

Even though the authoritarian techniques of the nuclear establishment have prevailed, the activists in Idinthakarai have faith in their own powers…………………………………………..  It was striking how these women activists situated their politics in motherhood and in their responsibility as the guardians for future generations. Prayers to Lourde Matha at the main church, floral tributes to Kadalamma, and protests against the nuclear plant all lie on a continuum as acts of reverence for life. While this politics around maternity might not sit well with a certain progressive outlook, these women are clear about their feminist goals.

A time will come. We will take over the village and remove the nuclear power plant…………………………….

A few days before we came, Idinthakarai witnessed a showdown between those who wanted to accept money from the nuclear plant to renovate the village playground and others who remain opposed to any such enticements. Even though the voices of the women activists carried the day, it isn’t clear how long this resistance will last. On our way out, we meet a young engineer, and ask him about his future plans. “I don’t blame others who might work at the plant, but I refused to work there. I have seen the people of my village struggle against it… Our people have no say. I am preparing for a government job. We need to take charge.” Perhaps the hopes of the women aren’t too far-fetched, for people’s movements too have long half-lives.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | India, opposition to nuclear, Women | Leave a comment

Fusion. Really?


There was great hoopla—largely unquestioned by media—with the announcement this week by the U.S. Department of Energy of a “major scientific breakthrough” in the development of fusion energy.

“This is a landmark achievement,” declared Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Her department’s press release said the experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California “produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it” and will “provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy.”

“Nuclear fusion technology has been around since the creation of the hydrogen bomb,” noted a CBS News article covering the announcement. “Nuclear fusion has been considered the holy grail of energy creation.” And “now fusion’s moment appears to be finally here,” said the CBS piece

But, as Dr. Daniel Jassby, for 25 years principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab working on fusion energy research and development, concluded in a 2017 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, fusion power “is something to be shunned.”

His article was headed “Fusion reactor: Not what they’re cracked up to be.”

“Fusion reactors have long been touted as the ‘perfect’ energy source,” he wrote. And “humanity is moving much closer” to “achieving that breakthrough moment when the amount of energy coming out of a fusion reactor will sustainably exceed the amount going in, producing net energy.”

“As we move closer to our goal, however,” continued Jassby, “it is time to ask: Is fusion really a ‘perfect’ energy source?” After having worked on nuclear fusion experiments for 25 years at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, I began to look at the fusion enterprise more dispassionately in my retirement. I concluded that a fusion reactor would be far from perfect, and in some ways close to the opposite.”

“Unlike what happens” when fusion occurs on the sun, “which uses ordinary hydrogen at enormous density and temperature,” on Earth “fusion reactors that burn neutron-rich isotopes have byproducts that are anything but harmless,” he said.

A key radioactive substance in the fusion process on Earth would be tritium, a radioactive variant of hydrogen.

Thus there would be “four regrettable problems”—“radiation damage to structures; radioactive waste; the need for biological shielding; and the potential for the production of weapons-grade plutonium 239—thus adding to the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, not lessening it, as fusion proponents would have it,” wrote Jassby.

“In addition, if fusion reactors are indeed feasible…they would share some of the other serious problems that plague fission reactors, including tritium release, daunting coolant demands, and high operating costs. There will also be additional drawbacks that are unique to fusion devices: the use of a fuel (tritium) that is not found in nature and must be replenished by the reactor itself; and unavoidable on-site power drains that drastically reduce the electric power available for sale.”

“The main source of tritium is fission nuclear reactors,” he went on. Tritium is produced as a waste product in conventional nuclear power plants. They are based on the splitting of atoms, fission, while fusion involves fusing of atoms.

“If adopted, deuterium-tritium based fusion would be the only source of electrical power that does not exploit a naturally occurring fuel or convert a natural energy supply such as solar radiation, wind, falling water, or geothermal. Uniquely, the tritium component of fusion fuel must be generated in the fusion reactor itself,” said Jassby.

About nuclear weapons proliferation, “The open or clandestine production of plutonium 239 is possible in a fusion reactor simply by placing natural or depleted uranium oxide at any location where neutrons of any energy are flying about. The ocean of slowing-down neutrons that results from scattering of the streaming fusion neutrons on the reaction vessel permeates every nook and cranny of the reactor interior, including appendages to the reaction vessel.”

As to “additional disadvantages shared with fission reactors,” in a fusion reactor: “Tritium will be dispersed on the surfaces of the reaction vessel, particle injectors, pumping ducts, and other appendages. Corrosion in the heat exchange system, or a breach in the reactor vacuum ducts could result in the release of radioactive tritium into the atmosphere or local water resources. Tritium exchanges with hydrogen to produce tritiated water, which is biologically hazardous.”

“In addition, there are the problems of coolant demands and poor water efficiency,” he went on. “A fusion reactor is a thermal power plant that would place immense demands on water resources for the secondary cooling loop that generates steam, as well as for removing heat from other reactor subsystems such as cryogenic refrigerators and pumps….In fact, a fusion reactor would have the lowest water efficiency of any type of thermal power plant, whether fossil or nuclear. With drought conditions intensifying in sundry regions of the world, many countries could not physically sustain large fusion reactors.”

“And all of the above means that any fusion reactor will face outsized operating costs,” he wrote.

Fusion reactor operation will require personnel whose expertise has previously been required only for work in fission plants—such as security experts for monitoring safeguard issues and specialty workers to dispose of radioactive waste. Additional skilled personnel will be required to operate a fusion reactor’s more complex subsystems including cryogenics, tritium processing, plasma heating equipment, and elaborate diagnostics. Fission reactors in the United States typically require at least 500 permanent employees over four weekly shifts, and fusion reactors will require closer to 1,000. In contrast, only a handful of people are required to operate hydroelectric plants, natural-gas burning plants, wind turbines, solar power plants, and other power sources,” he wrote.

“Multiple recurring expenses include the replacement of radiation-damaged and plasma-eroded components in magnetic confinement fusion, and the fabrication of millions of fuel capsules for each inertial confinement fusion reactor annually. And any type of nuclear plant must allocate funding for end-of-life decommissioning as well as the periodic disposal of radioactive wastes.”

“It is inconceivable that the total operating costs of a fusion reactor would be less than that of a fission reactor, and therefore the capital cost of a viable fusion reactor must be close to zero (or heavily subsidized) in places where the operating costs alone of fission reactors are not competitive with the cost of electricity produced by non-nuclear power, and have resulted in the shutdown of nuclear power plants,” said Jassby.

“To sum up, fusion reactors face some unique problems: a lack of a natural fuel supply (tritium), and large and irreducible electrical energy drains….These impediments—together with the colossal capital outlay and several additional disadvantages shared with fission reactors—will make fusion reactors more demanding to construct and operate, or reach economic practicality, than any other type of electrical energy generator.”

“The harsh realities of fusion belie the claims of its proponents of ‘unlimited, clean, safe and cheap energy.’ Terrestrial fusion energy is not the ideal energy source extolled by its boosters,” declared Jassby.

Earlier this year, raising the issue of a shortage of tritium fuel for fusion reactors, Science, a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ran an article headed: “OUT OF GAS, A shortage of tritium fuel may leave fusion energy with an empty tank.” This piece, in June, cited the high cost of “rare radioactive isotope tritium…At $30,000 per gram, it’s almost as precious as a diamond, but for fusion researchers the price is worth paying. When tritium is combined at high temperatures with its sibling deuterium, the two gases can burn like the Sun.”

Then there’s regulation of fusion reactors. An article last year in MIT Science Policy Review noted: “Fusion energy has long been touted as an energy source capable of producing large amounts of clean energy…Despite this promise, fusion energy has not come to fruition after six decades of research and development due to continuing scientific and technical challenges. Significant private investment in commercial fusion start-ups signals a renewed interest in the prospects of near-term development of fusion technology. Successfully development of fusion energy, however, will require an appropriate regulatory framework to ensure public safety and economic viability.”

“Risk-informed regulations incorporate risk information from probabilistic safety analyses to ensure that regulation are appropriate for the actual risk of an activity,” said the article. “Despite the benefits of adopting a risk-informed framework for a mature fission industry, use of risk-informed regulations for the licensing of first-generation commercial fusion technology could be detrimental to the goal of economic near-term deployment of fusion. Commercial fusion technology has an insufficient operational and regulatory experience base to support the rapid and effective use of risk-informed regulations.”

Despite the widespread cheerleading by media about last week’s fusion announcement, there were some measured comments in media. Arianna Skibell of Politico wrote a piece headed “Here’s a reality check for nuclear fusion.” She said “there are daunting scientific and engineering hurdles to developing this discovery into machinery that can affordably turn a fusion reaction into electricity for the grid. That puts fusion squarely in the category of ‘maybe one day.’”

“Here are some reasons for tempering expectations that this breakthrough will yield any quick progress in addressing the climate emergency,” said Skibell. “First and foremost, as climate scientists have warned, the world does not have decades to wait until the technology is potentially viable to zero out greenhouse gas emissions.” She quoted University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann commenting: “I’d be more excited about an announcement that U.S. is ending fossil fuel subsidies.”

Henry Fountain in his New York Times online column “Climate Forward,” wrote how “the world needs to sharply cut [carbon] emissions soon…So even if fusion power plants become a reality, it likely would not happen in time to help stave off the near-term worsening effects of climate change. It’s far better, many climate scientists and policymakers say, to focus on currently available renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power to help reach these emissions targets.”

“So if fusion isn’t a quick climate fix, could it be a more long-term solution to the world’s energy needs?” he went on. “Perhaps, but cost may be an issue. The National Ignition Facility at Livermore, where the experiment was conducted, was built for $3.5 billion.”

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a long history with fusion. It is where, under nuclear physicist Edward Teller, who became its director, the hydrogen bomb was developed. Indeed, he has long been described as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” The hydrogen bomb utilizes fusion while the atomic bomb, which Teller earlier worked on at Los Alamos National Laboratory, utilizes fission. The development of atomic bombs at Los Alamos led to a nuclear offshoot: nuclear power plants utilizing fission.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Clean energy or weapons ? What the ‘breakthrough’ in nuclear fusion really means.

National Ignition Facility (NIF), then, is a way to continue investment into modernising nuclear weapons, albeit without explosive tests, and dressing it up as a means to produce “clean” energy.

 this sure-to-fail attempt to develop fusion power only amounts to diverting money and resources away from proven and safer renewable energy sources and associated technologies. Investment in research and development into fusion is bad news for the climate.

By M.V. Ramana, 16 Dec 22

On December 13, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced that the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had reached a “milestone”: the achievement of “ignition” in nuclear fusion earlier in the month. That announcement was hailed by many as a step into a fossil fuel-free energy future. US Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, for example, claimed that we were “on the precipice of a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels but instead powered by new clean fusion energy”.

But in truth, generating electrical power from fusion commercially or at an industrial scale is likely unattainable in any realistic sense, at least within the lifetimes of most readers of this article. At the same time, this experiment will contribute far more to US efforts to further develop its terrifyingly destructive nuclear weapons arsenal.

Over the last decade or so, there have been many similar announcements featuring breathless language about breakthroughsmilestones, and advances. These statements have come with unfailing regularity from NIF (for example, in 2013) and the larger set of laboratories and commercial firms pursuing the idea of nuclear fusion. Apart from the United States, similar announcements have come from Germany,  China and the United Kingdom. France is expected to take its turn once the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) starts operating. The reactor is currently being built in Cadarache, France, at an estimated cost of somewhere between $25 billion to as high as $65 billion, much higher than the original estimate of $5.6 billion.

These incredibly high costs also explain why such announcements are made in the first place: without the excitement created by these hyped-up statements, it would be impossible to get funded for the decades it takes to plan and build these facilities. Conceptual design work on ITER began in 1988.

Of course, that timescale pales in comparison to the time period of the first major announcement about fusion-generated electricity. That took place in 1955 when Homi Bhabha, the architect of India’s nuclear programme, told the first International Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva:

“I venture to predict that a method will be found for liberating fusion energy in a controlled manner within the next two decades. When that happens the energy problems of the world will have been solved for ever.”

That would not be the last prediction about the imminence of fusion power that would be wrong. 

Three challenges for nuclear fusion

The recent “breakthrough” that NIF announced pertains to what I would term “physics challenges”. One can identify three stages of physics challenges.

The first challenge is to have enough fusion reactions in the pellet that is blasted by lasers to produce more energy than is put into the target. That was what seems to have been seen at NIF: the reports say that the lasers pumped in 2.05 megajoules of energy and about 3.15 megajoules came out. All of this over a time period of a few nanoseconds (a nanosecond is one billionth of a second). The figure of 3.15 megajoules might seem like a lot but it is only 0.875 kilowatt-hours, that too of heat, which would produce perhaps 0.3 kilowatt-hours of electricity if it was used to boil water and drive a turbine. (For comparison, a rooftop solar panel that costs under Rs 30,000 in Delhi could generate around 5,000 times more electrical energy in a year.)

The second physics challenge is to produce more energy than is used by the facility as a whole. NIF is far from meeting this challenge. It admitted that just the 192 lasers consumed around 400 megajoules in the process of blasting the pellet. To this, we have to add all the energy that goes into running the other equipment and the facility as a whole. 

The final physics challenge is to produce more energy than what is required to construct the facility and all the equipment. In the case of the ITER experiment, for example, it has been estimated that “the tokamak itself will weigh as much as three Eiffel towers [and the] total weight of the central ITER facility is around 400,000 tons”. As Daniel Jassby, a retired physicist from the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, put it, all this “must appear on the negative side of the energy accounting ledger”. 

If these physics challenges are not met, of course, then one has a permanent loss-making facility in energy terms. NIF is far from meeting the latter challenges.

The next stage can be called an “engineering challenge” and that revolves around the question: how do you convert this experimental set up that produces energy for a microscopic fraction of a second into a continuous source of electricity that operates 24 hours a day and 365 days per year? To do that, these fusion reactions should occur several times each second, each second of the day, each day of the year. As of now, the lasers can fire only once a day, at a single target. To move from that state to what is required will need an improvement by a factor of over 500,000 (assuming around six shots per second).

But it is not just firing the laser. Each of these explosions produces a large amount of debris, which would have to be cleared. And then a new pellet has to be placed with utmost precision at the very spot where the lasers can focus their beams. 

If all of this is not trouble enough, there is fuel procurement. NIF uses a “gold cylinder with a frozen pellet of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium”. Deuterium and tritium are isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium is quite common but tritium is very scarce, because it decays radioactively with a half-life of only around 12 years. Fusion proponents often talk about generating tritium in situ, but this is an exceedingly difficult task, as Jasby has explained.

Even if one were to adopt the approach of watching superhero movies and willingly suspend disbelief to assume that all these engineering challenges are solved, then there is an even more difficult challenge: to make this incredibly complicated process into an economically competitive way of generating electricity. If one goes by history, the last could be a killer as has been the case with nuclear fission power, which is a far easier process in comparison to fusion.

Thus, these advances can better be described as “micron-stones”, to coin a term, rather than milestones, and that too on a path that might never lead to economical electricity generation. In the meanwhile, this recent experiment is far more likely to be useful to nuclear weapons designers.

NIF and nuclear weapons

NIF’s chief purpose is not generating electricity or even finding a way to do so. NIF was set up as part of the Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program, which was the ransom paid to the US nuclear weapons laboratories for forgoing the right to test after the United States signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This is a purpose NIF can start fulfilling without ever generating any electricity. 

The main utility that NIF offers nuclear weapons designers and planners is by providing a greater understanding of the underlying science. As the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s webpage proudly proclaims:

“NIF’s high energy density and inertial confinement fusion experiments, coupled with the increasingly sophisticated simulations available from some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, increase our understanding of weapon physics, including the properties and survivability of weapons-relevant materials”.

Another 1995 document explains that NIF would provide lots of “neutrons with the very short pulse widths characteristic of low-yield nuclear intercepts, that can be used to establish lethal criteria for chemical/biological agents and nuclear warhead targets”. In other words, NIF could help with modelling the use of nuclear weapons to destroy chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. 

NIF might even help with developing new kinds of nuclear weapons. Back in 1998, Arjun Makhijani, who has a PhD in nuclear fusion, and Hisham Zeriffi suggested that NIF could help with the development of pure fusion weapons, i.e., thermonuclear weapons that do not need a nuclear fission primary. If that were to happen – and that is a big if, as is the case with most fusion activities – that would obviate the need for highly enriched uranium or plutonium, which are currently the main obstacles to making nuclear weapons.

NIF, then, is a way to continue investment into modernising nuclear weapons, albeit without explosive tests, and dressing it up as a means to produce “clean” energy. The managers of NIF and the larger laboratory in which it is housed are careful to highlight different promises based on the circumstance they are speaking at. When anthropologist Hugh Gusterson asked a senior official about the purpose of the laser programme, the official replied, “It depends who I’m talking to…One moment it’s an energy program, the next it’s a weapons programme. It just depends on the audience”.

Dangerous distraction

The tremendous media attention paid to NIF and ignition amounts to a distraction – and a dangerous one at that.

As the history of nuclear fusion since the 1950s shows, this complicated technology is not going to produce cheap and reliable electricity to light bulbs or power computers anytime in the foreseeable future.

But nuclear fusion falls even shorter when we consider climate change, and the need to cut carbon emissions drastically and rapidly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that to stop irreversible damage from climate change, the world will have to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. Given this relatively short timeline to turn around our economies and ways of living, spending billions of dollars on this sure-to-fail attempt to develop fusion power only amounts to diverting money and resources away from proven and safer renewable energy sources and associated technologies. Investment in research and development into fusion is bad news for the climate.

Meanwhile, nuclear fusion experiments like those at NIF will further the risk posed by the nuclear arsenal of the US, and, indirectly, the arsenals of the eight other countries known to possess nuclear weapons. The world has been lucky so far to avoid nuclear war. But this luck will not hold up forever. We need nuclear weapons abolition, but programmes like NIF offer nuclear weapons modernisation, which is just a means to assure destruction forever

December 16, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“FUSION NET GAIN” is manufactured ignorance.

The only thing limitless and free about fusion power is the hype it generates

ARENA ONLINE, DARRIN DURANT, 16 DEC 2022 On 5 December 2022, fusion power researchers at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) achieved two technical milestones which by 12 December had encouraged a media-fuelled, gigantically unfounded and exaggerated projection about impending cheap, carbon-free, infinite electricity supply. Yes, ‘ignition’—a sustained, lab-controlled fusion reaction—was achieved. So too was ‘gain’, [?really] as the energy released by the fusion reaction was greater than that required by the lasers used to heat and compress a deuterium-tritium fuel pellet.

But we are light years away, at minimum, from fusion power contributing electricity into a grid and in any way helping to resolve the climate crisis. What is going on in all the pretending otherwise?

Almost every word written about ‘net energy gain’ from a fusion reaction is a species of manufactured ignorance generated by managing uncomfortable knowledge, which is complicated by a tension between the desire to trust fusion experts but the knowledge that those experts operate under powerful incentives to engage in hype.


We have been at the doorstep of fusion hype before. In fact, ever since the 1950s fusion power has been just over the horizon. The fusion illusion has become its own cottage industry, with competing fusion research teams over-calling each other in a series of breakthroughs and decisive advances that generate hype, but no electricity.

For instance, on 9 February 2022 the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion reactor in the UK announced that it had produced 59 Megajoules of energy and that this indicated ‘powerplant potential’. Yet JET consumed significantly more power than it produced. Hence I suggested that the claim of a net power gain was a form of hyped science communication in which future promise colonises present limitations.

Researchers at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) are the most recent hype-mongers. In fusion research, there are two main approaches: doughnuts and lasers. The ITER tokamak reactor in France is a doughnut-shaped machine that uses high-temperature magnetic confinement to create a stable and continuous plasma in which fusion can occur. By contrast, in the inertial confinement approach, discrete fusion reactions produce bursts of energy. In NIF experiments, a weak laser pulse is created, split, amplified, converted from infrared to ultraviolet energy, and then, in the form of 192 beams, focused onto a capsule containing deuterium and tritium, heating and compressing (fusing) the nuclear fuel to create alpha particles and release neutrons.

In their 13 December announcement of NIF’s experimental result, the US Department of Energy (DOE) advertised the result as a ‘game changer’ and quoted a host of US politicians directly linking the result to commercial fusion power and the goal of a ‘net-zero carbon economy’. Media outlets which really should adopt stricter editorial standards gushed about the result implying ‘limitless, zero-carbon power’ or stating that it ‘changes everything’ and heralds a decisive step towards ‘carbon-free energy’ for ‘everyone’ for ‘millions of years’.

The only thing limitless and free about fusion power is the hype it generates.

Back in reality, the DOE specified that ‘LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output’. The DOE suggested ‘there is momentum to drive rapid progress towards fusion commercialization’, but what does that 1.10 MJ ‘gain’ in fact mean?

Even science magazines regurgitated the hype, suggesting the fusion reaction released ‘roughly 54% more than the energy that went into the reaction’. Yet when any of these media sources came up for air, typically late into the triumphant narrative, there were somewhat grudging estimates of total energy input, always attributed to some scientists who otherwise had gushed about technological promise. These scientists estimated that the total energy consumed by NIF’s 192 lasers was between 300 megajoules and 500 megajoules. Multiple credulous sources split the difference at 400 megajoules. As one sceptical physicist noted, ‘consuming 400 MJ and producing 3.15 MJ is a net energy loss greater than 99%’, akin to you giving me $400 and me returning to you $3.15, then trying to pump your tyres about how wealthy you just became.


I am not a particle or theoretical physicist, and am admittedly biased by finding nuclear fission as a commercial electricity option to be a kind of technological creationism, and certainly a white elephant for Australia. Moreover, my field of Science and Technology Studies is known more for deconstructing facts than building them up. But as a sociologist of knowledge interested in theorising the positive, ‘partnership’ role experts can play in democratic decision-making, I ask, could experts with specialist knowledge relevant to fusion engineering be doing a better job of reining in the unwarranted hype about fusion net gain?

Specialist commentators on fusion power could do worse than get more comfortable with uncomfortable knowledge. Uncomfortable knowledge is information or understanding that is available but unevenly distributed or acknowledged, inadvertently or strategically obscured or left undone, and actually or potentially disruptive for the goals and interests of select organisations and institutions.

In fusion research, the fact that net energy gain is not the goal of either magnetic confinement or laser inertial confinement is the most salient piece of uncomfortable knowledge. ITER recently withdrew its claim of net energy gain—of 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of input power (a Q value of 10)—and now says that ITER is ‘the investigation and demonstration of burning plasmas’, in which the energy of helium nuclei produced by fusion reactions is enough to maintain plasma temperature.

The LLNL team admitted as much as well, describing the NIF result as a ‘proof of concept [not designed] to plug the NIF into the grid’, with other physicists adding that NIF was designed to be a big laser that could ‘give us the data we need for the [nuclear] stockpile research programme’.

Given the hype about limitless clean energy just over the horizon, another type of uncomfortable knowledge involves the judgements about the feasibility of commercial electrical power from fusion. Put differently, rather than being regaled by hyped milestones and heroic assumptions about future developments, why not cold, hard assessments of uncertainties and obstacles?

While it seemed easy to find a dozen experts willing to gush on record about how remarkable it was to spend $3.5 billion to produce an energy output that might boil a few kettles, frank assessments of future prospects are confined to scattered observations by disconnected critics.

But the list of uncertainties includes: how to increase the fusion reaction frequency from 1 per day to maybe 10 per second; how to reduce the cost of the capsule ‘target’ from tens of thousands of dollars to a few cents, especially as production ramps up from one capsule per week to up to one million per week; how to ensure the laser can reliably fire ten times per second, not once per day; whether energy out can increase versus energy in from 1.54x to 30x; how the heat produced by the fusion will be extracted; whether the efficiency of the yield can be increased by least two orders of magnitude; and whether it is possible to breed enough of the tritium fuel for a commercial industry.

Where such uncomfortable knowledge about feasibility is tackled in depth, it is only by critics. One physicist thus suggested commercial feasibility would demand an increase in fusion output of 100,000 per cent, a mastery of exceedingly strict conditions vis a vis temperature, shape of target capsule and vacuum chamber, a solution to the problem that the machine breaks when it works and requires hours to recover, and an overcoming of the low supply of tritium fuel and its prohibitive cost.

A final form of uncomfortable knowledge includes drawbacks, which are typically managed through practices that include denial (avoiding acknowledging information even if others bring it to collective attention), dismissal (manufacturing justifications for rejecting a counter-claim), diversion (distracting via a decoy issue) and displacement (swapping problems).

Two examples will suffice. One is the deuterium-tritium fuel needed for any future fusion reactor. It scarcely exists in nature (a fact met with denial) and must be produced either in heavy water reactors or by breeding it from enriched lithium-6, which is in short supply (met with dismissal), and, no, it is not solved by speculations about extracting the fuel from sea water (a diversion).

A second drawback is that nuclear fusion may be not the perfect energy source for a climate crisis but, as a former fusion physicist put it, is ‘in some ways close to the opposite’. Put succinctly, the fact that neutron streams comprise 80 per cent of fusion energy output in deuterium-tritium reactions makes it an odd electrical energy source. The neutron streams damage the structure of the machine, produce relatively bulky radioactive waste, require biological shielding, and constitute a proliferation risk (Pu-239). The fusion reactor itself has a high parasitic power consumption, a scarce fuel supply, and likely high operating costs due to continual radiation damage…………………………………… more

December 16, 2022 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

German states oppose construction of Poland’s first nuclear power plant

Alicja Ptak, Notes From Poland, DEC 16, 2022 

Four eastern German states – Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony, which border Poland, as well as Berlin – have formally expressed opposition to the Polish government’s plans to develop the country’s first nuclear power station.

“Together, the federal states speak out against the construction and operation of the first nuclear power plant in Poland and [are] in favour of abandoning the project,” reads a statement by Brandenburg’s consumer protection ministry published earlier this week.

“In view of the devastating nuclear accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima, plans for the further use of nuclear energy should be abandoned in the interest of the population and environment of all Baltic Sea countries,” it adds.

The statement notes that the environment ministry of Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania has forwarded their objections and concerns to Poland’s general director for environmental protection in Warsaw.

Poland intends to build the power plant in Lubiatowo-Kopalino,  near the Baltic Sea and around 250 kilometres from the German border. The project is subject to mandatory consultation, and any opinions or objections could be submitted by Tuesday this week.

In October, Poland picked the United States as its international partner in developing the plant, which is scheduled to open in 2033. Soon after, South Korea was chosen as the partner in a project by a group of private and state-owned firms to develop a second nuclear power station.

By contrast, Germany has over the last decade been withdrawing from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. During a visit to Warsaw in February this year, Germany’s environment minister, Steffi Lemke of the Greens, expressed concern about Poland’s plans.

Nuclear is “neither good nor safe” in Berlin’s view, she said. “If reactors are to be built in Poland, we will work with the appropriate legal instruments…at the European level.”……

December 16, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s all the fuss about fusion?  – a breakthrough, and if so, for whom?

“obviously, if you are the director of a project that has been the recipient of billions of dollars of taxpayer funding over decades, you have to make optimistic noises and get as much mileage as you can out of any signs of progress.”

By Linda Pentz Gunter, 16 Dec 22,

It was heralded as a major breakthrough. The tantalizing challenge of fusion had been cracked! Yes, the elusive moment when the fusing of atoms would release more energy than had been put in, had finally happened. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California had won the fusion race against hot competition both in the US and overseas.

This “landmark achievement,” as U.S. energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, described it, now means that what had been forever decades away — the delivery of electricity powered by fusion — was now……still decades away.

The Washington Post aptly summed up all the hype in a single sentence: “This was a science experiment more than a demonstration of a practical technology.” The New Statesman echoed the hype angle.

And how big a breakthrough really was it? While the experiment delivered 3.15 megajoules of energy output to the 2.05 megajoules it put in, the 192 lasers that produced it required 300 megajoules of energy.

We have been here before, as described in Stephane Lhomme’s accompanying article (in English and French.) For example, back in 1991, the collaborative Joint European Torus (JET) project in the UK achieved a temperature of about 200 million degrees Celsius (about 10 times the temperature in the centre of the sun) for a period of two seconds. Thermonuclear energy from a deuterium-tritium plasma (86% deuterium and 14% tritium) was released during this time at the rate of 2 million watts.

This, too, was heralded as “a significant milestone”, by JET’s director at the time, Dr Paul-Henri Rebut. Since then, there have been a series of other so-called breakthroughs, none of which have brought us any closer to the practical application of fusion as a provider of commercial electricity.

Fusion does not have now, never had, and never will have, any practicable applicability to electricity generation. As my father, Mike Pentz, who began his physics career working on controlled fusion in the late 1940s, wrote in the mid-1990s:

“By the time, if ever, a practicable commercial fusion power station was actually built and became operational, likely some time well into the 21st century, thermonuclear power will be irrelevant to the world’s energy needs, because by then about 90% of the world’s energy will be needed by the people living in the countries now somewhat euphemistically called ‘developing’, and extremely advanced, high-technology and high cost energy sources like controlled fusion will be entirely inappropriate for meeting their needs.”

At such a time, he predicted, almost 30 years ago, our focus would need to be elsewhere, and especially on solar energy. He wrote:“we are also going to have to move away from very large, centralized sources of energy, like most of today’s electrical power stations, whether they use coal, oil, gas or uranium, towards much smaller, decentralized sources, and that will make controlled fusion reactors as impracticable and inappropriate as nuclear reactors based upon fission.”

How ironic, then, that we continue to ignore the most obvious opportunity presented by fusion — to harvest the power of the sun itself. Even as renewable energy is soaring in application while dropping in price, absurd amounts of money continue to be squandered on the elusive pursuit of fusion.

And yet, utility-scale solar PV [photovoltaics] is already “the least costly option for new electricity generation in a significant majority of countries worldwide”, according to a 2022 study published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). 

The IEA further reports that “Solar PV’s installed power capacity is poised to surpass that of coal by 2027, becoming the largest in the world.” 

With the August 2022 passage of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the US now has in place an unprecedented long-term policy for federal tax credits supporting the expansion of solar PV projects out to 2032. 

Fusion, on the other hand, is not about electricity production at all. The crowing about harnassing fusion as a safe, clean form of nuclear energy — already misleading as Daniel Jassby pointed out on these pages — is just a conveniently benign-sounding cover story.

The real agenda — which shouldn’t be hard to guess given the fusion “breakthrough” was achieved at Lawrence Livermore — is nuclear weapons. 

…………………………………………….. Jennifer Granholm, however, returned to the cover story playbook when she said, tellingly: “This is our planet’s first step towards the ultimate clean energy, and THIS is why investing in America’s National Labs matters.”

The first part of her sentence is irrelevant nonsense of course, but the second part is the giveaway. It’s all about the money, and who gets it (again, see the Lhomme article.) Why is that funding needed? To turn our lights on? Absolutely not.

As my father noted in his memoirs, in rather more colorful language, so gentle edits have been made, “obviously, if you are the director of a project that has been the recipient of billions of dollars of taxpayer funding over decades, you have to make optimistic noises and get as much mileage as you can out of any signs of progress.”

That’s pretty much what we heard from NIF and the US government this week: noise. Joyful noise for the white coats, white noise for the rest of us, who instead urge the rapid implementation of real and affordable energy solutions that will serve us now, not wildly expensive ones that remain perpetually decades away.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exposed: The Most Polluted Place in the United States

A new book investigates the toxic legacy of Hanford, the Washington state facility that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.

The Revelator The Ask, December 14, 2022 – by Tara Lohan, The most polluted place in the United States — perhaps the world — is one most people don’t even know. Hanford Nuclear Site sits in the flat lands of eastern Washington. The facility — one of three sites that made up the government’s covert Manhattan Project — produced plutonium for Fat Man, the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. And it continued producing plutonium for weapons for decades after the war, helping to fuel the Cold War nuclear arms race.

Today Hanford — home to 56 million gallons of nuclear waste, leaking storage tanks, and contaminated soil — is an environmental disaster and a catastrophe-in-waiting.

It’s the costliest environmental remediation project the world has ever seen and, arguably, the most contaminated place on the entire planet,” writes journalist Joshua Frank in the new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America.

It’s also shrouded in secrecy.

Frank has worked to change that, beginning with a series of blockbuster investigations published in Seattle Weekly a decade ago. Atomic Days offers an even fuller picture of the ecological threats posed by Hanford and its failed remediation.

The Revelator spoke with him about the environmental consequences, the botched cleanup operation, and what comes next.

Why is the most polluted place in the country so little known?

We have to understand what it was born out of, which was the Manhattan Project. There were three locations picked — Los Alamos [N.M.], Oak Ridge [Tenn.] and Hanford — to build the nuclear program.

Hanford was picked to produce plutonium and it ran for four decades, from World War II through the Cold War in the late 80s. For decades people that lived in and around Hanford didn’t know what was really going on there. It was run as a covert military operation. Even now, it’s still very much run like a covert operation because of the dangers that exist with the potential for an attack on one of the nuclear waste tanks……………….

What are the known environmental dangers?

There are 177 underground tanks that hold 56 million gallons of nuclear waste. We know that 67 of those tanks have leaked in the past into the groundwater that feeds the Columbia River.

We know that during its operation in the 50s and 60s the government was monitoring the water in the Columbia River, and even at the mouth of the Columbia they were finding radioactive fish. So we know that there have been leaks that made it to the river.

Right now, we know that there are two tanks currently leaking. The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Department of Energy know about these leaks, but they can’t do anything about them because there’s no other place to safely put the waste…………………………

What has the cleanup process been like?

The big thing right now is trying to get all this waste vitrified, which is turning it into glass so it can be stored safely and permanently. The government thought that could be done in four years, but that was 30 years ago now……………………………………….

Bechtel is a privately owned corporation and we’re spending billions of dollars paying this company to not get the job done. It’s a big mess……………………………………………….. more

December 16, 2022 Posted by | media, wastes | Leave a comment

New Delay, Cost Overrun For France’s Next-gen Nuclear Plant By AFP – Agence France Presse, December 16, 2022

Welding problems will require a further six-month delay for France’s next-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville, the latest setback for the flagship technology the country hopes to sell worldwide, state-owned electricity group EDF said Friday.

The delay will also add 500 million euros to a project whose total cost is now estimated at around 13 billion euros ($13.8 billion), blowing past the initial projection of 3.3 billion euros when construction began in 2007.

It comes as EDF is already struggling to restart dozens of nuclear reactors taken down for maintenance or safety work that has proved more challenging than originally thought.

EDF also said Friday that one of the two conventional reactors at Flamanville would not be brought back online until February 19 instead of next week as planned, while one at Penly in northwest Farnce would be restarted on March 20 instead of in January.

The French government has warned of potential power shortages this winter because of the shutdowns at around two-dozen of the 56 reactors across the country that normally generate around 70 percent of its electricity needs.

EDF said the latest problems at Flamanville, on the English Channel in Normandy, emerged last summer when engineers discovered that welds in cooling pipes for the new pressurised water reactor, called EPR, were not tolerating extreme heat as expected.

As a result, the new reactor will be start generating power only in mid-2024.

The French-developed European Pressurised Reactor was designed to relaunch nuclear power in Europe after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in Russia, and is touted as offering more efficient power output and better safety.

But similar projects at Olkiluoto in Finland, Hinkley Point in Britain and the Taishan plant in China have also suffered production setbacks and delays, raising doubts about the viability of the new technology.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in February that he wants a nuclear “renaissance” that would see up to 14 new reactors in France as the country seeks to reduce use of fossil fuels.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Bill Gates-backed nuclear demonstration project in Wyoming delayed because Russia was the only fuel source

Catherine Clifford, 16 Dec 22

  • Bill Gates nuclear innovation company TerraPower says the operation of its demonstration advanced power reactor will be pushed back at least two years because the only source of fuel for the reactor was Russia.
  • The advanced reactor design uses high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, and was slated to be done in 2028.
  • Stakeholders are now calling on the U.S. to secure other sources, or produce it domestically.

……………………………………………. Terrapower’s advanced nuclear plant design, known as Natrium, will be smaller than conventional nuclear reactors, and is slated to cost $4 billion, with half of that money coming from the U.S. Department of Energy. It will offer baseload power of 345 megawatts, with the potential to expand its capacity to 500 megawatts 

………………. TerraPower has raised over $830 million in private funding in 2022 and the Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion for the construction of the plant, said Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

UN committee adopts Russian draft resolution on prevention of arms race in space 16 Dec 22

The resolution drew support from 124 delegations, while 48 voted against it and 9 abstained

UNITED NATIONS, November 1. /TASS/. The UN General Assembly First Committee on Tuesday adopted Russia’s draft resolution on Further Practical Measures for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.

The resolution drew support from 124 delegations, while 48 voted against it and 9 abstained. The resolution is now expected to be considered by a full General Assembly in December. The document underscores the importance of taking urgent measures in order to forever prevent the deployment of weapons in the outer space, use of force or threat of force in the outer space, from space against Earth and from Earth against objects in space. The document calls on all states to achieve via negotiations corresponding legally binding multilateral agreements.

The UN General Assembly First Committee approved the Russian draft resolution “No first placement of weapons in outer space.” The document was supported by 123 delegations, with 50 voting against and 4 abstaining. The draft document is now expected to be reviewed by the General Assembly’s full membership in December.

The document was co-authored by 18 other states. It calls to promptly begin a substantial work based on the updated version of the 2008 draft agreement on prevention of deployment of weapons in space, use of force or threat of force against space objects, introduced by Russia and China. It reaffirms the need for examination and adoption of practical measures during development of agreements for prevention of an arms race in the outer space.

The committee approved without a vote the Russian draft resolution on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities.

The committee also adopted the Russian draft resolution “Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities” without a vote. The document states that the UN Secretary General must inquire about opinions and proposals of member states on practical implementation of transparency measures, contained in the 2013 report of Group of government experts on transparency and trust-building measures in space.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

For true reporting on nuclear fusion, non-magical science is needed

We want to know about the uncertainties attending fusion research, but are the people best placed to discuss those uncertainties because they are at the coalface of technical innovation, mired in commercial, and sometimes military, incentives to underplay risk and overplay potential?


“…………………….. ………………. Net gain in fusion research today exploits holes in our broader culture about what we do not know we know. It is unevenly known that more power is consumed than is produced by fusion experiments. The process of manufacturing ignorance about that unevenly known fact turns on excluding uncomfortable knowledge because of the way that knowledge might threaten fusion-related institutional goals and interests.

We are not ignorant of fusion gaslighting because of some natural but temporary state of maldistribution of knowledge, nor because we just happen to have not done the relevant work of knowing. Instead, fusion hype actively makes and sustains broader ignorance. Manufacturing ignorance is an achievement which in the case of fusion relies on fuzzy measures today being masked by heroic projections about tomorrow, aided by eliding the uncertainties attending fusion technology.


If the managing of uncomfortable knowledge is leading to the manufacturing of ignorance about fusion research, is the solution to embrace frank assessment? Unfortunately, a tension exists whereby we reasonably suspect both that experts are best placed to know of uncertainties, and that those same experts might have incentives to underplay them. Social and political analysts of techno-science represent this as the conflict between the certainty trough and the commercialisation of science.

The certainty trough is the finding that those alienated from institutions committed to a non-preferred technology are uncertain due to distrust, but that insiders or producers of knowledge are uncertain (even if only in private) due to close experience with the relevant techno-science. If the question can be established as technical, not political, then by the principle of the locus of legitimate interpretation, in science the producers of knowledge ought to be the arbiters of meaning (unlike in the Arts, where we accept that consumers can play the role of interpreters of meaning).

Yet the commercialisation of science often incentivises an instrumental function of hype in which scientists sell opportunity and underplay risk, producing warranted distrust in the delegating of meaning-making to experts. The hermeneutics of suspicion can be either crude (financial investments are said to directly undermine norms of objectivity), subtle (a medialisation process is shifting the norms of science towards the norms of marketing, entertainment, media and attention cycles), or deep (a restricted agenda of tractable uncertainties, resolvable by existing frameworks, makes invisible the limiting commitments and assumptions of any given techno-scientific project).

The NIF experiment is especially burdened by the tension between trusting and being suspicious of experts because it is a weapons project. The DOE announcement slipped in that the ‘breakthrough will ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile’. The director for weapons physics and design at LLNL  (California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) did not hide this, clarifying that fusion ignition is important because it ‘has direct application to maintaining the weapons stockpile—NIF’s (National Ignition Facility) primary mission)

The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration warranted the NIF ignition test as part of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, in which thermonuclear weapons are assessed and certified without the need for explosive testing. In reply, critics linked the test to concerns about proliferation and continued weapons development, and clean energy was branded a ‘convenient reason to keep the dollars flowing to dual-use weapons R&D’.

Is this tension a catch-22? Is there no escape from the mutually dependent but conflicting conditions? We want to know about the uncertainties attending fusion research, but are the people best placed to discuss those uncertainties because they are at the coalface of technical innovation mired in commercial, and sometimes military, incentives to underplay risk and overplay potential?


Maybe there is a sliver of hope. The director for weapons physics at LLNL lamented that ‘he would have preferred [the results] be released through a scientific journal. But the results were sure to leak out’. The unedifying hype accompanying fusion research trades on the image of science as magically pulling rabbits (clean, infinite power for all, tomorrow) out of hats. Distrust follows when exaggerated projections are revealed to be emperors with no clothes.

But here is a scientist, enmeshed in all the complexities of military and commercial work, still holding on to a key value of science: organised scepticism. The more scientists opt for the less sexy route of assessing results and uncertainties, checking before unveiling and opening research to scientific scrutiny before turning meaning-making over to the norms of sensationalism, the more the rest of us might have access to their distributed judgements about uncertainties.

Note there is an historical precedent: the LIGO result announcing the detection of gravity waves. LIGO detected the ripple in September 2015 but waited until February 2016 to announce it, using the time to double-check everything. The story is told by the sociologist of science Harry Collins in Gravity’s Kiss (2017), where he suggests that the result was withheld because LIGO was still hostage to the ‘science is revelatory’ image. There remained a commitment to flawless and glorious truth, and a reluctance to let science be a bit uncertain and maybe even wrong. There is historical precedent here too: some nuclear waste disposal programs have let their institutional selves be vulnerable, which is a key condition for building trust, by making their choices amenable to checking and changing by broader audiences. I am just, I guess, fusing some ideas together.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, media | Leave a comment

‘We are all downwinders’: New film discusses Nevada’s nuclear fallout By Taylor Lane Las Vegas Review-Journal, December 16, 2022 

“At the end of the day, we are all downwinders.”

That’s the message directors Mark Shapiro and Douglas Brian Miller hope viewers take away from their upcoming film “Downwind,” a documentary on the health consequences of nuclear testing at the Nevada Test Site (now called the Nevada National Security Site).

The test site saw over 900 nuclear detonations between 1951 and 1992, including 100 atmospheric tests that could be seen from as far as Las Vegas, 65 miles south of the test site, and St. George, Utah, which has above-average rates of radioactivity compared to the U.S. average.

The film centers around the areas closest to the blasts in Utah and western Nevada, where communities officials once deemed a “low-use segment of the population” bore the brunt of the fallout — mainly Mormon communities, Native Americans and other rural residents, Shapiro said.

Because of its Utah focus, the filmmakers wanted to debut it in the Beehive State at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City.PauseUnmute

The film premieres Jan. 23 and will be preceded by a panel featuring Miller and Shapiro, along with downwinder advocates Claudia Peterson and Mary Dickson, Nevada Shoshone Nation Principal Man and spokesperson Ian Zabarte and Scott Williams, a nuclear policy consultant from Heal Utah.

Shapiro and Miller said they became interested in researching nuclear fallout after reflecting on their families’ history of cancer, which is found in higher rates in communities in proximity to the test site.

The two descended down a rabbit hole of research on the widespread impacts of radiation from nuclear testing, and found out radiation is not exclusive to the Southwest.

“Even if you don’t live in St. George, the radiation impacts us globally,” Shapiro said.

Miller said he was awestruck by a map from researcher Richard Miller (no relation) that shows how far the winds blew the radiation across the U.S.

“It blasted the entire country, minus Los Angeles because of the way the wind was blowing. … It just changes your whole mindset of ‘Is this real?’ And then you continue to dig,” Miller said.

Talking with Nevadans

Miller and Shapiro spoke with many Nevadans about their experiences with nuclear fallout, including members of the Western Bands of the Shoshone Nation of Indians such as Zabarte. The test site is on the traditional homelands of the Western Shoshone.

“We wanted to make sure that we had the perspective of Ian and others from the community to talk about the significance of testing on land that they still consider theirs and theirs by treaty,” Shapiro said.

The duo found support from late Review-Journal reporter Keith Rogers, whose career at the newspaper focused on the test site, military issues and the environment. Rogers died in October.

“We looked at him as a significant contributor to this film,” Shapiro said. “(For) both Doug and I, he was like a father figure to us. He really helped guide a lot of the story.”

Rogers is featured in the film, and behind the scenes helped Miller and Shapiro connect with people who work at Atomic Testing Museum and to past test site employees.

The greatest resource Rogers gave the team, Shapiro said, was a U.S. nuclear test booklet from the Department of Energy, which detailed every test ever done at the test site.

“Each one of them has a name, it has a date, it has a location, it has the yield range — some of these bombs were several times larger than the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Shapiro said. “This booklet that he gave me, you see notes from the government saying ‘accidental release of radiation detected off site.’ It almost gives you shivers — it’s the rabbit hole effect.”

The film also stars actor Martin Sheen, who serves as the film’s narrator and has spoken out against nuclear testing, and comedian Lewis Black, who adds humor to a dark story about America’s past and has joked about duck-and-cover drills in his stand-up routines.

“(Black) is a political commentator, and his comedy is a reflection of the time we live in,” Shapiro said.

Holding accountability

Miller hopes the film shows that residents whose lives have been changed by testing should be compensated and that Americans can find ways to prevent testing from happening again, he said.

“We have to make sure that we’re holding our government accountable for what’s happening,” Shapiro said. “While we recognize how much we love living here (in the U.S.), still, there’s accountability.”

For more information on the film, visit

Contact Taylor Lane at Follow @tmflane on Twitter.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | media, USA | Leave a comment

Twice as many people support onshore wind compared to nuclear power, according to UK Government survey.

Renewable energy of all sorts is at
least twice as popular with the British public compared to nuclear power
according to the newly released ‘BEIS Public Opinion Tracker Autumn
2022‘. Solar power was supported or strongly supported by 89% of
respondents, offshore wind by 85% and onshore wind by 79%. This was
compared to only 37% for nuclear power, 25% for fracking and 44% for carbon
capture and storage. The survey recorded that just 29% of people believe
that nuclear energy ‘provides a safe source of energy in the UK’.

100% Renewables 15th Dec 2022

December 16, 2022 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

For the Western leaders, Minsk Agreements were designed to buy time for Ukrainians to get ready for conflict with Russia

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel’s astonishing admission vis-a-vis Minsk II, made during an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit recently merely confirms that Putin was played for a fool when he entered negotiations for Minsk II with Germany, France and Ukraine in 2015. Russia entered said negotiations in good faith while the other parties involved did not. Thousands of lives lost and counting seven years on is the result.

Again and again, Ukraine’s future prosperity, security and stability upon becoming independent in 1991 was always dependent on it being a bridge between Russia and the West not the battlefield it became.

Merkel admits Minsk Agreements were designed to buy time for Ukrainians to get ready for conflict with Russia, yet Putin? Medium, John Wight, 13 Dec 22.

Sooner or later people in the West are going to have to wake up to the hard truth that their enemy is not at the gates but within the gates — this in the shape of ruling elites that have driven our world to the brink of destruction economically, ecologically, environmentally, and militarily with their lust for power, hegemony, domination and riches.

Before we go on, though, let us take a moment to deal with the usual ordure that gets shovelled in the direction of those in writing in the West who dare not type the name Putin in a sentence without also including words such as ‘tyrant’, ‘dictator’, ‘monster’ either before or after it — and preferably both. Here it is just as Eduardo Galeano said: “The marketplace of fear requires a steady supply of monsters.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a brutal man leading his country through a brutal period in human affairs. But he is not the architect of this brutal period; on the contrary, the Russia he has led since 2000 has been among the most grievous victims of it.

Canadian author and journalist Naomi Klein, in her remarkable work Shock Doctrinedescribes how Russia was used as a laboratory by US free market think tanks, gurus and economists, who descended on the country while still reeling from the shock of the implosion of the Soviet system in the early 1990s. Their objective was the establishment of a pure market economy shorn of state intervention, wherein the market would decide who worked and who did not, who could heat themselves and who could not, who ate and who could not — and ultimately who would live and who would not………………………

The primary aim of the free market economic ‘hitmen’ who arrived in Russia in early 1990s was the decimation of every vestige of state involvement in the nation’s economy or economic life. Rather than the arbiter of social justice and guarantor of economic stability, the government was now to be reduced to the role of facilitator and guardian of the interests of international investors, shareholders, speculators, and global corporations.

This process entailed the deregulation of the banking system, the removal of social protections and safety nets, the lifting of price controls and the privatisation of all state owned sectors of the economy, sold off to speculators at a fraction of their true value. The aforementioned reforms were laid down as conditions of post-Soviet Russia’s membership of the IMF, when it applied to join under its first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, in 1992.

Moscow at this point was on the verge of bankruptcy, burdened with an external debt of $66 billion in the wake of the Soviet’s Union’s dissolution. The creditor nations of the G7 made it a condition of their cooperation in rescheduling the country’s debt that the IMF play a central role as policy advisor, lender and coordinator of assistance. Russia’s sovereignty, in other words, was to be suborned to the diktats of the IMF in Washington…………………………………………

 the impact of this economic medicine on Russian society was nothing short of devastating. Most Russians consumed 40 percent less in 1992 after a year of shock therapy than they consumed in 1991, while a third of the population fell below the poverty line……………………

That the country managed to recover from this horrific decade was in large part down to the stewardship of Vladimir Putin. He it was who restored national pride, faced down the oligarchs who’d taken control of the nation’s economy, and reasserted the primacy of the state over that of blind economic forces.

Benefiting from its domination of the European energy market and an extended period of high oil and gas prices, Russia’s economic growth from 1999 — when Putin first became prime minister — to 2008 was exponential……………………..

The Putin so demonised in the West today is the same Putin that broached the possibility of Russia becoming a member of NATO with US President Bill Clinton in 2000. The Putin so demonised in the West today is the same Putin who was the first leader to call US President George W. Bush to express his condolences after 9/11 and offered the use of Russian airbases in Central Asia for US airstrikes against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, staged in response.

That Putin is now to all intents engaged in conflict against the West in Ukraine marks an abject failure not of Russian but Western foreign policy in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union.

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel’s astonishing admission vis-a-vis Minsk II, made during an interview with German newspaper Die Zeit recently merely confirms that Putin was played for a fool when he entered negotiations for Minsk II with Germany, France and Ukraine in 2015. Russia entered said negotiations in good faith while the other parties involved did not. Thousands of lives lost and counting seven years on is the result.

Again and again, Ukraine’s future prosperity, security and stability upon becoming independent in 1991 was always dependent on it being a bridge between Russia and the West not the battlefield it became.

In the words of Professor John J. Mearsheimer:

U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.

December 16, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine | Leave a comment