Archive for the ‘No nukes’ Category
BBC: People taken from movie theater by police, forced to go in reactor and deal with burning fuel rodsJuly 4, 2015
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Reprinted from Empire Burlesque
From youtube.com/watch?v=yvhDx_n-F6M: U.S.-Iran nuclear deal
U.S.-Iran nuclear deal
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As all the world knows, the United States government is fervently dedicated to advancing the cause of peace throughout the world. Tirelessly, selflessly — and thanklessly — America pursues this noble mission in every corner of the globe: standing shoulder to shoulder with Saudi extremists in slaughtering civilians in Yemen, with al Qaeda and ISIS beheading their way across Syria, with fascist militias in Ukraine. But recently, America’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning president went far beyond these localized acts of lovingkindness and made a beneficent decision that potentially could affect every single person drawing breath on our blue planet.
Late last month, the Peace Prize Prez (PPPOTUS) “blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons,” the Washington Post reports. Obama’s peace-loving action means that “the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation” has been killed dead in its tracks. It will now be five years until the next UN review of the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
You might think this is odd behavior from a president who has spent years tightening a stranglehold on Iran with an endless series of aggressive, bellicose acts just short of outright war, in order (ostensibly) to prevent that “rogue nation” from developing nuclear weapons. Very late in the day, he has recently decided to try to craft a non-proliferation deal with Iran that is very similar to the deal that Iran offered the United States more than 12 years ago — the kind of deal that has been on the table from Iran for his entire presidency. It’s likely that the main spur to his belated attempt at deal-making stems from his realization that he desperately needs Iran’s help to quell the ungodly maelstrom of murder, ruin and extremism he and his predecessor (and their Saudi allies) have unleashed in the Middle East.
In any case, he has long insisted that the proliferation of nuclear weapons must be opposed and thwarted at all costs. Why then has he stepped in to stop the global framework for, er, thwarting nuclear proliferation? To protect a “rogue” nuclear state which has illegally developed a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons — and which adamantly refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Unlike Iran, which has for years accepted an international inspection regimen far more rigorous than the Treaty calls for.)
The nuclear renegade is, of course, Israel. And the treaty review that Obama just killed would have called for a conference in 2016 on eliminating all nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Of course, only one nation in the Middle East actually has nuclear weapons. But Israel is concerned that such a conference would force it to acknowledge the existence of the large nuclear arsenal that everyone in the world already knows it has.
So the United States — with the slavish support of its London lapdog and Ottawa underling — moved to kill the negotiations for the conference. The decision “has alarmed countries without nuclear weapons, who are increasingly frustrated by what they see as the slow pace of nuclear-armed countries to disarm,” the Post reports. “Amid a growing movement that stresses the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, Austria announced that 107 states have now signed a pledge calling for legal measures to ban and eliminate them.”
Of course, Obama’s action was not merely a benevolent service for Israel. For not only does the United States want to keep Israel as its nuclear-armed crusader fortress in the Middle East — it also has no intention whatsoever of eliminating its own nuclear arsenal. This will never happen, no matter which faction of militarist courtiers happens to wrap their candidate in the imperial purple for a time in 2016 or 2020 or 2024, etc. So any undermining of genuine efforts toward nuclear disarmament also serves America’s bipartisan agenda of unipolar domination of world affairs.
This is far more important than ridding the world of nuclear weapons — or even trying to control their proliferation. Now there are five years of open field ahead for more nations to jump into the nuclear club — including America’s Saudi buddies, who say they might get some nukes for their own selves if Obama cuts a deal with Iran … which, as every Western intelligence agency has avowed, is not actually trying to build a nuclear weapon.
To speak plainly and with no addition: America’s bipartisan elite would rather put the entire world into more nuclear peril than surrender a single iota for their lust for loot and power.
Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more…)
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Comment: Obama should return his Nobel Peace prize.
There’s a category of political intellectuals who proudly proclaim themselves “realists,” then proceed to defend and advance a deeply faith-based agenda that centers on the ongoing necessity to prepare for war, including nuclear war.
These intellectuals, as they defend the military-industrial status quo (which often supports them financially), have made themselves the spokespersons for a deep human cancer: a soul cancer. When we prepare for war, we honor a profoundly embedded death wish; indeed, we assume we can exploit it for our own advantage. We can’t, of course. War and hatred link all of us; we can’t dehumanize, then proceed to murder, “the enemy” without doing the same, ultimately, to ourselves.
That isn’t to say there’s an easy way out of the mess we find ourselves in, here in the 21st century. Indeed, I see only one way out: a critical mass of humanity coming to its senses and groping for a way to create a peace that that has more resonance than war. We don’t have much political leadership around this, especially among the planet’s dominant — and nuclear-armed — nation states. But there is some.
Finding it and connecting with it, however, seems almost beyond the realm of possibility. Robert Dodge of Physicians for Social Responsibility wrote recently, for instance, that the U.N.’s recent, month-long Review Conference on the 45-year-old Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “was officially a failure due to the refusal of the nuclear weapons states to present or even support real steps toward disarmament.”
They displayed, he wrote, “an unwillingness to recognize the peril that the planet faces at the end of their nuclear gun and (are) continuing to gamble on the future of humanity.” But to conceal this, they are “presenting a charade of concern, blaming each other and bogging down in discussions over a glossary of terms while the hand of the nuclear Armageddon clock continues to move ever forward.”
The “realists” attempt to scale back the intensity of such anti-nuclear outrage by balancing these fears with the certainty that greater dangers exist, at least for Western civilization, in a world without nuclear weapons.
Keith B. Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy, defending the nuke realism perspective this week in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, ended his essay by quoting that iconic realist Winston Churchill: “Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapons until you are sure, and more than sure, that other means of preserving peace are in your hands.”
Payne adds: “The emergence of a new, benign world order at this point is nowhere in sight, and the prospects for the cooperative move to nuclear zero appear to be zero. Realists do not pretend otherwise.”
Humanity has now been officially poised at nuclear standoff for 70 years. This isn’t just an academic debate about the nature of geopolitical dangers. What the self-proclaimed realists have on their side is something that looks an awful lot like reality: that is to say, a convergence of economic, political and social forces locked into the continued existence of nuclear “deterrence.” This locked-in determination to maintain the nuclear status quo continues to make the anti-nuclear viewpoint appear both idealistic (unreal, impossible) and naïve (ignorant of the real dangers our enemies, nuclear-armed and otherwise, pose to us).
There are multiple flaws in this sort of “realism,” however. Here are two:
First, while Churchill’s advice may (or may not) have been temporarily sound when he uttered it at the dawn of the Cold War, it’s not immortal; nor is it consequence-free. “Not letting go of the atomic weapons” has meant, 70 years later: an expenditure of unfathomable trillions of dollars by the world’s Nuclear 9; the radioactive contamination of testing sites around the world; the ongoing possibility of nuclear accident and unintentional nuclear war; and the empowering of military psychopaths, who keep looking for excuses to develop “tactical” nukes, which can actually be employed in battle (because, come on, what fun is a weapon you never get to use?).
Furthermore, the enormous profit to be had in nuclear preparedness has created the rise of the military-industrial complex, which has a financial — and emotional — stranglehold on Congress and the mainstream media, pretty much guaranteeing that government policy will continue to be chained to the concepts of military dominance and nuclear deterrence. This means continued development of nuclear technology and the wasting of further trillions of dollars that might otherwise be spent for the good of humanity.
Second, Payne laments that “the emergence of a new, benign world order at this point is nowhere in sight.” This is the destructive cynicism of faux-realism, dismissing the possible future with a shrug — as though peace either arrives hand-delivered as a gift from God or it doesn’t arrive at all.
What he’s really saying is that a benign world order is nowhere in sight and we’re not going to help create it, because our vested interest is in the nuclear status quo, precarious and toxic though it may be. We’re living on the brink of human annihilation; what could possibly go wrong?
Countering this vested-interest realism is a global movement demanding the creation of a nuke-free world order and the transcendence of war. At last December’s Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, the state of Austria made a pledge to devote itself to the elimination of nuclear weapons on Planet Earth. More than 90 nations have so far endorsed the pledge, which is now called the Humanitarian Pledge. It includes such wording as:
“Emphasizing that the consequences of a nuclear weapon explosion and the risks associated with nuclear weapons concern the security of all humanity and that all states share the responsibility to prevent any use of nuclear weapons . . .
“Affirming that it is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances . . .”
I don’t know. I have my doubts that such a movement will succeed before a nuclear accident — or something else — shatters the political and economic power of the vested-interest nuclear “realists,” but I reach out to it in solidarity. “All states share the responsibility …”
Maybe this is how a new sort of world, with foundations planted in human solidarity and connectedness, will come into being. Maybe this is the true value of nuclear weapons: to scare us into learning how to get along.
Sendai nuclear power station is now poised to be first nuclear restart since Fukushima crisis shuttered country’s industry
Despite the health and safety concerns of local residents, Japan’s Sendai nuclear power station on Wednesday was granted final regulatory approval to restart its operations, meaning it is now poised to be the first such facility to reopen since the industry was halted nation-wide following the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.
Asia One reports that Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday approved “operational safety programs for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant,” meaning all necessary permits have now been granted.
The publication explains that the Sendai plant, which is located in the Kagoshima Prefecture, “now needs to pass two procedures before restart: an inspection before start-up, in which the NRA inspectors examine facilities, and a safety inspection in which the inspectors check whether the plant’s operation and management systems are compiled as operational safety programs stipulate.”
Both procedures are already underway, and Kyushu Electric Power Co., which runs the facility, says it hopes to restart the No. 1 reactor as early as July.
Residents had formally petitioned to block the restart of the plant but their efforts wererejected by the Kagoshima District Court in April.
The restart is moving forward despite majority opposition in Japan to a resumption of the country’s nuclear industry.
Karen Nickel believes growing up near Coldwater Creek caused her to develop lupus. (photo: Alexey Furman/Al Jazeera)
30 April 15
County parks, homes, businesses remain open and untested after decades of exposure to potentially contaminated creek
aren Nickel had never even heard of lupus before she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease six years ago.
Today she says she takes as many as 18 pills a day — “and that’s just to make me feel OK.”
“Sometimes I can’t even get out of bed,” Nickel said. “Sometimes I can’t even let someone hug or touch me because it hurts so bad.”
Lupus causes a patient’s immune system to turn on its own body, attacking healthy joint and organ tissues. It is most common in middle-aged women such as Nickel, but has recently been linked to exposure to uranium.
That’s what Nickel thinks caused her lupus. She’s since found out that at least three other people from her childhood neighborhood also have the disease. They all grew up in a neighborhood bordered by a suburban St. Louis creek that was contaminated with nuclear weapons waste for decades before any cleanup operations started.
There may still be radioactive waste in the creek, which regularly floods parks, businesses, and neighborhoods — most of which have never been tested for radioactivity and remain open to the public with no notification of the potential risks.
Uranium ore used to make the atomic weapons used at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was processed in downtown St. Louis, which hosted the country’s only uranium plant until 1951. In the decades following the end of WWII, hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste were haphazardly stored, shuffled around the region, illegally dumped, and sometimes left unaccounted for. As the metropolitan area expanded, suburban communities — such as the one Nickel’s parents moved their family to in 1973 — were built downwind or downstream from contaminated areas, government documents show.
After years of government reorganization, the contaminated sites in the St. Louis area have been targeted in cleanup campaigns led by various government agencies, and officials have long maintained there is no immediate threat to human health. But many in the community disagree with that claim, pointing to a trail of rare cancers, autoimmune diseases, birth defects and infertility that span generations and are known to be linked to prolonged exposure to radiation — and some government agencies are starting to take notice.
The way locals see it, St. Louis is burning — and nobody is paying attention.
For North St. Louis County residents of Nickel’s generation, Coldwater Creek was just a normal neighborhood creek — many didn’t even know its name. It was just “the creek” that kids would play in on hot summer days or cross on the way to school. It was the creek that would flood when it rained too much, turning neighborhood parks into giant puddles, dripping into basements and covering family vegetable gardens.
What many did not know was that they were living downstream from a 22-acre field acquired in 1946 by the long-gone Atomic Energy Commission. Hundreds of thousands of tons of waste — much of it radioactive — were dumped there, including some 60 tons of uranium-laced sand from Nazi Germany’s nuclear program that was captured by the United States en route to Japan near the end of WWII.
Soil samples taken by the Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1990s show that soils contaminated with forms of uranium, thorium and radium were found as deep as 20 feet in some places. The creek is near the westernmost boundary of the site and then flows nearly 20 miles through St. Louis County municipalities such as Florissant, Hazelwood and Black Jack .
Radioactive materials were carried into Coldwater Creek when it rained, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. In the late 1990s, the Corps found radioactive waste approximately five miles downstream from the storage site during a bridge renovation project.
“I lived my life outside and now I feel like my childhood was a lie,” Nickel said. “All that time I spent outside, I was being poisoned.”
Nickel said her sister was once taken to the hospital where doctors discovered that her ovaries were covered in cysts. She was 11 years old at the time. The same thing happened to the girl next door — she was 9.
Nickel said she knows of at least 15 people from her childhood neighborhood alone that have died of cancer. She estimates that there were approximately 25 houses in the area back then, with about 75 people.
At age 33, former Florissant resident Jennifer Smith was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia. In the 1950s, doctors observed unusually high levels of that same rare leukemia among the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Smith said she knows of at least four others from her old neighborhood who also have the disease.
“During the years I lived in Florissant as a teenager, the creek would flood into our backyard and covered our vegetable garden — the garden I ate out of all the time,” Smith said. “My teenage bedroom was downstairs. The creek would leak into my bedroom through the window, and it also had flooded our basement several times. I had [a lot of] exposure, physically, to the creek.”
“I fully believe 100 percent in my heart that that’s where the leukemia came from,” she said.
Regarding contaminated sites in St. Louis, long-term, low-level exposure to radiation is what poses the greatest threat to human health, said St. Louis County Department of Health Director Faisal Khan. Khan, who is new to the position, has been vocal about this issue, becoming one of the few government officials at any level to call for residents’ concerns about radiation exposure to be addressed.
“The population that grew up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s — they were very hard hit, and anecdotally at least there seems to be an environmental health concern,” Khan said. “It has been an environmental health disaster that has unfolded over decades, and is only now coming to light with the extent of community concern and angst about what has been done.”
Calling it the day she woke up to an “inner ring of horrific reality,” Jenell Wright, who grew up near Coldwater Creek, decided to make a list of everyone she knew from North St. Louis County who had developed cancer. There were 274 people on the list.
“People from my [childhood] baseball team, from my church, from my high school, from my grade school,” Wright recalled. In 2011, she felt like she was spending more and more time visiting people in the hospital. “Everybody is dying. And they’re all [in their 40s.]”
Within six houses of where she grew up, Wright said she knew of four people who had brain cancer — including the young boy who lived next door. During his treatment, Wright recalled, she would see him laying under blankets in the sun in his back yard, shaking, trying to get warm. “It was horrendous,” she said.
group created as a place for former residents to report their illnesses now has more than 10,000 members, many of whom also report infertility, birth defects, and autoimmune disease such as lupus and multiple sclerosis.
From the group’s informal survey of more than 3,300 current and former residents of North St. Louis County, more than one-third reported cancer in themselves or a family member, including 43 cases of appendix cancer — a disease so rare that fewer than 1,000 people are diagnosed with it in the United States each year.
But proving that the cancers are a result of exposure to radioactive waste in Coldwater Creek is very difficult, and maybe even impossible, Khan said. According to the American Cancer Society, one in three people are expected to develop cancer in their lifetime.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has responded to community concern and studied cancer rates in areas of North St. Louis County. However, the methodology does not account for resident movement. Data used in the studies comes from the Missouri Cancer Registry. Diagnoses submitted to the database — which is required by law — are geographically organized by the ZIP code in which the patient lives in at the time of the diagnosis.
So if former residents like Smith move away before their diagnoses, they may not be included in the statistics. Smith had direct exposure to Coldwater Creek for years, but was diagnosed with leukemia when she lived in Las Vegas, so her cancer is not included in the data. Many residents of Smith’s generation moved away in recent years, part of a demographic shift in north St. Louis County.
However, in an unexpected turn, the Missouri Department of Health did indeed find higher rates of some cancers when in 2014 it revised a 2013 study that turned up no such patterns. When more ZIP codes were added, the data showed statistically higher rates of cancer, including colon, prostate, kidney, bladder, and female breast cancer, among others. Data also show higher rates of childhood brain cancer in children in some ZIP codes, as well as higher rates of leukemia. The state promptly requested help from the Center for Disease Control to conduct further studies in the area, and the state Department of Natural Resources sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the cleanup, describing the situation as “urgent”.
The Army Corps of Engineers takes over
Over the years, the radioactive waste was moved around the region, transported in the back of uncovered trucks, left in uncovered piles, and carried into Coldwater Creek by rain runoff, said Mike Petersen, Chief of Public Affairs for the Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District, which was charged with cleaning up some contaminated sites in St. Louis.
“It’s kind of alarming to see how many hundreds of people who lived in these neighborhoods had no idea what was going on in their backyards,” Petersen said. “We inherited a legacy of bad decisions, and whether it was through ignorance or negligence — it doesn’t matter. We are dealing with that legacy now.”
In 1997, the cleanup of dozens of contaminated sites nationwide was transferred from the Department of Energy to the Army Corps of Engineers. The sites were all part of the Former Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) that had been established in 1974. The Corps’ St. Louis District has been testing, excavating, and moving contaminated materials and soils out of the St. Louis-area sites for 17 years — including the site that contaminated Coldwater Creek.
The Corps has already moved more than a million cubic yards of material to modern storage facilities in western states.
Using a sort of “follow the radiation” method, Petersen said the Corps began testing samples from the Coldwater Creek’s 10-year floodplain earlier this year. If a sample comes back positive for radiation, additional samples are conducted in the adjacent area, and so on, following a “trail,” if there is one.
But residents like Wright and Nickel aren’t satisfied with that method, saying it won’t be enough given the nature of the area’s potential contamination. They fear that the “trails” that would lead the Corps to radioactive waste from the creek, left behind by floodwaters, could be broken and overlooked by the Corps.
Radioactive particles could have been left behind on any surface touched by the creek’s floodwaters, Wright worries, not deposited like a trail of breadcrumbs. Historical aerial images of the area also show that dirt exposed to Coldwater Creek’s floods has also been moved around during construction or utility projects, including the development of new subdivisions.
“I believe a lot of the information they have is inaccurate,” former Florissant resident Angela Helbling said of the historical information the Corps uses to locate sites for soil samples. Helbling — who developed a rare salivary gland tumor, and whose mother died at 39 of a brain tumor — has taken it upon herself to find and dig through scores of government documents, looking for any indication that contaminated soils may have been moved during utility maintenance or flood control projects.
It’s the uncertainty that bothers Helbling and Wright most. Sites that routinely flood — including parks, residential areas, businesses, and a community vegetable garden, among others — remain open to the public and are regularly used. Many have never been tested for radioactive waste. There are no signs that warn residents who live there now about this risk.
“Utility and road crews frequently dig into these soils. Children play on and in them,” wrote the directors of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in a joint letter to the Pentagon regarding the funding of the FUSRAP program. “We believe that priority funding to allow rapid and complete remediation is needed to address this concern.”
“We are concerned that people are going to have the same fate as our communities because it has not [all] been cleaned yet,” Wright said. “We should not be having to tell people this. The government should.”
Weekend actions demonstrate ‘commitment of international civil society to peace and disarmament’
One day before global stakeholders began a month-long meeting to review progress on the landmark Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a broad coalition of civil society groups delivered eight million petition signatures to United Nations officials, calling for swifter action toward the complete elimination of the world’s nuclear arsenals.
The NPT, enacted in 1970, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. Representing 189 states, including five nuclear-weapon states, the NPT “has become a critical mechanism to achieve nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament goals,” World Future Council and Right Livelihood Award founder Jakob von Uexkull wrote last week.
However, as von Uexkull and other anti-nuclear activists are quick to point out, NPT states are moving far too slowly toward disarmament. “Seventy years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 45 years since the entry into force of the NPT, and 18 years of deadlock in the Conference on Disarmament, what is currently on offer as constituting progress on nuclear disarmament is simply insufficient,” von Uexkull charged.
“We face a moment in which policies that benefit a fraction of the world’s population feed conflicts that could precipitate catastrophic wars, even nuclear wars, and in which the power to make war is wielded by largely unaccountable elites.”
—Peace and Planet Mobilization
As per the treaty’s language, state parties are required to meet every five years to evaluate progress on the agreement. The 2015 Review Conference begins Monday at the United Nations in New York, and will run through May 22.
Marking the start of the conference, the Peace and Planet Mobilization—an umbrella group endorsed by more than 300 environmental, racial justice, anti-war, and organizations in 20 countries—convened over the weekend in New York City, for its own International Peace & Planet Conference for a Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World; an interfaith convocation attended by Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Shinto religious leaders; and a rally with over 7,500 peace, justice and environmental activists.
“Recognizing the deep flaws in the NPT, we see the importance of a strong civil society presence at the 2015 Review Conference, with a clarion call for negotiations to begin immediately on the elimination of nuclear weapons,” said Jackie Cabasso of the California-based Western States Legal Foundation. “We also recognized that a multitude of planetary problems stem from the same causes. So, we brought together a broad coalition of peace, environmental, and economic justice advocates to build political will towards our common goals.”
Those common goals, in addition to nuclear abolition, include deep reductions of military spending and “measures to reverse the devastation being wrought by climate change.”
In its Call to Action published in February, the coalition declared:
We issue this call at a crucial juncture in history, a moment when the unresolved tensions of a deeply inequitable society, great power ambitions and the destructive effects of an unsustainable economic system are exploding into overlapping crises. Tensions among nuclear-armed countries are rising amidst circumstances that bear worrisome resemblances to those that brought the world wars of the last century. For the first time in the nuclear age we are in a sustained global economic crisis that is deepening the gulf between rich and poor in a starkly two-tier world. Both climate change and fossil fuel-based economies generate conflicts within and among states. Extreme economic inequality and the economic policies that create it, NATO’s aggressive expansion, struggles over diminishing fossil fuels, food price spikes and crop failures drive wars and revive arms races from Iraq to Syria to Ukraine to South Asia and the Western Pacific. We face a moment in which policies that benefit a fraction of the world’s population feed conflicts that could precipitate catastrophic wars, even nuclear wars, and in which the power to make war is wielded by largely unaccountable elites.
In his analysis of this year’s NPT Review Conference, von Uexkull noted that “progress has stalled” since the last meeting in 2010.
Von Uexkull pointed out that none of the nuclear-armed states has signed onto the “Humanitarian Initiative”—a series of joint statements on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear disarmament co-sponsored by more than 150 states.
What’s more, he added, “they largely boycotted the humanitarian consequences conferences, calling it a ‘distraction’,” as well as UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) sessions, which were borne out of frustration at the lack of progress in other forums.
“It leaves us wondering how serious they can really be about achieving a world free of nuclear weapons—a goal to which they have all professed their commitment,” von Uexkull wrote. “In fact, the nuclear-armed states are in the process of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on modernizing their nuclear weapon systems and continue to place critical importance on these weapons in their security doctrines.”
As Peace and Planet points out, over 16,000 nuclear weapons remain in the world’s arsenals, with 10,000 in military service and 1,800 on high alert. All nuclear-armed states are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, to the tune of over $100 billion per year on nuclear weapons and related costs.
The weekend’s actions “showed the commitment of international civil society to peace and disarmament, as thousands of people from around the world gathered in New York on the eve of the NPT RevCon,” said Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action and co-convener of Peace and Planet. “Now, we’ll be watching to see if the U.S. and other nuclear states take their treaty obligation to pursue global nuclear weapons abolition as seriously.”
Meanwhile, in the 24 hours leading up to the start of the NPT Review Conference, communities around the world participated in the Global Wave 2015, bidding a symbolic farewell to nuclear weapons through public actions in cities from Geneva to Buenos Aires to Tokyo to New Delhi.
Film alleges former nuke commission chair was ousted by pro-industry forces who thought he was being ‘too aggressive’ in his efforts to protect the public.
A new documentary, premiering Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival, provides a glimpse inside the aging nuclear plant known as Indian Point—as well as a slew of new arguments against nuclear power.
The 94-minute film, titled Indian Point and directed by Ivy Meeropol, features unprecedented footage of the three-unit nuclear power plant station, which was designed in the 1950s and sits in Buchanan, New York, just 35 miles up the Hudson River from Times Square.
In an interview, Meeropol said the film is “about one aging and controversial nuclear power plant in the age of Fukushima. The story is told from both inside and outside the plant, through characters who care deeply about its future.”
It delves specifically into the story of Gregory Jaczko, who was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) when Japan’s Fukushima power plant suffered a major meltdown in 2013. The film alleges that Jaczko—an advocate of tightening safety controls at America’s aging nuclear facilities after the Fukushima disaster (his was the only dissenting vote on plans to build the first American nuclear plant in 30 years)—was ousted from the NRC by pro-industry forces who thought he was being “too aggressive” in his efforts to protect the public.
When asked by IndieWire what she wants people to think about after seeing the movie, Meeropol responded: “That there are consequences to our insatiable demands for energy and there are no easy answers for how to capture that energy safely. But even more pressing, since we are currently using nuclear power across the country and the globe, nuclear power plants must be regulated, and we need to be certain that our regulatory bodies are not compromised by their relationships with industry.”
The Daily Beast describes Indian Point as “a cautionary tale about a technology once seen as an abundant and non-polluting energy source, but with downsides that could make oil spills and electrical brownouts seem as minor as a fender bender.”
Just this week, the Disaster Accountability Project, a nonprofit organization that monitors responses to nuclear emergencies, called on the NRC to establish a 50-mile disaster warning zone for Indian Point. Currently, the NRC requires communities located within 10 miles of nuclear power plants to develop emergency plans.
But the Wall Street Journal reports that the NRC, “in response to the Disaster Accountability Project’s recommendations, said that the current 10-mile zone for emergency planning is appropriate and that plans in those areas will provide adequate protection to the public in a nuclear accident.”
Meeropol and Jaczko will participate in a Q&A following the film’s premiere on Friday evening.
If war were only “itself” — the violence and horror, the conflagration and death — it would be bad enough, but it’s also an abstraction, a specific language of self-justifying righteousness that allows proponents to contemplate unleashing it not merely in physical but in moral safety.
War, the abstraction, is an instrument of policy, an “option” that can be waged or threatened to get one’s way. It is always contained and sure of itself, limited in its goals and, of course, necessary. Its unintended consequences are minimal and quickly neutralized with an official apology, then forgotten. If we didn’t forget, the next war wouldn’t seem like such a viable, enticing option.
The next war that has been gestating for so long now is the one with Iran, and its proponents, I’m sure, will do what they can to dismantle the framework of the agreement recently negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 nations. The incompleteness of the agreement — the fact that only Iran has accountability in the realm of nuclear weapons — raises profound questions about the future of the planet, but this flaw is obscured, certainly in most mainstream coverage, by the “controversy” that the agreement has been reached at all, supplanting the possibility of a military response to Iran’s nuclear energy program.
The interests opposed to the agreement, which wouldn’t be possible without mutual trust, maintain a belief in nothing but one-sided force to achieve their ends: either ongoing sanctions against Iran or military action.
Former Iranian diplomat Seyed Hossein Mousavian, interviewed recently by Democracy Now, noted that the sanctions have been “100 percent counterproductive,” causing an increase, not a reduction, in the Iranian nuclear program.
“Before sanctions,” he said, “Iran had a few hundred centrifuges. After sanctions, Iran reached to 22,000 centrifuges. Before sanctions, Iran had a few hundred kilograms of stockpile of enriched uranium. After sanctions, about 9,000 kilograms. Before sanctions, Iran was enriching below 5 percent. After sanctions, Iran increased the enrichment to 20 percent.
“. . . More pressure, more threat, Iran would become more aggressive. But if you go for mutual respect, negotiating with Iran based on mutual respect and based on international rules and regulations, you would find a very, very cooperative, a flexible Iran.”
Regarding the more extreme option, a military takeout, Robert Parry recently wrote at Consortium News: “Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities could cause a massive human and environmental catastrophe, unleashing radiation on civilian populations and possibly making large swaths of Iran uninhabitable.”
Here we begin to get at the extreme recklessness and foolishness that is the context of so much geopolitical pontification. War is evoked with such brainless ease. A dozen years ago, Team Bush and its legion of political and media crusaders were screaming for the invasion of Iraq. One pseudo-argument for the invasion invoked World War II: We don’t want another Munich (where Hitler and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain reached an agreement to allow Nazi Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia).
As Juan Gonzalez noted on Democracy Now, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois recently dismissed the Iran agreement by proclaiming, “Minister Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler.” War and its justifications spring eternal. Scholar Peter Conolly-Smith, for instance, has pointed out that Munich has been invoked to justify virtually every American military action or threatened action since World War II: Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Nicaragua, Iraq.
The icons of military righteousness are endlessly reusable. They’re never damaged, apparently, by the slaughter that follows in the wake of their invocation. But I suggest that hearing this justification for a potential new military action should alert one to the shallowness of the thinking behind it.
The deeper problem with the P5+1 agreement with Iran is not the controversy it has generated among the bomb-Iran contingent but the unacknowledged hypocrisy of the P5 nations — the U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain and France — which, of course, are all nuclear powers themselves. They have made no real effort to pursue global nuclear disarmament by getting rid of their own arsenals, as they agreed to do when they signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which went into effect in 1970.
Four and a half decades later, and despite the end of the Cold War, many thousands of nuclear weapons, in nine nations (also including Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea, none of which have signed the non-proliferation treaty), remain poised to destroy Planet Earth. The focus on the possibility that Iran might someday develop a nuclear weapon too, while perhaps not irrelevant to the goal of global disarmament, is a minute part of the enormous danger we’re in.
Indeed, the United States is in the process of investing billions of dollars — as much as $1 trillion over 30 years — to rebuild its whole nuclear arsenal, “including the warheads, and the missiles, planes and submarines that carry them,” according to Stephen Young of Union of Concerned Scientists, writing at Defense One.
And as Greg Mallo of the Los Alamos Study Group has noted, three privatized nuclear laboratories — Los Alamos, Sandia and Livermore — are behind the immense investment in upgraded, more destructive nuclear warheads. This aggressive pressure from the American business sector is a lot more frightening than any aggression emanating from Iran, and may indicate where the real push for war comes from. War is profitable to too many people. We need a peace treaty with the military-industrial complex.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico. (photo: Albuquerque Journal)
07 April 15
U.S. nuclear weapons buildup ignores waste dangers
ow it’s official: using the wrong kitty litter can cause a severe and expensive nuclear accident at the nation’s unique underground radioactive waste containment facility, shutting it down indefinitely.
What’s NOT official yet is why the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) used organic kitty litter that caused the nuclear waste accident in the first place, or why LANL used that kitty litter in some 678 other drums of radioactive nuclear weapons waste now located at LANL and other locations. It’s also NOT official that the wrong kitty litter was deliberately and deceitfully used for more than a year. Nor is it yet clear why the federal government, having violated New Mexico environmental laws, refuses to pay the state $54 million in fines for federal law-breaking.
Last winter, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) appointed a Technical Assessment Team of independent experts from other government labs, and the team spent most of a year investigating the 2014 Valentine’s Day radiation-release accident at New Mexico’s federal Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP). On March 26, 2015, the team produced a 277-page report that concluded that radiation was released from the facility when a single container (Drum 68660) over-heated and failed because the nuclear weapons waste it contained was packed with the wrong kind of kitty litter. That kitty litter was “chemically incompatible” with the other contents of the drum, causing it to overheat, creating gases that forced open the lid in a “thermal runaway” that led to the spill that released radiation to the environment and that still renders a large section of the underground storage area lethal to humans.
The assessment team concluded that the February 14, 2014, drum failure took about 70 days to develop before the drum was breached. The accident released radioactive isotopes of Uranium, Plutonium, and Americium in uncertain amounts that are officially thought to be relatively small. As of early April 2015, Drum 68660 is the only drum that has failed. The experts determined that there were other containers in which radioactive waste was packed with the wrong kitty litter, and that any of these might fail, although they say they believe another failure is unlikely.
In part because the accident site remains largely inaccessible, the assessment team wrote that it “could not determine the cause of the drum breach with absolute certainty.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory’s multiple radiation risks continue
While most of the drums of nuclear weapons waste laden with organic kitty litterare already underground at WIPP, there are an estimated 113 in temporary storage in Texas and 57 remaining at LANL. One of the drums at LANL is a “sibling drum” to the one that burst underground. The two drums were packed with waste from the same “parent drum” and with the same Swheat Scoop kitty litter, but other elements of their contents were slightly different. The drum still at LANL is monitored for heat and remains intact. LANL has shipped more than 1,000 drums of waste to WIPP since it opened in 1999. Remaining LANL waste stored above ground on-site was threatened by wildfire in 2011 and remains near an earthquake fault line.
The DOE assessment team did not address the question of why the waste packing process at Los Alamos stopped using non-organic kitty litter as usual and switched to Swheat Scoop. The World Nuclear Association, an industry group in London, explains the kitty litter mix-up by saying: “The DOE did not specify its preferred brand…. However, SwheatScoop happens to be made from wheat and therefore contains carbohydrates which provided fuel for a chemical reaction with the metal nitrate salts being disposed of.” Each 55-gallon drum of nuclear waste typically includes about 50 pounds of kitty litter.
Rumors that the accident at WIPP was caused by the wrong kitty litter used by LANL surfaced soon after it happened. In May 2014, New Mexico’s Environment Department secretary, Ryan Flynn, issued a formal order to LANL to secure the drums with the wrong kitty litter, saying in part:
Based on the evidence presented to NMED, the current handling, storage, treatment and transportation of the hazardous nitrate salt bearing waste containers at LANL may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment.
Was LANL cutting safety corners to cut costs?
In November 2014, after a six-month investigation, the Santa Fe New Mexicanportrayed LANL as behaving either incompetently, or with reckless disregard for safety, or with something like criminal negligence – perhaps a mixture of all three. Motivating LANL malfeasance, the paper suggests, was the desire of the private contractors running the lab to meet the June 30, 2014, deadline for clearing waste from the site, thereby protecting and extending its $2.2 billion annual operating contract with the U.S. Energy Department as well as another $80 million a year for managing LANL.
Like so much of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, LANL is a cozy, profitable, corporate-welfare monopoly for a private consortium calling itself Los Alamos National Security. The Delaware Limited Liability Company was formed eight years ago by four entities: Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services, URS Energy and Construction, Bechtel, and the University of California. As stated in its by-laws, the company purpose is “to manage and operate the Los Alamos National Laboratory in a manner that furthers the interests of the national security and advances the DOE/NNSA missions, programs and objectives in accordance with the terms of the Prime Contract.” In other words, it is a privately held national security profit center that, according to Bloomberg, “engages in the businesses of nuclear defense programs, facilities management, science and technology to homeland security challenges, and safety and security.”
Los Alamos National Security LLC is, by its very nature, a limited liability conflict of interest in which at least one conflict is between profit and security.
Santa Fe New Mexican lays out tough case against LANL
As viewed by the New Mexican, the parent company, Los Alamos National Security, allowed its employees at LANL to take numerous actions that could protect the company’s profits by risking the security of others. The gambit appears to have failed by just one drum. Its elements, perpetrated or allowed by LANL employees or contractors, included, according to the New Mexican:
- … workers packaging the waste came across a batch that was extraordinarily acidic, making it unsafe for shipping. The lab’s guidelines called for work to shut down while the batch underwent a rigid set of reviews to determine how to treat it, a time-consuming process that jeopardized the lab’s goal of meeting the deadline. Instead, the lab and its various contractors took shortcuts in treating the acidic nuclear waste, adding neutralizer and a wheat-based organic kitty litter to absorb excess liquid.
- Documents accompanying the drum, which were supposed to include a detailed description of its contents … made no mention of the acidity or the neutralizer, and they mischaracterized the kitty litter as a clay-based material – not the more combustible organic variety that most chemists would have recognized as hazardous if mixed with waste laden with nitrate salts….
- Documents and internal emails show that even after the radiation leak, lab officials downplayed the dangers of the waste – even to the Carlsbad managers whose staff members were endangered by its presence – and withheld critical information from regulators and WIPP officials investigating the leak.
- The waste container that ultimately burst would not have met federal transportation standards to get on the road from Los Alamos to Carlsbad, nor would it have been accepted at WIPP, if its true ingredients had been reported by the lab.
- In documents filed with the New Mexico Environment Department before the accident, LANL reported that the waste in the drum that would later burst “is stable and will not undergo violent chemical change without detonating,” and “there is no indication that the waste contains explosive materials, and it is not capable of detonation or explosive reaction. The materials in the waste stream are therefore not reactive wastes.
- LANL has never publicly acknowledged the reason it switched from clay-based litter to the organic variety believed to be the fuel that fed the intense heat.
- Organic kitty litter may have been mixed in up to 5,565 containers of waste at LANL starting in September 2012 that were incorrectly labeled as holding inorganic litter, according to an assessment conducted by WIPP personnel.
LANL did not respond to inquiries by RSN seeking an explanation for the change from inorganic to organic kitty litter during 2012-2014.
Commenting on the story in the New Mexican, Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group wrote in part: “The treatment processes LANS [the LLC] used were illegal as well as dangerous. Shipping the waste was illegal. Providing the fallacious manifest that accompanied the drums was illegal. Failing to provide accurate information after the fact when NMED asks for it was and is illegal.”
In the most recent study group bulletin, Mello notes that not every misdeed in the nuclear world will reach the public and cites an example from December 2014 when eight people at LANL were apparently contaminated with Plutonium but there was no news coverage.
Nuclear safety is an expensive mirage, all for the sake of nuclear war
The cost of failure of the single drum contaminated with organic kitty litter will almost surely run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. WIPP alone estimates its recovery plan will cost at least $500 million, and an additional $200 million or so for an improved, new ventilation system. These estimates do not include the additional costs of holding the nuclear waste stream while WIPP is closed, or the cost of improvement and compliance at LANL or any other facility.
When it opened in 1999, WIPP was supposed to have a 10,000 year leak-proof design life protecting the public from nuclear weapons waste radiation. That design life turned out to be only 15 years of safety, although further releases of radiation since Valentine’s Day 2014 have apparently been limited.
The Department of Energy says it is committed to reopening WIPP by March 2016, at least for partial operation, but that’s uncertain, since no one has ever tried to fix an underground nuclear waste facility before. Meanwhile, the ceiling of the underground salt cave had a significant collapse in January, when a section of ceiling 8 feet by 8 feet and two feet thick fell in a non-contaminated section of the one square mile storage area. As WIPP management acknowledged at the time: “This event highlights the need to continue prioritizing roof bolting and ground control in both the contaminated and uncontaminated areas of the WIPP underground facility in order to ensure safety and habitability in the underground. This area was originally scheduled to be re-bolted during the annual outage in February 2014.”
In March, more than a year after Drum 68660 burst, decontamination of the underground area began, as reported by WIPP: “Employees are using a modified piece of agricultural spraying equipment that allows them to apply a fine water mist to the walls and floor. The water dissolves the salt and washes it down to the floor. When the salt recrystallizes, it encapsulates the contamination and prevents any resuspension of radioactive particles.”
And now the federal government has reversed its past practice of paying fines for violating state laws and regulations. In December 2014, New Mexico’s Environment Department levied a total of $54 million in fines on the federal (outsourced) operations at WIPP ($17.7 million) and LANL ($36.6 million). Now the Energy Department is taking the position that it would be illegal to pay New Mexico’s fines, even though it has done so in the past. New Mexico is reportedly preparing a new order against WIPP, LANL, and others with fines totaling $100 million.
Underlying this struggle over the safety of nuclear weapons waste is the Obama administration’s perpetuation of longstanding reliance on a massive nuclear weapons force comprising more than 7,500 warheads, more than 2,000 of which are presently deployed around the world. The Obama administration has embarked on a program of improving and expanding the American nuclear force. A key element of that program is the fabrication of Plutonium pits (nuclear bomb triggers).
Making these essential elements of American weapons of mass destruction has been assigned to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, even though LANL has demonstrated its ability and willingness to gamble on lying about using the wrong kitty litter.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
Benjamin Netanyahu giving speech about danger of Iran’s nuclear program at UN. (photo: Don Emmart/AFP/Getty)
04 April 15
here is a lot of talk about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and the ways in which an Iranian bomb would provoke Saudi Arabia and others to acquire nuclear warheads of their own.
But for decades, the primary impetus to a nuclear arms race in the region has been Israel, which probably had an atom bomb by about 1970. It was helped behind the scenes by France and Britain– which actively proliferated nuclear weapons to Israel.
It was Israel’s bomb that, in part, impelled Iraq to go for broke. Iraq’s nuclear weapons program of the 1980s in turn convinced some in Iran that Iran needed at least a nuclear break-out capacity if two of its enemies were going to have bombs. Since Israel destroyed an Iraqi light water reactor, OSIRAK, in 1981 (which had been built by the French and could not easily have been used to produce fissile material), when Iran began its experiments in uranium enrichment, it kept them secret lest Tel Aviv send out F-14s.
Ideally, the whole Middle East should be an atomic bomb- free region. The area has enough horrible problems without a weapon of mass destruction. But the UN Security Council has treated Israel very differently from the way they treated Iran. For centuries, Europeans have been held to different standards and different rules than have peoples of the Global South. Israel as a “European” country was allowed to get a nuclear bomb, indeed was helped to do so, and no sanctions were ever applied to it. Iran was targeted for economic warfare just for having an enrichment program.
Now that Iran is being constrained by a strict inspections regime and limitations on centrifuges from ever weaponizing its civilian enrichment program, what if the United Nations Security Council turned its attention to decommissioning Israel’s stock of several hundred warheads?
If Britain, France, Russia, China and the USA decided Israel would have to give up its nukes, as a means of ensuring non-proliferation in the Middle East, how would they proceed?
On analogy from the sanctions imposed on Iran, we could see the UNSC pass a resolution demanding that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as Iran has).
Then they demand that Israel allow inspectors in to Dimona.
Then they demand that Israel destroy its stockpile of atomic bombs.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu loudly and cheekily defies the world body, the UNSC moves to the next stage.
The European Union, with which Israel does a third of its trade, begins boycotting Israeli-made goods and Israeli companies.
China joins suit, drastically reducing its imports from Israel and curtailing contracts to Israeli firms.
As Netanyahu’s defiance grows louder and more strident, and he begins threatening the five permanent members of the Security Council, the UNSC takes a dim view of his bluster.
Israel is kicked off the SWIFT bank exchange and excluded from the alternative Chinese one. Israeli foreign trade plummets as sellers find it impossible to receive shekels for the goods they send to Israel. It is difficult to buy Israeli products because there is no easy way to pay Israeli businesses for them. Buyers turn to other producers of similar products in other countries.
Israeli exports are cut in half. The country is forced to trade with some poor Asian and African countries that do no care about the UNSC, but must barter for their inferior made goods.
The shekel falls from roughly $.25 to only an American dime. The Israeli middle class can suddenly no longer afford to vacation in Europe or the United States. Egyptian and Turkish beaches are off limits because those countries joined the boycott, hoping for a denuclearized Middle East.
Haaretz runs an editorial pointing out that Israel has an American nuclear security umbrella and asking why the country needs its own stockpile.
Netanyahu stages a photo op standing atop stacked nuclear warheads, waving a cowboy hat above his head in imitation of Slim Pickens in the film, “Dr. Strangelove.”
The shekel falls to five cents against the dollar. Israelis find it difficult to afford some important medicines because of their high cost, and some patients die as a result. Many Israelis begin moving to France, Germany and Sweden, tired of trying to scrape a living together in an increasingly dilapidated Tel Aviv, beset with potholes and crumbling buildings.
In new elections, Isaac Herzog becomes prime minister and announces a willingness to negotiate with President Michelle Obama’s Secretary of State.
The Security Council insists that Israel sign the NPT and accept wide-ranging and surprise IAEA inspections. The destruction of its stockpile of atomic bombs begins.
Other Middle East states, having seen what happened to Iran and Israel, affirm that they have no interest in nuclear weaponry. Most now in any case get their power not from reactors but from solar farms, which generate electricity at 2 cents a kilowatt hour. Cheap power and fewer military expenses have made them prosperous. They implore Israel to join their ranks and also to accept the 2002 Arab League peace plan.
Comment: We must be freed from the most imminent threat of nuclear holocaust (by accidents, mishaps, failures, terrorism, wars) by treating every country equal (free zones in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, Europe, and America. We need the natural cyclical Indra-net culture (cultivation with 5 blisses: awakening/freedom/equality/love/peace) to stop the artificial uni-directional pyramidal civilization (urbanization for matter/power with moneyism/militarism/me-ism with 5 calamities: delusion/bondage/discrimination/exploitation/extermination).