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A folly, endangering us all, If Trump ends another nuclear treaty

If Trump ends another nuclear treaty, it will be the height of folly, by Michèle Flournoy and Kingston Reif, August 19, 2019  Michèle Flournoy is co-founder and managing partner of WestExec Advisors. She served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. Kingston Reif is the director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association.

(CNN)During his first two and a half years in office, President Donald Trump and his administration have laid waste to numerous international agreements originally designed to strengthen US security, bolster US alliances, and constrain US adversaries. The toll has been particularly high with respect to deals concerning nuclear arms control and nonproliferation.

Over the past 14 months, the administration has withdrawn from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and abandoned the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Both of these valuable agreements have been discarded without a viable plan to replace them.

Now the administration is signaling that it might jettison yet another nuclear pact, the2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. Doing so would be the height of folly and would deal a significant blow to US national security. With the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty having just taken effect on Aug. 2, New START will be the only remaining agreement constraining the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. Were New START to disappear, for the first time in nearly half a century there would be no legally binding limits on American or Russian nuclear stockpiles. The risk of unconstrained US-Russian nuclear competition, and of even more tense bilateral relations, would grow.

New START is one of the few remaining bright spots in the US-Russian relationship. The treaty requires each side to reduce long-range nuclear forces to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads, 700 deployed long-range missiles and bombers, and 800 deployed and non-deployed missile launchers and bombers by Feb. 5, 2018—a deadline that both countries met.

New START also includes a comprehensive monitoring and verification regime to ensure compliance. But the agreement is set to expire on Feb. 5, 2021. Under its terms, it can be extended by up to five years if both presidents agree.

In an appearance before an activist group this summer, however, US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who before joining the administration calledNew START an “execrable deal,” said that while no decision has been made, he thinks an extension is “unlikely.”

The decision to extend New START should be a no-brainer from both a security and budget perspective.
The treaty caps the size of Russia’s deployed nuclear arsenal and provides the US with information about Russia’s forces that cannot be gained in any other way. This reduces the Russian threat to the US and greatly aids American military and intelligence planning……. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/19/opinions/flournoy-reif-if-trump-ends-another-nuclear-treaty-it-will-be-the-height-of-folly/index.html
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August 20, 2019 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Distinguished scientist Martin Rees – world must fight climate change, don’t waste tax-payers’ money on space travel

Interview:  Martin Rees: ‘Climate change is a doddle compared with terraforming Mars’, Guardian

The astronomer royal and risk specialist on cyber-attacks, pandemics, Brexit and life on Mars, Martin Rees is a cosmologist and astrophysicist who has been the astronomer royal since 1995. He is also a co-founder of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge. His most recent book, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, is published by Princeton.

Martin Rees……. science is not just a venture for academics – most of our life depends on how it’s applied.
…….. One consequence of modern technology is that the world is more interconnected. It’s possible for small groups or even individuals to produce an effect that cascades very widely, even globally.
Ian Tucker..The climate crisis is another area where international agreements have had limited impact. There is a strong grassroots movement led by Greta Thunberg and others, yet we have populist presidents in the US and Brazil who are climate-change deniers and reneging on agreements… 

Martin Rees Politicians don’t prioritise things when the benefits are diffuse and in the far future. They will only take action if the voters are behind them. That’s why it’s very important to sustain these campaigns.

We want to make sure that these issues of climate stay on the agenda. For instance, the 2015 papal encyclical on climate change. The pope has a billion followers from Latin America, Africa, East Asia and this helped towards consensus at the Paris conference……

The need for sending people into space has evaporated. If you were building the Hubble telescope now, you wouldn’t send people to refurbish it, you would send robots. I hope human space flight will continue, but as a high-risk adventure bankrolled by private companies. If I were American, I wouldn’t support taxpayers’ money going on Nasa’s manned programme.  …..

it is a delusion to think we can solve Earth’s problems by relocating to Mars. I completely disagree with Musk and with my late colleague Stephen Hawking on that, because dealing with climate change on Earth is a doddle compared with terraforming Mars. ….https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/aug/18/martin-rees-astronomer-royal-interview-brexit

August 20, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel | Leave a comment

Sea level rise only half the story – climate change is altering ocean waves

Climate change may change the way ocean waves impact 50% of the world’s coastlines  The Conversation, Mark Hemer, Principal Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere, CSIRO, Ian Young. Kernot Professor of Engineering, University of Melbourne, Joao Morim Nascimento, PhD Candidate, Griffith University, Nobuhito Mori, Professor, Kyoto University, August 20, 2019    The rise in sea levels is not the only way climate change will affect the coasts. Our research, published today in Nature Climate Change, found a warming planet will also alter ocean waves along more than 50% of the world’s coastlines.

If the climate warms by more than 2℃ beyond pre-industrial levels, southern Australia is likely to see longer, more southerly waves that could alter the stability of the coastline.

Scientists look at the way waves have shaped our coasts – forming beaches, spits, lagoons and sea caves – to work out how the coast looked in the past. This is our guide to understanding past sea levels.

But often this research assumes that while sea levels might change, wave conditions have stayed the same. This same assumption is used when considering how climate change will influence future coastlines – future sea-level rise is considered, but the effect of future change on waves, which shape the coastline, is overlooked.

Changing waves

Waves are generated by surface winds. Our changing climate will drive changes in wind patterns around the globe (and in turn alter rain patterns, for example by changing El Niño and La Niña patterns). Similarly, these changes in winds will alter global ocean wave conditions.

Further to these “weather-driven” changes in waves, sea level rise can change how waves travel from deep to shallow water, as can other changes in coastal depths, such as affected reef systems.

Recent research analysed 33 years of wind and wave records from satellite measurements, and found average wind speeds have risen by 1.5 metres per second, and wave heights are up by 30cm – an 8% and 5% increase, respectively, over this relatively short historical record.

These changes were most pronounced in the Southern Ocean, which is important as waves generated in the Southern Ocean travel into all ocean basins as long swells, as far north as the latitude of San Francisco.

Sea level rise is only half the story.…. https://theconversation.com/climate-change-may-change-the-way-ocean-waves-impact-50-of-the-worlds-coastlines-121239

August 20, 2019 Posted by | climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change

Iceland holds funeral for first glacier lost to climate change

Nation commemorates the once huge Okjokull glacier with plaque that warns action is needed to prevent climate change  Guardian Agence France-Presse 19 Aug 2019 ,

August 20, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

13-15 September 2019 – International Uranium Film Festival in Portugal

August 20, 2019 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

South Korean call for import ban on processed foods from Fukushima

Lawmaker calls for import ban on processed foods from Fukushima  http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2019/08/356_274166.html    South Korea should restrict imports of processed foods from Japan’s Fukushima region as radiation has been found in shipments, an opposition lawmaker said Monday.

South Korea banned all seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima in 2013 on concerns over their radiation levels in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown. But no import restrictions have been put on processed foods from the areas.
Citing data from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Rep. Kim Kwang-soo of the minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace said radiation has been discovered in 16.8 tons of processed foods imported from the eight prefectures, or 35 shipments, over the past five years.

The figures were 10 tons (11 shipments) in 2014, 0.1 ton (six) in 2015, one ton (six) in 2016, 0.3 ton (four) in 2017, 0.4 ton (six) in 2018 and 5 tons (two) for the first half of this year.

South Korea imported 29,985 tons of processed foods from the Japanese prefectures between 2014 and June this year. Imports, which came to 3,803 tons in 2014, increased to 7,259 tons last year. In the January-June period of this year, imports reached 3,338 tons.

“It is urgent for the government to take necessary action against processed foods from the eight Japanese areas since they pose a serious risk to public health,” the lawmaker said.

No import restrictions have been imposed on the processed foods, though a recent ruling by the World Trade Organization (WTO) has allowed Seoul to retain the import ban on 28 kinds of fish caught in the eight prefectures, he said.

