The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Quiet preparations for war with North Korea – USA manouvres

The US appears to be quietly preparing for nuclear war with North Korea., ALEX LOCKIE– JAN 20, 2018, 



January 20, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Daniel Ellsberg – we can dismantle the “dizzyingly insane and immoral” Doomsday Machine

From the beginning of the Atomic Age, says Ellsberg, the true purpose of our nuclear arsenal, the whole terrifying array of warheads and delivery systems in all their vast numbers and varieties, has not been the “defense” of our country. It has not been, as trumpeted by politicians and generals (and as believed by citizens and schoolchildren), to “deter” an adversary from launching a nuclear attack against the U.S. It is the maintenance of a first-strike nuclear force —not so much for the purpose of launching a deliberate surprise attack on anyone else, but to be ready to respond instantly

Dismantling Doomsday: Daniel Ellsberg on the Risk of Nuclear Apocalypse  The whistleblower who gave us the Pentagon Papers unveils another secret history — this one ‘dizzyingly insane and immoral.’01.19.2018  Mark Wolverton  

DANIEL ELLSBERG is perhaps the premier whistleblower of all time, the man who in 1971 dragged the Pentagon Papers out of top-secret darkness into the light. Yet even as excerpts from the papers’ 7,000 pages were being published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other newspapers, Ellsberg was sitting on an entire second set of secrets, having nothing to do with Vietnam: all his material on nuclear policy, such as the operational plans for general nuclear war that he had drafted for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his job as a RAND Corporation defense analyst.

With the Vietnam War raging, Ellsberg made what he calls a “tactical judgment” to release those papers first, holding off on the nuclear material until the fallout (so to speak) from the Vietnam revelations had settled. As he faced trial, he entrusted the nuclear papers to his brother Harry, who hid the cache in a compost heap and later moved it to the local dump to evade FBI searches. But the papers were irrevocably lost when the dump was later ravaged by a tropical storm.

Ellsberg’s new book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner,” is his revelation of what was in those lost papers, made possible not only by his prodigious memory and note-keeping but also the declassification and release of much of the material through official channels and Freedom of Information Act requests (many filed by Ellsberg himself). Speaking with the authority of an insider who was intimately involved with nuclear strategy and policymaking at the highest levels, he reveals that practically everything the American public believes about nuclear war and nuclear weapons is, quite simply, a “deliberate deception.” Continue reading

January 20, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Legal cases to begin, as shareholders sue, over $9 billion nuclear power project debacle

Shareholder lawsuits against SCANA over nuclear debacle debut in federal court. COLUMBIA, SC

A federal judge in Columbia on Thursday designated lead lawyers and plaintiffs in two types of shareholder lawsuits against SCANA over its bungled V.C. Summer expansion.

The lawsuits charge SCANA and its top officers with misconduct and breaches of fiduciary duty in their handling of the failed $9 billion construction project.

Cayce-based SCANA, the corporate parent of the SCE&G utility, denies any wrongdoing.

The moves, involving nearly 20 lawyers, were the initial steps in moving the lawsuits forward. U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour also dealt a mild setback to SCANA, rejecting its plea to give one group of shareholders suing the company only three weeks to amend their lawsuits.

“I would like to make sure that whatever is filed (by the plaintiffs) in this court is complete,” said Seymour, granting lawyers for the shareholders 60 days to amend their lawsuits against SCANA and some of its top executives.

The numerous lawsuits against SCANA in both state and federal courts are expected to take months, if not years, to play out.

On Thursday, Seymour:

▪ Designated the New York firms of Bernstein Litowitz and Labaton Sucharow as the lead attorneys in one class of shareholder lawsuits against Cayce-based SCANA. The Motley Rice law firm of Charleston was named local liaison counsel.

The lawsuits allege shareholders suffered huge losses when SCANA’s stock price plummeted — from almost $75 a share to the just more than $42 Thursday — after the nuclear project failed. They also allege SCANA misled shareholders about the project for years, propping up its share price.

If shareholders prevail, SCANA will have to pay monetary damages to numerous shareholders, including pension funds and individuals.

▪ Designated the Weiser law firm of Philadelphia and Bernstein Liebhard of New York as lead counsel in a second group of lawsuits, called “shareholder derivative” actions. S.C. liaison counsel include Bill Hopkins of Pawleys Island and Eric Bland of Columbia.

In the cases, the plaintiffs allege SCANA and its officers exposed the utility to liability by violating federal securities laws – including laws that require them to be open with regulators and the public – by their handling of the nuclear project.

SCANA and its officers artificially drove up the utility’s stock price by issuing false public statements and using a “strategy of deception and misdirection” about the nuclear project’s progress, cost and completion schedule, the lawsuits allege.

The goals of the shareholder derivative lawsuits include forcing top SCANA officers and board members to give back all “profits, benefits and other compensation,” including annual incentive bonuses.

Another group of lawsuits against SCANA is pending in state court. Those suits, mostly brought by ratepayers who claim they were cheated when SCANA hiked their monthly bills for years to pay for the failed project, were not affected by Thursday’s actions.

Seymour — who has 20 years’ experience as a federal judge, and widely is regarded as fair, low key and methodical — is overseeing one of South Carolina’s most complex, high-stakes legal battles in years.

Although many of the almost 20 lawyers in the Columbia courtroom Thursday came from Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia, S.C. lawyers also were present.

South Carolinians I.S. Leevy Johnson, Stephen Pugh and George Johnson are representing SCANA. The attorneys for the various plaintiffs suing SCANA included South Carolinians Bland, Hopkins and Marlon Kimpson, a Democratic state senator from Charleston.


January 20, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Westinghouse executive whistleblower demoted after he identified South Carolina’s V.C. Summer nuclear problems

Whistleblower says he was demoted after finding problems in S.C. nuclear project, report says., By Tony Bartelme, Jan 19, 2018 

      Last year, months before South Carolina’s V.C. Summer project went belly up, a senior Westinghouse executive reportedly was demoted and sent to Canada after he identified problems with a key contractor, a nuclear industry trade publication says.

Nuclear Intelligence Weekly said in a recent report that Steve Hamilton, a senior vice president with Westinghouse Electric, filed federal whistleblower claims amid what the trade publication described as a high-stakes corporate “soap opera.”

The report adds to a growing body of allegations that Westinghouse ignored or hid early warning signs the nuclear projects were in trouble long before the problems were made public.

This trouble has since morphed into a chain reaction of political and economic uncertainty: Acquisition-hungry monopolies are circling around SCANA and Santee Cooper, and ratepayers are on the hook for billions of dollars for a pair of unfinished reactors.

Hamilton was a key player in Westinghouse’s nuclear team during the construction of new reactors at V.C. Summer — a senior vice president and chief quality officer in the company’s Pennsylvania headquarters, according to a company press release.

But then Toshiba — Westinghouse’s parent company — reportedly directed Hamilton to investigate Westinghouse’s purchase of Stone & Webster, its construction subsidiary working on the V.C. Summer project, the trade publication said. Both the V.C. Summer expansion in Fairfield County and a twin reactor project in Georgia had numerous delays and costly overruns.

Hamilton reportedly brought in a team of independent forensic experts to identify what went wrong with the Stone & Webster purchase and aftermath, but Hamilton’s report and its findings were buried, the publication said. Nuclear Intelligence Weekly did not specify details of Hamilton’s findings.

Hamilton is now on a special assignment to “build the company’s commercial and operational footprint in Canada,” according to another Westinghouse press release last May. Hamilton did not return phone calls and emails from The Post and Courier seeking comment.

Hamilton filed com­plaints under a federal whistleblower law to both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Labor, the trade publication said. Both agencies said they don’t comment on whistleblower complaints or the status of any investigations.

The complaint reportedly alleges that Jose Gutierrez, Westinghouse’s chief executive officer, unsuccessfully pressured Hamilton to change the audit team’s findings, the publication reported.

Hamilton also reportedly made allegations about improprieties at the company’s fuel fabrication facility in Columbia, not far from the V.C. Summer site. The plant employs about 1,000 people and makes uranium fuel assemblies for use in nuclear plants.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission temporarily shut down the plant in 2016 after more than 220 pounds of enriched uranium were found in a ventilation scrubber. In noting its concerns, the NRC wrote about “a perceived lack of a questioning attitudemay have resulted in delays” in identifying the uranium build-up problem.

 Westinghouse declined to comment.

The allegations highlight a pattern of stumbles and deception that led to the $9 billion nuclear boondoggle in South Carolina and billions of dollars in overruns at the Vogtle project in Georgia.

Last year, The Post and Courier reported that another Westinghouse official wrote an in-depth analysis in 2011 that identified risky construction strategies and shortcuts, including the use of unlicensed engineers. The analysis predicted massive overruns, a prediction that came true and eventually led to the project’s collapse.

The project’s failure has shaken the state, leading to resignations of top SCANA and Santee Cooper executives and calls for major changes in legislation that shifted construction costs onto ratepayers.

SCANA and Santee Cooper, the utilities that hoped to build two new reactors, are now considered takeover targets. Virginia’s Dominion Energy hopes to pick up SCANA, and NextEra reportedly is eyeing Santee Cooper. Westinghouse remains in bankruptcy.

January 20, 2018 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

New director of Los Alamos National Laboratory acknowledges problems, pushes for accountability

Since it was built in secret in 1943 to house the Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb in 1945, Los Alamos has diversified its R&D portfolio. Its research areas now include everything from studying wildfire behavior to developing vaccines. But the lab’s central mission may well be updated in the coming months: President Donald Trump’s administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, leaked to the media earlier this month, signaled interest in developing new low-yield nuclear weapons, even as some of the lab’s most knowledgeable weapons experts are nearing retirement age. …….

We’re the only place [in the United States] that does large-scale work on plutonium. We must meet the expectations to be the safest and most secure site in the country. At the same time, the realization that those expectations are under a magnifying glass, sometimes I think we miss that.

We cannot have any accidents. We do things at times that are simply unacceptable……..

January 20, 2018 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Radiation problems at Hanford Plutonium Finishing Plant – 100 workers moved to new offices

100 Hanford workers moving to new offices after radiation confusion, Tri City Herald, BY ANNETTE CARY,  19 Jan 18, One hundred workers are being moved out of the trailer village of offices at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s Plutonium Finishing Plant.

January 20, 2018 Posted by | radiation, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons a poor choice for defense against cyber attacks

Nuclear weapons are a risky defence against cyber attacks new US policy risks increasing the chance of a conflict, writes  

The world has been living with the threat of a nuclear apocalypse since the 1950s. Over the past decade, intelligence experts have increasingly warned about the threat of a catastrophic cyber attack. Now the two fears appear to have merged, with the US on the point of revising its defence policy — to allow the use of nuclear weapons, in retaliation for a devastating cyber attack. The Trump administration has not yet released America’s revised, “Nuclear Posture Review”. But the draft document has leaked to the press. According to the New York Times, it would change US policy to allow the first use of nuclear weapons, in response to “attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons”.

Developed nations are now almost completely reliant on the internet and functioning computer systems. That, however, increases their vulnerability to cyber warfare. Security experts lose sleep worrying about a range of nightmarish scenarios — including viruses that shut down transport infrastructure, such as air-traffic control; or that disrupt the operations of banks, causing the financial system to seize up. Among the most common horror scenarios are fears for the vulnerability of power generation and distribution.
In recent years, there have been some indications that these scenarios are moving from the pages of science fiction into reality. A computer virus that disrupted Britain’s National Health Service last year, seems to have originated in North Korea. As long ago as 2007, operatives in Russia unleashed a “denial-of-service” attack on Estonia, disrupting the operation of the internet there. A really concerted cyber attack, targeting critical infrastructure, could cause social turmoil and mass casualties. Experts have considered a number of responses to this threat. There are frequent calls for a new international treaty to establish some rules for cyber space. Intelligence agencies have also considered the possibilities for cyber-retaliation — and the balance between offensive and defensive capabilities. Introducing nuclear weapons into the equation is, however, a new departure. It demonstrates how seriously the US is now taking the threat of cyber warfare; and is clearly designed to massively increase America’s deterrence capacity.
At the same time, however, the policy shift carries considerable risks. By lowering the bar to the first use of nuclear weapons, it makes nuclear war more thinkable. The dangers of such a move are increased because concerns about nuclear proliferation are mounting — with North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme making rapid progress, and both Pakistan and Russia incorporating the early use of nuclear weapons into their war-fighting plans. Another danger is that any nation contemplating a cyber attack, may now also have to consider efforts to disable an adversary’s nuclear capability. The US, for example, has almost certainly considered whether, in the event of a war, there are cyber or electronic means of taking out North Korea’s nuclear missiles. Other nations will now have to make similar calculations about the US.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Pentagon suggests nuclear weapons to counter cyber attacks

Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms, NYT,

查看简体中文版   查看繁體中文版 By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD JAN. 16, 2018  WASHINGTON — A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.

For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.

The draft document, called the Nuclear Posture Review, was written at the Pentagon and is being reviewed by the White House. Its final release is expected in the coming weeks and represents a new look at the United States’ nuclear strategy. The draft was first published last week by HuffPost.

It called the strategic picture facing the United States quite bleak, citing not only Russian and Chinese nuclear advances but advances made by North Korea and, potentially, Iran.

………the biggest difference lies in new wording about what constitutes “extreme circumstances.”

In the Trump administration’s draft, those “circumstances could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” It said that could include “attacks on the U.S., allied, or partner civilian population or infrastructure, and attacks on U.S. or allied nuclear forces, their command and control, or warning and attack assessment capabilities.”

The draft does not explicitly say that a crippling cyberattack against the United States would be among the extreme circumstances. But experts called a cyberattack one of the most efficient ways to paralyze systems like the power grid, cellphone networks and the backbone of the internet without using nuclear weapons.

……….It is relatively easy for presidents to change the country’s declaratory policy on the use of nuclear arms and quite difficult for them to reshape its nuclear arsenal, which takes not only vast sums of money but many years and sometimes decades of planning and implementation.

The price tag for a 30-year makeover of the United States’ nuclear arsenal was put last year at $1.2 trillion. Analysts said the expanded Trump administration plan would push the bill much higher, noting that firm estimates will have to wait until the proposed federal budget for the 2019 fiscal year is made public.

“Almost everything about this radical new policy will blur the line between nuclear and conventional,” said Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration who directed an interagency panel that oversaw the country’s nuclear arsenal.

If adopted, he added, the new policy “will make nuclear war a lot more likely.”

One of the document’s edgiest conclusions involves the existence of a deadly new class of Russian nuclear torpedo — a cigar-shaped underwater missile meant to be fired from a submarine……..

January 19, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

NASA’s great plan for tax-payer funded nuclear reactors on Mars

U.S. tests nuclear power system to sustain astronauts on Mars – #SCIENCE NEWS, JANUARY 19, 2018, Will Dunham, WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Initial tests in Nevada on a compact nuclear power system designed to sustain a long-duration NASA human mission on the inhospitable surface of Mars have been successful and a full-power run is scheduled for March, officials said on Thursday.

Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and U.S. Department of Energy, at a news conference in Las Vegas, detailed the development of the nuclear fission system under NASA’s Kilopower project.

Months-long testing of the system began in November at the energy department’s Nevada National Security Site, with an eye toward providing energy for future human and robotic missions in space and on the surface of Mars, the moon or other solar system destinations………..

“Mars is a very difficult environment for power systems, with less sunlight than Earth or the moon, very cold nighttime temperatures, very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate…….

President Donald Trump in December signed a directive intended to pave the way for a return to the moon, with an eye toward an eventual mission to Mars.

 The new system could potentially supply the power human crews on the Martian surface would need to energize habitats and run processing equipment to transform resources such as ice on the planet into oxygen, water and fuel, NASA said………Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Tom Brown

January 19, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Russia rejects Trump allegation it violating U.N. sanctions on North Korea: Ifax     MOSCOW (Reuters) 18 Jan 18– Moscow regards an allegation by U.S. President Donald Trump that it is in breach of U.N. sanctions on North Korea as absolutely groundless, the Interfax news agency cited an unnamed source at the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying on Thursday.

Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that Russia was helping North Korea evade international sanctions and was probably helping supply Pyongyang with anything that China had stopped giving it. Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Andrew Osborn

January 19, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA | Leave a comment

See what a nuclear bomb would do to your city – example Bellevue USA

Here’s What A Nuclear Bomb Would Do To Your City Would you survive a nuclear attack? A new tool lets you see what a nuclear bomb would do to your city. By Neal McNamara , Patch Staff BELLEVUE, WA – With the unfortunate nuclear false-alarm in Hawaii still fresh in our minds, aren’t you a little curious to see what would happen if a real nuclear weapon did strike the U.S.? A professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology has created a pretty scary tool that shows you the blast radius and an estimate of deaths in the event of an attack.

For a demonstration, we used the tool to look at what a nuke would do if it landed in downtown Bellevue. According to professor Alex Wellerstein’s “Nuke Map,” a 150 kiloton nuke – about the size most recently tested by North Korea – would kill about 56,000 people and leave 175,000 people injured.

The area in a 1,500-foot radius around the impact site would be incinerated by a fireball, while anyone within a 3-1/2 mile radius would suffer third-degree thermal radiation burns. The thermal radius includes residents of Mercer Island, Kirkland, Redmond, and Medina. And that doesn’t include nuclear fallout, which would affect a significantly larger area.

Find out what a nuclear bomb would do to your city here

But take the “Nuke Map” with a grain of salt because it’s just a model. And take heart that nuclear confrontation with a country like North Korea is extremely, highly unlikely.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

“Make A Change World” – brothers work to clean up polluted superfund sites

These Brothers Are Cleaning Up Waterways Where The EPA Has Failed, ZACH JOHNSTON, LIFE WRITER01., 17.18 
Environmental pollution from industry abuse and human negligence feels like it’s part of another era — especially if you live in America. For many of us, it all feels like something that happens elsewhere and not in our own backyards. While we have made great strides in fighting against industrial pollution since President Nixon founded the EPA, there have been numerous regressions and disasters along the way. Sometimes, it’s right under our noses.

Brothers Sam and Gary Bencheghib have taken matters into their own hands. When they moved to Brooklyn, they were shocked to find several of the country’s most polluted waterways weren’t a country away but, literally, in their own backyards. For the earth-loving duo, it was a call to action.

The brothers — along with millions of residents in Queens and Brooklyn — live within a stone’s throw of three Superfund sites. Those are the places the EPA deems so polluted, toxic, or destroyed by a natural disaster that a fund has to be set up to clean up the area as quickly as possible. Among these, Newtown Creek is considered one of the most polluted spots in all of the United States. This is thanks to over a century of industrial waste being spewed into the river, raw sewage still being pumped into the waterway every day, and a semi-continual oil spill that’s seen 30 million gallons spilled into the water.

Add in the usual plastic waste that’s clogging our waterways and you have an American river that’s bafflingly poisoned.

The Gowan Canal is similarly toxic. The freshwater stream has been used for shipping of waster and toxic materials for so long that if you were to fall into the water, you’d have to be rushed to a hospital for decontamination procedures. Drinking the water would risk dysentery, arsenic poisoning, and, eventually, cancer.

The Bencheghib brothers know they cannot clean this up all by themselves. Their task is to bring awareness to the sites through their work with Make A Change World. The group aims to directly involve the average person is cleaning up the messes we’re making around the world — through an overuse of plastics and the under-regulated waste from industry.
Currently, “the bros” are focusing on their own backyard in Brooklyn, by highlighting the Superfund sites of Newtown Creek and Gowan Canal. These two sites are both earmarked for clean up operations to begin, but the process is slow and faces hurdles. Meanwhile, the current White House leadership plans to cut $327 million out of the EPA’s Superfund budget and has forbidden the EPA from speaking with citizens.

Luckily, the administration’s disinterest in the environment won’t have drastic effects on the clean up of Newtown Creek and Gowan Canal, as those sites have responsible parties who have been tasked with funding the lion’s share of the cleanup costs. WNYC reported back in November that the six major polluters of Newtown Creek were identified along with the 30 polluters of Gowan Canal. This means, hopefully, the cleanups will go forward unhindered.

Just down the street from Newtown and Gowan is a site called Wolff-Alport. This was the site of an earth metals extraction facility that shuttered in the 1950s. One of their extractions was the radioactive element thorium. That process has made the Wolf-Alport site the most radioactive spot in New York City. Since the company responsible for the radioactive pollution went out of business over 70 years ago, there’s no one to fine and, thereby, collect the funds to clean up the site. The whole tab falls on the shoulders of the EPA’s Superfund budget. WNYC talked to the EPA and they have an estimated cost of $39.9 million to clean up this radioactive site. Currently, there’s $650,000 in the account designated for that job. The acting deputy regional administrator for EPA said bluntly of the site that “What we do know is that people are actually being exposed.”

It would seem to reason that radioactive exposure to the citizens of New York would be a little higher on the list of sites the EPA and local, state, and the federal government would be rushing to clean up. That’s where Make A Change World comes in. 75 years is too long to wait for a radioactive, oil-soaked, or just plain toxic site to be cleaned up. Like the Bencheghib brothers, it’s time to take action in our backyards, in the voting booths, and in how we live our lives.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Michigan organises plans for the possibility of a nuclear attack

Michigan dusts off nuclear plans amid war of words Justin A. Hinkley, Lansing State Journal  Jan. 18, 2018 “……..Michigan’s response to a nuclear attack is spelled out in its 342-page Emergency Management Plan that covers everything from floods to infrastructure failures to riots. The State Police plan for satellites falling out of the sky and meteor strikes, Kelenske said.

January 19, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s toxic Superfund sites to be ignored, as Pruitt cuts EPA funding?

Batavick: EPA cuts will have real consequences, Frank BatavickContact Reporter

 I received an email on Dec. 25 from a high school and college friend informing me that his kidney cancer had spread to his bones and that he was now in hospice.

Since we were mostly a close bunch in high school — just 128 grads in 1963 — I thought it appropriate to share my friend’s sad news with other classmates and ask for their good thoughts and prayers. Just 12 days later, my friend’s sister contacted me and said he had died peacefully at home. I relayed this sorrowful update to the class.

Among the responders was a classmate who told me that he and my now-departed friend, as well as other kids from the neighborhood, were all regular playmates. Their “playground” in this blue-collar city on the Delaware River was a swampy landfill that was once the location of a gas mantle factory from the 1890s through the 1940s. Gas mantles were small mesh socks coated with radium and thorium that covered a lamp’s gas jet. When ignited, they brightly illuminated America’s streets and houses before electrification.

Today the mantle factory’s former setting is a Superfund site, as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1996. The feds have spent more than $350 million ridding the area and adjacent locales of hazardous wastes, including that deadly radium and thorium. As these elements decay, they give off gamma radiation and radon gas, both proven carcinogens.

The sensible reaction to this horror story would be to double our efforts to protect the environment so today’s and tomorrow’s kids won’t suffer the same horrible fate as these afflicted adults. But then we don’t live in sensible times.Under EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency is slowly being dismantled. He and President Donald Trump have already canceled or overridden some key environmental regulations on coal waste and vehicle emissions, and the 2018 appropriations bill cuts the EPA’s budget for the Superfund program and climate change research.

Pruitt is on record denying the existence of global warming and, as a result of his staff’s disgust with his beliefs and a federal job freeze and buy-outs, more than 700 employees — 200 or more of them scientists — have left the agency in the last year. According to the union representing EPA staff, Pruitt’s ultimate goal is to cut “at least 3,100 full-time employees.”

Will this make our environment safer? Better yet, do you pack apples in your kids’ lunches? Last February, Pruitt withdrew a proposed ban on pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, used on apples, oranges and cherries across the country. This was despite the EPA’s own scientists, supported by the 66,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, arguing that even low exposure levels to chlorpyrifos during early childhood increases the risk of learning disabilities, including reduced IQ and developmental delay, and behavioral problems, like ADHD. For expectant and new mothers, the agency’s scientists concluded that even the smallest amounts of the chemical can impact the brain development of fetuses and infants.

Chlorpyrifos are considered so toxic that their use has been banned in homes, schools, day care facilities, parks, hospitals, nursing homes and malls since 2000. But Pruitt says they are OK for your fruit bowl. The pesticide has also proven hazardous to farmworkers and approximately 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.

A not-so-much fun fact is that Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of Lorsban which contains chlorpyrifos, underwrote President Trump’s inaugural parties to the tune of $1 million. Draw your own conclusions.

As things go, it’s not an especially big leap from a toxic playground in New Jersey in 1955 to an apple orchard in Maryland in 2018. The difference is that today we are supposed to be more discerning because some of us have reaped a sad harvest of family and friends who didn’t know a Superfund from Superman when they were growing up.

So what lessons have we learned? For me it is the undying power of greed — the greed that once caused a company to bury its toxic wastes instead of properly disposing of them, and the greed evinced by the current administration that’s at the beck and call of its corporate benefactors, whether they produce energy or chemicals. This hasn’t changed over the years, even when the guinea pigs are our own sons and daughters.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at

January 19, 2018 Posted by | environment, thorium, USA | Leave a comment

Is safety from nuclear attack a State or a Federal responsibility?

Federal responsibility in nuclear attack alerts is unclear, AP, By CALEB JONES, HONOLULU (AP) 18 Jan 18, — A timeline shows Hawaii officials botched efforts to immediately correct a false missile alert over the weekend, taking more than 20 minutes to contact federal authorities for approval they didn’t need and then taking another 15 minutes to cancel the alert that was sent to mobile devices statewide.

The astonishing error and dismal response has prompted both state and federal investigations and left one of the state’s U.S. senators wondering aloud if top brass at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency should be replaced.

“I think (Gov.) David Ige has a tough decision in front of him, and it’s his call,” Sen. Brian Schatz told reporters Wednesday. Either way, the state has a long road ahead in restoring the public’s confidence in the alert system, the Democrat said.

Nearly 40 minutes passed between the time Hawaii officials fired off the bogus alert about an incoming missile over the weekend and the moment the notice was canceled.

The confusion raises questions about whether any state should be solely responsible for notifying the public of such an event. The debate comes as North Korea claims it is testing weapons that could deliver a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile to Hawaii, Guam and even the U.S. mainland.

Hawaii is the only state in the nation with a pre-programmed alert that can be quickly sent to wireless devices if a ballistic missile is heading toward the U.S. FEMA said Hawaii did not require its approval to cancel the alert on Saturday.

U.S. Reps. Colleen Hanabusa and Tulsi Gabbard, both of Hawaii, have asked the House Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on the issue.

They said in a letter to the committee Tuesday that it’s understandable for states to have primary jurisdiction over warnings for floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“However, when it comes to matters of national security, including whether a ballistic missile has been launched against the United States, one must question whether any state emergency management agency is best suited for that role,” the letter says………

President Donald Trump did not make any public comments about the false alert on Saturday. He was at his golf club in West Palm Beach, accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Asked about the alert on Sunday, the president said it was “a state thing.”…….

January 19, 2018 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment