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The Unwarranted Ukraine Proxy War: A Year Later

US Big Defence will be the only winner of the proxy war in Ukraine. Not only do these global military contractors arm Ukraine, but they stand to benefit from the re-militarisation of Western European countries, Japan, and new NATO members.

In the view of Big Defence, peace is just a bad business proposition. There’s no money in it.

  

The World Financial Review, By Dr Dan Steinbock, 27 Jan 23

To Russia and Ukraine, the crisis is an existential issue. To the US and NATO, it’s a regime-change game. To Europe, it means the demise of stability – in the world economy, lost years (and that’s the benign scenario).

That’s how I characterised the US/NATO-led proxy war against Russia in Ukraine back in early March 2022. I argued that it was an “avoidable war that will penalise severely Ukraine, Russia, the US and the NATO, Europe, developing countries and the global economy”.[1]

At the time, the prediction was seen as contrarian. But it has prevailed. However, on January 25 the Ukraine proxy war entered a new, still more dangerous phase. The commitment of some 70 US, German, UK and Polish battle tanks herald lethal escalation, although hundreds more are needed to defeat Russia. For the first time since World War II, German tanks will be sent to the “Eastern front.” In Moscow, it will foster those voices who see the stakes of the war as existential.

Not only will economic and human costs climb even further, but strategic risks, including the potential of nuclear confrontation, will soar. With such escalation in high-tech arms sales to Ukraine, regional and military spillovers are no longer a matter of principle, but a matter of time.

Russia’s economic resilience

In early 2022, Western observers, with rare exceptions, predicted that the Russian economy would default within months as a net effect of sanctions. “Putin’s war” was doomed, they said. Obviously, the sanctions, which have been fuelled by might and economic coercion, have not been inconsequential. But nor were they new.

Already in February 2014, following the Russian annexation of Crimea, international sanctions were imposed against Russia and Crimea by the US, Canada, the EU, and the international organisations they dominate. While the West’s sanctions contributed to the fall of the Russian ruble, they also caused significant economic damage to the EU economy, with total losses at €100 billion in 2015. By mid-2016, Russia had lost an estimated $170 billion due to financial sanctions and another $400 billion in revenues from oil and gas.[2]………………………….

In fact, the Russian economy plunged 3.5 per cent in 2022, whereas inflation amounted to 5.4 per cent. In other words, Western institutions dramatically overestimated the GDP impact. Discrepancies of such magnitude are hard to explain away as simple prediction errors (figure 1 on original).

Proxy war united Russia            

Officially, the invasion of Ukraine began as Russia’s “special military operation”. Unofficially, it soon morphed into a US/NATO-led proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. The true political objective of this war has been regime change. Hence the goal “to weaken Russia”, as Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin acknowledged later. Hence, too, the international media predictions that the Russian economy would “inevitably” default and Putin be overthrown……………………

Today, in the view of ordinary Russians, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a defensive response to NATO’s offensive eastward enlargement. They see their country fighting for survival. That’s why the war caused Putin’s ratings to soar to the low 80s. That’s also why over 60 to 70 per cent of Russians support their government and believe the country is on the right track, despite extraordinary hardships. ……………………………………..

Amid this collapse of trust in the US and the EU, it certainly did not help that the Minsk peace process proved to be another Western ruse. Last December, German ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel disclosed in the Zeit newspaper that “the 2014 Minsk agreement was an attempt to give time to Ukraine.” That is, to make Ukraine stronger and for NATO to increase its support to the country in the face of Russia.[4]……………………

In the view of ordinary Russians, there is now a long continuum of betrayals from the pledge that NATO would never expand eastward in the early 1990s to Minsk today. In their view, the West’s recent arms escalation only confirms their worst suspicions.

Contradictory realities

Right before Christmas, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered an emotional wartime appeal to a joint meeting of US Congress, pleading for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who were about to approve $45 billion in additional aid. It was necessary for “eventual victory”.[6]

Yet, there was a huge disconnect between the triumphant declaration and the realities. Earlier in the month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had acknowledged that Ukraine’s losses in the war amounted to 100,000 soldiers and 20,000 civilians, though her tweet was quickly deleted and a new one was released without the true death count (figure 3 on original).[7

Behind the choreographed photo ops and bold sound bites, devastation had been expansive, progressive, and relentless…………..

 In September 2022, a month before the Russian winter offensive, a World Bank report estimated that Russia’s invasion had caused over $97 billion in direct damage to Ukraine and it could cost $350 billion to rebuild the country. Worse, Ukraine had also suffered $252 billion in losses through disruptions to its economic flows and production, as well as extra expenses linked to the war.[8] (The report was quiet about the economic and human costs on the Russian side.)

In other words, what Zelenskyy asked in the Congress was less than one-tenth of what is actually needed to rebuild Ukraine.

Ukrainian nightmare

In effect, even as the international media was touting the mirage of Ukraine’s military triumph, the country’s real GDP declined over 35 per cent on an annual basis in the third quarter of 2022; that is, before Russia’s massive infrastructure attack.

Starting on 10 October, Russia’s waves of missile and drone attacks opened a new phase of the war.

The direct physical damage to infrastructure soared to $127 billion already in September; that’s over 60 per cent of Ukraine’s pre-war GDP. The impact on the productive capacity of key sectors, due to damage or occupation, is substantial and long-lasting.[9]

The population share with income below the national poverty line in Ukraine may more than triple, reaching nearly 60 per cent in 2022. Poverty will increase from 5.5 per cent in 2021 to 25 per cent in 2022, with major downside risks if the war and energy security situations worsen.[10] As casualties continue to mount, over a third of the population has been displaced and over half of all Ukrainian children have been forced to leave their homes. The nine months of war have caused massive population displacement. As of October 2022, the number of Ukrainian refugees recorded in Europe was over 7.8 million, and the number of internally displaced people was 6.5 million (figure 4 on original).[11]

As former Pentagon adviser Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor has argued, “Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering.”[12]

As former Pentagon adviser Col. (ret.) Douglas Macgregor has argued, “Washington’s refusal to acknowledge Russia’s legitimate security interests in Ukraine and negotiate an end to this war is the path to protracted conflict and human suffering.”[12]

West’s tough 2022 and darker 2023

Currently, the risk of recession casts a dark shadow over the US economy, ……………………………………………..

US and international war funding

In the proxy war, economic and humanitarian aid to Ukraine has been abundant………………………..

Internationally, the US provides the bulk of total aid to Ukraine (62 per cent). Aid from non-US sources amounts to $41.4 billion. The international total of more than $110 billion accounts for more than half of Ukraine’s pre-war GDP ($200 billion).[17] Effectively, these funding arrangements aim to sustain the hostilities and destruction not just in 2023, but at least until the late 2020s.[18] A scenario the West’s recent arms sales escalation could reinforce.

Ailing and indebted, the West cannot afford the proxy war in Ukraine. Hence, the frantic debt-taking. In the Eurozone, government debt to GDP remains close to 100 per cent. Ironically, that’s 40 percentage points higher than the region’s own debt limit. In the UK, the figure has doubled since 2008 to almost 100 per cent. In Japan, it is the worst among all high-income economies – close to 265 per cent, thanks to over two decades of secular stagnation. In the US, the debt ratio has also doubled and is inching toward 140 per cent. (That’s over 20 percentage points higher than that of Italy amid Rome’s 2010 debt crisis.) The rising debt as a percentage of the GDP will slow economic growth, push up interest payments to foreign holders of US debt, and heighten the risk of a fiscal crisis. The periodic debt-limit debacle in the US is just a minor political sideshow to the West’s future debt crisis, which will leave no economy, not even the major ones, unscathed (figure 5 on original).

The post-9/11 wars: the Big Defence bonanza

Ukraine is “absolutely a weapons lab in every sense because none of this equipment has ever actually been used in a war between two industrially developed nations,” said one source familiar with Western intelligence to CNN. “This is real-world battle testing.” Or as Zelenskyy put it more recently, arming Ukraine is a “‘big business opportunity,” as evidenced by his government’s new ties with Blackrock, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. In December 2022, he revealed that Ukraine had hired Blackrock to “advice” Kyiv on how to use the West’s reconstruction funds, which he then estimated would have to increase at least to $1 trillion.[19]

As I predicted in March 2022, US Big Defence will be the only winner of the proxy war in Ukraine. Not only do these global military contractors arm Ukraine, but they stand to benefit from the re-militarisation of Western European countries, Japan, and new NATO members. Washington has a great economic interest in such geopolitics. Brussels’ incentives are harder to fathom, especially as the euro area will pay a hefty premium on energy and food, which will also benefit Washington…………………………..

Military Keynesianism to rescue

From the economic standpoint, these military expenditures, including US Ukrainian aid, should be seen as massive, recurrent, multi-year bastard Keynesianism. That is, as a series of military stimulus packages to prop up the American economy (not Ukraine’s). Unlike Keynesian stimuli that can have an accelerator effect in the civilian economy, these packages benefit mainly the Pentagon and Big Defence; that is, the military industrial complex and its revolving-door elites.

Take, for instance, President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security advisor Jake Sullivan and Blinken’s right-hand, Victoria Nuland. All four were key actors already in the 2014 Ukraine crisis. In one way or another, all are also linked with the Center for a New National Security (CNAS) and its consulting arm WestExec Advisors, which in turn is funded particularly by Big Defence. The same goes for Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, a veteran of the US Army and ex-board member of Raytheon, one of the largest defence giants and a big beneficiary of the Ukraine devastation.[22]

what’s good for Big Defence is not necessarily good for either the American people or the global economy. It aggravates income polarisation in America and between the high-income West and the developing Global South, while escalating geopolitical risks worldwide…………………………………

Plunging global growth

Unsurprisingly, global growth is now expected to decelerate sharply to 1.7 per cent in 2023…………………………

The unwarranted war

A year ago, I characterised the Ukraine conflict as an “unwarranted war” because it was avoidable. As declassified files show, a series of security assurances were given to Mikhail Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders against NATO’s eastward expansion at the turn of the 1990s, starting with President George H.W. Bush, followed by a cascade of assurances by German, French, British, and NATO leaders. The betrayal of these pledges was widely condemned already in 1997 by 50 US foreign policy authorities, including the leading Cold War hawks, in an open letter to President Clinton. What has ensued is three decades of NATO eastward expansion, which has made the world poorer and less secure, just as these US experts predicted over 25 years ago.[28]

If in 2022 the proxy war’s costs were disastrous in the West and Russia, 2023 will be worse…………………………….

  • The year 2022 turned the Ukrainians’ dream of peace and development to ashes, as over a third of their economy disappeared, perhaps a quarter of the population fled and a generation of young men was sacrificed for the West’s geopolitics. What’s ahead in 2023 will be worse. Reconstruction will require a lot more than $1 trillion, according to Zelenskyy. That’s over five times Ukraine’s pre-war GDP.
  • US Big Defence is the big winner of 2022 and, thanks to the military aid arrangements, could reap war profits well into the late 2020s. By then, new big “weapons labs” will be needed elsewhere – North Korea, Taiwan, Iran, perhaps even China, where there’s a will, there’s a way – to ensure new wars that will generate adequate returns.

…………………………………….. In the view of Big Defence, peace is just a bad business proposition. There’s no money in it.

………………………………….. Even in April 2022, after a month of hostilities, Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to end the war. Yet, that decision was undermined by former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His carefully timed Ukraine visit was designed to stop the talks, which were not acceptable to the US and its allies.[30] Today, in Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin sees the escalation as “a window of opportunity here, between now and the spring.”[31]

Only a year ago, Ukraine, under Zelenskyy’s leadership, was still positioned to play a constructive role as a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe, thanks to its vital position in China’s Bridge and Belt Initiative. Had that future prevailed, Ukraine might today be peaceful. Its GDP would be a third bigger. As a neutral country, its trading relationships would have thrived and it would have attracted investment from Russia and both Western and Eastern Europe. Young men would have good jobs. And Ukrainian refugees would be returning for new opportunities at home. When old sectarian conflicts dissipate, escaping abroad is no longer a necessity and even little children sleep their nights rather than being haunted by nightmares, overshadowed by post-traumatic stress.

Today, all those dreams, too, are in ashes. The proxy war is aimed against Russia. The Ukrainians’ role is to die in it. The puppet masters are the primary beneficiaries.

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January 31, 2023 Posted by | business and costs, Canada, Ukraine, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Chris Hedges: Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong

A state of permanent war creates complex bureaucracies, sustained by compliant politicians, journalists, scientists, technocrats and academics, who obsequiously serve the war machine.

This militarism needs mortal enemies — the latest are Russia and China — even when those demonized have no intention or capability, as was the case with Iraq, of harming the U.S. We are hostage to these incestuous institutional structures. 

byEDITORJanuary 29, 2023

NATO support for the war in Ukraine, designed to degrade the Russian military and drive Vladimir Putin from power, is not going according to plan. The new sophisticated military hardware won’t help.

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

Empires in terminal decline leap from one military fiasco to the next. The war in Ukraine, another bungled attempt to reassert U.S. global hegemony, fits this pattern. The danger is that the more dire things look, the more the U.S. will escalate the conflict, potentially provoking open confrontation with Russia. If Russia carries out retaliatory attacks on supply and training bases in neighboring NATO countries, or uses tactical nuclear weapons, NATO will almost certainly respond by attacking Russian forces. We will have ignited World War III, which could result in a nuclear holocaust.

U.S. military support for Ukraine began with the basics — ammunition and assault weapons. The Biden administration, however, soon crossed several self-imposed red lines to provide a tidal wave of lethal war machinery: Stinger anti-aircraft systems; Javelin anti-armor systems; M777 towed Howitzers; 122mm GRAD rockets; M142 multiple rocket launchers, or HIMARS; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Patriot air defense batteries; National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); M113 Armored Personnel Carriers; and now 31 M1 Abrams, as part of a new $400 million package. These tanks will be supplemented by 14 German Leopard 2A6 tanks, 14 British Challenger 2 tanks, as well as tanks from other NATO members, including Poland. Next on the list are armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) ammunition and F-15 and F-16 fighter jets.

Since Russia invaded on February 24, 2022, Congress has approved more than $113 billion in aid to Ukraine and allied nations supporting the war in Ukraine. Three-fifths of this aid, $67 billion, has been allocated for military expenditures. There are 28 countries transferring weapons to Ukraine. All of them, with the exception of Australia, Canada and the U.S., are in Europe. 

The rapid upgrade of sophisticated military hardware and aid provided to Ukraine is not a good sign for the NATO alliance. It takes many months, if not years, of training to operate and coordinate these weapons systems………………….

NATO military commanders understand that the infusion of these weapons systems into the war will not alter what is, at best, a stalemate, defined largely by artillery duels over hundreds of miles of front lines. The purchase of these weapons systems — one M1 Abrams tank costs $10 million when training and sustainment are included — increases the profits of the arms manufacturers. The use of these weapons in Ukraine allows them to be tested in battlefield conditions, making the war a laboratory for weapons manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin. All this is useful to NATO and to the arms industry. But it is not very useful to Ukraine.

The other problem with advanced weapons systems such as the M1 Abrams, which have 1,500-horsepower turbine engines that run on jet fuel, is that they are temperamental and require highly skilled and near constant maintenance. They are not forgiving to those operating them who make mistakes; indeed, mistakes can be lethal. 

 The most optimistic scenario for deploying M1-Abrams tanks in Ukraine is six to eight months, more likely longer. If Russia launches a major offensive in the spring, as expected, the M1 Abrams will not be part of the Ukrainian arsenal. Even when they do arrive, they will not significantly alter the balance of power, especially if the Russians are able to turn the tanks, manned by inexperienced crews, into charred hulks.

So why all this infusion of high-tech weaponry? We can sum it up in one word: panic.

Having declared a de facto war on Russia and openly calling for the removal of Vladimir Putin, the neoconservative pimps of war watch with dread as Ukraine is being pummeled by a relentless Russian war of attrition. Ukraine has suffered nearly 18,000 civilian casualties (6,919 killed and 11,075 injured). It has also seen  around 8 percent of its total housing destroyed or damaged and 50 percent of its energy infrastructure directly impacted with frequent power cuts. Ukraine requires at least $3 billion a month in outside support to keep its economy afloat, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director recently said. Nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced — 8 million in Europe and 6 million internally — and up to 18 million people, or 40 percent of Ukraine’s population, will soon require humanitarian assistance. Ukraine’s economy contracted by 35 percent in 2022, and 60 percent of Ukrainians are now poised to live on less than $5.5 a day, according to World Bank estimates. Nine million Ukrainians are without electricity and water in sub-zero temperatures, the Ukrainian president says. According to estimates from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 100,000 Ukrainian and 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war as of last November.  …………………………

In desperation, the empire pumps ever greater sums into its war machine. The most recent $1.7 trillion spending bill included $847 billion for the military;  the total is boosted to $858 billion when factoring in accounts that don’t fall under the Armed Services committees’ jurisdiction, such as the Department of Energy, which oversees nuclear weapons maintenance and the infrastructure that develops them. In 2021, when the U.S. had a military budget of $801 billion, it constituted nearly 40 percent of all global military expenditures, more than the next nine countries, including Russia and China, spent on their militaries combined.

A state of permanent war creates complex bureaucracies, sustained by compliant politicians, journalists, scientists, technocrats and academics, who obsequiously serve the war machine. This militarism needs mortal enemies — the latest are Russia and China — even when those demonized have no intention or capability, as was the case with Iraq, of harming the U.S. We are hostage to these incestuous institutional structures. 

Earlier this month, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, for example, appointed eight commissioners to review Biden’s National Defense Strategy (NDS) to “examine the assumptions, objectives, defense investments, force posture and structure, operational concepts, and military risks of the NDS.” The commission, as Eli Clifton writes at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, is “largely comprised of individuals with financial ties to the weapons industry and U.S. government contractors, raising questions about whether the commission will take a critical eye to contractors who receive $400 billion of the $858 billion FY2023 defense budget.” The chair of the commission, Clifton notes, is former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who “sits on the board of Iridium Communications, a satellite communications firm that was awarded a seven-year $738.5 million contract with the Department of Defense in 2019.”…………………………..

America’s two ruling parties depend on campaign funds from the war industry and are pressured by weapons manufacturers in their state or districts, who employ constituents, to pass gargantuan military budgets. Politicians are acutely aware that to challenge the permanent war economy is to be attacked as unpatriotic and is usually an act of political suicide.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. The plan to reshape Europe and the global balance of power by degrading Russia is turning out to resemble the failed plan to reshape the Middle East. It is fueling a global food crisis and devastating Europe with near double-digit inflation. It is exposing the impotency, once again, of the United States, and the bankruptcy of its ruling oligarchs. As a counterweight to the United States, nations such as China, Russia, India, Brazil and Iran are severing themselves from the tyranny of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a move that will trigger economic and social catastrophe in the United States. Washington is giving Ukraine ever more sophisticated weapons systems and billions upon billions in aid in a futile bid to save Ukraine but, more importantly, to save itself.  https://scheerpost.com/2023/01/29/chris-hedges-ukraine-the-war-that-went-wrong/

January 31, 2023 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Despite failure to refit nuclear submarine, UK senior defence officials get £200,000 in performance bonuses

 Three senior ministry of defence officials have received more than
£200,000 in performance bonuses despite not being able to get a
Scottish-based nuclear submarine back in service more than seven years
after it started undergoing a refit and refuelling.

The MoD had hoped that
HMS Vanguard would be returned to Royal Navy service at Faslane last summer
but The Sunday Times has learnt that the repair and refuelling project for
the Trident missile-armed vessel has hit new snags.

However, the three top
executives at the ministry’s Submarine Delivery Agency, which is
responsible for keeping the navy’s submarines in working order, were paid
performance bonuses last year. Its chief executive, Ian Booth, received
£95,000 on top of his £290,000 salary before he retired just before
Christmas, according to the agency’s accounts. Its technical director and
financial officer each received £55,000 bonuses.

 Times 29th Jan 2023

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bonus-for-mod-officials-despite-sub-refit-delays-gmqb30s35

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

California’s plan to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear plant online hits regulatory snag


Kavya Balaraman
, Senior Reporter, Utility Dive, Jan. 30, 2023

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week rejected a request from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to resume its review of the license renewal application for the 2.2-GW Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant the utility filed in 2009.

……………………………………………. Diane Curran, an attorney for San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace — one of three groups that petitioned the NRC to reject PG&E’s request — praised the agency’s decision. “The license renewal application was withdrawn by PG&E from the license renewal docket and then they let it lapse … when you file a license renewal application, you have to update it every year,” she said.

Curran said that the NRC’s decision is a big setback for PG&E because a new application filed at the end of the year won’t give the NRC much time to complete its review before the license for Diablo Canyon’s Unit 1 expires in 2024.  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/california-plan-diablo-canyon-nuclear-plant-online-regulatory-snag-NRC-PGE/641482//

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, USA | 1 Comment

French nuclear availability reduced by 1.1 GW as strike gets under way– EDF

https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/french-nuclear-availability-reduced-by-1.1-gw-as-strike-gets-under-way-edfForrest Crellin for Reuters  30 jan 23

PARIS, Jan 30 (Reuters) – French nuclear power availability has been reduced by 1.1 gigawatts as production at four reactors lowered, the outage table of state-controlled nuclear group EDF showed on Monday as a strike over pension reforms got under way.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | employment, France | Leave a comment

A Costly and Prolonged Cold War Now Seems a Certainty

a “new golden age” for military contractors.

 https://www.counterpunch.org/2023/01/30/a-costly-and-prolonged-cold-war-now-seems-a-certainty/ BY MELVIN GOODMAN 30 Jan 23

No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end, but there is one post-war certainty: there will be a prolonged and costly Cold War between the United States and Russia.  In an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who has been doing the bidding of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency for several decades, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of a “long-term goal of deterrence.”  Ignatius took this to mean that the Biden administration will make sure that Russia “should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.”

Ignatius is joining the likes of such Cold Warriors as former secretary of state Condi Rice, former secretary of defense Bob Gates, journalists such as Max Boot and scholars such as Angela Stent and Leon Aron who believe that Russia’s war is not directed only against Ukraine, but against the larger idea that European states can peacefully cooperate.  Yale historian Timothy Snyder goes further, arguing that the rule of law can have a chance in Russia only if “Russia loses this war,” and that Russia’s defeat will reverse the “trend…towards authoritarianism, with Putinism as a force and a model.”  It is naive to think in terms of “rule of law” coming to Russia.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales.  Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.  The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy.

The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

We have been accustomed to politicians who blithely talk about the “war to end all wars,” but it is unusual to have a distinguished historian argue that the “Ukrainians have given us a chance to turn this century around, a chance for freedom and security that we could not have achieved by our own efforts, no matter who we happen to be.”  Snyder argues that “if Russia loses” it would mark an “end to an era of empire,” marking the “last war fought on the colonial logic that another state and people do not exist.”  According to Snyder, a Ukrainian victory would “teach Beijing that such an offensive operation [against Taiwan] is costly and likely to fail.”  Snyder believes that “this is a once-in-lifetime conjuncture, not to be wasted.”

In addition to this year’s record defense budget that found the Congress providing $45 billion more than the Pentagon requested, a so-called “emergency” provision will lay the foundation for adding scarce resources to defense spending in the coming year.  This provision will allow multiyear, noncompetitive agreements to produce such ordinary weaponry as rockets and munitions.  According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon will now have a way to replenish its stockpiles that will provide a “new golden age” for military contractors.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales.  Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.  The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy. The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

The increased defense spending and the new emergency provision coincide with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s creation of a new committee—the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party!  McCarthy appointed the requisite number of China hawks, including its chairman, Mike Gallagher.  George Will, writing in the Post, predictably praised the creation of the committee, and lauded a new book by scholars from Johns Hopkins University and Tufts titled “Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China,” which may become a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy.  In view of the recent rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States, It can only be hoped that Democrats appoint members to the committee who understand the domestic consequences of hyping the threat from China at this particular time.

Our China policy is not working, and the exaggeration of the China threat comes just in time for the hawks in the political aviary who fear that the severe deficiencies of the Russian military in Ukraine is making it more difficult to exaggerate the Russia threat.  I’ve been calling attention to the exaggeration of the Russian threat for the past 50 years, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which included the implosion of the Red Army, should have provided political ammunition to downplay the Russian threat.  I had a distinct advantage from 1966 to 1990 as a Soviet analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, which had intelligence that documented Soviet deficiencies.

But the policy community, the bipartisan congressional community, and the pundit community can’t let go of the idea that the Soviet Union and Russia present a threat to the national security of the United States.  The dysfunctional, but superficially successful, Russian military performances in Georgia (2008); Crimea (2014); and Syria (2015) were misread as a demonstration of a strong Russian military.  It took the unsuccessful Russian efforts against Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson to fully demonstrate the deeply rooted dysfunction of the “new” Red Army and its inability to sustain offensive and combined arms operations.  Instead, Russia must rely on a campaign of military terrorism to hold its own against Ukrainian forces.

 The Biden policy ensures a robust military presence on the Russian border that will worsen Cold War 2.0.  There will be prolonged and unnecessary increases in defense spending, and the absence of a diplomatic dialogue in those important areas where there is Russian-American agreement. 

These areas include a variety of arms control and disarmament issues, such as stopping the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and limiting the use of space in the military competition as well as dealing with insurgencies and terrorism; environmental degradation; and future pandemics.  It is hard to imagine any Russian regime willing to pursue diplomatic solutions with a United States that has sponsored a NATO with more than 30 members; a military base in Poland; a regional missile defense in Poland and Romania; and the use of Romanian military facilities close by Russian forces and the Black Sea.  This serious turning point is being ignored by the policy community as well as the pundit and academic communities.

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His most recent books are “American Carnage: The Wars of Donald Trump” (Opus Publishing, 2019) and “Containing the National Security State” (Opus Publishing, 2021). Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

‘Delays and broken promises’ as flagship UK nuclear agency stalls

Great British Nuclear will be tasked with overseeing the development of the next generation of nuclear power sources

 https://inews.co.uk/news/business/delays-broken-promises-flagship-uk-nuclear-agency-stalls-2115492

By David Connett 30 Jan 23

The Government has been urged to stop delaying a new “flagship” ­agency to develop the UK’s next generation of nuclear reactors.

Ministers have been warned that the country risks “sleepwalking into the familiar pattern of delays and broken promises that have held back our nuclear ambitions in the past”.

The warning is contained in a letter signed by major companies, including Rolls-Royce and the US Westinghouse group, as well as the Prospect union, cross-party MPs and Lords, and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

It expresses dismay over delays in setting up Great British Nuclear (GBN), a body tasked with overseeing the development of the next generation of nuclear power sources.

It was envisaged as the cornerstone of former prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans to produce enough energy for the nation and reduce reliance on imports.

Last year, Mr Johnson said it would be launched to oversee the construction of up to 24 gigawatts of new capacity by 2050. “Our aim is to lead the world once again in a technology we pioneered so that by 2050, up to a quarter of our power consumed in Great Britain is from nuclear,” he said at the time.

However, a dispute between the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has delayed the move.

The letter warns that progress on GBN has “stalled”. It says: “We do not have time to spare. All but one of the UK’s existing nuclear reactors are due to retire by the end of the decade and this capacity needs to be replaced.”

It warns that private-sector funding and expertise could be lost to rivals because of the delay. It also says that a “global race for investment in next generation nuclear technologies is accelerating, spurred on by the Inflation Reduction Act in the US”.

The letter says the recent Skidmore report into the UK’s route to meet its net-zero climate change commitments demands “stable, long-term policy”, and adds: “We call on the Prime Minister to launch a fully funded Great British Nuclear programme as a matter of priority.”

A report outlining GBN’s strategy and operation, drawn up by the nuclear industry expert Simon Bowen, has been with ministers for several months.

He has asked for it to be published to help the industry prepare for the demands it will face in funding and training sufficient numbers of skilled people, but he has been told that it cannot be.

Experts have warned that continued delays in the nuclear programme will mean that the “ambitious” 2050 target will be missed.

The Government is already struggling to replace its current nuclear generation capacity even before it manages to expand it. Five nuclear power plants generated more than 15 per cent of the UK’s electricity last year. All but one is set to be decommissioned by 2028.

French power company EDF, which operates Sizewell B, has discussed plans with the UK’s nuclear regulator to extend the life of the existing UK reactors, but has not yet made a formal bid to the Office of Nuclear Regulation.

The energy minister, Graham ­Stuart, told MPs last week that he hoped the GBN strategy would be “published early this year”, but refused to be more specific.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Belgium to shut down second nuclear reactor

By Anne-Sophie Gayet | EURACTIV.com

The Tihange 2 nuclear reactor – the second largest of the three Tihange reactors – will shut down permanently on Tuesday evening after 40 years of activity, making it the second nuclear reactor to shut down in the country.

In accordance with 2003 Belgian law on nuclear phase-out, Tihange 2 will be disconnected from the grid on Tuesday at midnight, despite calls from politicians across the political spectrum and citizen associations to stop the nuclear reactor shutdowns…………  https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/belgium-to-shut-down-second-nuclear-reactor/

 

January 31, 2023 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | Leave a comment

GE Hitachi group announce contract for grid-scale small nuclear reactor, requiring large taxpayer subsidy .

GE Hitachi and 3 partners announce first commercial contract for grid-scale SMR in North America.Utility Dive 30 Jan 23

Dive Brief:

  • An energy and construction partnership announced Friday an agreement to build what it says will be the first grid-scale small modular reactor in North America. Terms were not disclosed.
  • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Ontario Power Generation, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon Group signed a contract to deploy a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at OPG’s Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Clarington, Ontario.

…………………………………….. Critics say SMRs, which are advanced nuclear reactors with a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, are financially feasible only because of large taxpayer subsidies. Detractors also say solar and wind power, which do not produce waste, can be deployed more quickly than SMRs.  https://www.utilitydive.com/news/SMRs-reactor-GE-Hitachi-Ontario-Public-Power-Aecon-Group-nuclear/641483/

January 31, 2023 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Takahama nuclear reactor in Fukui halted after alert goes off

 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2023/01/30/national/takahama-nuclear-plant-halt/ 30 Jan 23, FUKUI – A reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power station in Fukui Prefecture was automatically halted Monday after an alert went off warning of a rapid decrease in the number of neutrons within the unit, the complex’s regulator and operator said.

The No. 4 reactor was halted at 3:21 p.m., the Osaka-based utility said, adding that there has been no indication of the incident causing environmental contamination. The reactor’s cooling function is normal, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The No. 4 reactor restarted in November after being shut down for routine inspections.

The seaside plant has four reactors and faces the Sea of Japan.

January 31, 2023 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

The Belmarsh Tribunals Demand Justice for Julian Assange

Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press.

President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange

JANUARY 26, 2023, By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan  https://www.democracynow.org/2023/1/26/the_belmarsh_tribunals_demand_justice_for

“The first casualty when war comes is truth,” U.S. Senator Hiram W. Johnson of California said in 1929, debating ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a noble but ultimately failed attempt to ban war. Reflecting on World War I, which ended a decade earlier, he continued, “it begins what we were so familiar with only a brief period ago, this mode of propaganda whereby…people become war hungry in their patriotism and are lied into a desire to fight. We have seen it in the past; it will happen again in the future.”

Time and again, Hiram Johnson has been proven right. Our government’s impulse to control information and manipulate public opinion to support war is deeply ingrained. The past twenty years, dominated by the so-called War on Terror, are no exception. Sophisticated PR campaigns, a compliant mass media and the Pentagon’s pervasive propaganda machine all work together, as public intellectual Noam Chomsky and the late Prof. Ed Herman defined it in the title of their groundbreaking book, “Manufacturing Consent,” borrowing a phrase from Walter Lippman, considered the father of public relations.

One publisher consistently challenging the pro-war narrative pushed by the U.S. government, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, has been the whistleblower website Wikileaks. Wikileaks gained international attention in 2010 after publishing a trove of classified documents leaked from the U.S. military. Included were numerous accounts of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the killing of civilians, and shocking footage of a helicopter gunship in Baghdad slaughtering a dozen civilians, including a Reuters journalist and his driver, on the ground below. Wikileaks titled that video, “Collateral Murder.”

The New York Times and other newspapers partnered with Wikileaks to publish stories based on the leaks. This brought increased attention to the founder and editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. In December, 2010, two months after release of the Collateral Murder video, then-Vice President Joe Biden, appearing on NBC, said Assange was “closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon papers.” Biden was referring to the 1971 classified document release by Daniel Ellsberg, which revealed years of Pentagon lies about U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

With a secret grand jury empanelled in Virginia, Assange, then in London, feared being arrested and extradited to the United States. Ecuador granted Assange political asylum. Unable to make it to Latin America, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He lived inside the small, apartment-sized embassy for almost seven years. In April 2019, after a new Ecuadorian president revoked Assange’s asylum, British authorities arrested him and locked him up in London’s notorious Belmarsh Prison, often called “Britain’s Guantánamo.” He has been held there, in harsh conditions and in failing health, for almost four years, as the U.S. government seeks his extradition to face espionage and other charges. If extradited and convicted in the U.S., Assange faces 175 years in a maximum-security prison.

While the Conservative-led UK government seems poised to extradite Assange, a global movement has grown demanding his release. The Progressive International, a global pro-democracy umbrella group, has convened four assemblies since 2020 called The Belmarsh Tribunals. Named after the 1966 Russell-Sartre Tribunal on the Vietnam War, convened by philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sarte, The Belmarsh Tribunal has assembled some of the world’s most prominent, progressive activists, artists, politicians, dissidents, human rights attorneys and whistleblowers, all speaking in defense of Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

We are bearing witness to a travesty of justice,” Jeremy Corbyn, a British Member of Parliament and a former leader of the Labour Party, said at the tribunal. “To an abuse of human rights, to a denial of freedom of somebody who bravely put himself on the line that we all might know that the innocent died in Abu Ghraib, the innocent died in Afghanistan, the innocent are dying in the Mediterranean, and innocents die all over the world, where unwatched, unaccountable powers decide it’s expedient and convenient to kill people who get in the way of whatever grand scheme they’ve got. We say no. That’s why we are demanding justice for Julian Assange.”

Corbyn is joined in his call by The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel–major newspapers that published articles based on the leaked documents. “Publishing is not a crime,” the newspapers declared.

Never before has a publisher been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act. The Assange prosecution poses a fundamental threat to the freedom of speech and a free press. President Biden, currently embroiled in his own classified document scandal, knows this, and should immediately drop the charges against Julian Assange.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | civil liberties, legal, media, USA | Leave a comment

Clear and present danger- Ukraine’s reactors remain at risk

Grossi and others insist that the nuclear plants themselves are not the problem. “It’s very simple, the problem in Ukraine and in Russia is they are at war. The problem is not nuclear energy,” he told the BBC in an interview.

Except that it IS the nuclear plants that are the problem. After all, if Ukraine was powered by renewables and not nuclear plants, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

Bombardments in Ukraine keep reactors in the crosshairs

Ukraine’s reactors remain at risk as one-year anniversary of war looms

Clear and present danger, Beyond Nuclear, By Linda Pentz Gunter 29 Jan 23

A year ago, even before Russia invaded Ukraine, we ran our first article about the very real dangers of commercial nuclear power plants being caught up in a war.

A year later, we can thank only luck that what we predicted could happen, hasn’t.  And the pinnacle — or, more accurately, nadir — of that “could” would be a catastrophic attack resulting in a major radioactive release.

Since the war began, the 15 Ukraine reactors situated at four sites, along with the defunct Chornobyl nuclear plant, have been at the center of media attention, once again bringing to light the inherent and extreme dangers of nuclear power plants at any time, let alone during an armed conflict. And, on a few occasions, all of those sites have also been in the crosshairs of actual fighting, most notably the six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest both in Ukraine and all of Europe.

Despite pleadings by the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director, Rafael Grossi, not to engage in combat close to the nuclear plants, no effective deterrent or peaceful protective measure has been found or implemented, even as the IAEA continues to urge the creation of safe zones around the nuclear sites.

Grossi and others insist that the nuclear plants themselves are not the problem. “It’s very simple, the problem in Ukraine and in Russia is they are at war. The problem is not nuclear energy,” he told the BBC in an interview.

Except that it IS the nuclear plants that are the problem. After all, if Ukraine was powered by renewables and not nuclear plants, this wouldn’t even be an issue. As an Austrian government briefing paper, collected under “Fairy tales by the nuclear lobby,” said: “A ‘successful’ attack on a nuclear power plant in densely populated Europe would have radiological and economic consequences far beyond those experienced after Chernobyl or Fukushima. So far, no terrorist attacks on wind turbines or solar panels have been reported.”

An attack or other precipitating events caused by the war in Ukraine, could still result in such a disaster. Sadly, with the war raging on, nothing has really changed since the February 24, 2022 invasion.

Since it’s the most dangerous, being the largest, and also the closest to the worst of the fighting, let’s take Zaporizhzhia as our test case. 

There are approximately 200 different radioactive isotopes contained in any given nuclear reactor and its waste inventories. Zaporizhzhia houses at least 2,204 tons of highly radioactive waste within the reactors and the irradiated fuel pools, according to a March 2022 Greenpeace analysis, looking at 2017 figures, the latest data available. At least 855 tons of those wastes are in the pools. The quantities are so high because the reactors have been in operation for several decades. The first unit came on line in 1985, the sixth in 1996.

Among those 200 isotopes are iodine-131, which attacks the thyroid, cesium-134 that accumulates in muscle and strontium-90 which acts like calcium in the body and is easily incorporated into bone. Since all reactors also make plutonium-239 — with a half-life of 24,000 years — as part of the fission process, it, too, could be propelled into the environment. As an alpha-emitting particle, it is most dangerous when inhaled, attacking lungs, kidneys and other organs.

As we have written frequently at Beyond Nuclear since our first article appeared and the Russian war on Ukraine followed, there are a number of scenarios that could precipitate such a catastrophe. It could involve a full or partial reactor meltdown, an irradiated fuel pool fire or hydrogen explosion, or a breach of the radioactive waste storage casks.

The specific scenarios for this are described with essential detail and great clarity in the special section on “Nuclear Power and War” in the 2022 edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report.

Unlike all other types of power plants, the safety of a nuclear power plant depends on continuously functioning cooling systems,” the WNISR authors write in the chapter introduction. “The physical reason for this is the radioactive decay of the fission products and transuranic elements produced by neutron capture on uranium. During this decay, considerable amounts of heat are generated, so-called decay heat. If it is not continuously removed by cooling, this leads to strong heat buildup, which can cause melting, fires, or other events that can cause major releases of radioactive materials. During operation and directly after a reactor shutdown, cooling requirements are particularly high.”

This also means that even when the reactors are shut down, as at least four have been at Zaporizhzhia, they are not out of danger. And the fuel pools present the greatest threat, as the radioactive waste inventory they contain is more radioactive than the fresh fuel before it is loaded into the reactor.

But it need not take a full blown attack to cause at least some of these disastrous outcomes. It could be as simple as a loss of power, or human error. ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

As we ponder this in the context of the perils of war, we must also remember that war just makes this outcome [a Chornobyl type disaster] more likely. A major nuclear disaster is still possible — and even probable — on a daily basis at any nuclear power plant anywhere and at any time. Loss of power and human error remain key causes, along with violent weather events — occurrences that will continue to become more frequent and more severe as the climate crisis worsens. Sabotage and terrorism are an ever-present possibility as well.

This means that striving for the unrealistic goal, as the IAEA does, of ensuring nuclear reactors are not caught up in a war zone, doesn’t make us all that much safer. Only the complete elimination of nuclear power as an energy source will achieve that. 

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and curates Beyond Nuclear International.  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2023/01/29/clear-and-present-danger/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

In Just Under Three Weeks, Ukrainian-Fired Prohibited “Petal” Mines Maim At Least 44 Civilians, Kill 2, in Donetsk Region

Covert Action Magazine, By Eva Bartlett, August 23, 2022 Excellent photographs

Ukraine continues to fire internationally-banned anti-personnel mines on civilian areas of Donetsk and other cities in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), in violation of international law and of the mine ban convention Ukraine signed in 1999 and ratified in 2005.

Since July 27, Ukraine has been firing rockets containing cluster munitions filled with banned PFM-1 “Petal” (or “Butterfly”) anti-personnel mines all over Donetsk and surrounding areas. Each rocket contains over 300 of the mines. Already by August 3, the DPR’s Ministry of Emergency Situations noted that Ukraine had fired several thousand of the prohibited mines on Donetsk.

As of August 15, 44 civilians, including two children, have suffered gruesome injuries. Another mine victim died in hospital.

Some days ago, such mines grotesquely maimed a 15 year old boy in Donetsk.

Younger children don’t know that the mines aren’t toys, and elderly often simply don’t see them, or likewise don’t understand the danger, as was the case with an elderly lady with dementia who, on August 8, lost a foot as a result of stepping on a mine while she was going to work in her garden plot.

Tiny but powerful, these insidious mines are designed not to kill but to tear off feet or hands. Their design allows them to float to the ground without exploding, where they easily blend in with most settings and generally lie dormant until stepped on or otherwise disturbed.

According to Konstantin Zhukov, Chief Medical Officer of Donetsk Ambulance Service, a weight of just 2 kg is enough to activate one of the mines. Sometimes, however, they explode spontaneously. An unspoken tragedy on top of the already tragic targeting of civilians is that dogs, cats, birds and other animals are also victims of these dirty mines.

In the grass, or surprisingly even on sidewalks and streets, it is very easy to overlook them or mistake them for a leaf. Even when I’ve seen such mines marked with warning signs or circled, it still took me quite a bit to actually see them.

In its relentless deploying of these mines, Ukraine has targeted all over Donetsk, as well as Makeevka to the east and Yasinovataya to the north. Ukraine has fired them elsewhere, including the hard-hit northern DPR city of Gorlovka, as well as regions in the Lugansk People’s Republic in previous months.

In fact, according to DPR authorities, Ukraine began using the mines in March, during battles for Mariupol, and in May was already firing them into DPR settlements. Also in early May, while in Rubiznhe in the Lugansk People’s Republic, I was warned that Ukraine had been littering nearby areas with the mines, something confirmed by locals when I went to nearby Sievierodonetsk on August 12.

Ukraine turns Donetsk into a minefield

first saw the Ukrainian-fired mines on July 30, in Kirovskiy, western Donetsk, just days after Ukraine began showering the city with them.

Mine clearance sappers had isolated mines scattered in a field, to detonate after they had destroyed mines in the courtyard of an apartment complex. Amidst the tall grass, wild plants and garden plots, the mines would have been impossible for a non-sapper to spot, and very easy to disturb and lose a foot or hand in doing so.

Although I’d been assured that sappers had cleared the path, I still watched every step I took. And generally for the duration of my time in the DPR, I looked down while walking, watching for mines that could have been moved by wind or rain.

Behind a wall at one end of the apartment complex courtyard, sapper timer-detonated the eight mines they’d found scattered around the playground, lanes and walkways.

That evening, Ukraine fired more rockets with petal mines at Donetsk, this time targeting the centre of the city. People driving in the streets unknowingly set some off.

On a central Donetsk street the next morning, I saw a grouping of seven mines on a curbside, gathered either by sappers or some courageous local, with warnings to pedestrians and drivers of their presence.

They were so plentiful that marking them however possible was the only way to mitigate the immediate danger of someone randomly stepping or driving over them until they could be neutralized by the sappers……………………………………………………………

Media Claims Russia is Laying the Mines

As with most of its war crimes against the civilians of the Donbass, Ukraine and NATO media invert reality and claim Russia is the guilty party. They cry crocodile tears for the Donetsk children Ukraine has targeted, also disingenuously claiming the now-famous video of a DPR soldier detonating a mine by throwing a tire at it was a Ukrainian soldier demining Russian-fired mines.

The notion that Russia would explode mines over the city is not a reality-based idea. Most of the population are ethnic Russians, a significant number who now happily hold Russian citizenship. And further, it is Russian and DPR sappers putting themselves at risk to clear the streets, walks and fields of the mines.

In fact, a 21 year old DPR sapper lost a foot to such mine. Director of the Department of Fire and Rescue Forces of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Colonel Sergey Neka, told me of his injury: “After the cleansing of territories from explosive objects, returning back to the transport, a mine fell from the building, as a result of which it exploded under his feet and he lost his foot.”

In Makeevka, Igor Goncharov, the Chief Physician of the bombarded orphanage, spoke to me about his anger that Ukraine was targeting the property, insisting it had been deliberate, that since 2001 the orphanage was well-known to various international organizations, as well as Kiev, because, “It was the only one specialized in HIV.”

According to him, “American law allowed the adoption of HIV-positive children, so the United States was the only state that adopted HIV-infected children, so we were well known both within Ukraine and the Russian Federation and abroad. When they shoot, they know where they shoot,” he said of Ukraine.

“I think that this is not just inhumane, it is without morality, without conscience and without honour.”

I asked him to address Ukrainian and Western claims that it was Russia which deployed the mines, Russia which is shelling Donetsk and surrounding areas, knowing full well any average local resident could likewise easily debunk the claims.

“Even without being educated in military matters, it’s easy to localize the craters. Which way they are located indicates which side they were sent from. We know perfectly well where they shoot from. It’s all from Peski, Avdeevka, Nevelskoye. You can hear the crash and the whistle coming first. Ballistics can be defined. All the shelling comes from the Ukrainian side, it is unambiguous.”

Even without that logical thinking, let’s recall that Ukraine has been committing war crimes in the Donbass for over eight years, violating the Minsk Accords signed in 2014 and 2015. That Ukraine would use Petal mines from its enormous stockpile, after already shelling and sniping civilians, it not at all out of the question.

Ukrainian nationalists openly declare they view Russians as sub-human. School books teach this warped ideology. Videos show the extent of this mentality: teaching children not only to also hate Russians and see them as not humans, but also brainwashing them to believe killing Donbass residents is acceptable. The Ukrainian government itself funds Neo-Nazi-run indoctrination camps for youths.

As mentioned at the start, Ukraine signed the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, under which Ukraine was obliged to destroy its 6 million stock of the mines. However, reportedly, its stockpile remains over 3.3 million such mines.

The convention, “prohibits the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs).” Further, as outlined, Ukraine is, “in violation of Article 5 of the Mine Ban Treaty due to missing its 1 June 2016 clearance deadline without having requested and being granted an extension.”

Ukraine’s firing of rockets containing these mines is against international law and the Geneva Conventions. Ukraine is specifically targeting civilian areas with them. It is pure terrorism. And it is another Ukrainian war crime in a very long list of war crimes stretching back over eight years.  https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/08/23/in-just-under-three-weeks-ukrainian-fired-prohibited-petal-mines-maim-at-least-44-civilians-kill-2-in-donetsk-region/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Cracking Under Pressure: Inside the Race to Fix France’s Nuclear Plants

Macron’s government wants to help EDF build six new large reactors and begin preparatory studies on another eight units by 2050.

But building 14 new reactors is “absolutely not within EDF’s reach with its current balance sheet,” said Celine Cherubin, a senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service………..

The plan to fix seven safety cooling systems in 2023 is “not the end of the story,”… “It’s possible that we have to carry long and complex works. I think that 2023, ’24 and ’25 will continue to entail issues related to the stress corrosion.”

Yahoo News, Francois De Beaupuy, Sat, January 28, With assistance from Samuel Dodge and Patricia Suzara.

(Bloomberg) — Behind layers of security and a thick concrete wall, a team of welders work in shifts to fix the crippled Penly nuclear plant in northern France. Sweating under protective gear, they’re replacing cracked pipes in the emergency cooling system which protects against a reactor meltdown.

Each weld takes at least three days to complete, with workers often on their knees or backs to reach for the correct angle. Even in radiation suits, health regulations limit work in that environment to a maximum 40 hours a year.

The complicated procedures, replicated across sites this winter, have hampered the ability of Electricite de France SA to get its reactors back online after lengthy shutdowns.

Deadlines have slipped. The two Penly reactors were scheduled to be back online this month and next. Instead, EDF has been forced to delay the restarts to May and June.

“These are complex situations, in a noisy and radioactive environment,” Laurent Marquis, a manager at Altrad Group-Endel which is coordinating the repairs for EDF at Penly, said last month, before the restarts were pushed back. “Workers can sometimes only hold their position for just a few minutes before they need to be replaced.”

The power station, below a cliff on France’s northern coast, normally provides electricity for about 3.6 million households. Its two reactors have been, in effect, grounded by faulty plumbing — the same cracked pipes first discovered by EDF at another plant in late 2021. That reactor, at Civaux in central France, only came back online on Wednesday after extensive repairs.

The discoveries plunged the operator into a crisis with repercussions for all of Europe. EDF called it an “annus horribilis,” and from early May to late October, about half of its 56 reactors sat idle due to the repair and maintenance backlog.

It flipped France from Europe’s biggest electricity exporter into a net importer last year, just as the continent needed it more than ever. After gas imports from Russia dried up, energy prices soared, governments spent billions helping consumers with their bills and Europe was threatened with shortages and blackouts.

So far, Europe has avoided the worst-case scenario, thanks to efforts to conserve energy and a relatively mild winter that reduced heating demand

But the crisis is far from over, and EDF needs to find a way to avoid a repeat next winter. That challenge — finding problems, fixing them, doing checks — is already a mammoth task, and it’s being compounded by financial issues and staff shortages………………………………………………………….

By May, the utility had concluded that 16 of its reactors had pipes more prone to stress corrosion. Significantly, they were actually the group’s newest reactors, where the French nuclear plant builder Framatome — a unit of EDF — had modified the original Westinghouse Electric Co. design used for the 40 older units………………………………….

EDF has a history of missed maintenance deadlines, which an external audit published in June blamed on inadequate management of data, staff shortfalls and inexperienced teams in charge of turnarounds.


The company is still trying to figure out the speed at which cracks progress through pipes once they appear, meaning it faces tighter, more frequent monitoring of its reactors. Future setbacks can’t be ruled out.

The plan to fix seven safety cooling systems in 2023 is “not the end of the story,” Cedric Lewandowski, EDF’s senior executive vice-president for nuclear and thermal production, said at a parliamentary hearing this month. “It’s possible that we have to carry long and complex works. I think that 2023, ’24 and ’25 will continue to entail issues related to the stress corrosion.”

If that caps nuclear output, that means less power for France, and less to export to Europe.

Compounding the pipe issues is the broader maintenance work needed on what’s an aging fleet. Most of EDF’s reactors were built from the late 70s to the mid-90s, and now require longer down time. The utility wants to coincide the corrosion repairs with the other halts to maintain production, Lewandowski said.

On top of that, the utility is still repairing 122 faulty welds at a new flagship reactor in Flamanville in Normandy, which it wants to commission in the first half of 2024. The project is already over a decade behind schedule, and about €10 billion over budget.

All of which raises significant questions for EDF and the French government……………..

Macron’s government wants to help EDF build six new large reactors and begin preparatory studies on another eight units by 2050.

But building 14 new reactors is “absolutely not within EDF’s reach with its current balance sheet,” said Celine Cherubin, a senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service………………………..

The bigger question is whether EDF and the government can now reverse the sense of decline in France’s nuclear industry.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

The dirty secret of US nuclear energy

JOHN GREEN recommends an exposé of dangerous malpractice at the oldest and largest nuclear site in the US

Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America
By Joshua Frank

A DESCRIPTION of Hanford in Washington state — the place where the US stores much of its plutonium waste — sounds like something out of a dystopian novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

The town of Richland, a stone’s throw from Hanford’s boundary fence and where many of the workers’ families live, is an odd place. No rich mineral deposits, no surrounding agricultural landscape, no ski slopes or well-heeled tourists.

Richland was established by the atom bomb project and celebrates that history. The local pub is called Atomic Ale Brewpub. It showcases beers like Plutonium Porter, half-life Hefeweizen and Atom Bustin’ IPA.

The local school coat of arms boasts an exploding mushroom cloud. There is “a fervent mystifying patriotism” running deep in Richland, says Frank. The town also boasts more PhDs than any similar sized town in the state but voted overwhelmingly for Trump in recent elections.

Hanford’s B reactor has been designated a National Historic Landmark and was the first full scale plutonium production plant in the world. Those acting as guides do not appear to reflect on its legacy or suggest, perhaps, a moment of silence for the victims of nuclear bombs; for them it is a reason to rejoice at the ingenuity and superiority of the US war machine

Atomic Days reads at times like a political thriller, involving government lying and cover-ups, corruption, private-sector rapaciousness, spying on union “troublemakers” or anyone concerned about health and safety, and even the attempted murder of a whistleblower. There is no transparency and little accountability.

Many Hanford workers and their families have suffered serious illness as a result of radioactive contamination, from hyperthyroidism to miscarriages, disabilities and cancers, and numbers of unexplained deaths.

All this has been largely ignored by the national media, despite the fact that Hanford poses not only a danger to local people but to the whole country.

While focusing on Hanford, Frank encompasses the nuclear story on a global scale, from the US army injecting unsuspecting human guinea-pigs with plutonium in the 1940s, to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl, Fukushima and the air crash over Spain involving nuclear weapons, to the legacy of nuclear bomb testing.

During the Cold War, the project expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, the last of which was decommissioned in 1987.

Once home to the US largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear complex is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. There have been numerous releases of radioactive isotopes into the ground water and into the atmosphere, but it has all been shrouded in secrecy. Today, the EPA has designated Hanford the most toxic place in America; it is also the most expensive environmental clean-up job the world has ever seen, with a soaring price tag of £553 billion.

At present, Hanford’s radioactive waste is stored in 177 waste tanks, 149 of them with just a single wall. The facility sits over a huge aquifer, above which 53 million gallons of radioactive and chemically hazardous waste are stored in leaky underground tanks.

These tanks are well past their life expectancy and full of boiling radioactive gunk. They are leaking, infecting groundwater supplies and threatening the nearby Columbia River. It also sits on around 750,000 cubic metres of buried solid waste, spent nuclear fuel and leftover plutonium.

The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real and could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl. There have already been numerous accidents, mostly unregistered and unknown to the public. It is one of the most radioactive wastelands on Earth.

It used to be home to several indigenous groups who once fished in the fish-rich Columbia River and hunted the deer and other animals in the surrounding woods. They were resettled from their ancestral lands once the US government determined to use the land to build the biggest plutonium production plant and waste dump in the country.

Frank’s chilling account should certainly disabuse the illusions of anyone out there who still views nuclear energy as a means of producing clean energy and saving the planet.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of the radical magazine, Counterpunch.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | culture and arts, media, safety, USA, wastes | 1 Comment