In response to a complaint from Tokyo, the WTO ruled in April this year that Seoul’s measures do not amount to unfair trade restrictions or arbitrary discrimination.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it sees no problem with imports of processed foods from the eight Japanese prefectures because the Japanese government submits inspection certificates and thorough checks are conducted at local quarantine offices. (Yonhap)

August 20, 2019 Posted by | environment, South Korea | Leave a comment

Brexit proving a problem for the nuclear industry – shortage of welders for Hinkley Point C project,

Energy Voice 19th Aug 2019 , Britain’s plan to revitalize its aging nuclear energy infrastructure is
likely to take a hit if Brexit jeopardizes a crucial supply of welders. The
skilled workers have been in short supply for years, a strain that will
likely worsen as new nuclear projects are built.
About 13% of Britain’s welders come from other countries in the European Economic Area, according
to the Migration Advisory Committee, which keeps a list of occupations with
a shortage of workers.
Without those additional workers, it’s likely to
become more difficult and costly to build and operate multi-billion-dollar
atomic plants, which are crucial to the U.K.’s target to produce net-zero
carbon emissions by 2050.
The stress is already apparent at Electricite de
France SA’s 19.6 billion-pound ($24 billion) Hinkley Point C project, the
only nuclear plant now under construction in Britain. “Hinkley requires a
large number of welders,” said Peter Haslam, who retired on Friday as
head of policy at the Nuclear Industry Association. “They come from
Europe. We need these people to have easy access to the U.K.”

https://www.energyvoice.com/otherenergy/nuclear/205758/lack-of-welders-threatens-johnsons-uk-nuclear-renaissance/

August 20, 2019 Posted by | employment, UK | Leave a comment

China dominates worldwide solar and wind energy generation

Nikkei Asian Review 17th Aug 2019 China has come to dominate worldwide solar and wind energy generation, in
terms of both its own capacity and its companies’ share of global markets,
leaving previous powerhouses — particularly the U.S. and Japan — to play
catch-up.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Energy/China-storms-past-US-and-Japan-to-take-lead-in-wind-and-solar-power

August 20, 2019 Posted by | China, renewable | Leave a comment

Grand space travel plans – to rescue USA’s collapsing nuclear industry?

US plans to send nuclear reactors to space,  Rt.com 19 Aug, 2019  Despite the nuclear industry stumbling in the domestic United States, the country is looking to put nuclear reactors on Mars and the Moon.

While the nuclear energy industry is struggling to stay afloat in the United States, bogged down by public and political mistrust, crushing nuclear waste-maintenance costs, and a market flooded by cheap natural gas, the country has grand plans for nuclear power outside of its domestic borders. Way outside.

In just a few short years from now, the United States will be shipping nuclear reactors to the moon and Mars. According to team members from the Kilopower project, a collaborative venture from NASA and the United States Department of Energy, nuclear energy is just a few years from heading into the space age.

“The Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts and technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stays on planetary surfaces,” says NASA’s “Space Technology Mission Directorate.” In layman’s terms, the focus of the Kilopower project is to use an experimental fission reactor to power crewed outposts on the moon and Mars, allowing researchers and scientists to stay and work for much longer durations of time than is currently possible. …..

[ NASA says] The potential of this demonstration would be to “pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, enabling mission operations in harsh environments and missions that rely on In-situ Resource Utilization to produce local propellants and other materials.”

While this is not the first time that nuclear energy is being used to power pursuits into the final frontier, the Kilopower project is a much more ambitious and powerful project than any of its predecessors. According to Space.com, “nuclear energy has been powering spacecraft for decades. NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, New Horizons spacecraft, and Curiosity Mars rover, along with many other robotic explorers, employ radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), which convert the heat thrown off by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 into electricity.” ….. https://www.rt.com/business/466790-us-space-nuclear-reactors/

August 20, 2019 Posted by | space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear monitoring stations went mysteriously quiet after Russian missile facility explosion

Nuclear monitoring stations went mysteriously quiet after Russian missile facility explosion, By Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, CNN August 19, 2019 Four Russia-based nuclear monitoring stations that monitor radioactive particles in the atmosphere have mysteriously gone quiet after an August 8 explosion at a Russian missile testing facility, an explosion that has sparked confusion and concerns about possible increases in radiation levels, according to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

CTBTO is an independent body which watches for nuclear weapons testing violations with over 300 monitoring stations around the world. Both Russia and the US are signatories to the treaty.
The two Russian radionuclide stations, called Dubna and Kirov, stopped transmitting data within two days of the explosion, the organization said.
“According to our routine global procedure, the CTBTO contacted the Station Operators as soon as the problems started. They have reported communication and network issues, and we’re awaiting further reports on when the stations and/or the communication system will be restored to full functionality,” a spokesperson said.
In addition, a senior CTBTO official tells CNN that stations in Bilibino and Zalesovo went silent on August 13.
“Experts continue to reach out to our collaborators in Russia to resume station operations as expediently as possible,” the official said.
The organization has 80 radionuclide stations around the globe which “measure the atmosphere for radioactive particles,” it says, adding that “only these measurements can give a clear indication as to whether an explosion detected by the other methods was actually nuclear or not.”
US officials believe the deadly explosion was caused during testing of the nuclear propelled Russian missile SSC-X-9 which NATO has designated the code name of “Skyfall.”
The missile is believed to use a nuclear reactor to help power its flight, giving it the ability to fly for longer periods than a conventional missile.
The explosion at the missile site, which resulted in the death of five Russian military scientists, has been the subject of intense speculation as Moscow has provided few details about the incident, with the Kremlin only saying that “accidents happen.”
The mysterious disruption to the radionuclide stations, which track radioactive particles in the atmosphere, comes as Russian officials have given contrasting accounts about the level of radiation released in the explosion.
Local authorities reported a brief spike in radiation following the incident but Russia’s Defense Ministry said radiation levels were normal.
Russian authorities also called off the evacuation of a village in northern Russia near the site of the suspected failed missile test, Russian state news agency TASS reported last week.
Last week, the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority said that “tiny amounts of radioactive iodine” had been detected at an air-filter station, one week after the mystery-shrouded explosion…….https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/19/politics/nuclear-monitoring-stations-russian-missile-facility/index.html

August 20, 2019 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Absolutely no need for Russia and the US to be adversaries and enemies

I visited Russia’s nuclear city and don’t want to relive the Cold War  

Commentary: One era of nuclear brinksmanship was enough for CNET’s Stephen Shankland, who visited the Russian nuclear weapons center of Sarov just after the first Cold War ended. CNET, BY STEPHEN SHANKLAND
AUGUST 18, 2019  I spent more than five years as a reporter in Los Alamos, New Mexico, birthplace of the atomic bomb, home to a major national laboratory, and the 18,000-person town where I grew up. I covered everything from President Bill Clinton visiting the lab to mostly harmless radioactive cat poop triggering radiation alarms at the county landfill. But the story that made the biggest impression on me took place thousands of miles away, in Russia.

In May 1995, I was part of a seven-person civilian delegation that traveled to Los Alamos sister city Sarov, about 230 miles east of Moscow. It’s the home of the institute where Russia developed its first atomic bomb. Our visit was timed to coincide with a 50th anniversary celebration of the end of the Great Patriotic War, aka World War II, which for the Russians ended when the Germans capitulated in May 1945.

It was a sobering visit — the economic devastation; the Soviet-era microphones bugging away in our hotel; the angry and impoverished veterans; and the daunting quantities of vodka, champagne and cognac that accompanied us during a weeklong series of banquets. I spoke with Viktor Adamsky, one of the designers of the biggest nuclear bomb of all time, the 50-megaton Tsar Bomba, which was more powerful than all the bombs dropped in World War II.

I’m remembering it now because I’ve recently interviewed Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and a key leader of the US-Russian lab collaboration that led to my trip.

Back when US-Russian relations were thawing

During the time of my trip, relations between Russia and the US were warming, but now they’re cooling once again. That troubles Hecker — even though he spent much of his career designing the nuclear weapons the US aimed at the then-USSR.

It troubles me, as well. I grew up during the Cold War, and I’m not eager to introduce my children to concepts like nuclear winter and megadeath. And even as treaties between the US and Russia fizzle out and the two countries rev up another arms race, worries are piling up about the nuclear weapons capabilities of Iran and North Korea, too.

But Hecker stresses the similarities between the US and Russia — “They’re so much like us,” he says……

Each city benefited from its government’s largesse during the Cold War. “When I first came here, I thought it was a paradise. Such food!” one Sarov man told me. Meanwhile, Los Alamos received a federal funding boost for its schools and its police and fire departments. Each city suffered when government funding dropped with the end of the Cold War. Both cities teem with elite researchers who play important military roles and are curious about what makes the universe tick. Both cities have nuclear weapons museums showing off the hulking casings of early bombs…….

Hecker has a lot more of those connections. He’s friends with plenty of Russians and sees their cultural values as very similar to ours. And he’s keeping his communication links alive even though the US-Russia lab-to-lab collaboration project he helped begin is now all but dead. He’ll take his 57th trip to Russia in November.

The two countries can move past sticking points like NATO’s eastward expansion and Russia’s military action in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Hecker says. Today’s nationalistic fervor might make it hard to defrost the relationship, but seeing the world from the other side’s perspective will help, he says.

“There is absolutely no need for Russia and the US to be adversaries and enemies,” Hecker tells me. “Absolutely none.” https://www.cnet.com/news/i-visited-russia-nuclear-city-sarov-dont-want-to-relive-cold-war/

August 20, 2019 Posted by | PERSONAL STORIES, politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

Renewables – onshore wind from Europe- enough to power the world

August 20, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, renewable | Leave a comment

The week in nuclear news – to 19 August

The repercussions of the Russian explosion at a missile test centre continue. However, the radiation release was brief, and did not extend beyond the region, and not to neighbouring countries. There was confusion and secrecy following the explosion and Russian doctors were kept in the dark about patients being nuclear accident victims.

Attention has moved to questioning the missile project, – a mystery new nuclear weapon, dubbed Russia’s ‘flying Chernobyl’. What is clear, is that, in the month when we commemorate the nuclear tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,  – the world, led by Donald Trump, is ripping up arms control measures, and ramping up nuclear weapons development.

I haven’t been able to keep up with the news on climate change –  extreme weather events in various countries, the UN report including humanitarian effects, the costs, injustices, and inability to meet the goal of confining temperature rise to 1.5 C. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHdcpxmJ6vg   In a powerful symbol, Iceland holds a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change.

A bit of good news: a win for Aboriginal people in the abandonment of uranium mining in Australia’s Northern Territory. Mirrarr people to lead the Kakadu region’s transition.

Investigative journalism:  Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis explodes the myths around Julian Assange. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZkyLoaMvRg

Climate change killing nuclear power? nuclear reactors can’t cope with water needs, as temperatures rise.

Cyber wars – as dangerous and deadly as nuclear wars ? Warning of  10 year totally dark Earth. – after a nuclear war between the US and Russia.

The Anthropocene is not an epoch. It’s a passing blink in geological time.

ARCTIC. Melting Ice Everywhere — Arctic Sea Ice Extent Hit New Record Lows in Late July and Early August.  Arctic sea ice could disappear completely through September if temps increase 2 degrees.

USA.

RUSSIA. Russia says small nuclear reactor blew up in deadly accident.    Russian Region Orders Gas Masks After Deadly Nuclear Blast. ‘Dirty bomb’: Mystery Russian ‘superweapon’ kills five.  Russia Testing Nuclear-Powered Mega-Torpedo Near Where Deadly Explosion Occurred.  USA abandoned the Nuclear-Powered Missile long ago due to its extreme danger. It seems that Russia just tried it again.     Russia’s fast nuclear reactor project is postponed.

JAPAN. Anxiety over risks of radiation and heat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Fukushima: Nuclear-contaminated water raises 2020 Games site fears.  Swim marathon: Tokyo 2020, FINA watching water quality, temperature. Japan’s govt urges Fukushima evacuees to return – in drive to promote 2020 Olympics.   Will the propaganda ploy – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics really revitalise the nuclear industry and Fukushima?

Fukushima Daiichi’s radioactive water to run out of tanks in 2022.  Japan to resume effort to tackle contaminated water problem at Fukushima.   Tepco toughens stance toward nuclear disaster damages settlement. Fukushima students speak on 2011 disaster in Berlin.

SOUTH KOREA. South Korea Wary of Japan’s Plans to Dump Fukushima Daiichi Radioactive Water into the Pacific.

KASHMIR. Kashmir – a “nuclear flashpoint“?

PAKISTAN. Pakistan’s “triad” of nuclear weaponry.

INDIA. India ponders changing its “no first use” nuclear weapons policy.     Implications for India if it revokes its No First Use nuclear weapons policy.

UKRAINE. HBO “Chernobyl”series grasped the truth about the conditions that led to the disaster.

UK. Hinkley nuclear project: UK govt faces questions about involvement of US export blacklisted Chinese firm. Revealed: mental health crisis at Hinkley Point C nuclear construction site. UK’s nuclear waste plans – squabbles in a local Council. No it wasn’t the wind turbines that caused a UK blackout.

CHINA. Li Yang’s photography of 404: China’s abandoned nuclear city. Solar power is now cheaper than grid electricity in cities across China.

GERMANY. Germany shows how it can lead the world in neatly shutting down nuclear power.

SAUDI ARABIA. Saudi Arabia wind farm claims world record low energy cost.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Christina's notes | 1 Comment

Donald Trump ramps up nuclear weapons, rips up arms treaties: Russia follows

The nuclear arms race is back … and ever more dangerous now https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/17/nuclear-arms-race-is-back-and-more-dangerous-than-before Simon Tisdall  Donald Trump has increased spending on America’s arsenal while ripping up cold war treaties. Russia and China are following suit. Imagine the uproar if the entire populations of York, Portsmouth or Swindon were suddenly exposed to three times the permissible level of penetrating gamma radiation, or what the nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford termed gamma rays. The outpouring of rage and fear would be heard across the world.

That’s what happened to the roughly 200,000 people who live in the similarly sized northern Russian city of Severodvinsk on 8 August, after an explosion at a nearby top-secret missile testing range. Russia’s weather service, Rosgidromet, recorded radiation levels up to 16 times higher than the usual ambient rate.

Yet the incident has been met with surly silence by Russia. It was five days before officials confirmed a blast at the Nyonoksa range had killed several people, including nuclear scientists. No apologies were offered to Severodvinsk residents. There is still little reliable information. “Accidents, unfortunately, happen,” a Kremlin spokesman said.

That callous insouciance is not universally shared. According to western experts, the explosion was caused by the launch failure of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, one of many advanced weapons being developed by Russia, the US and China in an accelerating global nuclear arms race

Vladimir Putin unveiled the missile, known in Russia as the Storm Petrel and by Nato as Skyfall, in March last year, claiming its unlimited range and manoeuvrability would render it “invincible”. The Russian president’s boasts look less credible now.

But Putin is undeterred. Denying suggestions that the missile is unreliable, the Kremlin insisted Russia was winning the nuclear race. “Our president has repeatedly said that Russian engineering in this sector significantly outstrips … other countries,” a spokesman said.

Now fast-forward to 16 August, and another threatening event: the test-firing by North Korea of potentially nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, the sixth round of launches since July. More than two years of vanity diplomacy by Donald Trump has not convinced Pyongyang it is safe to give up its nukes – proof, if it were needed, that unilateral counter-proliferation initiatives do not work.

Arms control experts say a consistent, joined-up international approach is woefully lacking. Thus Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal is tolerated, and the idea of a bomb developed by Saudi Arabia is no longer ruled out. But the merest hint that Iran may build a nuclear weapon is greeted with megatons of hypocritical horror.

In a sense, the problem is circular. Putin argues that Russia’s build-up is a response to destabilising US moves to modernise and expand its own nuclear arsenal – and he has a point. Barack Obama, the former president, developed a $1.2tn plan to maintain and replace the “triad” of US air, sea and land-based nuclear weapons.

Trump has gone much further. The Pentagon’s nuclear posture review, published last year, proposed an additional $500bn in spending, including $17bn for low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons that could be used on conventional battlefields. The first of these new warheads is due to become operational next month.

Critics in Congress say low-yield weapons make nuclear warfare more likely, and oppose Trump’s budget increases. But with US planners saying the biggest national security threat is no longer terrorism but nuclear-armed states, there is little doubt that many new weapons projects will get the go-ahead.

The renewed nuclear arms race is a product of Trump’s America First outlook and that of comparable ultra-nationalist and insecure regimes elsewhere. Trump’s emphasis on defending the “homeland” is leading inexorably to the militarisation of US society, whether at the Mexican border, on inner-city streets or in its approach to international security.

“We have far more money than anybody else by far,” Trump said last October. “We’ll build up until [Russia and China] come to their senses.” Outspending the opposition was a tactic employed by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. And Trump is putting taxpayers’ money where his mouth is. Overall, annual US military spending is soaring, from $716bn this year to a proposed $750bn next year.

The paradox is that even as the risk of nuclear confrontation grows, the cold war system of treaties that helped prevent Armageddon is being dismantled, largely at Trump’s behest. Earlier this month, the US withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia (which rid Britain and Europe of US missiles deployed in the early 80s).

The US is also signalling it will not renew the New Start strategic nuclear weapons treaty when it expires in 2021. Washington claims Moscow cheated on the INF pact; Russia denies it. But the real US concern is that both treaties tie its hands, especially regarding China – another example of the impact of America First thinking.

This increasingly unregulated, three-way contest poses indisputable dangers. The US plans were “unnecessary, unsustainable, and unsafe” and “increase the risks of miscalculation, unintended escalation, and accelerated global nuclear competition”, the independent US-based Arms Control Association said in April.

With a much smaller arsenal than the US and Russia, China, too, is “aggressively developing its next generation of nuclear weapons”, according to a major Chinese weapons research institute. Nor, given Moscow’s and Washington’s behaviour, has it an incentive to stop, despite Trump’s vague proposal for a trilateral disarmament “grand bargain”.

Like the US, China – while historically pledged to “no first use” – wants potential enemies to believe it may actually use tactical nukes. As Dr Strangelove would doubtless appreciate, this, perversely, increases the chances that it will.

The dreadful example these nuclear arms-racers are setting to non-nuclear states such as Iran is obvious. By failing to uphold arms control agreements, neglecting collaborative counter-proliferation efforts, and building new, more “usable”, dangerously unproved weapons like the one that irradiated Severodvinsk, the nuclear powers are digging their own graves – and ours.

August 19, 2019 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

No, Mr. Stephens, the United States doesn’t need more nuclear weapons

No, Mr. Stephens, the United States doesn’t need more nuclear weapons, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Matt Korda, August 17, 2019 Last week, on the 74th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, many took time to reflect upon the destruction caused by the only uses of nuclear weapons in wartime. But not the New York Times’ Bret Stephens, who took the opportunity to argue in favor of building more nuclear weapons.

In an op-ed entitled “The U.S. Needs More Nukes,” Stephens laid out his case against arms control.…….Contrary to the title of Stephens’ piece, the United States doesn’t need more nukes. As we explain in our latest US Nuclear Notebook, the Trump administration wants to develop two new ones––a low-yield warhead and a sea-launched cruise missile––both of which are dangerous, and neither of which are necessary. Aside from lowering the threshold for nuclear use, the “low-yield” aspect of the low-yield warhead is a misnomer; it’s roughly one-third the yield of the Hiroshima bomb that killed 100,000 people. And the new sea-launched cruise missile is a concept brought back from the dead: the United States had one until 2013, when the Obama administration retired it because it was pointless, wasteful, and politically controversial……

Stephens’ columns are clearly emphasizing ideology over accuracy. And publishing a pro-nukes article on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing––without acknowledging the human cost of nuclear weapons, or even the anniversary itself––demonstrates that he is clearly not guided by empathy.

But perhaps most evidently, Stephens’ piece is driven by fear. And understandably so: we’re currently locked into an ever-increasing nuclear arms race with no signs of it slowing down. If you’re not afraid, you’re probably not paying attention. However, crying “more nukes” without articulating any kind of strategic vision isn’t going to get us out of this mess. 

In reality, the best way to get out of an arms race is by refusing to play. The United States shouldn’t base the size of its nuclear arsenal in response to how other countries are tweaking theirs––this only makes sense if you believe that nuclear weapons are for fighting wars. But to quote Reagan’s old adage, “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Instead, as explained in Global Zero’s Alternative Nuclear Posture Review, the United States should move towards a “deterrence-only” nuclear posture, which would allow for sizable cuts to the US nuclear arsenal without changing the strategic balance.

Very simply, we need to start enacting ambitious solutions that are equal to the problems that we face. Not just reflexively demanding more nukes. https://thebulletin.org/2019/08/no-mr-stephens-the-united-states-doesnt-need-more-nuclear-weapons/

August 19, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment