A Sign by Henry Herskovitz
Say Ann Arbor and people will think of Michigan football, with the second biggest stadium in the entire world, behind only North Korea’s Rungrado May Day Stadium. The annual marijuana rally, Hash Bash, may also come to mind.
Downtown is filled with hip cafés, trendy shops, comfy brewpubs and sophisticated restaurants. These kids have money, I thought as I roamed around, searching for cheap beer. In-state tuition, in turns out, is $28,776, and out of state is $59,784. Michigan has plenty of international students, most notably Chinese.
At Curtain Call, the 30-something bartender, Chris, was from Hawaii. Her dad owned a Maui bar close enough to the beach for surfers to down a few at dawn before hitting the waves. Sounded like paradise. Chris couldn’t work for her old man, however, because he was so cheap, so she ended slinging beer in Ann Arbor. Chris had originally gone there to study biochemistry at the university.
This was her first Friday night off in eleven years, Chris confessed, “I don’t know what to do with myself.”
“You should go somewhere and drink.”
“It’s been eleven years since I can do that!”
“For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s one drink or ten drink, I’ll still get a headache in the morning.”
“You should drink ten then!”
Jewish, Chris told me Ann Arbor’s best deli was Zingerman’s.
In my late 20’s, I took a girl to a Philly diner. I ordered chicken liver, a favorite to this day. Maria looked at me in horror, “What the fuck are you eating?! Chicken shit?!”
Did I tell you that Jews have been most instrumental in my life? In college, my three most supportive professors, Boris Putterman, Stephen Berg and Eileen Neff, were Jews, with Berg and Neff practically my surrogate parents, they nurtured me so much. Berg bought a painting of mine to put over his fireplace, and lent me money several times. My fiction publisher, Dan Simon, is Jewish, and Jewish Ron Unz has treated me better than any other webzine editor. Novelist Matthew Sharpe has talked me up in the fiction world. I can go on and on. Hell, my first date was with a Jewish girl, and I even lost my virginity to a Jew! I traveled through remote northwest Vietnam with photographer Mitch Epstein, and with 6-9 Lloyd Luntz, explored the Mekong Delta. Jews swarm me, fill my head, course through my veins. I can go on and on.
My next time at Curtain Call, I chatted with a 28-year-old who wished he was 25. “My last birthday, I said it was the 3rd anniversary of my 25th.”
Overhearing this, a guy down the bar shouted, “I wish I was 50!”
Another old head jumped in, “I wish I was 60!”
With two friends threatening suicide, I brought up the topic to this just-arrived, incipient man who’s already mourning his lost youth. “Don’t do it before you’re 50!” I joked.
Outside the FederalBuilding on Liberty Street, I ran into two people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their signs, “I STAND WITH STANDING ROCK,” “CAN’T DRINK OIL / WATER IS LIFE / #NODAPL” and “BE A TSUNAMI,” among others.
Jeff’s a retired lawyer, and Mary’s a former elementary school teacher who worked at Crazy Wisdom, a tea room and bookstore. This month’s book picks include Mediumship: An Introductory Guide to Developing Spiritual Awareness and Intuition, Magicians of the Gods: Fingerprints of the Gods, Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin and The Education of Will: a Mutual Memoir of a Woman and her Dog.
I asked what they were about. Jeff, “If you feel connected to Mother Earth, then you’re going to protect Mother Earth, and you’re going to relate to the Native Americans, and what they stand for. We don’t own any of this. We think we own it, but that’s an illusion.”
Ellen, “People will say I’m not doing it, but we’re all one, so we are all doing it. We live in homes that use electricity and gas. The America first mindset has been going on for a while. Not enough of us realize that we are one with the rest of the world. If they starve, so do we. Our hearts do, even if our bodies are not. I feel responsible for the world.”
“So what are you doing personally to help?” I asked.
“Personally, I am keeping my temperature lower. I’m using less water. I am signing every petition that comes my way that I believe in. I’m contributing money to the bigger organizations that I feel can, perhaps, get their voice heard more than I can.
“So many people don’t know any different, and so they assume that everything they’re doing is fine. Many people don’t know that a lot of people in the world are suffering. They just don’t understand, and if they do know, they don’t care. It’s not their own family.
“My own stepson and his family, they work at home, they love their children, they’re good people, but he says, ‘This is my world.’ It’s his home and his family.”
Jeff, “I think the culture is so isolating. You get in your car and you drive around. You look at your phone all day. We do things that separate us, you know.
“Look where we are, close to Detroit, where they make automobiles. For me, I don’t particularly enjoy driving around in a car all day.”
I brought up the election. Ellen, “What happened is a huge amount of people who felt like they didn’t have a voice, and it was a contemptuous voice, were given it by he who should not be president. And, they feel really good now, but nothing is really going to happen for them, but they were heard. To be heard is going to be enough for them for a while.
“I do yoga with a quite introspective man, and he thinks something went wrong with America this time. It’s been building up, and I’ll admit that Hillary was a part of it too, but this election is proof positive that we are fucked!”
Jeff, “People need to speak up, and not be afraid to speak up, you know, whatever their conscience is. I’m not a fan of the media at all. People will try to steer you in their direction. You need the courage to stand alone and be a voice, a different voice. It takes courage to do it.”
Ellen, “It does, it does, and courage isn’t something Americans have in huge, ah, commodity.”
College towns proliferate in approved political statements, so in Ann Arbor, I saw a “Black Lives Matter” banner at a church, “Black Lives Matter” signs outside homes, a rainbow flag in front of a church with “God is still speaking” and a “WITH ISRAEL WE STAND” sign at a liquor store, etc. A house displayed a “PEACE” rainbow flag and a bed sheet painted with “WE SUPPORT OUR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS.”
Nowhere did I see “STOP BOMBING MUSLIMS,” “STOP SUPPORTING THE TERROR STATE OF ISRAEL” or “STOP SLANDERING AND PROVOKING RUSSIA.”
A progressive American is mostly a jerked puppet who’s outraged solely at preselected triggers. At his Deir Yassin Remembered website, lifelong Ann Arbor resident Henry Herskovitz explains:
Jackie Robinson and Jewish Power
Emotions naturally flare at watching the PBS special shown on MLK day of the career of baseball icon Jackie Robinson. Who could not grow emotional when reminded that Jackie and wife Rachel were bumped twice from the planes carrying them to a spring training camp in Florida? What outrage is felt by viewers recognizing that this discrimination they experienced came merely because of the color of their skin and nothing else!
Yes, we get it. And we feel for the Robinsons; their plight was genuine. Racial discrimination still exists in America.
But what about Muhammed Ali, my friend and sandwich shop operator in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, Palestine? Muhammed grew up in Haifa, graduated high school there and earned a technical degree before being bumped, not just from an airplane, but from his home town. Yes, he cannot return to Haifa and swim in the Mediterranean the way his family did before him. He cannot even travel to the Haram esh-Sharif/Noble Sanctuary to practice his religion. Like Jackie Robinson, Muhammed is the wrong “color”: neither ethnic Jew, secular Jew, nor religious Jew.
Isn’t there a story here as well, PBS? Perhaps even more compelling than Robinson’s, because Muhammed has yet to break his “color” barrier. Hello, Hollywood, isn’t his story worthy—at least—of a two-hour documentary?
Born Jewish, Herskovitz soured on his tribe after a trip to Israel. He saw firsthand the gross brutality of the illegally founded terror state. Back in Ann Arbor, Herskovitz wanted to give a presentation to his synagogue, Beth Israel, but the rabbi nixed the idea. Outraged, Herskovitz has staged an anti-Israel protest outside Beth Israel each Saturday for 13+ years. Though Herskovitz loves to ride his motorcycle long distance, he always come back in time to stand with his signs. A small band join him.
Last year, I visited Herskovitz at home and saw anti-Israel messages everywhere, including on the salt shaker, the fridge, the car, the garage and even the fireplace’s ember screen. To some neighbors’ dismay, Herskovitz paid to have “STOP US AID TO ISRAEL” and “LIBERATE PALESTINE / END ISRAEL” incised into the sidewalk outside his house.
In 2015, Herskovitz and his allies paid for a billboard in Detroit, “AMERICA FIRST NOT ISRAEL.” Herskovitz:
The strategy behind this billboard’s statement, ‘America First, Not Israel’, is to drive a wedge between those who feel American interests are not served by fighting wars for Israel, and the Israel-firsters in this country who manipulate our leaders into the false premise that Israel is the ally of the United States.
Charges of anti-semitism quickly flooded in, and the message was taken down, so it was put up at another, more out of the way spot, until this second billboard company was also pressured to remove it. Henry:
Jewish Power Never Sleeps
Like Michigan rust on vehicles, Jewish Power remains relentless at getting its way. Just when Witness for Peace was to announce the installation of a local billboard—sponsored by sister organization Deir Yassin Remembered and carrying our message “America First, Not Israel”—we get “the call”. The billboard […] was taken down by Adams Outdoor Advertising one week after installation, effectively terminating a three-month contract.
That’s how long it took for Jewish Power to pressure Adams’ executives into seeing things their way. The call came from General Manager Mike Cannon, who admitted to receiving phone calls asking that the billboard be taken down. Mike claimed he was not the one who made the decision, and provided the phone number of Vice President of Human Resources Brian Grant to field my questions.
Brian developed a mantra for the conversation we shared: “the decision to remove the billboard was a collective decision and was made because the message did not meet Adams’ company standards. We removed the billboard and refunded your money. And that’s all I can say.” Brian fell back on this mantra at least a half dozen times during our 20-minute discussion. And reminded me that, since a clause in the contract allowed Adams to terminate at any time, there was no “breach of contract”.
Q: What were the company standards?
A: [Brian was not going to go into that.]
Q: How do you square the fact that the message was initially approved by Adams?
A: It should not have been approved; due diligence was not applied.
Q: Who were the people complaining about the billboard?
A: [Would not answer that.]
Q: What were the organizations calling for the billboard to be taken down?
A: [See above.]
Q: Would the decision to pull the billboard have been the same had the message been simply America First?
A: Well, you’re asking a hypothetical.
Q: You mean Adams would NOT run a billboard saying America First?
A: [No answer.]
And so it goes. By deception shall you make war. DYR and WfP lose the round; Jewish Power wins. We move on.
When Russia Today reported on this billboard controversy, the first commenter said, “Calling Americans to put interest of America ahead of Isreal is branded as anti semitic ? That goes to prove how much the zionist wants the americans to be brain dead!”
Brainwashed, Americans also cringe at “Jewish power,” but it’s OK so declare and celebrate “black power,” “Latino power,” “gay power” or “women’s power,” etc. Aren’t AIPAC, the flushing of the U.S.S. Liberty down the memory hole, the abject kowtowing of DC politicians to Tel Aviv and our endless war against Israel’s enemy all examples of Jewish power?
But you’re dead wrong, anti-semite! As eternal victims everywhere, Jews are always powerless, so only Jew haters would dare to suggest otherwise.
“Are you a Jew hater?” I asked Herskovitz. His answer:
“Hate” is a term used by my opponents, not by me. “Hate speech” is used by the Hasbara folks as an epithet thrown at their perceived enemies. Like “Holocaust Denier,” the users of these terms do not define them, but merely slime those whose voices they want to silence. I’m a “hater” because Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says I am. Could Mr. Potok be a child molester because I make the claim?
I try not to play defense. My experience in these matters tells me that once I start down the slippery slope of “denial,” or defending my position, this tactic merely fuels opponents’ appetite for further questions. It answers nothing. The best defense is a good offense.
Even if I were to admit a hatred of an ethnic/religious group, an interesting question arises. Assume this group was Irish Protestants, and I said I hated them. Who would care? But admitting to hating Jews is another story altogether. Perhaps the phrase “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” makes sense when used in this context.
And the question becomes rather ludicrous when you consider that I love my sister, her children and grandchildren; ditto for my Virginia cousins, their children and grandchildren. I’m even scheduled to attend a Bat Mitzvah of one of these kids this summer. If you were to tell this group I’m a Jew hater, you would not be believed.
So no, Herskovitz has no beef with ordinary Jews, or he would have to disown his entire family, but haven’t Jewish policy makers, media masters, opinion shapers and bankers used their disproportionate sway over the makeup and direction of this country to harm not just their Muslim enemies, but ordinary Americans?
In putting up the billboard, “AMERICA FIRST / NOT ISRAEL,” Herskovitz merely wants our country to serve its own citizens, and not be distorted, corrupted, discredited and destroyed by a foreign agenda, and I, as an American, can’t help but concur.
Linh Dinh’s Postcards from the End of America has just been released by Seven Stories Press.
Both Russia and Egypt have denied reports alleging that Russian special forces have been deployed at an airbase near the Libyan border to support a military commander loyal to Libya’s eastern government.
“There are no Russian special forces in Sidi Barrani,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said on Tuesday.
“Some Western media have been disturbing the public with such reports, citing anonymous sources for several years now… And ever more foolish and indecent with regard to American intelligence are the words of the ‘source’ quoted by Reuters, who said that ‘intelligence activity of the United States into the [actions] of the Russian military are complicated because of the involvement of contractors and agents in civilian clothes,’” Konashenkov added.
Citing US, Egyptian, and “diplomatic“ sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, Reuters had reported earlier that Russian special operations forces and drones were allegedly deployed at Sidi Barrani base, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border between Egypt and Libya. The unnamed Egyptian security sources said the unit consisted of 22 members, but would not discuss their supposed mission, the agency stated, while suggesting that Russia had also flown six military units to Egypt’s Marsa Matrouh base in early February, which proceeded to Libya some 10 days later.
The chair of Russia’s Federal Defense and Security Committee, Victor Ozerov, branded the report a “hoax,” insisting that no deployment of special forces to Egypt or Libya had ever been brought before the Russian Parliament.
“Nobody addressed the Federation Council on the question of sending the Russian Armed Forces to either Egypt or Libya.
“The president of the Russian Federation has the right to use Russian armed forces abroad only with the consent of the Federation Council; this is a constitutional norm. No such request was submitted to the Federation Council [therefore] there is no legal reason to say that [Russian] servicemen could be in Egypt,” Ozerov told RIA Novosti news agency. The reports are “yet another anti-Russian attack,” Ozerov said, adding that “Russia has proved that it strictly adheres to international norms on the use of armed forces abroad.”
Egypt also dismissed the Reuters report.
“There is no foreign soldier from any foreign country on Egyptian soil. This is a matter of sovereignty,” Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai said, as cited by Reuters.
The refuted allegations contend that Russian special forces have been deployed to support Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) that is loyal to Libya’s eastern government. The 73-year-old general had been an ally of Libyan strong-man Muammar Gaddafi, but joined the Western-backed uprising against the country’s long-time leader in 2011, which led to the Gaddafi’s death and a civil war that’s still raging.
After years of turmoil and fighting, with various factions vying for power, two rival governments emerged in Libya: the Council of Deputies based in Tobruk and the Tripoli-based General National Congress. With the UN’s help, in 2015, the two agreed to set up a Government of National Accord (GNA) that would form a Presidency Council. However, the Tobruk-based parliament supported by Haftar has refused to cooperate with the unity government, which it accuses of aligning with some of the country’s Islamist-leaning forces. Haftar’s forces have been fighting an alliance of Islamist militants and former rebels in Benghazi for two years now. The general maintains close relationships with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Russia. Haftar was in Russia twice last year, asking for military aid.
Last week, another Reuters report alleged that a force of several dozen armed private Russian security contractors had been operating in a part of Libya under Haftar’s control until February. The contractors were allegedly there to help mine sweep Benghazi, the head of the firm that allegedly hired them said, according to Reuters. However, the commander of Benina air base near Benghazi, Mohamed Manfour, said that the LNA had not received any military assistance from the Russian government or Russian military contractors, while denying that there were any Russian forces or bases in eastern Libya.
Russia has stressed that it “continues meticulously working with both power centers in Libya,” with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that only the Libyan people can decide their country’s future.
“It’s clear that the country’s future must be determined by Libyans. We believe that attempts to impose a ready-made solution on them are counterproductive,” Lavrov said in a February interview with Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper.
Russia’s foreign minister also pledged to help unify Libya and foster dialogue at a recent meeting with Fayez Seraj, the leader of Libya’s UN-backed government.
The danger lies in what might be coming next
The WikiLeaks exposure of thousands of documents relating to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) hacking program, which was expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama between 2013 and 2016, has created something of a panic in the users of cell phones, online computers and even for smart television viewers. The documents describe “more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses and other ‘weaponized’ malware” and one document even identifies attempts to enable CIA controllers to take control of automobiles that have “On Star” or similar satellite interactive features.
According to analysts who have gone through the documents, any electronic device that is connected to the internet is reported to be vulnerable to being taken over and “weaponized,” manipulated through its microphone or camera function even if it appears to be turned off. Apple, Google, Android and Microsoft products were among the technologies that were targeted, with the security systems being constantly probed for vulnerabilities. When a flaw was discovered it was described as “zero day” because the user would have zero time to react to the detection and exploitation of the vulnerability.
And they are indeed everywhere. Ron Paul has described a woman’s test on the Amazon marketed interactive voice controlled device called Alexa, asking it if it were reporting to the CIA. Alexa, which allegedly cannot tell a lie, refused to answer.
According to Wikipedia, “Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon Lab126, made popular by the Amazon Echo. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, and other real time information.” One reviewer observed “In a good but scary feature, Amazon Echo can learn a person’s habits over time. It will get used to the way a person talks, his/her habits and routines and will save all the data in the cloud.”
