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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

German nuclear compensation court case a precedent for limiting the greed of the nuclear industry

legal action Limiting the greed of the nuclear industry http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-limiting-the-greed-of-the-nuclear-industry/a-36664176 The German Constitutional Court’s decision that an accelerated nuclear phase-out is legal, and limiting compensation for energy companies is good news, says DW’s Gero Reuter. This could even set a precedent for coal.

“Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good,” states article 14 of the German constitution. At the same time, the German constitution demands that expropriation is permissible for the public good, and will be compensated after balancing the interests of everyone affected.

That’s the most crucial background to Germany’s biggest power companies – Eon, RWE and Swedish state-owned company Vattenfall – having filed lawsuits against the German government. They asked for compensation for the government’s decision in 2011 to hurry through shutdown of nuclear reactors in the wake of the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima reactor.

According to the energy companies, the nuclear phase-out is an unconstitutional expropriation of their power plants and possible energy production. They had asked for compensation of around 19 billion euros ($20 billion), which was supposed to be shelled out by taxpayers – around 230 euros from each citizen, babies to pensioners.

This week, Germany’s Constitutional Court mostly rejected their claims, saying the law for a nuclear phase-out from 2011 “is mostly compatible with Germany’s constitution.”

Only long-term investments that the power companies made between December 2010 and March 2011 are eligible for compensation, the court ruled, as the German government agreed to a maximum lifetime extension of nuclear power plants for 12 years in 2010.

What’s more, Germany’s Constitutional Court said some of the power companies received unequal treatment, and thus ruled that the German government has to adjust the law accordingly by June 2018.

Good news for taxpayers and the environment

The ruling is good news for taxpayers and the environment, as it will limit the greed of power companies to tap even more subsidies at the expense of public health, the environment and government budgets.

As to the requested compensation costs of around 19 billion euros – fortunately there’s not much left to this argument. It’s possible that the German government won’t have to pay anything to the energy companies at all. If worse comes to worse, it may pay a billion euros. This all depends on how the state will define unequal treatment of the different energy companies over the months to come.

What’s even more positive and groundbreaking is the legal reasoning behind the ruling. Germany’s Constitutional Court stressed several times that it attaches great importance to the protection of life, health and natural resources, and to the minimization of risks through the use of nuclear energy. It also said this could lead to an even faster nuclear phase-out, and that the German government could change its laws after the fact.

Thinking into the future, this decision could set a precedent for legal support to Germany being on the necessary path to withdraw from coal-powered electricity, and to shorten the long-term operating licenses power companies retain for mining lignite (brown coal).

The energy companies should carefully study this decision, and read between the lines to see how the German constitution truly works. “Property entails obligations. Its use shall also serve the public good.”

And if companies don’t use their property for the public good, then the state can expropriate this under certain circumstances. Obviously, the state then has to pay an appropriate compensation fee after balancing the interests of everyone involved – that’s fair.

But it should pay only what’s fair and not a cent more – especially not for big, powerful energy companies.

December 7, 2016 Posted by | Germany, Legal, Reference | Leave a comment

Roof collapse at USA’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant – more nuclear safety worries

An Albuquerque watchdog group is calling for an additional federal review before WIPP can reopen.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad has been working for nearly three years to recover from a radiation accident in February 2014.

safety-symbol1Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPPRoof collapses at WIPP raise new safety questions,Albuquerque Journal By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 In a salt mine more than 2,000 feet underground where drums of nuclear waste are embedded in enormous rooms – some radiologically contaminated – workers heard a loud noise and saw a spray of salt dust.

It was just before 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Still recovering from a radiation accident nearly three years ago, managers of the nation’s only deep geologic repository for defense nuclear waste had just two weeks prior decided to shut down the far south end of the mine after the salt ceiling collapsed in two places.Suspecting a rock fall, workers reported the incident to the Central Monitoring Room on the surface. Managers called for an evacuation of the underground and, following the latest safety protocol, activated the Emergency Operations Center 26 miles away in Carlsbad as a precaution.

The next day, a team of geotechnical and radiological control experts, members of the mine rescue team and a representative from the Mine Safety and Health Administration descended into WIPP. They found a massive area of the ceiling in Room 4 of Panel 7 had crashed: a rock fall two-thirds the length of a football field, eight feet thick.

WIPP is supposed to reopen this month. The U.S. Department of Energy has not publicly changed its position that WIPP will begin putting waste underground in December, a symbolic “end” to a recovery that still will likely go on for years.

There are regulatory hurdles left to clear. WIPP managers are expected to make public the results of a DOE “operational readiness review” this week, which could include corrective actions and could alter the time frame. New Mexico’s Environment Department must also complete a review of safety equipment, procedures and staff training and sign off that WIPP is ready.

But experts say the recent roof collapses inside WIPP – which have injured no one, thanks to precautionary closures of troubled areas – call into question the facility’s ability to handle ground control in a contaminated mine.

At the least, they say, the latest roof fall reduces available real estate underground, including potentially eliminating Room 4. At worst, the inability to keep up with maintenance could threaten worker safety, although WIPP managers frequently repeat that safety is the “highest priority.”……..

The radiation accident drastically reduced ventilation underground, curbing the number of vehicles that can operate. Workers must wear bulky protective clothing and respirators in contaminated areas and thus work more slowly. These and other constraints mean they can’t bolt back the roof at pre-accident rates, and some areas have been left unattended.

Salt was the chosen burial ground for certain types of legacy Cold War nuclear waste because, once filled and closed, the salt will slowly encapsulate the drums forever. But salt’s dynamic nature means WIPP managers are in a race against time – one they have not been winning.

“People have to understand, for WIPP to work it has to be a successful and a safe mining operation,” said Robert Alvarez, a columnist for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and former senior policy adviser to the Energy Secretary in the 1990s in the lead-up to WIPP’s opening. “They are just not out of the woods. But they are under enormous pressure to get this thing open because of all these sites sitting on this transuranic waste.”

Transuranic waste consists of boots, gloves and other materials contaminated during weapons production. Hundreds of shipments of “TRU” waste are piling up at sites around the country, including at Los Alamos and Idaho national laboratories and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina………

Federal review sought

An Albuquerque watchdog group is calling for an additional federal review before WIPP can reopen.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad has been working for nearly three years to recover from a radiation accident in February 2014.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy dated Nov. 21, Albuquerque’s Southwest Research and Information Center and the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council asked DOE to submit WIPP to a review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.
The last NEPA review of WIPP came in 1997 – documents that “are now known to be incomplete, and in some cases, erroneous,” according to the letter.
Specifically, the letter requests NEPA analyses of WIPP’s recovery and its waste disposal plans – such as studies outlining the impacts of an underground fire like the one that occurred days before the radiation release in an unrelated accident – as well as a new analysis regarding the probability and impacts of a hot reaction inside a waste drum like the one that contaminated the facility.
– Lauren Villagran  https://www.abqjournal.com/902842/new-safety-questions-come-up-at-wipp.html

December 7, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Medical radiation poses risks for nurses

text-from-the-archivesFor patients, unnecessary procedures (usually imaging procedures) and radiation dosing errors represent the bulk of risk from medical radiation, whereas incidental, unintended radiation exposure is the primary concern for nurses and other health care workers…

Radiation safety for patients—and nurses   Oncology Nurse Advisor, Bryant medical-radiationFurlow, October 26, 2011  Diagnostic and therapeutic radiation have prolonged and improved millions of patients’ lives, and represent indispensable and increasingly sophisticated tools in clinical oncology. But medical radiation’s gifts have come at the potential cost of unintended irradiation of patients and health care workers and increased lifetime risks of secondary cancers. This concern has grown with improving patient survival times, particularly among pediatric cancer patients. Continue reading

December 7, 2016 Posted by | health, Reference, USA, women | Leave a comment

US Navy to build a new facility for stranded radioactive nuclear wastes

strandedUS to build $1.6B Idaho facility for warships’ nuclear waste,WNTV.com 6 Dec 16 By KEITH RIDLER Associated Press BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A $1.65 billion facility will be built at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered warships, the Navy and U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday.

Officials said the new facility is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.

The new construction will be at the Naval Reactors facility on the Energy Department’s southeastern Idaho site that covers about 890-square-miles of high-desert sagebrush steppe. The area also includes the Idaho National Laboratory, considered the nation’s primary lab for nuclear research.

“This action will provide the infrastructure necessary to support the naval nuclear reactor defueling and refueling schedules to meet the operational needs of the U.S. Navy,” the Department of Energy said in a statement.

Officials said site preparation is expected to begin in 2017 with construction of the facility likely to start in 2019, creating 360 on-site jobs. The facility is expected to start operating in late 2024. The Department of Energy formally announced the plan with publication of what’s called a record of decision in the Federal Register. The record of decision made public Tuesday was signed last month by Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr., director of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

The record of decision concludes a lengthy and public environmental process that also looked at continuing using outdated facilities at the eastern Idaho site or overhauling them…..

The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a joint Navy and Energy Department organization, has been sending spent Navy fuel to the Idaho site since 1957. It’s transported by rail from shipyards. Dahl declined to describe security at Navy site.

“Appropriate security will be provided for the new facility,” he said.

Officials also declined on Tuesday to describe security measures at the rest of site, but access roads have armed checkpoints and visitors must leave passenger vehicles far from facilities and ride buses into secured areas.

Nuclear waste coming into Idaho prompted lawsuits when state leaders in the late 1980s and early 1990s thought the site was becoming a permanent nuclear waste repository. The lawsuits culminated in a 1995 agreement, then a 2008 addendum, limiting such shipments and requiring most nuclear waste to be removed from the federal site by 2035. The deal applies to the Navy’s spent nuclear fuel.

Under the agreement, fuel waste coming to the new facility after 2035 will only remain for the six years it takes to cool in pools. After that, it’s required to be put in dry storage and taken out of Idaho. However, the nation has no repository for spent nuclear fuel at this time, so where it will go is not clear…..http://www.wbtv.com/story/33941726/us-to-build-16b-idaho-facility-for-warships-nuclear-waste

December 7, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The end for theNorth Pole, in two years’ time?

There could be just two years left before the North Pole disappears,news.com.auCharles Firth, 7 Dec 16  “…….Santa is a fantasy but climate change is not, and it’s started to do truly alarming things to the North Pole.

climate-poster

Over the past few weeks the temperature of the North Pole has been 22 degrees hotter than the average temperature for this time of year. That’s not a typo. It’s not 2.2 degrees hotter. It’s 22 degrees Celsius hotter.

The reason it’s such a huge difference is because even though night is now falling, the temperature around the poles is still getting hotter rather than colder. That’s never happened before. What it means is that the gap between average temperature and this year’s temperature is getting wider and wider by the day.  [graph on original] …….

Peter Wadhams, a professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University, now reckons that it could be as little as two years before ice disappears completely from the North Pole during the summer months…..

What the ice melting at the North Pole means is that, once it’s gone, you’ll be able to drive a boat across the North Pole.

No more photos of intrepid tourists reaching the North Pole, doing a cheesy thumbs in front of a sign saying “North Pole”. No more stories of Santa’s sleigh. There will be no ice for him to drive his sleigh across.

In addition to the environmental implications, the cultural implications of this are also huge…….

This is why I’m seriously considering taking the kids out of school next July, and taking them up to the North Pole to see the ice. It’s probably the last chance to see it. Fantasies of the North Pole are such a vivid part of my own childhood. When was a kid, I always assumed I’d go there one day. Now I know my children will not……http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/there-could-be-just-two-years-left-before-the-north-pole-disappears/news-story/80111828cd33bdb2b24ca0540013a70e

December 7, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | 1 Comment

Record loss of sea ice in November

Sea ice hit record lows in November, EurekAlert, 6 Dec 16 UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER Unusually high air temperatures and a warm ocean have led to a record low Arctic sea ice extent for November, according to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. In the Southern Hemisphere, Antarctic sea ice extent also hit a record low for the month, caused by moderately warm temperatures and a rapid shift in circumpolar winds.

“It looks like a triple whammy–a warm ocean, a warm atmosphere, and a wind pattern all working against the ice in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze.

Arctic sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.51 million square miles) for November, 1.95 million square kilometers (753,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average for the month. Although the rate of Arctic ice growth was slightly faster than average, total extent actually decreased for a brief period in the middle of the month. The decrease in extent measured 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) and was observed mostly in the Barents Sea, an area of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, Finland, and Eastern Russia.

NSIDC scientists said the decrease in extent is almost unprecedented for November in the satellite record; a less pronounced and brief retreat of 14,000 square kilometers (5,400 square miles) happened in 2013. November 2016 is now the seventh month this year to have hit a record low extent in the 38-year satellite monitoring period. The November extent was 3.2 standard deviations below the long-term average, a larger departure than observed in September 2012 when the Arctic summer minimum extent hit a record low………

In the Southern Hemisphere, sea ice surrounding the continent of Antarctica declined very quickly early in the month and set a record low. The average extent for November was 14.54 million square kilometers (5.61 million square miles), 1.81 million square kilometers (699,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average. This was more than twice the previous record departure from average set in November 1986 and was 5.7 standard deviations below the long-term average.

NSIDC scientists said that higher-than-average temperatures and a rapid shift in Antarctic circumpolar winds appear to have caused the rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice……..

NASA scientist and NSIDC affiliate scientist Walt Meier said, “The Arctic has typically been where the most interest lies, but this month, the Antarctic has flipped the script and it is southern sea ice that is surprising us.” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/uoca-sih120616.php

December 7, 2016 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Will Donald Trump be able to gut U.S. climate policies?

How far will Trump go to gut U.S. climate policies? http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060046632  Evan Lehmann, E&E News reporter ClimateWire: Monday, December 5, 2016 President-elect Donald Trump would have to undertake a herculean political effort to reverse his administration’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases, and he might not be able to count on Republicans in Congress for help.

In promising to rescind the Clean Power Plan, Trump is clipping a regulation off at the stem, but the roots would survive to pester his administration with the threat of lawsuits and the likelihood of future rules governing the release of carbon dioxide at U.S. firms, according to experts.

When the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases are an “air pollutant,” it set in motion a series of actions that could now require Trump to convince the courts that global warming is not adversely affecting humans and the Earth — after the same court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, came to the opposite conclusion in 2012.

That effort would occur if Trump’s U.S. EPA tried to reverse the so-called endangerment finding of 2009, a tick-tock in the bureaucratic record that gave rise to a cascade of regulations on greenhouse gases over cars, power plants, natural gas wells and more in the future. The finding is EPA’s trigger to regulate. Continue reading

December 7, 2016 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry’s legacy – stranded wastes, safety fears, collapsing communities

highly-recommendedAs nuclear plants age, risks rise, telegram.com Christine Legere, Dec 4, 2016

December 7, 2016 Posted by | employment, safety, social effects, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

France launches investigation of Fessenheim nuclear power plant

France investigating hazardous nuclear plant after Greenpeace call – report  https://www.rt.com/news/369320-france-nuclear-plant-danger/ 6 Dec, 2016  France has reportedly opened an investigation into an activity of its oldest power plant, Fessenheim, after Greenpeace reported that the reactor has numerous abnormalities and is endangering people’s lives.

The investigation was launched by the Paris Prosecutor’s office, AFP reported on Monday evening, citing judicial sources.

The Fessenheim power plant is in the Haut-Rhin department in Alsace, eastern France, near the German and Swiss borders.

The plant’s activity is endangering the lives of people and it has equipment which doesn’t fulfill the requirements of safety, according to the AFP report.

READ MORE: France’s nuclear watchdog wants to shut down 5 reactors over failure risk

All these concerns were previously voiced by Greenpeace, which accused AREVA, a group specializing in nuclear power and renewable energy, and Électricité de France (EDF) of inaction.

In October this year, Greenpeace called upon the Paris prosecutor to investigate the abnormalities of both reactors of the plant.

“EDF and AREVA were aware of serious irregularities on Reactor 2 at Fessenheim,” the statement said“The defective part is a steam generator, an essential component of nuclear reactors.” 

The group also called for the immediate shutdown of Reactor 1 of the plant.

Greenpeace also accuses EDF and AREVA of falsifying safety certificates of the plant so that the authorities won’t shut it down.

“EDF, as the operator, has in fact decided to give priority to economic interests instead of protecting people and the environment.”

Fessenheim has recently been the topic of heated discussion, which even took place in the Elysee Palace. In April, President Francois Hollande promised to formally initiate the shutdown of France’s oldest nuclear reactors on the grounds of environmental and safety concerns.

READ MORE: Hollande vows to shut down France’s oldest nuclear power plant

Also in October, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) asked EDF to shut down and inspect the plant. Fessenheim houses two 920 megawatt reactors and has been running since 1978, making it France’s oldest operating nuclear power plant. The German government and activists alike have long been calling for it to be permanently closed.

The plant is situated on a seismic fault line, making it vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding. The German government has repeatedly called on France to terminate the Fessenheim plant as soon as possible, after an April 2014 accident when one of the reactors had to be shut down as water was found leaking from several places.

France has 58 nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 63.2 Gigawatts. The country gets two thirds of its electricity from nuclear energy.

December 7, 2016 Posted by | France, safety | Leave a comment

Iranian president won’t let Trump ruin the US–Iran nuclear deal

RouhaniRouhani: we won’t let Trump tear up US–Iran nuclear deal
Iranian president says 10-year extension of US sanctions could be violation of the accord signed in July 2015,
Guardian,  Iran 7 Dec 16 The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has said his country will not allow Donald Trump to tear up the landmark nuclear agreement with the west as he warned that an extension of sanctions, which passed Congress last week, could be a violation of the deal.

Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections has raised questions about whether the landmark nuclear accord, signed in July 2015, has a future. Its fate could affect Rouhani’s chances of re-election in May.

“Iran is the only country that, as our supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] stated, would neither mourn nor celebrate [Trump’s] coming to power,” Rouhani said on Tuesday at Tehran University. “We would follow our own path.”

Rouhani said the US president-elect “may wish many things, he may wish to weaken or tear up Barjam,” referring to the Persian acronym for the joint comprehensive plan of action (or the nuclear deal), “but will we and our nation allow such a thing? America cannot influence our path of strength and endurance.”……

The Iranian president said the removal of nuclear-related sanctions had already borne fruit. “In regards to sanctions, except for banking restrictions, all sanctions have been removed 100%.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/06/hassan-rouhani-us-iran-nuclear-deal-trump-tear-up-sanctions

December 7, 2016 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Radical Ukrainian politician Oleg Lyashko wants nuclear weapons

Radical MPs bid to make Ukraine nuclear again, Rt.com : 6 Dec, 2016  The Radical Party faction of the Ukrainian parliament is seeking to withdraw Ukraine’s membership of the 1968 international treaty which bans the development of nuclear weapons and keeps nuclear technology in check.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) recognizes only five nations as legitimate possessors of nuclear weapons: China, France, Russia, the UK and the US. A handful of UN members are not signatories to the treaty, including Pakistan and India, which were never part of the NPT but have nuclear weapons of their own, and North Korea, which withdrew in 2003 to develop a nuclear arsenal.

Now Kiev may follow Pyongyang’s example if the Radical Party faction in parliament has its way. The party’s leader, Oleg Lyashko, has long called for the government to restore the country’s nuclear capability, which Ukraine briefly possessed in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The number of nuclear warheads deployed on Ukrainian territory by the USSR was only behind those possessed by Russia and the US. But by 1996, all of them had been handed over to Russia, which was busy dismantling a large portion of the costly Soviet nuclear stockpile.

In 1994, Ukraine was given security assurances by Russia, the US and the UK in the so-called Budapest Memorandum in exchange for its accession to the NTP. Similar documents were signed with Kazakhstan and Belarus, which were in a comparable position. China and France gave milder commitments to Ukraine in separate statements……..

Lyashko is a populist politician with a strongly nationalist voter base, and is well known for his publicity stunts. His bill to restore Ukraine’s nuclear status was registered in parliament Tuesday. A date for a committee discussion on the issue is yet to be set.

Ukraine’s ability to actually produce a nuclear weapon remains in question. While numerous research and production facilities based in what now is Ukraine were involved in building the Soviet nuclear arsenal, the country’s current economic troubles and technological backslide would make constructing even a simple nuclear device a major challenge – even if the Ukrainian government does undertake such a project.

Historically, only Pakistan and India have openly acquired nuclear capabilities without being alienated from the international community. …..https://www.rt.com/news/369363-ukraine-wants-nuclear-weapons/

December 7, 2016 Posted by | Ukraine, weapons and war | Leave a comment

German court orders compensation for nuclear operators following nation’s exit from nuclear power

justiceGerman nuclear operators to get compensation for nuclear exit: court http://www.platts.com/latest-news/electric-power/london/german-nuclear-operators-to-get-compensation-26613982 London (Platts)–6 Dec 2016

* German supreme court says some rights violated by nuclear exit

* But confirms general constitutionality of exit law
* Government needs to set compensation framework by June 2018

Germany’s supreme court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) on Tuesday confirmed that the nuclear exit law from July 2011, although generally conforming with the German constitution, in part violates the property rights of nuclear operators.

Nuclear operators E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall brought the lawsuit after the government decided in 2011 to reverse its planned extension of nuclear runtimes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, replacing remaining production quotas with a set deadline for the closure of reactors and a complete phase out of nuclear power by the end of 2022.

The court in Karlsruhe declared that the government needs to put in place “appropriate” compensation for investment based on the initial plan to extend runtimes by around 12 years after the 2009 elections.

The new compensation rules need to be in place by June 30, 2018, the court said in a statement

It did not give any guidance on the compensation sum.

According to a report by German news agency dpa, the operators so far have not quantified their compensation demands, speaking only of “massive economic damage” with dpa quoting estimates of around Eur19 billion.

In October, the government cleared the way for a financial solution to the nuclear storage issues with new rules under which the nuclear operators will pay a combined Eur23.5 billion into a state-run fund for the financing of mid- and long-term nuclear storage in Germany.

In return, the nuclear operators will be released from liability for interim and final storage of nuclear waste, but remain solely responsible for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants as well as the transport of the nuclear waste to the storage repository.

–Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com
–Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com

December 7, 2016 Posted by | Germany, Legal, Reference | Leave a comment

Trump’s chosen US defense secretary questions need for land-based nuclear missiles

missiles s korea museumJames Mattis warned that land-based nuclear missiles pose false alarm danger
Trump’s pick for next US defence secretary has questioned need for US’s ICBMs, which are ready to launch within minutes in event of an attack,
Guardian, , 4 Dec 16, James Mattis, the retired general Donald Trump has chosen to be the next US defence secretary, has questioned the need for land-based nuclear missiles on the grounds they represent a higher risk than other weapons of being launched on a false alarm.

Mattis raised doubts about US nuclear orthodoxy in a statement to Congress in 2015, raising the issue over whether nuclear deterrence should continue to rest on a “triad” of weapon types: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles and warheads carried by air force bombers. During the campaign, Trump vowed to proceed with current plans to modernise all three legs of the triad, with an estimated price tag of half a trillion dollars over 20 years.

In his remarks to the Senate about US national security priorities, Mattis struck a more sceptical tone. He asked whether the US should declare that the sole purpose of its nuclear arsenal was to deter nuclear attack, a statement that would narrow its purpose and potentially lower the number of warheads required. The present US nuclear posture states that, in some circumstances, the current, 4,500-warhead arsenal has a role in deterring conventional or chemical weapon attack.

“The nuclear stockpile must be tended to and fundamental questions must be asked and answered,” Mattis told the Senate armed services committee. “We must clearly establish the role of our nuclear weapons: do they serve solely to deter nuclear war? If so we should say so, and the resulting clarity will help to determine the number we need.”

“Is it time to reduce the triad to a diad, removing the land‐based missiles? This would reduce the false alarm danger,” Mattis said.

The US has about 400 ICBMs on a “hair-trigger alert”, ready to launch within minutes if early warning systems show an incoming attack. Several former defence secretaries and generals have argued that they should be taken off this state of readiness because of the danger of false alarms, especially in the age of cyber warfare. Some former officials, including William Perry, defence secretary in the Clinton administration, have argued ICBMs should be scrapped altogether.

Perry said he knew Mattis well, having worked for the marine, then a colonel, for three years during Perry’s time at the Pentagon. The two have since taken part in conferences and panel discussions on nuclear weapons and defence.

“He’s very intelligent, a very serious thinker, nothing frivolous at all about him,” Perry told the Guardian. “My view of him is that he will be a solid addition to Trump’s team. He brings an experience in defence and national security that is lacking.”

“More importantly,” Perry said, “he is a man who says what he thinks. He’s not easily intimidated. He is known for speaking truth to power and that will be a great asset in this administration.”

Perry added that, during conversations he had had with Mattis and George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, the marine general showed a deep understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons. “I would not expect him to be recommending anything rash with nuclear weapons,” Perry said……. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/04/james-mattis-defense-secretary-nuclear-missiles-trump

December 7, 2016 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The booming conspiracy culture of climate science denial

More terrifying than Trump? The booming conspiracy culture of climate science denial, Guardian, Graham Readfearn, 6 Dec 16, 

Conspiracy websites and hyperpartisan media outlets are building huge online audiences who want to hear climate change is a hoax “…….

climate-denialistsClimate change is an issue he [Alex Jones]covers regularly on his shows, where he has interviewed climate science deniers such as Christopher Monckton (a familiar name to Australians given his multiple speaking tours here), Marc Morano and James Delingpole.

While it’s easy to dismiss the conspiracy culture pushed by Jones as pseudoscientific rubbish, it is not so easy to dismiss the size of the audience he has been building. Jones’s website gets 57m page views per month – double where it was six months ago.

According to analytics site Social Blade, the Alex Jones YouTube channel has 1.8m subscribers and just racked up its one billionth (that’s not a typo) video view. (For comparison, the BBC News YouTube channel has 992,000 subscribers.)

Jones’s Infowars site is part of an ecosystem of hyperpartisan media outlets that insist climate change is a hoax. Like Jones, that ecosystem is rapidly building a receptive online audience.

Those sites can now reach hundreds of millions of people with headlines insisting that human-caused climate change is a hoax, that global warming has stopped or that adding CO2 to the atmosphere is good.

One example. The most popular climate change story across social media in the past six months was not some diligently researched piece from one of the many very good science journalists writing for major news organisations around the world.

Rather, the story claimed that thousands of scientists had come forward to declare that climate change was a hoax. The writer was a guy running a website in Los Angeles who worked for eight years for the UK conspiracy theorist David Icke.

Icke thinks the moon might be some sort of spaceship, that the world is controlled by a globalist illuminati and, yes, that climate change is a hoax. Icke is a regular guest on Infowars.

Infowars will often source material from Breitbart – the website that used to be run by Trump’s campaign chairman and soon-to-be chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Many of Breitbart’s most popular climate change items are written by Delingpole, a British polemicist. Guess what he thinks of climate change?…..

Breitbart is also building its audience. According to data from SimilarWeb, the site now gets 168m page views per month, doubling its reach in the past six months……

I’m happy to admit the online growth and reach of climate science denialists and conspiracy theorists terrifies me. Why?

The problem is not that these sites exist but that not enough people seem to know the difference between actual news, fake news, partisan opinion and conspiratorial bullshit. One of those people is the president-elect of the United States.

Either that, or people don’t even care to differentiate between fake and real, especially if what they read taps into their own prejudices.

There is a concerted attempt to cut sensible climate policy off at the knees by building a popular online movement against the science itself.

For decades, the fossil fuel industry and so-called “free market” ideologues at conservative thinktanks have misled the public on the science and the risks of climate change.

Now, the decades of material produced by that climate science denial machineryis finding a new audience. Those talking points are being reheated and screamed, in FULL CAPS.

So what’s the answer? No one seems to know but much appears to be in the hands of Google and Facebook.

Other than that, a crash course in critical thinking and recognising climate science denial brought to you by the illuminati might be the order of the day. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2016/dec/06/more-terrifying-than-trump-the-booming-conspiracy-culture-of-climate-science-denial

December 7, 2016 Posted by | climate change, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Carbon releases as permafrost melts

climate-changeWhen Permafrost Melts, What Happens to All That Stored Carbon? http://www.enn.com/climate/article/50183  The Arctic’s frozen ground contains large stores of organic carbon that have been locked in the permafrost for thousands of years. As global temperatures rise, that permafrost is starting to melt, raising concerns about the impact on the climate as organic carbon becomes exposed. A new study is shedding light on what that could mean for the future by providing the first direct physical evidence of a massive release of carbon from permafrost during a warming spike at the end of the last ice age.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, documents how Siberian soil once locked in permafrost was carried into the Arctic Ocean during that period at a rate about seven times higher than today.

“We know the Arctic today is under threat because of growing climate warming, but we don’t know to what extent permafrost will respond to this warming. The Arctic carbon reservoir locked in the Siberian permafrost has the potential to lead to massive emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere,” said study co-author Francesco Muschitiello, a post-doctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

To understand how melting permafrost influenced the carbon cycle in the past, the scientists examined the carbon levels in sediment that accumulated on the seafloor near the mouth of the Lena River about 11,650 years ago, when the last glacial period was ending and temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere spiked by several degrees.

Continue reading at The Earth Institute at Columbia University

December 7, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment