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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Nuclear history from the archives – theme for December 2016

text-from-the-archivesThe start was America’s Manhattan project – developing the atomic bomb. Then came the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then came – the shock and guilt, and the attempt to turn the nuclear project into something good – “atoms for peace’ “electricity too cheap to meter”.

Of course the costing for “cheap” nuclear energy did not include the health and environmental toll of uranium mining, which, as always, was to be paid by indigenous people. Costing also did not include the virtually eternal toll of the cleaup of radioactive trash. And of course, there would be no accidents, (no Chalk River, Rocky Flats, Windscale, Mayak, Lenin icebreaker, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Tomsk, Hanford, Fukushima Daiichi)

Meanwhile, the military-industrial complex continued its production of nuclear weapons. Other countries adopted the “peaceful nuke”, so that they could develop nuclear weapons. The nuclear arms race was underway.

skull nuclear world

FROM THE ARCHIVES   For this month, each week we’ll be posting an item from the past. Lest we forget.

The press release was drafted ahead of Operation Buffalo at Maralinga, during which troops were ordered to crawl through areas hit by fallout. It was not meant to be made public


Top secret document reveals British troops were knowingly exposed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests
mirror.co.uk, by Susie Boniface, 2 Jan 2011
, British troops WERE knowingly exposed to radiation during nuclear fallout tests, a top-secret document has finally proved. Continue reading

December 10, 2016 Posted by | Christina's themes, history | Leave a comment

1986 “glossy safe” image of nuclear industry – still being spun today

Dr Pangloss

the long-term effects of low-level radiation exposure have consistently been downplayed, distorted or concealed by scientists, the nuclear industry and the government.

It seems that while the US and the USSR had a hard time cooperating on nuclear arms at that time, they had a tacit agreement to cover up each other’s nuclear power mistakes.

these facts, like all those about nuclear power and nuclear weapons testing, were kept secret and released only through the efforts of private citizens and a few courageous researchers and journalists.

At least 250,000 American troops were directly exposed to atomic radiation during the 17 years of bomb testing here and in the Pacific, but they have been totally ignored by the government and the Army.

There is little doubt that hundreds died and that countless others developed illnesses that led to death from various cancers, blood disorders and chronic body ailments. Today the government still rejects all claims for such illnesses.

The press also played a role in soothing public fears.

the US has led the world in setting examples of deliberate deceit, suppression of information and harassment of nuclear critics

Professionals, in order to perform their work, resist truth strongly if it calls the morality of their work into question. They sincerely believe they are helping humankind. In addition, scientific research involves so many uncertainties that scientists can, with an easy conscience, rationalize away dangers that are hypothetical or not immediately observable. They also have an intellectual investment if not a financial one in continuing their work as well as families to support, and nuclear science in particular has been endowed not only with government money and support but great status and prestige.

In order to perform professional work, one must not only believe one is doing good but must also rationalize the dangers. Indeed, with regard to ionizing radiation, this is quite easy inasmuch as the risks of radiation exposure at any level are statistical and not immediately manifested.


text-from-the-archivesPro Nuclear Propaganda: How Science, Government and the Press Conspire to Misinform the Public
 http://www.lornasalzman.com/collectedwritings/pro-nuclear.html by Lorna Salzman Hunter College, Energy Studies program, 1986  After the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster in the Soviet Union, there was much finger-wagging in the US about the suppression of information there, and the purported differences in reactor design and safety requirements between Russia and the US, which made a similar accident here unlikely if not impossible Continue reading

December 2, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, media, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, spinbuster | Leave a comment

From the archives – for December 16 – a look back at nuclear history

text-from-the-archivesToday, journalism is in  a sorry mess. Yet still, there are courageous examples of investigative journalism –  such as the McClatchy report on nuclear workers’ health.   All too often, revealing and informative reports on nuclear matters are forgotten, as celebrity sex scandals and sport dominate the mass media.

This month we will remember and refresh stories from our archives.  It’s important that, while we look at current events, these events are illuminated by knowledge of their history.  Especially today, as the nuclear industry struggles desperately to survive – and to portray itself as “clean, green and of course, peaceful”, the truth of its dirty history must be remembered.

history-pics

November 26, 2016 Posted by | Christina's themes, history | Leave a comment

1983 The world twice at the brink of nuclear war. New book ‘Able Archer 83’

book-able-archer-83How the world reached the brink of nuclear war not once but twice in 1983, The Conversation, November 18, 2016 In the autumn of 1983, at the height of Cold War tensions, the world was only saved from nuclear disaster by the gut feelings of two soldiers during different incidents.

In the first incident, on September 26, a Soviet lieutenant colonel named Stanislav Petrov saw that according to the early-warning system, the Americans had launched numerous missiles against the Russians. He suspected an error and ignored the warnings. His decision to breach protocol and not inform his superiors averted a panicked retaliation.

The second incident is less well known. An American lieutenant general, Leonard Perroots, also chose to ignore warnings – this time that the Soviet Union had gone on high nuclear alert. Like Petrov, he did nothing, and once again may have prevented an accidental nuclear war.

This was the “Able Archer War Scare”, which occurred over ten days in the November of the same year. Recently declassified documents inform Able Archer 83, a new book by the Cold War historian Nate Jones which shows just how close the world came to disaster.

Two tribes

Superpower mutual suspicion was rife in the early 1980s. President Reagan’s notorious “Evil Empire” speech, combined with imminent plans to deploy the Pershing II missile system in Europe, which could destroy Moscow with 15 minutes warning, had made the Kremlin especially paranoid. Was the US preparing a first strike to win the Cold War? The USSR’s ageing and sickly premier, Yuri Andropov, certainly thought Reagan would have no qualms about it. “Reagan is unpredictable. You should expect anything from him,” he told Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet ambassdor to the US, at the time.

President Ronald Reagan – “Evil Empire” Speech

Another reason the leadership feared a US first strike was Project RYaN, an intricate Soviet intelligence-gathering effort designed to detect preparations for a surprise nuclear attack. It was being kept busy by US aircraft testing Soviet air defence systems by flying towards USSR airspace as part of the PSYOPs (psychological military operations) programme.

The aircraft would deliberately provoke an alert and monitor the Soviet command and control responses, while demonstrating American strength and resolve at the same time. It was an example of the “Peace Through Strength” policy that was seen as vital by Reaganites to help the US emerge from its own perceived era of military weakness under President Carter.

But this US chest-beating led to a resurgence of intense mutual mistrust, with tragic consequences. On September 1 1983, Korean Air Lines flight 007 was shot down by a Russian fighter, killing all 269 passengers and crew. The Kremlin claimed the jet was an American spy plane deep in Russian territory.

In this climate of extreme tension, NATO’s “Autumn Forge” war game season kicked off. NATO war games had been an annual occurrence, but the Soviets feared this particular edition might be cover for a surprise attack.

The final phase of the 1983 series, codenamed Able Archer 83, was different from previous years: dummy nuclear weapons, which looked like the real thing, were loaded on to planes. As many as 19,000 American troops were part of a radio-silent airlift to Europe over 170 flights. Military radio networks broadcast references to “nuclear strikes”.

This sent Project RYaN into overdrive and the Soviets went on high nuclear alert. Warsaw Pact non-essential military flights were cancelled; nuclear-capable aircraft were placed on alert; nuclear weapons were taken to their launch vehicles; and Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Ogarkov descended into a command bunker outside Moscow to coordinate a possible response to a NATO strike……….

Too often, intelligence agencies collect data and fit it into whichever threat hypothesis is in vogue. We should learn from Reagan’s 1983 insight and not wait for the brink of war: in the nuclear age, whatever an adversary’s political goals, we cannot afford to downplay their genuine fears about military posturing.

We have never yet returned to the awful global tensions of 1983, but the rivalries between the world’s three leading powers remain real enough. We need to ensure that we are never again left relying on the gut feelings of one or two soldiers to avoid stumbling into disaster. https://theconversation.com/how-the-world-reached-the-brink-of-nuclear-war-not-once-but-twice-in-1983-68998

November 18, 2016 Posted by | history, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The British nuclear lobby’s sick weapons experiments with chickens

During the Cold War, the UK designed nuclear land mines that were reliant on chickens http://www.businessinsider.com.au/uk-developed-chicken-warmed-nuclear-landmines-2016-11 JEREMY BENDER NOV 14, 2016 The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | history, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear free New Zealand to hear pioneer antinuclear hero, Helen Caldicott

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Caldicott,-Helen-4Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-11-2016/the-australian-hero-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand/  November 14, 2016 The former National MP whose decision to support anti-nuclear legislation led to the 1984 snap election writes on the transformative influence of the passionate Australian physician Helen Caldicott, who speaks in Auckland this week

If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the US government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean – leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the US government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia.

