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French report on the unfairness of France’s nuclear history in Algeria

French report grapples with nuclear fallout from Algerian War  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/french-report-grapples-with-nuclear-fallout-from-algerian-war/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03042021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_AlgerianWar_03042021&__cf_chl_captcha_tk__=32bfe924bf6171eab26d9deb08cd73459b5e69dc-1614896664-0-AWxxiguytXLkG_ERcOpFeDyCqmv7X1FYZmZBNGAnlwY6ZlI8PgWd2By Austin R. Cooper | March 4, 2021 n January, the French historian Benjamin Stora filed a report commissioned by the French President Emmanuel Macron aimed at “reconciliation of memories between France and Algeria,” which France ruled as the jewel of its colonial empire for more than 130 years.

The Stora Report addressed several scars from the Algerian War for Independence (1954–62), a bloody struggle for decolonization that met savage repression by French troops. One of these controversies stems from French use of the Algerian Sahara for nuclear weapons development.

France proved its bomb in the atmosphere above this desert, naming the inaugural blast , or Blue Jerboa, after the local rodent. Between 1960 and 1966, France detonated 17 nuclear devices in the Algerian Sahara: four atmospheric explosions during the Algerian War, and another 13 underground, most of these after Algerian Independence.

French nuclear ambitions became inextricable from the process of Algerian decolonization. The Saharan blasts drew international outrage, stalled ceasefire negotiations, and later threatened an uneasy peace across the Mediterranean.

The Stora Report signaled that radioactive fallout from the Algerian War has remained a thorn between the two nations. But the document comes up short of a clear path toward nuclear reconciliation.

A United Nations dispute. The French bomb collided with the Algerian War before the first mushroom cloud rose above the Sahara. In November 1959, Algerian allies representing independent states in Africa and Asia contested French plans for the desert in the First Committee on Disarmament at the United Nations.

Part of the French strategy at the United Nations was to drive a wedge between the nuclear issue and what French diplomats euphemistically termed the “Question of Algeria.” French obfuscation continued for decades.

France would not, until 1999, call the bloodshed a war, preferring the line that what happened in Algeria, as part of France, amounted to a domestic dispute, rather than UN business. Macron became, in 2018, the first French president to acknowledge “systemic torture” by French troops in Algeria.

The Afro-Asian challenge to Saharan explosions hurdled France’s diplomatic barricades at the United Nations. The French delegation tried to strike references to the Algerian War as irrelevant. But their African and Asian counterparts painted the desert blasts as a violation of African sovereignty.

The concern was not only for contested territory in Algeria, but also for independent states bordering the desert, whose leaders warned that nuclear fallout could cross their national borders. Radiation measurements taken in the wake of Gerboise bleue proved many of them right.

Nuclear weapons represented another piece of French imperialism on the continent.

Secret negotiations resumed in September 1961, with US Ambassador to Tunisia Walter N. Walmsley serving as France’s backchannel. The US State Department worried that French attachment to the test sites might thwart the decolonization process.

Lead Algerian negotiator Krim Belkacem asked Walmsley if prospects for a ceasefire still hinged on France retaining control of the test sites. Krim got his answer when Franco-Algerian talks resumed the following month, at the end of October 1961.

France did not abandon its goal to continue nuclear explosions in the Sahara. But the Algerian position appeared to have softened. So long as further blasts did not impinge on Algeria’s “eventual sovereignty” over the desert, as one archival document put it, a deal looked possible.

The Evian Accords marked a nuclear compromise. Finally signed in March 1962, the landmark treaty granted France a five-year lease to the Saharan test sites but did not specify terms of use.

Going underground. Advice from the French Foreign Ministry played a key role in pushing France’s weapons program beneath Saharan mountains. French diplomats suggested that underground explosions would present, according to one archival document, “significantly less serious” challenges than atmospheric ones for future relations with Algeria and its African neighbors.

This did not stop Algeria’s first president, Ahmed Ben Bella, from winning political capital with the nuclear issue. In public, Ben Bella cast Saharan blasts as an intolerable violation of Algerian sovereignty, as had his allies at the United Nations. In private, however, Ben Bella acquiesced to the Evian terms and reportedly tried to squeeze French financial aid out of the deal.

The Hoggar Massif shook 13 times before France handed over its two Saharan test sites to Algeria in 1967. An accident occurred during one of these underground blasts, dubbed Béryl, when containment measures failed. Several French soldiers and two high-ranking French officials suffered the highest radiation exposures, but roughly 240 members of “nomadic populations” in the region received lower doses.

Meanwhile, France began construction on its Pacific test range in French Polynesia, the site of nearly 200 nuclear explosions between 1966 and 1996. Most took place underground, but France also conducted atmospheric detonations in Polynesia, and these continued into the 1970s. Even though the Limited Test Ban Treaty had gone into effect in 1963—prohibiting nuclear blasts in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space—France refused to sign it.

Contamination and compensation. As part of its reconciliation proposal, the Stora Report encouraged Franco-Algerian cooperation on environmental remediation of the Saharan test sites. An expert report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, concluded in 2005 that environmental interventions were “not required” unless human traffic near the sites should increase.

The Stora Report briefly mentioned compensation linked to radiation exposure from French nuclear weapons development, but this deserves a closer look. In 2010, the French Parliament passed a law recognizing these victims and establishing funds and procedures to provide compensation for illness and injury. So far, France has earmarked 26 million euros for this purpose, but almost none of that has gone to Algerians.

Decades earlier, France’s nuclear allies turned to compensation programs in an attempt to reconcile with marginalized groups affected by weapons development without disclosure or consent. In 1993, for example, the United Kingdom settled with Australia as redress for indigenous people and personnel involved in UK explosions conducted in the former colony.

Facing similar lawsuits, the United States provided monetary compensation and health benefits to the indigenous people of the Marshall Islands, where US nuclear planners “offshored” their most powerful blasts during the Cold War arms race. Other US programs have made compensation available to communities “downwind” of the Nevada Test Site and surrounded by the uranium mines fueling the US nuclear arsenal, including Tribal Nations in the Four Corners region.

Compensation programs map a global history of colonial empire, racial discrimination, and dispossession of indigenous land, but postcolonial inequalities look particularly stark from the Sahara. Including appeals, France has granted 545 of 1,739 total requests filed by French soldiers and civilian participants in the nuclear detonations, as well as exposed populations in Algeria and Polynesia. Only 1 of 52 Algerian dossiers has proven successful.

French officials responsible for evaluating these files report that the ones from Algeria often arrive incomplete or in a shoddy state, and pin the blame on the Algerian government’s inability or unwillingness to provide the geographical, historical, and biomedical evidence that French assessment procedures demand. Claims must demonstrate that an individual worked or lived in a fixed area surrounding one of the two Saharan test sites, between February 1960 and December 1967, and suffered at least one of 21 types of cancer recognized as radiation-linked by French statute.

A step toward reconciliation. If Macron really wants to tackle France’s nuclear history in Algeria—and its aftermath—his government should start here. The French Parliament opened the door to Algerian compensation in 2010, and important revisions to the evaluation procedures took place in 2017, but there has never been a level playing field. Macron could, for example, require that French diplomats posted in Algeria help Algerians build their cases and locate supporting documents.

Another option: Macron could declassify archival materials documenting the intensity and scope of radioactive fallout generated by French nuclear blasts. Draconian interpretations of French statutes on the reach of military secrecy continue to block access to the vast majority of military, civil, and diplomatic collections on France’s nuclear weapons program—including radiation effects. Foreign archives have provided useful information, but official documentation from the French government would help exposed populations—like those in the Sahara—understand what happened, evaluate the risks, bolster their claims, and likely find these more successful.

The Stora Report did well to acknowledge nuclear fallout from the Algerian War. Giving Algerians a fair shot at compensation should mark France’s first step toward reconciliation.

March 6, 2021 Posted by | AFRICA, civil liberties, environment, France, history, indigenous issues, investigative journalism, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Israel should come clean about the expansion at its secret nuclear weapons plant

Secretive Israeli nuclear facility undergoes major project, 9 news, By Associated Press

 Feb 26, 2021
A secretive Israeli nuclear facility at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program is undergoing what appears to be its biggest construction project in decades, satellite photos analysed by The Associated Press show.
A dig about the size of a soccer field and likely several stories deep now sits just metres from the aging reactor at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona. The facility is already home to decades-old underground laboratories that reprocess the reactor’s spent rods to obtain weapons-grade plutonium for Israel’s nuclear bomb program.
What the construction is for, however, remains unclear. The Israeli government did not respond to detailed questions from the AP about the work. Under its policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel neither confirms nor denies having atomic weapons. It is among just four countries that have never joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark international accord meant to stop the spread of nuclear arms.
The construction comes as Israel — under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — maintains its scathing criticism of Iran’s nuclear program, which remains under the watch of United Nations inspectors unlike its own. That has renewed calls among experts for Israel to publicly declare details of its program.
What “the Israeli government is doing at this secret nuclear weapons plant is something for the Israeli government to come clean about,” Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said.
With French assistance, Israel began secretly building the nuclear site in the late 1950s in empty desert near Dimona, a city some 90 kilometres south of Jerusalem. It hid the military purpose of the site for years from America, now Israel’s chief ally, even referring to it as a textile factory.
With plutonium from Dimona, Israel is widely believed to have become one of only nine nuclear-armed countries in the world. Given the secrecy surrounding its program, it remains unclear how many weapons it possesses. Analysts estimate Israel has material for at least 80 bombs. Those weapons likely could be delivered by land-based ballistic missiles, fighter jets or submarines………….https://www.9news.com.au/world/secretive-israeli-nuclear-facility-undergoes-major-project/b417213f-9548-49f3-828d-fe674985c6b4

February 27, 2021 Posted by | Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Assange’s partner exposes ongoing denial of his legal and democratic rights, 

February 25, 2021 Posted by | civil liberties, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Former SCANA nuclear executive pleads guilty to fraud

Former SC utility CEO pleads guilty to nuclear plant fraud
The utility executive who spent billions of dollars on two South Carolina nuclear plants that never generated a single watt of power pleaded guilty in two courts,
By MICHELLE LIU Associated Press/Report for America, 25 February 2021,   COLUMBIA, S.C. — The utility executive who spent billions of dollars on two South Carolina nuclear plants that never generated a single watt of power pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges Wednesday.

Former SCANA Corp. CEO Kevin Marsh will likely spend two years in prison and pay $5 million back to ratepayers, per the plea agreement prosecutors presented to U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis in Columbia.

Marsh’s formal acknowledgement of his role in the conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud comes more than three years after the project imploded publicly and federal and state agencies began investigating.

Marsh, 65, will be free on bond as he cooperates with federal authorities until he is formally sentenced. He headed to Spartanburg in the afternoon to plead guilty on a state charge tied to the investigation. Officials said he will serve any state sentence he receives concurrently with his federal sentence.

A judge will hand down the final sentence after the investigation concludes. Prosecutors haven’t given indication of when that might be.

Marsh and other executives insisted the project to build the two reactors at the V.C. Summer site north of Columbia was on track ever since it started in 2008. The company hiked rates on customers nine times between 2009 and 2017 to help fund the project.

Prosecutors said that as the project lagged, Marsh lied repeatedly to investors, regulators and the media, claiming the reactors would be making power by a 2020 deadline to get $1.4 billion in federal tax credits needed to keep the $10 billion project from overwhelming SCANA and its subsidiary, South Carolina Electric & Gas.

An independent report commissioned by SCANA in 2015 estimated the reactors would not be finished in 22 years. Executives fought to get the estimate removed from the copy of the report shared with state-owned utility Santee Cooper, which held a 45% stake in the new reactors, prosecutors said.

Santee Cooper ended up $4 billion in debt from the project. Lawmakers are still arguing over whether to sell or reorganize the utility.

Dominion Energy of Virginia bought out SCANA in 2019 after the former Fortune 500 company was crippled by the nuclear debacle.

In December, the Securities and Exchange Commission said both SCANA and its subsidiary agreed to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the SEC in February for $137.5 million, including a $25 million civil penalty.

Former SCANA Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne pleaded guilty to federal charges similar to Marsh’s in July. He is also awaiting sentencing. AT TOPhttps://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/sc-utility-executive-plead-guilty-courts-76084865

February 25, 2021 Posted by | Legal, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Move in Ohio Senate to repeal nuclear bailout law

February 25, 2021 Posted by | politics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Lies in Texas, as Republicans blame renewable energy for cold weather traumas

February 22, 2021 Posted by | politics, renewable, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Mossad’s high tech murder of Iranian nuclear scientist

Why  is this article written in such an extraordinarily boastful style?

 

 

February 20, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Global nuclear industry – rotten to the core: it’s not just Brazil

A bad barrel, not just a few bad apples. Additionally, Lava Jato revealed that the type of corruption that took place was not just a matter of a few rotten apples, but rather of systemic factors.

Corruption in the nuclear industry is a known international phenomenon. The recent scandal in Ohio illustrates how the push for subsidies to nuclear plants is not the result of a real commitment to citizens’ energy needs or climate concerns, but a way for energy corporations to maintain overpayments and assure political gains to certain parties. Brazil offers a different model, one that has used new nuclear facilities to generate kickbacks to powerful political and business interests.

February 18, 2021 Posted by | Brazil, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

‘Medical Scientific’ committee, stacked with nuclear executives, promotes nuclear power in space

“The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide-open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.”

“Now it appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars. ”

It’s going to take enormous grassroots action—and efforts by those in public office who understand the error of the space direction being taken—to stop it.

Nuclear Rockets to Mars?, BY KARL GROSSMAN– CounterPunch, 16 Feb 21,

A report advocating rocket propulsion by nuclear power for U.S. missions to Mars, written by a committee packed with individuals deeply involved in nuclear power, was issued last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The 104-page report also lays out “synergies” in space nuclear activities between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military, something not advanced explicitly since the founding of NASA as a civilian agency supposedly in 1958.

The report states: “Space nuclear propulsion and power systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages…NASA could benefit programmatically by working with a DoD [Department of Defense] program having national security objectives.”’

The report was produced “by contract” with NASA, it states.

The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) describes itself as having been “created to advise the nation” with “independent, objective advice to inform policy.”

