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The radioactive berry harvests of Chernobyl

The harvests of Chernobyl, Aeon, Thirty years after the nuclear disaster, local berry-pickers earn a good living. What’s the hidden cost of their wares?, Kate Brown, is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the author of Plutopia (2013). Olha Martynyuk is a historian at the National Technical University of Ukraine.

You can’t miss the berry-pickers in the remote forests of northern Ukraine, a region known as Polesia. They ride along on bicycles or pile out of cargo vans. They are young, mostly women and children, lean and suntanned, with hands stained a deep purple. And they are changing the landscape around them. Rural communities across eastern Europe are struggling economically, but the Polesian towns are booming with new construction. Two hundred miles west of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, thousands of mushroom- and berry-pickers are revving up the local economy. As they forage, they are even changing the European diet, in ways both culinary and radiological.
The rise of the Polesian pickers adds a strange twist to the story that began on 26 April 1986, when an explosion at the Chernobyl plant blew out at least 50 million curies of radioactive isotopes. Soviet leaders traced out a 30 kilometre radius around the stricken reactor and emptied it of its residents. Roughly 28,000 square kilometres outside this exclusion zone were also contaminated. In total, 130,000 people were resettled, but hundreds of thousands remained on irradiated territory, including the Polesian towns of Ukraine’s Rivne Province. In 1990, Soviet officials resolved to resettle several hundred thousand more residents but ran out of money to carry out new mass evacuations.

Last summer, we went to Rivnе to talk to people who in the late 1980s wrote petitions begging for resettlement. In the letters, which we had found in state archives in Kiev and Moscow, writers expressed worries about their health and that of their children, while describing a sense of abandonment. Help never arrived; the Chernobyl accident came just as the Soviet state began to topple economically and politically……..

Anyone in Polesia can pick anywhere, as long as they are willing to brave the radioactive isotopes. After Chernobyl, Soviet officials strongly discouraged picking berries in contaminated forest areas, which promised to remain radioactive for decades. As the years passed, fewer and fewer people heeded the warnings. In the past five years, picking has grown into a booming business as new global market connections have enabled the mass sale of berries abroad. A person willing to do the hard work of stooping 10 hours a day and heaving 40-pound boxes of fruit to the road can earn good money. The women and child pickers are revitalising the Polesian economy on a modest, human-powered scale. They are quietly and unceremoniously doing what development agencies and government programmes failed to do: restoring commercial activity to the contaminated territory around the Chernobyl Zone.

We followed the pickers into the woods. …….

Reliance on the forest for a living is an ancestral tradition in Polesia. Because of the mineral-poor soils, traditional farming never thrived here. Instead, Polesians subsisted on game, fish, berries, herbs and mushrooms while making their tools and homes from wood and clay. What is new in the past few years is the industrial-sized scale of berry harvesting. A typical roadside berry-buyer purchases about two tons of berries a day in season, and there are hundreds of buyers. In 2015, Ukraine exported 1,300 tons of fresh berries and 17,251 tons of frozen berries to the European market – more than 30 times as much as in 2014. Ukraine is now one of biggest exporters of blueberries to the EU.

That success is all the more remarkable because Polesian berries are not just any berries. They grow in radioactive soils, which means that they carry some of Chernobyl’s legacy in them. We showed up at a berry wholesaler in the boom town of Rokytne and noticed a radiation monitor who was stationed to meet buyers at the loading dock. The situation there was tense. As the monitor waved a wand over each box of berries, measuring their gamma ray emission, she set aside about half of the boxes. The buyers argued with her, trying to lower the count on their berries: ‘It’s not the berries that are radiating. It’s my trailer. Measure it over there.’

We asked the monitor, a young townswoman, how many berries come up radioactive. ‘All the berries from Polesia are radioactive,’ she replied, ‘but some are really radioactive. We’ve had berries measure over 3,000!’ She could not describe what units she was referring to, microsieverts or microrems; she only knew which numbers were bad. ‘The needle has to be between 10 and 15,’ she said, vaguely pointing to her wand, ‘and then I place it in this machine.’ She gestured toward a small mass spectrometer. ‘If the readout is more than 450, then the berries are over the permissible level.’

Contrary to our assumption, the berries rejected as too radioactive were not discarded, but were merely placed aside. Then they, too, were weighed and sold, just at lower prices. The wholesalers we spoke to said that the radioactive berries were used for natural dyes. The pickers claimed the hot berries were mixed with cooler berries until the assortment came in under the permissible level. The berries could then legally be sold to Poland to enter the European Union (EU) market, even if some individual berries measured five times higher than the permissible level. Such mixing is legal as long as the overall mix of berries falls within the generous limit of 600 becquerel per kilogram set by the EU after the Chernobyl disaster.

No one, certainly no official, ever envisioned revitalising the economy by exploiting berries and mushrooms. Months after the 1986 accident, Soviet scientists determined that forest products were the most radioactive of all edible crops, and banned their consumption. However, villagers in Polesia never stopped harvesting berries and mushrooms (as well as game and fish) from the forests outside the fenced-off Chernobyl Zone. Women sold their produce surreptitiously at regional markets, deftly avoiding the police who learned to identify Polesians by their homemade baskets……..

AQlthough the Polesian berries meet EU standards, it remains unclear how healthy life is for those living in the Rivne Province. Official publications of the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency assert that radiation levels in Polesia are too low to cause health damage other than a slight rise in the chance of cancer. However, that judgment is based on reference studies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, not on local research in the Chernobyl zones. Wladimir Wertelecki, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent the past 16 years tracking every recorded birth in the Rivne Province. ‘Hiroshima was just one big X-ray. It doesn’t compare to the doses of people in Polesia who ingest radioactive isotopes every day,’ he says. He thinks that the slow-drip exposure of organs to radioactive isotopes over decades makes for a far more damaging exposure than the single, external Hiroshima dose.

Researchers in Wertelecki’s group and those working on small, usually minimally financed medical studies have found that low doses of ingested radiation tend to concentrate in vital organs that keenly impact on important body functions. Yury Bandazhevsky, a pioneer in studying the health impacts of Chernobyl, has recorded a correlation between the incorporation of radioactive cesium in children’s bodies and heart disease in Belarus and Ukraine. Wertelecki and the Ukrainian medical researcher Lyubov Yevtushok discovered that in the six Polesian regions of the Rivne Province, certain birth defects, such as microcephaly, conjoined twins and neural-tube disorders occur three times more frequently than is the European norm. ‘We did not prove with this study that radiation causes birth defects. We just have a concurrence, not proof, of cause and effect,’ Wertelecki says. Nevertheless, he considers the concurrence statistically strong enough to warrant large-scale epidemiological studies that could prove or disprove whether the birth defects were caused by radiation.

Despite the fact that the nuclear disaster presented scientists with a unique living laboratory, few funding agencies have been willing to finance Chernobyl studies on non-cancerous health effects; based on Japanese bomb-survivor research, industry scientists have insisted that there would be no measurable non-malignant impacts. In Chernobyl-contaminated Polesia, however, few people doubt that ingesting radioactive toxins over decades has a biological cost.

Galina, the woman who declared that there was ‘no Chernobyl’, changed her view later when talking about her own health. Trim and fit at the age of 50, she had a stroke followed by two surgeries for ‘women’s cancer’. About her cancers, she said: ‘All of a sudden, they started growing day by day. I asked the doctors if they’d hold up the operation until autumn [after the harvest], but they said I’d be dead by then. Probably, these problems were caused by radiation. It does have an effect, apparently.’ Even less is known about non-cancer health impacts from Chernobyl. Many locals complain of aching and swollen joints, headaches, chronic fatigue and legs that mysteriously stop moving. There have been almost no studies investigating these vague complaints…….

here has been little public discussion and almost no medical research on the long-term, low-dose ingestion of radioactive isotopes. Presumably exporting the berries helps the people of Polesia, but for now there is no hard proof……

The mass marketing of radioactive Polesian forest products is an unexpected outcome of policies aimed at finalising the disaster. It is a development that disputes the focus on Chernobyl as a ‘place’. Rather, Chernobyl is an event, an ongoing occurrence that transpires as long as the radioactive energy released in the accident continues to decay…….https://aeon.co/essays/ukraine-s-berry-pickers-are-reaping-a-radioactive-bount

April 28, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Brexit and Britain’s problem of nuclear waste

NucClear News no 95 May 17  Brexit & Radwaste As Britain heads towards a hard Brexit and Brexatom – quitting Euratom – thanks to a freedom of information request, the Gizmodo website has obtained details of some of the internal worries of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The document, dated 13th July 2016, runs through some of the biggest strategic challenges created by us leaving the EU.

An NDA subsidiary, Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM) is engaged in research on deep geological disposal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EU is fronting a lot of the research cash. For example, one project – DOPAS – The Full-Scale Demonstration of Plugs and Seals, studied how to plug and seal radioactive waste. In this case Europe paid €8,700,000 – half the cost of doing it. It has also recently paid for a number of other similar projects. The document goes on to reveal that RWM is planning to seek European cash for future projects with similarly impenetrable acronyms. The best one is Europe putting an expected contribution of €3-4m into “DISCO” – a project studying the Dissolution of Spent Fuel in Waste Containers. Though it isn’t explicitly spelled out in the document, the implication is obvious: If our relationship with Europe is currently up in the air – so is the ability to pay for these important research projects.

Perhaps the biggest danger though – reading between the lines – is the risks associated with Britain becoming more hostile to immigration. “UK universities have a multinational community”, the document explains, “UK universities have been very successful in attracting the best talent (students and academic staff) from across the world, which in turn leads additional funding, better teaching and higher quality research. An inability to attract non-UK EU nationals would have a negative impact on UK universities and indirectly on the NDA estate R&D programme.”

Ultimately then, it appears that Brexit is going to create headaches when it comes to getting rid of radioactive waste. http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo95.pdf

April 28, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Round-up pf latest news on UK’s Hinkley Point C nuclear project

No2 Nuclear Power No 95 May 17  Hinkley Notes · The government has been slammed by the Information Commissioner’s Office over a number of “unjustifiable” delays in publishing details of contracts for Hinkley Point C. Whitehall officials were guilty of “egregious” and unjustifiable delays before revealing details of government contracts for Hinkley Point C awarded to a company facing a potential conflict of interest. Leigh Fisher, a management consultancy, was awarded a £1.2 million contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change for its advice on Hinkley Point, despite the British division of Jacobs Engineering, an American group that also owns Leigh Fisher, working for EDF on the project. The advice from Leigh Fisher helped the government to agree the 35-year subsidy deal with EDF. Details of the arrangement with Leigh Fisher, which has concerned MPs including Iain Wright, chairman of the Commons’ business, energy and industrial strategy select committee, emerged in November after The Times obtained redacted details of the tender documents under the Freedom of Information Act. However, it took the business department almost six months to release information after it was requested. Public bodies typically are required to respond to FOI requests within 20 working days. The department also heavily redacted details of separate Hinkley Point contracts awarded to KPMG and Lazard, including passages regarding potential conflicts of interests. KPMG was paid about £4.4 million for its work by the department and Lazard £2.6 million. (1)

EDF Energy has confirmed that discussions are ongoing in a dispute over pay involving ground workers at Hinkley Point C. (2) EDF said on 24th April it was still in dialogue with trade unions after payment offers were labelled “derisory” and “unacceptable” in a Unite press release. The row over bonus pay is threatening to lead to an industrial dispute among construction workers on the site. A consultative ballot is to be held among 700 members of Unite and GMB, which could lead to a vote on industrial action. (3) ·

The news of a possible strike comes days after crew members had to be rescued from a Hinkley Point ship as it began to sink in the Bristol Channel. The three crew members of a former military landing craft had to be rescued following a mayday call in the Bristol Channel. The vessel, which takes building materials to the Hinkley Point C power station under construction, had started to take on water. A crew member was airlifted to hospital in Cardiff suffering from hypothermia after three lifeboats and a helicopter were scrambled to the scene. The craft finally beached in the mouth of the River Parrett. (4)

Work is gathering pace on Hinkley Point C says the FT. (5) The once grassy valley, carrying the Holford stream towards the Bristol Channel, is being filled with earth and rubble excavated from the adjacent construction site. Last month concrete pouring started on the first permanent structures: an 8km network of tunnels that will carry piping and cables around the site. The Guardian says the site looks more like Mordor, from Lord of the Rings, a scarred landscape and hive of activity driven with a single purpose: ensuring these reactors do not repeat the delays and overspends at Flamanville and Olkiluoto. (6) Vincent de Rivaz, head of EDF in the UK, says work is on schedule. Yet as one set of hurdles is cleared, another is looming. French nuclear regulators are investigating potential safety problems with steel components destined for Hinkley from a foundry suspected of falsifying quality-assurance documents. The probe involves Areva, the French nuclear reactor manufacturer and close partner of EDF, and has already caused temporary shutdowns of several existing reactors in France to check for faults. Only the hopelessly naive would believe EDF’s claims that Hinkley will start generating electricity by 2025, says Geoff Ho, writing in The Express. The likelihood of it being delivered on time and on budget is remote. Unions are already threatening to go on strike over bonus payments, and there are the unresolved safety concerns about the EPR design Given Britain’s less than glorious history of infrastructure projects being delivered late and massively over budget, he cannot see Hinkley Point C bucking the trend. (7)

A group of activists has filed a legal challenge with the French prime minister’s office against the extension of EDF’s licence for construction of the Flamanville nuclear reactor in northern France. The move by Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups is in response to safety concerns over the Flamanville reactor and is a precursor to elevation of their challenge to the State Council, the country’s highest administrative court. The lobby groups said in a statement that the licence, issued in 2007 and renewed this year, should not have been granted because EDF and reactor supplier Areva were aware of technical shortcomings at Areva’s Creusot Forge nuclear foundry since 2005. In 2014 Areva discovered that the lid of the Flamanville reactor vessel manufactured by Creusot Forge showed abnormally high carbon concentrations, which weaken its steel. (8)….
http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo95.pdf

April 28, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Time to pay attention to long term effects of low dose ionising radiation

The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures.

Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

Chernobyl’s hidden legacy http://live.iop-pp01.agh.sleek.net/physicsworld/reader/#!edition/editions_Nuclear_2017/article/page-19330 Kate
Brown
 is a historian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, US, e-mail kbrown@umbc.edu
 Historian Kate Brown argues that scientists should re-examine Soviet-era evidence of health effects from low doses of radiation

In June 1980 a doctor with the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in the US wrote a letter to a colleague at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in upstate New York. The pair were corresponding about a forthcoming study of employee health at the Knolls reactor, and the doctor, C C Lushbaugh, wrote that he expected “little ‘useful’ knowledge” from this study “because radiation doses have been so low”. Even so, he agreed that the study had to be done because “both the workers and their management need to be assured that a career involving exposures to low levels of nuclear radiation is not hazardous to one’s health”. The results of such a study, he surmised, would help to counter anti-nuclear propaganda and resolve workers’ claims. However, they could also be a liability. If a competing union or regulatory agency got hold of the employees’ health data, Lushbaugh fretted, it could be weaponized. “I believe,” he continued, “that a study designed to show the transgressions of management will usually succeed.”

Lushbaugh’s dilemma is characteristic of research on the human health effects of exposure to low doses of radiation. He assumed he knew the results – good or bad – before the study began, because those results depended on how the study was designed. The field was so politicized, in other words, that scientists were using health studies as polemical tools and, consequently, asking few open-ended scientific questions.

A few years after Lushbaugh posted this letter, reactor number four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant blew up, killing 31 workers and firefighters and spreading radioactive material across a broad area of what was then the Soviet Union (now Ukraine and Belarus) and beyond. The accident also exploded the field of radiation medicine and, for a while, promised to rejuvenate it. In August 1986, months after the accident, the chief of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), Giovanni Silini, advocated an enduring epidemiological investigation similar to research on atomic-bomb survivors in Japan [1]. Many other scientists concurred, hoping that Chernobyl could clear up ongoing controversies and uncertainties surrounding low-dose exposures.

It never happened. No long-term epidemiological study took place. That’s not to say there isn’t any information. A few summers ago I went to the Ukrainian national archives in the dusty, bustling outskirts of Kiev and asked the archivists for files on Chernobyl from Soviet Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. They laughed, telling me Chernobyl was a banned topic in the Soviet Union. “You won’t find anything,” they said.

They were wrong. I found dozens of collections labelled “The medical effects of the Chernobyl disaster”. I started reading and have not yet been able to stop.

The aftermath

In the years between 1986 and 1991, doctors and sanitation officials wrote to the Ministry of Health in Kiev with alarming accounts of widespread, chronic illness among the hundreds of thousands of children and adults living in contaminated territories. They recorded increases in tonsillitis, upper respiratory disease and disorders of the digestive tract and immune system. Between 1985 and 1988, cases of anaemia doubled. Physicians from almost every region in the zone of contamination reported a leap in the number of reproductive problems, including miscarriages, stillbirths and birth malformations. Nervous-system disorders surged. So did diseases of the circulatory system. In 1988, in the heavily contaminated Polesie region of northern Ukraine, 80% of children examined had upper respiratory diseases and 28% had endocrine problems. In Ivankiv, where many cleanup workers lived, 92% of all children examined had a chronic illness.

I also went to Minsk to check the archives in Belarus. There, I read reports that sounded eerily similar to the Ukrainian documents. These reports were classified “for office use only”, meaning that at the time, scientists were not free to exchange this information across districts or republics of the Soviet Union. Even so, independently, they were reporting similar, bad news. The problem grew so dire in Belarus that in 1990 officials declared the entire republic, which received more than 60% of Chernobyl fallout, a “zone of national ecological disaster”.

The Ukrainian and Belarusian reports, hundreds of them, read like a dirge from a post-catastrophic world. Doctors wrote from clinics in Kharkiv, far outside the contaminated zone, and described similar health problems among evacuees who had settled there. Physicians sent telegrams from Donetsk, where they were treating a complex of illnesses among young miners who had burrowed under the smouldering reactor in the days after the accident. Medical workers sent in to examine people in contaminated regions also fell ill.

In response, the Union of Soviet Radiologists penned a petition to alert Soviet leaders of the ongoing public health disaster. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science sent a detailed summary of scientists’ findings to Minsk and Moscow. Even a KGB general, Mikhailo Zakharash, sounded the alarm. Zakharash, who was also a medical doctor, conducted a study of 2000 cleanup workers and their family members in a specially equipped KGB clinic in Kiev. In 1990, summing up four years of medical investigation, he wrote, “We have shown that long term, internal exposures of low doses of radiation to a practically healthy individual leads to a decline of his immune system and to a whole series of pathological illnesses.”

Chronic radiation

These findings track with what Soviet doctors had long described as chronic radiation syndrome, a complex of symptoms derived from chronic exposure to low doses of radiation. Researchers working on Chernobyl discerned a pattern of disease that tracked with pathways of radioactive isotopes entering the body, paths that began in either the mouth and headed towards the gastrointestinal tract or started in the lungs and followed blood into circulatory systems. Radioactive iodine sped to thyroids, they hypothesized, causing endocrinal and hormonal damage.

Critics, mostly in Moscow and the ministries of health, acknowledged the growth in health problems, but denied a connection to Chernobyl. A E Romanenko, the Ukrainian Minister of Health, is credited with inventing the word “radiophobia” to describe a public fear of radiation that induced stress-related illness. He and his colleagues also pointed to a screening effect from mass medical monitoring. Local doctors, they said, were projecting the diagnoses of chronic radiation syndrome onto their patients, blaming it for any illness found after Chernobyl.

There are some problems with these arguments. From 1986 to 1989, Chernobyl was a censored topic in the Soviet Union. Doctors could not exchange information about health problems, nor did they have access to maps of radioactive contamination. They only learned to be “radiophobic” by judging the bodies they examined. In the same years, doctors were also fleeing contaminated areas en masse, leaving hospitals and clinics in those regions staffed at 60%. As physicians left, so too did the chance for diagnosis, meaning that under-reporting of illnesses was more likely than a screening effect. Moreover, doctors from the northern regions of the Rivne province, which were at first judged clean and only in late 1989 designated contaminated, reported the same growth of illness as areas originally deemed “control zones,” regions with counts of more than 5 curies per square kilometre. The president of the Belarusian Academy of Science, V P Platonov, pointed to a vacuum of knowledge: “Until this time, no population has ever lived with continual internal and external exposures of this size.” Risk assessments assuring safe levels in the contaminated zones were extrapolated from the Japanese Atomic Bomb Survivor Lifespan Study, but these began only in 1950, five years after exposure. “Much is uncertain,” Platonov continued, “about fundamental aspects of the effects of low doses of radiation on human organs,” [2].

What happened to the 1980s Chernobyl health studies, which might have led to a renaissance in the field of radioecology? Essentially, they were overlooked. To figure out why, I went to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, to the UN’s archives in New York and the archives of UNSCEAR in Vienna. There, I found evidence of a conflict between branches of the WHO and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over which organization would control the studies of Chernobyl health effects.

By 1989 angry crowds were questioning the Soviet Union’s handling of Chernobyl, and Soviet leaders asked foreign experts for help in assessing the disaster’s health impacts. The IAEA agreed, and Fred Mettler, a radiologist and American delegate to UNSCEAR, was appointed to head the medical section of an IAEA team. In 1990, as he and his team examined 1726 people in six contaminated zones and six control zones, Soviet doctors gave him 20 slides from children diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer is very rare in children: before the Chernobyl accident, doctors saw eight or nine cases per year in all of Ukraine. Twenty cases in just three provinces was hard to believe. Dubious, Mettler brought the slides to the US to have them verified. They indeed indicated thyroid cancer.

Cancer cluster

Mettler mentioned this major medical finding in the 1991 International Chernobyl Project (ICP) technical report, but strangely, he also stated that there was “no clear pathologically documented evidence of an increase in thyroid cancer” [3]. The report concluded that there were no detectable Chernobyl health effects and only a probable chance of childhood thyroid cancers in the future. In a 1992 publication on thyroid nodules in the Chernobyl territories, Mettler failed to mention the 20 verified cases at all [4].

How could such a lapse occur? I found a confidential 1990 UN memo that seems relevant, particularly in light of the study-design problem set out in Lushbaugh’s letter a decade earlier. The memo suggests that the IAEA was conducting the ICP study to “allay the fears of the public” in service of “its own institutional interest for the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” [5]. The experiences of Keith Baverstock, then head of the radiation protection programme in the WHO’s European office, likewise reveal an institutional aversion to bad news. In July 1992 Baverstock planned to go to Minsk to examine childhood thyroid cases in Belarus, where doctors reported an astounding 102 new cases. At the last minute, officials from the WHO and the Commission of European Communities inexplicably pulled out of the mission. In an interview with me, Baverstock, an expert on the effects of ionizing radiation, said that a WHO official told him he could get fired if he went to Minsk.

He went anyway. With Belarusian scientists, he published news of the thyroid cancer epidemic in Nature. A top IAEA official complained angrily to the WHO, and the two agencies put pressure on Baverstock to retract his article. He refused, and a barrage of letters followed in Nature disputing the connection between the cancers and Chernobyl exposures [6]. Leading scientists from the US Department of Energy, the National Cancer Institute, Japan’s Radiation Effects Research Foundation and the IAEA argued that cancers were found because of increased surveillance. They called for a suspension of judgment and for further study. Repetitive and dismissive, their letters read like an orchestrated pile-on.

We now know that these global leaders in radiology were wrong. The numbers of cases rose into the thousands, too high to dismiss, and in 1996 the WHO and the IAEA finally admitted that skyrocketing rates of childhood thyroid cancer were most likely due to Chernobyl exposures. Today, the UNSCEAR maintains that the health consequences of the Chernobyl accident are limited to 31 direct fatalities – plus 6000 cases of children’s thyroid cancer [7].

Lingering questions

The question is – so what? Despite the 1991 ICP report’s erroneous claim of no health effects, UN agencies eventually recognized the cancer epidemic. What difference did a few years make? A great deal, it turns out. The ICP report also recommended that resettlements from the most contaminated regions should cease [8]. Consequently, the planned resettlement of 200,000 people living in areas contaminated with high levels of radiation (between 15 and 40 curies per square kilometre) slowed tremendously. The UN General Assembly had also been waiting for the report before raising funds for Chernobyl relief. The $646m budget (equivalent to about $1.1bn today) included medical aid, resettlement funds and a large-scale epidemiological study of Chernobyl health effects. The assertion by important UN agencies that there were no detectable health effects deflated that effort. Before the report, Japan had given $20m to the WHO, but afterwards it gave no more and complained about the funds being wasted. A few other countries gave sums totalling less than $1m, while the US and the European Community begged off entirely, citing the ICP report as a “factor in their reluctance to pledge” [9].

In subsequent years, IAEA and UNSCEAR officials cited the ICP report when discouraging Chernobyl-related health projects. In 1993 UNSCEAR scientific secretary Burton Bennett recommended that UN agencies suspend all programmes aimed at Chernobyl relief because they were unnecessary. He and IAEA administrator Abel Gonzalez, who led the ICP assessment, widely shared their views among UN agencies about “misinformation surrounding the Chernobyl accident” [10]. When the WHO, nonetheless, started a pilot study on Chernobyl health effects, Gonzalez wrote that he could not imagine what the WHO “expects to be able to detect for the level of doses in question”. Irked that WHO officials would examine any effects but psychological ones, he charged, “The World Health Organization seems to ignore, expressly or tacitly, the conclusions and recommendations of the International Chernobyl Project,” [11].The consequences of this moment of deviant science continue 30 years later. Today we know little about the non-cancerous effects that Soviet scientists working in contaminated zones reported in the late 1980s, and which they attributed to internal and external exposures to ionizing radiation. Are these effects as real as the childhood thyroid cancers proved to be? The Soviet post-Chernobyl medical records suggest that it is time to ask a new set of questions about long-term, low-dose exposures.

References

  1. Giovanni Silini 1986 “Concerning proposed draft for long-term Chernobyl studies” Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive
  2. V P Platonov and E F Konoplia 1989 “Informatsiia ob osnovynkh rezul’tatakh nauchnykh rabot, sviazannykh s likvidatsiei posledstvii avarii na ChAES” RGAE 4372/67/9743: 490
  3. International Chernobyl Project, Proceedings of an International Conference (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 47. Mettler also admitted that the slides checked out at the Vienna conference convened to discuss the report. For a discussion of thyroid cancer, see The International Chernobyl Project, Technical Report, Assessment of Radiological Consequences and Evaluation of Protective Measures (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 388
  4. Fred Mettler et al. 1992 “Thyroid nodules in population around Chernobyl” Journal of American Medical Association 268 616
  5. From Enrique ter Horst, Asst Sec Gen, ODG/DIEC to Virendra Daya, Chef de Cabinet, EOSG, 16 April 1990, United Nations Archive, New York S-1046 box 14, file 4, acc. 2001/0001
  6. Baverstock et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; Kazakov et al. 1992 “Thyroid cancer after Chernobyl” Nature 359 21; I Shigematsu and J W Thiessen 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; V Beral and G Reeves 1992 “Childhood thyroid cancer in Belarus” Nature 359 680; E Ron, J Lubin, A B Scheider 1992 “Thyroid cancer incidence” Nature 360 113
  7. The Chernobyl accident: UNSCEAR’s assessments of the radiation effects” UNSCEAR website
  8. The International Chernobyl Project: an Overview (Vienna: IAEA 1991): 44
  9. “International co-operation in the elimination of the consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident” 24 May 1990, UNA S-1046/14/4; “Third meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Chernobyl” 19–23 September 1991, WHO E16-445-11, 5; “Briefing note on the activities relating to Chernobyl” 3 June 1993, Department of Humanitarian Affairs DHA, UNA s-1082/35/6/, acc 2002/0207; Anstee to Napalkov, 17 Jan 1992, WHO E16-445-11, 7
  10. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19; B G Bennett 1993 “Background information for UNEP representative to the meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Coordination on Chernobyl” 17 November 1993, New York, Correspondence Files, UNSCEAR Archive, Vienna
  11. Gonzalez to Napalkov, 10 August 1993, WHO E16-445-11, 19

April 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, Reference, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Greens Party condemns as immoral UK government’s willingness for pre-emptive strike

Tories are ‘fanatics’ for saying they would start a nuclear war, Green Party says http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-first-strike-war-green-party-fanatics-jeremy-corbyn-jonathan-bartley-a7700071.html Green co-leader Jonathan Barley attacked the Tories and Labour’s positions on Trident, Jon Stone Political Correspondent @joncstone, 25 Apr 17,  The Green Party has accused the Conservatives of “fanaticism” after the Defence Secretary admitted that Theresa May could start a nuclear war.

Michael Fallon had said the Prime Minister could launch a nuclear attack against another country, even if the UK was not under nuclear attack, in “the most extreme circumstances”. 

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, branded the position “immoral”  because it would lead to the deaths of countless civilians.  He also criticised Jeremy Corbyn, whose party says it will renew Trident despite its leader’s clear statement that he would not use the weapon of mass destruction. Mr Bartley branded Labour’s approach to the multi-billion pound missile system “HMS Pointless”.

Speaking at St George’s Hospital in Tooting on Monday the Green co-leader pledged spend the cost of the weapon on the NHS.

“Voters are being offered a choice between Tory first strike fanaticisms and Labour’s HMS Pointless. What could be more immoral than considering a first use of nuclear weapons, knowing full well that it would lead to the death of countless civilians?” he said.

“And what could be more illogical that pledging to renew a multi-billion pound nuclear weapons system that will never be used? With people struggling to get by in Britain it’s inexcusable to be ploughing people’s money into this cold war relic.

“Instead of replacing this nuclear monstrosity the Green Party would give the NHS an emergency kiss of life. People are being treated in corridors while we flush money away on nuclear weapons. Cancelling Trident would give our NHS more than £3bn per year – which must be added to additional funding from raising taxes.

“Real security means having a world class health service, not locking ourselves into replacing these weapons we’ll never use. Imagine the impact on our NHS of employing 85,000 more nurses, midwives and health professionals – that’s what is at stake here.”

Speaking on Sunday Labour leader Mr Corbyn said he would try to de-escalate a nuclear war and said that “any use of nuclear weapons is a disaster for the whole world”. His party however says it is committed to maintaining a “nuclear deterrent” and would renew Trident.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning Mr Fallon, Ms May’s defence secretary, said: “In the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike.

Asked in what circumstances, he replied: “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.”

The highest estimate of the cost of replacing Trident is £205 billion over its lifetime, according to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. One estimate collated from ministerial statement by Crispin Blunt, the Tory MP who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, pegged the cost at £167 billion.

The independent Trident Commission, which reported in 2014, pegged the cost at closer to £100 billion.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Theresa May would be willing to fire a pre-emptive nuclear strike

Theresa May would fire UK’s nuclear weapons as a ‘first strike’, says Defence Secretary Michael Fallon
‘We have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use 
of nuclear weapons as a first strike’ Independent,  Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor @Rob_Merrick , 24 Apr 17,
Theresa May would fire Britain’s nuclear weapons as a ‘first strike’ if necessary, the Defence Secretary has said.

Michael Fallon said the Prime Minister was prepared to launch Trident in “the most extreme circumstances”, even if Britain itself was not under nuclear attack.

The statement came as the Conservatives continued to exploit Labour divisions on the retention of the Trident deterrent, to warn of the“very dangerous chaos” if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister……..

“In the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike,” Mr Fallon said.

Asked in what circumstances, he replied: “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.

“The whole point about the deterrent is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anyone who might be thinking of using weapons against this country.”

Mr Fallon also insisted that critics of Trident – including senior military figures who have ridiculed the idea that it is an effective deterrent – were “absolutely wrong”……..

“The Labour party is very clear we are committed to a credible nuclear credibility at the minimum end of the scale. That is Labour party policy and it will be in the manifesto,” Mr Gwynne said.

But he appeared to rule out a first strike, adding: “We would not be in a position where the first choice would be to press that red button. It is a deterrent because we have them.

“We believe in multilateralism, we believe in negotiating away our nuclear weapons system to create a nuclear weapon free world.”…….http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-weapons-first-strike-michael-fallon-general-election-jeremy-corbyn-trident-a7698621.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russian warning: Britain would be ‘razed to the ground’if it launched a nuclear attack

Britain would be ‘literally erased from the face of the earth’ if it launched a nuclear attack, warns Russian MP  Another translation says Britain would be ‘razed to the ground’ in a retaliatory strike, Independent, Samuel Osborne @SamuelOsborne93, 24 Apr 17, Britain would be “literally erased from the face of the earth” in a nuclear war, a Russian MP has warned.

Franz Klintsevich, a retired colonel, was responding to comments from Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who said “in the most extreme circumstances, we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike.”

Mr Klintsevich said if Britain were to launch a preemptive strike, then “not having the biggest territory, it will literally be erased from the face of the earth.”  Another translation, carried by the Russian news agency TASS, says Britain would be “razed to the ground” in a retaliatory strike.

Sir Michael’s comments came in response to Labour divisions over retaining the Trident deterrent, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggesting renewal might not be in the party’s election manifesto — only to be corrected later by party colleagues.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, Sir Michael said Labour had left voters “completely unsure as to what would actually happen to our nuclear deterrent.”

He said Prime Minster Theresa May would be ready to use Trident as a “pre-emptive initial strike”…….
Mr Klintsevich, who is deputy chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament’s defence and security committee, called Sir Michael’s comments “disgusting” and said it “deserves a tough response”. He added: “In the best case this statement should be taken as an element of psychological war — which looks particularly disgusting in such a context.

“Otherwise, it sounds really bad, because a reasonable question arises: Against whom is Great Britain going to preemptively use nuclear weapons?”

If Britain intended to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state, he added, “then probably English people desperately want to share the laurels of the USA who threw nuclear bombs at defenceless [Japanese cities] Hiroshima and Nagasaki [in 1945].”

“But those times have gone for good, as has the era of the greatness of the British Empire.” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/uk-nuclear-war-russia-warn-senator-frants-klintsevich-erased-face-earth-razed-ground-us-cold-war-a7701411.html

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Russia, UK, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Millions funnelled to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme through house in suburban London

KIM’S N-UK-E HQ  Millions funnelled to North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme through this house in suburban London street https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3393185/millions-funnelled-to-north-koreas-nuclear-weapons-programme-through-this-house-in-suburban-london-street/
The Korea National Insurance Corporation’s (KNIC) assets have ‘now been frozen. 
By Jon Lockett 23rd April 2017, 

April 26, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

If a nuclear bomb hit Coventry, UK ….

What would happen if a nuclear bomb hit Coventry? http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/what-would-happen-nuclear-bomb-12913136 The city centre would be turned into a 300m wide and 200m deep crater, BY JAMES RODGER, 23 Apr 17, Hundreds of thousands of people would be killed if a nuclear blast hit Coventry and Warwickshire.

Imagining the bomb went off at ground level in Broadgate, the city centre would be turned into a 300m wide and 200m deep crater, according to interactive data site Nukemap.

The map below shows the impact of a nuclear explosion in Coventry.

Fireball radius (orange)

Fatal levels of radiation would increase greatly if the nuke exploded at ground level.

The fireball radius (orange) would see the entire city centre including monuments such as the Cathedral, Broadgate and West Orchards Shopping Centre consumed by a nuclear fireball 3.2km wide.

This would stretch as far as the Ricoh Arena at one end, and Finham at the other.

The fatality rate is 100 per cent.

  • Crater inside radius: 150 m (0.07 km²)
  • Crater lip radius: 300 m (0.28 km²)
  • Fireball radius: 0.71 km (1.56 km²)
  • Air blast radius (20 psi): 1.67 km (8.8 km²)
  • Radiation radius (500 rem): 2.26 km (16.1 km²)
  • Air blast radius (5 psi): 3.52 km (39 km²)
  • Thermal radiation radius (3rd degree burns): 8.95 km (251 km²)
  • Radiation radius (green)

    Slightly wider than the fireball radius. Without medical treatment, expect between 50 per cent and 90 per cent mortality from acute effects alone. Dying takes between several hours and several weeks.

    Air blast radius (red – 20psi)

    The most intense air blast would have a radius of 4.75km and demolish heavily built concrete buildings in the University of Warwick campus, Binley Road, and Holbooks, among other areas. The fatality rate is still 100 per cent – or very close.

  • Air blast radius (grey – 5psi)

    A lesser air blast radius would still cause the collapse of all residential buildings within a 10km radius. That means houses would collapse all the way out in Fillongley, Bedworth, Kenilworth and Ryton.Injuries are universal and fatalities widespread.

  • Thermal radiation radius (lighter orange)

    The thermal radiation radius is 29.1km.  This would mean third degree burns “throughout the layers of the skin”, which could cause severe scarring, disablement and even amputation. This radius covers Nuneaton, Hinckley, Sutton Coldfield, parts of Birmingham and Leamington Spa.

  • The city would be dependent on outsiders and national agencies for help after the blast. In the fallout survivors would find dozens of hospitals and medical facilities would have been destroyed. A dozen fire stations would also have been wiped out.At the same moment around 200 schools and hundreds of churches, mosques, gurdwaras and temples could have been levelled or badly damaged.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Reference, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Doubts on whether UK Labour will back Trident nuclear weapons programme Trident

Jeremy Corbyn does not guarantee the Labour manifesto will back Trident nuclear weapons
Jeremy Corbyn was grilled on pushing the “nuclear button” and killing the leader of ISIS in his first big TV interview of the general election campaign,
Mirror, BYDAN BLOOM 23 APR 2017 

Jeremy Corbyn has thrown Labour’s controversial support for Britain’s nuclear weapons programme Trident into question by failing to guarantee it will be in the party’s manifesto.

The Labour leader swerved the question in a TV interview today by saying the document was still being drawn up.

 Mr Corbyn is a lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner but Labour policy supports the renewal of Trident – for which the government has set aside £41bn and campaigners say will cost £205bn.

That has caused ructions in the 18 months since he became Labour leader and the party split three ways on whether to back renewal last year.  In a testy interview Mr Corbyn also did not guarantee he would push the so-called “nuclear button” to launch a pre-emptive strike.

And he did not guarantee he would authorise a strike to kill ISIS’ leader, instead saying any killing must support a “political solution”.

Pressed on whether killing ISIS’s leader would help that solution, Mr Corbyn said: “I think the leader of ISIS not being around would be helpful and I’m no supporter or defender in any way whatsoever of ISIS.”

But he added the bombing campaign had killed innocent civilians.

Labour later attempted to clarify Mr Corbyn’s remarks in a statement saying: “The decision to renew Trident has been taken and Labour supports that.”

Mr Corbyn clashed with the BBC’s Andrew Marr in his first major broadcast interview of the 2017 general election campaign……..http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/jeremy-corbyn-not-guarantee-labour-10278663

April 24, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

1950s UK dummy nuclear bomb fiasco

Dorking narrowly avoided ‘nuclear bomb drop’ fiasco, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-surrey-39684216, 23 Apr 17, Scientists working on the UK’s first atom bomb narrowly avoided a fiasco when they nearly dropped a five tonne replica on Dorking, it has emerged.

The dummy device was being flown to Orford Ness, a top secret military test site in Suffolk, in the early 1950s.It came loose in the bomb bay while over the Surrey town, about 20 miles from London, but the bomb doors held.An engineer who worked on the device said it was then dropped in the Thames estuary, where it remains to this day.

Fortunately, the device contained no explosives or nuclear material.

The revelation is made in a BBC Four documentary, Britain’s Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story. Reg Milne, of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, told the programme: “One flight to Orford Ness, a bomb came loose over Dorking. It fell off its hook. “Luckily the bomb doors were strong enough to hold it.” He revealed: “The pilot took the aircraft over the Thames estuary, opened the bomb doors, and the bomb fell out.” He said the huge splash that resulted nearly drowned a couple of sailors nearby.

“They never found it – it’s still in the Thames somewhere,” he added.

The programme features interviews with military veterans and scientists who took part in the atomic bomb programme, some speaking for the first time, plus newly released footage of the British atomic bomb tests.

At the time, with the UK excluded from the US nuclear programme, scientists were scrambling to make a British bomb and seemingly cutting a few corners in the process. According to the programme, highly radioactive plutonium was also frequently transported in a lead-lined box by car from the research reactor in Cumbria to a testing site in south London.

On one occasion, the vehicle broke down and the driver had to knock doors to get help. As a result, the dangerous material allegedly spent several hours in the boot of a Vauxhall stranded in a pub car park. Britain’s Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story will be broadcast on BBC Four on 3 May.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | history, UK | Leave a comment

Hitachi still interested in Wylfa nuclear station, while others waver over NuGen nuclear project in Moorside

Hitachi set for talks with business secretary Greg Clark over Welsh nuclear plant, http://www.cityam.com/263354/hitachi-set-talks-business-secretary-greg-clark-over-welsh Mark Sands City A.M’s political reporter, 23 Apr `17 . Bosses at Japanese energy giant Hitachi are due to meet business secretary Greg Clark for talks just weeks after the firm applied for approval to build its Wylfa nuclear project in Anglesey.

Hitachi chairman Hiroaki Nakanishi will meet with Clark this week as government planning continues over the creation of a fleet of new nuclear projects in the UK.

Horizon, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, plans to build and operate two nuclear reactors at Wylfa, capable of generating enough to power around 10 million homes by the mid 2020s.
The application to build the Wylfa reactors earlier this month was the first since 2011, and has been predicted to take around 19 months.

It comes as Hitachi’s Japanese rival Toshiba continues to consider its options over the NuGen nuclear project in Moorside, Cumbria.

French utility firm Engie revealed in early April that it would withdraw from the project, while Toshiba has been wracked with its own problems after revealing dramatic writedowns on its Westinghouse US nuclear unit.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

France’s next president is in for a big nuclear headache.

The next French president’s nuclear problem, Candidates face tough decisions on the country’s nuclear energy future. Politico By 4/20/17,

France’s next president is in for a big nuclear headache.

He or she will have to figure out how to either extend the life of or shut down 58 reactors fast approaching retirement age and keep the country’s energy supply flowing at the same time. All the options risk being complicated and costly — financially and politically — and require savvy planning to encourage France’s dominant electricity company EDF to shift away from an energy source that has long been the core of its business.

The top candidates going into the April 23-May 7 election have widely varying nuclear energy policies, from a far-left push to get rid of it entirely to a far-right call to hang on to the country’s biggest energy source and a decades-old source of pride in the country’s industrial prowess. Center-left front-runner Emmanuel Macron falls somewhere in the middle: He wants to carry on with the existing policy, which aims to shrink the share of nuclear energy in France’s mix from 75 percent to 50 percent.

“These things are being discussed as if they were a matter of opinion, and they are not,” said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy policy adviser. “The financial stress has become so harsh that it is virtually impossible to imagine maintaining a nuclear fleet of 58 reactors. They cannot afford to maintain the status quo, so consecutive shutdowns will be forced upon decisionmakers.”

Despite the industry’s financial problems, navigating the politics of nuclear power can be dangerous in a very close election campaign. A 2016 poll by the French public opinion institute Ifop found that 53 percent of people are against a nuclear phase-out. Right-leaning voters are generally pro-nuclear, while left-leaning ones support a phase-out — which keeps candidates from shifting positions.

EDF and France’s nuclear technology company Areva have experienced huge financial strain in recent years as European power prices dropped and new nuclear plants under construction in France and Finland ran into significant cost overruns and delays. As a result, the French government pushed EDF to take over Areva and approved €3 billion in support before EDF committed to building a new nuclear plant in the U.K. last year. The costs and problems around these projects, however, have raised doubts about the future of Areva’s European Pressurized Reactor technology after the British plant.

Nuclear battle lines

French divisions over nuclear were on display this month in a battle over the closure of France’s oldest nuclear power plant, the 39-year-old Fessenheim………

Whatever the campaign rhetoric, France’s next president will have to take into account an unpleasant truth: Any option is going to cost a lot of money.

Decommissioning nuclear power plants is complicated, long and expensive work, but so is building new reactors or upgrading old ones. A quick nuclear phase-out would cost €217 billion, according to the French liberal think tank Institut Montaigne. The Mélenchon and Hamon campaigns responded by pointing to a Court of Auditors estimate that it would cost €100 billion to keep existing reactors running. http://www.politico.eu/article/the-next-french-presidents-nuclear-problem-election-france-power-energy/

April 22, 2017 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Confusion on North Korean situation. Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to North Korea border,

Russia ‘moves troops and equipment’ to North Korea border, as Kim Jong-un warns of ‘super-mighty pre-emptive strike’, Telegraph UK  Reuters 20 APRIL 2017  Russia has moved heavy military equipment towards its border with North Korea amid mounting fears of a military clash between Pyongyang and the United States over the North’s nuclear program.

A flurry of military activity in Russia’s far east came as the UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s latest missile test and threatened to impose new sanctions against Pyongyang for its “highly destabilizing behavior.”
In a unanimous statement, the council demanded that North Korea “conduct no further nuclear tests” and said Pyongyang’s “illegal missile activities” were “greatly increasing tension in the region and beyond.”……

It was revealed earlier this week that a US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Carl Vinson would spend another 30 days at sea before heading towards North Korean waters.  Last week Donald Trump, the US president, said he had ordered an “armada” into the northwest Pacific in a show of force designed to deter North Korea from further missile and nuclear weapons test.

The US defence ministry acknowledged on Tuesday that the ships had actually travelled into the Indian Ocean to carry out manoeuvres with Australian forces, and only began its journey north recently.

Mr Trump has called on China, Pyongyang’s only ally, to rein in North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but has threatened to act alone to “solve” the problem if necessary.

Residents and local media in Russia’s Far East reported large military convoys travelling in the direction of the North Korean border since the weekend, in what appear to be contingency plans to contain fallout from a possible military clash between the United States and North Korea.

A video published by local news site DVHab.ru showed a train carrying twelve tracked vehicles, including Tor surface to air missile systems, travelling through Khabarovsk in the direction of Vladivostok.

“Some say the situation around North Korea is a fiction, but this is the third train of equipment we’ve seen since this morning,” a man can be heard saying in the film. “Looks like something is being sent to the Korean border.”………

South Korean presidential candidates clashed on Wednesday night in a debate over the planned deployment in South Korea of a US-supplied Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which has angered China.

Frontrunner Moon Jae-in was criticised for leaving his options open before the May 9 election.

On Monday, Hwang and Pence reaffirmed their plans to go ahead with the THAAD, but the decision will be up to the next South Korean president. For its part, China says the system’s powerful radar is a threat to its security.

The North has said it has developed a missile that can strike the mainland United States, but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering the necessary technology, including miniaturising a nuclear warhead.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/20/north-korea-warns-super-mighty-preemptive-strike-will-reduce/

There has been some confusion over the whereabouts of a US aircraft carrier group after Trump said last week he had sent an “armada” as a warning to North Korea, even as the ships were still far from Korean waters.The US military’s Pacific Command explained that the USS Carl Vinson strike group first had to complete a shorter-than-planned period of training with Australia. It was now heading for the Western Pacific as ordered, it said.

China’s influential Global Times newspaper, which is published by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official paper, wondered whether the misdirection was deliberate.

“The truth seems to be that the US military and president jointly created fake news and it is without doubt a rare scandal in US history, which will be bound to cripple Trump’s and US dignity,” it said. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/20/north-korea-warns-super-mighty-preemptive-strike-will-reduce/

April 21, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Secret Floating Nuclear Power Plant to be fuelled all too close to city of St. Petersburg

Russia’s Secretive Floating Nuclear Power Plant Making Waves In St. Petersburg, Radio Free Europe, 20 Apr 17, ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Ecologists in Russia’s northern capital are raising the alarm over government plans to fuel a floating nuclear power plant just 2 kilometers from the heart of the city.

Officials have been saying since December that they are nearly ready to begin fueling the Akademik Lomonosov, the country’s first-ever ship-borne nuclear-power station, which is scheduled to be deployed at Vilyuchinsk on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula in 2019. Because the process is shrouded in secrecy and the government has ignored requests for information, it is unclear what the status of the fueling process currently is.

“From this floating nuclear power plant to the city’s mining institute [for example] is probably only about 500 meters,” Rashid Alimov, director of energy programs for Greenpeace Russia, told RFE/RL. “The historical center is densely populated. We have to exclude even the thought of an accident. That is why we have written to the governor. … According to the law, carrying out such operations at the Baltic Shipyard must be approved by the city, evacuation plans have to be drawn up. We have asked the municipal authorities about this.”……..

Independent nuclear-energy analyst Aleksei Shchukin, who spent more than 30 years working on nuclear-powered icebreakers, told RFE/RL that the fueling operation presents risks. Although the reactors are based on designs developed in the 1960s, the configuration on the Akademik Lomonosov is unique and untested.

“That is why I think there is no point in taking a risk and fueling the reactors in the center of a huge city,” Shchukin said. “This is very dangerous. They could take the vessel to Murmansk or Arkhangelsk, where there are bases for repairing and refueling nuclear vessels. That would be much safer.”

Authorities have ignored requests to find out why they insist on conducting the refueling — and possibly other testing — in St. Petersburg, a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site with a population of just under 5 million.

Previous Incidents……..
 
Soviet-Era Dumping

According to a 1993 report commissioned by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the Soviet Union dumped 16 nuclear reactors into the Kara Sea and two into the Sea of Japan. According to the report itself, the findings amount to a startling confession of how international agreements “were consciously broken on numerous occasions” by Moscow………..https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-petersburg-floating-nuclear-plant-safety-fears/28440654.html

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment