Israel has rebuffed a UN call to adhere to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and open itself to international inspectors, calling the suggestion a “meaningless mechanical vote” of a body that “lost all its credibility regarding Israel.”
In a 174-6 vote, the United Nations General Assembly demanded in a non-binding call that Tel Aviv join the NPT “without further delay,” in an effort to create a legally binding nuclear-free Middle East.
Washington, Israel’s strongest ally, surprised no one by voting against the resolution – but did approve two paragraphs that were voted on separately, which called for universal adherence to the NPT and for all non-signatory governments to join.
The UN body “has lost all its credibility regarding Israel with these types of routine votes that are ensured passage by an automatic majority and which single out Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying.
The Assembly’s call on Israel comes days after a large majority of its members voted to grant Palestine statehood state status and just weeks after the an escalation of violence between Gazans and Israel’s occupation forces. Palmor stressed, however, that since the NPT vote takes place annually, the Palestinian victory is not connected.
Israel is not a signatory to the 1970 Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the main objective of which is to is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. Despite near-universal acknowledgement that Tel Aviv maintains a powerful nuclear arsenal, Israeli officials promote a position claiming their government will “not be the first country to introduce weapons into the Middle East.”
The Middle East’s only democracy possesses as many as 400 nuclear warheads, along with various ways to deliver them. It is also one of four countries known to have nuclear weapons that are not recognized as Nuclear Weapons States by the NPT. The others are India, North Korea and Pakistan.
Israel follows a policy known as “nuclear opacity,” which it sees as a deterrent against its neighbors.
The timing of the Israeli dismissal of the call for transparency comes less than two weeks after Washington’s withdrawal from December’s nuclear-free Middle East conference, to be held in Finland and sponsored by Russia, the UK and the US.
State Department officials said the international effort is being postponed because of “a deep conceptual gap [that] persists in the region on approaches towards regional security and arms control arrangements,” and because “states in the region have not reached agreement on acceptable conditions” for the meeting, quotes the IPS.
But many blamed Israel’s refusal to accept the terms as the real reason for postponing the regional nuclear drive.
“The truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference,” Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the General Assembly on Monday, as he called for “strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions.”
The meeting is now expected to be held early next year.
There are currently five nuclear-weapon-free zones in the world, according to the UN: Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South-East Asia, Central Asia, and Africa.
- NAM slams nuclear meeting cancellation, urges Israel to join NPT (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- World tells Israel to open up its nukes (morningstaronline.co.uk)
When the Fukushima-1 reactor complex in Japan went into radioactive apoplexy on March 11, 2011, the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. — like the Russians at Chernobyl before them — began minimizing the risks of radiation and the known and potential effects of radiological disasters.
The principle mouthpiece for this well-rehearsed minstrel show was Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano who told the world that evening, “Let me repeat that there is no radiation leak, nor will there be a leak.”(1) Edano is now the Trade and Industry Minister and oversees federal cleanup and recovery efforts.
Independent observers like Dr. Chris Busby, scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk and a founder of the Low-Level Radiation Campaign in England, warned four days into the disaster: “Reassurances about radiation exposures issued by the Japanese government cannot be believed.” Likewise, physicist Nils Bøhmer, with the Oslo-based environmental foundation Bellona, insists that throughout the crisis Japan has been withholding information about radiation dangers.
Even the New York Times reported Nov. 30 on “The gap between the initial assurances given by company and government officials, and the ultimate scale of the nuclear disaster…”
Deception confirmed by UN
Now 20 months later, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health has issued a draft report charging that Japan “has adopted overly optimistic views of radiation risks and has conducted only limited health checks” among contaminated populations, the AP and CBC reported. According to Anand Grover, the UN investigator, “Japan hasn’t done enough to protect the health of residents and workers affected.”(2)
Previous investigations found that monitoring data from the federal system that tracks plumes of radiation during disasters — called “Speedi,” for System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information — was kept secret when it was needed most. News reports in August 2011 said that the system forecast that Karino Elementary School in the town of Namie would be directly in the path of the radiation plume spewing from the smashed reactors. Yet the warning never reached decision-makers and neither the school nor the town was evacuated. Instead, they became evacuation centers where families even cooked and ate meals outdoors.
Bellona reports that documents obtained by the AP and the New York Times, its own interviews with key officials, and a review of other newly released data and parliamentary transcripts show that “… Japan’s system to forecast radiation threats was working from the moment its nuclear crisis began on March 11, after an earthquake and tsunami pummeled the Fukushima” reactor site.
The UN’s Grover severely criticized the government’s commitment to health care for exposed workers and people in contaminated areas, and complained that its ongoing health checks are “too narrow in scope because they are only intended to cover Fukushima’s two million people.” Surveys of health effects should extend to “all radiation-affected zones” Grover said, a vast area including much of the north-eastern half of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
But so far, only one-fourth of Fukushima’s population has been surveyed. Grover thinks it’s unwise to check only children for thyroid damage. Indeed, Dr. Helen Caldicott told Business Insider last summer that even when lesions are found on a child’s thyroid, they aren’t being biopsied. The lesions “should all be biopsied,” Caldicott warned.
Further minimizing the actual numbers of affected persons, thousands of reactor site workers with short-term contractors “have no access to permanent health checks,” Grover said, and Fukushima residents complain that they have not been allowed access to their own health-check results.
Last March, Human Rights Watch leveled the same charge.(3) “We are really not seeing basic health services being offered in an accessible way and we are not seeing accurate, consistent, non-contradictory information being disclosed to people on a regular basis” Jane Cohen, a researcher at the New York-based rights group, told Reuters. Of the 24,228 workers who risk radiation exposure at the reactor complex, only a mere 904 are eligible for free cancer screenings being provided by the government and Tepco, the daily Asahi Shimbun reported November 22nd. The authorities have limited the scope of the $600 checkups to workers who were exposed to over 50 millisieverts between March 11 and mid-December 2011, but thousands of workers are demanding that the time limit be abolished.
Disinformation and denials confounded by science
Official lullabies, denials and attempted cover-ups are desperate shields against the enormous economic and legal liability that would follow any acknowledgment of the depth and breadth of radiation’s likely effects. Tepco said November 6th that it may need 11 trillion yen, or $137 billion, to cover its damages. Tokyo already set aside ¥9 trillion in July as part of the federal bailout and takeover of the utility. Minister Edano hinted last May that the government may cover some of the costs of decontaminating certain limited areas. Comprehensive decontamination is not even being considered because, as the science ministry reported in November 2011, radioactive fallout from the triple meltdowns was found in every one of its 57 prefectures.(4)
The journal Science reported this fall that 40% of the fish caught off the coast of NE Japan are contaminated with radioactive cesium at levels well above what the government allows.(5) Author Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution concluded that there is either a source of cesium on the seafloor, or it is still being dumped into the ocean by Tepco.
Referring to the millions of gallons of cooling water still being poured into the three destroyed reactors and their waste fuel pools, Buesseler told Radio Australia Nov. 20, “Some of that water is getting back into the ocean, either actively being pumped out after some decontamination or through leaks in the building, so [Tepco’s] not able to contain all of the water that they use to cool.”
The government and Tepco moved quickly to deny Science. The federal fisheries ministry claimed that cesium from Fukushima’s wrecked cooling systems — about 16,000-trillion becquerels, what Science called “by far the largest discharge of radioactivity into the ocean ever seen”— is “sinking into the seabed” and no longer entering the food chain. (A becquerel is one subatomic disintegration per second) Tepco representatives just said contaminated water was not leaking from any of its wreckage.
Oceanographer Kanda at Tokyo University told the journal Nature that his analysis indicates the site itself is leaking about 300 billion becquerels into the sea every month.
(1) Evan Osnos, “The Fallout: Seven months later: Japan’s nuclear predicament,” The New Yorker, Oct. 17, 2011
(2) AP, “UN says Fukushima nuclear risks underestimated in Japan,” Nov. 26, 2012
(3) Reuters, “Japan too slow in Fukushima health checks-rights group,” Mar. 6, 2012
(4) Hiroshi Ishizuka, “Cesium from Fukushima plant fell all over Japan,” Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 26, 2011
(5) “Fishing for Answers off Fukushima,” Science, Oct. 26
- Fukushima Medical University Hospital cover up -An interview with Kazihiko Kobayashi (nuclear-news.net)
- TEPCO, Japanese government denying Fukushima radiation reaching ocean fish (japandailypress.com)
- ABC Radio: “Who’s to blame for radioactive fish? Tepco denies cesium contamination is from Fukushima” (enenews.com)
- AND NOW: ‘TEPCO Considers Net In Fukushima Nuke Plant Port To Prevent Irradiated Fish From Heading Seaward’ (infiniteunknown.net)
British forces in Afghanistan have been accused of killing four boys in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand in October.
According to a report published by the Guardian on Tuesday, a group of lawyers recently sent a letter to British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond, demanding that the UK government investigate the alleged killings.
The lawyers, acting on behalf of the relatives of two of the victims, said that during an operation in the village of Loi Bagh in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on October 18, the UK troops shot dead the Afghan boys while they were drinking tea.
The victims were identified as 18-year-old Fazel Mohammed, Naik Mohammed, 16, Mohammed Tayeb, 14, and 12-year-old Ahmed Shah.
The British troops were on a joint operation with Afghan forces.
“We submit that all of the victims were under the control and authority of the UK at the times of the deaths and ill-treatment,” the letter to Hammond read.
“The four boys killed all appear to have been deliberately targeted at close range by British forces. All were killed in a residential area, over which UK forces clearly had the requisite degree of control and authority.”
Major Adam Wojack, a spokesperson for the foreign forces in Afghanistan, has confirmed the operation. However, he has claimed that four “Taliban enemies in action” were killed.
The letter also includes a statement by the relatives of the victims, rejecting “any suggestion that any of the four teenagers killed were in any way connected” to the Taliban. “All four were innocent teenagers who posed no threat whatsoever to Afghan or British forces.”
- British forces accused of killing four teenagers in Afghan operation (guardian.co.uk)
Industry leaders will have no problem closing nuclear reactors that don’t generate expected profits. Exelon, the Chicago-based company that owns 17 of the 104 U.S. reactors, recently saw its stock price drop below $30 a share, the same level as mid-2003, and a whopping 70% below its peak of over $92 a share in mid-2008.
The standard explanation for this reversal is cost. In particular, electricity from growing natural gas and wind sources costs less to produce than that from nuclear reactors. The famous 1954 promise by Atomic Energy Commission head Lewis Strauss that the atom would create energy “too cheap to meter” has failed miserably. But while cost is the reason why utilities will be closing reactors, most reports fail to look beneath the surface and understand WHY nukes are so expensive.
The answer is that nuclear power poses great danger to safety and health. This danger means that reactors must comply with numerous safety regulations; must be built with many safety features; and must be manned by a large and highly trained work force – each a high-ticket item. In addition, the fleet of 104 U.S. reactors in operation is aging – most over 30 years old – requiring that corroding parts be replaced, pushing costs even higher.
Another element in the high cost of nukes won’t be faced until they are decommissioned (after closing). Decommissioning costs run hundreds of millions of dollars per reactor. Utilities are forced by federal law to keep a large decommissioning fund while operating reactors, to prevent them from simply closing reactors, not securing them, and sticking taxpayers with the bill.
Even with all these extensive and expensive efforts to protect the public, nukes still aren’t safe. The chance of a meltdown exists every day, from human error, natural disaster, or terrorist act. The disasters at Chernobyl in 1986 and at Fukushima last year remind us that catastrophic meltdowns that affect thousands to millions are a sobering reality. In addition to meltdowns, there is the matter of routine emissions from reactors and elevated cancer rates near reactors, demonstrated in many studies. Finally, the U. S. and other nations still have no long-term plans to store the massive amounts of hazardous nuclear waste.
Dominion Nuclear recently announced that the Kewaunee reactor in Wisconsin will permanently shut down in the spring. This action is a milestone. Not only will this be the first U.S. reactor closed since 1998, but it will likely be followed by numerous other shutdowns. An October 23 New York Times article was headlined “Reactors Face Mothballs.”
Kewaunee’s closing also represents a turning point. For over a decade, nuclear leaders steadily proclaimed an era of a revival, after years of no growth. But the word “renaissance” has vanished, and nuclear power is now in full retreat.
So which reactors will join Kewaunee and be the next to close? Nobody knows for sure, but there are a number of reactors that are faring poorly, and are candidates for shutdown:
- Crystal River (Florida), closed for over three years, needs considerable funds to replace defective parts
- San Onofre (California, two reactors), closed for nearly one year due to faulty steam generators, will require millions to repair.
- Oyster Creek (New Jersey), which must shut down by 2019, may close sooner according to Exelon executives who cite costs and market forces
- Vermont Yankee (Vermont), up for sale (and like Kewaunee with no buyers), along with stiff opposition from local citizens and elected officials
- Clinton (Illinois), another Exelon reactor, has been hit hard by cheaper alternatives
- Indian Point (New York, two reactors), faced considerable citizen and political opposition ever since a plane hijacked by terrorists on 9/11 flew directly over it on its way to the World Trade Center.
This autumn has been the worst period for U.S. nuclear reactors in a long time. Hurricane Sandy caused six reactors to close temporarily, while others were shut to change fuel, and others closed due to mechanical problems. From mid-October to late November, U.S. reactors operated at just 70-75% of capacity, down sharply from the 90% figure of the past decade.
Shrinking nuclear power is even more pronounced overseas. In Japan, nearly two years after Fukushima, only 2 of 54 reactors are operating, and the majority of Japanese are fiercely opposed to restarting any reactors. Soon after Fukushima, governments in Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland announced plans to phase out nuclear power, and Germany has already closed half a dozen reactors.
The business troubles facing reactors are nothing new – historical construction costs far exceeded original estimates, and Wall Street executives stopped lending money for new reactors in the 1970s. Fewer reactors will mean reduced threats to health but also reduced costs – proving what’s good for the environment is also good for business.
Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project (www.radiation.org).
Janette Sherman, MD is an internist and toxicologist. (www.janettesherman.com).
- ‘A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance’ (alethonews)
- EDF Falls in Paris on Rising Costs for Normandy Nuclear Reactor – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Even France can’t build a nuclear reactor economically, and in the planned time (nuclear-news.net)
- South Korea Shuts Down 2 Nuclear Reactors (blogs.voanews.com)
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) says it has fully extracted the data on the US spy drone, it captured over the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.
“Yes, we have fully extracted the drone’s data…,” the IRGC Public Relations Department said on Wednesday, referring to the ScanEagle drone — a long-endurance aircraft built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
“The drone, in addition to gathering military data, used to pursue gathering data in the field of energy, especially the transfer of oil from Iran’s oil terminals,” the department said.
It said that the capture of the aircraft helps discovery of “what kind of data they (the Americans) are after.”
Regarding the US denial of the existence of the aerial vehicle in its drone fleet, the department said, “The reaction, the Americans have to the capture of their drones indicates the importance of this matter to them. This is not something they can easily deny.”
The manner by which the aircraft was captured by the IRGC is very important and “it can even be said that the drone’s getting entangled in the IRGC Navy’s security net is more important than the [capture of] the RQ-170 [Sentinel] drone,” it said, referring to the Iranian military’s last-year downing of an intruding US drone, which was flying over the northeastern Iran city of Kashmar.
A Western media outlet says the recent capture of a US ScanEagle drone by Iran has likely taken place through the reconfiguration of the aircraft’s GPS coordinates, which made it ‘lose its brain.’
The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) said in a Tuesday report that the technique likely used by the Islamic Republic was “spoofing,” through which Iranian specialists reconfigured the drone’s GPS coordinates to make it land in Iran at what the drone thought was its actual home base in Afghanistan.
It also cited a source as saying, “By putting noise [jamming] on the communications, you force the bird into autopilot. This is where the bird loses its brain.”
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) captured the spy drone over the Persian Gulf waters upon its intrusion into the Iranian airspace on Tuesday.
IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi made the announcement on Tuesday, adding that the Iranian armed forces enjoy full intelligence command over foreign movements in the Persian Gulf region.
The drone, which has a wingspan of 10 feet (three meter), is a long-endurance aircraft built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
The CSM said a same technique was used in December 2011, when the Iranian military downed a US RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft after the drone was spotted flying over the northeastern Iran city of Kashmar.
- Iran captures another intruding US drone (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran says drone captured, US rejects claim – Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
- Iran tells US to ‘recount’ drones (dailystar.com.lb)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder in Paraguay of human rights defender Vidal Vega, leader of the Campesinos sin Tierra movement (Landless Campesinos) and president of the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre and urges the State of Paraguay to investigate and clear up these crimes, and punish those who perpetrated and masterminded them.
According to IACHR information, on December first, 2012, two individuals arrived aboard a motorcycle at the home of Vidal Vega. Police information quoted in news reports indicates the victim’s spouse, María Cristina Argüello, answered the door: the two unknown men asked for Vidal Vega and shot him with 12-caliber rifles, in the presence of his family.
The information received also indicates that Vidal Vega was a key witness in an investigation into the Curuguaty massacre, which happened on 15 June 2012, and where 11 peasants and 6 policemen died. The massacre took place during a raid on Campos Morombí, Marina Cue, lands in litigation between the State and private parties.
These events led to the impeachment of former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, who ended up being removed from office. It was also reported that Vidal Vega was the person responsible for the safekeeping of the documents related to proceedings by the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre before the National Institute of Rural Development and Land for the adjudication of the “Marina Cue” lands.
The IACHR calls to mind that it is the State’s obligation to proactively investigate acts of this nature and punish those responsible. The Commission also urges the State of Paraguay to immediately and urgently adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the right to life, integrity, and safety of human rights defenders in the country, particularly those who work in the Campesinos sin Tierra movement and on the Committee of Relatives of Victims of the Curuguaty Massacre.
As the Commission has stated previously, the acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that belong to every human being, but undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenceless.
The IACHR also calls to mind that the work of human rights defenders is essential to the construction of a solid and lasting democratic society, and that they play a leading role in the process of pursuing the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
- Paraguay peasant leader shot dead (bbc.co.uk)