Archive for the ‘Nuclear Crisis’ Category

Former US Official: War in Ukraine could cause disaster worse than Chernobyl and Fukushima — Situation “calls for far greater global concern” — Multiple scenarios result in meltdown — Foreign Minister: “Potential threat to many nuclear facilities”

April 16, 2014



Posted: 15 Apr 2014 02:55 PM PDT

Vancouver Sun: Scientists concerned dolphin species on west coast to be negatively impacted by Fukushima nuclear waste — Radiation levels to be increasing for years to come along coast — Canadian gov’t sampling for Iodine-129 in Pacific

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 11:20 AM PDT

Experts: Concern gases caused underground explosion at WIPP; Extent of contamination “could topple long-held assumptions” — AP: Plan to enter mine postponed — ‘Very excited’ about new monitors for detecting further releases (VIDEO)

April 2, 2014

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Experts: Concern gases caused underground explosion at WIPP; Extent of contamination “could topple long-held assumptions” — AP: Plan to enter mine postponed — ‘Very excited’ about new monitors for detecting further releases (VIDEO)

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 02:15 AM PDT

Radio: “Surprisingly, high concentrations [of Fukushima cesium] found in Vancouver area” since ocean currents slow down — Levels are increasing — “Might be hotspots where radiation concentrates” — “Chances are high for marine life to absorb it… concern about mussels… clams, oysters” (AUDIO)

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 04:01 PM PDT

TV: Gov’t not measuring worst of Fukushima radiation — Over 100 Million gallons of radioactive water bleeding into ocean from plant — We’re beginning to see radiation in west coast water — Very concerned about eating fish from Pacific (VIDEO)

Posted: 01 Apr 2014 10:36 AM PDT

Disgruntled Worker Sets Fire, Destroys US Nuclear Submarine

March 31, 2014

The USS Miami SSN 755 arrives in port in Florida. A fire aboard the nuclear-powered submarine injured four people. (photo: AP Photo/U.S. Navy, PH2 Kevin Langford)
The USS Miami SSN 755 arrives in port in Florida. A fire aboard the nuclear-powered submarine injured four people. (photo: AP Photo/U.S. Navy, PH2 Kevin Langford)

By David Sharp, Associated Press

31 March 14


he Navy said farewell Friday to the USS Miami, the nuclear-powered submarine whose service was cut short when a shipyard employee trying to get out of work set it on fire, causing $700 million in damage.

The somber deactivation ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard marked the beginning of an inglorious end: Next year, the submarine will be towed to the West Coast to be cut up for scrap metal.

Rear Adm. Ken Perry, commander of the submarine Group Two in Groton, Conn., where the sub was based, acknowledged the disappointment over its premature retirement but told the crowd they were there to celebrate Miami and its crew members for nearly 24 years of service.

“This is a tribute,” he said. “This is a celebration of the ship’s performance and the superb contributions to the nation’s defense and this is how we’re going to treat it. So I expect to see some smiles out there.”

Perry praised the ship’s performance over more than a dozen deployments that included clandestine undersea warfare missions and back-to-back deployments in which it fired cruise missiles in Iraq and in Serbia, earning the nickname “Big Gun.”

The audience included crew members and their families and seven former Miami commanding officers, including retired Capt. Tom Mader, the sub’s first skipper.

At the end of the ceremony, the crew filed out of the auditorium after its top enlisted sailor, Chief Tyrus Rock, led them in a cheer, shouting out the first part of the ship’s motto, “No free rides!” The crew finished by responding, “Everybody rows!”

Cmdr. Rolf Spelker, the Miami crew’s current leader, said he came to Portsmouth thinking his assignment was to return the ship for service.

“They are no doubt disappointed and saddened that they can’t take the ship out to sea,” he said of his crew. “They have gone through the tidal wave of emotion.”

After the fire, the Navy originally intended to return the ship to the fleet next year after extensive repairs. But it decided to scrap the submarine when estimated repair costs grew substantially above a $450 million estimate.

Instead, shipyard workers will remove nuclear fuel and ship it to a federal repository in Idaho. They will make enough repairs so that the submarine can be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state, where it will be cut up for scrap. The estimated cost of the sub’s inactivation is $54 million.

The Los Angeles-class submarine was damaged at the hands of a shipyard worker who set a fire in May 2012 while the submarine was undergoing a 20-month overhaul.

Seeking an excuse to leave work early, Casey James Fury set fire to a box of rags on a bunk, and the blaze quickly spread throughout the forward compartments. Fury pleaded guilty and is serving a 17-year sentence in federal prison.

It took 12 hours and the efforts of more than 100 firefighters to save the vessel. The fire severely damaged living quarters, the command and control center and a torpedo room, but it did not reach the nuclear propulsion components at the sub’s rear. Seven people were hurt dousing the flames.

The Navy launched a series of investigations after the fire that led to recommendations, including installation of temporary automatic fire detection systems while submarines and other vessels are being repaired or overhauled.


Nine nuclear base commanders fired from US Air Force over cheating scandal

March 30, 2014

Published time: March 27, 2014 19:40

AFP Photo

AFP Photo

The United States Air Force says it has taken unprecedented action by firing nine nuclear missile base commanders on Thursday amid an ongoing and exhaustive investigation surrounding allegations of cheating.

Dozens of additional employees described as junior officers at those bases will be disciplined as well, the Associated Press reported first on Thursday afternoon, and will join an ever-expanding list of Air Force personnel who have been reprimanded in recent months as part of an embarrassing scandal that has increasingly generated criticism directed at the Pentagon’s nuke program.

But although the Air Force has taken action already in recent months amid reports that missile base personnel cheated on critical military examinations, the AP says officials describe the latest round of terminations as being “unprecedented in the history of the intercontinental ballistic missile force.”

None of the nine fired commanders was directly involved in the cheating, but each was determined to have failed in his or her leadership responsibilities,” Robert Burns wrote for the AP.

According to Burns, a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the AP that Air Force investigators believe the cheating scandal started as early as November 2011 and continued for two years.

It involved unauthorized passing of answers to exams designed to test missile launch officers’ proficiency in handling ‘emergency war orders,’ which are messages involving the targeting and launching of missiles,” Burns learned from his confidential source.

This past January, the Air Force said that 34 missile launch officers were implicated in the cheating scandal and stripped of their security clearances, though they may not have necessarily faked their way through their own exams. According to the AP’s latest however, upwards of 100 missile launch crew members from a single facility — the Malmstrom Air Force Base in the state of Montana — were at one point or another linked to the scandal.

Some officers did it. Others apparently knew about it, and it appears that they did nothing, or at least not enough, to stop it or to report it,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a news conference earlier this year.

Now two months later, on Thursday the Air Force reportedly took action against a number of officials linked to the scandal by investigators, including Col. Robert Stanley, the commander of the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom.

Stanley was allowed to resign, the AP reported, but nine key commanders below him were removed from the Air Force, including the commanders of the 341st Wing’s three missile squadrons, according to Burns, “each of which is responsible for 50 Minuteman three nuclear missiles.”

Also sacked were the commander and deputy commander of the 341st Operations Group, which oversees all three missile squadrons as well as a helicopter unit and a support squadron responsible for administering monthly proficiency tests to Malmstrom’s launch crews and evaluating their performance,” Burns claimed. Members of all three missile squadrons were implicated, he added, although no generals were formally punished.

This week’s news is only the latest to stir up the Air Force’s nuke unit, which for months now has repeatedly come under fire due to a barrage of incidents. The Pentagon removed 17 of its officers from a base in North Dakota last year following a poor inspection rating, and last October it was reported that two US missile technicians assigned with launch keys were discovered repeatedly leaving a blast door open while sleeping on base.

TEPCO may have to evacuate Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant

March 29, 2014


nsnbc , - Radiation levels at the boundary of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have risen to the eightfold of the government set standards of 1 millisievert per year, reports TEPCO. Additional monitoring devices have been installed in towns and villages in the affected region. Water decontamination shall reduce the amount of stored, X-ray emitting water. Should any of the tanks burst during an earthquake, TEPCO would have to evacuate the workers and it is uncertain if they could return, said a German nuclear engineer.

Click on image to enlarge

On 10 January, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) held a meeting to discuss possible countermeasures for a southern area which long has been a source of problems, reports the Japanese dailyAsahi Shimbun.

The newspaper quotes TEPCO officials as saying that a level of eight millisieverts per year was estimated as of December, near an area with many storage tanks containing highly radioactive water.

TEPCO reports that the main factor behind the increase in radiation levels was X-rays from the storage tanks. Beta rays, released from radioactive strontium and other substances in the water reacted with iron and other elements in the storage tank containers to generate the X-rays, said TEPCO officials.

Highly contaminated water on the surface and permeating the underground has beenrunning into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster struck the nuclear facility in 2011.

Contamination of the Pacific Ocean water has according to statements by independent observers and scientists already led to a catastrophic collapse of Pacific Ocean ecosystems and private individuals reported localized, highly elevated radiation levels in the United States, Canadian and Mexican West Coast. It was only in 2013, two years after the disaster struck, that TEPCO reported that some 300 tons of contaminated water are running into the Pacific ocean per day.

Immediately after the disaster in 2011, TEPCO ordered flange storage tanks as an emergency solution, because the production of welded tanks would have taken longer time. The flange tanks, which are constructed of metal elements which are bolted together and sealed with rubber fittings are not fit for the corrosive ocean environment and risk bursting in the event of an earthquake. TEPCO continues, until today, to store water in ever more of the (cheaper) flange tanks and never ordered double hull, welded tanks which would be a much safer option.

TEPCO is attempting to neutralize the stored water, using a system known as Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). The ALPS consists of 14 steel cylinders with filter systems of varying permeability. The end product is meant to be a slurry containing radioactive particles and “relatively” low radioactive water, which TEPCO ultimately plans to pump into the Pacific Ocean.

Depleted Uranium Damages

With regards to the final storage of the highly radioactive slurry, which is stored in steel containers, the reality is that there is none. So far, there has not been found any final disposal solution for any of the radioactive waste that has been produced over the last 60 + years, anywhere,although some of it is being disposed of in the form of depleted uranium munitions and with disastrous humanitarian consequences.

The Japanese government’s decommissioning plan for the Fukushima Daiichi power plant outlines that radiation levels at the boundaries of the crippled nuclear facility should not exceed one millisievert per year to minimize the impact of radiation outside the plant.

In response to the recent reports of radiation levels of eight millisieverts, the NRA has decided to set up an additional 400 monitoring devices in 12 cities, towns and villages around the power plant, including the evacuation zone.

JAPAN_Radioactivity_forestThe results of a study on the accumulation of radioactivity in Japanese forests, published in December, showed that the levels of the radioactive isotope cesium in forests, in a radius of 120 km around the power plant have almost doubled within one year.

The monitoring results from the previously installed and the newly added monitoring stations in the region around the power plant are available via the NRA’s website at .

The reliability of the published results, however, is questioned by many, referring to the fact that both TEPCO and the Japanese government have been withholding and censoring information to the public since 2011.

nsnbc international has spoken with a German nuclear engineer who has been working at nuclear research reactors for the better part of two decades. On condition of anonymity, fearing professional repercussions, the expert said that TEPCO is in a race against time.


Earthquakes of a magnitude of five on the Richter scale are a common, if not daily then a weekly occurrence in the region around Japan, and the likelihood of an earthquake above the magnitude of seven on the Richter scale in Japan within a one year period is estimated to be above seventy percent, said the German nuclear engineer who has been monitoring the situation in Fukushima closely since 2011.

The engineer stressed, that most of the flange tanks, containing the highly contaminated water, are located uphill from the reactors where the spent fuel rod removal and cleanup operation proceeds, adding, let alone the fact that building four could collapse; If any, of the storage tanks undergoes a catastrophic failure during an earthquake, TEPCO would have to evacuate the facility and it is unlikely that the fuel rod removal operation, or for that sake the controlling of the water levels in the spent fuel pool could continue.

Ch/L - nsnbc 11.01.2014

Read our extensive coverage of the situation in Fukushima, Japan, and related issues in nsnbc international. 

About the Author

 - nsnbc international is a daily, international online newspaper, established on 25 February 2013. nsnbc international is independent from corporate, state or foundation funding and independent with regards to political parties. nsnbc international is free to read and free to subscribe to, because the need for daily news, analysis and opinion, and the need for independent media is universal. The decision to make nsnbc international freely available was made so all, also those in countries with the lowest incomes, and those inflicted by poverty can access our daily newspaper. To keep it this way however, we depend on your donation if you are in a position to donate a modest amount whenever you can or on a regular basis. Besides articles from nsnbc’s regular contributors and staff writers, including it’s editor and founder, Christof Lehmann, it features selected articles from other contributors through its cooperation with media partners such as Global Research, The 4th Media, Aydinlik Daily, AltThaiNews Network and others.

Study on IAEA website: Core meltdown risk now around 1,000% higher because of Fukushima — Engineer: Nuclear disaster “a certainty” over next 30 years in Europe

March 28, 2014
Published: November 2nd, 2013 at 5:49 pm ET
Email Article Email Article

Title: How did Fukushima-Dai-ichi core meltdown change the probability of nuclear accidents?
Source: Available from the INIS Liaison Officer for France
Authors: Escobar Rangel, Lina; Leveque, Francois
Date: October 2012

How to predict the probability of a nuclear accident using past observations? What increase in probability the Fukushima Dai-ichi event does entail? [...] We find an increase in the risk of a core meltdown accident for the next year in the world by a factor of ten owing to the new major accident that took place in Japan in 2011. [...]

Two months after the fukushima Dai ichi meltdown, a French newspaper published an article coauthored by a French engineer and an economist1. They both argued that the risk of a nuclear accident in Europe in the next thirty years is not unlikely but on the contrary, it is a certainty. They claimed that in France the risk is near to 50% and more than 100% in Europe. [...]

The Fukushima Dai-ichi results in a huge increase in the probability of an accident. [...]

The Fukushima Dai-ichi effect of [delta] 43 could appear as not realistic. In fact, at first glance the triple meltdown seems very specific and caused by a series of exceptional events. For most observers, however, the Fuskushima Dai-ichi accident is not a black swan. [...] It has also been ignored by the nuclear safety agency NISA because as well-demonstrated now the Nippon agency was captured by the nuclear operators (Gundersen (2012)). [Gundersen, A. (2012), The echo chamber: Regulatory capture and the fukushima daiichi disaster, Technical report]

[...] Unfortunately, it is likely that several NPPs in the world have been built in hazardous areas, have not been retrofitted to take into account better information on natural risks collected after their construction, and are under-regulated by a non-independent and poorly equipped safety agency as NISA. [...]  a massive release of radioactive elements from a nuclear power plant into the environment is no longer a risk limited to a few unstable countries where scientific knowledge and technological capabilities are still scarce. [...]

View the study here

Related Posts

  1. Major Website: Mystery cloud of dangerous iodine-131 over Europe is absolutely cause for concern — Certainly deserves more than 129 words by IAEA November 16, 2011
  2. AP: Anonymous IAEA official says iodine-131 release appears to be continuing across Europe November 12, 2011
  3. Bloomberg: Nuclear revival dying in Europe — “The future of nuclear energy in Europe looks very dim indeed” says consultant — “Simply too risky” February 14, 2013
  4. ABC calls radiation plume over Europe “massive, but harmless” — IAEA now claims Hungary lab likely source of iodine-131 — “Extremely unlikely” says director November 17, 2011
  5. Independent French radiation commission warns Europe that health risk from Fukushima fallout is “no longer negligible” — Says US west coast has 8-10 times more contamination April 11, 2011

The Week the World Stood Still

March 23, 2014
Article image
Noam Chomsky
Published: Sunday 23 March 2014
Kennedy’s own judgment was that the probability of war might have been as high as 50%. Estimates became higher as the confrontation reached its peak and the “secret doomsday plan to ensure the survival of the government was put into effect” in Washington


The world stood still 50 years ago during the last week of October, from the moment when it learned that the Soviet Union had placed nuclear-armed missiles in Cuba until the crisis was officially ended — though unknown to the public, only officially.

The image of the world standing still is the turn of phrase of Sheldon Stern, former historian at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, who published the authoritative version of the tapes of the ExComm meetings where Kennedy and a close circle of advisers debated how to respond to the crisis.  Those meetings were secretly recorded by the president, which might bear on the fact that his stand throughout the recorded sessions is relatively temperate compared to other participants, who were unaware that they were speaking to history.

Stern has just published an accessible and accurate review of this critically important documentary record, finally declassified in the late 1990s.  I will keep to that here. “Never before or since,” he concludes, “has the survival of human civilization been at stake in a few short weeks of dangerous deliberations,” culminating in “the week the world stood still.”

There was good reason for the global concern.  A nuclear war was all too imminent, a war that might “destroy the Northern Hemisphere,” President Dwight Eisenhower had warned.  Kennedy’s own judgment was that the probability of war might have been as high as 50%. Estimates became higher as the confrontation reached its peak and the “secret doomsday plan to ensure the survival of the government was put into effect” in Washington, as described by journalist Michael Dobbs in his well-researched bestseller on the crisis (though he doesn’t explain why there would be much point in doing so, given the likely nature of nuclear war).

Dobbs quotes Dino Brugioni, “a key member of the CIA team monitoring the Soviet missile buildup,” who saw no way out except “war and complete destruction” as the clock moved to “one minute to midnight,” the title of his book.  Kennedy’s close associate, historian Arthur Schlesinger, described the events as “the most dangerous moment in human history.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara wondered aloud whether he “would live to see another Saturday night,” and later recognized that “we lucked out” — barely.

“The Most Dangerous Moment”

A closer look at what took place adds grim overtones to these judgments, with reverberations to the present moment.

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There are several candidates for “the most dangerous moment.” One is October 27th, when U.S. destroyers enforcing a quarantine around Cuba were dropping depth charges on Soviet submarines.  According to Soviet accounts, reported by the National Security Archive, submarine commanders were “rattled enough to talk about firing nuclear torpedoes, whose 15 kiloton explosive yields approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945.”

In one case, a reported decision to assemble a nuclear torpedo for battle readiness was aborted at the last minute by Second Captain Vasili Arkhipov, who may have saved the world from nuclear disaster.  There is little doubt what the U.S. reaction would have been had the torpedo been fired, or how the Russians would have responded as their country was going up in smoke.

Kennedy had already declared the highest nuclear alert short of launch (DEFCON 2), which authorized “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … [or others] … to take off, fly to Moscow, and drop a bomb,” according to the well-informed Harvard University strategic analyst Graham Allison, writing in the major establishment journal Foreign Affairs.

Another candidate is October 26th.  That day has been selected as “the most dangerous moment” by B-52 pilot Major Don Clawson, who piloted one of those NATO aircraft and provides a hair-raising description of details of the Chrome Dome (CD) missions during the crisis — “B-52s on airborne alert” with nuclear weapons “on board and ready to use.”

October 26th was the day when “the nation was closest to nuclear war,” he writes in his “irreverent anecdotes of an Air Force pilot,” Is That Something the Crew Should Know? On that day, Clawson himself was in a good position to set off a likely terminal cataclysm.   He concludes, “We were damned lucky we didn’t blow up the world — and no thanks to the political or military leadership of this country.”

The errors, confusions, near-accidents, and miscomprehension of the leadership that Clawson reports are startling enough, but nothing like the operative command-and-control rules — or lack of them.  As Clawson recounts his experiences during the 15 24-hour CD missions he flew, the maximum possible, the official commanders “did not possess the capability to prevent a rogue-crew or crew-member from arming and releasing their thermonuclear weapons,” or even from broadcasting a mission that would have sent off “the entire Airborne Alert force without possibility of recall.” Once the crew was airborne carrying thermonuclear weapons, he writes, “it would have been possible to arm and drop them all with no further input from the ground.  There was no inhibitor on any of the systems.”

About one-third of the total force was in the air, according to General David Burchinal, director of plans on the Air Staff at Air Force Headquarters.  The Strategic Air Command (SAC), technically in charge, appears to have had little control.  And according to Clawson’s account, the civilian National Command Authority was kept in the dark by SAC, which means that the ExComm “deciders” pondering the fate of the world knew even less.  General Burchinal’s oral history is no less hair-raising, and reveals even greater contempt for the civilian command.  According to him, Russian capitulation was never in doubt.  The CD operations were designed to make it crystal clear to the Russians that they were hardly even competing in the military confrontation, and could quickly have been destroyed.

From the ExComm records, Stern concludes that, on October 26th, President Kennedy was “leaning towards military action to eliminate the missiles” in Cuba, to be followed by invasion, according to Pentagon plans.  It was evident then that the act might have led to terminal war, a conclusion fortified by much later revelations that tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed and that Russian forces were far greater than U.S. intelligence had reported.

As the ExComm meetings were drawing to a close at 6 p.m. on the 26th, a letter arrived from Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, sent directly to President Kennedy.  His “message seemed clear,” Stern writes: “the missiles would be removed if the U.S. promised not to invade Cuba.”

The next day, at 10 am, the president again turned on the secret tape.  He read aloud a wire service report that had just been handed to him: “Premier Khrushchev told President Kennedy in a message today he would withdraw offensive weapons from Cuba if the United States withdrew its rockets from Turkey” — Jupiter missiles with nuclear warheads.  The report was soon authenticated.

Though received by the committee as an unexpected bolt from the blue, it had actually been anticipated: “we’ve known this might be coming for a week,” Kennedy informed them.  To refuse public acquiescence would be difficult, he realized.  These were obsolete missiles, already slated for withdrawal, soon to be replaced by far more lethal and effectively invulnerable Polaris submarines.  Kennedy recognized that he would be in an “insupportable position if this becomes [Khrushchev’s] proposal,” both because the Turkish missiles were useless and were being withdrawn anyway, and because “it’s gonna — to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man, it will look like a very fair trade.”

Keeping U.S. Power Unrestrained 

The planners therefore faced a serious dilemma.  They had in hand two somewhat different proposals from Khrushchev to end the threat of catastrophic war, and each would seem to any “rational man” to be a fair trade.  How then to react?

One possibility would have been to breathe a sigh of relief that civilization could survive and to eagerly accept both offers; to announce that the U.S. would adhere to international law and remove any threat to invade Cuba; and to carry forward the withdrawal of the obsolete missiles in Turkey, proceeding as planned to upgrade the nuclear threat against the Soviet Union to a far greater one — only part, of course, of the global encirclement of Russia.  But that was unthinkable.

The basic reason why no such thought could be contemplated was spelled out by National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, former Harvard dean and reputedly the brightest star in the Camelot firmament.  The world, he insisted, must come to understand that “[t]he current threat to peace is not in Turkey, it is in Cuba,” where missiles were directed against the U.S.  A vastly more powerful U.S. missile force trained on the much weaker and more vulnerable Soviet enemy could not possibly be regarded as a threat to peace, because we are Good, as a great many people in the Western hemisphere and beyond could testify — among numerous others, the victims of the ongoing terrorist war that the U.S. was then waging against Cuba, or those swept up in the “campaign of hatred” in the Arab world that so puzzled Eisenhower, though not the National Security Council, which explained it clearly.

Of course, the idea that the U.S. should be restrained by international law was too ridiculous to merit consideration.  As explained recently by the respected left-liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias, “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers” — meaning the U.S. — so that it is  “amazingly naïve,” indeed quite “silly,” to suggest that it should obey international law or other conditions that we impose on the powerless.  This was a frank and welcome exposition of operative assumptions, reflexively taken for granted by the ExComm assemblage.

In subsequent colloquy, the president stressed that we would be “in a bad position” if we chose to set off an international conflagration by rejecting proposals that would seem quite reasonable to survivors (if any cared).  This “pragmatic” stance was about as far as moral considerations could reach.

In a review of recently released documents on Kennedy-era terror, Harvard University Latin Americanist Jorge Domínguez observes, “Only once in these nearly thousand pages of documentation did a U.S. official raise something that resembled a faint moral objection to U.S.-government sponsored terrorism”: a member of the National Security Council staff suggested that raids that are “haphazard and kill innocents… might mean a bad press in some friendly countries.”

The same attitudes prevailed throughout the internal discussions during the missile crisis, as when Robert Kennedy warned that a full-scale invasion of Cuba would “kill an awful lot of people, and we’re going to take an awful lot of heat on it.” And they prevail to the present, with only the rarest of exceptions, as easily documented.

We might have been “in even a worse position” if the world had known more about what the U.S. was doing at the time.  Only recently was it learned that, six months earlier, the U.S. had secretly deployed missiles in Okinawa virtually identical to those the Russians would send to Cuba.  These were surely aimed at China at a moment of elevated regional tensions.  To this day, Okinawa remains a major offensive U.S. military base over the bitter objections of its inhabitants who, right now, are less than enthusiastic about the dispatch of accident-prone V-22 Osprey helicopters to the Futenma military base, located at the heart of a heavily populated urban center.

An Indecent Disrespect for the Opinions of Humankind


Article image

The deliberations that followed are revealing, but I will put them aside here.  They did reach a conclusion.  The U.S. pledged to withdraw the obsolete missiles from Turkey, but would not do so publicly or put the offer in writing: it was important that Khrushchev be seen to capitulate.  An interesting reason was offered, and is accepted as reasonable by scholarship and commentary.  As Dobbs puts it, “If it appeared that the United States was dismantling the missile bases unilaterally, under pressure from the Soviet Union, the [NATO] alliance might crack” — or to rephrase a little more accurately, if the U.S. replaced useless missiles with a far more lethal threat, as already planned, in a trade with Russia that any “rational man” would regard as very fair, then the NATO alliance might crack. 

To be sure, when Russia withdrew Cuba’s only deterrent against an ongoing U.S. attack — with a severe threat to proceed to direct invasion still in the air — and quietly departed from the scene, the Cubans would be infuriated (as, in fact, they understandably were).  But that is an unfair comparison for the standard reasons: we are human beings who matter, while they are merely “unpeople,” to adapt George Orwell’s useful phrase.

Kennedy also made an informal pledge not to invade Cuba, but with conditions: not just the withdrawal of the missiles, but also termination, or at least “a great lessening,” of any Russian military presence.  (Unlike Turkey, on Russia’s borders, where nothing of the kind could be contemplated.)  When Cuba is no longer an “armed camp,” then “we probably wouldn’t invade,” in the president’s words.  He added that, if it hoped to be free from the threat of U.S. invasion, Cuba must end its “political subversion” (Stern’s phrase) in Latin America.  “Political subversion” had been a constant theme for years, invoked for example when Eisenhower overthrew the parliamentary government of Guatemala and plunged that tortured country into an abyss from which it has yet to emerge.  And these themes remained alive and well right through Ronald Reagan’s vicious terror wars in Central America in the 1980s.  Cuba’s “political subversion” consisted of support for those resisting the murderous assaults of the U.S. and its client regimes, and sometimes even perhaps — horror of horrors — providing arms to the victims.

The usage is standard.  Thus, in 1955, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had outlined “three basic forms of aggression.” The first was armed attack across a border, that is, aggression as defined in international law.  The second was “overt armed attack from within the area of each of the sovereign states,” as when guerrilla forces undertake armed resistance against a regime backed or imposed by Washington, though not of course when “freedom fighters” resist an official enemy.  The third: “Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion.” The primary example at the time was South Vietnam, where the United States was defending a free people from “internal aggression,” as Kennedy’s U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson explained — from “an assault from within” in the president’s words.

Though these assumptions are so deeply embedded in prevailing doctrine as to be virtually invisible, they are occasionally articulated in the internal record.  In the case of Cuba, the State Department Policy Planning Council explained that “the primary danger we face in Castro is… in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the US, a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half,” since the Monroe Doctrine announced Washington’s intention, then unrealizable, to dominate the Western hemisphere.

Not the Russians of that moment then, but rather the right to dominate, a leading principle of foreign policy found almost everywhere, though typically concealed in defensive terms: during the Cold War years, routinely by invoking the “Russian threat,” even when Russians were nowhere in sight.  An example of great contemporary import is revealed in Iran scholar Ervand Abrahamian’s important upcoming book of the U.S.-U.K. coup that overthrew the parliamentary regime of Iran in 1953.  With scrupulous examination of internal records, he shows convincingly that standard accounts cannot be sustained.  The primary causes were not Cold War concerns, nor Iranian irrationality that undermined Washington’s “benign intentions,” nor even access to oil or profits, but rather the way the U.S. demand for “overall controls” — with its broader implications for global dominance — was threatened by independent nationalism.

That is what we discover over and over by investigating particular cases, including Cuba (not surprisingly) though the fanaticism in that particular case might merit examination.  U.S. policy towards Cuba is harshly condemned throughout Latin America and indeed most of the world, but “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” is understood to be meaningless rhetoric intoned mindlessly on July 4th.  Ever since polls have been taken on the matter, a considerable majority of the U.S. population has favored normalization of relations with Cuba, but that too is insignificant.

Dismissal of public opinion is of course quite normal.  What is interesting in this case is dismissal of powerful sectors of U.S. economic power, which also favor normalization, and are usually highly influential in setting policy: energy, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and others.  That suggests that, in addition to the cultural factors revealed in the hysteria of the Camelot intellectuals, there is a powerful state interest involved in punishing Cubans.

Saving the World from the Threat of Nuclear Destruction

The missile crisis officially ended on October 28th.  The outcome was not obscure.  That evening, in a special CBS News broadcast, Charles Collingwood reported that the world had come out “from under the most terrible threat of nuclear holocaust since World War II” with a “humiliating defeat for Soviet policy.” Dobbs comments that the Russians tried to pretend that the outcome was “yet another triumph for Moscow’s peace-loving foreign policy over warmongering imperialists,” and that “[t]he supremely wise, always reasonable Soviet leadership had saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction.”

Extricating the basic facts from the fashionable ridicule, Khrushchev’s agreement to capitulate had indeed “saved the world from the threat of nuclear destruction.”

The crisis, however, was not over.  On November 8th, the Pentagon announced that all known Soviet missile bases had been dismantled.  On the same day, Stern reports, “a sabotage team carried out an attack on a Cuban factory,” though Kennedy’s terror campaign, Operation Mongoose, had been formally curtailed at the peak of the crisis.  The November 8th terror attack lends support to Bundy’s observation that the threat to peace was Cuba, not Turkey, where the Russians were not continuing a lethal assault — though that was certainly not what Bundy had in mind or could have understood.

More details are added by the highly respected scholar Raymond Garthoff, who also had rich experience within the government, in his careful 1987account of the missile crisis.  On November 8th, he writes, “a Cuban covert action sabotage team dispatched from the United States successfully blew up a Cuban industrial facility,” killing 400 workers according to a Cuban government letter to the U.N. Secretary General.

Garthoff comments: “The Soviets could only see [the attack] as an effort to backpedal on what was, for them, the key question remaining: American assurances not to attack Cuba,” particularly since the terrorist attack was launched from the U.S.  These and other “third party actions” reveal again, he concludes, “that the risk and danger to both sides could have been extreme, and catastrophe not excluded.” Garthoff also reviews the murderous and destructive operations of Kennedy’s terrorist campaign, which we would certainly regard as more than ample justification for war, if the U.S. or its allies or clients were victims, not perpetrators.

From the same source we learn further that, on August 23, 1962, the president had issued National Security Memorandum No. 181, “a directive to engineer an internal revolt that would be followed by U.S. military intervention,” involving “significant U.S. military plans, maneuvers, and movement of forces and equipment” that were surely known to Cuba and Russia.  Also in August, terrorist attacks were intensified, including speedboat strafing attacks on a Cuban seaside hotel “where Soviet military technicians were known to congregate, killing a score of Russians and Cubans”; attacks on British and Cuban cargo ships; the contamination of sugar shipments; and other atrocities and sabotage, mostly carried out by Cuban exile organizations permitted to operate freely in Florida.  Shortly after came “the most dangerous moment in human history,” not exactly out of the blue.

Kennedy officially renewed the terrorist operations after the crisis ebbed.  Ten days before his assassination he approved a CIA plan for “destruction operations” by U.S. proxy forces “against a large oil refinery and storage facilities, a large electric plant, sugar refineries, railroad bridges, harbor facilities, and underwater demolition of docks and ships.” A plot to assassinate Castro was apparently initiated on the day of the Kennedy assassination. The terrorist campaign was called off in 1965, but reports Garthoff, “one of Nixon’s first acts in office in 1969 was to direct the CIA to intensify covert operations against Cuba.”

We can, at last, hear the voices of the victims in Canadian historian Keith Bolender’s Voices From the Other Side, the first oral history of the terror campaign — one of many books unlikely to receive more than casual notice, if that, in the West because the contents are too revealing.

In the current issue of Political Science Quarterly, the professional journal of the association of American political scientists, Montague Kern observes that the Cuban missile crisis is one of those “full-bore crises… in which an ideological enemy (the Soviet Union) is universally perceived to have gone on the attack, leading to a rally-’round-the-flag effect that greatly expands support for a president, increasing his policy options.”

Kern is right that it is “universally perceived” that way, apart from those who have escaped sufficiently from the ideological shackles to pay some attention to the facts.  Kern is, in fact, one of them.  Another is Sheldon Stern, who recognizes what has long been known to such deviants.  As he writes, we now know that “Khrushchev’s original explanation for shipping missiles to Cuba had been fundamentally true: the Soviet leader had never intended these weapons as a threat to the security of the United States, but rather considered their deployment a defensive move to protect his Cuban allies from American attacks and as a desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality in the nuclear balance of power.” Dobbs, too, recognizes that “Castro and his Soviet patrons had real reasons to fear American attempts at regime change, including, as a last resort, a U.S. invasion of Cuba… [Khrushchev] was also sincere in his desire to defend the Cuban revolution from the mighty neighbor to the north.”

“Terrors of the Earth”

The American attacks are often dismissed in U.S. commentary as silly pranks, CIA shenanigans that got out of hand.  That is far from the truth.  The best and the brightest had reacted to the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion with near hysteria, including the president, who solemnly informed the country: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history.  Only the strong… can possibly survive.” And they could only survive, he evidently believed, by massive terror — though that addendum was kept secret, and is still not known to loyalists who perceive the ideological enemy as having “gone on the attack” (the near universal perception, as Kern observes).  After the Bay of Pigs defeat, historian Piero Gleijeses writes, JFK launched a crushing embargo to punish the Cubans for defeating a U.S.-run invasion, and “asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the ‘terrors of the earth’ on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The phrase “terrors of the earth” is Arthur Schlesinger’s, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for conducting the terrorist war, and informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “[t]he top priority in the United States Government — all else is secondary — no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime.  The Mongoose operations were run by Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in “counterinsurgency” — a standard term for terrorism that we direct.  He provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962.  The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis.  The implication is that U.S. military intervention would take place in October 1962 — when the missile crisis erupted.  The events just reviewed help explain why Cuba and Russia had good reason to take such threats seriously.

Years later, Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba was justified in fearing an attack. “If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too,” he observed at a major conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.

As for Russia’s “desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality,” to which Stern refers, recall that Kennedy’s very narrow victory in the 1960 election relied heavily on a fabricated “missile gap” concocted to terrify the country and to condemn the Eisenhower administration as soft on national security.  There was indeed a “missile gap,” but strongly in favor of the U.S.

The first “public, unequivocal administration statement” on the true facts, according to strategic analyst Desmond Ball in his authoritative study of the Kennedy missile program, was in October 1961, when Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric informed the Business Council that “the U.S. would have a larger nuclear delivery system left after a surprise attack than the nuclear force which the Soviet Union could employ in its first strike.” The Russians of course were well aware of their relative weakness and vulnerability.  They were also aware of Kennedy’s reaction when Khrushchev offered to sharply reduce offensive military capacity and proceeded to do so unilaterally.  The president failed to respond, undertaking instead a huge armaments program.

Owning the World, Then and Now

The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are: How did it begin, and how did it end?  It began with Kennedy’s terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962.  It ended with the president’s rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would have undermined the fundamental principle that the U.S. has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent U.S. invasion.  To establish these principles firmly it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple and admittedly fair ways to end the threat.

Garthoff observes that “in the United States, there was almost universal approbation for President Kennedy’s handling of the crisis.” Dobbs writes, “The relentlessly upbeat tone was established by the court historian, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who wrote that Kennedy had ‘dazzled the world’ through a ‘combination of toughness and restraint, of will, nerve and wisdom, so brilliantly controlled, so matchlessly calibrated.’” Rather more soberly, Stern partially agrees, noting that Kennedy repeatedly rejected the militant advice of his advisers and associates who called for military force and the dismissal of peaceful options.  The events of October 1962 are widely hailed as Kennedy’s finest hour.  Graham Allison joins many others in presenting them as “a guide for how to defuse conflicts, manage great-power relationships, and make sound decisions about foreign policy in general.”

In a very narrow sense, that judgment seems reasonable.  The ExComm tapes reveal that the president stood apart from others, sometimes almost all others, in rejecting premature violence.  There is, however, a further question: How should JFK’s relative moderation in the management of the crisis be evaluated against the background of the broader considerations just reviewed?  But that question does not arise in a disciplined intellectual and moral culture, which accepts without question the basic principle that the U.S. effectively owns the world by right, and is by definition a force for good despite occasional errors and misunderstandings, one in which it is plainly entirely proper for the U.S. to deploy massive offensive force all over the world while it is an outrage for others (allies and clients apart) to make even the slightest gesture in that direction or even to think of deterring the threatened use of violence by the benign global hegemon.

That doctrine is the primary official charge against Iran today: it might pose a deterrent to U.S. and Israeli force. It was a consideration during the missile crisis as well.  In internal discussion, the Kennedy brothers expressed their fears that Cuban missiles might deter a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, then under consideration.  So “the Bay of Pigs was really right,” JFK concluded.

These principles still contribute to the constant risk of nuclear war.  There has been no shortage of severe dangers since the missile crisis.  Ten years later, during the 1973 Israel-Arab war, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger called a high-level nuclear alert (DEFCON 3) to warn the Russians to keep their hands off while he was secretly authorizing Israel to violate the cease-fire imposed by the U.S. and Russia.  When Reagan came into office a few years later, the U.S. launched operations probing Russian defenses and simulating air and naval attacks, while placing Pershing missiles in Germany with a five-minute flight time to Russian targets, providing what the CIA called a “super-sudden first strike” capability.  Naturally this caused great alarm in Russia, which unlike the U.S. has repeatedly been invaded and virtually destroyed.  That led to a major war scare in 1983.  There have been hundreds of cases when human intervention aborted a first strike minutes before launch, after automated systems gave false alarms.  We don’t have Russian records, but there’s no doubt that their systems are far more accident-prone.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have come close to nuclear war several times, and the sources of the conflict remain.  Both have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, along with Israel, and have received U.S. support for development of their nuclear weapons programs — until today in the case of India, now a U.S. ally.  War threats in the Middle East, which might become reality very soon, once again escalate the dangers.

In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev’s willingness to accept Kennedy’s hegemonic demands.  But we can hardly count on such sanity forever.  It’s a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided.  There is more reason than ever to attend to the warning of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, almost 60 years ago, that we must face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”

Author pic

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and pressor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Techonology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific communities as one of the fathers of modern linguistics, and a major figure of analytic philosophy. Chomsky is the author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views.

Essential personnel on site at WIPP

March 18, 2014

Updated: 03/16/2014 8:27 PM | Created: 03/16/2014 7:43 PM
By: Jeffery Gordon,

KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned new information on the troubled Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.

Only essential personnel are on site.

They have been training on new safety procedure for the last week and a half.

WIPP was shut down last month when a radiation leak was discovered.

A fire also broke out at the site in early February in an underground mine.

No one has entered the affected mine.

WIPP officials tell KOB that they may be sending the first crews down in the next couple of days.

AP: ‘Very strong’ 6.9 quake rattles California coast, Directly across from nuclear fuel storage site

March 11, 2014

Jason W. Lloren
Updated 11:39 pm, Sunday, March 9, 2014

nextprevious1 of 2

  • Large Quake Strikes off California’s North Coast
  • video


(03-09) 23:26 PDT – A series of earthquakes, including a magnitude-6.9 quake, shook off the coast of Humboldt County on Sunday evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s website.

A 3.3 quake shook about 40 miles west of Eureka (Humboldt County) at 10:04 p.m., followed 14 minutes by a 6.9 quake, which was centered around the same area at a depth of 4.3 miles, according to the USGS. Within 45 minutes, there were at least six aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 2.9 to 4.6.

The Associated Press reported that officials in Humboldt County said there have been no calls about damages or injuries.

The National Tsunami Warning Center said on its website there is no tsunami danger for the region.

For further updates, check

Jason W. Lloren is a Chronicle staff writer. Twitter: @jasonlloren

The Children of Japan’s Fukushima Battle an Invisible Enemy

March 10, 2014

A girl opens the door of a teacher's staff room at the Emporium kindergarten in Koriyama, west of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture February 28, 2014. (photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai)
A girl opens the door of a teacher’s staff room at the Emporium kindergarten in Koriyama, west of the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Fukushima prefecture February 28, 2014. (photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai)

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By Toru Hanai, Elaine Lies, Reuters

10 March 14


ome of the smallest children in Koriyama, a short drive from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, barely know what it’s like to play outside – fear of radiation has kept them indoors for much of their short lives.

Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside.

And the impact, three years on, is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination – some cannot even ride a bicycle – and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say.

“There are children who are very fearful. They ask before they eat anything, ‘does this have radiation in it?’ and we have to tell them it’s okay to eat,” said Mitsuhiro Hiraguri, director of the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama, some 55 km (35 miles) west of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

“But some really, really want to play outside. They say they want to play in the sandbox and make mud pies. We have to tell them no, I’m sorry. Play in the sandbox inside instead.”

Following the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami, a series of explosions and meltdowns caused the world’s worst nuclear accident for 25 years, spewing radiation over a swathe of Fukushima, an agricultural area long known for its rice, beef and peaches.

A 30-km radius around the plant was declared a no-go zone, forcing 160,000 people from homes where some had lived for generations. Other areas, where the radiation was not so critically high, took steps such as replacing the earth in parks and school playgrounds, decontaminating public spaces like sidewalks, and limiting children’s outdoor play time.

“There are children in the disaster-stricken areas who are going to turn three tomorrow,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday. He told a nationally televised news conference he wanted to invite as many of them as possible to the 2020 Olympics, when they will be fourth-graders, as a “symbol of reconstruction.”

Any such revival looks a long way off.


Koriyama recommended shortly after the disaster that children up to two years old not spend more than 15 minutes outside each day. Those aged 3 to 5 should limit their outdoor time to 30 minutes or less.

These limits were lifted last October, but many kindergartens and nursery schools continue to adhere to the limits, in line with the wishes of worried parents.

One mother at an indoor Koriyama playground was overheard telling her child: “Try to avoid touching the outside air”.

Even three-year-olds know the word “radiation”.

Though thyroid cancer in children was linked to the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, the United Nations said last May that cancer rates were not expected to rise after Fukushima.

Radiation levels around the Emporium Kindergarten in Koriyama were now down around 0.12-0.14 microsieverts per hour, from 3.1 to 3.7 right after the quake, said Hiraguri.

This works out to be lower than Japan’s safety level of 1,000 microsieverts a year, but levels can vary widely and at random, keeping many parents nervous about any outdoor play.

“I try to keep from going out and from opening the window,” said 34-year-old Ayumi Kaneta, who has three sons. “I buy food from areas away from Fukushima. This is our normal life now.”


But this lack of outdoor play is having a detrimental effect on Koriyama’s children, both physical and mentally.

“Compared to before the disaster, you can certainly see a fall in the results of physical strength and ability tests – things like grip strength, running and throwing balls,” said Toshiaki Yabe, an official with the Koriyama city government.

An annual survey by the Fukushima prefecture Board of Education found that children in Fukushima weighed more than the national average in virtually every age group.

Five-year-olds were roughly 500 gm (1 lb) heavier, while the weight difference grew to 1 kg for six-year-old boys. Boys of 11 were nearly 3 kg heavier.

Hiraguri said that stress was showing up in an increase of scuffles, arguments and even sudden nosebleeds among the children, as well as more subtle effects.

“There’s a lot more children who aren’t all that alert in their response to things. They aren’t motivated to do anything,” he said.

Koriyama has removed decontaminated earth in public places, sometimes more than once, and work to replace all playground equipment in public parks should finish soon.

Yabe, at Koriyama city hall, said parental attitudes towards the risk of radiation may be slowly shifting.

“These days, instead of hearing from parents that they’re worried about radiation, we’re hearing that they’re more worried because their kids don’t get outside,” he said.

But Hiraguri said things are still hard.

“I do sometimes wonder if it’s really all right to keep children in Fukushima. But there are those who can’t leave, and I feel strongly that I must do all I can for them.”



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