Alexa demonstrates that CIA and NSA intrusion into the lives of ordinary people is not unique. In the cyber-sphere there are many predators. Amazon has apparently run special sales to get Alexa devices into as many homes as possible, presumably for commercial reasons, to have a machine in one’s home that will eventually replace the cookies on computers that collect information on what people are interested in buying. The company’s president Jeff Bezos also recently completed a deal worth $600 million for Amazon to provide cloud hosting services for the Agency. And there are, of course, two clear conflicts of interest in that deal as Bezos is selling a device that can be hacked by the government while he also owns The Washington Post newspaper, which, at least in theory, is supposed to be keeping an eye on the CIA.
But spying for profit and spying by the government are two different things and the WikiLeaks revelations suggest that the CIA has had a massive program of cyberespionage running for a number of years, even having created a major new division to support the effort called the Directorate for Digital Innovation, with an operation component called the Center for Cyber Intelligence. Media reports also suggest that a major hub for the operation was the American Consulate General in Frankfurt Germany, where the Agency established a base of operations.
First of all, it is necessary to make an attempt to understand why the CIA believes it needs to have the capability to get inside the operating systems of phones and other devices which rely on the internet. It should be pointed out that the United States government already has highly developed capabilities to get at phones and other electronics. It is indeed the principal raison d’etre of the National Security Agency (NSA) to do so and the FBI also does so when it initiates wiretaps during criminal and national security investigations.
Beyond that, since the NSA basically collects all electronic communications in the United States as well as more of the same fairly aggressively overseas, it would seem to be redundant for the CIA to be doing the same thing. The CIA rationale is that it has a different mission than the NSA. It exists to conduct espionage against foreign intelligence targets, which frequently requires being able to tap into their personal phones or other electronic devices by exploiting vulnerabilities in the operating systems. As the targets would be either sources or even prospective agents, the Agency would have to protect their identity in the highly compartmented world of intelligence, making outsourcing to NSA problematical.
This need to develop an independent capability led to the development of new technologies by the CIA working with its British counterparts. There were apparently successful efforts to target Samsung “smart” televisions, which would use their speakers to record conversations even when the set was turned off. The project was called “Weeping Angel,” and other hacking programs were called “Brutal Kangaroo,” “Assassin,” “Hammer Drill,” “Swindle,” “Fine Dining” and “Cutthroat,” demonstrating that government bureaucrats sometimes possess a dark sense of humor.
Being able to enter one’s home through a television would be considered a major success in the intelligence world. And the ability to access cell phones at source through obtaining full control of the operating system rather than through their transmissions means that any security system will be ineffective because the snoopers will be able to intrude and hear the conversation as it is spoken before any encryption is applied. CIA and its British allies were reportedly able to take control of either Android or i-Phones through vulnerabilities in their security systems by using their attack technologies.
WikiLeaks claims to have 8,761 documents detailing efforts to circumvent the security features on a broad range of electronic devices to enable them to be remotely tapped, the information having apparently been passed to WikiLeaks by a disgruntled government contractor, though the Russians are perhaps inevitably also being blamed. The U.S. government has apparently been aware of the theft of the information for the past year and one presumes it has both done damage control and is searching for the miscreant involved. Also, there have been security fixes on both Apple and Android phones in the past year that might well have rendered the attack technologies no longer effective.
So many will shrug and wonder what the big deal is. So the CIA is tapping into the electronics of suspected bad guys overseas. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do? That question has to be answered with another question: How do we know if that is all the CIA is doing? Technology that can attack and take control of a telephone or television or computer overseas can also do the same inside the United States. And the Agency can always plausibly claim that a connection with a suspect overseas leads back to the U.S. to enable working on related targets on this side of the Atlantic.
Another issue is the possibility to engage in mischief, with potentially serious consequences. The WikiLeaks documents suggest that the CIA program called UMBRAGE had been able to acquire malware signatures and attack codes from Russia, China, Iran and other places. It does that so it can confuse detection systems and preserve “plausible denial” if its intrusion gets caught, disguising its own efforts as Russian or Chinese to cast the blame on the intelligence services of those countries. It has been alleged that the hack of the Democratic National Committee computers was carried out by Moscow employed surrogates and part of the evidence produced was signature malware that had left “fingerprints” linked to Russian military intelligence in Ukraine. What if that hack was actually done by the CIA for domestic political reasons?
Critics have also pointed out that President Obama in 2014 had come to an agreement with major communications industry executives to share with manufacturers information regarding the vulnerabilities in their systems so they could be addressed and made secure. This would have benefited both the industry and the general public. The agreement was obviously ignored in the CIA case and is just another sign that one cannot trust the government.
However, the real downside regarding the CIA hacking is something that might not even have occurred yet. It is an unfortunate reality that government spying operations largely lack regulation, oversight or any effective supervision by Congress or anyone else outside the agencies themselves. Even if knowledge about communications vulnerabilities has not been employed illegally against American targets or to mislead regarding domestic hacks, the potential to use those capabilities once they are in place will likely prove too hard to resist. As such, no home or work environment will any more be considered a safe place and it is potentially, if not actually, the greatest existing threat to Americans’ few remaining liberties.
New revelations from Wikileaks’ ‘Vault 7’ leak shed a disturbing light on the safeguarding of privacy. Something already known and largely suspected has now become documented by Wikileaks. It seems evident that the CIA is now a state within a state, an entity out of control that has even arrived at the point of creating its own hacking network in order to avoid the scrutiny of the NSA and other agencies.
Reading the revelations contained in the documents released by WikiLeaks and adding them to those already presented in recent years by Snowden, it now seems evident that the technological aspect regarding espionage is a specialty in which the CIA, as far as we know, excels. Hardware and software vendors that are complicit — most of which are American, British or Israeli — give the CIA the opportunity to achieve informational full-spectrum dominance, relegating privacy to extinction. Such a convergence of power, money and technology entails major conflicts of interest, as can be seen in the case of Amazon AWS (Amazon’s Cloud Service), cloud provider for the CIA, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, is also the owner of The Washington Post. It is a clear overlap of private interests that conflicts with the theoretical need to declare uncomfortable truths without the need to consider orders numbering in the millions of dollars from clients like the CIA.
While it is just one example, there are thousands more out there. The perverse interplay between media, spy agencies and politicians has compromised the very meaning of the much vaunted democracy of the land of the Stars and Stripes. The constant scandals that are beamed onto our screens now serve the sole purpose of advancing the deep interest of the Washington establishment. In geopolitical terms, it is now more than obvious that the deep state has committed all available means toward sabotaging any dialogue and détente between the United States and Russia. In terms of news, the Wikileaks revelations shed light on the methods used by US intelligence agencies like the CIA to place blame on the Kremlin, or networks associated with it, for the hacking that occurred during the American elections.
Perhaps this is too generous a depiction of matters, given that the general public has yet to see any evidence of the hacking of the DNC servers. In addition to this, we know that the origin of Podesta’s email revelations stem from the loss of a smartphone and the low data-security measures employed by the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In general, when the 16 US spy agencies blamed Russia for the hacking of the elections, they were never specific in terms of forensic evidence. Simply put, the media, spies and politicians created false accusations based on the fact that Moscow, together with RT and other media (not directly linked to the Kremlin), finally enjoy a major presence in the mainstream media. The biggest problem for the Washington establishment lies in the revelation of news that is counterproductive to the interests of the deep state. RT, Sputnik, this site and many others have diligently covered and reported to the general public every development concerning the Podesta revelations or the hacking of the DNC.
Now what is revealed through Wikileaks’ publications in Vault 7 is the ability of a subsection of the CIA, known as Umbrage, to use malware, viruses, trojans and other cyber tools for their own geopolitical purposes. The CIA’s Umbrage collects, analyzes and then employs software created variously from foreign security agencies, cyber mafia, private companies, and hackers in general. These revelations become particularly relevant when we consider the consequences of these actions. The main example can be seen in the hacking of the DNC. For now, what we know is that the hacking – if it ever occurred – is of Russian origin. This does not mean at all that the Kremlin directed it. It could actually be very much the opposite, its responsibility falling into the category of a cyber false-flag. One thing is for sure: all 16 US intelligence agencies are of the view that “the Russians did it”. That said, the methods used to hack vulnerabilities cannot be revealed, so as to limit the spread of easily reusable exploits on systems, such as the one that hosted the DNC server. It is a great excuse for avoiding the revelation of any evidence at all.
So, with little information available, independent citizens are left with very little information on which to reliably form an opinion on what happened. There is no evidence, and no evidence will be provided to the media. For politicians and so-called mainstream journalists, this is an acceptable state of affairs. What we are left with instead is blind faith in the 16 spy agencies. The problem for them is that what WikiLeaks revealed with Vault 7 exposes a scenario that looks more likely than not: a cyber false-flag carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency using engineered malware and viruses made in Russia and hypothetically linking them back to hacking networks in Russia. In all likelihood, it looks like the Democrats’ server was hacked by the CIA with the clear objective of leaving Russian fingerprints and obvious traces to be picked up by other US agencies.
In this way, it becomes easier to explain the unique views of all 16 spy agencies. Thus, it is far more likely that the CIA intentionally left fake Russian fingerprints all over the DNC server, thereby misleading other intelligence agencies in promoting the narrative that Russia hacked the DNC server. Of course the objective was to create a false narrative that could immediately be picked up by the media, creating even more hysteria surrounding any rapprochement with Russia.
Diversification of computer systems.
The revelations contained in the Wikileaks vault 7 (less than 1 % of the total data in Wikileaks’ possession has been released to date) have caused a stir, especially by exposing the astonishing complicity between hardware and software manufacturers, often intentionally creating backdoors in their products to allow access by the CIA and NSA. In today’s digital environment, all essential services rely on computer technology and connectivity. These revelations are yet more reason why countries targeted by Washington, like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, should get rid of European and American products and invest in reducing technological dependence on American products in particular.
The People’s Republic has already started down this track, with the replacement of many network devices with local vendors like Huawei in order to avoid the type of interference revealed by Snowden. Russia has been doing the same in terms of software, even laying the groundwork to launch of its own operating system, abandoning American and European systems. In North Korea, this idea was already put into practice years ago and is an excellent tool for deterrence for external interference. In more than one computer security conference, US experts have praised the capabilities of the DPRK to isolate its Internet network from the rest of the world, allowing them to have strong safety mechanisms. Often, the only access route to the DPRK systems are through the People’s Republic of China, not the easiest way for the CIA or NSA to infiltrate a protected computer network.
An important aspect of the world in which we live today involves information security, something all nations have to deal with. At the moment, we still live in a world in which the realization of the danger and effect of hacking attacks are not apparent to many. On the other hand, militarily speaking, the diversification and rationalization of critical equipment in terms of networks and operability (smartphones, laptops, etc) has already produced strong growth in non-American and European manufacturers, with the aim of making their systems more secure.
This strengthening of technology also produces deleterious consequences, such as the need for intelligence agencies to be able to prevent the spread of data encryption so as to always enjoy access to any desired information. The birth of the Tor protocol, the deployment of Bitcoin, and apps that are more and more encrypted (although the WikiLeaks documents have shown that the collection of information takes place on the device before the information is encrypted) are all responses to an exponential increase in the invasion of privacy by federal or American government entities.
We live in a world that has an enormous dependence on the Internet and computer technology. The CIA over the years has focused on the ability to make sure vulnerable systems are exploited as well as seeking out major security flaws in consumer products without disclosing this to vendors, thereby taking advantage of these security gaps and leaving all consumers with a potential lack of security. Slowly, thanks to the work and courage of people like Snowden and Assange, the world is beginning to understand how important it is to keep personal data under control and prevent access to it by third parties, especially if they are state actors. In the case of national security, the issue is expanded exponentially by the need to protect key and vital infrastructure, considering how many critical services operate via the Internet and rely on computing devices.
The wars of the future will have a strong technological basis, and it is no coincidence that many armed forces, primarily the Russian and Chinese, have opted in recent years toward training troops, and conducting operations, not completely relying on connectivity. No one can deny that in the event of a large-scale conflict, connectivity is far from guaranteed. One of the major goals of competing nations is to penetrate the military security systems of rival nations and be able to disarm the internal networks that operate major systems of defense and attack.
The Wikileaks revelations are yet another confirmation of how important it is to break the technological unipolar moment, if it may be dubbed this way, especially for nations targeted by the United States. Currently Washington dictates the technological capacities of the private and government sectors of Europe and America, steering their development, timing and methods to suit its own interests. It represents a clear disadvantage that the PRC and its allies will inevitably have to redress in the near future in order to achieve full security for its vital infrastructure.
The United States has recently deployed hundreds of troops to Syria in an apparent bid to assist the looming operation aimed at liberating Raqqa, but Washington will not be able to maintain a permanent military presence in the war-torn country, defense analyst Omar Maaribuni told RIA Novosti.
“Speaking about prospects, I don’t think that Turkey or the United States will be able to maintain their dominance [in northern Syria]. This is due to many factors. The main reason is the resistance which could emerge if American and Turkish forces refuse to withdraw from the region after the war is over,” he said.
In Maaribuni’s opinion, the other reason has to do with Washington’s plans to create a Kurdish canton spanning from the city of Afrin to the Mediterranean. The analyst said that it is impossible to carry out such a project in Syria due to demography and ethnic distribution, which prevent the Kurds from creating a “stable and self-contained” autonomous region on the border with Turkey.
“I think that America’s military presence near Manbij and other cities is temporary. The United States will have to withdraw sooner or later since there are no grounds for them to be there,” the analyst said. “Washington is trying to claim some of the achievement [in the fight against terrorism] as its own at the moment and improve its standing following a series of setbacks that the US has suffered.”
The Obama administration pledged to refrain from sending American boots on the ground in Syria, but later reversed its decision once it became apparent that the US-led coalition was struggling to destroy Daesh. The US has deployed hundreds of special operations troops to the war-torn country to ostensibly train and assist its local allies in their counterterrorism campaigns.
Maaribuni further commented on multilateral efforts aimed at liberating Raqqa, the so-called capital of Daesh’s caliphate. The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are the primary force engaged in the operation aimed at pushing the militants out of the city, but the analyst suggested that the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) could also make a move towards the brutal group’s key stronghold.
“If the SAA moves towards the city of al-Thawrah after the military operation in Maskanah is over, Damascus-led forces will be able to secure three of its air bases, namely Kuweires, Kashish and al-Thawrah. They will need them for air cover largely provided by attack helicopters. These tactics have been used in the eastern Aleppo province and around Palmyra,” he explained.
Maaribuni suggested that the SAA “could find itself on the verge of the battle for Raqqa” if it has enough aerial support and uses artillery wisely.
Russia strives for the demilitarization of Central Europe, stipulated in the agreement between the country and NATO, and Europe is able to ensure regional security if it follows its own obligations under the alliance, French National Front (FN) party leader and presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen said in an interview Monday.
“[Russia’s President Vladimir Putin] wants to turn Central Europe not so much into the Russian influence zone, as the neutral zone,” Le Pen told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
She noted that the agreement, which had been concluded with Russia and which stipulated that the territories would not be militarized, was violated.
“Putin just wants these territories to be demilitarized again,” Le Pen stressed.
Commenting on the strengthening of the NATO’s eastern flank, Le Pen added that, as the European member states have complied with the demilitarization obligation for dozens of years, there was no reason which would prevent them from respecting it in the future.
At the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, the alliance agreed to deploy its international troops in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. Additionally, it was agreed that out military exercises would be carried out in the Black Sea area in 2017. The actions are aimed at deterring the alleged aggression from Russia. Moscow has repeatedly criticized the increased presence of NATO’s troops and military facilities near the Russian border.
In 1997, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between Russia and NATO, which aimed at strengthening mutual trust and building a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe, was concluded in Moscow.
Saturday March 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan – the earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
And the news is not good. Scientists are wondering how on earth to stabilise and decontaminate the failed reactors awash with molten nuclear fuel, which are fast turning into graveyards for the radiation-hardened robots sent in to investigate them.
The Japanese government’s estimate of Fukushima compensation and clean-up costs has doubled and doubled again and now stands at ¥21.5 trillion (US$187bn; €177bn).
Indirect costs – such as fuel import costs, and losses to agricultural, fishing and tourism industries – will likely exceed that figure.
Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan notes in a new report that “for those who were impacted by the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, the crisis is far from over. And it is women and children that have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it, both in the immediate aftermath and as a result of the Japan government’s nuclear resettlement policy.”
Radiation biologist Ian Fairlie summarises the health impacts from the Fukushima disaster: “In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum:
+ Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.
+ Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.
+ About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv
+ An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.
+ Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.
+ Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.
+ An, as yet, unquantified number of thyroid cancers.
+ An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.”
Dr Fairlie’s report was written in August 2015 but it remains accurate. More than half of the 164,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster remain dislocated. Efforts to restore community life in numerous towns are failing. Local authorities said in January that only 13% of the evacuees in five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted.
As for Japan’s long-hyped ‘nuclear restart’: just three power reactors are operating in Japan; before the Fukushima disaster, the number topped 50.
A nuclear power ‘crisis’?
Nuclear advocates and lobbyists elsewhere are increasingly talking about the ‘crisis’ facing nuclear power – but they don’t have the myriad impacts of the Fukushima disaster in mind: they’re more concerned about catastrophic cost overruns with reactor projects in Europe and the US.
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis“ and the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.
A recent article from the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses “the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries“.
‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, has a webpage dedicated to the nuclear power crisis. Among other things, it states that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade), and over half of the ageing US reactor fleet is at risk of closure by 2030.
As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis – it is moving ahead at pace. Russia’s nuclear power program, to give one more example, is moving ahead at snail’s pace, but isn’t in crisis.
Nonetheless, large parts of the worldwide nuclear industry are in deep trouble. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power:
+ nuclear power’s share of the worldwide electricity generation is 10.7%, well down from historic peak of 17.6% in 1996;
+ nuclear power generation in 2015 was 8.2% below the historic peak in 2006; and
+ from 2000 to 2015, 646 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar capacity (combined) were added worldwide while nuclear capacity (not including idle reactors in Japan) fell by 8 GW.
US nuclear industry in crisis
The US nuclear industry is in crisis, with a very old reactor fleet – 44 of its 99 reactors have been operating for 40 years or more – and no likelihood of new reactors for the foreseeable future other than four already under construction.
Last September, Associated Press described one of the industry’s many humiliations: “After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.
“The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more.”
Japanese conglomerate Toshiba and its US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US – the combined cost overruns amount to about US$11.2bn (€10.7bn) and counting.
Toshiba said in February 2017 that it expects to book a US$6.3bn (€5.9bn) writedown on Westinghouse, on top of a US$2.3bn (€2.1bn) writedown in April 2016. The losses exceed the US$5.4bn (€5.1bn) Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.
Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option – but there is no prospect of a buyer. Westinghouse is, as Bloomberg noted, “too much of a mess“ to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy.
Toshiba is seeking legal advice as to whether Westinghouse should file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But even under a Chapter 11 filing, Reuters reported, “Toshiba could still be on the hook for up to $7 billion in contingent liabilities as it has guaranteed Westinghouse’s contractual commitments” for the US AP1000 reactors.
The Toshiba/Westinghouse crisis is creating a ripple effect. A few examples:
+ the NuGen (Toshiba/Engie) consortium has acknowledged that the plan for three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in the UK faces a “significant funding gap“ and both partners reportedly want out of the project;
+ Georgia Power, 45.7% owner of the troubled Vogtle AP1000 project, recently suspended plans for another nuclear plant in Georgia; and
+ Toshiba recently announced its intention to pull out of the plan for two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the South Texas Plant, having booked writedowns totaling US$638m (€605m) on the project in previous years.
The French nuclear industry is in crisis
The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever“, former EDF director Gérard Magnin said in November 2016. The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF.
The current taxpayer-funded rescue of the nuclear power industry may cost the French state as much as €10bn (US$10.5bn), Reuters reported in January, and in addition to its “dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems.”
France has 58 operable reactors and just one under construction. French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7bn (US$13.4bn).
Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are “in tatters“. Now Areva itself is in tatters and is in the process of a government-led restructure and another taxpayer-funded bailout.
On March 1, Areva posted a €665m (US$700m) net loss for 2016. Losses in the preceding five years exceeded €10bn (US$10.5 bn). A large majority of a €5bn (US$5.3bn) recapitalisation of Areva scheduled for June 2017 will come from French taxpayers.
On February 14, EDF released its financial figures for 2016: earnings fell 6.7%, revenue declined 5.1%, net income excluding non-recurring items fell 15%, and EDF’s debt remained steady at €37.4bn (US$39.4bn). All that EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy could offer was the hope that EDF would “hit the bottom of the cycle“ in 2017 and rebound next year.
EDF plans to sell €10bn (US$10.5 bn) of assets by 2020 to rein in its debt, and to sack up to 7,000 staff. The French government provided EDF with €3bn (US$3.2bn) in extra capital in 2016 and will contribute €3bn towards a €4bn (US$4.2bn) capital raising this year.
On March 8, shares in EDF hit an all-time low a day after the €4bn capital raising was launched; the stock price fell to €7.78, less than one-tenth of the €86.45 high a decade ago.
EDF has set aside €23bn (US$24.3bn) to cover reactor decommissioning and waste management costs in France – less than half of the €54bn (US$57bn) that EDF estimates will be required. A recent report by the French National Assembly’s Commission for Sustainable Development and Regional Development concluded that there is “obvious under-provisioning” and that decommissioning and waste management will likely take longer, be more challenging and cost much more than EDF anticipates.
EDF is being forced to take over parts of its struggling sibling Areva’s operations – a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse for EDF, a fire took hold in the turbine room of one of the Flamanville reactors on February 9 and the reactor will likely be offline until late March at an estimated cost of roughly €1.2m (US$1.27m) per day.
Half of the world’s nuclear industry is in crisis and/or shutting down
Combined, the crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for 45% of the world’s ‘operable’ nuclear reactors according to the World Nuclear Association’s database, and they accounted for 50% of nuclear power generation in 2015 (and 57% in 2010).
Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.
The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END)
The ageing of the global reactor fleet isn’t yet a crisis for the industry, but it is heading that way.
The assessment by the ‘Environmental Progress’ lobby group that 151 GW of worldwide nuclear power capacity could be shut down by 2030 is consistent with figures from the World Nuclear Association (132 reactor shut-downs by 2035), the International Energy Agency (almost 200 shut-downs between 2014 and 2040) and Nuclear Energy Insider (up to 200 shut-downs in the next two decades). It looks increasingly unlikely that new reactors will match shut-downs.
Perhaps the best characterisation of the global nuclear industry is that a new era is approaching – the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END). Nuclear power’s END will entail:
+ a slow decline in the number of operating reactors (unless growth in China can match the decline elsewhere);
+ an increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as ageing sets in;
+ countless battles over lifespan extensions for ageing reactors;
+ an internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of ageing reactors (international opposition to Belgium’s reactors is a case in point);
+ a broadening of anti-nuclear opposition as citizens are increasingly supported by local, regional and national governments opposed to reactors in neighbouring countries (again Belgium is a case in point, as is Lithuanian opposition to reactors under construction in Belarus);
+ many battles over the nature and timing of decommissioning operations;
+ many battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for decommissioning;
+ more battles over proposals to impose nuclear waste repositories on unwilling or divided communities; and
+ battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for nuclear waste disposal.
As discussed in a previous article in The Ecologist, nuclear power is likely to enjoy a small, short-lived upswing in the next couple of years as reactors ordered in the few years before the Fukushima disaster come online. Beyond that, the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning sets in, characterised by escalating battles – and escalating sticker-shock – over lifespan extensions, decommissioning and nuclear waste management.
In those circumstances, it will become even more difficult than it currently is for the industry to pursue new reactor projects. A positive feedback loop could take hold and then the industry will be well and truly in crisis.
Nuclear lobbyists debate possible solutions to the nuclear power crisis
Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute argues that a lack of standardisation and scaling partly explains the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West”. The constant switching of designs deprives the people who build, operate and regulate nuclear plants of the experience they need to become more efficient.
Shellenberger further argues that there is too much focus on machines, too little on human factors:
“Areva, Toshiba-Westinghouse and others claimed their new designs would be safer and thus, at least eventually, cheaper, but there were always strong reasons to doubt such claims. First, what is proven to make nuclear plants safer is experience, not new designs. …
“In fact, new designs risk depriving managers and workers the experience they need to operate plants more safely, just as it deprives construction companies the experience they need to build plants more rapidly.”
Shellenberger has a three-point rescue plan:
1/ ‘Consolidate or Die’: “If nuclear is going to survive in the West, it needs a single, large firm – the equivalent of a Boeing or Airbus – to compete against the Koreans, Chinese and Russians.”
2/ ‘Standardize or Die’: He draws attention to the “astonishing” heterogeneity of planned reactors in the UK and says the UK “should scrap all existing plans and start from a blank piece of paper”, that all new plants should be of the same design and “the criteria for choosing the design should emphasize experience in construction and operation, since that is the key factor for lowering costs.”
3/ ‘Scale or Die’: Nations “must work together to develop a long-term plan for new nuclear plant construction to achieve economies of scale”, and governments “should invest directly or provide low-cost loans.”
Josh Freed and Todd Allen from pro-nuclear lobby group Third Way, and Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering from the Breakthrough Institute, argue that Shellenberger draws the wrong lessons from Toshiba’s recent losses and from nuclear power’s “longer-term struggles” in developed economies.
They argue that “too little innovation, not too much, is the reason that the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”. They state that:
+ The Westinghouse AP1000 represents a fairly straightforward evolution in light-water reactor design, not a radical departure as Shellenberger claims.
+ Standardisation is important but it is not a panacea. Standardisation and building multiple reactors on the same site has limited cost escalation, not brought costs down.
+ Most of the causes of rising cost and construction delays associated with new nuclear builds in the US are attributable to the 30-year hiatus in nuclear construction, not the novelty of the AP1000 design.
+ Reasonable regulatory reform will not dramatically reduce the cost of new light-water reactors, as Shellenberger suggests.
They write this obituary for large light-water reactors: “If there is one central lesson to be learned from the delays and cost overruns that have plagued recent builds in the US and Europe, it is that the era of building large fleets of light-water reactors is over in much of the developed world.
“From a climate and clean energy perspective, it is essential that we keep existing reactors online as long as possible. But slow demand growth in developed world markets makes ten billion dollar, sixty-year investments in future electricity demand a poor bet for utilities, investors, and ratepayers.”
A radical break
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors conclude that “a radical break from the present light-water regime … will be necessary to revive the nuclear industry”. Exactly what that means, the authors said, would be the subject of a follow-up article.
So readers were left hanging – will nuclear power be saved by failed fast-reactor technology, or failed high-temperature gas-cooled reactors including failed pebble-bed reactors, or by thorium pipe-dreams or fusion pipe-dreams or molten salt reactor pipe-dreams or small modular reactor pipe-dreams? Perhaps we’ve been too quick to write off cold fusion?
The answers came in a follow-up article on February 28. The four authors want a thousand flowers to bloom, a bottom-up R&D-led nuclear recovery as opposed to top-down, state-led innovation.
They don’t just want a new reactor type (or types), they have much greater ambitions for innovation in “nuclear technology, business models, and the underlying structure of the sector” and they note that “a radical break from the light water regime that would enable this sort of innovation is not a small undertaking and will require a major reorganization of the nuclear sector.”
To the extent that the four authors want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and replace it with a new one, they share some common ground with nuclear critics who want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and not replace it with a new one.
Shellenberger also shares some common ground with nuclear critics: he thinks the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and “start from a blank piece of paper“. But nuclear critics think the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and not start from a blank piece of paper.
Small is beautiful?
The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”
Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”
Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.
And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.
As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.
The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.
The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:
“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.
“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”
Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis.
Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a longer version of this article was originally published. email@example.com
Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978.
Pyongyang will not stop efforts to improve its preemptive nuclear strike capability if the United States and its allies continue conducting military exercises near the North Korean border, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations Kim In Ryong told reporters on Monday.
The ambassador explained North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launches were a “routine” matter.
“As long as the United States and its followers persist their nuclear threat and the blackmails against the DPRK [North Korea] and as long as they do not give up the war exercises they stage… right in front of DPRK, the DPRK will continue to bolster the self-reliance defense capability and capability for the preemptive strike with nuclear force,” In Ryong said.
“[The launches are a] self-defensive right of a sovereign state” to keep on high alert whenever there are military exercises close to its borders, he added.
In Ryong also said the UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions against North Korea are “devoid of legal ground”.
The ambassador noted that North Korea had sent a request to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to organize an international forum of legal experts on sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN Security Council, but did not receive an adequate answer.
Earlier on Monday, US Forces Korea said the United States is deploying a permanent squadron of MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones to an air base in South Korea amid heightened tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.