It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager.

Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s The War Game, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. The War Game won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.

France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.

In New Zealand the US Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders — in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards — surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.

Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983. Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.

But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the US Helen published Nuclear Madness the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary If You Love this Planet was released during the term of US President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.

In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary If You Love This Planet was shown at her speaking engagements.

I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage.

Helen told the Listener about having observed five-star generals in US congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big [and] inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “The US has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.”

I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality – when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet.

Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.”

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practises “global preventative medicine”.

Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them — which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!”

Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women.

On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially … Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.”

Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern.

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers, When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Dr Caldicott speaks at AUT on Tuesday November 15.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | history, New Zealand | Leave a comment

When a nuclear bomb was tested in Mississippi

October 1964 Nuclear testing in Mississippi http://mashable.com/2016/11/06/mississippi-nuclear-test/#QAtiwfQCDiqT [many photographs]  Waiting on the big bang
by Alex Q. Arbuckle, 6 Nov 16  
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, 1964, a five-kiloton nuclear device was detonated in Lamar County, Mississippi.

The previous year, as a response to rising public anxiety over the potential fallout of bigger and bigger test explosions, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited all nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. Underground detonations were not banned in the treaty because it was still technically unclear how they could be detected to ensure compliance.

After signing the treaty, the United States government created Project Dribble, an effort to study how underground nuclear tests could be detected — or hidden.

The site of Project Dribble’s first detonation was 28 miles southwest of Hattiesburg in the Tatum Salt Dome, a massive Mesozoic salt deposit 1,000 feet below the ground.

The plan called for two detonations. The first, code-named Project Salmon, would be an explosion 2,700 feet down in solid salt. The second detonation, Project Sterling, would use a smaller bomb in the cavity left behind by the first blast.

Scientists hypothesized that the shockwaves of the second detonation would be muffled by the cavity, effectively concealing it from seismographic detection. The first blast was scheduled for Sept. 22, but was postponed repeatedly because the wind direction was not ideal.

Finally, on Oct. 22, the conditions were right.

Four-hundred residents were evacuated from the area around and downwind of the blast site. For their trouble, adults were paid $10 and children $5.

At 10 a.m., the Project Salmon device detonated with approximately one-third of the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

The earth rose and roiled in waves, pecans fell from trees, dogs howled in fear, creeks ran black with disturbed sediment, and buildings thirty miles away swayed for minutes on end.

Within a week, hundreds of residents had filed damage claims with the government, citing burst pipes, cracked masonry and suddenly dry wells. The test was a success, however. The blast vaporized a spherical void in the salt 110 feet in diameter. When sensors were lowered into the cavity more than three months later, temperatures still measured over 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Two years after Project Salmon, the second part of the test, Project Sterling, was carried out. A much smaller bomb — equal to 350 tons of TNT versus the first bomb’s 5,000 tons — was detonated in the cavity.

As the scientists hypothesized, the cavity absorbed nearly all of the blast’s seismic force. People on the surface barely felt a bump.

The blasts, which gave the government plenty of data on how underground nuclear tests could be hidden and detected, were declared a success — the only nuclear detonations to ever occur in the eastern United States.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | history, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How three brave Chernobyl workers saved Europe from nuclear catastrophe

exclamation-Despite Three Mile Island, Daiichi Power Plant in Japan and Chernobyl, the industry still poo-poos the danger. At Chernobyl, after the initial explosion, the 185 tons of melting nuclear waste was still melting down. When it reached the water a thermonuclear explosion would have occurred. It was estimated it would have wiped out half of Europe and made Europe, Ukraine and parts of Russia uninhabitable for 500,000 years. This was prevented when three workers volunteered to dive in the radioactive water and open the valves to drain the pool and prevent a second explosion, knowing it would mean death by radioactive poisoning. They succeeded in draining the pool, but died of radiation sickness within a few weeks. Their bodies remained radioactive and were buried in lead coffins.

  If a similar “incident,” as the nuclear industry insists they be called, happens in Clinton, do you think Rep. Bill Mitchell, the Clinton School Board, DeWitt County Board of any of the 700 workers or any other advocates of keeping the plant open will step forward?

October 10, 2016 Posted by | history, incidents, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, Ukraine | 1 Comment

China’s huge top secret nuclear base now finally declassified

Top secret Chinese nuclear base opens to foreigners [good photos] , news.com.au , 6 Oct 15 IT’S A maze built to manufacture plutonium and house thousands of tonnes of explosives.

The 826 Nuclear Military Plant, a former top-secret Chinese base, is almost 20km wide, with 178 caves and more than 130 roads and tunnels.

The largest man-made cave in the world was commissioned in the 1960s, when Beijing feared an imminent nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.

More than 60,000 engineering soldiers participated in the construction, and at least 100 of them were reportedly killed during the process.

It’s hidden deep in the mountains of Fuling, in the Chongqing municipality of central China, and can reportedly withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

The largest cave is nearly 80m high, or roughly the height of a 20-storey building, and the tunnels are wide enough to drive through……..The huge undertaking took 17 years to build, and was nearly completed when it was abruptly cancelled due to changes in Cold War politics in 1984.

 After lying dormant for many years, it was officially declassified in 2002.

It’s just undergone an extensive renovation, and is now open to foreign visitors for the first time…….http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/asia/top-secret-chinese-nuclear-base-opens-to-foreigners/news-story/2ab679cdfd44e04a7fdf01b1b3a1a61d

October 6, 2016 Posted by | China, history, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

5 October – an anniversary reminder of the nuclear industry’s poor record, and poor future

the real problem is that the nuclear industry lost its credibility almost at its inception, and has never recovered. It was hastily launched, endowed with the sort of government indulgence that breeds sloppiness, and has tried to conceal its faults through secrecy and legal bluster

GIL SCOTT HERON – WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT

 

50 years after ‘we almost lost Detroit,’ America’s nuclear power industry faces even graver doubts, LA Times, 5 Oct 16   Michael Hiltzik Contact Reporter  The history of nuclear power in the United States has been marked by numerous milestones, many of them bad — accidents, construction snafus, engineering incompetence, etc., etc. One anniversary of an incident that has cast a long shadow over the nuclear power industry’s claim for safety will be marked this week. On Oct. 5, 1966 — that’s 50 years ago Wednesday — Detroit Edison’s Fermi-1 nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown, caused by a piece of floating shrapnel inside the container vessel.

One anniversary of an incident that has cast a long shadow over the nuclear power industry’s claim for safety will be marked this week. On Oct. 5, 1966 — that’s 50 years ago Wednesday — Detroit Edison’s Fermi-1 nuclear plant suffered a partial meltdown, caused by a piece of floating shrapnel inside the container vessel. Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, history, incidents | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point’s nuclear weapons connection

peaceful-nukeHinkley’s Hidden History , 18 Aug 2016 Morning Star 
With the government decision over the new reactor at Hinkley postponed, text-relevantnuclear historian DAVID LOWRY reveals how the British nuclear power and weapons programmes were born together – and have yet to be separated  
THE first nuclear power plant on the Hinkley Point site in Somerset was built in the 1960s.

At the time, the United States, was intimately involved in the planning. Why was this?

The first public hint is to be found in a statement by the Ministry of Defence on June 17 1958 on “the production of plutonium suitable for weapons in the new [nuclear] power stations programme as an insurance against future defence needs” in Britain’s first-generation magnox reactor.

By chance, on the same day, France’s president Charles de Gaulle authorised a nuclear test to be held early the next year.

The site chosen was the Reganne oasis 700km south of Colomb Bechar in the Sahara Desert of Algeria.

France also used a magnox-style reactor at Chinon in the Loire Valley to make the plutonium explosives.

A week later in the British Parliament, Labour’s Roy Mason asked why the government had “decided to modify atomic power stations, primarily planned for peaceful purposes, to produce high-grade plutonium for war weapons” and “to what extent this will interfere with the atomic power programme?”

He was informed by paymaster general Reginald Maudling: “At the request of the government, the Central Electricity Generating Board has agreed to a small modification in the design of Hinkley Point and of the next two stations in its programme so as to enable plutonium suitable for military purposes to be extracted should the need arise…….

The headline story in the Bridgwater Mercury, serving the community around Hinkley was: “MILITARY PLUTONIUM To be manufactured at Hinkley.”

The article explained: “An ingenious method has been designed for changing the plant without reducing the output of electricity.”

The CND was reported to be critical, describing this as a “distressing step,” insisting: “The government is obsessed with a nuclear militarism which seems insane.”

Sadly, with the blinkered push to replace Trident today, not much seems to have changed in the 55 years since……

on July 3 1958, Britain and the US signed a detailed agreement on co-operation on nuclear weapons development, after several months of congressional hearings in Washington DC — but, significantly, with no oversight whatsoever in Parliament.

As this formed the basis, within a mere five years, for Britain obtaining the Polaris nuclear WMD system from the US, and some 20-odd years later for Britain to buy US Trident WMD, the failure of Parliament to at least appraise the security merits of this bilateral atomic arrangement was unconscionable……

Following further detailed negotiations, the Ango-American Mutual Defense Agreement on Atomic Energy matters (defence is spelled with an “s” even in the British version of the treaty, demonstrating the origin of the drafts), to give it its full treaty title, was amended on May 7 1959, to permit the exchange of nuclear explosive material for military purposes.
The Times science correspondent wrote on May 8 1959 under the headline: “Production of weapons at short notice” that “the most important technical fact behind the agreement is that of civil grade — such as will be produced in British civil nuclear power stations — can now be used in weapons.”……

And so it may be seen that Britain’s first civil nuclear programme was used as a source of nuclear explosive plutonium for the US military, with Hinkley Point A the prime provider.
Two decades later, Wales national daily, the Western Mail, reported on October 8 1984 that the largest magnox reactor in Britain, at Wylfa on Anglesey, had also been used to provide plutonium for the military.

Plutonium from both reactors went into the British military stockpile of nuclear explosives and could well still be part of the British Trident warhead stockpile today.

Subsequent research by the Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, published in the prestigious science weekly journal Nature, has demonstrated that around 6,700kg of plutonium was shipped to the US under the military exchange agreement, which stipulates explicitly that the material must be used for military purposes by the recipient country.

To put this quantity into context, a nuclear warhead contains around 5kg of plutonium so this is a very significant quantity.

What would Iran and North Korea make of this deliberate intermixing of civil and military nuclear programmes by one of the nuclear weapons superpowers which leads the criticisms of them for allegedly doing this very thing today?

Dr David Lowry is senior research fellow at the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-dabf-Hinkleys-hidden-history#.V7dqoFt97Gg

August 20, 2016 Posted by | history, Reference, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

President Reagan worked with Russia to defuse the nuclear arms race; time that President Obama did that, too

diplomacy-not-bombsFlag-USAflag_RussiaAn Urgent History Lesson in Diplomacy with Russia, CounterPunch,text-relevant 12 Aug 16 by RENEE PARSONS As prospects for peace appear dim in places like the Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan and now with a renewed bombing of Libya, the President of the United States (and  his heiress apparent) continue to display an alarming lack of understanding of the responsibilities  as the nation’s highest elected officer.  As has been unsuccessfully litigated, Article II of the Constitution does not give the President right to start war; only Congress is granted that authority (See Article I, Section 8).

So for the nation’s Chief Executive Officer to willy-nilly arbitrarily decide to bomb here and bomb there and bomb everywhere in violation of the Constitution might be sufficient standard  for that CEO  to be regarded as a war criminal. Surely, consistently upping the stakes with a strong US/NATO military presence in the Baltics with the US Navy regularly cruising the Black and Baltic Seas, accompanied by a steady stream of confrontational language and picking a fight with a nuclear-armed Russia may not be the best way to achieve peace……

text-historyReagan, who was ready to engage in extensive personal diplomacy, was an unlikely peacemaker yet he achieved an historic accomplishment in the nuclear arms race that is especially relevant today as NATO/US are reintroducing nuclear weapons into eastern Europe……

According to Jack Matlock  who served as Reagan’s senior policy coordinator for Russia and later US Ambassador to Russia in his book, “Reagan and Gorbachev:  How the Cold War Ended,” one of Reagan’s pre-meeting [with Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev] notes to himself read “avoid any demand for regime change.”  From the beginning, one of Reagan’s goals was to establish a relationship that would be able to overcome whatever obstacles or conflicts may arise with the goal of preventing a thermonuclear war. … 

After a lengthy personal, private conversation, it became obvious that the two men had struck a cord of mutual respect…. At the conclusion of Geneva, a shared trust necessary to begin sober negotiations to ban nuclear weapons had been established. Both were well aware that the consequences of nuclear war would be a devastation to mankind, the world’s greatest environmental disaster.  At the end of their Geneva meeting, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed that “nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.”……

In December of 1987, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in Washington DC to sign the bilateral Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (including Short Range Missiles) known as the INF Treaty.  The Treaty eliminated 2,611 ground launched ballistic and cruise missile systems with a range of between 500 and 5500 kilometers (310 -3,400 miles).  Paris is 2,837 (1,762 miles) kilometers from Moscow.

In  May 1988, the INF Treaty was ratified by the US Senate in a surprising vote of 93 – 5 (four Republicans and one Democrat opposed) and by May, 1991, all Pershing I missiles in Europe  had been dismantled. Verification of Compliance of the INF Treaty, delayed because of the USSR breakup, was completed in December, 2001.

At an outdoor press briefing during their last meeting together and after the INF was implemented, Reagan put his arm around Gorbachev.  A reporter asked if he still believed in the ‘evil empire’ and Reagan answered ‘no.”   When asked why, he replied “I was talking about another time, another era.”……..

As the current US President and Nobel Peace Prize winner prepares to leave office with a record of a Tuesday morning kill list, unconscionable drone attacks on civilians, initiating bombing campaigns where there were none prior to his election and, of course, taunting Russian President Vladimir Putin with unsubstantiated allegations, the US-backed NATO has scheduled AEGIS anti ballistic missile shields to be constructed in Romania and Poland, challenging the integrity of INF Treaty for the first time in almost thirty years.

In what may shed new light on NATO/US build-up in eastern Europe, Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov denied US charges in June, 2015 that Russia had violated the Treaty and that the US had “failed to provide evidence of Russian breaches.”  Commenting on US plans to deploy land-based missiles in Europe as a possible response to the alleged “Russian aggression” in the Ukraine, Lavrov warned that ‘‘building up militarist rhetoric is absolutely counterproductive and harmful.’  Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov suggested the United States was leveling accusations against Russia in order to justify its own military plans.

In early August, the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration authorized the final development phase (prior to actual production in 2020) of the B61-21 nuclear bomb at a cost of $350 – $450 billion.  A thermonuclear weapon  with the capability of reaching Europe and Moscow, the B61-21 is part of President Obama’s $1 trillion request for modernizing the US aging and outdated nuclear weapon arsenal.

Isn’t it about time for the President to do something to earn that Peace Prize?  http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/12/an-urgent-history-lesson-in-diplomacy-with-russia/

August 17, 2016 Posted by | history, politics international, Reference, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA had secret plans to place nuclear weapons in Iceland

secret-agent-SmFlag-USAUS Debated Deploying Nuclear Weapons in Iceland, Iceland Review, 16 Aug 16  BY VALA HAFSTAD 

Newly declassified US documents reveal that during the Cold War, US authorities contemplated deploying nuclear weapons in Iceland without alerting Icelandic authorities. The documents, dating back to 1960, show that US Ambassador to Iceland Tyler Thompson opposed all such plans. He expressed his belief that if Icelanders found out about such a deployment, they might leave NATO.

The documents are discussed on the website of the National Security Archive, but until now, they have been classified. On the website, it is noted that this is not the first time clues have been discovered about such plans.

Historian Valur Ingimundarson had previously argued that a weapon storage facility built in Keflavík in the 1950s was intended for nuclear weapons. Furthermore, during the 1980s, historian William Arkin reported that a presidential directive from President Richard Nixon’s period in office treated Iceland as one of several conditional deployment locations for nuclear weapons in the event of war……..http://icelandreview.com/news/2016/08/16/us-debated-deploying-nuclear-weapons-iceland

August 17, 2016 Posted by | history, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

The sun setting on UK’s nuclear industry? Time for clean energy

 The time has come for policymakers to shift their focus to clean energy

The international race toward universal grid parity may see an unsubsidised tipping point next year. Frontrunner Australia is expected to achieve a renewable energy scenario which is cheaper than conventional supply, says a recent report from Deutschebank.

UK nuclear sunset? http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160814/environment/UK-nuclear-sunset.622012   Anne ZammitIt’s coming up to six years since badgers were relocated to make way for Britain’s next nuclear power station on the Somerset coast. In the pipeline for nearly a decade, plans for Hinkley Point took an unexpected turn in July.

Last month, as Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May was advised by her Chief of Staff to put a contract for the French/Chinese-backed Hinkley Point nuclear power station on hold, subject to review.

Mrs May was barely a year old when Britain’s worst ever nuclear disaster spread radioactive dust across northern Europe.

WindscaleWindscale was built after WWII, to produce plutonium for England’s nuclear weapons programme. A bunker mentality still hung about the facility even after it became a provider of electric power to the public in 1956.

The following year a fire broke out at the plant and burned for three days before it could be contained. In the weeks that followed, milk from cows grazing within a 500 kilometre radius was diluted and destroyed.

Windscale, renamed Sellafield in attempt to erase dark beginnings, was put out of commission in 1973 after a dangerous geograph.org.uk, by Chris Eaton, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Windscale Chimneysleak capped a long history of incidents. The facility switched to reprocessing of nuclear fuel. This drew bitter opposition from Ireland and Scandinavia over dumping of contaminated water into the Irish Sea.

Ireland’s complaint to the UN was verified by a UK government study which found traces of radioactive substances in salmon bred at fish farms near the plant.

Sellafield was shut down completely in 2005 after uranium and plutonium spilled from a broken pipe. (Since then an American-led multinational corporation has been overseeing the closure process which could drag on into the next century.)

That same year, advisors to Tony Blair urged that emissions targets would best be met with more nuclear power stations. This ran contrary to the UK government stance taken three years earlier when energy efficiency and renewables were tagged as the most cost efficient path to meet immediate energy priorities.

text Hinkley cancelledCommenting on Mrs May’s decision to put the Hinkley Point contract on hold, energy economist Tooraj Jamasb of Durham University noted that the new government has not had time to develop a new coherent energy policy.

A 2002 review of UK energy policy veered away from further government subsidies and passed the baton to the private sector. As the UK government gave the go-ahead for a new generation of nuclear power stations to be built, environmentalists alleged unlawful State aid for the nuclear power industry in Britain, filing a complaint with the European Commission. Scotland made it clear that it would not accept any new power stations on Scottish soil.

UK-subsidy 2016The time has come for policymakers to shift their focus to clean energy
 Campaign group Energy Fair said that an unlevel playing field was being created where government funded the costs of insurance, decommissioning, protection against terrorist attack and disposal of nuclear waste – without providing equal levels of support for renewable technologies.

After the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster France vowed to scale down the share of electricity from nuclear sources and Germany announced a phase out of nuclear power by 2022.

Germany’s Federal Environment Agency has declared that the technology to make the switch to 100 per cent renewable energy is already available but requires that electricity is produced and used more efficiently. Meeting climate change targets can be done without nuclear if there are stronger efforts toward demand reduction and lifestyle changes.

The international race toward universal grid parity may see an unsubsidised tipping point next year. Frontrunner Australia is expected to achieve a renewable energy scenario which is cheaper than conventional supply, says a recent report from Deutschebank.

Viewed as covert factories for materials to build apocalyptic weapons, nuclear power stations also face resistance from groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. As pointed out by CND-UK the cost of nuclear power has continued to rise as the cost of renewable energy has fallen sharply.

A 2006 review by the Office of Nuclear Regulation, which led to assessment of reactor designs ahead of choosing sites, was challenged in court by Greenpeace as “seriously flawed”. Key details of the economics of nuclear power were not published until well after the review was final.

Hinkley Point nuclear power station has undergone a number of reincarnations since the first phase was built in 1956. Reactors on Hinkley Point ‘A’ were shut down permanently after an inspectorate found defects too expensive to fix in 1999. De-commissioning of a successor, Hinkley Point ‘B’ (built 1967) should have happened this year but has been extended to 2023.

The Hinkley Point C proposal by Électricité de France (EDF) and Chinese investors commits British consumers to pay more for nuclear-generated electricity than it costs to buy electricity from offshore windfarms.

Yet a study by Britain’s National Audit Office published last month cited calculations from the National Infrastructure Commission which show that if five per cent of current peak demand were met by demand flexibility then power saved would be equal to a new nuclear power station.

Households and businesses could use electricity more flexibly, using less during times of peak demand and more during times of low demand. Cutting down on use of electricity at peak times reduces the megawatt capacity needed.

The NAO also noted that the expected subsidy for Hinkley Point C has doubled to £37 billion in the past three years.

It is not just the economics of nuclear which now plague decision makers at Whitehall. As former Home Secretary and overseer of MI5, Theresa May approaches the nuclear question from a security perspective.

computer-spy-nukeSecurity experts have expressed concern that the Chinese could use their role in the project to build weaknesses into computer systems allowing them to shut down Britain’s energy production at will.

Fears that China could engage in cyber-sabotage may have been overblown. The bomb of public subsidy running into billions is the real gremlin in the Hinkley Point contract.

A cross-party Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee fears that failure to build new nuclear capacity by 2025 would mean greater reliance on imported gas in the medium term. This would affect energy security and force a review of how UK carbon emission targets are to be met.

On the other hand, the committee identified risk factors which could jeopardise proposals like Hinkley Point C. Sudden policy changes by the UK government, an inconsistent approach, poor transparency and lack of long-term vision have created uncertainty for investors.

Delaying or cancelling the Hinkley Point project threatens Britain’s relations with China and France. Joel Kenrick, a former advisor to the Energy Secretary, believes that the contract for Hinkley Point C will go ahead come autumn. However, he expressed doubt over whether it would actually be built with EDF’s poor track record in delivering big
projects.

poster renewables not nuclearCorporate finance leader at EY Global Power & Utilities and RECAI editor Ben Warren believes that the time has come for policymakers to shift their focus to clean energy. “Market access, fair play, technology improvements and cost curves will lead to a level of renewables deployment not even imagined,” says Mr Warren.  www.energypost.eu/renewable-energy-versus-nuclear-dispelling-myths

August 15, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, history, politics | Leave a comment

In 1967, nuclear war was almost set off due to a giant solar storm

exclamation-SmA giant solar storm nearly triggered a nuclear war in 1967, Business Insider DAVE MOSHER AUG 10, 2016 Cold War history is rife with close calls that nearly led to nuclear holocaust.

In September 1983, for example, sunlight reflecting off a patch of clouds fooled a Soviet missile-warning system into detecting the launch of five US intercontinental ballistic missiles that never were. A colonel in a bunker ignored the alarm on a 50/50 hunch, narrowly averting a nuclear holocaust.

Two months later, US forces staged “Able Archer 83” — a massive nuclear-strike drill on the doorstep of the USSR. Soviet commanders panicked at the show of force and nearly bathed America in thermonuclear energy. Once again, an act of human doubt saved the planet.

Now scientists have one more event to add to the history books: The “Great Storm” of May 1967.

“The storm made its initial mark with a colossal solar radio burst causing radio interference … and near-simultaneous disruptions of dayside radio communication,” a group of atmospheric scientists and military weather service personnel wrote in a new study, published August 9 in the journal Space Weather.

Hours later, high frequency communications dropped out near US military installations in and near the Arctic — one of the closest places to station nuclear weapons and launch them at a Cold War-era Soviet Union.

“Such an intense, never-before-observed solar radio burst was interpreted as jamming,” the study authors wrote. “Cold War military commanders viewed full scale jamming of surveillance sensors as a potential act of war.”……

While The Washington Post wrote up the 1967 story as “City Gets Rare Look at Northern Lights,” top US military commanders sounded the alarms.

The Air Weather Service (AWS) — a relatively new branch of the Air Force — had warned military leadership about the possibility of a solar storm, but US commanders believed the Soviet forces were jamming NORAD systems designed to detect threatening planes and missiles.

As the Strategic Air Command warmed up the engines of bombers and taxied toward the runway, the decision to go airborne was kicked all the way up to the “highest levels of government,” which would imply President Lyndon B. Johnson was involved.

“Just in time, military space weather forecasters conveyed information about the solar storm’s potential to disrupt radar and radio communications,” according to a press release from the American Geophysical Union. “The planes remained on the ground and the U.S. avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union.”………http://www.businessinsider.com.au/cold-war-geomagnetic-storm-radio-disruption-2016-8?r=US&IR=T

August 10, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, history, incidents | Leave a comment