The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

As UN Climate Talks close, hard decisions face the world’s nations

‘Planet at a crossroads’: climate summit makes progress but leaves much to do, The UN negotiations in Bonn lay the groundwork for implementing the landmark Paris deal, but tough decisions lay ahead, Guardian, Damian Carrington , 18 Nov 17, The world’s nations were confident they were making important progress in turning continued political commitment into real world action, as the global climate change summit in Bonn was drawing to a close on Friday.

The UN talks were tasked with the vital, if unglamorous, task of converting the unprecedented global agreement sealed in Paris in 2015 from a symbolic moment into a set of rules by which nations can combine to defeat global warming. Currently, the world is on track for at least 3C of global warming – a catastrophic outcome that would lead to severe impacts around the world.

The importance of the task was emphasised by Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and president of the summit: “We are not simply negotiating words on a page, but we are representing all our people and the places they call home.”

The Paris rulebook, which must be finalised by the end of 2018, now has a skeleton: a set of headings relating to how action on emissions is reported and monitored. Nations have also fleshed this out with suggested detailed texts, but these are often contradictory and will need to be resolved next year. “The worst outcome would have been to end up with empty pages, but that is not going to happen,” said a German negotiator.

One issue that did flare up during talks was the action being taken by rich nations before the Paris deal kicks in in 2020. Developing nations argued not enough is being done and, with the UN climate negotiations running largely on trust, the issue became unexpectedly serious before being defused by commitments to a “stocktake” of action in 2018 and 2019.

 The final hours of the negotiations were held up by a technical row over climate funding from rich nations, always a sensitive topic. Poorer and vulnerable nations want donor countries to set out in advance how much they will provide and when, so recipient nations can plan their climate action. Rich nations claim they are not unwilling, but that making promises on behalf of future governments is legally complex.

Progress in raising the importance of genderindigenous peoples and agriculture in tackling climate change was made. But NGOs criticised slow progress in delivering previous funding promises. Raijeli Nicole, from Oxfam, said: “For the most part, rich countries showed up to Bonn empty-handed.”

Coal – the dirtiest fossil fuel – has had a high profile at the summit, with the US administration’s only official side-event controversially promoting “clean coal”. But the overwhelming momentum has been against the fuel, with a new coalition of countries pledging a complete phaseout. This happened outside the negotiations, a significant move, according to Camilla Born at thinktank E3G: “We have had the Paris agreement living in the real world.”

Poland, which is heavily dependent on coal, is hosting the next UN climate summit in a year’s time and has frequently held up climate action in the EU. But on Friday, apparently under heavy EU pressure, it ended its hold-out against passing a climate commitment called the Doha amendment which sets in law pre-2020 climate action.

Germany, however, has been unable to commit to phasing out its huge coal industry, because Angela Merkel’s talks to form a new coalition have run over time. Nonetheless, Barbara Hendricks, the out-going German environment minister, said on Friday: “The phasing out of coal makes sense environmentally and economically.” She was certain the new government would act, she said…..


November 18, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

The hellish reality: what a ‘preventive war’ against North Korea would be like

Ultimately, the larger problem is that President Trump’s policy objectives are unattainable.

Denuclearization is a non-starter from North Korea’s perspective because Kim believes – not without reason – that nuclear weapons are a matter of regime survival, having seen what happens to leaders in countries like Libya when they give up their nuclear programs.

As long as President Trump insists on “complete, verifiable and total denuclearization,” Washington is walking America down a path that leads to (likely nuclear) military conflict

A ‘preventive’ war with North Korea would be total hell. Here’s why  By Harry J. Kazianis | As the Trump administration continues to rattle sabers at North Korea with rhetoric eerily similar to the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the possibility of a preventive U.S. war with North Korea may be more real than foreign and defense policy experts recognize.

It would be both foolish and naïve to think that all the tough talk coming out of the Trump administration is simply meant to intimidate North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un into giving up his nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

The three so-called “adults in the room” who are apparently the strongest voices influencing President Trump’s foreign policy are National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Mattis is an active duty lieutenant general in the Army. Mattis and Kelly are retired Marine Corps generals. Their common experience is commanding ground forces in the Iraq War. If they are shaping the Trump administration’s North Korea policy, it stands to reason that their views would have a decidedly military tilt.

If President Trump decides to take military action, what might it look like?

Any unprovoked U.S. military action would be a preventive strike. That is, a military strike intended to prevent North Korea from acquiring a future capability to attack the U.S. That is different from a preemptive strike that is launched to stop an imminent military attack from an adversary.

So what military options are truly available to President Trump?

Option 1: Preventive nuclear strikes.

It’s impossible to completely rule out the possibility – however remote – that the U.S. might use nuclear weapons in a preventive strike against North Korea.

If North Korea’s nuclear program and weapons are in deeply buried and hardened bunkers, nuclear weapons might be the only way to destroy them with a high rate of confidence. A relatively little-known fact is that the United States has a nuclear bunker buster: the B61-11 low- yield nuclear gravity bomb.

About 50 B61-11 bombs are believed to be deployed. Theoretically, the B61-11 could be mated with GPS guidance to make it a precision strike weapon. Also, the B61-11 could theoretically be outfitted with the BLU-113 hardened steel-tipped warhead to penetrate more than 30 feet of concrete.

But wouldn’t using nuclear weapons be beyond the pale?

Under ordinary circumstances, yes. But the Trump administration may not believe these are ordinary circumstances. If the administration assumes military conflict with North Korea is inevitable and views North Korea as 1945 Japan, the rationale would be very similar: Using nuclear weapons would bring about a quick resolution and would save thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost in a conventional conflict. As a point of reference, more than 30,000 U.S. soldiers died in the Korean War.

Needless to say, the nuclear option would be a big gamble. If we were not 100 percent successful, we would have to expect that North Korea would retaliate with its full range of conventional and nuclear weapons.

While the U.S. homeland would not be threatened, both South Korea and Japan would be. And the nearly 35,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea would certainly be at risk – as would the estimated 200,000 or more U.S. citizens living in South Korea.

Option 2: Decapitation strikes by bombers or submarines.

Another big gamble would be a decapitating air and missile strike. This would be military action based on the belief that if North Korea’s leadership – Kim Jong Un and his most loyal top military and civilian leaders – could be killed, the regime would implode and collapse.

Success would depend on near-perfect intelligence about all the targets’ whereabouts. Moreover, we would have to assume that many of them – including Kim himself – would be in deeply buried and hardened bunkers that would be difficult to destroy, even with precision conventional missiles and bombs.

And we know from experience that we were not able to immediately take out Saddam Hussein and the other 54 “most wanted Iraqis” when we invaded Iraq in 2003.

If a decapitating strike failed, we would have to assume that North Korea would retaliate and we would be drawn into a protracted ground war.

At a minimum, North Korea would likely unleash a conventional artillery barrage on Seoul, which has a population of 10 million. While such an attack might not level Seoul, it would still cause significant damage and extract untold casualties. Kim might launch his nuclear weapons, believing he had nothing to lose.

Option 3: Conventional ground attack with hundreds of thousands troops.

So that leaves a conventional ground attack, which would likely be preceded and backed up by air and missile strikes.

Given the experience of McMaster, Mattis, and Kelly – as well as the fact that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, is a Marine – such an option makes sense and seems more likely. After all, expeditionary war is exactly what these generals know how to do.

However, almost all the experts believe that any such war would be drawn out and costly –perhaps as many as 20,000 deaths per day in South Korea.

And remember, Kim Jong Un would have the nuclear option at his disposal, along with his chemical and biological weapons. Such is the risk of any military action against a nuclear-armed country.

Option 4: Deterrence.

But the U.S. does have another military option. It just doesn’t involve the actual use of military force. It’s called deterrence.

North Korea has had nuclear weapons for at least a decade and has not used them against either South Korea or Japan. Presumably this is because of the threat of a U.S. nuclear response looms over Pyongyang’s head. If that’s the case, even in the worst case scenario of North Korea having the ability to launch a missile at the continental United States, deterrence would still hold.

Deterrence worked when America and the Soviet Union had thousands of warheads pointed at each other. Supposedly crazy or irrational leaders with nuclear weapons – such as Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union and Mao Zedong in China – were successfully deterred.

Indeed, Kim Jong Un would have to be suicidal to actually attack the U.S., knowing that we could respond with utterly devastating force that could result in his death and the total annihilation of his country. However, the Kim dynasty has repeatedly demonstrated its larger interest is its own survival and perpetuating the regime.

Ultimately, the larger problem is that President Trump’s policy objectives are unattainable.

Denuclearization is a non-starter from North Korea’s perspective because Kim believes – not without reason – that nuclear weapons are a matter of regime survival, having seen what happens to leaders in countries like Libya when they give up their nuclear programs.

As long as President Trump insists on “complete, verifiable and total denuclearization,” Washington is walking America down a path that leads to (likely nuclear) military conflict

November 18, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA govt now spending $billions on cyberweapons and armed drones, in plans against North Korea

Downing North Korean Missiles Is Hard. So the U.S. Is Experimenting.
Buried in an emergency funding request to Congress lie hints of new ways to confront Pyongyang, like cyberweapons and armed drones. NYT , 
WASHINGTON — Concerned that the missile defense system designed to protect American cities is insufficient by itself to deter a North Korean attack, the Trump administration is expanding its strategy to also try to stop Pyongyang’s missiles before they get far from Korean airspace.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Concerns over safety of nuclear waste storage casks at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

Sea level rise factors into nuclear waste discussion Pilgrim advisory panel reviews issues related to dry cask storage. Cape Cod Times, PLYMOUTH , 17 Nov 17, — Entergy Corp.’s plan to store more than 4,000 highly radioactive spent fuel assemblies in massive casks about 25 feet above mean sea level at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station raised considerable concern among members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel at a meeting Wednesday.

Concerns ranged from the potential for the metal-lined casks to corrode over time and leak, to the possibility that sea level rise could put them underwater in a storm.

The spent fuel will likely be stored in multipurpose dry casks, manufactured by Holtec, that are 18 feet tall and 11 feet in diameter. Once filled, they weigh 173 tons. The casks will stand on two concrete pads outside the reactor. The first pad is already in place and holds eight loaded dry casks. It can accommodate about 38.

The second pad is yet to be built and its location is still under study. It will likely be close to the first. Highly radioactive metal now in the reactor’s core also will be stored in casks, Entergy representative Joseph Lynch said.

The plant is scheduled to shut down permanently by May 31, 2019. The 21-member advisory panel was appointed to advise the governor on matters related to the plant’s decommissioning.

The reactor’s location on the coast of Plymouth raises issues such as flooding potential and cask corrosion.

Lynch provided data, based on the company’s most recent flood study, that showed a Category 5 hurricane, with waves swelling to 9 feet, could raise the sea level to 22.4 feet.

Although Lynch said the data demonstrated “we have margins,” panel members and members of the public who attended the meeting said those margins were too tight…….

Rising sea levels should be factored into planning, said Duxbury resident James Lampert. “I’m concerned, and this panel should be concerned, that we’re always taking today’s snapshot,” Lampert said. “There’s no plan to move any of this stuff. You have to assume these casks may be on the two pads for 50 or 100 years.”

Lampert asked how much of the fuel was so-called “high burn-up” — a question Lynch could not answer. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, high burn-up spent fuel is hotter and more radioactive…….

Dry cask storage of lower burn-up spent nuclear fuel has been done since 1986, but dry storage of high burn-up spent fuel is more recent, according to the U.S. Office of Nuclear Energy website. About 200 dry casks have now been loaded with at least some high burn-up fuel, the site says, and almost all spent nuclear fuel being loaded in the United States is now high burn-up.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan declined “for security reasons” to say how much spent fuel at Pilgrim is high burn-up.

Lampert also asked the panel to review a study by research scientist Gordon Thompson on weapons capable of penetrating dry casks.

Mary Lampert, president of the citizens group Pilgrim Watch, called projections that plants already closed, such as Vermont Yankee, would be free of stored fuel by 2052 “fantasy,” since there is still no national repository to permanently handle spent fuel.

Gov. Charlie Baker and the decommissioning panel should be looking at the worst-case scenario, she said.

The multipurpose dry casks made by Holtec are not the best choice, she said.

“Holtec casks are designed for the short term,” she said. “Diablo Canyon’s casks are showing early signs of stress corrosion.”

Although the casks are permitted for 20 years by the NRC, they will likely be relicensed for 40 or even 60 years, Lynch said.

Rebecca Chin, co-chairwoman of the Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, lobbied for monitoring wells around the perimeter of the casks. “We need to know what’s running off the pad into the groundwater,” Chin said.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

North Korea building ballistic missile submarine, rejects Trump’s stand on negotiation

North Korea rejects Donald Trump’s call for nuclear talks, as images emerge of ‘ballistic submarine’ under construction, Telegraph,   Reuters News Agency 17 NOVEMBER 2017

North Korea has rejected Donald Trump’s call for talks over its nuclear programme just days after the US president completed his high-profile to Asia.

Han Tae Song, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said that negotiations would not happen while America continued “war games” in the region.

The snub occurred as new satellite images suggested North Korea is pursuing an “aggressive schedule” to build its first operational ballistic missile submarine.

The developments mark a double setback for Mr Trump, who is seeking a breakthrough in the stand-off over North Korea after rallying support for his approach in Asia.

During a five-nation tour of the region Mr Trump surprised commentators with a call for North Korea to “come to the table and make a deal” over its nuclear programme.

However speaking to Reuters, Mr Han rejected the proposal and criticised America for carrying out joint military practices with South Korea.

“As long as there is continuous hostile policy against my country by the US and as long as there are continued war games at our doorstep, then there will not be negotiations,” Mr Han said.

“There are continued military exercises using nuclear assets as well as aircraft carriers, and strategic bombers and then…raising such kinds of military exercises against my country.”

Mr Han said North Korea’s nuclear programme was about protection, saying: “This is the deterrent, the nuclear deterrent to cope with the nuclear threat from America.”

He also claimed Mr Trump drive for tighter sanctions was to “overthrow” the regime by “isolating” it and creating a “humanitarian disaster”.

China has contested Mr Trump’s claim that a “freeze for freeze” proposal – where North Korea stops its nuclear development and America ends its military war games – was off the table.

Meanwhile 38 North, a Washington-based project that monitors North Korea, said that satellite images indicate the regime is aggressively pursuing a ballistic missile submarine. ……

November 18, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Dangerous nuclear-powered space exploration to get more dangerous, as China joins the race

China’s nuclear spaceships will be ‘mining asteroids and flying astronauts to the moon’ as it aims to overtake US in space race   State media publishes Chinese scientists’ ambitious plans to revolutionise space travel and exploration in coming decades, South China Morning Post, Stephen Chen: Friday, 17 November, 2017 China is on course to develop nuclear-powered space shuttles by 2040, and will have the ability to mine resources from asteroids and build solar power plants in space soon after, according to state media. The ambitious claims, made by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology – the country’s leading rocket developer and manufacturer – were published on the front page of People’s Daily on Friday.

According to the report, a new “nuclear fleet” of carrier rockets and reusable hybrid-power carriers will be ready for “regular, large scale” interplanetary flights, and carrying out commercial exploration and exploitation of natural resources by the mid-2040s.

China will catch up with the United States on conventional rocket technology by 2020, it said. In 2025, it is expected to launch a reusable suborbital carrier and start suborbital space tourism.

By 2030, it aims to put astronauts on the moon and have the capabilities to bring samples back from Mars. In the 2040s, a nuclear-powered fleet will be ready to carry out mining operations on asteroids and planets, the report said…..

“The nuclear vessels are built to colonise the solar system and beyond,” Wang Changhui, associate professor of aerospace propulsion at the School of Astronautics at Beihang University in Beijing, said…..

A nuclear spaceship would have a reactor loaded with radioactive fuel for fission – the splitting of atoms that produces large amounts of energy.

That energy could be used to generate a driving force as well as electricity for the craft’s on-board equipment….

 During the cold war, dozens of satellites equipped with various types of nuclear reactors were launched by the former Soviet Union and the United States..

But the nuclear space race was eventually postponed, partly due to its threat to humanity. In 1978, Russian spy satellite Kosmos 954 crashed and sprayed radioactive waste over an area of 124,000 square kilometres in Canada.

More than 30 dead nuclear satellites are still drifting in space and could fall to earth at any time over the next few thousand years.

“Safety issues will be the top challenge for the Chinese nuclear fleet,” Wang said. “If they come down, it will cause a global nuclear disaster.”

According to China’s space authorities, the nuclear shuttles would be docked at a transport hub that would orbit the earth. Reusable spacecraft would be used to transport people and cargo to and from the shuttles.

But even if they were permanently in space, the nuclear-powered vessels were still at risk of being hit by meteorites or even colliding with one another, Wang said.

Regardless of those concerns, a mainland space expert said the targets given in the People’s Daily report would be almost impossible to achieve…….

November 18, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

Japan Atomic Power in trouble: diverted its decommissioning funds to build new reactors

Japan Atomic Power in dire straits after diverting funds, Asahi Shimbun, By TSUNEO SASAI/ Staff Writer, November 17, 2017 

Japan Atomic Power Co. has diverted so much of its decommissioning funds to build new reactors that it now lacks enough cash to scrap its aging units or even resume operations of existing ones. The problem-plagued company is banking on a decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, but even that might not be sufficient to save it financially.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry requires nuclear power plant operators to accumulate decommissioning funds every year based on their estimated costs to scrap reactors.

The ministry’s guidelines, however, do not prohibit the companies from temporarily using the accumulated money for other purposes.

According to calculations, Japan Atomic Power should have saved around 180 billion yen ($1.6 billion) to decommission its four nuclear reactors.  The company declined to give details about how much of decommissioning fund was used for other purposes. However, a person familiar with the situation said the operator “diverted the majority.”

That leaves Japan Atomic Power without the necessary funds to carry out its plans to decommission its one-reactor Tokai nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, and the No. 1 reactor at its Tsuruga nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

The company’s two other reactors–the reactor at the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant and the No. 2 reactor at the Tsuruga plant–are off-line. To survive the financial crunch, Japan Atomic Power will soon apply to the NRA to extend the operating life of the idled Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant reactor. That reactor will reach its 40th year of operation in November 2018. Even if the NRA approves the 20-year extension, the company does not have the 174 billion yen needed to improve safety measures at the reactor to bring it online.

An active geological fault line was found running directly beneath the No. 2 reactor building at the Tsuruga nuclear plant, meaning a resumption of reactor operations there is nowhere in sight.

Japan Atomic Power decided to use decommissioning funds to cover costs to build the Tsuruga No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in a bid to curb borrowing from financial institutions, according to several sources.

However, that decision was made before disaster struck at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

After the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant, all reactors in the nation, including those of Japan Atomic Power, were suspended…….. 

November 18, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

More nuclear reactors in more countries increase proliferation risks

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 16th Nov 2017, In an August 2017 report, former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz argues for federal subsidies to prop up the US nuclear power industry on the novel
grounds that the industry is vital to our national security.

One of his principal conclusions is that to have an effective nonproliferation policy
we need to be selling lots of reactors internationally. The conclusion is
dead wrong but, unfortunately, it’s also influential.

The current energy secretary, Rick Perry, picked up the argument. In October 12 testimony, he
told Congress that “we have to support this industry,” because, among other
things, it is important to the success of our nonproliferation policy.

What kind of reactor exports might this entail? The Energy Department’s acting
assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Edward McGinnis, told an
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Abu Dhabi on
November 1 that the United States wants “to spur exports of nuclear energy
plants and equipment, including to the conference’s host nation UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

That, after all, is where the export opportunities are—in
the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, among countries taking their first steps
into nuclear energy. Most don’t have the required financial resources and
would need massive loans.

Some, like Saudi Arabia, or perhaps Turkey,
appear to have more on their mind than electricity generation. The trouble
is that power programs based on the most common type of nuclear power
plant, the light water reactor, give a country a large leg up on creating a
nuclear weapons option if that is what it wants. As a result, more nuclear
reactors in more countries increase proliferation risks. Whatever the
advantages of this technology, nonproliferation is not one of them.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | marketing, USA | Leave a comment

Cities lead the fight against climate change, in three ways

COP 23: three ways cities are leading the fight against climate change  Barbara Norman
The global population is predicted to rise to 10 billion by 2050, and the majority of those people will live in cities. Given that cities already account for 75% of the world’s energy use and 76% of carbon dioxide emissions, there’s a growing focus on how urban planning and design can reduce emissions and help humanity to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Representatives of the world’s global powers have gathered in Bonn to attend the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change – more pithily known as COP 23.

Working together to affect large-scale change has been the key message of the conference. There has been a groundswell of urban innovation on show, largely driven by the mayors and governors of cities and regions, as well as industry leaders and universities interested in promoting opportunities for greener growth.

These bodies have formed alliances and networks to develop ideas and strategies around smart mobility, renewable energy, living infrastructure and sustainable urban design. This has been the good news story of COP 23. The conference has given nation states a unique opportunity to work more closely with cities, to plan for climate change.

So, in my role as an urban and regional planner (in practice and academia) I spent some time in Bonn finding out about the exciting ways that cities are leading the fight against climate change.

1. Low-carbon precincts

One aim is for current and future cities to be powered by 100% renewable electricity. This can be achieved with a combination of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or hydro, with battery storage and microgrids integrating with national grids as needed.

Cities will have integrated transport systems with electric-powered light rail and personal vehicles, while promoting active travel such as walking and cycling. Designing for integrated green precincts will bring greater benefits for local communities than one green building at a time. For example, community recycling and solar programs are more feasible on a larger precinct scale.

Of course, there are challenges to overcome. Finding appropriate locations for renewable energy farms that are also acceptable to the local people requires careful consideration of design guidelines and community engagement in the decision-making process.

The ICLEI 100% Renewable Cities Network is a prime example of the work being done to achieve this, by connecting cities to share knowledge and support each other. The network includes cities such as Canberra, the Australian capital, which is on track to achieve its target of 100% renewable electricity by 2020.

2. Living infrastructure

Cities across the world are increasingly incorporating living infrastructure, to deliver social, environmental and economic services to urban communities. This is done by integrating trees, shrubs, grass and open spaces (green infrastructure); rainscapes and waterways (blue infrastructure); and soils, surface and man-made structures (grey infrastructure) into the fabric of the city.

In China’s “sponge cities”, rooftop gardens help to capture storm water and regulate the temperature of the building. Copenhagen’s cloudburst plan rethinks the way water flows through the city by installing channels above and beneath the surface to prevent flooding. And water sensitive urban design is being put to use in drier cities, to make efficient use of everything from rainwater to waste water.

Living infrastructure also offers nature-based solutions for coastal cities under increasing threat from rising sea levels and more extreme coastal storms. For instance, replanting mangroves and coastal vegetation provides softer barriers between land and sea, while restoring natural waterways by removing dams and man-made canal systems can reduce the urban heat island effect and mitigate its negative impacts on human health.

3. Urban networks

Urban networks make use of digital connectivity and the internet of things to help cities far and wide work toward global goals: think everything from integrated green transport systems, to big data for improving resource efficiency, to innovative platforms for exchanging knowledge and practices between cities, towns and villages.

Organisations such as the C40, ICLEI and the Global Covenant of Mayors are already helping to coordinate action between city leaders – and at COP 23 the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders adopted the Bonn Fiji Commitment to deliver the Paris Agreement at all levels. Built environment professionals from around the world are also joining the groundswell of urban action, launching the Planners for Climate Actiongroup this week at COP 23.

It’s also critical that the people making decisions in cities can connect with researchers who are gathering evidence in this area. Two global examples I am actively involved with are the Urban Climate Change Research Network led by Columbia University, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

Making it happen

Sustainable solutions such as these need green financing mechanisms and support from national governments if they are to deliver real outcomes on the ground. At COP 23, the World Bank unveiled a new programme designed to provide cities with a vehicle to raise necessary funding and investment, in partnership with private enterprise.

In one of the conference’s key finance sessions, the former leader of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, stressed that green finance will be the key to urban change, with a current industry target of $US1 trillion, and more in green bonds by 2020.

Nation states now have a responsibility to enable this wave of urban innovation to move forward. Despite the growing power of city and regional governments, national urban policies still play a central role in carrying out international agendas such as the New Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

While a few states may choose to ignore international agreements, this groundswell of collaborative action across businesses, governments and communities is sending a strong message that national governments would be wise to heed. Embracing and investing in urban transformation that improves the health of people and the planet is clearly a winning strategy.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

U.N. body calls on Japan to improve protection of press freedoms and Fukushima residents rights


A U.N. body has called on Japan to take steps to better protect press freedoms as concerns about the country’s laws aimed at curtailing leaks of state secrets could hinder the work of journalists.

In another of the 218 non-legally binding recommendations on Japan’s human rights record released by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s working group, Tokyo was urged to apologize and pay compensation to “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s World War II military brothels.

The recommendations reflected the views of some 105 countries. Of the issues raised, the U.N. council will adopt those that have been accepted by the country in question at a plenary session around March 2018.

In relation to freedom of the press in Japan, the recommendation called on the country to amend Article 4 of the broadcasting law that gives the government authority to suspend broadcasting licenses of TV stations not considered “politically fair.”

Japan had already attracted criticism, in particular from David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, over its law called the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, which came into force in 2014.

Under the law, civil servants or others who leak designated secrets could face up to 10 years in prison, and those who instigate leaks, including journalists, could be subject to prison terms of up to five years.

In his report, Kaye noted that the law may be arbitrarily enforced as subcategories under which information may be designated as secret are “overly broad.”

On the issue of “comfort women,” raised at the request of South Korea and China, the recommendation urged Japan to promote fair and accurate historical education, including the women’s stories, and to apologize and compensate victims.

The recommendation also said Japan should abolish or suspend the death penalty, reflecting calls from European Union countries, and continue to provide support to those affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis caused by the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In particular, a directive to address health issues faced by pregnant mothers and children was noted.

The U.N. Rights Council is mandated to “undertake a universal periodic review” of whether countries are meeting their human rights obligations and commitments.

The examination is conducted on all 193 members of the United Nations in periodic cycles of a few years. The latest review was the third for Japan. exclusive report from yesterday on the UN meeting;

November 17, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, Japan | Leave a comment

As the world struggles with immediate dangers, NASA focuses on nuclear electricity for Mars

NASA reveals ‘nuclear engine’ that could provide power to the first humans on Mars

  •  NASA plans to test the Kilopower engines on Earth this year
  • Will use a uranium rector the size of a toilet roll to create heat
  • High efficiency Stirling engine would then convert this to electricity, By Mark Prigg For, 15 November 2017 |NASA’s  Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has provided multi-year funding to the Kilopower project.

    The technology could produce from one to 10 kilowatts of electrical power, continuously for 10 years or more. The average U.S. household runs on about five kilowatts of power.

    Testing is due to start in November and go through early next year, with NASA partnering with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nevada National Security Site to appraise fission power technologies.

    ‘The Kilopower test program will give us confidence that this technology is ready for space flight development.

    ‘We’ll be checking analytical models along the way for verification of how well the hardware is working,’ said Lee Mason, STMD’s principal technologist for Power and Energy Storage at NASA Headquarters.

    NASA is set to begin testing a radical ‘nuclear engine’ that could provide power for astronauts on the Martian surface.

    Dubbed the ‘Kilopower’ it would use a uranium rector the size of a toilet roll to create heat.

    A high efficiency Stirling engine would then convert this to electricity, in a system that works in a similar way to a car engine……

November 17, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | 1 Comment

As Bonn climate negotiations finish, scientists fear that the planned actions are not enough

As Climate Negotiators Debate Nations’ Pledges, Scientists Worry It’s Not Enough  Governments are wrapping up a meeting in Bonn, Germany, to figure out how to implement a global climate agreement.

The conference has focused on the pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which nations made two years ago in Paris. But even as negotiators debate the details, scientists are warning that carbon dioxide levels are again on the rise, and the efforts in Paris may not be enough.

President Trump has vowed that the U.S. will pull out of the Paris deal. The final withdrawal will take a few years, and the government sent a small delegation to Bonn. It made one presentation on the value of clean coal that was disrupted by protesters.

U.S. cities and states sent their own delegations as well. California Gov. Jerry Brown attended to talk about his state’s commitment to climate change.

“In the United States,” he explained, “we have a federal system, and states have real power, as do cities. And when cities and states combine together and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how stuff gets done.”

At that point protesters shouted over him, telling him to keep fossil fuels in the ground. But Brown’s message — that states and cities have agreed to meet the Paris targets for reducing emissions on their own — has been welcomed as a stand-in for a federal effort.

As diplomats debated and protesters protested, climate scientists delivered bad news. They are increasingly skeptical that the Paris deal will do what’s needed.Researchers say the emissions reduction targets made at Paris — and what countries are doing to meet them — are weak. Hanna Fekete is with the New Climate Institute. She cites new research by a European group, Climate Action Tracker.”What we actually find is that a large number of countries is in the category of weak targets and even weaker implementation,” she says, “and that is specifically worrying because there are many large emitters in this weaker category.” That weak target and effort category includes countries such as the U.S., Russia and China.

The Paris agreement set a goal not to let the planet warm more than 3.6 degrees F above what is was before the industrial revolution. This latest analysis echoes others: the pledges made by countries in Paris to reduce emissions aren’t enough, and that current energy policies aren’t going to make even the Paris pledges possible. Fekete says the Carbon Action Tracker analysis shows that the climate is currently headed for an increase of at least 6 degrees F by the end of the century.Another study released this week adds more bad news. Global emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are going up. That’s after three years where they remained fairly flat. Environmental scientist Robert Jackson at Stanford University is one of the study’s authors and says the increase is mostly from China. “This year for several reasons their coal use has ticked back up by about 3 percent,” Jackson says, “and their oil and gas use has risen even faster.”

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Emissions in the U.S., the second-largest emitter, went down this year, but not by much. And while emissions from India were lower than expected — a growth rate of only 2 percent — Jackson says it looks like that won’t last. “I expect India’s emissions to rise faster again.” He says, “They still have hundreds of millions of people without electricity. It’s a tough nut to crack.”

One thing the delegates in Bonn appear to agree on is that the pledges made in Paris will have to get tougher.

November 17, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

It is still worth acting to prevent extreme changes, but climate change impacts are already locked in

Climate Change Impacts Already Locked In — But The Worst Can Still Be Avoided    From: University of Exeter 
November 16,  
Some impacts of global warming – such as sea level rise and coastal flooding – are already locked in and unavoidable, according to a major research project.

Global temperatures have already risen by around 1°C, and a further 0.5°C warming is expected. The full impacts of current warming have not yet been seen, since ice sheets and oceans take many decades to fully react to higher temperatures.

But more severe impacts can still be avoided if global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

More than 50 scientists from 16 institutions in 13 countries have worked on the HELIX project (High-End Climate Impacts and Extremes), which has just finished after four years. The project examined the possible effects of warming of 1.5°C, 2°C, 4°C and 6°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

Read more at University of Exeter

November 17, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

USA-Japan escalate tensions, with naval drills off Korean Peninsula

In a show of power, Japan, US begin joint naval drills off Korean Peninsula Trump’s harsh rhetoric, coupled with the North Korean regime’s ongoing weapons tests, have escalated regional tension to unprecedented levels

IANS  |  Tokyo Business Standard, November 16, 2017and the on Thursday began joint naval drills south of the in a show of power against 

The sent its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, three destroyers and around 14,000 troops to participate in the drills that will be conducted until November 26 in waters near the Okinawa archipelago, the Navy said in a statement cited by Efe news.
and the on Sunday had launched other joint drills covering larger ground in the Sea of (called East Sea in the two Koreas), also as “a show of might” to Pyongyang…….

November 17, 2017 Posted by | Japan, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Union of Concerned Scientists urge Congress to pass Bill Establishing Policy that US Will Not Use Nuclear Weapons First

Congress Should Pass Bill Establishing Policy that US Will Not Use Nuclear Weapons First, Statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, Union of Concerned Scientists  WASHINGTON (November 15, 2017)—Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced a bill today that would establish a policy that the United States will not use nuclear weapons first.

Below is a statement by Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“I strongly support this effort to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The United States should take all steps possible to prevent a nuclear war—by increasing the threshold for deliberate use and reducing the risk of accidental use.

“Under current policy, the United States would consider using nuclear weapons first against Russia, China and North Korea. Deliberately starting a nuclear war with any of these countries would be disastrous. The United States would increase its own security and that of the rest of the world by eliminating the option of using nuclear weapons first and declaring that the only purpose of its nuclear weapons is to deter—and, if necessary, respond to—nuclear attacks on itself and its allies.”

November 17, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment