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A call for John Hopkins University to stop helping nuclear weapons industry

Hopkins must take a stand against its nuclear weapons production,  https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2019/11/hopkins-must-take-a-stand-against-its-nuclear-weapons-production

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | November 21, 2019 After years of protests from students, the University continues to invest in fossil fuel companies. It has an exclusivity contract with PepsiCo, a company that uses suppliers who violate child labor laws, going against ethical and sustainable business practices. Most recently, the University was slow to end contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the government agency that is responsible for separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The University’s involvement in these contracts has been well publicized and heavily criticized by students and professors alike. Adding to this list of questionable practices is a partnership that is less well-known, but just as problematic: a contract with the U.S. government to take part in nuclear weapons research.

On Nov. 13, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) published a report stating that 49 U.S. universities are complicit in the production of nuclear weapons. The group calls on students and faculty to “demand their universities stop helping to build weapons of mass destruction.”

The report is scathing. It repeatedly mentions Hopkins, highlighting its involvement in creating nuclear weapons for the U.S. ICAN notes that Hopkins receives twice as much funding as any other university from the Department of Defense (DOD) largely because of the work of its renowned Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Created in 1942 for weapons development in World War II, the APL has since served as a technical resource for the U.S. government, developing numerous technologies for air and missile defense, naval warfare, computer security and space science.

In 2017, the APL received a seven year contract with the DOD for $93 million to continue the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center’s strategic partnership. This contributes to the multi-year contract with the agency that is now worth more than $7 billion.

The research involved in this deal is largely classified. On the surface, this seems to contradict the University’s policy against classified research. However, the APL is exempt from this policy, as it is the only part of the University listed as a “non-academic division.”

The University continues to brand itself as an ethical research institution. However, its direct involvement with the development of weapons of mass destruction is contradictory to these actions.

We believe that Hopkins should remove itself from all contracts associated with nuclear weapons. Instead, the APL should focus on research that does not have the same devastating and inhumane implications that nuclear weapons do.

Those who support the University’s work with nuclear weapons may argue that Hopkins receives a high monetary benefit from their partnership with the Department of Defense. They may also claim that Hopkins, which is just one of nearly 50 universities conducting research, can’t make any difference on its own. Even if Hopkins ends the contracts, why would other schools do the same?

These arguments are valid, and we understand the concerns that are associated with terminating the contracts. It is true that Hopkins receives a hefty sum for its involvement with the DOD. According to ICAN, “the funding ceiling for its ongoing contract was extended beyond $7 billion” in 2019.

There is also a turning tide against nuclear weapons development across the world. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, introduced to the United Nations in 2017, bans the development and use of nuclear weapons by signatories. So far, 122 countries have signed on, though the U.S. and most western countries have not. If Hopkins and other reputable institutions take a stand against nuclear weapons development, it will send a sign to the world at large that we want to move on from using these weapons of mass destruction.

Large scale change starts small, and it starts with us. We encourage students to take a stand for what they believe in. As with any other issue, there are multiple ways to tell Hopkins that it’s time for a change. On their website, ICAN outlines three ways that students can speak out. They recommend publicizing the issue, demanding transparency from universities and calling on them to end their work with nuclear weapons.

We know that there’s no guarantee that Hopkins will end its contracts and stop working on nuclear weapons development. But by speaking out, we can initiate the change. Activists who are part of sustainability and pro-peace groups can protest against nuclear weapons production. Students who are majoring in STEM fields can take a stand against working at the associated departments at the APL, and should be aware of the larger implications of any research they are involved in. All students can tell Hopkins that we demand an explanation and that we take issue with the greater mission behind the research.

The University’s mission statement, in part, mentions that its goal is “To educate its students and cultivate their capacity for lifelong learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world.” We hope that the University will refocus its attention on these goals. If Hopkins turns away from nuclear weapons research, other institutions may follow in our path. Making the world a safer place is the best way to bring the benefits of our discovery to everyone.

November 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, Education, USA | Leave a comment

John Hopkins University prominent in helping the nuclear weapons industry

Johns Hopkins University among schools furthering nuclear weapons, BALTIMORE SUN |NOV 20, 2019 When choosing a university, students should be weighing class sizes, major options or even the dining hall food quality. But what they shouldn’t have to consider is if their dream school helps to build nuclear weapons.

A new report reveals that nearly 50 U.S. colleges and universities contribute to building and maintaining U.S. nuclear weapons, in direct contradiction to their mission statements and often without the knowledge of their students and faculty. Three local universities are among these schools of mass destruction: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and George Washington University and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory is a Defense Department-affiliated research center that works on nuclear weapons, which helped Johns Hopkins receive $828 million in research and development grants from the Defense Department for Fiscal Year 2017 — more than twice as much any other American university. The laboratory renewed a seven-year contract in 2017 to continue a strategic partnership with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center.

The laboratory operates away from the prying eyes of most students and faculty in a 453-acre, off-campus location. While Johns Hopkins generally exempts classified research, there is a blanket exemption policy for classified research at the Applied Physics Laboratory.

George Washington University maintains a Stockpile Stewardship Academic Alliance Center of Excellence, receiving $12.5 million in grants over five years for research relevant to the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

Georgetown University is a university partner of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. While the details of the partnership are not public, Lawrence Livermore receives 86% of its funding from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Weapons Activities Appropriations for the design, engineering and evaluation of nuclear warheads.

College students should learn how to make the world a better place, not how to develop the tools to end it. Universities themselves make this point in their mission statements. Johns Hopkins sums up its mission as “knowledge for the world.” The mission of George Washington University is to “educate individuals in liberal arts, languages, sciences, learned professions, and other courses and subjects of study, and to conduct scholarly research and publish the findings of such research.” Georgetown University’s website states that at the core of its Jesuit tradition are “transcendent values, including the integration of learning, faith and service; care for the whole person; character and conviction; religious truth and interfaith understanding; and a commitment to building a more just world.”

It is time for these universities to live up to their own moral objectives.

As a first step, universities must provide more clarity about their work to support U.S. nuclear weapons so that students and faculty can make informed choices about where they would like to invest their intellectual capital. Johns Hopkins should reconsider whether permitting classified research at the Applied Physics Laboratory is in line with its “commitment to openness in documentation and dissemination of research results.

George Washington University should shut down its “Stockpile Stewardship Academic Alliance Center of Excellence,” unless it receives a legally-binding guarantee that none of the basic research the center conducts will be applied to maintaining and expanding the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

Georgetown may continue to partner with Lawrence Livermore on the minority of the laboratory’s research that contributes to “building a more just world.” But it must explicitly reject research for the laboratory’s main objective — building and maintaining nuclear weapons.

Universities can play a key role to equip the next generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills to make the world better a place. Nuclear weapons don’t belong there.

Alicia Sanders-Zakre (alicia@icanw.org) is policy and research coordinator of ICAN, Winners of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.  https://www.baltimoresun.com/opinion/op-ed/bs-ed-op-1121-universities-nuclear-weapons-20191120-m77eyfshsngizdmsbl64z3mm7a-story.html

November 21, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA | 1 Comment

49 USA universities get lots of money for helping to develop nuclear weapons

‘Schools of Mass Destruction’: Report Details 49 US Universities Abetting Nuclear Weapons Complex https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/11/13/schools-mass-destruction-report-details-49-us-universities-abetting-nuclear-weapons “Why would an institution of higher learning support weapons that cause terrible humanitarian consequences?”

Nearly 50 universities across the United States are abetting the “nuclear weapons complex” with involvement that is at times “direct and unabashed.”

That’s according to a new report released Wednesday by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), “Schools of Mass Destruction: American Universities in the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex.” The report calls out 49 educational institutions, describes their direct and indirect involvement, and recommends steps the universities, students, and faculty can take to address the issue.

The report names prestigious universities including Stanford, Georgetown, and MIT. The cited universities have reportedly engaged in four different avenues of complicity in nuclear weapons production, defying their own mission statements and international law.

In return, the report says, “universities receive funding, access to research facilities, and specific career opportunities for students.”

The complicity, according to ICAN, falls into one of four categories: direct management, institutional partnerships, research programs and partnerships, and workforce development programs.

From the report’s profiles on Georgetown University and the University of Nevada – Reno:

In return, the report says, “universities receive funding, access to research facilities, and specific career opportunities for students.”

The complicity, according to ICAN, falls into one of four categories: direct management, institutional partnerships, research programs and partnerships, and workforce development programs.

From the report’s profiles on Georgetown University and the University of Nevada – Reno:

  • Georgetown is listed as a university partner on the website of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. According to administration at Georgetown, the university has a formal agreement with the laboratory and collaborates in the areas of neuroscience, physics and cancer, with the lab hosting graduate students for summer internships. The Lawrence Livermore lab provides design and engineering for several nuclear warhead types and conducts simulated experiments to evaluate warheads.
  • The University of Nevada – Reno developed a new Graduate Certificate in Nuclear Packaging in partnership with the Department of Energy. A Nevada National Security Site engineer was the first to complete the program. The Nevada National Security Site is the location of nearly 1,000 tests of nuclear weapons in past decades, leading to serious health impacts for nearby residents and participating military personnel. Currently, staff at the site conduct simulated experiments to test the reliability and performance of nuclear weapons. The site also hosts “subcritical experiments” that allow for the evaluation of nuclear weapons materials under certain conditions, but do not cause a “self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.”

Those universities are not the “most complicit.” That dubious honor goes to the University of California,  Texas A&M University, Johns Hopkins University, and University of New Mexico. In a Twitter thread, ICAN highlighted those schools’ involvement:

#1 The state of California supports a ban of #nuclearweaponshttp://bit.ly/2pbn7OT,but  the @UofCalifornia has continuously managed the primary #nuclearweapons labs for the US since WWII. When will UC stop supporting weapons that pose a catastrophic threat to our existence?

#2 @TAMU administration has publicly stated its “commitment to the #nuclearweapons industry.”http://bit.ly/2CyVbau  Why would an institution of higher learning support weapons that cause terrible humanitarian consequences?

#3 @JohnsHopkins’ applied physics lab is directly involved in #nuclearweapons production. It receives more than twice as much funding from the US @DeptofDefense than any other U.S. university. @JHUPress @JHUNewsLetter

#4 More than 3,800 New Mexicans have suffered serious illness or death as a result of US nuclear weapons tests  http://bit.ly/33IL4vS  So why does the @UNM University of New Mexico wants its faculty and students to collaborate with #nuclearweapons lab scientists?

The report comes as Trump administration policies have given rise to fears of a new arms race. As the report notes,

In the United States, the Trump administration has expanded plans to upgrade the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Over the next ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates U.S. taxpayers will pay nearly $500 billion to maintain and modernize its country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, or almost $100,000 per minute.

Also noted in the publication is the administration’s withdrawal earlier this year from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia and its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which calls for “diversifying” the country’s nuclear arsenal.

That gives greater urgency to the call for the schools to sever their partnerships—and the clear support for the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ICAN says, should be seen as an opportunity for action.

U.S. universities must reconsider connections to the nuclear weapons complex due to the devastating humanitarian and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons and because current U.S. policies make their use more likely,” says the report.

A first step is for schools to be more transparent about their involvement in the nuclear weapons complex but that’s not enough. “Universities would not willingly participate today in research enabling the production of chemical and biological weapons. Nuclear weapons are morally equivalent to these other weapons of mass destruction.”

Students and faculty can take action as well. ICAN suggests sharing the report to increase awareness, demanding the institutions make their research transparent, and calling on the schools to become part of the effort to  ban nuclear weapons by dropping their involvement.

November 16, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

USA universities in the money as they help develop nuclear weapons

UNIVERSITIES ACROSS AMERICA PROFIT FROM DEVELOPING NUCLEAR WEAPONS. IT’S UNCONSCIONABLE,  https://www.newsweek.com/universities-funding-nuclear-weapons-research-1471572   BEATRICE FIHN ON 11/13/19 Americans like a good comeback story, but the recent revitalization of the nuclear arms race is not one to be cheered. President Trump plans to charge the American taxpayer nearly $100,000 a minute to expand the nation’s nuclear weapons capabilities.Other nuclear-armed countries are doing the same.

A new generation of nuclear weapons requires a new generation of workers to develop and maintain these weapons of mass destruction. The National Nuclear Security Administration reported to Congress that 40 percent of its workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years.The U.S. government and its contractors have turned to the nation’s universities to provide this human capital. A new report documents formal ties between nearly 50 college campuses and the nuclear weapons complex.

The extent to which universities have joined this endeavor is surprising. Supporting weapons of mass destruction does not show up in any university mission statements. In fact, it’s often the opposite: universities like to talk about bringing the benefits of knowledge to a global community.

The dangers posed by nuclear weapons are clear. Yet universities still choose to support them anyway. Students and faculty now face a choice. They can become the next generation of weapons scientists. Or they can refuse to be complicit in this scheme, denying research partnerships or internships at nuclear weapons labs.Currently, universities across the country receive millions and in some cases billions of dollars to support nuclear weapons development. Universities directly manage nuclear weapons labs, form institutional agreements with these labs and related production sites, pursue research partnerships with nuclear weapons scientists, and provide targeted workforce development for these facilities.

Many of the universities with more extensive connections to nuclear weapons are household names: the University of California, Texas A&M University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of New Mexico. Others, such as local technical and vocational schools, are less well-known.

Nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction, just like chemical and biological weapons. They carry devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences that do not stop at national borders. Thousands still suffer from the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands more suffer from the effects of nuclear weapons testing in the 20th century, including in the U.S.

One Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimated that radioactive fallout from nuclear tests would kill an additional 11,000 Americans due to an increase in fatal cancers. The United States has paid more than $2.3 billion in compensation to individuals affected by nuclear test fallout. Those most affected by tests around the world have been the already marginalized: indigenous and colonized peoples, women and children.

Some see value in the nuclear weapons complex because it supplies thousands of jobs. These boosters fail to acknowledge the studies that demonstrate how defense spending produces fewer jobs per dollar than investment in other areas, like education, health care or infrastructure. The business of nuclear weapons does not provide jobs; it takes them away.

Our choice today is between a future without nuclear weapons or no future at all. Seventy-nine nations (and counting) have signed the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons; American states and cities are voting to urge the US to join them. Universities that support nuclear weapons make the wrong choice and their communities should refuse to be complicit.

Students, faculty, alumni, and community members — who often fund these schools through their tax dollars — can also take concrete action to help their universities join the right side of history.

They can push for transparency around any ties to the nuclear weapons complex, install ethical review processes for basic or dual-purpose research funded by the complex, and prohibit classified research. They can ask University administrations to stop direct management of nuclear weapons production sites and dissolve research contracts solely related to nuclear weapons production.

University communities and administrations together can lobby the federal government to flip its funding priorities, so that nonproliferation and disarmament verification research receive more funding than weapons activities.

A society can—and should—actively debate the extent to which universities are to serve explicitly national interests. But there should be no debate when it comes to supporting weapons of mass destruction. American academia must stop enabling mass murder.

Beatrice Fihn is the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winners.

November 14, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

USA Office of Nuclear Energy taking over STEM education

Nuclear power pack: 3 Can’t miss STEM resources on nuclear energy, USA Office of Nuclear Energy  SEPTEMBER 17, 2019  “………. DOE recently partnered with the American Nuclear Society and Discovery Education to develop high school and elementary curriculum.

Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our Free World is packed with FREE K-12 resources to support educators who want to incorporate nuclear into their lesson plans. All activities and lesson plans are Next Generation Science Standard-aligned.

The middle school curriculum is ready for teachers to use. High school and elementary resources are under development and will be rolled out over the next two years, so stay tuned!

The DOE-sponsored curriculum will include new perspectives on computer science, computational thinking and culturally-responsive curriculum……..

Inspiring future generations of leaders, scientists, and engineers is what we’re all about at DOE. Our Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) supports students’ passion for nuclear by funding nuclear energy research and infrastructure projects at colleges and universities across the nation.  ……..  https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/nuclear-power-pack-3-can-t-miss-stem-resources-nuclear-energy

September 19, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. and Canadian govts funding promotion of Small Nuclear Reactors: nuclear lobby infiltrates education

Regulators formalise technical collaboration on SMR regulation,WNN, 16 August 2019  Canadian and US nuclear regulators have signed a first-of-a-kind Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) that will see them collaborate on the technical reviews of advanced reactor and small modular reactor (SMR) technologies. Meanwhile, the US Department of Energy has awarded funds to build SMR simulators at three US universities.
The MoC was signed on 15 August in Ottawa by Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) President Rumina Velshi and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Christine Svinicki and follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed two years ago. …..
The US DOE has awarded three grants to support the installation of a NuScale reactor plant simulators at Oregon State University, Texas A&M University-College Station and the University of Idaho, NuScale Power announced on 15 August. The simulators will be used for research and educational purposes…..
We are very grateful to our university partners for their collaboration and eagerness to participate in this project, and to the Department of Energy for its continued support of NuScale’s groundbreaking work in the advanced nuclear industry,” NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins said. “These simulator facilities will create new research opportunities and help ensure that we educate future generations about the important role nuclear power and SMR technology will play in attaining a safe, clean and secure energy future for our country.”

The simulator facilities will also be used for educational outreach to school-age students and public advocacy regarding nuclear power and SMR technology. The three grants are awarded through the DOE Nuclear Energy University Program and are worth a total of nearly USD844,000.

The simulators are based on NuScale’s simulator technology and computer models, and include an interface that accepts input from operators in a virtual control room and displays parameters simulating the plant response. They facilitate research into human factors engineering, human-system interface design, advanced diagnostics, cyber security and plant control room automation. In addition to supporting STEM research and education at universities, NuScale’s simulator can be used to show students and members of the public advanced nuclear technology in a control room setting. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Regulators-formalise-technical-collaboration-on-SM?feed=feed

August 19, 2019 Posted by | Canada, Education, USA | 1 Comment

In pro nuclear drive, U.S. Energy Dept pours money into universities

Energy Department Invests Nearly $50 Million at National Laboratories and Universities to Advance Nuclear Technology
JUNE 27, 2019  “………
DOE is awarding more than $28.5 million through its Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to support 40 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects in 23 states. NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.Additionally, seven university-led projects will receive more than $1.6 million for research reactor and infrastructure improvements providing important safety, performance and student education-related upgrades to a portion of the nation’s 25 university research reactors as well as enhancing university research and training infrastructure.

Crosscutting Research Projects

Five research and development projects led by DOE national laboratories and U.S. universities will receive $4.5 million in funding. Together, they will conduct research to address crosscutting nuclear energy challenges that will help to develop advanced sensors and instrumentation, advanced manufacturing methods, and materials for multiple nuclear reactor plant and fuel applications.

Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF)

DOE has selected two university-, one national laboratory- and three industry-led projects that will take advantage of NSUF capabilities to investigate important nuclear fuel and material applications. DOE will support three of these projects with a total of $1.5 million in research funds.

June 29, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

Education as anti-Russian nuclear strategy: USA’s Department of Energy co-opts another educational institution

Physics department to develop nuclear science program for graduate students, The GW Hatchet,  

Faculty in the physics department will receive funding from the Department of Energy to develop new nuclear science and engineering programming for international students.

Faculty said they are working to form a Nuclear Education Hub that will teach aspects of operating nuclear reactors to graduate students in a partnership with Virginia Tech. The efforts, which faculty aim to complete this fall, will focus on recruiting Ukrainian graduate students by offering them the opportunity to learn about nuclear physics unconstrained by outdated Russian safety standards for nuclear power plants, the standards most Ukrainian plants were built on.

Andrei Afanasev, the director of the project and an associate professor of theoretical physics, said faculty are primarily designing the program for Ukrainian students because Ukraine relies on nuclear power plants to generate electricity and because American nuclear companies have shown increasing interest in Ukraine’s nuclear operations……..

William Briscoe, the chair of the physics department, said the partnership was partly inspired by the desire to separate Ukraine from Russian influence ……He said the program is designed to train students who will likely work at Ukrainian nuclear power plants in the future……. https://www.gwhatchet.com/2019/05/13/physics-department-to-develop-nuclear-science-program-for-graduate-students/

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

Bristol University now closely aligned with nuclear companies, including Framatome (formerly bankrupt AREVA)

Bristol selected to advise energy industry on safety of nuclear equipment,  University of Bristol 28 March 2019, The University of Bristol has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work with major national and international players in the energy market to ensure that all nuclear equipment meets required standards.

Under the partnership with EQUALLETM (an alliance of Framatome, Bureau Veritas, Doosan Babcock), Bristol will act as an expert guide for EQUALLE’s partners and suppliers, undertaking seismic qualification of equipment going onto nuclear power plants in the UK. ……

Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering has been heavily involved with UK civil nuclear stakeholders.

Already working with EDF Energy, substantial activities have been taking place to support the case for the UK Nuclear Plants life extension………. Thomas Epron, VP Global sales, Framatome’s Installed Base Business Unit, said: “This new partnership in equipment qualification with Bristol University is an additional step to build a comprehensive offer to the UK nuclear industry…….. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2019/march/nuclear-partnership.html

March 30, 2019 Posted by | Education, UK | Leave a comment

‘Ionising radiation’ not so bad’ – subtle cover-up of the dangers, by Japan’s Centre for Environmental Creation

Teaching about radiation after Fukushima, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Maxime Polleri, February 26, 2019 ……..In the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns, which triggered a released of radioactive pollutants, the Japanese state initially decided to increase the mandatory evacuation trigger from 1 millisievert of radiation exposure per year to 20 millisieverts per year. In other words, the public was forced to accept a new threshold of safety. While this policy caused much scientific and public controversy, 20 millisieverts per year remains the benchmark for what is considered safe in Fukushima. Places like the Centre for Environmental Creation downplay the controversy of a raised threshold of exposure.

Situated in the town of Miharu and opened in July 2016, the center was established by the prefecture of Fukushima, with the financial support of the Japanese government, to conduct research and provide education on radioactive contamination. The center is one of several government-sponsored revitalization projects aimed at rebuilding the trust of people living in Fukushima. Mostly visited by young families, it represents a new approach to risk communication. As a technical advisor explained to me, this approach aims to “deepen the understanding of children about radiation” by allowing visitors to experience information firsthand through interactive games, fun activities, and cute presentations.

Our Friend the Atom (Tomorrow Land) – Walt Disney Treasures

Past efforts to present nuclear science in appealing ways have often blended education with propaganda. The 1957 Disney TV episode Our Friend the Atomis a perfect example of this. What are the dangers of resorting to such forms of explanations in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster? In 2015 and 2017, I spent a total of 14 months in Japan examining the public’s interactive experience at state-sponsored centers and public activities that explain radiation. I found that while the information on radiation is easy to understand, many aspects of its hazards are carefully concealed. In particular, the government’s educational approach shifts the post-Fukushima Japanese public’s attention away from manmade danger and toward a vision of naturalness, technological amusement, and scientific amazement. In doing so, this approach downplays the risk inherent to residual radioactivity in Fukushima.

The naturalness of radiation. One way to neutralize the perceived harmfulness of radiation is to make the phenomenon appear as natural as possible, by emphasizing the radioactivity coming from natural sources. At the Centre for Environmental Creation, one of the most popular attractions is an enormous spherical theater, where visitors are bombarded with sounds and images in a 360-degree multisensory experience that describes radiation as a natural part of daily life. “It can be found everywhere! From the sun’s ray to the mineral in the earth,” claims the theater’s narrator. “Without radiation, no life would exist on Earth!” After these explanations, an enormous Boeing passes above theatergoers’ heads in the cinematic sky, and the amount of radiation exposure received during an intercontinental flight is said to be higher than the level of radiation found in Fukushima. Their necks strained upward, visitors mumble words of apparent relief.

What the theater fails to explain, however, is that there is nothing natural about the radioactive isotopes released during the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and that background radiation has little to do with the hazards of breathing or swallowing fission products—which are not rays, but dust-like particles. For instance, strontium 90, if inhaled or ingested, mimics calcium to enter an individual’s bone marrow and cause lifelong radiation exposure. This exposure can cause mutations in living cells—a permanent alteration that can lead to cancers, genetic problems, or immune disorders.

It’s all fun and games. Information about radiation is often promoted through an enjoyable experience that conceals disturbing aspects of the phenomenon. In front of a giant interactive screen, for example, children can move their bodies to “block” radiation. By selecting the proper material, they can block either radioactive alpha particles, beta particles, or gamma rays. They pretend that their bodies are thick metal plates used to hamper harmful external exposure. By doing so, they collect points, and at the end of the game, the child with the highest score wins.

By transforming radiation protection into a game that focuses on blocking external radiation, children do not learn of the risk of internal contamination from radioactive particles such as cesium 137, which was released in significant amounts by the Fukushima disaster. If internalized, cesium 137 gets distributed throughout the body, irradiating soft tissues such as muscles and ovaries. And because the children’s game blocks radiation in “real time,” there is no mention of any delayed health effects of radiation exposure, such as potential harmful genetic changes.

At the Decontamination Info Plaza, the government promotes similar activities. Situated in the city of Fukushima, the Plaza was established in January 2012 as a joint program between the prefecture of Fukushima and Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. The Plaza’s purpose is to provide information about radiation in general, as well as explanations about monitoring methods, workshops on decontamination, and advice on contaminated sites. Basic information about radiation is presented to the public in a very accessible, visual, and interactive form…….

Radiation is our friend! A third way to downplay the perception of radiation danger is to link radiation with the wonders of science and technology. This was particularly apparent during an April 2016 open house organized by the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, Japan’s leading radiological institute, which is situated in Chiba, east of Tokyo. Titled “I Want to Know More! What Can You Do with Radiation?” the public fair was a popular event at which visitors could see the institute’s research facilities, the latest PET scan technology for medical imaging, and the cyclotrons used in nuclear medicine to produce radioisotopes. A special elevator led down to the Heavy Ion Medical Accelerator, situated in an impressive subterranean facility.

……..At this institute, manmade radiation was effectively linked to technologies that sustain life. For instance, the open house showed how the radiation-related devices at the institute produce particle therapies to treat cancer.

While there was nothing inaccurate about the center’s explanations of radiation as a medical treatment, the information presented was unrelated to the dangers faced during a nuclear disaster. If visitors wanted to hear more about such risks, they had to visit the station called “Impact of Fukushima.” The small station was, however, much less appealing than the other venues. It consisted of four small posters that focused on the decontamination process without explaining the adverse health effects of exposure to manmade radioisotopes.

… Radiation was emphasized as a useful agent that could penetrate the body and kill harmful tumors, as was demonstrated on medical dummies during the event. In the end, by heavily framing radiation information around a beacon of technological wonder, the public opening day glossed over the danger of radioactive contamination and selectively amplified the beneficial aspects of radiation.

Education vs. propaganda. In interviews that I conducted with officials and technical advisors employed at the aforementioned places, I was told that Fukushima is afflicted by “harmful rumors” surrounding the real extent of radiation harm and that this misunderstanding stems from public ignorance of radiological science. It is in this context that government-sanctioned approaches aim to provide “basic information” that will help citizens fear radiation in an “appropriate way,” thereby creating an environment in which people feel they can safely return to Fukushima. While this is a worthy endeavor, the government’s approach emphasizes specific understandings of radioactivity that overshadow the particular risks introduced by manmade radioactive pollutants resulting from a nuclear accident……….. https://thebulletin.org/2019/02/teaching-about-radiation-after-fukushima/

February 28, 2019 Posted by | Education, Japan | Leave a comment

Subtle “education” in Japan, to downplay the risks of ionising radiation

Disney Educational Video Our Friend, the Atom (1957)

Teaching about radiation after FukushimaBulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Maxime Polleri, February 26, 2019 “…………..Ultimately, I have doubts about these education programs – [ Centre for Environmental Creation, Japan] . They are selective in their nature, making only certain aspects of radiation tangible through their public activities, while rarely explaining in detail the dangers of adverse health effects linked with residual radioactivity. From my viewpoint, their purpose seems to be dual: While they aim to shed light on the phenomenon of radiation, they are also covertly looking to defuse the threat of widespread societal unrest, to reclaim political control and economic stability, and to pacify a fearful public—and in ways that are perhaps more beneficial to the state than to affected individuals.

In a community where dangerous residual radioactivity has become a public everyday concern, coming to grips with serious contamination requires more education than ever before. The important word here is education. Not state propaganda disguised as education. There is a fine line between these two, but it is a line that needs to be clearly drawn. While Japanese state approaches are innovative in their interactivity and freedom from jargon, they are less so in their content.

I strongly agree that the existence of state-sponsored educational programs is better than to simply ignore radioactive risk. But mobilizing specific explanations that downplay the real risk faced by citizens is not sustainable. Doing so will reproduce the ignorance, secrecy, and values that led to this disaster. Public well-being, democracy, and science cannot thrive in such context. An unbiased effort to educate people about the specific hazards of radioactive contamination, and correct misunderstandings about the risk of radiation exposure, does not have to be delivered in a dry and clinical manner. It can be as fun and engaging as anything the Japanese centers, exhibits, and public days are already doing.

There is one scene from my time in Japan that I cannot forget: the unadulterated smile of the happy child who had won the contest of blocking radiation. While the kid had learned much about radiation, he had learned little about the complexity of radiation hazards. I could not help thinking of Major Kong straddling the bomb in the film Dr. Strangelove, enjoying the nuclear ride without thinking about it too much, shouting “Yee Haw!” at the top of his lungs. https://thebulletin.org/2019/02/teaching-about-radiation-after-fukushima/

February 27, 2019 Posted by | Education, Japan | Leave a comment

UK nuclear lobby tries to involve children, as it promotes Hinkley project

Bridgwater Mercury 14th Feb 2019 , MORE than 70 children from local primary schools headed to Hinkley C last week for the official naming ceremony of three enormous tunnel boring machines.

The competition gave 215 primary schools from across Somerset the
opportunity to name the three 1,200 tonne tunnel boring machines that will
soon begin the construction of the new power station’s water inlet and
outfall tunnels. After arriving safely at the construction site by sea and
road, the trio of tunnelling machines will soon be removing 370,000 cubic
metres of earth to enable 3.3 kilometres of tunnels to be built underneath
the seabed. The tunnels will carry seawater to cool the two reactors, the
first of which will see first operation in 2025.
ttps://www.bridgwatermercury.co.uk/news/17433214.huge-hinkley-c-tunnel-boring-machines-named-after-inspirational-women/

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Education, UK | Leave a comment

Nuclear power: Surviving on secrecy and misinformation 

https://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/long-form/nuclear-power-surviving-secrecy-and-misinformation-1528468 Mowdud Rahman and Debasish Sarker, 2 Feb 2018
While countries like Germany, Belgium, France, and Japan are trying to find an escape route from nuclear power, Bangladesh is taking two steps back. Although the 2,400-MW Rooppur nuclear power project has already garnered some support, there are critical issues that need to be addressed for the country’s safety and security. We need to establish whether the claims of cheap electricity, people’s acceptance, risk-free waste management and use of safe technology are simply rhetoric or not. We also need to draw a careful line between fact and propaganda.

Technology is not the answer

Technology is ever-changing, ever-developing. Thus, the glorification of the “third generation plus” reactor for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) must be challenged.

Russian company Rosatom won the bid to construct the plant in Bangladesh and is now trying to sell us on “post-Fukushima technology”. But can the same company guarantee that there will not be a thing such as “post-Rooppur technology”?

4,000 lives were lost in Chernobyl. Till date, USD 188 billion has been devoted towards cleaning up Fukushima. That too in a country renowned for its technological advancement. Right now, third-generation technology might be the latest one, but surely it’s not the last. When the Fukushima disaster happened, it had the most advanced technology yet, but that did not avert disaster.

Advanced technology could be their selling point, but it does not truly diminish any of our concerns. In fact, the question we should all be asking is: why is such “safe” technology in such dire need of the protection of the indemnity law—the Nuclear Power Plant Act 2015—in the case of any accidental loss of anyone related?

Radiation leaks are also very common in nuclear power plants, but the concerned authorities have always managed to shrug off the problem. That’s how this industry is still surviving. Only last October, the IRSN, France’s public authority on nuclear safety and security, identified a cloud of radioactive isotope ruthenium-106 in European territory originating from a Russian nuclear facility. But Russia’s nuclear agency has refused to accept responsibility (The Guardian, November 21, 2017).

In India, on the other hand, 1,733 scientists and employees who used to work in nuclear establishments and related facilities died between 1995 to 2010. Most of the victims were below 50 years of age (Rediff, October 4, 2010). However, there was neither any fact-finding committee nor any public disclosure about such a large number of untimely deaths in so-called “safe” nuclear facilities. The government of India has formed three committees so far for auditing the safety and security standards of nuclear power plants, but the recommendations, which require millions of dollars, are yet to be implemented.

Too expensive to matter?

The once-rhetorical claim made by the nuclear industry of making electricity “too cheap to matter” has already proven wrong and turned into a case of “too expensive to matter.” In fact, it matters so much that the world’s largest nuclear builder, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US last year (The Guardian, March 29, 2017). And according to the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR), the French state-owned nuclear builder and service company AREVA had accumulated USD 12.3 billion in losses over the past six years and was at last bailed out by the government with a cash injection worth USD 5.3 billion and subsequently broken up.

Such extravagant expenditure is not new for the nuclear industry. Rather it has been surviving on state-sponsorship since its inception. But now the price of this arrangement is felt so heavily by some countries that they have decided to pull the plug on it. For example, Vietnam decided to backtrack from nuclear power projects even after its deals with Russia and Japan—not because of baseless fears, but because the costs were escalating at such a rate that within just seven years the projected costs doubled (Reuters, November 22, 2016).

Costs rising exponentially is nothing new. The construction of 75 nuclear reactors was started in the US between 1966 and 1976. In each of these cases, the actual construction cost was found to be 300 percent higher on average than the estimated cost at the beginning (Ramana M V, 2009). Similarly, the construction of the 1,600 MW Flamanville nuclear power plant has already required three times the predicted cost till date and is yet to be completed (Reuters, December 4, 2012).

Bangladesh’s Rooppur power plant is no exception. Even before construction started, the project cost increased from USD 4 billion to USD 12.65 billion within just three years of the time frame (WNISR 2017). As the contract with Russia is not a fixed price contract, but a cost plus one, the vendor retains every right to come up with a revised budget in coming days. 90 percent of its required budget is being taken from Russia on credit at an interest rate of the Intercontinental Exchange London Interbank Offered Rate plus 1.75 percent, which is not only going to increase national debt, but also impose a great threat on our economy as a whole. Worrying still, the government has not disclosed the estimated price per unit of electricity from this plant after accounting for fuel cost, waste management and disposal cost, and decommissioning cost.

Rhetorical claim

While the government is touting the international standards and guidelines that will be abided, in reality, without public participation and public disclosure of the much needed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and without asserting the guideline of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), these claims are nothing but sheer rhetoric.

In Bangladesh, a 300-800 metre area surrounding the nuclear reactor is being considered as “Exclusion Zone” or “Sanitary Protection Zone”and it is being claimed that people are safe outside this 800-metre parameter. But according to IAEA safety standard guidelines, there are in fact two safety zones—the Precautionary Action Zone, which has a five-kilometre radius and where it is recommended to have evacuation facilities for an emergency evacuation within 15 minutes; and the Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone, which has a 30-kilometre radius and where it is recommended to have evacuation facilities for an emergency evacuation within an hour.

The people of Pabna, Bheramara, Lalpur, Kushtia, and Ishwardi all live within 30 kilometres of the proposed Rooppur nuclear power reactor. Has the government informed them of emergency evacuation? Is there any plan compliant with international safety and security standards to build the infrastructure required to evacuate millions of people within hours? Would it be possible to arrange its construction within the next few years?

Nuclear waste management is another concerning issue, which needs special infrastructure as well as separate budget allocation. But nothing is on the scene except a draft agreement to take back the spent nuclear fuel to Russia (Dhaka Tribune, March 18, 2017). Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Russia can take back the spent fuel, reprocess it for fast breeder reactors, but it has to give it back the nuclear waste back to Bangladesh because according to the law of the Russian Federation, disposal of foreign nuclear waste is not possible in Russia (World-nuclear.org, January 15, 2018). What assurance do we have that Russia will change their law for the sake of Bangladesh and do this costly disposal free of cost? Or is Bangladesh going to be the next destination for the disposal of the Russian nuclear industry’s waste from all over the world?

Alternatives are cheap

The top-heavy, wasteful, authoritarian world of nuclear power is being challenged by the innovative, low-cost, democratic world of renewables. Rational societies are reaping the latter’s benefits. Germany has decided to close down all of its nuclear reactors by 2022 and replace those with solar and wind power. With the plummeting cost of renewables, they are winning (World-nuclear.org, January 15, 2018). They exported 53.7 TWh of electricity in 2016, setting a new record and are going on to become the biggest net power exporter in Europe (WNISR 2017). Renewables were the largest contributor to their power mix.

In India, solar and wind electricity is now being produced at costs below BDT 3.5 per unit and they have already set a target to install a combined 100 GW solar and 60 GW wind power plant by 2022 (Mnre.gov.in).

In Bangladesh, on the other hand, renewable energy and imported power were presented as substitutes for each other in the Power Sector Master Plan 2016 (PSMP–2016). In the whole energy mix, only 15 percent of the electricity generation target has been fixed for renewable energy or imported power capacity addition. The renewable energy based generation is shown as 7 TWh—a mere 3 percent of the total demand by 2041. The PSMP–2016 also estimated 3.6 GW of potential renewable-energy-based power generation all together. This is in sharp contrast to recent research with predicted that, only from wind power alone, Bangladesh has the potential to generate 20 GW of electricity (Saifullah et al, 2016).

Globally and locally, scholars from across different disciplines are working on developing better frameworks, methods and models of renewable energy. A group of scientists from Stanford University working  extensively on clean energy, last year found that by 2050, a 100 percent renewable-energy-based solution for Bangladesh is not only possible, but is also the most economical option. According to their research, per unit electricity cost would be BDT 5.6 from renewables at the 2014 USD rate, which would save BDT 2,000 per person per year by 2050 (Jacobson et al, 2017).

The rationalisation for nuclear power hinges on a high initial cost for future benefit, but if we take into account its costly waste management, the need for decommissioning as well as loan repayment, Rooppur is little less than a future burden. Disregarding proper procedure and public consultation, the Bangladeshi government is not only constructing the 2,400 MW Rooppur nuclear power plant, but is also planning to install more such plants with a capacity of 4,800 MW across the country by 2041. Rooppur nuclear plant is not the technological milestone that it is portrayed to be. After all, how can imported technology and foreign dependency be a landmark or our nation’s scientific community? Without dealing with the contentious issues surrounding Rooppur, the plant may turn out to be the cause of endless misery for Bangladesh in the days to come.

Mowdud Rahman is an engineer and Energy Technology Researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay).

Debasish Sarker is an engineer and PhD Researcher on Nuclear Safety at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany.

February 2, 2019 Posted by | ASIA, Education | Leave a comment

Rosatom announces scholarships for Indian students in nuclear energy studies 

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi, 21 Jan 19  Rosatom, the Russian agency for atomic energy, has announced scholarships for Indian students in the arena of nuclear energy, according to a statement on Monday.

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Education, Russia | Leave a comment

University of Manchester partners with Chinese government agency

Birmingham joins China’s nuclear regulator for safe and clean energy research

https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2018/12/safe-and-clean-energy-research.aspx19 Dec 2018 University of Birmingham experts are partnering with Chinese nuclear regulators in helping develop cleaner, safer and more sustainable civil atomic energy.

The University has signed an agreement with the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre (NSC), Ministry of Ecology and Environment to work on collaborative education and research in nuclear policy, safety and regulation, as well as the environmental impact and assessment of nuclear radiation.

Following an earlier visit of a University of Birmingham team to NSC headquarters in Beijing, a senior delegation headed by Deputy-Director General CHAI Guohang visited Birmingham to further develop the collaboration and sign the agreement. The visit was attended by a representative from the Chinese Embassy in London.

Signing the agreement on behalf of the University of Birmingham, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield commented: “The University of Birmingham is delighted to partner with NSC, to work together in the research and education of civil nuclear safety, policy and regulation. This is such an important area for both our countries as we develop civil nuclear power as a key part of clean and sustainable energy production.

“We are very proud of the University’s accomplishments in having the largest and longest continually-running civil nuclear education programmes in the UK, matched by a diverse research capability, and with influence on the development of UK nuclear energy policy. We look forward to working with NSC to continue the development of safe and efficient civil nuclear system in UK and China.”

As the nuclear regulator of China, NSC affiliates directly to the Chinese Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and provides all-round support and assurance in safety regulation and administration of China’s civil nuclear facilities and radiation protection.

In the development of civil nuclear power in China to meet its increasing energy demand, NSC is actively forming a wide range of collaborations with high level domestic and internal partners, including with IAEA and the UKs ONR.

The NSC Deputy-Director General Mr CHAI Guohang said: “As one of the top 100 world universities, the University of Birmingham strength in nuclear science and engineering, its work in nuclear policy and its long standing achievements in civil nuclear education and research are well-known. For these reasons we chose Birmingham as our first international university partner. We believe our collaboration will deliver successful and mutually beneficial results.”

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Education, UK | Leave a comment