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Strategic partnership: U.S. pushes ASEAN to join crusade against Russia, China, Myanmar — Anti-bellum

Kyodo NewsMay 14, 2022 U.S., ASEAN leaders vow to upgrade ties this year amid China’s rise WASHINGTON – The leaders of the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Friday declared that they will elevate their relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” later this year amid China’s growing clout in the region. […]

Strategic partnership: U.S. pushes ASEAN to join crusade against Russia, China, Myanmar — Anti-bellum

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Japan, China talks over food import ban not held for over 1 year

But China did not agree to hold panel talks when Japan in November 2021 called for them, in an apparent protest at Japan’s decision in April that year to release treated radioactive water from the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima into the sea.

File photo shows then Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi (front R) meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (opposite) in Tokyo in November 2020.

May 15, 2022

Talks between Japan and China over Beijing’s import ban on Japanese food products have not been held for over a year, sources familiar with bilateral relations told Kyodo News recently.

As China has not responded to Japan’s request for resuming the talks amid soured bilateral ties, it is uncertain when the ban will be lifted, with the deadlock possibly to affect discussions on China’s accession to a major Pacific free trade deal, the sources said.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011, Beijing banned imports of food products from Fukushima and several other prefectures over the risks of radioactive contamination. Japan has been asking China to hold a third meeting of a panel they established to discuss lifting the ban, the sources said.

Foreign ministers of the two countries agreed in November 2020 to set up the panel as Tokyo aimed to expand sales of Japanese food in the Chinese market, and Beijing, which has been at odds with the United States, hoped to improve ties with Japan.

Officials on the panel met in virtual meetings held in December 2020 and February 2021, according to the sources.

But China did not agree to hold panel talks when Japan in November 2021 called for them, in an apparent protest at Japan’s decision in April that year to release treated radioactive water from the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima into the sea.

Bilateral relations further deteriorated as Chinese authorities detained a Japanese diplomat in Beijing temporarily in February this year for allegedly collecting information illegally.

China has banned imports of all food products from Fukushima and eight neighboring prefectures as well as food products except rice from Niigata Prefecture.

In September last year, Beijing applied to join the trade deal formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The trade agreement requires member countries not to unfairly restrict food imports. A Japanese government source said a positive mood for China’s accession to the deal cannot be created in Japan unless the issue of the import ban is resolved.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Citizens’ Group Urges TEPCO to Halt Construction Work to Discharge Treated Water from Nuclear Power Plants into Ocean, “Causing Further Burden and Suffering

Chiyo Oda hands a letter of request to Seiichi Iguchi, director of TEPCO’s Nuclear Energy Center (right), in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on March 13.

May 13, 2022
On May 13, the “Don’t Pollute the Sea Anymore! Citizens’ Council” formed by residents of Fukushima prefecture asked TEPCO on March 13 to refrain from constructing facilities for the ocean discharge.
 Chiyo Oda, 67, co-chairperson of the Citizens’ Council, and others handed a written request to Seiichi Iguchi, director of TEPCO’s Nuclear Energy Center, at a building near TEPCO’s headquarters in Uchisaiwaicho, Tokyo.
 Mr. Oda said, “Many people in Fukushima Prefecture are distrustful of the way TEPCO is sacrificing reconstruction by proceeding with preparations such as undersea construction and prioritizing decommissioning,” and pointed out that the ocean discharge “will impose additional burden and suffering on the victims and is unacceptable. He also criticized TEPCO’s 2015 promise to the Fukushima Prefectural Fisheries Federation that it would not discharge treated water into the ocean without the understanding of all concerned parties, saying, “If TEPCO does not keep its promise and forces the discharge, it will leave a huge mark on the future. The citizens’ meeting protested in front of the TEPCO headquarters.
 In addition to protesting in front of TEPCO’s headquarters, the citizens’ group also asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to approve the discharge facilities.
 Construction of undersea tunnels and other discharge facilities requires the prior approval of Fukushima Prefecture and the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which are the municipalities where the plant is located, after approval by the Nuclear Regulation Commission. However, TEPCO has partially proceeded with the construction of the tunnel, claiming that excavation of the ground is not subject to prior approval, and has installed a shield machine to dig the tunnel at the launch site, making it ready to start construction at any time. (The construction of the tunnel is ready to start at any time.)

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Evacuation order may be lifted in part of Fukushima ‘difficult-to-return’ zone

May 13, 2022

Officials in Japan plan to lift an evacuation order for part of the area designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone in Fukushima Prefecture due to high radiation levels from the 2011 nuclear accident.

An evacuation order remains in place for the Noyuki district, which covers about 20 percent of Katsurao Village.

Authorities aim to lift the order in about six percent of the district, which has received preferential treatment for decontamination work and infrastructure projects.

Sources say a briefing for residents about the result of the rebuilding work is scheduled for Sunday, after a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The sources say officials from the central and prefectural governments and the village are making arrangements to lift the order on June 5 at the earliest.

It would be the first case in which people will be able to return to their homes in a “difficult-to-return” zone. Katsurao Village officials say eight people from four households are hoping to return to the area.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Interview: Opposition mounts to planned release of Fukushima water into Pacific, says British expert

Professor David Copplestone on the left

Xinhua, May 13, 2022

LONDON, May 12 (Xinhua) — A leading British nuclear industry expert has called for a detailed consultation over the Japanese government’s plans to release more than a million tonnes of contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the Pacific Ocean.

The concerns “should be listened to and should be considered and discussed with those who are raising those concerns,” Professor David Copplestone, a renowned expert in environmental radioactivity at the University of Stirling in the United Kingdom, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

In April last year, the government of Japan decided to release about 1.25 million tonnes of waste water into the ocean in 30 years starting in 2023. The contaminated water contains radioactive cesium, strontium, tritium and other radioactive substances.

The move drew the ire of local fishermen. Opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) of Japan, also criticized the plan and demanded its withdrawal.

“There have been impacts on the fishing industry related to the incident back in 2011,” said Copplestone, who has visited Fukushima and has undertaken extensive research worldwide with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In his opinion, “there are reputational, social and economic impacts that have occurred primarily because, quite often, people become fearful of consuming fish from these areas that may be contaminated.”

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. An ensuing tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing core meltdowns in three of the units and leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Eleven years after this disaster, the aftermath of the meltdown, along with the large amount of contaminated water, continue to cause headaches to Japan and the rest of the world.

Japan has claimed that the contaminated water could be diluted and discharged, but several local and international green activists have said that the claim repeatedly proved wrong as the purification equipment cannot eliminate radioactive materials completely.

“One of the main concerns here is the presence of tritium, which is a hydrogen element that is radioactive as an isotope. It is very difficult to separate it from the contaminated water,” Copplestone said.

“If we want to dispose of that water, we have to think about ways to first get rid of the radionuclides in that water — if at all this is possible. Unfortunately, it is not possible to remove tritium from that water,” he noted.

According to Copplestone, “this is about holding a really open dialogue to educate people about the consequences of the planned release.”

“It’s really important for the Japanese government to engage in dialogue with those voicing their concerns, and to listen to those concerns,” he said.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Payouts for nuclear disaster in urgent need of revamp

The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant

May 12, 2022

The government’s committee overseeing compensation for victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has begun considering whether existing guidelines for payouts should be revised upward.

Established in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the guidelines have long been denounced as woefully inadequate in light of the impact of the unprecedented accident. The committee’s decision comes far too late. Many victims are now advanced in years and there is no time to waste in revamping the guidelines.

The criteria for amounts to be paid out were drawn up in August 2011 by the government’s Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation as “interim guidelines.” To expedite payments, the panel set general rules concerning eligibility based on categories of damages.

The guidelines, last reviewed in December 2013, are supposed to indicate minimum amounts of compensation for different types of damages. The utility is supposed to determine the actual sums to be paid after considering the special circumstances of individual victims.

Thirty or so group lawsuits have been filed by victims asserting that estimates of damages based on this method were insufficient. The plaintiffs are also seeking to hold the government liable for damages.

More than 10,000 people are involved in these legal actions. A series of rulings by district and high courts since 2017 granted higher damages to the plaintiffs than the estimates based on the guidelines. Seven of the rulings against plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. were finalized by the Supreme Court this spring.

The cases deal with different issues. Some supported the argument that all plaintiffs in a certain area should be compensated for mental stress due to their “loss of homes,” meaning they were deprived of their livelihoods and community life. These rulings represent judicial recognition of certain kinds of damages common to many local residents that are not covered by the guidelines. The guidelines should at least be changed to address these issues. Fukushima Prefecture and other local administrative authorities have urged the central government to review the criteria based on the court decisions.

In a belated move, the committee decided to analyze the rulings and identify types of damages not covered by the guidelines. This is a necessary process, but more needs to be done. The panel should confront the diverse and complicated realities resulting from years of living in forced evacuation.

Many victims have not filed lawsuits despite their unhappiness with damage payments offered by TEPCO. The plaintiffs of the rulings contend that the amounts granted by the courts are still insufficient. The committee should listen to the opinions of the victims and local administrations involved and examine a broad range of cases. It should not hesitate to make necessary adjustments to the guidelines in line with the realities.

This problem is an acid test for TEPCO’s commitment to supporting victims of the disaster. The company has consistently refused to pay compensation beyond the amounts based on the guidelines in both class action lawsuits and in mediations by a government dispute-settlement body. It has apparently decided to wait for the committee’s decision. As the company responsible for the disastrous accident, TEPCO’s stance toward the issue raises serious doubt about its awareness of its obligation to make genuine efforts to provide relief to victims.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which is effectively the primary shareholder of the utility under state control, must instruct the company to address the problem with sincerity.

The central government and TEPCO should not forget that they bear the grave responsibility to make all possible efforts to fully compensate victims for damages caused by the nuclear disaster.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Review the standards for compensation for nuclear accidents based on the reality of the situation

Plaintiffs march in front of the High Court decision on the nuclear power plant evacuation lawsuit.

May 12, 2022
A government panel has begun to consider whether to review the guidelines for compensation for damages caused by the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The guidelines were created immediately after the accident, and their inadequacies have been repeatedly pointed out since then. It must be said that it is too late. Many of the victims are elderly, and the revision of the guidelines needs to be hastened.

 In August 2011, the Nuclear Damage Dispute Review Panel compiled an interim guideline for compensation. The guidelines were last reviewed in December 2001, and the general framework has not changed since then. The TEPCO was supposed to determine the amount of compensation by taking into account the individual circumstances of each victim.

 However, about 30 class-action lawsuits have been filed against TEPCO based on this system, alleging that the company’s compensation is inadequate and questioning the responsibility of the government and other parties. Since 2005, the district and high courts have ordered the defendants to pay more than the calculated amount, and in seven of the cases, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of TEPCO this spring.

Although the content of the judgments differed from each other, there were several cases in which the court found that the plaintiffs in a certain area had suffered psychological damage due to the loss of their hometowns, which deprived them of their livelihood and local communities. It can be said that the judiciary recognized the existence of collective damages that the guidelines did not grasp. At the very least, it is essential to revise the guidelines in this area. Fukushima Prefecture and other local governments are also calling on the government to review the guidelines in light of the court decision.

 The Board of Inquiry has finally gotten around to analyzing the content of the court decisions and identifying the types of damages that are omitted from the guidelines. This is necessary work, but it is not the only thing that needs to be done. It is necessary to face the reality of the damage, which is becoming more diverse and complex due to the prolonged evacuation.

 Even if they were not satisfied with the amount of compensation TEPCO had awarded them, many of the victims did not take the matter to court. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit also claim that the amount awarded in the judgment is still inadequate. The Board should also listen to the opinions of the victims and local governments involved and scrutinize a wide range of cases. If there are parts of the guidelines that do not match the actual situation, the Board should not hesitate to revise them.

 TEPCO’s stance is also questionable. TEPCO has stubbornly refused to provide uniform compensation that exceeds the guidelines in class action lawsuits and in settlement mediation procedures conducted by government agencies. It is questionable whether TEPCO is aware of its responsibility as the company that caused the tragic accident to take the initiative in seeking compensation. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which is in effect the major shareholder of TEPCO, is required to strictly instruct TEPCO to take a sincere approach.

 It must do everything in its power to make amends to the victims until they are fully compensated. We must not forget that this is the heavy responsibility placed on the government and TEPCO.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Efficacy unclear of problem-hit ice-soil wall at Fukushima plant

Pipes are set up around reactor buildings to form an ice wall in October 2016 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

May 12, 2022

Technical flaws, ballooning costs and unconfirmed effectiveness have plagued the “ace card” in preventing groundwater from accumulating within the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. froze the soil to create an underground ice wall to divert the groundwater toward the ocean and away from the damaged reactor buildings where the liquid can become heavily contaminated with radioactive substances.

The 1.5-kilometer ice wall was completed in 2016 around the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings of the nuclear plant. The ice barrier was initially expected to end its role in 2021, after steps were taken to prevent water leaks and plug holes at the reactor buildings.

Not only has the ice wall failed to work sufficiently, but huge amounts of public funds also continue to pour in annually for its maintenance.

“A frozen ground wall has advantages, such as a high ability to block water, but its maintenance requires huge sums,” said Kunio Watanabe, a professor of frozen soil studies at Mie University. “An easy-to-build underground ice wall was the only possible option in the early stages because of extremely high radiation readings around the reactor buildings.

“Now that it has been used for so many years, other approaches should also be weighed.”


TEPCO has used tanks to store contaminated water used to cool the melted nuclear fuel since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused the triple meltdown at the plant.

But it is also storing the groundwater that keeps flowing in. Space for the water storage tanks at the nuclear plant is running out.

The ice wall was supposed to reduce the volume of contaminated water.

In October last year, TEPCO said the soil temperature was higher than 0 degrees in an area that should have been frozen. The temperature reportedly topped 0 in mid-September and increased to 13 degrees in November.

TEPCO said equipment to discharge rainwater accumulating in a different reactor building broke down. The rainwater there likely seeped into the ground and reached the spot with the temperature increase.

Steel sheets were inserted into the soil to stanch the groundwater flow.

A total of 1,568 cooling pipes extending 30 meters below the surface circulate a refrigerant of minus 30 degrees to freeze the soil.

However, 14 tons of the coolant leaked between January and February this year because of damaged pipes and slippage of rubber parts at their joints.

TEPCO located the leaks and replaced the pipes, but the coolant’s circulation was suspended during the procedure.

The barrier system was brought into operation using 34.5 billion yen ($268 million) in taxpayers’ money.

Since the soil must be kept frozen throughout the year, electricity charges and other expenses for cooling and circulating the refrigerant continue to grow.

Annual maintenance costs topped 1 billion yen immediately following the wall’s introduction, and hundreds of millions of yen are currently injected in the system each year.


Despite all the fixes and expenses, the strategy’s effectiveness has yet to be verified.

TEPCO in March 2018 released an estimate arguing the frozen wall would prevent 95 tons of groundwater from entering the plant daily. That level would be half of the inflow with no underground barriers.

The prediction, however, was exclusively for winter months with less rainfall. It did not include torrential rain from typhoons that increase the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings.

TEPCO recently declined to comment on the ice wall’s effectiveness, saying it is “difficult to assess individual countermeasures because many steps are being implemented simultaneously.”

Frozen soil barriers are normally used for only several months in tunnel digging and other construction projects. There have been few large ice walls that have been operated for years.

The government and TEPCO originally planned to rely on the method “until March 2021, when countermeasures against water leaks at reactor buildings are finished.”

But they have not started on the anti-leakage process for the structures.

They do, however, plan to release treated water stored at the plant into the sea, a proposal that has been criticized by residents and the fishing industry.

Radioactive water increases by 150 tons a day at the Fukushima plant.

TEPCO set a goal of lowering the daily contaminated water rise to 100 tons or less by 2025. It described the “frozen soil wall as equipment essential for accomplishing the objective.”

TEPCO in December last year told the Nuclear Regulation Authority that it will continue to use the frozen wall system.

“We will consider the next step,” a TEPCO official said. “We are sorting out alternatives so a new approach will be realized in 2024 or 2025.”

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Japanese govt. promotes regional ‘hot’ Sake from Fukushima & ‘hot’ beef from Iwate to Canada

May 11, 2022

The Japanese government has taken part in Canada’s largest food fair for the first time in 15 years. It’s part of an effort to raise food exports to 5 trillion yen, or nearly 40 billion dollars, by 2030.

The Restaurants Canada Show opened in Toronto on Monday. The three-day event features more than 500 booths showcasing cuisines from around the world.

The Japanese government teamed up with the Japan External Trade Organization to set up a booth.

They are serving up a range of regional specialties, including striped jack from Ehime, sake brewed in Fukushima, and premium beef from Iwate.

The booth is also holding live demonstrations, including a fish-cleaning show and a demonstration of an automatic rice-ball maker.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

Semi-dried persimmon from Fukushima to the Emirates on sale in Dubai

I am not sure that the people in Dubai are well informed of the risk incurred….

Sweet Taste of Fukushima Winning Fans in Dubai

May 11, 2022

A local specialty from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture is winning over the taste buds of people in the United Arab Emirates. The first-ever shipment of anpo-gaki, or semi-dried persimmon, from Fukushima to the Emirates has gone on sale in Dubai.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment

The current state of my hometown…” Residents of the Tsushima area measured radiation levels by themselves as evidence in court (Fukushima Prefecture)

May 10, 2022

Residents of the Tsushima area in the hard-to-return zone in the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, have begun measuring radiation levels throughout the area in connection with a lawsuit against the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

On the first day of the trial, at 10:00 a.m. on October 10, approximately 10 residents gathered in the Tsushima area, which is in the difficult-to-return zone, to confirm the method and location of the measurements.

Measurements will be taken by dividing the entire Tsushima area into 28 sections of 2 km square, and installing dosimeters in each section. The dosimeters will be placed mainly in areas that have not been decontaminated, and many of these areas are covered with trees and grass.

According to the plaintiffs, this is believed to be the first time such measurements have been made in a class action lawsuit involving a nuclear accident.

Hidenori Konno, leader of the plaintiffs, said, “What we are appealing to the court of appeals is to ‘give back our hometown. In order to do so, we have to come up with concrete evidence of the situation in the Tsushima area…”

Hidenori Konno, the leader of the plaintiffs’ group, said at the meeting on April 4 that he intends to submit the results of the measurements as evidence in the trial.

Although a portion of the Tsushima area has been designated as a restoration site and is being decontaminated, the outlook for more than 90% of the other areas has yet to be determined.

Mr. Konno said, “At the very least, decontamination will restore the environment to near normalcy. In fact, the radiation dose has decreased so much after 12 years. We would like to use the data to prove that we can do it, especially in areas close to our homes.”

The installation work is scheduled to continue until the 15th, and the samples will be collected and analyzed three weeks later.

May 15, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Ending the War of Attrition in Ukraine

by Jeffrey D. Sachs, NEW YORK (IDN) 114 May 22, — Wars often erupt and persist because of the two sides’ miscalculations regarding their relative power. In the case of Ukraine, Russia blundered badly by underestimating the resolve of Ukrainians to fight and the effectiveness of NATO-supplied weaponry. Yet Ukraine and NATO are also overestimating their capacity to defeat Russia on the battlefield. The result is a war of attrition that each side believes it will win, but that both sides will lose.

Ukraine should intensify the search for a negotiated peace of the type that was on the table in late March, but which it then abandoned following evidence of Russian atrocities in Bucha—and perhaps owing to changing perceptions of its military prospects.

The peace terms under discussion in late March called for Ukraine’s neutrality, backed by security guarantees and a timeline to address contentious issues such as the status of Crimea and the Donbas. Russian and Ukrainian negotiators stated that there was progress in the negotiations, as did the Turkish mediators. The negotiations then collapsed after the reports from Bucha, with Ukraine’s negotiator stating that “Ukrainian society is now much more negative about any negotiation concept that concerns the Russian Federation.”

But the case for negotiations remains urgent and overwhelming. The alternative is not Ukraine’s victory but a devastating war of attrition. To reach an agreement, both sides need to recalibrate their expectations.

When Russia attacked Ukraine, it clearly expected a quick and easy victory. Russia vastly underestimated the upgrading of the Ukraine military following years of US, British, and other military support and training since 2014. Moreover, Russia underestimated the extent to which NATO military technology would counter Russia’s greater number of troops. No doubt, Russia’s greatest error was to assume that the Ukrainians would not fight—or perhaps even switch sides.

Russia’s greatest error was to assume that the Ukrainians would not fight—or perhaps even switch sides.

Yet now Ukraine and its Western supporters are overestimating the chances of defeating Russia on the battlefield. The idea that the Russian army is about to collapse is wishful thinking. Russia has the military capacity to destroy Ukrainian infrastructure (such as the rail lines now under attack) and to win and hold territory in the Donbas region and on the Black Sea coast. Ukrainians are fighting resolutely, but it is highly unlikely that they can force a Russian defeat.

Nor can Western financial sanctions, which are far less sweeping and effective than the governments that imposed them acknowledge. ………………

Moreover, the sanctions are creating serious economic consequences for the United States and especially Europe……………..

In the meantime, Ukraine continues to suffer grievously in terms of deaths, dislocation, and destruction. The IMF now forecasts a 35% contraction of Ukraine’s economy in 2022, reflecting the brutal destruction of housing, factories, rail stock, energy storage and transmission capacity, and other vital infrastructure.

Most dangerous of all, as long as the war continues, the risk of nuclear escalation is real. If Russia’s conventional forces were actually to be pushed toward defeat, as the US is now seeking, Russia might well counter with tactical nuclear weapons. A US or Russian aircraft could be shot down by the other side as they scramble over the Black Sea, which in turn could lead to direct military conflict. Media reports that the US has covert forces on the ground, and the US intelligence community’s disclosure that it helped Ukraine kill Russian generals and sink Russia’s Black Sea flagship, underscore the danger.

The reality of the nuclear threat means that both sides should never forgo the possibility of negotiations. That is the central lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which took place 60 years ago this coming October. President John F. Kennedy saved the world then by negotiating an end to the crisis—agreeing that the US would never again invade Cuba and that the US would remove its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba. That was not giving in to Soviet nuclear blackmail. That was Kennedy wisely avoiding Armageddon.

It is still possible to establish peace in Ukraine based on the parameters that were on the table at the end of March: neutrality, security guarantees, a framework for addressing Crimea and the Donbas, and Russian withdrawal. This remains the only realistic and safe course for Ukraine, Russia, and the world. The world would rally to such an agreement, and, for its own survival and well-being, so should Ukraine.

May 14, 2022 Posted by | politics international, Ukraine | 2 Comments

Forgetting the apocalypse: why our nuclear fears faded – and why that’s dangerous

The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made the whole world afraid of the atomic bomb – even those who might launch one. Today that fear has mostly passed out of living memory, and with it we may have lost a crucial safeguard, 

Guardian, by Daniel Immerwahr 13 May, 22”………………….   what had happened in Hiroshima, and three days later in Nagasaki, could happen anywhere.

The thought proved impossible to shake, especially as, within the year, on-the-ground accounts emerged. Reports came of flesh bubbling, of melted eyes, of a terrifying sickness afflicting even those who’d avoided the blast. “All the scientists are frightened – frightened for their lives,” a Nobel-winning chemist confessed in 1946. Despite scientists’ hopes that the weapons would be retired, in the coming decades they proliferated, with nuclear states testing ever-more-powerful devices on Pacific atolls, the Algerian desert and the Kazakh steppe.

The fear – the pervasive, enduring fear – that characterised the cold war is hard to appreciate today. It wasn’t only powerless city-dwellers who were terrified (“select and fortify a room in which to shelter”, the UK government grimly advised). Leaders themselves were shaken. It was “insane”, US president John F Kennedy felt, that “two men, sitting on the opposite sides of the world, should be able to decide to bring an end to civilisation”. Yet everyone knowingly lived with that insanity for decades…………..

……….  The memory of nuclear war, once vivid, is quietly vanishing. ……..

Except that the threat of nuclear war, as Vladimir Putin is reminding the world, has not gone away. 

……….. Yet many of Putin’s adversaries seem either unconvinced or, worse, unbothered by his threats. Boris Johnson has flatly dismissed the idea that Russia may use a nuclear weapon. Three former Nato supreme allied commanders have proposed a no-fly zone over Ukraine. This would almost certainly entail direct military conflict between Nato and Russia, and possibly trigger the world’s first all-out war between nuclear states. Still, social media boils over with calls to action, and a poll found that more than a third of US respondents wanted their military to intervene “even if it risks a nuclear conflict”.

Nuclear norms are fraying elsewhere, too. Nine countries collectively hold some 10,000 warheads, and six of those countries are increasing their inventories. Current and recent leaders such as Kim Jong-un, Narendra Modi and Donald Trump have, like Putin, spoken brazenly of firing their weapons……………..

Leaders have talked tough before. But now their talk seems less tethered to reality. This is the first decade when not a single head of a nuclear state can remember Hiroshima.

Does that matter? We’ve seen in other contexts what happens when our experience of a risk attenuates. In rich countries, the waning memory of preventable diseases has fed the anti-vaccination movement. “People have become complacent,” notes epidemiologist Peter Salk, whose father, Jonas Salk, invented the polio vaccine. Not having lived through a polio epidemic, parents are rejecting vaccines to the point where measles and whooping cough are coming back and many have needlessly died of Covid-19.

That is the danger with nuclear war. Using declassified documents, historians now understand how close we came, multiple times, to seeing the missiles fired. In those heartstopping moments, a visceral understanding of what nuclear war entailed helped keep the launch keys from turning. It’s precisely that visceral understanding that’s missing today. We’re entering an age with nuclear weapons but no nuclear memory. Without fanfare, without even noticing, we may have lost a guardrail keeping us from catastrophe.

……………….The US occupation authorities in Japan had censored details of the bomb’s aftermath. But, without consulting the censors, the American writer John Hersey published in the New Yorker one of the most important long-form works of journalism ever written, a graphic account of the bombing. Born to missionaries in China, Hersey was unusually sympathetic to Asian perspectives. His Hiroshima article rejected the bomber’s-eye view and instead told the stories of six survivors.

For many readers, this was the first time they registered that Hiroshima wasn’t a “Japanese army base”, as US president Harry Truman had described it when announcing the bombing, but a city of civilians – doctors, seamstresses, factory workers – who had watched loved ones die. Nor did they die cleanly, vaporised in the puff of a mushroom cloud. Hersey profiled a Methodist pastor, Kiyoshi Tanimoto, who raced to the aid of his ailing but very much still-living neighbours. As Tanimoto grasped one woman, “her skin slipped off in huge, glove-pieces”. Tanimoto “was so sickened by this that he had to sit down for a minute”, wrote Hersey. “He had to keep consciously repeating to himself, ‘These are human beings.’”

Hersey’s contemporaries understood the significance of these accounts. The New Yorker dedicated its full issue to Hersey’s article, and within an hour sold out its entire newsstand print run of 300,000 (plus another 200,000 copies to subscribers). Knopf published it as a book, which eventually sold millions. The text was reprinted in newspapers from France to China, the Netherlands to Bolivia. The massive ABC radio network broadcast Hersey’s text – with no commercials, music or sound effects – over four consecutive evenings. “No other publication in the American 20th century,” the journalism historian Kathy Roberts Forde has written, “was so widely circulated, republished, discussed, and venerated.”

Tanimoto, boosted to celebrity by Hersey’s reporting, made speaking tours of the US. By the end of 1949, he had visited 256 cities. Like Einstein, he pleaded for world government.

Rising tensions between Washington and Moscow erased the possibility of global government. Still, they didn’t change the fact: across the west, leading thinkers felt nuclear weapons to be so dangerous that they required, in Churchill’s words, remoulding “the relationships of all men of all nations” so that “international bodies by supreme authority may give peace on earth and justice among men”.

………………………………………   Maybe one could dismiss the fallout shelters as theatre and the films as fiction. But then there were the bomb tests – great belches of radioactivity that previewed the otherworldly dangers of nuclear weapons. By 1980, the nuclear powers had run 528 atmospheric tests, raising mushroom clouds everywhere from the Pacific atoll of Kiritimati to the Chinese desert. A widely publicised 1961 study of 61,000 baby teeth collected in St Louis showed that children born after the first hydrogen bombs were tested had markedly higher levels of the carcinogen strontium-90, a byproduct of the tests, despite being some 1,500km away from the closest test site.

Unsurprisingly, nuclear tests stoked resistance. In 1954, a detonation by the US at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific got out of hand, irradiating the inhabited atoll of Rongelap and an unfortunate Japanese tuna fishing boat. When the boat’s sickened crew returned to Japan, pandemonium erupted. Petitions describing Japan as “thrice victimised by nuclear bombs” and calling for a ban collected tens of millions of signatures. Ishiro Honda, a film director who’d seen the Hiroshima damage firsthand, made a wildly popular film about a monster, Gojira, awakened by the nuclear testing. Emitting “high levels of H-bomb radiation”, Gojira attacks a fishing boat and then breathes fire on a Japanese city.

…………………..  Hiroshima occupied a similar place in public memory to Auschwitz, the other avatar of the unspeakable. The resemblance ran deep. Both terms identified specific events within the broader violence of the second world war – highlighting the Jews among Hitler’s victims, and the atomic bomb victims among the many Japanese who were bombed – and marked them as morally distinct. Both Hiroshima and Auschwitz had been the site of “holocausts” (indeed, early writers more often used that term to describe atomic war than European genocide). And both Hiroshima and Auschwitz sent forth a new type of personage: the “survivor”, a hallowed individual who had borne witness to a historically unique horror. What Elie Wiesel did to raise the stature of Europe’s survivors, Tanimoto did for Japan’s. In their hands, Hiroshima and Auschwitz shared a message: never forgetnever again

.…………The whole idea is to kill the bastards,” said US general Thomas Power, when presented in 1960 with a nuclear plan designed to minimise casualties. “Look. At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.” This is the man who led the US Strategic Air Command – responsible for its nuclear bombs and missiles – during the Cuban missile crisis.

Generals like Power, tasked with winning wars, pressed often for pre-emptive strikes……………………..

Today, knowledge of the Holocaust is kept alive by more than 100 museums and memorials, including in such unexpected countries as Cuba, Indonesia and Taiwan. But there is no comparable memory industry outside of Japan to remind people of nuclear war.

The result is a profound generational split, evident in nearly every family in a nuclear state……………

 the dispelling of dread has made it hard for many to take nuclear war seriously…………

With nuclear threats far from mind, voters seem more tolerant of reckless politicians. ……..

Nor is it only Trump. The nine nuclear states have had an impressive string of norm-breakers among their recent leaders, including Trump, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Kim Jong-un and Benjamin Netanyahu. With such erratic men talking wildly and tearing up rulebooks, it’s plausible that one of them might be provoked to break the ultimate norm: don’t start a nuclear war.

………… how guided are leaders by such fears? In the past 20 years, the US has pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and two of the three main treaties restraining its arms race with Russia (the third is in bad shape). Meanwhile, China has been developing aggressive new weapons……… India’s its prime minister, Modi, declared. India has the “mother of nuclear bombs” ……

The cost of the shredded norms and torn-up treaties may be paid in Ukraine. Russia invested heavily in its nuclear arsenal after the cold war; it now has the world’s largest. The worse the war in Ukraine goes, the more Putin might be tempted to reach for a tactical nuclear weapon to signal his resolve.

………………  we can’t drive nuclear war to extinction by ignoring it. Instead, we must dismantle arsenals, strengthen treaties and reinforce antinuclear norms. Right now, we’re doing the opposite. And we’re doing it just at the time when those who have most effectively testified to nuclear war’s horrors – the survivors – are entering their 90s. Our nuclear consciousness is badly atrophied. We’re left with a world full of nuclear weapons but emptying of people who understand their consequences.

May 14, 2022 Posted by | 2 WORLD, culture and arts, psychology - mental health, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants

The NRC has given Holtec permission to pare back safety and security requirements at its plants, including security personnel, cybersecurity, emergency planning, terrorist attack drills and accident insurance, according to documents on the agency’s website.

“The NRC has not figured out a permanent solution” to nuclear waste………. “They are using Holtec as a Band-Aid.”

  Accidents at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek power plant have spurred calls for stricter oversight of the burgeoning nuclear decommissioning industry  Washington Post, By Douglas MacMillan  PORKED RIVER, N.J. — The new owner took over the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in 2019, promising to dismantle one of the nation’s oldest nuclear plants at minimal cost and in record time. Then came a series of worrisome accidents.

The new owner took over the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in 2019, promising to dismantle one of the nation’s oldest nuclear plants at minimal cost and in record time. Then came a series of worrisome accidents.

One worker was struck by a 100-ton metal reactor dome. Another was splashed with radioactive water, according to internal incident reports and regulatory inspection reports reviewed by The Washington Post. Another worker drove an excavator into an electrical wire on his first day on the job, knocking out power to 31,000 homes and businesses on the New Jersey coast, according to a police report and the local power company.

All three incidents occurred on the watch of Holtec International, a nuclear equipment manufacturer based in Jupiter, Fla. Though the company until recently had little experience shutting down nuclear plants, Holtec has emerged as a leader in nuclear cleanup, a burgeoning field riding an expected wave of closures as licenses expire for the nation’s aging nuclear fleet.

Over the past three years, Holtec has purchased three plants in three states and expects to finalize a fourth this summer.  The company is seeking to profitably dismantle them by replacing hundreds of veteran plant workers with smaller, less-costly crews of contractors and eliminating emergency planning measures, documents and interviews show. While no one has been seriously injured at Oyster Creek, the missteps are spurring calls for stronger government oversight of the entire cleanup industry.

In the nearly three years Holtec has owned Oyster Creek, regulators have documented at least nine violations of federal rules, including the contaminated water mishap, falsified weapons inspection reports and other unspecified security lapses. That’s at least as many as were found over the preceding 10 years at the plant, when it was owned by Exelon, one of the nation’s largest utility companies, according to The Post’s review of regulatory records.,…………………

Holtec is pioneering an experimental new business model. During the lifetime of America’s 133 nuclear reactors, ratepayers paid small fees on their monthly energy bills to fill decommissioning trust funds, intended to cover the eventual cost of deconstructing the plants. Trust funds for the country’s 94 operating and 14 nonoperating nuclear reactors now total about $86 billion, according to Callan, a San Francisco-based investment consulting firm.

After a reactor is dismantled and its site cleared, some of these trust funds must return any money left over to ratepayers. But others permit cleanup companies to keep any surplus as profit — creating incentives to cut costs at sites that house some of the most dangerous materials on the planet.

Even after reactors are shut down, long metal rods containing radioactive pellets — known as spent fuel — are stored steps away, in cooling pools and steel-and-concrete casks. Nuclear safety experts say that an industrial accident or a terrorist attack at any of these sites could result in a radiological release with severe impacts to workers and nearby residents, as well as to the environment.

(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the independent federal agency tasked with overseeing safety at nuclear sites, conducts regular inspections during the decommissioning process. But state and local officials say the NRC has failed to safeguard the public from risks at shut-down plants, deferring too readily to companies like Holtec.

“The NRC is not doing their job,” said Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who has pushed the agency to adopt stricter regulations around plant decommissioning. “We need a guaranteed system that prioritizes communities and safety, and we don’t have that right now.”

The NRC’s leadership is divided over the role regulators should play. The agency was created in 1974, as the first generation of commercial reactors was going online, and its rules were mainly designed to safeguard the operation of active plants and nuclear-material sites. As reactors shut down, the NRC began reducing inspections and exempting plants from safety and security rules.

Last November, the NRC approved a new rule that would automatically qualify shut-down plants for looser safety and security restrictions.

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May 14, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment

UN: There is ‘credible’ information Ukrainian forces are torturing Russian POWs

Abigail Adcox, Washington Examiner, Tue, 10 May 2022 

There is “credible” information that Russian prisoners of war have been mistreated by Ukrainian forces since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, a United Nations official said.

The evidence suggests that Russia is not the only country willing to break international norms during war, as the U.N. reports that Ukrainian forces have subjected Russians under their watch to treatment that violates

 international law, Matilda Bogner, head of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukrainesaid Tuesday.

“Ukraine and Russia must promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war. They must also effectively control and instruct their forces to stop any further violations from occurring.”

Russia is accused of several war crimes, including raping Ukrainian women, targeting and killing innocent civilians, and forcing others to go to Russia against their will.

Comment: Given Ukraine’s long history of prisoner abuse throughout the eight-year war on Donetsk-Lugansk, torture is its standard procedure. Were the UN’s complaints effective then?

Some of the violations were determined by Bogner and other U.N. officials during a visit to towns in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions that were occupied by Russian armed forces until the end of March.

The group also reported that hundreds of educational or medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed in areas of hostility across the country. At least 50 places of worship have been damaged, more than half of which cannot be used. Bogner said:

“The best way to end the violations that we have been documenting will be to end the hostilities. However, while they are ongoing and for as long as they last, parties must in the conduct of operations take constant care to spare the civilian population.”

“We have received credible information of torture, ill-treatment and incommunicado detention by Ukrainian Armed Forces against prisoners of war from Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups. We continue to see the publication of videos, which show inhumane treatment, including prisoners from both sides being coerced to make statements, apologies and confessions, and other forms of humiliation.”

The mistreatment from both sides is considered a violation of international humanitarian law, as the U.N. continues to investigate and document egregious violations since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Ukraine and Russia must promptly and effectively investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war. They must also effectively control and instruct their forces to stop any further violations from occurring,” Bogner said.

Russia is accused of several war crimes, including raping Ukrainian women, targeting and killing innocent civilians, and forcing others to go to Russia against their will.

Some of the violations were determined by Bogner and other U.N. officials during a visit to towns in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions that were occupied by Russian armed forces until the end of March.

The group also reported that hundreds of educational or medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed in areas of hostility across the country. At least 50 places of worship have been damaged, more than half of which cannot be used.

“The best way to end the violations that we have been documenting will be to end the hostilities,” Bogner said. “However, while they are ongoing and for as long as they last, parties must in the conduct of operations take constant care to spare the civilian population.”

May 14, 2022 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, Ukraine, weapons and war | Leave a comment