The Saudi Cables. Cables and other documents from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Foreign Affairs https://wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/buying-silence
A total of 122619 published so far
Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media
On Monday, Saudi Arabia celebrated the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year. The story was nowhere to be seen on Arab media despite the story’s circulation on wire services. Even international media was relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed?
Today’s release of the WikiLeaks “Saudi Cables” from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs show how it’s done.
The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family take a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage. Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.
Documents reveal the extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the “carrot and stick” approach, referred to in the documents as “neutralisation” and “containment”. The approach is customised depending on the market and the media in question.
“Contain” and “Neutralise”
The initial reaction to any negative coverage in the regional media is to “neutralise” it. The term is used frequently in the cables and it pertains to individual journalists and media institutions whose silence and co-operation has been bought. “Neutralised” journalists and media institutions are not expected to praise and defend the Kingdom, only to refrain from publishing news that reflects negatively on the Kingdom, or any criticism of its policies. The “containment” approach is used when a more active propaganda effort is required. Journalists and media institutions relied upon for “containment” are expected not only to sing the Kingdom’s praises, but to lead attacks on any party that dares to air criticisms of the powerful Gulf state.
One of the ways “neutralisation” and “containment” are ensured is by purchasing hundreds or thousands of subscriptions in targeted publications. These publications are then expected to return the favour by becoming an “asset” in the Kingdom’s propaganda strategy. A document listing the subscriptions that needed renewal by 1 January 2010 details a series of contributory sums meant for two dozen publications in Damascus, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait, Amman and Nouakchott. The sums range from $500 to 9,750 Kuwaiti Dinars ($33,000). The Kingdom effectively buys reverse “shares” in the media outlets, where the cash “dividends” flow the opposite way, from the shareholder to the media outlet. In return Saudi Arabia gets political “dividends” – an obliging press.
An example of these co-optive practices in action can be seen in an exchange between the Saudi Foreign Ministry and its Embassy in Cairo. On 24 November 2011 Egypt’s Arabic-language broadcast station ONTV hosted the Saudi opposition figure Saad al-Faqih, which prompted the Foreign Ministry to task the embassy with inquiring into the channel. The Ministry asked the embassy to find out how “to co-opt it or else we must consider it standing in the line opposed to the Kingdom’s policies“.
The document reports that the billionaire owner of the station, Naguib Sawiris, did not want to be “opposed to the Kingdom’s policies” and that he scolded the channel director, asking him “never to host al-Faqih again”. He also asked the Ambassador if he’d like to be “a guest on the show”.
The Saudi Cables are rife with similar examples, some detailing the figures and the methods of payment. These range from small but vital sums of around $2000/year to developing country media outlets – a figure the Guinean News Agency “urgently needs” as “it would solve many problems that the agency is facing” – to millions of dollars, as in the case of Lebanese right-wing television station MTV.
The “neutralisation” and “containment” approaches are not the only techniques the Saudi Ministry is willing to employ. In cases where “containment” fails to produce the desired effect, the Kingdom moves on to confrontation. In one example, the Foreign Minister was following a Royal Decree dated 20 January 2010 to remove Iran’s new Arabic-language news network, Al-Alam, from the main Riyadh-based regional communications satellite operator, Arabsat. After the plan failed, Saud Al Faisal sought to “weaken its broadcast signal“.
The documents show concerns within the Saudi administration over the social upheavals of 2011, which became known in the international media as the “Arab Spring”. The cables note with concern that after the fall of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals in Egyptian media was “being driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion”. The Ministry resolved “to give financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia“, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring”.
The cables reveal that the government employs a different approach for its own domestic media. There, a wave of the Royal hand is all that is required to adjust the output of state-controlled media. A complaint from former Lebanese Prime Minister and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri concerning articles critical of him in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers prompted a directive to “stop these type of articles” from the Foreign Ministry.
This is a general overview of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s strategy in dealing with the media. WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables contain numerous other examples that form an indictment of both the Kingdom and the state of the media globally.
China General Nuclear Power charged with conspiracy by U.S.
CGN is partner in delayed British Hinkley plant under review
A state-owned Chinese power company under indictment in the U.S. pressed American nuclear consultants for years to hand over secret technologies and documents they weren’t supposed to disclose — and in some cases it got them, several of the consultants have told the FBI.
Summaries of the consultants’ interviews with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were filed this month in a federal court where the company, China General Nuclear Power Corp., has been charged with conspiring to steal nuclear technology.
The FBI documents surfaced shortly after the same company became a focus of concerns across the Atlantic: The U.K. last month delayed approval of the country’s biggest nuclear power station in a generation as questions swirled about whether China General Nuclear’s investment in the plant poses a security risk.The filings provide a window into the tactics of CGN, China’s biggest nuclear power operator. One of the consultants said CGN employees asked for off-limits operational manuals to nuclear equipment and software, according to the interview summaries. Another said he was asked to provide proprietary temperature settings for material used to contain nuclear fuel. After he refused, he wasn’t offered more consulting jobs, he told the FBI……..
While the U.S. court case doesn’t address the U.K. plant, the FBI interviews could add to concerns expressed by British officials like Nick Timothy, a close adviser to the new prime minister, Theresa May. Timothy warned last year that China’s involvement in nuclear projects there might allow it to “shut down Britain’s energy production at will.”
The prime minister hasn’t said why she put the brakes on the 18 billion pound ($24 billion) Hinkley Point plant in southwest England, a project one-third owned by CGN and led by Electricite de France SA. In addition to the security concerns, the project has faced criticism over its price tag and the above-market electricity rates that U.K. taxpayers would have to pay. Electricite de France declined to comment……….
In the U.S., CGN was indicted along with Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho, an American nuclear engineer born in Taiwan who recruited the U.S. consultants for CGN. Ho and the company are accused in a federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, of conspiring to help Beijing obtain restricted U.S. nuclear technology over two decades. Ho, 66, is also accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the Chinese government. He faces life in a U.S. prison in what prosecutors call an “extremely significant national security case.”
- Ho has pleaded not guilty. His lawyers say that he was merely helping China’s civil nuclear power industry and that he had no intent to break the law or steal U.S. secrets.
The case is unfolding as U.S. officials say they see Beijing’s hand in cyber-espionage, indicting five Chinese military officials in absentia in 2014 for allegedly stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies — including Westinghouse Electric Co., a unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp. that designs nuclear power plants. Westinghouse, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, is the former employer of Ho and many of the experts he brought to China to consult for CGN……..http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-25/fbi-files-say-china-firm-pushed-u-s-experts-for-nuclear-secrets
The Path of the Sociopath They did it while Louisiana drowned. http://washingtonmonthly.com/2016/08/20/the-path-of-the-sociopath/#.V7jF_CUlnoY.twitter by D.R. Tucker August 20, 2016
They didn’t give a damn about how many people had lost their lives, or how many people will lose their lives if we don’t transition as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels. They couldn’t care less about the health impacts of carbon pollution, and the fact that it is inherently unfair to deprive innocent people of a stable climate and clean air. Their arrogance has reached new heights–in fact, the level of their arrogance is as high as the sea levels will be in a few decades.
As DeSmogBlog’s Sharon Kelly reports:
A long-awaited campaign to rebrand fossil fuels called Fueling U.S. Forward made its public debut at the Red State Gathering 2016 [in Denver, Colorado last] Saturday, where the organization’s President and CEO Charles Drevna gave attendees the inside scoop on the effort, and confirmed that the campaign is backed financially by Koch Industries.
Back in February, Peter Stone first reported in the Huffington Post that a $10 million-a-year effort was proposed by a Koch Industries board member, James Mahoney, and Mr. Drevna, aiming “to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles.” In early August, the Fueling U.S. Forward website launched, and on Saturday, the first public comments were made about the campaign by Mr. Drevna, and they revealed a lot about how the Koch-backed initiative is working to re-frame fossil fuels…
The top line takeaway from Mr. Drevna’s comments is that the Koch-funded Fueling U.S. Forward is an effort to rebrand fossil fuels, focusing on the “positive” sides of oil, gas and coal.
The new initiative comes at a time when the impacts of climate change are becoming more difficult to ignore. 2016 is already on track to be the hottest year ever recorded, a mid-year climate analysis from NASA reported, and unusual storms, like the torrential rainfall that struck the Gulf Coast over the past few days causing historic flooding, have become more frequent.
Charles and David Koch built this, this monument to malevolence. We always knew they were ruthless…but to do this while Louisiana drowned as a clear result of fossil-fueled climate change is beyond heartless. This is Trumpian in its treachery.
Spare me the nonsense that the Koch family doesn’t like Trump. Yes, Charles and David may scorn Trump in public, but if the bigoted billionaire manages to turn things around and win the White House, both men will be wholly satisfied with Trump’s dirty-energy agenda. (In addition, let’s not forget that another Koch Brother, William “Death to Cape Wind” Koch, has officially boarded the Trump train.)
When Bill McKibben calls for a “war” on climate change, he’s calling for a war on Koch ideology. It’s a war that progressives, moderates and whatever remains of the rational right must be prepared to fight and win. This is an enemy that must be conquered before it conquers us.
The sociopathy of the Kochs shocks the conscience. Looking at a world on fire, they call for the use of more fossil fuels to further increase their profits as they further inflame the planet. If Joseph Welch were alive today, he wouldn’t ask the Kochs if they had any sense of decency; he’d tell them he already knew they had none.
I’ve yet to read Daniel Schulman’s 2014 Koch biography Sons of Wichita, though I imagine that Schulman was thoroughly disgusted by their disregard for their fellow human beings. (Considering their latest actions, I have to say Schulman’s title is incomplete, since obviously Wichita is not the only thing these fossil-fuel fiends are sons of.)
I give Wisconsin talk radio star Charlie Sykes credit for admitting, at long last, that the right-wing media noise machine has created a “monster” comprised of millions of Americans who are resistant to facts and logic. Of course, Janeane Garofalo basically said the same thing seven years ago, and received nothing but scorn from the right for saying so:
Fox News loves to foment this anti-intellectualism because that is their bread and butter. If you have a cerebral electorate, Fox News goes down the toilet, you know, very, very fast…They‘re been doing this for years. That‘s why Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch started this venture; it is to disinform and to coarsen and dumb-down a certain segment of the electorate.
Thanks to right-wing radio, Fox and the wingnut blogosphere, we have far too many Americans who scorn science and reject reason…far too many Americans who think the lies of Charles, David and William Koch are the truth…far too many Americans who will suffer as a result of the actions of the fossil fuel industry and its media allies.
They did it while Louisiana drowned.
While Louisiana drowned.
Joemat-Pettersson to be quizzed on missing nuclear documents, Engineering News, Creamer Media,
19TH AUGUST 2016 Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Petterssonwill be asked in Parliament next week to account for missing documents in a court case regarding the nuclear energy programme.
That is according to Democratic Alliance (DA) MP and shadow energy minister Gordon Mackay on Thursday, who sits on the energy portfolio committee in Parliament. He was responding to a claim on Thursday that government failed to disclose about ten documents in justifying its decision to enter into an intergovernmental agreement withRussia.
The claim was made by Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (Safcei) and Earthlife AfricaJohannesburg (ELA), who are challenging government in court to prove this nuclear agreement was not in fact a done deal.
Government wants to build about eight nuclear reactors to add 9.6GW of baseload energy in its drive to boost industrialisation in South Africa. However, many economists and pro-renewable energy advocates believe it is too expensive and unnecessary for South Africa, with some suggesting it would result in rating agencies downgrading the country to junk status.
“Parliamentary committees recommence next week and the DA will be asking the minister to account for the missing documents,” Mackay told Fin24.
“The DA remains deeply perturbed by the state’s lack of compliance in this case,” he said.
“We need answers,” said Doyle. “Parliament should hold government accountable in a transparent manner.”
“Getting information out of government has been like pulling teeth,” said Safcei spokesperson Liz McDaid. “The case has been drawn out since October 2015, with government reluctant to provide the information necessary for a fair hearing.”
No nuclear deal, says minister
Safcei and ELA said it was picked up that documents were missing while their legal team was reviewing a 700-page responding affidavit from government.
“Detailed analysis reveals the government has failed to disclose at least ten documents to which it refers when justifying its decisions to enter into a nuclear deal withRussia,” it claimed on Thursday.
On August 4, they sent the department a letter requesting the missing documents, “as they are clearly relevant to the case … and we are still awaiting a response”.
The missing documents include:
4. The communication and stakeholder engagement strategy;
5. The phased decision making approach for implementing the nuclear programme ;
7. The 2004 Bilateral International Agreement with the Russian Federation;
9. The invitation to attend vendor parade workshops sent to the Republic of Korea, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the French Republic, the People’s Republic of China, Canada and the Kingdom of Japan; and
10. The list of topics each vendor country was requested to address relating to the invitation referred to in the previous point. http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/joemat-pettersson-to-be-quizzed-on-missing-nuclear-documents-2016-08-19
Canadian nuclear boss jokes about whistleblowers and muzzles environmentalist, By Mike De Souza, National Observer August 18th 2016 Shawn-Patrick Stensil shook his head in disbelief as he walked out of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission public meeting on Thursday.
The commission also declined to review Stensil’s 26-page analysis of the safety issues raised in the anonymous letter.
“I’ve never been shut down before like that by the commission,” said Stensil in an interview withNational Observer after his brief appearance at the meeting.
Stensil is a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, who has researched nuclear safety policy issues for more than a decade and testifies frequently before federal panels about the issue.
The commission is an independent federal regulator that is responsible for overseeing the Canadian nuclear industry. In other words, it is there to ensure that Canada’s nuclear reactors don’t meltdown and cause a full-scale catastrophe.
“I’ve been intervening before the commission for 15 years,” Stensil said. “They didn’t want to see any outside opposing views. They didn’t want to ask why it happened in the first place and it also shows that the Harper government is still alive and well at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Outside views aren’t welcome. Dissenting views aren’t welcome. And that’s a legacy of Harper that the Trudeau government needs to clean up.”
The letter, released by Stensil, a nuclear campaigner from Greenpeace Canada, to media outlets in July, was addressed to Binder, who was appointed by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper. Stensil had received a copy of the letter, along with other senior officials at the commission in May. It suggested that commission employees were not doing their job properly, withholding critical information from commissioners, prior to decisions on nuclear safety.
The letter also alleged that some nuclear plants were violating safety rules and had licenses that were approved following inadequate reviews by staff, who then withheld information from commissioners prior to decisions. The author or authors said that the commission, as a result, failed to identify safety risks at nuclear plants and impose conditions to reduce the likelihood of serious accidents.
Stensil has compared these types of failings to the errors which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, causing serious damage in its wake.
“It’s very clear from this letter that people (the authors) have inside information about what’s going on at the CNSC,” Stensil said. “I’ve seen some of these issues raised in debates internally that I’ve gotten through access to information (requests). There’s a credibility issue here. And when you start dismissing a dissenter as not having expertise, it really shows why they probably did this in an anonymous fashion.”
But when Stensil began addressing the whistleblowers’ concerns, Binder told him that the commission had discussed the anonymous letter the night before and proceeded to cut off the environmentalist’s microphone.
Whistleblowers targeted by jokes, ridicule
At that previous meeting, the commission heard testimony from several staff, led by Peter Elder, an engineer and strategic advisor at the commission who presented a report that dismissed the concerns raised by the whistleblowers and defended the commission’s oversight and integrity.
Binder and the commission’s senior staff went a bit further, suggesting that the letter’s author or authors were incompetent……After several staff members further ridiculed the letter and commended their boss, Binder, for raising good points, another executive, Ramzi Jammal, the executive vice president and chief regulatory operations officer intervened to echo their comments…….
Stensil described the whole exercise as having appeared to be staged to embarrass and shame the author or authors of the letter and discourage others from coming forward with safety concerns.
Scientists’ union rebukes nuclear boss, vows to defend public interest Binder’s behaviour prompted a rebuke from the union that represents the commission’s scientists and which has been trying to ensure that its collective agreements with government include protections for scientific integrity to prevent muzzling.
“Our members who are involved in protecting the safety of Canadians do not take their duties or concerns lightly,” said Steve Hindle, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “It is unfortunate that Mr. Binder has chosen to make light of such an important issue. But his reaction will not prevent our members from defending the public interest.”……. http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/08/18/news/canadian-nuclear-boss-jokes-about-whistleblowers-and-muzzles-environmentalist
months have elapsed since the Microsoft Corp. co-founder and 27 other billionaires rolled out their Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC) — a promise to invest billions of dollars with a very long payback horizon on groundbreaking new carbon-neutral technologies. And the group has barely been heard from since.
Jonah Goldman, a spokesman for the coalition, said much of the work is happening behind the scenes.
Gates brought his message to Capitol Hill, where he met twice with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in the past year to press the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee chairman for federal support for research and development.
The two men discussed small modular nuclear reactors and carbon capture and storage technology at the meetings, an Alexander aide said.
Nineteen countries joined the United States in backing Mission Innovation in Paris, and the European Union signed on in June. Since then, the Obama administration has followed up with a fiscal 2017 funding request of $7.7 billion for clean energy R&D across the federal government, with $5.9 billion of that going to DOE programs
What’s happening with Bill Gates’ multibillion-dollar energy fund? EENews, Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter, ClimateWire: Monday, August 15, 2016 Bill Gates believes the key to addressing climate change is an “energy miracle,” and in November, he set about trying to conjure one.
Flanked by President Obama and more than a dozen other world leaders in Paris for the first day of a landmark climate summit, Gates claimed a role for the private sector in delivering new solutions.
“We must … add the skills and resources of leading investors with experience in driving innovation from the lab to the marketplace,” Gates said that morning. “The private sector knows how to build companies, evaluate the potential for success, and take the risks that lead to taking innovative ideas and bringing them to the world.”
But months have elapsed since the Microsoft Corp. co-founder and 27 other billionaires rolled out their Breakthrough Energy Coalition (BEC) — a promise to invest billions of dollars with a very long payback horizon on groundbreaking new carbon-neutral technologies. And the group has barely been heard from since.
Jonah Goldman, a spokesman for the coalition, said much of the work is happening behind the scenes. The fund, he said, will make announcements about the kinds of investments that will be made when it is up and running, likely toward the end of this year.
“But the focus is definitely more on doing the work we’ve committed to than making public pronouncements,” he said.
A few things are clear. Some of the group’s contributions will flow through a fund that will concentrate on certain kinds of investments. The group is currently hiring scientists and investment professionals who will direct those decisions. Goldman declined to say how many people are working to stand up the fund or how many employees it will eventually have.
Other things remain a mystery, including the coalition’s eventual capitalization target. Gates promised to invest an additional $1 billion of his own dollars when he launched BEC, and predicted the other members would contribute a collective “couple” billion more toward the venture. But it is unclear how much of that $3 billion — if it is $3 billion — will flow through the fund, versus members investing it independently. Goldman said the total size of the fund and targets for investment will be based on this year’s fundraising.
He said the goal would be to raise a level of capital that the fund could deploy effectively, with the understanding that some of the group’s members will continue to invest in projects outside the fund.
“We feel tremendously confident that we will get significant participation in the ultimate funding vehicle, but each of the potential investors will have to make that decision based on the terms presented, and we’re not quite there yet,” he said…..
Gates brought his message to Capitol Hill, where he met twice with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) in the past year to press the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee chairman for federal support for research and development.
The two men discussed small modular nuclear reactors and carbon capture and storage technology at the meetings, an Alexander aide said.
Then, in the three months before Paris, Gates bore down. He joined Energy and State department officials and White House personnel on calls with foreign governments to urge them to sign on to Mission Innovation, a commitment by countries to double their individual R&D budgets by 2020. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz spearheaded the initiative, which was unveiled in Paris alongside BEC (EnergyWire, Dec. 17, 2015).
On those calls, former officials say Gates offered the private investors fund as a kind of carrot, promising to help carry technologies produced in national laboratories across the “valley of death” — where ideas often perish for lack of investment — toward greater development that leads to commercialization.
But first governments had to put up the money…….
DOE vague on BEC relationship
Nineteen countries joined the United States in backing Mission Innovation in Paris, and the European Union signed on in June. Since then, the Obama administration has followed up with a fiscal 2017 funding request of $7.7 billion for clean energy R&D across the federal government, with $5.9 billion of that going to DOE programs…….
DOE was less forthcoming about its work with BEC post-Paris. A department spokesman said in response to an inquiry only that the agency “is in communication with thousands of researchers, entrepreneurs, inventors, small businesses and large corporations.”
While the spokesman asserted that the investors’ group and Mission Innovation are “separate” and “complementary,” the private-sector group has popped up in DOE communications with interested members of civil society. It figured, for example, in a slideshow presentation that Office of International Science and Technology Collaboration Director Robert Marlay prepared for the U.S. Energy Information Administration earlier this year.
The presentation states that the fund would provide “seed, angel and series A” investments. Seed capital is offered in exchange for a stake in a company, while angel investments help startup companies. “Series A” investments are typically the first round of venture capital investments that are made in a new company….
Some of the Gates group’s radio silence appears to be strategic.
Bodnar said Gates and his partners opted not to put forward a concrete pledge of dollars in Paris because it wasn’t a venue where the contribution would appear in its best light. Even a funding target that would be enough to fulfill the group’s goal of readying promising technologies for the market would pale in comparison to the hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars that are routinely discussed in the multilateral climate process…..
what the 28 billionaires managed to do was to signal there will now be “truly patient, flexible” capital available for promising technologies that make it through the basic research phase. Patient capital is seen to be key, because the high risk and very long time horizons for payback have generally made these technologies unattractive to conventional investors.
Bodnar said Gates and his colleagues were confident that the money they put up would be sufficient to ensure the gap is bridged between federally funded basic research and ready-to-deploy commercial technologies……http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060041571
US Debated Deploying Nuclear Weapons in Iceland, Iceland Review, 16 Aug 16 BY VALA HAFSTAD
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
Chinese executives charged with spying on USA nuclear technology, particularly Small Nuclear Reactor plans
US government accuses Hinkley point partner of nuclear espionage, SC Magazine, Max Metzger, Reporter, 12 Aug 16 Major partners in the controversial nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point have been accused in American courts of attempting to steal US nuclear technology. Fears over Chinese involvement in a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point have been reinforced as a major partner in the plant’s development has been accused by the US government of nuclear espionage.
Szuhsiung Ho, an advisor to the state-owned China General Nuclear Power (CGN) company, which would have a 33 percent stake in the new plant at Hinkley, has been charged with “conspiracy to unlawfully engage and participate in the production and development of special nuclear material outside the United States”.
Essentially, the US Department of Justice has accused Szuhsiung Ho, otherwise known as Allen Ho, of trying to steal US nuclear technology.
Ho, under orders from CGN, is supposed to have tried to get US nuclear experts to help develop nuclear material in China. According to a statement released by the DoJ, for nearly 20 years, between 1997 and 2016, Ho “identified, recruited and executed contracts with US-based experts from the civil nuclear industry who provided technical assistance related to the development and production of special nuclear material”.
Of particular interest to Ho and his co-conspirators was assistance with CGN’s programmes on small modular reactors, advanced fuel assembly and fixed in-core detectors.
If one is to act as an agent of a foreign power within the United States, their status must be declared to the US attorney general. Not only did Ho not do this but explicitly told those he was trying to recruit that he was acting on behalf of the Chinese state. The DoJ records him as telling his potential recruits that he was working surreptitiously to help China “to design their Nuclear Instrumentation System independently and manufacture them independently”.
None of the accusations have yet been proven but the charges could carry a sentence of life and a US$250,000 (£192,000) fine.
The case is being pursued by a number of US law enforcement agencies including the Department of Energy – National Nuclear Security Administration and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch Michael Steinbach said in a statement, “The arrest and indictment in this case send an important message to the US nuclear community that foreign entities want the information you possess”.
“The federal government has regulations in place to oversee civil nuclear cooperation, and if those authorities are circumvented, this can result in significant damage to our national security. The US will use all of its law enforcement tools to stop those who try to steal US nuclear technology and expertise.”…….http://www.scmagazineuk.com/us-government-accuses-hinkley-point-partner-of-nuclear-espionage/article/515702/
The charges only add to a growing sense of uncertainty around the Hinkley Point project. Earlier this month, the UK government announced it will reassess the investment plan and only make a final decision on whether the plant should be built this autumn.
Although the main investor, EDF Energy, has played down fears the project will be scrapped, China has warned the UK it must reach a decision quickly. Writing in the Financial Times, the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said: ‘Right now, the China–UK relationship is at a crucial historical juncture.’
Ho, who is a US citizen with dual residency in China, is set to appear in court next week.
CNSC review dismissing nuclear-safety concerns called a ‘sham’ GLORIA GALLOWAY OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail – Corrected version, Aug. 09, 2016 An internal review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission dismisses allegations that important information was withheld during the licensing of nuclear plants but two nuclear scientists say the review is “less than impartial” and a “sham” that should give Canadians no comfort.
In June, CNSC president Michael Binder received an anonymous letter, purported to have been written by employees at the nuclear regulator, that pointed to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant information that might have called the safety of a nuclear plant into question.
Peter Elder, a strategic adviser within the CNSC’s regulatory operations branch, who says he was able to maintain a neutral position because he did not work on the safety of nuclear power plants between 2008 and 2015, conducted a review that concluded late last week that none of the five cases point to any safety issues………
But two nuclear experts have written subsequent letters to Mr. Binder asking him to discard Mr. Elder’s review and to allow an arm’s-length inquiry into the allegations of the anonymous whistle-blowers.
Frank Greening, a nuclear chemist who is a former senior research scientist at Ontario Hydro, the predecessor of Ontario Power Generation, wrote that Mr. Elder’s claim to have conducted an independent investigation was “quite extraordinary and ridiculous.”
Mr. Elder “cannot possibly be independent because he is an employee of the CNSC,” wrote Dr. Greening. He asked Mr. Binder to “reject Mr. Elder’s less than impartial review.”
In a telephone interview, Dr. Greening said PSAs have, for many years “been taken very very seriously and formed the backbone of a licence renewal. And now the CNSC turns around and says well actually, they’re really not that important. That’s absurd.
“If I was one of those whistle-blowers, I would be very very distressed at this stage of the game.”
In a second letter, Sunil Nijhawan, a nuclear safety engineer with more than 35 years in the industry, wrote that Mr. Elder’s conclusions display an ignorance of basic safety principles and the legislated role of the CNSC.
“After a lifetime of working in PSAs I am now asking why so many of us toiled for years and why the industry was forced to spend well over $50-million on PSAs so far?” Dr. Nijhawan wrote. “Why are many in the rest of the world doing brilliant peer-reviewed PSAs and using the findings to not only improve operations, reduce risk and also come up with improved designs?”
Mr. Elder’s “sham” review only reinforces that view held by international nuclear professionals that there is an “incestuous” relationship between the CNSC and the utilities, Dr. Nijhawan wrote.
CNSC officials said in an e-mail on Tuesday that Mr. Elder’s review would be discussed at a commission meeting next week and they could make no further comment.
Tom Mulcair, the Leader of the federal New Democrats, wrote to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr after the anonymous letter became public to say he found the allegations alarming and warning that they must not be ignored……..http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/cnsc-review-dismissing-nuclear-safety-concerns-called-a-sham/article31338092/
Is the Energy Department doing enough to protect nuclear whistleblowers? BY LINDSAY WISE email@example.com WASHINGTON , 9 Aug 16 Changes announced by the U.S. Department of Energy to strengthen protections for nuclear whistleblowers don’t go far enough to fix deep-rooted problems unearthed in a recent audit, lawmakers and worker advocates say.
The audit, released last month, found that the DOE’s nuclear program rarely holds its civilian contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against contract employees who raise concerns about health, safety, fraud and waste.
The lack of enforcement has led to the creation of chilled work environments at nuclear sites across the country, according to the audit performed by the Government Accountability Office at the request of three Democratic senators: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
The senators had asked the GAO in 2014 to look into persistent incidents of retaliation against whistleblowers reported at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.
Over the next two years, the probe expanded to review the handling of 87 contractor employee complaints filed at 10 of the DOE’s largest nuclear facilities, including Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina.
One whistleblower, Sandra Black, said she was fired from her job as head of the employee concerns program at the Savannah River Site, also known as SRS, after she cooperated with GAO officials on the audit.
Steven Croley, the Department of Energy’s general counsel, did not mention the audit last week when he announced steps to strengthen protections for nuclear whistleblowers on the department’s website. Croley wrote in a blog post that the department plans to issue detailed guidance to its personnel to clarify “if and when” the agency will reimburse contractors’ legal costs in whistleblower cases.
The Department of Energy paid more than $62 million in legal fees for contractors in 36 settlements from 2009 to 2013, even though there was no documented evidence that the costs were allowable under department policy, according to another audit released in February by the DOE’s inspector general. Three of those cases involved whistleblower complaints……..
Nuclear safety watchdogs complain the reforms outlined by Croley are neither new nor effective. “It is the same thin gruel offered up for the past 30 years, dressed up as news,” said Tom Carpenter, director at Hanford Challenge, a regional public interest group in Seattle.
The DOE put similar reforms in place in the 1990s – including a zero tolerance policy for reprisals and a proposed limit on the reimbursement of contractors’ legal defense costs – but those measures failed to address the problem,
Specifically, the reform about civil penalties has limited value, Carpenter said. He pointed out that the DOE has had the power to bring civil penalties against contractors for whistleblower retaliation for decades, but has only done so twice in 30 years, as noted in the recent audit.
Carpenter also worries that the DOE seems to be narrowing the application of this provision to only include whistleblowers who raise nuclear safety or radiation issues, and not concerns about chemical vapor exposures, fraud, waste and abuse, violations of environmental regulations, etc.
“DOE keeps touting their broken programs to protect whistleblowers as if they actually work,” Carpenter said…. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article94458847.html
Iran executes nuclear scientist who returned to country from US Iranian judiciary confirms hanging of Shahram Amiri who it claims was a spy who had given away state secrets, Guardian, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, 7 Aug 16 Iran An Iranian nuclear scientist, whose disappearance in Saudi Arabia in 2009 and subsequent return to Tehran a year later from Washington was shrouded in mystery, has been executed in his home country.
The family of Shahram Amiri, an expert in radioactive isotopes at Tehran’s Malek Ashtar University, which is affiliated to Iran’s ministry of defence, told two overseas Persian-language TV networks at the weekend that he had been executed earlier in the week at an unknown location.
The spokesman for the Iranian judiciary confirmed on Sunday that Amiri had been hanged, claiming he had given away state secrets. The semi-official Tasnimnews agency quoted Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i as saying that Amiri had been convicted of spying and put to death after his sentence was upheld by the supreme court.
“This person had obtained top secret information and established contacts with our number one sworn enemy, America, and passed on our country’s most crucial intelligence to the enemy,” Mohseni-Eje’i said.
Amiri’s execution marks the final dark chapter in a real-life spy drama that was the subject of much speculation. It also gives more weight to claims that he defected to the US after going missing on a pilgrimage to Mecca some time in spring 2009.
A few months after Amiri’s disappearance, Iran’s then foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki accused the US of abducting the scientist. But ABC News reported in March 2010 that he had defected to the US as part of an intelligence coup aimed at undermining Iran’s nuclear programme. That report said he had been extensively debriefed by the US authorities……..https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/07/iran-executes-nuclear-scientist-shahram-amiri-returned-country-from-us
Documents detailing UK’s involvement in Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal vanish, Jerusalem Post, 5 Aug 16 Israel maintains a policy of ambiguity concerning nuclear weapons, neither confirming nor denying publicly that it has the capability. The United Kingdom on Thursday said that records detailing the UK’s involvement in Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal have gone missing over the last four years, according to London based internet publication, The Independent.
- The first NRC commissioner, William A. Anders (1975-76), went on to General Dynamics, where he earned $40 million in two years.
- Thomas M. Roberts (1981-1990) was asked to resign from the commission by critics in Congress due to conflicts of interest.
- Nils Diaz (1996-2006), exited the commission to become Chief Strategic Officer forBlue Castle Project, described as “leading the West in New Nuclear Power.”
- Jeffrey S. Merrifield (1998-2007), was investigated by the Project On Government Oversight while still a commissioner for getting contracts for the Shaw Group for whom he subsequently went to work, as well as having his travel tab paid by GE while job seeking there during his NRC tenure.
- Richard Meserve (1999-2003), who resigned during the Davis-Besse scandal, received a2012 Nuclear Energy Industry Leadership Award from the industry’s lobbying arm, the Nuclear Energy Institute, as testament to his industry loyalty.
- Former NRC Chairman, Dale Klein, (2006-10), now works for Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Company, at the center of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, where he oversees the corporation’s ongoing reactor restart effort.
- William D. Magwood, IV (2010-2014), resigned his commission seat to join the Nuclear Energy Association (NEA) in Paris, replacing Stephen Burns who took a new position as … Chairman of the NRC Commission!…….. http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987972/us_nuclear_regulatory_commissions_enforcement_is_as_fierce_as_the_comfy_chair.html
The NRC routinely fails to enforce its own safety codes at nuclear power plants, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – putting all of us at risk from accidents. It’s the US’s most extreme example of regulatory capture, rivalling Japan’s ‘nuclear village’ of crony agencies and feeble regulation that led to the Fukushima disaster. How long can it be before the US experiences another nuclear catastrophe?
Fetch the comfy chair! The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in town to enforce its own safety regulations at your local nuclear power plant. Reactor owners have been duly warned. Comply or else …
Or else what? Three more last chances? No, unlike Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, the NRC isn’t bothering to read the charges. It’s handing out immunity.
The US still has 30 operating reactors of the same General Electric design that exploded at Fukushima. Yet the NRC has decided not to require a significant safety retrofit that it had ordered in 2013, and that would have reduced the radioactive consequences of a major accident at one of these dangerously flawed reactors.
Or rather, the NRC will require it, but only after the reactor closes. The Oyster Creek nuclear generating station in New Jersey, which happens also to be the world’s prototype for the Fukushima reactors, is scheduled to close on December 31, 2019.
The NRC agreed to owner Exelon’s request for an extension to comply with the installation of a reliable severe accident-capable hardened vent. Exelon’s new deadline? January 2020, just after the reactor will be permanently shuttered.
Similarly, the Entergy-owned Pilgrim nuclear plant near Plymouth, MA, also a GE Fukushima design, and which has announced a June 1, 2019 shutdown date, hasrequested and extension to comply with the vent order until December 31, 2019.
It’s tempting be cynical and assume that by agreeing to extend such deadlines, the NRC is hoping owners will change their minds and keep their reactors open. After all, shutdowns are bad for business, and the NRC is very much in league with the interests of its industry friends.
Nothing illustrated this better than the NRC’s decision to provide a 20-year license extension to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant – another Fukushima clone – ten days into the 11th March 2011 Japan nuclear disaster. Luckily, the owners closed the financially hemorrhaging plant at the end of 2014.
The consistent pattern: industry cost cuts before public safety
Beleaguered by an economic nosedive, the nuclear industry has consistently challenged the NRC’s safety compliance orders to avoid the expense, putting profit well ahead of safety. The NRC has consistently and obligingly capitulated, even when the risk itself is identified as a top priority……..
Genius – let the nuclear industry self-report its own violations!
The list goes on. At the Exelon-owned Braidwood, IL nuclear power plant, starting in 1996, millions of gallons of water contaminated with tritium (radioactive hydrogen) leaked from the plant for 10 years while Exelon covered it up.
The tritiated water spilled onto roadways and into ditches, contaminating nearby agricultural fields, ponds and the drinking water wells of surrounding homeowners. Two on-site NRC inspectors supposedly failed to notice the lake of radioactive water flooding on and off the site.
The NRC’s solution was to allow the industry to self-report future leaks through an unenforceable voluntary honor system; a guarantee for further cover-ups. This despite revelations including in a report by my organization Beyond Nuclear – Leak First, Fix Later, and by the Associated Press that radioactive leaks were likely occurring at almost every nuclear plant in the country……….
Who is watching? Certainly not Congress, to whom the NRC is supposed to answer but which has rarely asked the agency to explain its negligence. Instead, there have been scores of close calls at US nuclear plants -166 in the last decade alone according to Greenpeace. The NRC has issued dozens of license extensions to old, decrepit reactors and denied none.
‘The agency is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry’
All this should have changed in 1974 when the Energy Reorganization Act divided the then Atomic Energy Commission into two new agencies – the NRC and what would become the Department of Energy. This was done to create a dividing line between nuclear regulation and promotion, with the NRC assuming the former role.
But the umbilical cord never got cut. The NRC didn’t just climb straight back into bed with the nuclear industry. It crawled back into the womb, as former NRC commissioner and now critic, Peter Bradford, told the New York Times: “The NRC inherited the regulatory staff and adopted the rules and regulations of the AEC intact.”
Meanwhile, since the agency’s inception, many outgoing NRC Commissioners have sailed away in golden parachutes straight into plum nuclear industry jobs…….
A few former commissioners, including Bradford (1977-82) and Victor Gilinsky (1974-84) became stern critics of the agency after their tenures. “The agency is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry”, Gilinsky said.
“It’s common knowledge in Washington that anyone nominated to be a commissioner to the NRC has to be pre-approved by the nuclear industry”, Union of Concerned Scientists senior scientist, Edwin Lyman told Forbes. “In order to get a more independent mindset, you’ve got to break that stranglehold.”
The Japanese parliament found that out after it commissioned a causal study on the Fukushima disaster in 2012. When the independent investigators delivered their verdict, they described the calamity as “man-made” and attributed it to collusion between government, regulator and TEPCO.
The NRC seems bent on repeating those mistakes while Members of Congress continue to do the bidding of the nuclear industry lobby and little to represent the safety and wellbeing of their real employers: all of us.
Do those nice fat checks from lobbyists buy their silence? Do they just not care? Or are they in fact worse than the NRC itself? The industry is once again pitching for a reduction in what it sees as burdensome regulatory oversight. Will Congress agree and slash the NRC budget to streamline what is already a rubber stamp system on safety?
Meanwhile, the NRC continues to look the other way on violations of its own safety regulations. It is happy to ignore potentially deadly defects and age-related degradation at the country’s nuclear plants in order to save the beleaguered industry any additional expense.
It will choose to risk potentially tens of thousands of lives to keep that revolving door spinning and the pathway clear to cushy jobs in the nuclear industry. That’s worse than collusion and negligence. It’s criminal. Are we outraged yet? http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987972/us_nuclear_regulatory_commissions_enforcement_is_as_fierce_as_the_comfy_chair.html
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