The 11 members of the committee that put together the report for the National Academy includes: Jonathan W. Cirtain, president of Advanced Technologies, “a subsidiary of BWX Technologies which is the sole manufacturer of nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy,” the report states; Roger M. Myers, owner of R. Myers Consulting and who previously at Aerojet Rocketdyne “oversaw programs and strategic planning for next-generation in-space missions [that] included nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric power systems; Shannon M. Bragg-Sitton, the “lead for integrated energy systems in the Nuclear Science and Technology Directorate at the Idaho National Laboratory:” Tabitha Dodson, who at the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is chief engineer of a program “that is developing a nuclear thermal propulsion system;” Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., “owner and principal of Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting, providing expert nuclear, aerospace, and systems engineering services to government, national laboratories, industry, and academia since 1993.” And so on.

The NAS report is titled: “Space Nuclear Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration.” It is not classified and is available here.

Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, from its offices in Maine in the U.S., declared: “The nuclear industry views space as a new—and wide-open—market for their toxic product that has run its dirty course on Mother Earth.”

“During our campaigns in 1989, 1990, and 1997 to stop NASA’s Galileo, Ulysses and Cassini plutonium-fueled space probe launches, we learned that the nuclear industry positioned its agents inside NASA committees that made the decisions on what kinds of power sources would be placed on those deep space missions,” said Gagnon. “Now it appears that the nuclear industry has also infiltrated the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that has been studying missions to Mars.  The recommendation, not any surprise, is that nuclear reactors are the best way to power a Mars mission.”

“It’s not the best for us Earthlings because the Department of Energy has a bad track record of human and environmental contamination as they fabricate nuclear devices. An accident at launch could have catastrophic consequences.”

Stated Gagnon: “We fought the DoE and NASA on those previous nuclear launches and are entering the battle again. The nuclear industry has its sights set on nuclear-powered mining colonies on an assortment of planetary bodies—all necessitating legions of nuclear devices being produced at DoE and then launched on rockets that blow up from time to time.”

“We urge the public to help us pressure NASA and DoE to say no to nukes in space. We’ve got to protect life here on this planet. We are in the middle of a pandemic and people have lost jobs, homes, health care and even food on their table.”

“Trips to Mars can wait,” said Gagnon.

There have been accidents in the history of the U.S.—and also the former Soviet Union and now Russia—using nuclear power in space……

(Article goes on to explain how solar power can be, and is being used for space travel and research)

The NAS committee, however, was mainly interested in a choice between a “nuclear thermal propulsion” (NTP) or “nuclear electric propulsion” (NEP) for rocket propulsion…….

“Advanced nuclear propulsion systems (along or in combination with chemical propulsion systems) have the potential to substantially reduce trip time” to Mars “compared to fully non-nuclear approaches,” says the report.

An issue: radioactivity from either of the systems affecting human beings on the rockets with nuclear reactors propelling them. Back after World War II with the Cold War beginning, the U.S. began working on bombers propelled by onboard nuclear reactors—even built one. The idea was that such bombers could stay aloft for days ready to drop nuclear weapons on the Soviet Union. No crews would need to be scrambled and bombers then sent aloft.

But, as The Atlantic magazine noted in a 2019 article titled, “Why There Are No Nuclear Airplanes”:

“The problem of shielding pilots from the reactor’s radiation proved even more difficult. What good would a plane be that killed its own pilots? To protect the crew from radioactivity, the reactor needed thick and heavy layers of shielding. But to take off, the plane needed to be as light as possible. Adequate shielding seemed incompatible with flight. Still, engineers theorized that the weight saved from needing no fuel might be enough to offset the reactor and its shielding. The United States spent 16 years tinkering with the idea, to no avail”

The Eisenhower administration concluded that the program was unnecessary, dangerous, and too expensive. On March 28, 1961, the newly inaugurated President John F. Kennedy canceled the program. Proposals for nuclear-powered airplanes have popped up since then, but the fear of radiation and the lack of funding have kept all such ideas down.”……

The “synergies” in space nuclear activities between NASA and the U.S. military advanced in the NAS report mark a change in public acknowledgement. The agency was supposed to have a distinctly civilian orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in space science.

However, throughout the decades there have been numerous reports on its close relationship with the U.S. military—notably during the period of NASA Space Shuttle flights. As a 2018 piece in Smithsonian Magazine noted, “During the heyday of the space shuttle, NASA would routinely ferry classified payloads into orbit for the Department of Deense among other projects the agencies have collaborated on.”

With the formation of a U.S. Space Force by the Trump administration in 2019, the NASA-Pentagon link would appear to be coming out of the shadows, as indicated by the NAS report. The Biden administration is not intending to eliminate the Space Force, despite the landmark Outer Space Treaty of 1967 put together by the U.S., the then Soviet Union and the U.K, setting aside space for peaceful purposes. It is giving the new sixth branch of U.S. armed forces “full support,” according to his spokesperson Jen Psaki.

The NAS report says, “Areas of common interest include (1) fundamental questions about the development and testing of materials (such as reactor fuels and moderators) that can survive NTP conditions and (2) advancing modeling and simulation capabilities that are relevant to NTP.” And, “Additionally, a NASA NTP system could potentially use a scaled-up version of a DoD reactor, depending on the design.”

It declares: “Threats to U.S. space assets are increasing. They include anti-satellite weapons and counter-space activities. Crossing vast distances of space rapidly with a reasonably sized vehicle in response to these threats requires a propulsion system with high Isp [Specific Impulse] and thrust. This could be especially important in a high-tempo military conflict.”

Moreover, on December 19, just before he was to leave office, Trump signed Space Policy Directive-6, titled “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Propulsion.” Its provisions include: “DoD [Department of Defense] and NASA, in cooperation with DOE [Department of Energy}, and with other agencies and private-sector partners, as appropriate, should evaluate technology options and associated key technical challenges for an NTP [Nuclear Thermal Propulsion] system, including reactor designs, power conversion, and thermal management. DoD and NASA should work with their partners to evaluate and use opportunities for commonality with other SNPP [Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion] needs, terrestrial power needs, and reactor demonstration projects planned by agencies and the private sector.”

It continues: “DoD, in coordination with DOE and other agencies, and with private sector partners, as appropriate, should develop reactor and propulsion system technologies that will resolve the key technical challenges in areas such as reactor design and production, propulsion system and spacecraft design, and SNPP system integration.”

It’s going to take enormous grassroots action—and efforts by those in public office who understand the error of the space direction being taken—to stop it.

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. more https://www.counterpunch.org/2021/02/16/nuclear-rockets-to-mars/

February 18, 2021 Posted by | investigative journalism, politics, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Iran foiled series of assassinations planned by Israel – says Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi

Iranian minister: Israel planned series of hits against officials in nuclear program  https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/02/15/iranian-minister-israel-planned-series-of-hits-against-officials-in-nuclear-program/By  Neta Bar

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi says his officers had “recognized and foiled” several alleged attempts by Israel to eliminate Iranian officials in the wake of last year’s hit on the country’s nuclear mastermind – who he says was killed by a disgruntled co-worker, not Israel.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi claimed Sunday that Israel had planned to carry out “many operations” seeking to undermine the Islamic republic’s efforts to develop nuclear capabilities, saying these efforts have ” all been prevented by Iranian security.”
These efforts, he told the state-run ISNA news agency, included planned assassinations of officials in the nuclear program, which were to follow the November elimination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, believed to be head of the Iranian military nuclear program.

“After Fakhrizadeh was killed, the Zionists attempted to carry out additional acts of terrorism and evil in the country, including more assassinations. These attempts were recognized and foiled by Iranian intelligence,” he said.

While the ayatollahs’ regime has consistently blamed Israel for Fakhrizadeh’s death, Alavi told ISNA on Sunday that the country’s nuclear mastermind was not, in fact, killed by Israel rather “by a disgruntled co-worker.”

“The man responsible for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was fired from the intelligence service and left the country shortly before it [the hit] actually took place. He is now wanted by Iranian authorities,” the minister said.

He did not elaborate as to whether Iranian authorities think the suspect was working with Israel.

February 15, 2021 Posted by | Iran, Israel, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Biden administration presses for Julian Assange to be extradited to USA

Biden administration files appeal pressing for Assange extradition, Yahoo News, Sat, 13 February 2021  The administration of US President Joe Biden has appealed a British judge’s ruling against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a Justice Department official said Friday.

A brief filed late Thursday declared Washington’s desire to have Assange stand trial on espionage and hacking-related charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents beginning in 2009.

The Justice Department had until Friday to register its stance on Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January 4 ruling that Assange suffered mental health problems that would raise the risk of suicide if he were sent to the United States for trial.

“Yes, we filed an appeal and we are continuing to pursue extradition,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told AFP.

After Baraitser’s decision, which did not question the legal grounds for the US extradition request, Donald Trump’s administration moved to appeal.

But Biden’s stance was not clear, and he was pressured by rights groups to drop the case, which raises sensitive transparency and media freedom issues.

After WikiLeaks began publishing US secrets in 2009, then-president Barack Obama, whose vice president was Biden, declined to pursue the case.

Assange said WikiLeaks was no different than other media constitutionally protected to publish such materials.

Prosecuting him, too, could mean also prosecuting powerful US news organizations for publishing similar material — legal fights the government would likely lose.

But under Trump, whose 2016 election was helped by WikiLeaks publishing Russian-stolen materials damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton — the Justice Department built a national security case against Assange.

In 2019 the native Australian was charged under the US Espionage Act and computer crimes laws with multiple counts of conspiring with and directing others, from 2009 to 2019, to illegally obtain and release US secrets……….

Assange has remained under detention by British authorities pending the appeal.

Earlier this week 24 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA and Reporters Without Borders, urged Biden to drop the case.

“Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret,” they said in an open letter.

“In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris said in a statement that Baraitser’s January decision that Assange was a high risk for suicide and that US prison facilities were not safe remained a strong reason to deny extradition.

Baraitser “was given clear advice by medical experts that ordering him to stand trial in the US would put his life at risk,” she said.

“Any assurances given by the Department of Justice about trial procedures or the prison regime that Julian might face in the US are not only irrelevant but meaningless because the US has a long history of breaking commitments to extraditing countries,” she said  https://au.news.yahoo.com/biden-administration-files-appeal-assange-171637702.html

February 15, 2021 Posted by | politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Australian government’s brazen duplicity concerning Julian Assange

What Assange and WikiLeaks said about Australia, https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-assange-and-wikileaks-said-about-australia-20210129-p56xyo.html, By Jessie Tu, February 4, 2021 He has been called “truth-telling hero”, “evil and perverted traitor”, “heroic, trickster, mythical – reviled”. Robert Manne called him the “most consequential Australian of the present time”. The new US President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”.

The protean narratives of Julian Assange, who will be 50 in July, have been brewing since 2010, when his website published “The Afghan War Diaries”, “Iraq War Logs” and “Collateral Murder”, a video showing the US military killing two Reuters employees in Iraq.

December marked 10 years since Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in Britain, according to Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau in their introduction to A Secret Australia – a collection of 18 essays that survey the impact WikiLeaks has had on Australia’s media landscape and the consequences of our government’s attraction towards America’s intelligence and military empire.

The potpourri of authors and thinkers includes Julian Burnside, Antony Loewenstein, Scott Ludlam and Helen Razer, who critique “the powers opposed to openness and transparency” and examine the evidence, “not the likelihoods, the probabilities, the suspicions, and assumptions” around the “subversive, technology-based publishing house”.

WikiLeaks invented a “pioneering model of journalism” – one that embodied the “contemporary spirit of resistance to imperial power”, says Richard Tanter, from the school of political and social sciences at the University of Melbourne. It brought renewed debates on free speech, digital encryption and questions around the management and protection of whistleblowers who risk their lives to expose covert, deceitful actions by governments.

The documents exposed the “brazen duplicity” of the Australian government towards its citizens and presented “off-stage alliance management conversations”, Tanter writes. They invited the layperson into the green room of the performance that is politics and international diplomacy.
WikiLeaks unmasked reports that showed governments recommending media strategies to deceive the public, demonstrating their unethically utilitarian approach to international diplomacy and governance and “enlightened the public on the dark corners of wars”, writes journalist and author Antony Loewenstein.

Assange is still in a cell at London’s Belmarsh Prison, facing an appeal by the United States in its bid to extradite him to face charges for the 2010 publications. He is continuing to be “denied adequate medical care” and “denied emergency bail in light of the COVID-19″, says Lissa Johnson, a clinical psychologist and writer for New Matilda – one of the few Australian publications that have paid genuine attention to the WikiLeaks saga.

In Australia, there’s been a “striking absence of a solid debate on WikiLeaks in the mainstream public discourse”, according to Benedetta Brevini, a journalist and media activist who insists that our concerning “lack of a thorough and sustained debate” is incomprehensible. Loewenstein calls Australia’s lack of journalistic solidarity with Assange “deeply shameful”. He says we have an “anodyne media environment” – perhaps not unsurprising, considering our highly concentrated media market, one of the most severe in the world.

Most of the essays expostulate on the same things: Assange is a journalist, not a hacker. He’s won a Walkley Award (at least six mentions of this). We have an undeniable legal obligation to him. His persecution is a “gruesome legal experiment in criminalising journalism” – a long and tortured legal process that Ludlam declares “has degenerated into an unworkable shit-show”.
The standout essays come from Guy Rundle and Helen Razer – whose amusing voice cuts through the somewhat parched tenor of cold academic-speak that lightly threads through the other essays. Her addition is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a chain of same-same arguments.

The most useful essay is Rundle’s take on the historical basis for WikiLeaks. He surveys the swirling currents of Australian history that led to its founding, identifying WikiLeaks as a continuation of political activist Albert Langer’s resistance to capital.

“We need a whole new organisation of how recent Australian history is told,” Rundle concludes, seconding Lissa Johnson’s opinion that we demand citizens who “cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music and expose what is going on inside”. This collection of polemics, though at times repetitive, takes us closer to a future where these demands no longer seem beyond reality.

A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposes

Eds., Felicity Ruby & Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, $29.95

February 15, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, media, politics international, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

No apologies from France, over nuclear bomb tests’ pollution in Algeria

The New Arab 12th Feb 2021, President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statement that a “memories and truth” commission will be established to look into the history of the French colonisation of Algeria, has led to much public discussion over this bloody legacy.

And in this context, the absence of apologies or offers of reparations by the French state has not gone unnoticed. One area of particular contention in this process is the ongoing and detrimental effects of France’s nuclear testing in Algeria, conducted throughout the
1960s. France conducted its first nuclear test known as the “Gerboise Bleue” in February 1960 in the Sahara Desert – an atomic bomb that was four times the strength of Hiroshima. A total of 17 tests were carried out, four of them atmospheric detonations, and 13 underground.

https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2021/2/12/frances-nuclear-colonial-legacy-in-algeria

February 15, 2021 Posted by | AFRICA, Religion and ethics, secrets,lies and civil liberties, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Systemic corruption in the American nuclear industry

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021

The “largest bribery, money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people and the state of Ohio” came to light during an unexpected press conference in July 2020 in Columbus. Speaking haltingly and carefully, US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers announced “the arrest of Larry Householder, Speaker of the House of the state of Ohio and four other defendants for racketeering. The conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money.”

