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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

America’s trillions of dollars militaristic economy

The US Military Is the Biggest “Big Government” Entitlement Program on the Planet , December 10, 2017, By JP Sottile, Truthout |The US economy is caught in a trap. That trap is the Department of Defense: an increasingly sticky wicket that relies on an annual, trillion-dollar redistribution of government-collected wealth. In fact, it’s the biggest “big government” program on the planet, easily beating out China’s People’s Liberation Army in both size and cost. It is not only the “nation’s largest employer,” with 2.867 million people currently on the payroll, but it also provides government benefits to 2 million retirees and their family members. And it actively picks private sector winners by targeting billions of dollars to an elite group of profit-seeking contractors.

The top five overall recipients collectively pulled in $109.5 billion in FY2016, and their cohorts consistently dominate the government’s list of top 100 contractors. They reap this yearly largesse through a Rube-Goldberg-like system of influence peddlers, revolving doors and wasteful taxpayer-funded boondoggles. Finally, it is all justified by a deadly feedback loop of perpetual warfare that is predicated on a predictable supply of blowback.

But this belligerent cash machine doesn’t just produce haphazard interventions and shady partnerships with a motley assortment of strongmen, proxies and frenemies. It also has Uncle Sam caught in a strange cycle of taxpayer-funded dependence that may ultimately be the most expensive — and least productive — jobs program in human history………

Too Big to Fail?

The US stands alone as a globe-spanning empire with 787 overseas bases, “lily pad” deployments and host country facilities in 88 nations and territories, according to the most recent accounting by scholar David Vine. At home, a Google Maps search reveals another 603 bases, depots, arsenals and assorted military facilities peppered around the 50 states. The US dominates the land, sea and skies, and is moving to dominate space…….

taxpayers’ only end product is a larger military with more bases and more weapons. However, without a serious shift toward non-defense government priorities, cutting the defense budget would mean, in the immediate term, many Americans losing their jobs. In the absence of non-military jobs programs and other forms of robust social spending, these workers depend on military tax dollars to fund their livelihoods, their health care and their kids’ educations. Tax dollars sustain the military-driven local and regional economies within which they live and work. Not coincidentally, this misallocated investment in a “war and weapons-based economy” is, as Major Gen. (Ret.) Dennis Laich and Col. (Ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson write, also reflected in the inherent “unfairness” that feeds off the “all-volunteer force.”……….

So, what are the options now that the US finds itself stuck in this paradigmatic trap? There are three possible alternatives.

One is to simply slash the budget. The downside is that it will dislocate millions of people who rely directly and indirectly on defense spending. The upside is that it will force an immediate retreat from both empire and military Keynesianism. This also could stoke some economic growth if the half to three-quarters of a trillion in annual savings was “returned” to taxpayers in the form of a rebate check. Basically, Americans would finally get the “peace dividend” almost 30 years after the Cold War ended.

The second option is the post-WWII demobilization model. That influx of manpower was met with the GI Billtax breaks for new homeowners and investments in infrastructure. This is a truly Keynesian solution. Infrastructure jobs and educational subsidies would provide relief to Americans currently reliant on military Keynesianism for their livelihoods. The original GI Bill “returned $7 to the American economy for every $1 invested in the GI Bill,” notes Jared Lyon of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. And a study by Costs of War Project determined allocating resources to “clean energy and health care spending create 50 percent more jobs than the equivalent amount of spending on the military,” and “education spending creates more than twice as many jobs” as defense spending.

Frankly, either of these two solutions is far better than the third option, which is to continue to misallocate hundreds of billions in precious capital away from the productive economy while wreaking havoc at home and abroad. And that’s the ultimate no-win situation for a militarized economy that has manufactured its share of bloody, no-win situations since the end of World War II. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42829-the-us-military-is-the-biggest-big-government-entitlement-program-on-the-planet

 

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December 11, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Revelations that Westinghouse knew of nuclear reactor problems

Sounding new nuclear alarms https://www.postandcourier.com/opinion/editorials/sounding-new-nuclear-alarms/article_be2fb7ca-dc42-11e7-8c26-0305d23937e2.html Westinghouse knew, as far back as 2011, that its designs for two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina were virtually guaranteed to face construction delays and serious cost overruns.

A shocking document published on Friday by The Post and Courier reveals that a Westinghouse engineer raised several alarms about the viability of the reactor plans just two years after construction began.

Worse, it suggests that Westinghouse officials all but ignored the conclusions and proceeded with construction on the now abandoned reactors anyway.

“The AP1000 Design is not complete, although it is currently under construction,” reads the document. “This virtually assures large numbers of changes will occur to both systems and structures.”

The author estimated that related delays could cost as much as $300 million in “claims which will be difficult to defend.”

The report also drew attention to the fact that Westinghouse chose not to require a “professional engineer seal” on plans for the reactors, which could call into question both the designs’ legal status and whether they could be safely built.

That particular flaw, and the existence of the report, were both documented in a September article by The Post and Courier.

If state lawmakers and officials can prove that SCANA or Santee Cooper were aware of Westinghouse’s own internal concerns about the nuclear project as far back as 2011, it would be the most damning piece of evidence yet that the utilities acted imprudently in continuing to funnel money into the new reactors at customer expense.

Today, The Post and Courier is publishing a thorough investigation not just of the failure of the two South Carolina reactors, but of a number of other projects in other states that have cost electric ratepayers tens of billions of dollars.

The report paints a troubling picture of money and influence wielded to shape public policy that benefits electric utilities at the cost of their customers.

In South Carolina, the 2007 Base Load Review Act paved the way for a $9 billion nuclear disaster that could impact hundreds of thousands of ratepayers for the next six decades. The law passed with near unanimous support at the Statehouse.

At least 11 states have similar pieces of legislation. That leaves millions of people nationwide at risk of similarly devastating economic impacts.

Even if Westinghouse never mentioned its concerns to SCANA or Santee Cooper officials, the two South Carolina power companies certainly knew that they were facing problems. Cost overruns and delays plagued the project almost from the start.

Then in 2015, engineering firm Bechtel produced an alarming audit that raised numerous red flags about construction schedules, design flaws and other potentially fatal problems. But work continued and utility officials publicly touted the project’s progress.

That shameful duplicity insults the electric ratepayers of South Carolina, who are paying higher rates for the project, and are faced with years more without state intervention. The situation must be rectified by state lawmakers, regulatory officers and Gov. Henry McMaster when the Legislature returns to session in January.

And as today’s report confirms, other states should take notice.

December 11, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Ontario frighteningly unprepared for nuclear emergencies

IFPress 7th Dec 2017,Ontario’s lack of readiness for nuclear emergencies is a frightening
situation that should alarm every resident, especially those in
Southwestern Ontario, says Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “The province
preaches to municipalities about emergency plans. It turns out the preacher
isn’t following his own gospel,” Bradley said Thursday. Bradley joined
a chorus of critics slamming the Liberal government a day after Ontario’s
auditor general revealed shortcomings in provincial emergency and nuclear
response plans, concluding it’s not ready for a large-scale emergency.
Southwestern Ontario is home to the world’s largest operating nuclear
plant, the Bruce nuclear complex near Kincardine.
http://www.lfpress.com/2017/12/07/sarnia-mayor-weighs-in-after-auditors-less-than–glowing-review-of-provincial-preparedness

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Canada, safety | Leave a comment

North Korea – open to talks with USA?

North Korea ready to open direct talks with US, says Russia’s Sergei Lavrov https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/07/north-korea-ready-direct-talks-us-sergei-lavrov

Pyongyang ‘wants above all to talk to the US about guarantees for its security’
Lavrov says he informed Rex Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday, Guardian, Julian Borger in Washington, 8 Dec 17North Korea is open to direct talks with the US over their nuclear standoff, according to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said he passed that message to his counterpart, Rex Tillerson, when the two diplomats met in Vienna on Thursday.

There was no immediate response from Tillerson but the official position of the state department is that North Korea would have to show itself to be serious about giving up its nuclear arsenal as part of a comprehensive agreement before a dialogue could begin.

Lavrov conveyed the apparent offer on the day a top UN official, Jeffrey Feltman, met the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, in Pyongyang, during the first high-level UN visit to the country for six years. Feltman is an American and a former US diplomat, but the state department stressed he was not in North Korea with any message from Washington.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency. “Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”

The diplomatic moves come amid an increased sense of urgency to find a way of defusing the tensions over North Korea’s increasingly ambitious nuclear and missile tests. The standoff reached a new peak on 29 November, when North Korea tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-15, capable of reaching Washington, New York and the rest of the continental United States. The missile launch followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb in September.

Pyongyang has said that current joint exercises by the US and South Korea involving hundreds of warplanes, along with “bellicose remarks” by US officials have “made an outbreak of war on the Korean peninsula an established fact”.

“The remaining question now is: when will the war break out,” a foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

North Korean officials have said in recent informal meetings that they are particularly concerned by the threat of a surprise “decapitation” strike, aimed at killing the country’s leaders and paralysing military command and control systems before Pyongyang could launch its missiles.

The heightened tensions and threatening language have increased fears around the world that the two sides could blunder into war through miscalculation, mistaking war games for a real attack or misreading blurred red lines.

US and North Korean positions are currently far apart, with Pyongyang rejecting any suggestion that its nuclear disarmament would be on the table at any future negotiation. The regime wants the US to recognise it as a nuclear weapons power and cease its “hostile policies” to North Korea, including sanctions and military manoeuvres off the Korean peninsula.

For its part, the US has rejected a “freeze-for-freeze” proposal advanced by Russiaand China, by which North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile tests while the US would curtail its military exercises.

State department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that direct talks with North Korea were “not on the table until they are willing to denuclearize.”

However, the two sides have had informal contacts this year, involving Joseph Yun, the US special representative for North Korea policy. Those contacts, known as the “New York channel” were cut by the North Koreans after threatening remarks by Donald Trump during the UN general assembly in September. But there have been some recent signs that Pyongyang might be interested in restoring the channel.

At a meeting in Stockholm that brought together western experts and officials from Pyongyang in late November, a North Korean representative appeared to raise, for the first time, the possibility of a channel for military-to-military communication with the US.

“In an informal discussion that we had in Stockholm, an official made an observation that there isn’t at present a way for the US and North Korea to work together to prevent an accident. I thought that was an interesting observation that I had not heard them say before,” said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America thinktank who has played a leading role in back-channel contacts with Iran and North Korea, and who attended the Stockholm meeting.

“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearisation and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate. Those to me seem like achievable goals.”

Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst who was director for Korea, Japan and Oceanic affairs at the national security council in the Bush and Obama administrations, said Washington might be amenable to such a military hotline being established.

“I think even this administration recognises that some sort of an open channel is needed for that, not to negotiate but to have a little more transparency,” she said. “I think everyone recognises that is needed.”

Terry, who was deputy national intelligence officer for east Asia at the national intelligence council from 2009 to 2010, said that it was also possible that Yun could re-establish the New York channel with Pyongyang. But she added there was little sign such contacts would lead to substantive negotiations in the current climate.

“This latest test put a big hole in the possibility of negotiation at this moment, she said. “Ambassador Yun might do that but it’s different with the White House. I’m not sure he has strong White House support.”

December 9, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

USA internationally isolated as Donald Trump continues menacing North Korea

Donald Trump’s menacing talk on North Korea is leaving the US isolated https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/30/donald-trump-menacing-talk-north-korea-us-isolated

The US president seems oblivious to the consequences of war, and international support for his belligerence is weakening, Guardian, Simon Tisdall, 1 Dec 17, Donald Trump’s latest threat to destroy North Korea’s regime by force produced an angry response from Russia on Thursday. Yet elsewhere, the menacing talk from Washington was mostly met with uncomfortable silence.

While there is no shortage of international concern about Kim Jong-un’s latest, “breakthrough” missile test on Wednesday, Trump’s bellicose talk of war is rendering the US increasingly isolated.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, appeared to voice doubts shared by other countries when he claimed on Thursday that Trump was deliberately pushing Pyongyang towards military confrontation. “It seems they have done everything on purpose to make Kim lose control and make another desperate move,” he said.

Lavrov rejected imposing additional sanctions demanded by Trump. Lavrov suggested previously unscheduled US military exercises in December were part of an undisclosed plan to trigger a conflict. “The Americans need to explain to us all what they are actually up to. If they seek a pretext to destroy North Korea, they should openly say so.”

Reacting to Wednesday’s test, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, upped the ante again, pinning blame wholly on Kim’s shoulders. “If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday … If war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed,” she said.

It’s a view rejected by China which, like Russia, has repeatedly urged Trump to halt the military buildup and start talking. The official China Daily said opportunities created by Beijing to launch a dialogue had been “casually wasted” by the US. By re-designating North Korea as a sponsor of state terrorism, Trump had reignited a crisis that had abated since September, the paper said.

Trump’s uncanny ability to lose friends and alienate people makes it unlikely Xi Jinping, China’s president, will heed his latest appeal, made in a personal telephone call, for a full oil embargo on North Korea.

Trump continues to taunt Kim. Speaking in Missouri this week, he added the insult “sick puppy” to his previous, mocking description of Kim as “little rocket man”. This kind of playground name-calling and casual presidential rudeness is becoming familiar to allies as well as foes, as Theresa May discovered this week.

Whatever his military advisers may be telling Trump about the feasibility of “taking out” Kim’s regime, there seems scant understanding in Trump’s White House of the human, political and diplomatic consequences of forcible regime change. The US relationship with Xi’s China would be wrecked by any unilateral, potentially illegal military action in Beijing’s backyard. It could dash Trump’s hopes for more balanced economic ties. It might also induce China to increase defence spending and redouble its efforts to supplant the US as the Asia-Pacific’s leading military power.

Russia would take full advantage of such a rift, which could extend to the US-Europe and Nato relationships. It cannot be assumed the western alliance, frequently denigrated by Trump, would support the US in such a scenario. On past form, France and Germany would be reluctant to back what most of the world would certainly view as US aggression against a weaker adversary. The split over Iraq in 2003 might be magnified many times over.

An outbreak of hostilities undoubtedly risks large-scale loss of life. Even if North Korea failed to retaliate effectively – a big if – public and political outrage in South Korea and Japan would seriously damage America’s regional interests. Japan’s hawkish prime minister, Shinzo Abe, a Trump golf buddy, would be likely to face a fierce backlash. There would be renewed pressure to close US bases in both countries.

Meanwhile, the negative effect on the global economy, stock markets, oil prices and business can only be guessed at. Trump’s obliviousness to the possible consequences of his actions is the main reason why international support for Washington’s increasingly menacing stance seems to be weakening, even as the North Korean conundrum intensifies. By threatening Armageddon, Trump may ensure Kim wins.

December 9, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | 1 Comment

President Trump throws a diplomatic bomb into the Middle East peace process

With Jerusalem Move, Trump Sabotages His Own Mideast Peace Process, By Robin Wright December 6, 2017

December 9, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA | 1 Comment

Climate crisis in America – California’s wildfires

California’s Climate Emergency, Rolling Stone, By Fires continue to burn Southern California, and climate scientists have warned us for years that the region was entering a year-round fire regime In the hills above the Pacific Ocean, the world crossed a terrifying tipping point this week.

As holiday music plays on the radio, temperatures in Southern California have soared into the 80s, and bone-dry winds have fanned a summer-like wildfire outbreak. Southern California is under siege.

As the largest of this week’s fires skipped across California’s famed coastal highway 101 toward the beach, rare snowflakes were falling in Houston, all made possible by a truly extreme weather pattern that’s locked the jet stream into a highly amplified state. It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe how weird this is. It’s rare that the dissonance of climate change is this visceral.That one of California’s largest and most destructive wildfires is now burning largely out of control during what should be the peak of the state’s rainy season should shock us into lucidity. It’s December. This shouldn’t be happening.

The Thomas fire is the first wintertime megafire in California history. In a state known for its large fires, this one stands out. At 115,000 acres, it’s already bigger than the city of Atlanta. Hundreds of homes have already been destroyed, and the fire is still just 5 percent contained.

In its first several hours, the Thomas fire grew at a rate of one football field per second, expanding 30-fold, and engulfing entire neighborhoods in the dead of night. Hurricane force winds have produced harrowing conditions for firefighters. Faced with such impossible conditions, in some cases, all they could do is move people to safety, and stand and watch.

“We can’t control it,” firefighter and photographer Stuart Palley told me from a beach in Ventura. “In these situations, you can throw everything you’ve got at it, tanker planes dropping tens of thousands of gallons of flame retardant, thousands of firefighters, hundreds of engines, you can do everything man has in their mechanical toolbox to fight these fires and they’re just going to burn and do whatever the hell they want. We have to learn that.” As we spoke, another wall of flames crested a nearby ridge, reflecting its orange glow off the sea.

The Thomas fire isn’t the only one burning right now. At least six major fires threaten tens of thousands of homes and have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee in recent days. “California fires enter the heart of Los Angeles” read one New York Timesheadline, a statement so dire it could double as a plot synopsis in a nearby Hollywood movie studio. Million-dollar mansions in Bel Air were evacuated, and the 405 freeway, one of L.A.’s busiest, was transformed into a dystopian hellscape during the morning commute. Ralph Terrazas, the Los Angeles fire chief, called the conditions the worst he’s seen in his entire 31-year career. “There will be no ability to fight fires in these kinds of winds,” said Ken Pimlott, the state fire chief. Shortly after these statements, state officials sent an unprecedented push notification to nearly everyone in Southern California, ominously warning millions of people to “stay alert.”

For years, climate scientists have warned us that California was entering a year-round fire regime. For years, climate campaigners have been wondering what it would take to get people to wake up to the urgency of cutting fossil fuel emissions. For years, we’ve been tip-toeing as a civilization towards a point of no return.

That time is now.

The advent of uncontrollable wintertime megafires in California is a turning point in America’s struggle to contain the impacts of a rapidly changing climate. …….http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/southern-california-wildfires-climate-change-emergency-w513659

December 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

USA claims that Russia is violating 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty

U.S. presses Russia to comply with nuclear missile treaty  WASHINGTON (Reuters) 9 Dec 17, – The United States is reviewing military options, including new intermediate-range cruise missile systems, in response to what it says is Russia’s ongoing violation of a Cold War-era pact banning such missiles, the State Department said on Friday.

Washington is prepared “to cease such research and development activities” if Russia returns to compliance with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The warning was the Trump administration’s first response to U.S. charges first leveled in 2014 that Russia had deployed a ground-launched cruise missile that breaches the pact’s ban on the testing and fielding of missiles with ranges of between 500-5,500 kms (310-3,417 miles).

U.S. officials have said the Russian cruise missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and that Moscow has refused to hold indepth discussions about the alleged breach.

Russia has denied that it is violating the accord.

The U.S. allegation has added to strains in relations between Moscow and Washington. U.S. and Russian officials are due to discuss the issue at a meeting in coming weeks of the special commission that oversees the treaty, said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity…….https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-russia/u-s-presses-russia-to-comply-with-nuclear-missile-treaty-idUSKBN1E224A

December 9, 2017 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s EPA removes climate change and renewable energy references from its website

EPA removes climate change references from website, report says (CNN)  By Madison Park
December 8, 2017   References to climate change and the Environmental Protection Agency’s use of renewable energy have been removed from several of its web pages, according to an analysis by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

The group regularly monitors tens of thousands of federal environmental agency web pages to document what has been changed or scrubbed. It released a report Friday, noting changes to the website in the fall, including links to the EPA’s climate change adaptation plan and policy that have been removed.
This is not the first time references to climate change have been cut from its website.
CNN reported previously that the Trump administrationhas been swapping out the phrase “climate change,” while avoiding references to global warming. And in April, environmental groups were dismayed when climate change information was removed from the EPA site with a message that the page was being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”
CNN has reached out to the EPA for comment.
However, there are more than 5,000 results when the term “climate change” is searched on the EPA’s website.
Here are some of the changes reported by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative:…….http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/08/politics/epa-climate-change-references/index.html

December 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

New Jersey Governor plans multi $billion subsidy for nuclear power stations

Christie’s Last-Minute Nuclear Bailout Plans for New Jersey NRDC  In the latest move to ram through a multibillion-dollar subsidy package for the state’s (currently thriving) nuclear plants, outgoing Governor Chris Christie is signaling that he won’t consider legislation that includes provisions to protect taxpayers and preserve New Jersey’s ability to continue to grow its clean energy businesses. If the New Jersey Legislature passes a bill to subsidize those plants before Gov.-elect Phil Murphy takes office on January 16, it will not protect consumers, employees, communities or the environment.

That’s not good for New Jersey.

There is broad support for keeping two plants open—Salem and Hope Creek, both in Salem County. The only question is whether we need to do this now—without a deliberate, thoughtful and transparent plan that narrowly tailors any financial support; truly protects workers and communities; and avoids hamstringing Governor-elect Murphy’s ambitious clean energy agenda.

If you’re wondering why we’re even talking about this, see my previous blog Transitioning From Uneconomical Nuclear Power in New Jersey.

Opposition to the process

Citizens across the state are up in arms. The NRDC Action Fund has engaged over 10,000 constituents; Environment New Jersey, Environmental Defense Fund and AARP members are also out in force. People are horrified at the secretive process. It is December 8, and we haven’t seen a bill. Yet Christie—who currently enjoys the lowest approval rating of any sitting U.S. governor—and PSEG seem to be moving forward in full force to secure this bailout in hopes that everyone is distracted with holiday festivities. A frequent snicker at Monday’s hearing, without a bill to even discuss: “We could all go to Washington if we wanted to be treated so shabbily.”

Reported substance is even worse

The substance is even worse than the process. To recap, the proposal—as it is well understood by insiders, since only those writing the legislative language have seen it—is a standalone subsidy for existing nuclear plants. PSEG set out a few particulars at the hearing:

  • The subsidy will cost consumers about $400 million per year;
  • The state regulator—the Board of Public Utilities—will review the company’s claim that the plants require a subsidy to continue operation;
  • The board will adjust the subsidy to reflect increased revenue to the plants should New Jersey join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as Governor-elect Murphy has pledged; and
  • The subsidy will be reviewed every three years.

What should be included

There was no hint of any provision to minimize costs, or to protect workers, host communities, and the environment when these plants eventually do close because nuclear power is not economical in today’s energy landscape……..https://www.nrdc.org/experts/dale-bryk/christies-last-minute-nuclear-bailout-plans-new-jersey

December 9, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Project struggling to deal with wastes and contaminated areas

Official: WIPP deficiencies stem from lack of funds, By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, 7 Dec 17

      More than three years after a radiation leak forced the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to shut down, managers are still dealing with the issues of storing waste and undertaking construction in a partly contaminated mine.

A nearly $300 million new ventilation system isn’t expected to be complete by 2022, the salt-rock ceiling of one room is expected to collapse soon, and the facility is facing problems with fire-suppression systems and other infrastructure.

But at a forum Wednesday evening in Carlsbad, officials expressed enthusiasm about the work underway at WIPP.

At least 118 shipments of transuranic waste — equipment, tools, soil and gloves contaminated by plutonium and other highly radioactive materials — have been taken into the facility, at a rate of three to five shipments per week, since WIPP reopened in January, they said. This is a far slower pace than before the shutdown. The facility has averaged 800 shipments a year, or more than 15 per week, in the 15 years that it has accepted nuclear waste for long-term storage…..

Officials have prioritized a long list of infrastructure needs, Shrader said, and are asking Nuclear Waste Partnership to find ways to save money to better fund crucial projects. They also are working with New Mexico’s congressional delegation to secure more federal funding for WIPP, he said.

In July, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent adviser to the U.S. energy secretary, wrote in a monthly report on WIPP that inspectors had found deficiencies in tornado doors, fire-suppression systems that went without water for months and a number of unstable areas in the mine that workers could not access.

 “The number of impairments and the time it takes to repair items indicate that the contractor is struggling to maintain facility infrastructure,” the report said……. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/official-wipp-deficiencies-stem-from-lack-of-funds/article_8f16f281-8c13-5f60-85ac-26b52840f65c.html

December 9, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

USA group to Norway to attend Nobel peace prize conference

Northampton activists travel to Norway to attend Nobel peace prize conference, lobby for nuclear disarmament agreement, Mass LiveDec 8, By Lucas Ropek

NORTHAMPTON – Northampton area activists traveled to Norway Thursday to attend the Nobel Peace Prize conference in Oslo, hoping to use the trip as an opportunity to promote a nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Jeff Napolitano, the Executive Director of The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice, and Sabine Merz, who sits on the Center’s Board of Directors, will stay in Oslo for a week.

The Resistance Center was born out of the Northampton chapter of the American Friends Service Committee that closed earlier this year, and focuses on promoting a progressive agenda locally and globally.

Napolitano and Merz hope to use the conference as an opportunity to participate in a conversation about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, an international agreement supported by 122 United Nations (UN) member states that, if adopted, would be a legally binding means of banning nuclear weapons throughout the world.

The treaty is the result of years of activism on the part of a coalition of countries pushing for disarmament, according to the activists. Much of the work was accomplished by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which is being awarded the Nobel peace prize for its work in establishing the treaty. …….

The U.S. has so far declined to sign the ICAN treaty and the U.S. ambassador has also declined to attend the Oslo conference, said Napolitano. http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/12/northampton_activists_travel_t.html

December 9, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Media to blame for focussing on Trump trivia, minimising climate change

Climate change is the story you missed in 2017. And the media is to blame https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/07/climate-change-media-coverage-media-matters   Lisa Hymas

Some of Trump’s tweets generate more national coverage than devastating disasters. As the weather gets worse, we need journalism to get better, 

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, media, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. ex-envoy Robert Gallucci urges Washington and Pyongyang to consider China’s ‘freeze to freeze’ compromise

Japan Times, 7 Dec 17  KYODO, WASHINGTON – A former U.S. envoy has urged the Washington to  hold talks with Pyongyang without preconditions to break the impasse over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile threats.

“I am of the view that the two sides should agree to have ‘talks about talks’ without any preconditions,” Robert Gallucci, chief negotiator for the now-defunct 1994 nuclear freeze struck with North Korea, said in an interview.

 Gallucci’s view is at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump’s policy of imposing “maximum pressure” on North Korea in concert with the international community to compel the hermit country halt its provocative acts and engage in credible talks for denuclearization.

Gallucci also questioned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s emphasis on pressuring North Korea, pointing out Abe’s insistence that now is not the time to talk to the country, given that it hasn’t changed its provocative behavior.

“I can’t believe refusing to talk with North Korea is in the best interests of Japan,” he said, referring to Abe’s resolve to address Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. “I think an effort at lowering tensions would be. That he does not see it that way, I regret.”………

In a separate interview, Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, said he does not believe pressure and sanctions alone will achieve the Trump administration’s goal of denuclearizing North Korea.

Pollack described the relationship as a seemingly endless cycle of provocations and pressure.

“Both countries are stuck in this loop where we increasingly are looking for additional increments of punishment and pressure, and they’re looking for additional increments of pressure through a sense of danger,” he said…….https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/07/national/politics-diplomacy/u-s-ex-envoy-robert-gallucci-urges-washington-pyongyang-consider-chinas-freeze-freeze-compromise/#.Wint99KWbGh

December 7, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James, focuses on climate action

New York City’s watchdog sets her sights on climate change, Grist,  As New York City’s public advocate, Letitia James is first in line to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio. The first woman of color to be elected to hold citywide office in the Big Apple, she investigates complaints against city agencies and introduces legislation in the city council. Effectively, she’s the city’s official watchdog. And she recently set her sights on climate change, which she regards as an imminent threat to New Yorkers.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment