I doubt very many people have ever heard or seen a “tank mix.” Simply put, it is a mix of several crop chemicals used together to control a variety of weeds. I have not looked into a swirling mix of chemicals in a crop spray rig for probably 20 years–that’s about how long it has been since we have used any herbicides on our farm.
It may look different now, new chemicals, perhaps new colors and new toxic smells. I remember it as a sulfurous yellow mix of rising spreading plumes of chemicals, circulating and mixing together in the tank. The smell was literally breathtaking and the toxicity likewise. (That’s why it’s recommended that the applicator wear breathing protection and a Hazmat suit.)
When people ask me why we switched to organic farming, that swirling yellow tank mix always reappears in my mind. How did I ever rationalize putting that stuff on my fields?
When genetically modified (GM) crops were introduced commercially in 1996, farmers were told that Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready”(RR) technology would make crop production easier, safer, and “one spray was all they’d ever need.”
Roundup would be a safer, more effective replacement for all those chemicals farmers were currently using their tank mixes, they told us. With Roundup as the cornerstone of GM crop technology, the promise was safety. We’d have no more worries about weeds, and it would be eternally effective, so there would be no more need for tank mixes.
While I really don’t consider any pesticide safe (after all–they are poisons), Roundup was probably less toxic, perhaps less carcinogenic, and perhaps less of an endocrine disruptor than some of the chemicals it replaced. Perhaps.
I specifically remember 2,4-D (one of the components of the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange) being singled out as a “more dangerous” herbicide that would no longer be needed. Who wouldn’t like that–a dangerous herbicide replaced by an easier to use, safer, permanently more effective one? There was sliced bread and then there was RR.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. In 1996, Monsanto was fined by the State of New York for false advertising in its promotion of Roundup as “safe.” According to a 2013 Associated Press article, Monsanto acknowledged that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval “is not an assurance or finding of safety” because U.S. regulations are based on a cost-benefit analysis, which balances the potential of “any unreasonable risk to man or the environment” against the “the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of the use of any pesticide.”
Isn’t that something? EPA approval is not an assurance of safety.
Consider the fact that EPA-approval was based on specific recommended quantities, and then, as these products became less effective, the tendency would be to “add a just little more.” But, even with “just a little more,” nature found a way to survive, and weeds developed resistance to Roundup to the point that even a thorough sousing would no longer kill them. Once again the tank mix became the only hope in killing these new, pesticide-resistant “superweeds.”
To help fight resistant weeds, farmers have also been encouraged to develop integrated weed management strategies. Mark Jeschke, Agronomy Research Manager at DuPont Pioneer, notes that “mechanical weed control and crop rotation are examples of two such tactics available to growers.” (These are tactics organic farmers have always used). But for heaven’s sake, the industry says, don’t stop spraying.
The “new generation” of GM crops are on the way and the first out of the pipeline are corn and soybeans that Dow AgroSciences developed to be used in conjunction with 2,4-D. In September, The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the new seeds, as part of a branded “Enlist Weed Control System” that could be going into the ground as early as spring 2015.
Now remember that in 1996 Roundup was touted as the safe alternative to 2,4-D, a dangerous pesticide. Has 2,4-D become safer than it used to be? No.
My guess is that Dow decided it would be cheaper and easier to engineer seeds to resist the old herbicides rather than develop new herbicides that might be less toxic. And, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, Dow and Monsanto know that planting seeds that withstand both 2,4-D and Roundup would lead to an increase in herbicide use.
In fact, Dow and Monsanto stand to cash in on 2,4-D and Roundup cross-licensing. We are talking big profit potential. Never mind the fact that an Ohio study pointed out that 2,4-D is potentially potent enough to cause a “17 to 77 percent reduction of the marketable fruit and vegetables” on farms close to those where it is sprayed.
The University of Maryland recommends leaving a 350-foot buffer zone (PDF) between fields sprayed with 2,4-D and grapevines, which–along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, beans, and other vegetables–are highly susceptible to 2,4-D drift.
It would be one thing if the farmer doing the spraying was responsible for leaving a buffer strip between their crops and the neighbors’ vegetables. But the guy with the chemicals can spray right up to the property line. Over the last 20 years I have had to leave many acres of my land in buffer strips. Most farmers try to be good neighbors, but they can’t control the wind.
Weeds resistant to 2,4-D were documented as early as 1957, and still, farmers are hoping that 2,4-D resistant corn and soybeans, especially a 2,4-D/Roundup resistant combination, will be “the one” solution to their problems. And if weed resistance shows up they can “just add a little more”–at least until this system fails and the next GM crop is introduced.
Civil Eats editor’s note: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today approved Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo herbicide, a new blend of 2,4-D and Roundup (glyphosate) developed for use on new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) corn, soybeans, and cotton.
Maduro Hands Over Land Titles to Indigenous Communities, Creates Institute to Protect Native Languages
On Monday, in celebration of the nationally acclaimed Day of Indigenous Resistance, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro established a presidential council for indigenous peoples, handed over collective land titles to 14 original communities, lowered the threshold age for indigenous pensioners, and announced the creation of an institute to protect the country’s 44 native languages.
The South American leader also pledged 5000 new homes for indigenous communities for 2015 through the national housing mission Mision Vivienda, and announced the investment of 575 million bolivars (about $7 million) to address extreme poverty in 396 of those communities.
Aloha Nuñez, the Indigenous Peoples’ Minister, noted that the presidential council was formed as a result of elections held in 2,194 indigenous communities after the idea was discussed in 1,589 countrywide assemblies.
Delia Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the Wayúu community of Zulia state, said that the debates leading up to the creation of the council were conducted with respect, tolerance and spirituality, in the interest of enabling diverse indigenous peoples to make significant contributions to the transition towards socialism.
Nuñez also explained how the language institute is the product of many years’ collective efforts. Of the 44 different original peoples that exist in Venezuela, Nuñez said, 34 speak their language and 10 have lost theirs through lack of use.
“We should immediately found and motivate a team systematically [that can] permanently, scientifically, register, rescue and revive all indigenous languages that exist in Venezuelan territory,” said Maduro from Miraflores presidential palace where Monday’s ceremony was held.
Shortly after, the Venezuelan president announced the incorporation of all indigenous above the age of 50 into the Amor Mayor mission for special elderly pensions. Nationwide, the mission applies to women over 55 and men over 60 who live in family homes maintained by minimum wage workers.
Land titles that encompass six ethnic groups and 14 communities of Anzoategui state were presented to community representatives; 1,891 hectares to the Guatacarito people, 438 to the Cumanagoto, 983 to the Capachal, 3,294 to the Pedregal, 657 to the Guayabal and 1,119 hectares to the Kariñas of Mapiricurito.
From 2011 to 2013 the Committee for the Demarcation of Land and Habitat, of the indigenous ministry, has signed 40 property titles for collective lands, including over 1.8 million hectares of land.
In a similar ceremony in July, Nuñez declared, “Today, the Bolivarian government recognizes the lands that ancestrally belonged to us and have been our home for many years.”
Communities lose out to oil palm plantations
Palm oil is not something you would associate with a Mexican kitchen. But go to any supermarket in the country, and you will find countless products containing it. The country’s food system has changed immensely since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect in 1994 and multinational companies moved in to take control of the country’s food supply. The alarming rate of obesity, now higher than that of the US, is one manifestation of Mexico’s changing food landscape, and tied to this is the escalating consumption of palm oil.
Palm oil consumption has increased by over four times since NAFTA was signed, and it now accounts for one quarter of the vegetable oil consumed by the average Mexican, up from 10% in 1996. Other countries in Latin America undergoing similar changes to their food systems have also increased their consumption of palm oil. Venezuelans have doubled their intake, and Brazilians are consuming 5 times what they did in 1996.
This growing consumption is matched by growing production, not in Mexico, but in those countries where oil palm can be most cheaply produced. A third of Latin America’s palm oil exports now go to Mexico.
Colombia, with about 450,000 ha under production, is the biggest palm oil producer in the Americas. Since the late 1990s, Colombia’s palm oil production has taken off for several overlapping reasons, including government incentives and a national biodiesel mandate. Oil palm has also been promoted as a substitute crop for coca as part of the US-backed “Plan Colombia” – a programme aimed at ending the country’s long-standing armed conflict and curbing cocaine production. Paradoxically, palm oil is also proving a useful way for drug cartels, paramilitaries and landlords to launder money and maintain control of the countryside.
The most notorious land grabs for palm oil in Colombia have occurred in the north west Chocó province, where businessmen and paramilitaries have colluded to force Afro-Colombian communities to cede their territories for palm oil plantations and contract farming. After dozens of Afro-Colombian leaders were killed resisting such land grabs, Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office brought forward charges against 19 palm oil businessmen for crimes of conspiracy, forced displacement, and the invasion of ecologically important land. Three of these businessmen have so far been convicted.
Disease outbreaks have limited palm oil’s expansion in Chocó Province and most of the expansion has instead happened on the pasture lands of the central and eastern parts of the country, where the oil palm industry claims there is little deforestation and displacement of peasants. But studies show that these pasture lands are in fact typically common areas vital to peasants for the production of their food crops and the grazing of their livestock. The “pasture lands” are often the only lands that peasants have access to, and palm oil companies routinely use force and coercion, including paramilitaries, to take control of these lands from them or to force them into oppressive contract production arrangements. Across Colombia, the expansion of palm oil and the presence of paramilitaries are tightly correlated.
Ecuador, Latin America’s second largest palm oil producer, has also seen a recent expansion in oil palm production. While much of its palm oil is produced on farms of less than 50 ha, new expansion is driven by private companies who have been moving into the territories of Afro-Ecuadorians and other indigenous peoples in the Northern part of the country, leading to severe deforestation and displacement and meeting with stiff local resistance.
Land conflicts over palm oil are also erupting in Central America. In Honduras, peasants in the Aguan Valley have been killed, jailed and terrorized for trying to defend their lands and small palm oil farms from powerful national businessmen who have been grabbing their lands to expand their palm oil plantations with the backing of foreign capital. Ironically, these peasant families first moved into the forests of the Aguan in the 1970s as part of a government land reform programme, and were encouraged to grow palm oil and establish their own cooperatives. The neoliberal policies of the 1990s and a coup d’état in 2009, opened the door for powerful local businessmen like Miguel Facussé, to destroy the peasant cooperatives, violently grab lands for plantations, and reorient the supply chain towards exports for biofuels and multinational food companies. Likewise in Guatemala, where production of palm oil has quadrupled over the past decade, the palm oil sector is now entirely controlled by just eight wealthy families who have been aggressively seizing lands from indigenous communities, such as the Q’eqchi,
Some industry insiders predict that an expansion of oil palm production in Brazil will soon dwarf all other production in the region. Brazil is a net importer, and production has so far been confined to a small area of Pará, in the North. But, unlike in other regional palm oil producing countries where production is dominated by national companies and wealthy landowning families, transnational corporations have recently made significant investments in Brazilian palm oil production, such as the mining company Vale, energy companies Petrobras and Galp, and ADM, one of the world’s largest grain traders and a major shareholder in the world’s largest palm oil processor Wilmar.
Tanya M. Kerssen, “Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras,” FoodFirst, 1 February 2013
Human Rights Everywhere, “The flow of palm oil Colombia- Belgium/Europe: A study from a human rights perspective,” 2006
The Department of Energy (DOE) is drafting a solicitation to provide as much as $12.6 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear energy projects.
The goal of the loan guarantees is to commercialize advanced nuclear technologies that could not otherwise get financing for research and development.
Any nuclear project that would reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions is eligible, but DOE said it is particularly interested in advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, upgrades at existing facilities and front-end nuclear projects.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, new nuclear power plants are under construction in the United States,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a Tuesday statement.
“This solicitation would build on that investment and help support the construction of the next generation of safe and secure nuclear energy projects.”
DOE said the loans align with the Obama administration’s “all-of-the-above” approach to energy as well as the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Officials released a draft solicitation for the projects Tuesday. It will take comments on the draft for 30 days before writing a final version.
The Obama administration has been far less aggressive about pursuing criminal prosecutions of environmental crimes than the George W. Bush administration, according to Justice Department figures.
Last year, there were 449 prosecutions for environmental crimes. That’s less than half the 927 prosecutions initiated in 2007, toward the end of the Bush administration. And the trend line is falling; there were 271 prosecutions in the first nine months of this fiscal year. If cases are filed at the current rate, that would result in only 361 for 2014, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University.
Any violation of environmental laws can result in a criminal prosecution, but according to Graham Kates at The Crime Report, only one-half of one percent do. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says they’re focusing on big cases, but fiscal considerations also play a part in deciding how many cases to prosecute. “The reality of budget cuts and staffing reductions make hard choices necessary across the board,” EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi told The Crime Report.
Criminal prosecutions, particularly of large corporations, are simply more difficult. Corporations hire teams of lawyers to fight prosecutors every step of the way and watch closely for government missteps that can give grounds for appeal, dragging out the case for years.
“I think a criminal prosecution will be defended much harder, corporations will take that very seriously, and investors take that very seriously,” Mark Roberts, an attorney and international policy advisor with the Environmental Investigation Agency, told The Crime Report. “If you’re in that tiny percentage that gets charged criminally, you want to win.”
A former EPA criminal investigator pointed out the effort involved in prosecuting a big company: “The typical corporate case can take two to three and a half years. But if you have ‘Joe Schlock the barrel hauler,’ you catch him red-handed and you’re out in two months,” David Wilma said.
Polluters aren’t even the biggest target of environmental prosecutions. Illegally taking fish and wildlife and illegal possession of migratory birds are the top two lead charges in the TRAC database. Water pollution is third and air pollution, ninth.
To Learn More:
Environment Prosecutions Decline Under Obama (TRAC Reports)
The Environmental Prosecution Gap (by Phil Mattera, Dirt Diggers Digest)
Environmental Crime: The Prosecution Gap (by Graham Kates, Crime Report)
When Companies Break Environmental Laws, Why are Responsible Individuals not Prosecuted? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) – the corporate lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for the disintegrating atomic power industry – doesn’t have to worry about repercussions from the negative impacts of nuclear power. For nuclear power is a government/taxpayer-guaranteed boondoggle whose staggering costs, incurred and deferred, are absorbed by American taxpayers via a supine government regulatory and subsidy apparatus.
So if you go to work at the NEI and you read about the absence of any permanent radioactive waste storage site, no problem, the government/taxpayers are responsible for transporting and safeguarding that lethal garbage for centuries.
If your reactors experience ever larger cost over-runs and delays, as is now happening with two new reactors in South Carolina, no problem, the supine state regulatory commissions will just pass the bill on to consumers, despite the fact that consumers receive no electricity from these unfinished plants.
If these plants, and two others in Georgia under construction, experience financial squeezes from Wall Street, no problem, a supine Congress has already passed ample taxpayer loan guarantees that make Uncle Sam (you the taxpayer) bear the cost of the risk.
If there were to be an accident such as the one that happened in Fukushima, Japan, no problem, under the Price-Anderson Act, the government/taxpayers bear the cost of the vast amount of damage from any nuclear power plant meltdown. To put this cost into perspective, a report by the Atomic Energy Commission about fifty years ago estimated that a class nine meltdown could make an area “the size of Pennsylvania” uninhabitable.
Why do we stand for such a doomsday technology all over America that is uneconomic, uninsurable, unsafe, unnecessary (it can’t compete with energy conservation and renewable energies [or carbon fuels]), unevacuable (try evacuating the greater New York City area from a disaster at the two Indian Point plants 30 miles from Manhattan) and unprotectable (either from sabotage or earthquake)?
David Freeman, the famous energy engineer and lawyer, who has run four giant utilities (the Tennessee Valley Authority, the SMUD complex – where he closed the Rancho Seco Nuclear Plant – the New York Power Authority and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) sums up the history of nuclear power this way: “Nuclear power, promoted as too cheap to meter, turned out to be too expensive to use, the road to nuclear proliferation, and the creator of radioactive trash that has no place to go.” Right wing conservative/libertarians call it extreme “crony capitalism.”
Nuclear power plants are shutting down. In 2013, four reactors shut down: Crystal River 3, Kewaunee, San Onofre 2 and San Onofre 3. Now, Michael Peck, a senior federal nuclear expert, is urging that the last nuke plant left in California, Diablo Canyon, be shut down until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulators can demonstrate that the two reactors at this site can withstand shaking from three nearby earthquake faults.
Meanwhile, the human, environmental and economic disasters at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plants keep metastasizing. Scientists are producing studies that show serious biological effects (genetic damage and mutation rates) of radiation on plant, insect and bird life in and around the large, cordoned off, uninhabitable area surrounding these closed down reactors. The giant politically-influential electric utility company underestimated the likelihood of a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
In the early nineteen-seventies, the industry and its governmental patrons were expecting 1,000 nuclear plants – 100 of them along the California coast – to be operating by the year 2000. Instead, a little more than a hundred were built nationwide. In reality, as of 2014, there are only 100 operable reactors, many of which are aging.
The pitfalls are real and numerous. In addition to growing public opposition, and lower-priced natural gas attracting electric utilities, there are the ever-present, sky-rocketing costs and delays of construction, repair and the question of where to store nuclear waste. These costs are what make Wall Street financiers turn their backs on nuclear power unless the industry can ram more tens of billions of dollars in government/taxpayer loan guarantees through Congress.
And what is all this nuclear technology, from the uranium mines to the nuclear plants to the still absent waste storage dumps for? To boil water!
These are the tragic follies when the corporate masters and their political minions, who are ready and willing to guarantee taxpayer funding, have no “skin in the game.” This kind of staggering power without responsibility is indeed radioactive.
The highest court in Guatemala has suspended the controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.
The Constitutional Court suspended on Friday the law – passed in June and due to go into effect on Sept. 26 – after a writ of amparo was filed by the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Peasant Movement, which argued the law would harm the nation, LaVoz reported.
The Court’s decision came after several Guatemalan parliamentarians from both the governing Patriotic Party and the opposition party Renewed Democratic Freedom said they would consider repealing the law after outcry from a diverse cross-section of Guatemalans.
The decision also offers interested parties 15 days to present their arguments pertaining to the law in front of the Constitutional Court. Members of both political parties said they would present motions to resist the law.
The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ by critics for its formidable seed-privatization provisions, is an obligation for all nations that signed the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The agreement requires signatories to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.
The law offers producers of transgenic seeds, often corporate behemoths like Monsanto, strict property rights in the event of possession or exchange of original or harvested seeds of protected varieties without the breeder’s authorization. A breeder’s right extends to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety,” thus, a hybrid of a protected and unprotected seed belongs to the protected seed’s producer.
The Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned that the law would monopolize agriculture processes, severely threaten food sovereignty – especially those of indigenous peoples – and would sacrifice national biodiversity “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”
The National Alliance for Biodiversity Protection said in July that the law is unconstitutional “because it violates the rights of peoples. It will benefit transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Duwest, Dupont, Syngenta, etc.”
“According to this law, the rights of plant breeders are superior to the rights of peoples to freely use seeds,” the Alliance said in a statement.
“It’s a direct attack on the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, life, culture, rural economy and worldview of Peoples, and food sovereignty,” the Alliance added.
Anyone who violates the law, wittingly or not, could face a prison term of one to four years, and fines of US$130 to $1,300.
It is unclear what options the Guatemalan government has given the obligations under CAFTA-DR. The US would likely put pressure on the nation to pass the law, part of a global effort using trade agreements to push further corporate control over trade sectors like agriculture in the name of modernization. Upon further refusal, the US could drop Guatemala from the trade agreement.
In an official letter Wednesday to Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, a group of top Russian experts including scientists, farmers and eco groups urged him to add all foods containing GMOs to the existing food sanctions that have been placed by Russia on the EU, U.S. and Australia amongst others.
The suggested ban includes all 18 varieties of genetically modified crops, registered and approved in Russia for use in the production of food for consumers and feed for farm animals.
The experts stated that the main manufacturers and suppliers of GM seed are located in countries that support sanctions against Russia. The biotech giants who fully control the market of GM seeds include: Monsanto (USA), Dow (USA), DuPont Pioneer (USA), Bayer (Germany), BASF (Germany). Therefore, products containing GM ingredients should be one of the sanctions applied by Russia in relation to these countries.
The experts suggested that Russia should also only buy conventional non-GMO food and feed products from countries that do not support the sanctions and yet currently supply products containing GMOs (e.g. Brazil, China, India and South Africa – BRICS countries).
“Now is a good time to stop the spread of food and feed products in Russia that contain GMOs, so we are then able to obtain objective scientific data on the impact of GMOs on the health of mammals. Independent research from domestic and foreign scientists suggests that GMOs may have an adverse effect on the health of mammals and lead to the development of diseases such as cancer, allergies, obesity, infertility, and others. To clarify the mechanisms of the impact of GMOs on living organisms, we need to continue to develop independent research in this area,” stated Elena Sharoykina, who is the Director of the Russian National Association for Genetic Safety.
Earlier this year in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia must protect its citizens from the use of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and that this could be done in compliance with the country’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In June, Russia also delayed the registration of GM varieties for the planting of GM crops, which had been planned to start in July. The current situation is that no GM crops have been grown in Russia and this will now be the case for at least the next 3 years.
A confidential report by a senior nuclear expert calls on regulators to close California’s last nuclear plant until it can be established the facility can survive a powerful earthquake, according to an exclusive AP report.
The Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which was built near three geographical fault lines, provides electricity needs for more than 2.2 million people in America’s largest state. However, a confidential report by the plant’s former inspector, Michael Peck, is calling on federal regulators to pull the plug on the facility.
Following the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in 2013, 30-year-old Diablo Canyon is the sole remaining nuclear energy supplier in California.
Peck warned in his 2013 report, which was obtained and verified by the Associated Press, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is failing to maintain safety standards previously put in place for the facility’s operation.
The primary issue, as described by AP, is that “no one knows whether the facility’s equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults – the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built.”
Continuing to operate Diablo Canyon plant “challenges the presumption of nuclear safety,” the nuclear expert, who is employed as an instructor by the NRC, warned.
The surfacing of the confidential report comes after a magnitude-6 earthquake hit northern California on Sunday, injuring dozens of people and causing over $1 billion dollars in property losses. Fears that Sunday’s earthquake was just a precursor to the much-feared ‘Big One’ have once again sparked debate on the ability of California’s aging infrastructure to withstand an earthquake.
Meanwhile, nuclear experts continue to be haunted by the nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, which suffered severe damage following a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. To this day, Japanese authorities, amid a very concerned public, are attempting to halt the leak of radiation from the damaged structure.
In a report put out in July entitled, “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of US Nuclear Plants,” it is advised that the nuclear industry should “access their preparedness for severe nuclear accidents associated with offsite-scale disasters.”
It adds that the current approach to nuclear safety is “clearly inadequate for preventing core-melt accidents and mitigating their consequences.”
After the Fukushima disaster, the NRC ordered US nuclear plants to reevaluate the risks posed by earthquakes, with studies due by March 2015.
Much of the current debate over the viability of California’s last nuclear facility originates from the 2008 discovery of the Shoreline fault, which, together with a number of other potentially active regions, including the large Hosgri fault, arguably places Diablo Canyon in a vulnerable geographical position.
Peck says Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the company that owns the nuclear facility, failed to prove that the plant would withstand the vibrations of a powerful earthquake, thereby violating its operating license. PG&E has challenged those claims, saying the structure is sound.
Blair Jones, a spokesman for PG&E, the company that owns the nuclear facility, said the NRC has conducted extensive analysis to prove the plant is “seismically safe.”
Jones told AP that concerns regarding earthquake-generated movements of the nuclear plant, which could potentially lead to a disaster, were put to rest in the 1970s following “seismic retrofitting” of the facility.
In 2012, the NRC supported preliminary studies that said vibrations and aftershocks coming from the Shoreline fault would not jeopardize the structural integrity of the reactors.
Meanwhile, the release of the confidential report has sent shockwaves through California’s political circles.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, expressed alarm that Peck’s report has only surfaced now.
“The NRC’s failure to act constitutes an abdication of its responsibility to protect public health and safety,” she said.
The committee announced it would hold hearings into how the NRC has responded to Peck’s suggestions.
Peck, currently an instructor at the NRC’s Technical Training Center, declined to comment on the AP report.
GAZA CITY — The death toll on the 27th day of Israel’s offensive on Gaza hit at least 120 on Sunday as health officials reported that over 70 bodies had been recovered in Rafah, a day after the city came under fierce, prolonged bombardment by Israeli forces.
Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an that the bodies of 70 Palestinians had been recovered from the city in southern Gaza, while 55 other Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks across the Strip Sunday.
The continuing attacks brought the total death toll in the assault to 1,830 with nearly 10,000 injured.
Israel began targeting Rafah with airstrikes and shelling Friday, killing dozens in the city hours before a 72-hour ceasefire was to come into place. When the ceasefire collapsed, Israel continued its bombardment on Rafah throughout Friday and into Saturday, killing more than hundred Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Israeli shelling and airstrikes did not let up on Sunday even as ground forces withdrew from major cities in Gaza.
An afternoon strike on the al-Majdalawi family home in Beir al-Naaja in northern Gaza left four dead, two of whom were identified as Mahmoud and Rawan al-Majdalawi.
Additionally, Mohammad Shaldan was killed and two others injured in an airstrike on the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. In another attack, a Palestinian was killed in a strike on a car in the Janeina neighborhood of Rafah, which has been hit heavily in the Israeli assault.
The attacks come after Israeli forces shelled a UNRWA school where thousands were taking refuge earlier in the day, killing at least ten. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon condemned the attack as “a moral outrage and a criminal attack.”
Al-Qidra identified the victims as Muhammad Abu Rajal, Sami Abdullah Qashta, Sami Ismail Abu Shalouf, Ahmad Khaled Abu Harba, Muhammad Musaid Qashta, Hazem Abd al-Basit Halal, Omar Tariq Abu al-Roos, Ahmad Kamal al-Nahal, Yousef Akram Sakafi, and Tariq Said Abu al-Roos.
A Palestinian carries an injured child following an Israeli military strike
on a UN school in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, on Aug. 3, 2014
Ongoing arrest campaign
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Prisoner’s Affairs said on Sunday that the number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails had risen dramatically throughout the assault on Gaza and the month leading up to it.
Abd al-Nasser Farwana, director of the ministry’s statistics bureau, said in a statement Sunday that more than 1,500 Palestinians had been arrested by Israeli forces since June across the Palestinian territories.
Many more than 200 have been arrested in Gaza, although not all of them were still being held. Not all of the arrests have yet been accounted for, Farwana added.
An Israeli army spokeswomen did not have information about the number of Palestinians arrested in Gaza throughout the offensive. She said Palestinians had been “taken to facilities for questioning,” but refused to say whether they had been imprisoned or released.
The arrests bring the number of Palestinians in Israeli jails up to around 6,500, among whom are 250 children, 37 members of parliament, and 75 prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Shalit deal but rearrested, many of them in June.
Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, throughout its search for three youths who were kidnapped and killed in June.
The stated goal of the campaign was to “crush Hamas,” and militant factions in Gaza heavily increased rocket fire on Israel as Hamas members were arrested and airstrikes on the Strip became a regular occurrence. Then, on July 7, Israel began its military offensive on Gaza.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Sunday demanded an unconditional ceasefire to resolve the “intolerable” situation in Gaza, adding that the British public was “deeply disturbed” by what it was seeing.
Hammond, who took over from William Hague last month, told the Sunday Telegraph that the killing had to stop, having already said he was “gravely concerned” by the number of civilian casualties from Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
“The British public has a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza is intolerable and must be addressed — and we agree with them,” he told the newspaper.
“It’s a broad swathe of British public opinion that feels deeply disturbed by what it is seeing on its television screens,” he added.
The former defense minister acknowledged the concerns of both Hamas and Israel, but insisted that they could not be allowed to stand in the way of a humanitarian ceasefire.
“We have to get the killing to stop,” he told the paper.
AFP contributed to this report
Over 3 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is virtually no health research being conducted or released on harm to the Japanese. An April report by a UN committee tried to sweep the issue under the rug, predicting any harmful effects of the catastrophe is “unlikely.”
The UN panel made a very broad assumption about the worst nuclear catastrophe in history (or worst since Chernobyl) – and did this BEFORE research is done. However, a local health study raises alarm bells. Fukushima Medical University found 46% of local children have a pre-cancerous nodule or cyst, and 130 have thyroid cancer, vs. 3 expected. Incredibly, the University corrupts science by asserting the meltdown played no role in these high figures.
But Japanese studies must go far beyond childhood thyroid diseases. Japan isn’t the only site to study, as the fallout from the meltdown spread across the northern hemisphere.
In 2011, we estimated 13,983 excess U.S. deaths occurred in the 14 weeks after Fukushima, when fallout levels were highest – roughly the same after Chernobyl in 1986. We used only a sample of deaths available at that time, and cautioned not to conclude that fallout caused all of these deaths.
Final figures became available this week. The 2010-2011 change in deaths in the four months after Fukushima was +2.63%, vs. +1.54% for the rest of the year. This difference translates to 9,158 excess deaths – not an exact match for the 13,983 estimate, but a substantial spike nonetheless.
Again, without concluding that only Fukushima caused these deaths, some interesting patterns emerged. The five Pacific and West Coast states, with the greatest levels of Fukushima fallout in the U.S., had an especially large excess. So did the five neighboring states (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah), which received the next highest levels.
Most of the spring 2011 mortality increase were people over 80. Many of these elderly were in frail health; one possibility is that the added exposure to radioactive poison sped the dying process.
Fukushima radiation is the same as fallout from atom bomb explosions, releasing over 100 chemicals not found in nature. The radioactive chemicals enter the body as a result of precipitation that gets into the food chain. Once in the body, these particles harm or kill cells, leading to disease or death.
Once-skeptical health officials now admit even low doses of radiation are harmful. Studies showed X-rays to pregnant women’s abdomens raised the risk of the child dying of cancer, ending the practice. Bomb fallout from Nevada caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Nuclear weapons workers are at high risk for a large number of cancers.
Rather than the UN Committee making assumptions based on no research, medical research on changes in Japanese disease and death rates are needed – now, in all parts of Japan. Similar studies should be done in nations like Korea, China, eastern Russia, and the U.S. Not knowing Fukushima’s health toll only raises the chance that such a disaster will be repeated in the future.
Joseph Mangano is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.
Janette D. Sherman MD is an internist and toxicologist, and editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.