Unravelling an intricate web of alleged illegal activities used to launder money, DeVillers broke down the complicated modus operandi of “Company A.” With a gentle smile on his face, he said, “everyone in this room knows who Company A is, but I will not be mentioning the name of Company A because of our regulations and rules. They have not, and no one from that company has as of yet, been charged”.

Company A is FirstEnergy Solutions, a fact most Ohians had been aware of long before the July 2020 press conference. FirstEnergy, now called Energy Harbour, is one of Ohio’s largest utility corporations. For years, the firm lobbied to get a subsidy to continue operating its unprofitable nuclear plants and maintain its revenue flow. When lobbying efforts failed to produce subsidies, it resorted to bribery to gain legislative support for House Bill 6, 2019 legislation that forces state consumers to pay into something called “the Ohio Clean Air Fund.” The green language is a smoke screen for the real purpose: to siphon nearly $150 million annually to FirstEnergy to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants and two coal-fired power plants operating, while simultaneously gutting Ohio’s renewable energy standards. Also gone were the state’s energy efficiency programs, which had saved consumers and corporations millions of dollars. When citizens tried to organize a referendum to repeal the bill, FirstEnergy indulged in various dirty tactics to thwart this democratic opposition.

Ohio is not alone in its nuclear energy corruption. Also in July 2020, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), a subsidiary of Exelon, was charged with bribery to “Public Official A” in Illinois. Though not named, the filing makes it clear that “Public Official A” is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has denied wrongdoing. ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve this case. Exelon also finds itself at the centre of another ongoing investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The focus of the investigation is reportedly Anne Pramaggiore, a former Exelon CEO who stepped down from the company and from his post chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. As in Ohio, the corruption charges relate to lobbying for state subsidies and special treatment of nuclear power plants.

Three other states—New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York—have implemented similar subsidies (although, to date, no allegations of wrongdoing related to them have been made public). Changes in the economics of electricity markets are threatening the profitability of nuclear power plants, a shifting reality driving a demand for these financial bailouts. As the New Jersey-based energy company Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) explained in October 2020, across the nation “nuclear plants continue to struggle economically to survive. Since 2018, three nuclear plants have closed in the eastern US, all for economic reasons, and the impact has had a ripple effect.”

Changing economics of electricity generation. These “economic reasons” have to do with an ongoing massive transformation of the energy sector. Over the last decade, the cost of renewables like solar and wind have dropped substantially; these renewables can generate electricity at much lower costs than fossil fuels and, especially, nuclear power. In the United States, unsubsidized wind power costs fell by 71 percent between 2009 and 2020, whereas unsubsidized utility scale solar energy costs declined by 90 percent during the same period. Nuclear energy costs increased by 33 percent between 2009 and 2020. The International Energy Agency has dubbed solar energy “the new king of electricity” and foresees it dominating future deployment in the electricity sector for decades.

The major beneficiaries of the subsidies for nuclear plants are large corporations: PSEG in New Jersey and Dominion in Connecticut, besides Exelon and FirstEnergy. These, and other electrical utility companies in the United States, have historically invested primarily in nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants. Thanks to the changing economics of electricity, these companies are finding it harder to maintain their profits while operating the older power plants that are now more expensive as sources of electricity.  

These companies and various associated organizations have engaged in extensive lobbying and large-scale propaganda campaigns to get governments pass legislation that makes consumers pay more for the electricity they use. In that sense, what has resulted would be better described as corporate welfare than as subsidies. The subsidies have improved these companies’ financial situation, which in turn contributes to their clout in state and national policy making and their ability to fund advocacy efforts—and even to pay politicians tidy sums of money. The larger significance of the political power these large utilities have amassed is their ability to block transition to a fully renewable and more environmentally sustainable energy system.

Financial subsidies. Subsidies take different forms in different states. In New York and Illinois, utility companies are required to purchase a specific amount of zero-emission credits from authorized nuclear generating stations, all of which are owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Purchasing contracts in both states will be in effect for 10 to 12 years, and utility companies are mandated to tack on the cost to consumer bills. Over in New Jersey, “each electric public utility” is required to purchase “Nuclear Diversity Certificates” from nuclear power plants, with consumers paying for these programs through higher utility bills.

The deal that Dominion Energy struck in Connecticut was different, taking the form of a contract that requires the state’s two electric distribution utilities to purchase about 50 percent of the  electricity output of Dominion’s Millstone nuclear generating plant for 10 years. Millstone houses two operational nuclear reactors. In all of these cases, the annual financial benefits to these large corporations run in to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The modus operandi was developed by multiple stakeholders and publicly released in 2016 in the form of a toolkit by the American Nuclear Society (ANS). Produced by a special committee consisting of senior nuclear officials, the toolkit outlined “a variety of policy pathways to support the current nuclear fleet and prevent early retirement.” The states mentioned above have implemented polices that incorporate one or more of the strategies outlined in the ANS toolkit, including amalgamations of low-carbon portfolio standards and mandated purchase of nuclear energy. The toolkit even went so far as to suggest that state government entities could acquire nuclear power plants or suspend collecting taxes, but these suggestions have not been implemented so far.

Building political support. While the American Nuclear Society led the policy-development charge, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)—the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm—reinforced the advocacy message on the ground. The NEI’s 2017 report outlined specific plans and efforts instituted around the same time as many of these nuclear bailouts were pushed through state legislatures. Substantial resources were funnelled toward lobbying efforts aimed at key political and public actors. NEI’s deliberate intention, as outlined in the 2017 report, was to build political support to “avoid placing additional financial burden on US nuclear plants.”

Large-scale media dissemination, educational campaigns, relationship-building with regulatory bodies, think tanks, and policy institutions, and direct political lobbying are some of the tactics outlined in the report. Not all of the tactics aimed at subsidies; some were aimed at lowering expenses for nuclear companies by finding ways to lessen their environmental obligations. For example, the NEI managed to terminate annual fees charged to nuclear generating plants for hazardous material cleanup, which made taxpayers liable for these costs. The NEI took full credit for this shift: “After targeting the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, NEI successfully prevented reimplementation of a $200 million annual fee placed on the industry.”

The NEI also tried to influence the appointment of officials to oversight bodies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), declaring that it “shared names of potential candidates with the Trump administration and worked with member companies to urge Congress to communicate with the White House the need to nominate and confirm commissioners.” The NRC is the agency tasked with overseeing safety, and in 2017, the NEI proudly announced that it had “worked with the House Appropriations Committee to again reduce the NRC’s budget.”

The institute took credit for engaging “across the Ohio state government to support enactment of zero-emission nuclear credit legislation,” for convening “meetings with the governor’s staff on the value of nuclear energy,” and for testifying “at legislative hearings on the issue.” Not surprisingly, NEI’s efforts were supported by large cash payments allegedly provided by FirstEnergy.

The power game. Many energy companies are actively involved in local or state-level lobbying. In recent years, Illinois has been a site of intense lobbying by Exelon and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), primarily to get more and more subsidies from the state. “At least two dozen former Illinois state lawmakers have lobbied on behalf of ComEd or Exelon since 2000,” according to Illinois Policy, an independent public policy organization. Exelon’s hold on Illinois decision-making has been characterized by David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service as “nuclear blackmail,” a result of politics that “forced environmentalists wanting to see new legislation pass that would expand renewables, into a reluctant and grudging alliance with Exelon, but on Exelon’s terms.”

The process works as follows. Every so often, Exelon or ComEd would declare that one or more of their nuclear plants are no longer profitable and threaten to shut the plants down within a year. The threats have tended to be successful; lobbyists can argue, with some truth on their side, that a shutdown will lead to job losses and a cut in tax revenue, also leaving Illinois with an energy shortage that may increase reliance on carbon-based sources.

The same strategy was used successfully in New YorkConnecticut, and New Jersey, where state officials described the process in colorful terms like “highway robbery” and “ransom.”  The nuclear sector has extensively resorted to this kind of power politics, even using it in regard to nuclear plants that eventually shut down, such as the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.

Money begets money. The effects of enacting laws that favor nuclear energy firms are clear from the financial status of these corporations. Exelon share prices increased from $34.63 on April 1, 2017 to a high of $50.95 exactly two years later, while Dominion’s stock price grew from $64.19 on May 1, 2018 to $83.70, as of November 6, 2020. Similar increases have been recorded by FirstEnergy and PSEG.

Apart from stock owners, the other major beneficiaries from the utility business are, of course, executives in these companies. CEOs like Dominion’s Thomas Farrell and Exelon’s Christopher Crane are among the highest paid executives in the electrical generation and utility industry………..

Dealing with corruption, legal and illegal. The crimes that people like Larry Householder and Michael Madigan are accused of committing are shameful; they are, however, just examples of the apparent systemic corruption that seems to permeate the nuclear industry.

While the actions taken against these individuals have captured headlines, the picture painted in the media still misses the mark on less egregious, everyday forms of political action. Lobbying by deep-pocketed industries and other efforts to capture regulators are pernicious but often go unremarked, in part because under the rules that govern politics in the United States, such actions are often legal. Addressing these problems with the urgency they require will necessarily involve confronting the economic and political system that privileges profits and capital over people and the environment.https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/

February 13, 2021 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

Expert panel reports that North Korea is relying on cyberattacks to fund nuclear weapons.

February 13, 2021 Posted by | North Korea, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment