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The Unwarranted Ukraine Proxy War: A Year Later

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

Russia’s economic resilience

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

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

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

Proxy war united Russia            

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

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

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

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

Contradictory realities

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

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

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

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

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

Ukrainian nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

West’s tough 2022 and darker 2023

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

US and international war funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

Military Keynesianism to rescue

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

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

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

Plunging global growth

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

The unwarranted war

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Hedges: Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong

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

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

byEDITORJanuary 29, 2023

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

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Dive Brief:

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

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

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

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

A Costly and Prolonged Cold War Now Seems a Certainty

a “new golden age” for military contractors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dive Brief:

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

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

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

The Belmarsh Tribunals Demand Justice for Julian Assange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dirty secret of US nuclear energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As SMR developer X-energy moves to go public, merger partner Ares cautions investors about risks

Utility Dive Stephen Singer, Editor, Jan. 27, 2023

Dive Brief:

  • The partner in a merger with a small modular nuclear reactor developer going public has cautioned investors that changing markets and a “limited operating history” may ultimately be unfavorable to the business.

  • Ares Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, warned in an S-4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday of “limited operating experience for reactors of this type, configuration and scale” that could lead to higher than expected construction costs, maintenance requirements, operating expenses or changes in the timing of delivery. X Energy Reactor Co. announced the merger in December.
  • The market for SMRs generating electric power and high-temperature heat is not yet established and “may not achieve the growth potential we expect or may grow more slowly than expected,” Ares said. It’s backed by private equity firm Ares Management Corp.

Dive Insight:

The S-4 filing, which provides a preliminary proxy statement and spells out details of the renamed X-Energy business and market risks, provides boilerplate cautions to investors who require transparency and discussion of as many potential risks as possible. It highlights challenges in a still-emerging industry. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Jan. 19 certified NuScale Power’s SMR design, the first of its type to win federal approval………………………………

Ares said the market for SMRs, and particularly for SMRs using advanced nuclear technologies such as those employed in the Xe-100 — an 80 MWe reactor that can be scaled into a ‘four-pack’ 320 MWe power plant — has not yet been established. SMRs using advanced nuclear technologies have not been proven at scale, it said……………………..

Ares also warned that it may not attract customers for its SMR technology — a “relatively new and unproven technology” — as quickly as it expects, “or at all,” and acquiring customers may be more expensive than it currently anticipates.

In addition, Ares said the time and funding needed to bring X-energy’s nuclear fuel, TRISO-X, to market at scale may “greatly exceed” expectations………………….

Critics of SMRs have raised issues nearly identical to what Ares cited, calling out the reactors over the projected cost and time needed for siting and other approvals.

“Small modular reactors may be viable one day, but they are not today, will not be tomorrow and may never make as much economic sense as renewable sources of electricity,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says. “We should stick to carbon-free energy sources that make financial and environmental sense.”………. more https://www.utilitydive.com/news/ares-acquisition-x-energy-smr-sec-investor-warning/641337/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Can Talks with China about Nuclear Weapons Be Constructive?

January 26, 2023 Gregory Kulacki  https://blog.ucsusa.org/gregory-kulacki/can-talks-with-china-about-nuclear-weapons-be-constructive/

Politico reported US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is “under pressure” to “raise administration concerns” about the size of China’s nuclear arsenal when he travels to Beijing in early February.

Constructive conversations on nuclear weapons policy are urgently needed. Both governments are upgrading their nuclear capabilities. Chinese military planners worry about US preparations to use nuclear weapons first to forestall defeat in a conventional war, as well as US efforts to undermine China’s ability to retaliate. US military planners are concerned about the construction of new Chinese missile silos, which will significantly increase the probability and magnitude of Chinese nuclear retaliation if the United States uses nuclear weapons first.

The nuclear aspect of what some US observers describe as a new Cold War with China is different than the US nuclear contest with the Soviet Union. It’s not about numbers. Chinese leaders don’t express interest in numerical parity. President Biden’s remarks on China’s nuclear weapons policy suggest he thinks they do. That’s unfortunate. If a desired outcome of Blinken’s visit is to start a dialogue on nuclear weapons, he will need to focus less on the numbers and more on why Chinese leaders built the silos.

What Chinese leaders want – what they have wanted since they decided to develop nuclear weapons in 1955 – is to be able to use conventional military force without undue concern the United States will use nuclear weapons to stop them. Being able to credibly threaten to use nuclear weapons to prevent or defeat Chinese conventional military initiatives has been a cornerstone of US defense policy in East Asia since the Korean War.

Chinese efforts to negate US first use threats are an important part of Chinese nuclear strategy. Chinese leaders believe if they can convince US decision-makers they will retaliate, then they can safely ignore US threats to use nuclear weapons first.

Chinese military planners have always been concerned their comparatively small nuclear force could tempt US decision makers to try to wipe it out at the beginning of a war. Continued US investment in ballistic missile defense creates additional doubt about US respect for China’s ability to retaliate.

The bulk of China’s current nuclear force consists of missiles launched from trucks. Recent technological advances increase the possibility the United States could destroy or disable those missiles with conventional munitions. Switching to silos makes that far less likely. 

Current US projections of a large increase in the size of China’s nuclear force assume the new silos are an addition, not a replacement. They also assume everyone of those silos will contain a new missile and every one of those missiles will carry multiple warheads. But China does not need that many warheads to achieve its strategic objective.  Even if the silos sit empty, US military planners must assume they’re not, and US decision-makers must assume China can retaliate if the United States uses nuclear weapons first.

If Secretary Blinken’s only objective is to talk about numbers, his Chinese interlocutor can tell China’s leaders their decision to build the silos was a strategic success. It is hard to see how that makes the United States or its Asian allies safer. 

It would be wiser if Blinken said the United States no longer needs to threaten to use nuclear weapons first to keep the peace. Instead of handing Chinese leaders a strategic victory, he would convey a surprising US confidence in its conventional forces. That’s more likely to restrain Chinese leaders than what they continue to see as empty US threats to start a nuclear war; threats revolutionary leader Mao Zedong famously described as a “paper tiger.”

As paradoxical as it may seem to a US strategic culture obsessed with size, forgoing the option to use nuclear weapons first may be the best way to get Chinese leaders to respect the ability of the United States to defend its allies, and to begin a constructive conversation about nuclear weapons.

January 29, 2023 Posted by | China, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Appeals Court Tosses Suit from Environmentalists, Midland Oil Company Contesting Nuclear Waste Storage Permit

Various suits against the NRC and the storage site linger in courts across the country.

The Texan BRAD JOHNSON 27 Jan 23

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed a challenge from anti-nuclear organization Beyond Nuclear, environmental groups the Sierra Club and Don’t Waste Michigan, and a Midland-based oil company against the approval of a spent nuclear fuel interim storage permit for a facility in West Texas.

In September 2021, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a permit application for the storage of spent nuclear fuel at an Andrews County facility. Interim Storage Partners is jointly owned by Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists — the latter of which has operated a storage facility for low-level radioactive waste at the site for more than a decade.

During the second special session of 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature abruptly passed legislation banning the storage of high-level radioactive waste, including spent nuclear fuel, in response to the NRC. That led to the state suing the NRC over the permit, a case still pending in court.

But the permit approval also sparked other lawsuits from a collection of activists, interest groups, and Fasken Oil & Ranch, the Midland company, consolidated into one proceeding.

On Wednesday, the court dismissed the group’s various claims and tossed the suit; Beyond Nuclear contended that the NRC acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” the environmental groups alleged the agency “ignor[ed] deficiencies in the project’s environmental impact statement,” and Fasken asserted that it was wrongfully denied the ability to insert into the record its arguments against issuance of the permit by the NRC.

Kevin Kamps, a spokesman for Beyond Nuclear, told The Texan, “We are certainly disappointed and unfortunately the ruling focuses on a procedural technicality.” Kamps said that there is a similar permit and suit in development in New Mexico for a planned interim storage site there. He’s also optimistic that a ruling in the State of Texas’ suit will help their case here, potentially creating contradicting court decisions.

He added that “we’re not going anywhere” and hopes that courts will consider whether the NRC even has the authority from Congress to grant these permits — which he argues the agency doesn’t…………………. more https://thetexan.news/appeals-court-tosses-suit-from-environmentalists-midland-oil-company-contesting-nuclear-waste-storage-permit/

January 29, 2023 Posted by | Legal, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Donald Trump warns of NUCLEAR WAR as Joe Biden sends 31 tanks to Ukraine

omigawd! It’s a weird world when we find Donald Trump saying something sensible!

Former president Donald Trump has hit out at Joe Biden’s decision to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine ahead of a fresh Russian attack as he admitted they could lead to a nuclear war

Mirror, By Liam BucklerNews Reporter, 27 Jan 2023

Donald Trump has warned of a nuclear war as President Biden prepares to send 31 battle tanks to Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Biden’s administration confirmed on Wednesday it would be sending 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s demand for more heavy armour.

The US are also providing 500 armoured vehicles as part of the help to Ukraine in addition to the $26 billion already committed to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion nearly a year ago.

But in a post to Truth Social, the former president believes sending the thanks could lead to a possible nuclear war.

Donald Trump wrote on Thursday: “‘FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES. Get this crazy war ended, NOW. So easy to do!”

President Zelensky made a visit to the US in December to personally plead for more tanks and weapons as he believed Ukraine were struggling to make inroads with their Soviet-era T-72 tanks.

It comes after Germany confirmed they would send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv. Berlin’s decision to send 14 of the world’s most deadly tanks to Ukraine means other western countries can follow suit with their own Leopard 2s.

Germany had been trying to persuade the US to send tanks to Ukraine but top officials in Biden’s administration were wary of the move as they require extensive training.

However, Biden has since u-turned after he originally said last March: “‘The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand … that’s called World War III, okay?

“Let’s get it straight here, guys. We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine.”

His remarks were similar to Donald Trump who believes giving tanks to Ukraine will be followed by “nukes.”

However, Mr Biden told reporters the tanks will “enhance Ukraine’s capacity to defend its territory and achieve its strategic objectives.”

The tanks heading to Ukraine are set to “take time” as they are “extremely, extremely complex to operate and maintain.”……………..  https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/us-news/donald-trump-warns-nuclear-war-29063832

January 29, 2023 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear Fusion Won’t Save the Climate But It Might Blow Up the World

the United States’ first full-scale hydrogen bomb was, in fact, a fission explosion that initiated a fusion reaction.

since first tried out in that monstrous Marshall Islands explosion, fusion has been intended as a tool of war. And sadly, so it remains,

Buried deep in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s website, the government comes clean about what these fusion experiments at the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF) are really all about.

above – Edward Teller – inventor of the thermonuclear fusion bomb – (a man consumed by his fear and hatred of Russia)

they require 100 times more energy to charge than the energy they ended up producing.

Resilience, By Joshua Frank, originally published by TomDispatch 23 Jan 23

.”…………………. the New York Times and CNN alerted me that morning, at stake was a new technology that could potentially solve the worst dilemma humanity faces: climate change and the desperate overheating of our planet. Net-energy-gain fusion, a long-sought-after panacea for all that’s wrong with traditional nuclear-fission energy (read: accidents, radioactive waste), had finally been achieved at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California…………………..

…All in all, the reviews for fusion were positively glowing and it seemed to make instant sense. After all, what could possibly be wrong ……………..

The Big Catch

On a very basic level, fusion is the stuff of stars. Within the Earth’s sun, hydrogen combines with helium to create heat in the form of sunlight. Inside the walls of the Livermore Lab, this natural process was imitated by blasting 192 gigantic lasers into a tube the size of a baby’s toe. Inside that cylinder sat a “hydrogen-encased diamond.” When the laser shot through the small hole, it destroyed that diamond quicker than the blink of an eye. In doing so, it created a bunch of invisible x-rays that compressed a small pellet of deuterium and tritium, which scientists refer to as “heavy hydrogen.

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet,”explained New York Times reporter Kenneth Chang. “Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried about 3 megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain.”

As with so many breakthroughs, there was a catch. First, 3 megajoules isn’t much energy. After all, it takes 360,000 megajoules to create 300 hours of light from a single 100-watt light bulb. So, Livermore’s fusion development isn’t going to electrify a single home, let alone a million homes, anytime soon. And there was another nagging issue with this little fusion creation as well: it took 300 megajoules to power up those 192 lasers. Simply put, at the moment, they require 100 times more energy to charge than the energy they ended up producing.

The reality is that fusion energy will not be viable at scale anytime within the next decade, a time frame over which carbon emissions must be reduced by 50% to avoid catastrophic warming of more than 1.5°C,  – climate expert Michael Mann

Tritium Trials and Tribulations

The secretive and heavily secured National Ignition Facility where that test took place is the size of a sprawling sports arena. It could, in fact, hold three football fields. Which makes me wonder: how much space would be needed to do fusion on a commercial scale? No good answer is yet available. Then there’s the trouble with that isotope tritium needed to help along the fusion reaction. It’s not easy to come by and costs about as much as diamonds, around $30,000 per gram. Right now, even some of the bigwigs at the Department of Defense are worried that we’re running out of usable tritium.

…………”tritium, with a half-life of 12.3 years, exists naturally only in trace amounts in the upper atmosphere, the product of cosmic ray bombardment.” – writes Daniel Clery in Science.

…………………… the reactors themselves will have to be lined with a lot of lithium, itself an expensive chemical element at $71 a kilogram (copper, by contrast, is around $9.44 a kilogram), to allow the process to work correctly.

Then there’s also a commonly repeated misstatement that fusion doesn’t create significant radioactive waste, a haunting reality for the world’s current fleet of nuclear plants. True, plutonium, which can be used as fuel in atomic weapons, isn’t a natural byproduct of fusion, but tritium is the radioactive form of hydrogen. Its little isotopes are great at permeating metals and finding ways to escape tight enclosures. Obviously, this will pose a significant problem for those who want to continuously breed tritium in a fusion reactor. It also presents a concern for people worried about radioactivity making its way out of such facilities and into the environment.

Cancer is the main risk from humans ingesting tritium. When tritium decays it spits out a low-energy electron (roughly 18,000 electron volts) that escapes and slams into DNA, a ribosome, or some other biologically important molecule,” David Biello explains in Scientific American. “And, unlike other radionuclides, tritium is usually part of water, so it ends up in all parts of the body and therefore can, in theory, promote any kind of cancer. But that also helps reduce the risk: any tritiated water is typically excreted in less than a month.”

If that sounds problematic, that’s because it is. This country’s above-ground atomic bomb testing in the 1950s and 1960s was responsible for most of the man-made tritium that’s lingering in the environment. And it will be at least 2046, 84 years after the last American atmospheric nuclear detonation in Nevada, before tritium there will no longer pose a problem for the area.

Of course, tritium also escapes from our existing nuclear reactors and is routinely found near such facilities where it occurs “naturally” during the fission process. In fact, after Illinois farmers discovered their wells had been contaminated by the nearby Braidwood nuclear plant, they successfully sued the site’s operator Exelon, which, in 2005, was caught discharging 6.2 million gallons of tritium-laden water into the soil.

In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allows the industry to monitor for tritium releases at nuclear sites; the industry is politely asked to alert the NRC in a “timely manner” if tritium is either intentionally or accidentally released. But a June 2011 report issued by the Government Accountability Office cast doubt on the NRC’s archaic system for assessing tritium discharges, suggesting that it’s anything but effective. (“Absent such an assessment, we continue to believe that NRC has no assurance that the Groundwater Protection Initiative will lead to prompt detection of underground piping system leaks as nuclear power plants age.”)

Consider all of this a way of saying that, if the NRC isn’t doing an adequate job of monitoring tritium leaks already occurring with regularity at the country’s nuclear plants, how the heck will it do a better job of tracking the stuff at fusion plants in the future? And as I suggest in my new book, Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America, the NRC is plain awful at just about everything it does.


Instruments of Death

All of that got me wondering: if tritium, vital for the fusion process, is radioactive, and if they aren’t going to be operating those lasers in time to put the brakes on climate change, what’s really going on here?

Maybe some clues lie (as is so often the case) in history. The initial idea for a fusion reaction was proposed by English physicist Arthur Eddington in 1920. More than 30 years later, on November 1, 1952, the first full-scale U.S. test of a thermonuclear device, “Operation Ivy,” took place in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It yielded a mushroom-cloud explosion from a fusion reaction equivalent in its power to 10.4 Megatons of TNT. That was 450 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the U.S. had dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki only seven years earlier to end World War II. It created an underwater crater 6,240 feet wide and 164 feet deep…………….

Nicknamed “Ivy Mike,” the bomb was a Teller-Ulam thermonuclear device, named after its creators Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam. It was also the United States’ first full-scale hydrogen bomb, an altogether different beast than the two awful nukes dropped on Japan in August 1945. Those bombs utilized fission in their cores to create massive explosions. But Ivy Mike gave a little insight into what was still possible for future weapons of annihilation.

The details of how the Teller-Ulam device works are still classified, but historian of science Alex Wellerstein explained the concept well in the New Yorker:

“The basic idea is, as far as we know, as follows. Take a fission weapon — call it the primary. Take a capsule of fusionable material, cover it with depleted uranium, and call it the secondary. Take both the primary and the secondary and put them inside a radiation case — a box made of very heavy materials. When the primary detonates, radiation flows out of it, filling the case with X rays. This process, which is known as radiation implosion, will, through one mechanism or another… compress the secondary to very high densities, inaugurating fusion reactions on a large scale. These fusion reactions will, in turn, let off neutrons of such a high energy that they can make the normally inert depleted uranium of the secondary’s casing undergo fission.”

Got it? Ivy Mike was, in fact, a fission explosion that initiated a fusion reaction. But ultimately, the science of how those instruments of death work isn’t all that important. The takeaway here is that, since first tried out in that monstrous Marshall Islands explosion, fusion has been intended as a tool of war. And sadly, so it remains, despite all the publicity about its possible use some distant day in relation to climate change. In truth, any fusion breakthroughs are potentially of critical importance not as a remedy for our warming climate but for a future apocalyptic world of war.

Despite all the fantastic media publicity, that’s how the U.S. government has always seen it and that’s why the latest fusion test to create “energy” was executed in the utmost secrecy at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. One thing should be taken for granted: the American government is interested not in using fusion technology to power the energy grid, but in using it to further strengthen this country’s already massive arsenal of atomic weapons.

Consider it an irony, under the circumstances, but in its announcement about the success at Livermore — though this obviously wasn’t what made the headlines — the Department of Energy didn’t skirt around the issue of gains for future atomic weaponry. Jill Hruby, the department’s undersecretary for nuclear security, admitted that, in achieving a fusion ignition, researchers had “opened a new chapter in NNSA’s science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program.” (NNSA stands for the National Nuclear Security Administration.) That “chapter” Hruby was bragging about has a lot more to do with “modernizing” the country’s nuclear weapons capabilities than with using laser fusion to end our reliance on fossil fuels.

“Had we not pursued the hydrogen bomb,” Edward Teller once said, “there is a very real threat that we would now all be speaking Russian. I have no regrets.” Some attitudes die hard.

Buried deep in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s website, the government comes clean about what these fusion experiments at the $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF) are really all about:

NIF’s high energy density and inertial confinement fusion experiments, coupled with the increasingly sophisticated simulations available from some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, increase our understanding of weapon physics, including the properties and survivability of weapons-relevant materials… The high rigor and multidisciplinary nature of NIF experiments play a key role in attracting, training, testing, and retaining new generations of skilled stockpile stewards who will continue the mission to protect America into the future.”

Yes, despite all the media attention to climate change, this is a rare yet intentional admission, surely meant to frighten officials in China and Russia. It leaves little doubt about what this fusion breakthrough means. It’s not about creating future clean energy and never has been. It’s about “protecting” the world’s greatest capitalist superpower. Competitors beware.

Sadly, fusion won’t save the Arctic from melting, but if we don’t put a stop to it, that breakthrough technology could someday melt us all.  https://www.resilience.org/stories/2023-01-26/nuclear-fusion-wont-save-the-climate-but-it-might-blow-up-the-world/

January 28, 2023 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear strike chief seeks cancer review of launch officers

Midland Daily News. TARA COPP, Associated Press, Jan. 27, 2023 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top Air Force general in charge of the nation’s air- and ground-launched nuclear missiles has requested an official investigation into the number of officers who are reporting blood cancer diagnoses after serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

The illnesses became publicly known this week after The Associated Press obtained a military brief that at least nine missileers — those officers serving in underground bunkers near silo-based Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and responsible for turning launch keys if ordered — were reporting diagnoses of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. One of the officers has died.

Gen. Thomas A. Bussiere, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, which is responsible for all of the silo-based and aircraft-launched nuclear warheads, said in a statement to the AP Friday that he has requested that the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine conduct a formal assessment into the reported cancers.

It was not immediately clear if that assessment would be limited to Malmstrom, or if it would include similar nuclear missile facilities at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.

“Air Force Global Strike Command and our Air Force takes the responsibility to protect airmen and Guardians incredibly seriously, and their safety and health is always my top priority,” Bussiere said. “While we continue to work through this process, service members and their dependents as well as former service members who may have concerns or have questions are encouraged to speak with their healthcare providers.”…………..

Over the last week, more missileers who served at Malmstrom or their families have reached out to the AP to share their experiences with diagnoses of blood cancer and other types of cancer……………………..

nly about 3,300 troops are based at Malmstrom at a time, and only about 400 of those are assigned either as missileers or as support for those operators. The three bases control a total of 400 siloed Minuteman III ICBMs. https://www.ourmidland.com/news/article/nuclear-strike-chief-seeks-cancer-review-of-17747375.php

January 28, 2023 Posted by | health, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

US sweetens pot to study siting for spent nuclear fuel

  https://journalrecord.com/2023/01/27/us-sweetens-pot-to-study-siting-for-spent-nuclear-fuel/ By: Associated Press January 27, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. government has long struggled to find a permanent solution for storing or disposing of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, and opposition to such a site is flaring up again as New Mexico lawmakers debate banning a facility without state consent.

The state’s prospective ban cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday with approval from a key committee. Supporters acknowledge that the bill has a long road ahead, but it does have the backing of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, the bill’s sponsor, said momentum against New Mexico becoming a permanent dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste – including spent fuel from commercial power plants – is growing and he’s cautiously optimistic this is the year that the state takes a legislative stand.

Stenborn said consent should be mandatory and that the federal government should provide states with a significant financial incentive reflecting the risks associated with managing radioactive materials.

New Mexico and neighboring Texas have sued in federal court over two proposed multibillion-dollar interim storage facilities – one in southeastern New Mexico and the other in Andrews County, Texas.

“New Mexico has not been offered anything with this deal,” Steinborn said. “And even if we had, I don’t think any amount of money would convince me that it’s the right thing.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a license for a facility in West Texas in 2021, and the agency plans to make a final decision as early as March on whether to grant a license for the planned storage complex in New Mexico. The two sites would be about 40 miles apart.

Environmental and nuclear watchdog groups have filed their own lawsuits, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed all objections opposing the Texas project.

Federal appellate courts elsewhere have yet to rule on the state of Texas’ claims, which focus on whether federal nuclear regulators have authority to license such a facility, or on New Mexico’s claims that regulators did not do enough to vet plans by Holtec International.

The New Jersey-based company is seeking a 40-year license to build what it has described as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad, which already is home to the federal government’s only underground repository for Cold War-era waste generated by decades of nuclear research and bomb-making.

From the decommissioned nuclear plant near the San Onofre Beach in Southern California to plants that have powered communities on the East Coast, spent fuel has been piling up for decades and elected officials in those communities want it shipped elsewhere.

The Biden administration sweetened the pot this month, putting up $26 million for communities interested in studying potential interim storage sites. Biden and his top energy officials have pointed to nuclear power as essential to achieving their goals of producing carbon-free electricity over the next decade.

According to the DOE, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of radioactive waste a year, with most of it remaining on-site because there’s nowhere else to put it. The federal government is paying to house the fuel, and the cost is expected to stretch into the tens of billions over the next decade, according to a review by independent government auditors.

January 28, 2023 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

NASA partners with the military to test nuclear fission-powered spacecraft engine by 2027

The technological advancement has long been seen as critical to long-haul missions, including a manned trip to Mars.

Aljazeera 24 Jan 2023

The top official at the United States space agency NASA has said the country plans to test a spacecraft engine powered with nuclear fission by 2027, an advancement seen as key to long-haul missions including a manned journey to Mars.

NASA will partner with the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the nuclear thermal propulsion engine and launch it into space, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said on Tuesday. The project has been named the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations or DRACO……………………..

Under the NASA-DARPA agreement, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate will lead technical development of the nuclear thermal engine, which will eventually be integrated with an experimental spacecraft created by the military.

The agency said the last US nuclear thermal rocket engine tests were discontinued in the 1970s… https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/24/nasa-to-test-nuclear-fission-powered-spacecraft-engine-by-2027

January 27, 2023 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment