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David Rockefeller & a dark legacy in Brasil – A critical obituary

Brasil Wire | March 20, 2017

On March 20, David Rockefeller died at the age of 101. As the obituaries for one of the world’s richest men gush over his philanthropy, it needs to be pointed out that he was a major player in several Latin American coups, supported extremely corrupt military dictatorships, post-dictatorship neoliberal policies that greatly exacerbated income stratification and poverty and that his dark legacy will continue to influence the region long after his death.

The Rockefellers’ arrival in Brazil

The Rockefeller Foundation first arrived in Brazil during World War I and was embedded within the so-called “public health movement” amongst Brazilian elites. At that time, Brazilian eugenics was synonymous with public health and emphasized “hygienization”, expressed in the maxim “to sanitize is to eugenize”. With Rockefeller assistance, the creation of the Eugenic Society of São Paulo in 1918 represented the institutionalization of eugenics in Brazil. Amongst elites, eugenics was associated with evolution, progress and civilization, even treated by some as a ‘new religion’. In “War against the weak” Edwin Black explains that the purpose of the Rockefeller Foundation was to finance programs aimed at “the extermination of those considered degenerate”. In Brazil this meant the poor, the ignorant, those of mixed race and African descent.

In her thesis on David’s older brother Nelson Rockefeller, historian Elisabeth Cobbs argues that U.S. Foreign policy in Brazil was not only realised by official relations between governments and diplomats, but also by the private sector, including philanthropic organisations. Nelson had been a regular visitor to Brazil since the 1930s, and in 1941 was named by President Roosevelt as coordinator of the Office of Interamerican Affairs (CIAA), which ran intelligence and propaganda operations against the Axis Powers in Latin America.

Following the end of the War, Nelson headed the American International Association for Economic and Social Development in Brazil of AIA. The AIA was a “Capitalist Missionary” philanthropic NGO known in Brazil for its programmes for modernisation of agriculture to North American models and standards (including the introduction of pesticides, herbicides and hybrid seeds), sanitation, and literacy. AIA would eventually birth two more agencies, IBEC (International Basic Economy Company) and the IRI Research Institute. As coordinator of the CIAA, Nelson acquired invaluable information about Latin America’s untapped natural resources, especially mineral reserves, information that he would go on to use following the war. IBEC became a key component in the post-World War Two opening of the Amazon rainforest to commercial exploitation, “a process that eventually led to military dictatorships, genocide of native peoples, loss of biological diversity and unprecedented misery for the majority of Brazilians“.

The Cold War increased pressures on Brazil regarding Oil exploration concessions. President Getúlio Vargas was said to have tried to address this by forming a consortium, with the participation of Standard Oil, Shell and the Brazilian State. Shell is reported to have accepted the idea, but Standard Oil and Chase Bank opposed. Standard Oil would instead coerce using threats to Brazil’s Coffee exports – the Rockefeller group controlled the American Coffee Corporation, which bought most of Brazil’s coffee, processed it and distributed to the United States.

In the 1950s David Rockefeller & Chase became more active in Brazil, creating Interamerican Finance & Investments, only to sell their shares in 1956 as the political climate turned against Internationalisation. In 1961 he tried to set up a Chase affiliate bank in Brazil, buying 51% of Banco Lar for $3m dollars, but Chase were discouraged due to the political instability in the country. (In 1980 he was cleared by the Central Bank to buy the remaining shares, and this entity finally became Brazil’s Chase).

During this period, along with his brother Nelson, David developed a very close friendship with partner and boss of Unibanco (later merged with Itau) Walther Moreira Salles, whose family made a second fortune from the ultra-rare mineral Niobium. Together, the Rockefellers and Moreira Salles would purchase a massive Farm, “Bodoquena”, in the state of Mato Grosso.

In the early 1960s on the instruction of President Kennedy, David Rockefeller founded the Business Group for Latin America, which was intended to help counter the spread of leftist governments in the region following the Cuban revolution. Under his leadership, it subsequently transformed into the Council of the Americas and finally AS/COA, which currently publishes Americas Quarterly, a relatively discreet but influential nucleus of anglophone “Free Trade” policy discourse on Latin America.

The Business Group for Latin America included on its board senior executives such as C. Jay Parkinson, CEO of Anaconda Copper – which had a strong presence in Chile, and Harold Geneen, head of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT), also heavily involved in the country, and Donald M. Kendall, CEO of PepsiCo. All of these firms supported the intervention of Nixon and Kissinger against elected President Salvador Allende, in 1973.

In 1970, covert CIA schemes against Allende included a $500,000 contingency plan to influence the congressional vote against his candidacy. His opponent Alessandri was to be given around half a million dollars, to be raised by ITT and other companies within the Business Group. According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, Rockefeller’s Business Group for Latin America, which was transformed in 1970 into the Council of the Americas, had a close relationship with the CIA and Enno Hobbing, who had participated in the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala. Hobbing, a CIA official who had initially been assigned as liaison to the Business Group, eventually left the CIA and became the principal operations officer for the Council of the Americas.

Countless academics have written about economic sabotage, often in cooperation with US business elites such as the Rockefeller family, as a component of US-backed coups in Latin America. From the ITT orchestrated Chilean copper boycott of 1972 to the Reagan administration’s economic destabilization of Nicaragua, to US efforts to sabotage the Venezuelan economy, progressive populism is to this day frequently met with US aggression, including media propaganda.

David Rockefeller and the Brazilian Military Dictatorship

Jan K. Black’s “United States Penetration of Brazil” contains numerous passages related to the activities of Rockefeller Group, the Business Group of Latin America and its precursors in the 1962 Election, the Coup of 1964 and period that followed, in connivance with local conservative elites.  She documents how, at a Military conference on Latin America at West Point in the fall of 1964, David Rockefeller said that it had been decided quite early that Goulart was not acceptable to the U.S. banking community, and that he would “have to go.” As in 2016, in 1964 the foreign emphasis was not on Marxist ideology, but on combating economic and resource nationalism.

The assertion of national control over basic natural resources, as well as a more general assertion of control over the productive capacity of the economy, had been seen by the Goulart government as a prerequisite to the redistribution of income. The advocacy of economic nationalism had also been seen as one of the most promising means of mobilizing mass support for the government. U.S. businesses, with the support of the U.S. Government, had generally been able to fend off the constraints of nationalistic but weak governments. If the mobilization of the masses had not appeared to be a threat or a possibility, It seems likely that the combined pressures of the multinational corporations and those elements of the Brazilian business community whose fortunes were linked to them would have been sufficient to intimidate the Brazilian government into backing down on its nationalistic designs. But regardless of the actual potential in 1964 for the mobilization of the masses, Goulart apparently believed that it was possible: and his enemies, foreign and domestic, apparently feared that he was right.”

In 1975, former CIA agent Philip Agee confirmed many of the findings and suspicions of a Brazilian congressional commission into Foreign interference in Brazil’s 1962 Election. The investigation revealed that of the (CIA) Rio Station’s main political-action operations, the Brazilian Institute for Democratic Action (IBAD) and a related organisation called Democratic Action (ADEP):

“… spent during the 1962 electoral campaign at least the equivalent of some 12 million dollars financing anticommunist candidates, and possibly as much as 20 million…. The parliamentary investigating commission was controlled somewhat-five of its nine members were themselves recipients of IBAD and ADEP funds-but only the refusal of the First National City Bank, the Bank of Boston, and the Royal Bank of Canada to reveal the foreign source of funds deposited for IBAD and ADEP kept the lid from blowing off. Beneficiaries of IBAD were prominent among the conspirators in the coup of 1 April and some, particularly military beneficiaries, were among who gained power as a consequence of it…. Robinson Rojas listed Standard Oil of New Jersey, U.S. Steel, Texas Oil, Gulf Oil, Hanna Corporation, Bethlehem Steel, General Motors, and Willys Overland among the depositors in the accounts of IBAD-ADEP-Promotion”. Economist & Environmentalist Jean Marc von der Weid maintained that “more than one hundred foreign enterprises and some national ones were involved in financing the institute, and that the Rockefeller Group-IBEC was one of the major benefactors.”

The CIA’s “point man” in the 1964 Coup was Joseph Caldwell King, also known by his CIA code name of Oliver G. Galbond. He was former vice president of Business Group member Johnson & Johnson, in charge of Brazil & Argentina, and from there he moved to his close friend Nelson Rockefeller’s Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA). After officially leaving the CIA in 1967, King became CEO of ‘Amazon Natural Drug Company’, a CIA front which was collecting organic material from the rainforest for Rockefeller Foundation-funded research by US Agencies.

Brazil’s hegemonic media network, Rede Globo, was actually created with the assistance and funding of Rockefeller-associated Time-Life Publishing in the United States. It became a powerful instrument of societal control during the dictatorship following its launch in 1964.

Gerard Colby & Charlotte Dennett’s ‘Thy will be done: The Conquest of the Amazon’ was an investigation into the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), also known as the Wycliffe Bible Translators – a Rockefeller & USAID funded Evangelical organisation which had been translating the Bible into hundreds of indigenous languages in Central and South America. Wycliffe was founded by ultraconservative William Cameron Townsend who worked in tandem with Rockefeller and which the authors accuse of destroying indigenous peoples’ cultural values to abet penetration by U.S. businesses, employing a “virulent brand of Christian fundamentalism that used linguistics to undermine the social cohesion of indigenous communities and accelerate their assimilation into Western culture”. It sent scores of missionaries and establishing churches to counter the “threat” of Left-Wing “Liberation Theology” to United States Security, identified by older brother Nelson in his 1969 ‘Rockefeller Report’ for President Nixon. These missionaries also acted as scouts, covertly surveying the Amazon for resources. Financial support for Evangelical faith in Brazil evidently extends to the present, with the massive and politically influential Pentecostal “Universal Church of the Kingdom of God” whose head Bishop, Edir Macedo told his followers in 2011 that the Rockefellers had been generous contributors.

David and Nelson Rockefeller along with Zbigniew Brzezinski were also involved in the drafting of Henry Kissinger’s “National Security Study Memorandum 200” in 1974, which President Ford, to whom Nelson was serving as Vice, made official United States policy. The once secret NSSM-200, which was first seen by researchers in the 1990s, is a chilling document which advocates forced population control in 13 “Less Developed Countries”, one of which was Brazil, countries chosen for the strategic importance of their natural resources. The study states that “the world is increasingly dependent on mineral supplies from developing countries, and if rapid population frustrates their prospects for economic development and social progress, the resulting instability may undermine the conditions for expanded output and sustained flows of such resources.”

It goes on to conclude that “Whether through government action, labor conflicts, sabotage, or civil disturbance, the smooth flow of needed materials will be jeopardized. Although population pressure is obviously not the only factor involved, these types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth”, and “Young people, who are in much higher proportions in many LDCs, are likely to be more volatile, unstable, prone to extremes, alienation and violence than an older population. These young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the ‘establishment,’ ‘imperialists,’ multinational corporations, or other-often foreign-influences blamed for their troubles”.

Such mandatory population control programmes would be implemented by Non Governmental Organisations such as the Rockefeller’s own Eugenicist Population Council. In 1968, Frederick Osborn, the organisation’s first president, said “Eugenic goals are most likely to be achieved under another name than eugenics.”

The implications of the NSSM-200 document for Brazilians cannot be understated. It can be interpreted that de-facto opposition to population growth, rises to living standards & life expectancy, availability of quality public education and healthcare, and independent development in Brazil, has been effectively codified into United States foreign policy since 1975.

Post-Dictatorship

Two decades after a Military Dictatorship took power with his support, in 1987 following transition to Civilian Rule, David Rockefeller remarked “In all my visits to Brazil, I have never before come across such desperate poverty”.

In June 1992 he was back in Brasilia. “The progress is encouraging and the road is open to an accord” he said, after a 45-minute meeting with corruption-hit President Fernando Collor de Mello at the Planalto Palace in the capital. Though by this point Rockefeller was only a consultant at Chase Manhattan, he was still involved in the Council of the Americas. The New York Times wrote that Brazil was seeking to convert its world record $108bn debt into 30-year bonds that would be backed by the United States Treasury. Born into an Oligarchic family, Collor had come to power in 1989 via the first direct election since the 1964 Coup, as Rede Globo’s anointed candidate. One of his leftist rivals Leonel Brizola, had been identified as the potential target for a U.S.-supported Coup d’etat should he have won. By the end of 1992, Collor, who had overseen a programme of rapid privatisation and economic liberalisation, resigned, facing imminent impeachment, with inflation standing at over 1000%. In dealing directly with Collor, Rockefeller ensured that debt-deals were set in stone before any change in Presidency.

During preparations for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Rockefeller Foundation created LEAD (Leadership in the Environment and Development). According to their website they have since then “been recruiting talented individuals from key sectors and professions all over the world to be part of a growing network now standing at over 2400 leaders, who are committed to changing the world. […] Since 1992, more than 500 professionals have been trained in Brazil, Canada, China, Former Soviet Union, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.” The Brazilian branch of LEAD (ABDL) was one of the first, founded in mid-1991. Al Binger, LEAD’s international director, said with surprising frankness: “We hope that in ten years many of the fellows will be acting as ministers of environment and development, university rectors and CEOs.” One of the Brazilian Politicians most closely associated with LEAD/ABDL would be future Presidential Candidate & environmental campaigner, Marina Silva. Silva was Catholic Liberation Theologist, and social movement leader for almost two decades, converting to Evangelical faith in the mid 1990s. Although widely hailed as an environmentalist leader in the anglophone media, her public support of “green capitalism” is not only rejected by the Brazilian environmentalist movement, it’s rejection was chosen as the theme to the Cupula dos Povos, the international alternative forum to Rio+20, held simultaneously with it in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

“A bridge to the future”

AS/COA (Americas Society / Council of the Americas) magazine Americas Quarterly and its circle of promoted commentariat have been a major player in reshaping the master narrative of Brazil as a failing state, that Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment was legitimate, and in particular the depiction of Lava Jato judge Sergio Moro as objective “anti-corruption crusader”. There is a also a common rhetorical dismissal of U.S. interference in modern Latin America as being a relic of the cold war.

Shortly after the illegitimate impeachment of predecessor Dilma Rousseff, on September 22 2016, documented U.S. informant, new President Michel Temer, who was visiting the United States to meet Vice President Joe Biden and address the UN, also spoke at a specially-organised meeting at the New York headquarters of AS/COA . At the meeting for Investors, Business and Banking elites, Temer candidly revealed an “open secret” – that the true purpose of Rousseff’s removal was that she would not agree to implement a hardline Austerity & Privatisation programme contained within a policy document called “Bridge to the Future.”

The document was odd in that it appeared to have been translated from English, with social media users remarking on its unusual wording. Economist Marcio Pochmann noted similarities between “Bridge to the Future” and the “Government Economic Action Plan” (PAEG) which followed the Coup of 1964. One such similarity, he says, is the strong international influence.

“PAEG was written in English, there was great American intervention in the country, so much so that the US supported the dictatorship and even sent a ship in case of civil war. The coup of 2016 also has undeniable US interests in relation to a series of developmental moves the country had made since 2003, as it sought greater autonomy in Brazilian foreign policy. The South-South relationship and the strengthening of the BRICs (Trade Bloc formed by Brazil, Russia, India and China)is different from what the US considers to be the best for Latin America.”

Former Dictatorship-era Public Security Official Michel Temer was also asked by one attendee what plans he had to deal with social unrest amongst the population in response to such extreme austerity measures. This too echoes 1964, in “Who Rules the World, Chomsky noted that the Kennedy administration’s policy was to transform Latin America’s Militaries into glorified police forces, designed to deal with their own populations “should they raise their heads”, not external threats.

Despite the shocking nature of Temer’s comments, they were for the most part ignored by close-knit Brazil-based corporate journalists, but to those who have been following the US-led rollback against democratically elected center-left and left leaders in Latin America, it was no coincidence that Temer admitted this at a meeting sponsored & organised by AS/COA.

AS/COA is effectively a Latin America equivalent of the Atlantic Council and its slogan is “Uniting opinion leaders to exchange ideas and create solutions to the challenges of the Americas today” and its online biographies state: “Americas Society (AS) Is the premier forum dedicated to education, debate, and dialogue in the Americas. Its mission is to foster an understanding of the contemporary political, social, and economic issues confronting Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, and to increase public awareness and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the Americas and the importance of the inter-American relationship.”, “Council of the Americas (COA) Is the premier international business organisation whose members share a common commitment to economic and social development, open markets, the rule of law, and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere. The Council’s membership consists of leading international companies representing a broad spectrum of sectors, including banking and finance, consulting services, consumer products, energy and mining, manufacturing, media, technology, and transportation.”

The organisation is said to be based on the “fundamental belief that free markets and private enterprise offer the most effective means to achieve regional economic growth and prosperity.” Membership has grown to over 200 blue chip companies that represent the majority of U.S. private investment in Latin America. The Council hosts presidents, cabinet ministers, central bankers, government officials, and leading experts in economics, politics, business, and finance, which gives it unique access to information from the region. The Council of the Americas argues that “free markets and private enterprise offer the most effective means to achieve regional economic growth”. It has been a supporter of free trade agreements and has been instrumental in the conception of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)…. and the yet to be implemented Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the long-held ambition of David Rockefeller himself. Meanwhile, sister organisation The Americas Society’s focus is in contrast “to increase public awareness and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the Americas and the importance of the inter-American relationship”

Elite COA corporate members include: Bloomberg, Blackrock, Bank of America, Barings, Barrick Gold Corporation, Boeing, Bombardier, Banco Bradesco, Banco do Brasil, Banco Santander, Cisco, Citigroup, Coca Cola, ExxonMobility, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Google, Itaú Unibanco, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, News Corp / Fox, Pearson, Pfizer, Philip Morris, Raytheon, Shell, Television Association Of Programmers Latin America, Time Warner/Turner, Toyota, Viacom, Wal-Mart.  One of the successor companies to Standard Oil, Chevron Corporation is listed as “Patron Corporate Member” of Council of the Americas, and has a strong vested interest in who governs Brazil. David Rockefeller remained Honorary Secretary of COA until the day he died, while current Secretary is William R. Rhodes, formerly of Citibank/Citigroup.

Alongside other D.C. Think Tanks such as the older Brookings, and Rockefeller/Ford funded Council on Foreign Relations, AS/COA is not unusual in its stated function but is a particularly interesting case – an interface between State & Corporate power, Intelligence communities, Multinational & Latin American Banks, Washington-aligned Neoliberal Politicians, educational institutions such as FGV, local & international NGOs, Authors, Journalists, and everyday English-language media from the region, such as Reuters and CNN.

David Rockefeller once said, “American capitalism has brought more benefits to more people than any other system in any part of the world at any time in history.” He may have passed away, but his imperialist business interests and his think tank, backed by some of the World’s most nefarious corporations in terms of human and environmental rights, will no doubt continue to meddle and weaken democracy in Latin America for years to come.

March 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Terminal Decline? Fukushima and the Deepening Crisis of Nuclear Energy

By Jim Green | Nuclear Monitor | March 10, 2017

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.

Costs of between €50bn and €100bn (US$53-106bn) will need to be spent by 2030 to meet new safety requirements for reactors in France and to extend their operating lives beyond 40 years.

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.”

Wrong lessons

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. jim.green@foe.org.au

Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli authorities crack down on Gundelia harvesters

Palestine Information Center – March 6, 2017

NABLUS – Israel’s so-called “Nature Authority” detained Palestinian Akoub (Gundelia) harvesters in the northern Jordan Valley and seized their cattle on Sunday afternoon.

Local activist Aref Daraghma said the Nature Authority cracked down on the Palestinian pickers of Akoub plant in the Jordan Valley.

Daraghma added that wildfires have broken out across the mountains while bird eggs and baby animals have been burned down due to incessant Israeli military maneuvers in the area.

In addition, thousands of dunums of private land seized from Palestinian farmers in the area were handed over to Israeli settlers.

Daraghma further warned of underway attempts by the Israeli occupation authorities and settlers to expand illegal settlement projects at the expense of Palestinian farmlands.

March 6, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

1 Year After Berta Caceres’ Murder, Activists Demand US Stop Funding Abusive Honduran State Forces

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Photo: EFE
teleSUR | March 2, 2017

One year after the assassination of Honduran Indigenous leader Berta Caceres, human rights organizations and Indigenous communities continue to demand justice in the case, while the international branch of the struggle pressures to an end of U.S. funding for police and military forces accused of human rights abuses in the Central American country.

Caceres’ family sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Representative Norma Torres to ask for her support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which was reintroduced the same day to the House of Representatives after stalling without adequate support since last year. The bill seeks the suspension of Washington’s security aid to Honduras until the country fulfills more rigorous human rights conditions — including an end to abuses by the police and military and justice in cases like Berta Caceres’ murder.

“It is increasingly clear that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez is unwilling to act decisively to stop the killings of social activists in Honduras and to conduct honest and thorough investigations of killings and attacks,” Caceres’ family members state in the letter to Torres, urging her to “stand with” them and with Honduras. “In addition, the government has consistently failed to respect basic indigenous land rights, as it is required to do under its international treaty obligations.”

The original U.S. bill inspired by Caceres’ murder paints a grim picture of Honduras’ grave human rights situation, including the lack of justice in cases like Caceres’ murder. “Impunity remains a serious problem, with prosecution in cases of military and police officials charged with human rights violations moving too slowly or remaining inconclusive,” it states, adding that the U.S. State Department itself reported in 2015 problems of “corruption, intimidation, and institutional weakness of the justice system” in Honduras.

Caceres’ family addressed the letter to Torres to ramp up individual pressure for support of the bill. Torres, the first and only Central American in Congress and the founder of the bipartisan Central American Caucus, has faced criticism for aligning herself with the Honduran government, backing Washington’s controversial Alliance for Prosperity security aid package for Central America’s Northern Triangle and for refusing to support the Berta Caceres bill.

“We believe that your support for the Berta Caceres Human Rights Act will further strengthen your standing as an advocate for Central Americans and human rights, both in the U.S. and Honduras,” the family wrote in its letter to Torres, imploring her endorsement of the bill.

Caceres’ family also highlighted in the letter the involvement of active and former members of the military — including suspects trained at the infamous U.S. School of the Americas — in her murder, underlining the urgent need for more rigorous conditions on security aid to Honduran state forces. A former member of the military police in Honduras revealed to the Guardian that her name had been at the top of a “hit list” that a U.S.-trained unit received.

“A government that fails to protect its citizens and whose security forces are implicated in attacks and killings of activists should not be receiving security funding and training from the U.S. government,” the letter stressed, adding that Caceres’ murder is only one example among scores of assassinations, attacks and other forms of intimidation targeting activists in the country.

According to a recent report by the international rights organization Global Witness, 120 land and environmental defenders have been killed in Honduras since 2010 after an increase in state-sanctioned abuses in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, members of the organization that Caceres founded — the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras or COPINH — held a march Wednesday in the capital city Tegucigalpa demanding justice one year after her death.

They blasted Honduran authorities over the fact that, to this day, the motive for her assassination has not been identified and perpetrators in the killing not brought to justice. Demonstrators with banners shouted slogans demanding that authorities arrest the masterminds behind Caceres’ murder.

Caceres rose to international prominence for leading the Indigenous Lenca people in a struggle against a controversial hydroelectric dam project in the community of Rio Blanco that was put in motion without consent from local communities. She was also a key leader in the post-coup resistance movement that demanded a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduran Constitution.

For her environmental and land defense work, she was awarded the prestigious 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, while at the same time suffering dozens of death threats and other forms of harassment. Berta Caceres was shot dead just before midnight March 2, 2016, when gunmen stormed her house and attacked her.

Caceres’ family claim that the Honduran company behind the hydroelectric project she fought against, Desarrollos Energeticos or DESA, and the Honduran government hired contract killers to murder her and other activists.

Her family and fellow activists insists that her legacy will continue to inspire a movement for rights and justice.

In a statement ahead of the anniversary of her murder, Caceres’ COPINH reiterated calls for justice and an end to unwanted corporate projects on Indigenous land and vowed to forge on in the struggle that Caceres championed in the name of a “just society where life is respected.”

“One year after Berta’s murder, she continues teaching us that ideas cannot be killed and the processes of the people cannot be stopped,” the organization said. “May she continue to be present and our task continue with her legacy of resistance and struggle against injustice.”

RELATED:
Honduras Is the Deadliest Country for Environmental Activists

Suspects in Caceres Murder Linked to Military, US Training

March 3, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | Leave a comment

Playing with fire: Dozens of nuclear alerts underreported by British MoD, study reveals

RT | February 23, 2017

The UK Ministry of Defense has been accused of downplaying the real dangers stemming from the UK nuclear deterrent. The report by a Nuclear Information Service (NIS) put the number of accidents, involving British nukes, at 110, four times higher the official count.

RT’s Harry Fear and Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, talk on the matter.

February 24, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Zionist Entity Poisoning Palestinians in West Bank: Fact-Finding Mission

Al-Manar | February 22, 2017

An international fact-finding mission concludes that the trade manufacture and use of toxic pesticides in Israeli illegal settlements result in human rights violations and contribute to the food insecurity in the Occupied West Bank.

Pesticide run-off from agricultural operations and hazardous wastes from the manufacture of agrochemicals inside the illegal settlements poison Palestinian farms, livestock, and water sources, the investigators learned, according to Environment News Service website.

Dumping hazardous wastes in Palestinian territory has been documented, including in areas with a high concentration of schools.

The joint mission, conducted in May 2016, was led by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, APN, based in Amman, and the PAN Asia Pacific, PANAP, based in Malaysia, one of five regional centers of the Pesticide Action Network.

The investigation reveals the presence of highly hazardous pesticides banned by the Palestinian Authority, but illegally traded into the Occupied Palestinian Territories – pesticides such as endosulfan and Dukatalon, a mix of paraquat and diquat.

The two reports that came out of the investigation found that 50 percent of pesticides in Palestine are illegal, and that five metric tons of banned pesticides have been confiscated since 1995.

The Palestinian Authority is in no position to dispose of these chemicals safely, and the Zionist entity refuses to take them back, investigators found.

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Confirms It Used Depleted Uranium in Syria

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By Peter KORZUN | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.02.2017

The US and its allies have many times attacked Russia for alleged «indiscriminate bombing» in support of the Syrian government, including cluster bombs. The accusations have been denied and never proven. Now the US military has confirmed it misinformed the public about its use of munitions in Syria which cause harm to civilians.

The US military has admitted using depleted uranium (DU) anti-tank rounds on two occasions in 2015 during devastating air strikes against convoys of Islamic State (IS) tanker trucks. Investigative reporter Samuel Oakford first brought up the use of DU ammunition by the coalition in October 2016. There have been questions raised ever since.

According to US Central Command spokesman Major Josh Jacques, a total of 5,265 depleted uranium rounds were fired in combination with other incendiary rounds in 2015. The US may use the munitions again. As the official put it, «We will continue to look at all options during operational planning to defeat ISIS, this includes DU rounds».

Earlier statements maintained that the coalition would not do so. In 2015, the US military Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman John Moore said that US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve. Now one can see the statements were not true.

Depleted uranium is the byproduct of the enriched uranium needed to power nuclear reactors. It is roughly 0.7 times as radioactive as natural uranium, and its high density makes it ideal for armor-piercing rounds such as the PGU-14 and certain tank shells.

The depleted uranium munitions are known for their enhanced armor-piercing capabilities. They have been criticized for posing health risks to soldiers who fire them and to civilian populations. Some scientists and Iraqi physicians blame depleted uranium weapons used by US forces for a major increase in cancer cases and birth defects in Iraq. The munitions have been suspected to be a possible cause of «Gulf War syndrome», the name given to a collection of debilitating maladies suffered by veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf War and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Numerous studies affirm the use of the munitions in Iraq negatively affected the health of civilian population causing cancer and birth defects. When it was used during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo, the United Nations advised that children stay away from the impact zones. Recently published data from the 2003 Iraq War showed that A-10 attack aircraft used more DU against targets that were not tanks or armoured vehicles, questioning the current US justification that DU was needed in Syria. Historic data from the Gulf War also demonstrated that most armoured targets destroyed by A-10s were targeted by Maverick missiles, not DU munitions.

The UN Environment Program has conducted studies and clean-ups of areas affected by use of the munitions in conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq. It has described them as «chemically and radiologically toxic heavy metal». In 2014, a United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency report on depleted-uranium munitions said that direct contact with larger amounts of depleted uranium through the handling of scrap metal, for instance, could «result in exposures of radiological significance».

A University of Southern Maine study discovered that depleted uranium causes widespread damage to DNA, which could lead to lung cancer, according to a study of the metal’s effects on human lung cells. «Given the international opprobrium associated with the use of depleted uranium, we had been pretty astonished to hear that it had been used in operations in Syria», Doug Weir, the International Coordinator for the Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons, told the Washington Post on February 16.

There is no international treaty or rule that explicitly bans the munitions’ use. Internationally, DU exists in a legal gray area. In 2012, 155 states have supported a resolution calling for a precautionary approach to depleted uranium weapons during voting at the UN General Assembly. Just four countries – the US, UK, France and Israel – voted against and 27 abstained. The resolution was informed by the UN Environment’s Program’s (UNEP) repeated calls for a precautionary approach to the use and post-conflict management of the controversial weapons. The passage of this fourth General Assembly resolution is a further challenge to the use of radioactive and chemically toxic conventional weapons that can lead to environmental contamination and humanitarian harm.

It is worth mentioning that the US has a long history of using the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) banned by international law. In 2013, Amnesty International said US drone strikes could be classified as war crimes. It is broadly believed the global use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in such countries as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and Libya, constitutes a violation of international law.

Obviously, the US UAV warfare violates Article 51 of the UN Charter that defines the rules of self-defense because America is not attacked. International law limits self-defense against prospective threats to ones which are «imminent». The employed signature tactics are inherently in violation of the principle of distinction because it fails to identify civilian or militant. Drone attacks run against the principle of proportionality concerning unintentional civilian casualties in war. They violate Article 2 of the Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War by disregarding the human rights of the innocent civilians killed in the strikes. Furthermore, the US UAV tactics conflict with International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits «arbitrary» killing even during an armed conflict. The US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or many other international legal forums where legal action might be started. It is, however, part of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) where cases can be initiated by one state against another. Conducting drone strikes in a country against its will, like in Syria, for instance, could be seen as an act of war.

So, it’s double standards again while the acts of war continue. Their justice, legality and necessity are questioned but somehow their issues don’t hit headlines of US media, while Russia does. The US blaming Russia for «indiscriminate bombing», the use of cluster bombs and other misdeeds in Syria is like the pot calling the kettle black.

February 21, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Foreign-Funded NGOs in Ecuador: Trojan Horse for Intervention?

teleSUR | February 18, 2017

Ecuador has come under fire for scrutinizing non-profits like Accion Ecologica, many of whom get millions from Europe and North America.

Ecuador, the tiny South American nation sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, rarely makes waves in the English-speaking world’s corporate mediascape. Last year, news traveled far on at least two occasions.

First, with an earthquake that killed at least 673 people. Second, when the government moved to investigate and potentially dissolve a nonprofit called Accion Ecologica in connection with deadly violence between members of an Amazonian tribe and police sent to protect a Chinese-operated mining project.

Ecologists and prominent activists friendly to the group, including heavy-weights such as Naomi Klein, called out what they characterized as a callous repression and criminalization of Indigenous people protecting the unparalleled richness of the Amazon and alleged state prejudice against an underdog non-profit organization that was only there to save the rainforest and its inhabitants.

Ecuador’s socialist government, on the other hand, sees the “underdog” label as misplaced.

NGOs may be seen as do-gooders, but that’s not always the case. As a country historically vulnerable to the whims of powers in the North, Ecuador has, under the administration of the outgoing President Rafael Correa, put up a guard against a new kind of public diplomacy from abroad that focuses on gaining the favor of civil society to indirectly execute their political priorities.

NGOs are flagged when they operate outside the bounds of the law and their stated objectives, indicators of potential pressure from outside funders to protect their interests rather than those of nationals.

“We’re an Ecuadorean NGO, born here in Ecuador and working for 30 years in the defense of the rights of the environment and of communities across the country, and for that work we are very well known, even at an international level,” Alexandra Almeida, president of Accion Ecologica, told teleSUR.

“But that doesn’t mean that a foreign organization could manipulate us with anything — with funds, with nothing — that’s how we operate.”

NGOs have rarely had to justify their work to anyone, let alone prove that they act for the good of the people only. But Ecuador is not an ordinary country. Rich in resources but export dependent, authorities are attempting to manage the many foreign hands trying to pull the country’s development in their favor.

Silent Action Meets Loud Reaction

This government is the first to scrutinize NGOs, but their scrutiny has not been limited to Accion Ecologica.

In 2012, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa boldly declared that NGOs have been entering the country like never before during the previous decade. Many, backed by foreign states and foreign money, are out to destabilize the state, Ecuadorean leaders stated.

“Their interest is not the country, impoverished sectors, natural resources or strengthening democracies,” said Paola Pabon, director of the National Ministry of Political Management, which is responsible for tracking NGOs, in an interview with teleSUR last year. “What interests them is having control over governments, having influence over civil society to create elements of destabilization.”

Executive Decree 16, which went into effect in 2013, created a system to catalogue the financing, decision-making and activities of every registered social organization — a total of over 46,000 in the country, including non-profits, unions and community organizations, among others.

The resulting action saw 26 foreign NGOs expelled from the country for a lack of transparency and compliance with national law; in brief, for declaring themselves “non-governmental organizations” while acting on behalf of foreign governments. Among the more high-profile cases was Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical missionary relief organization that received funding and support from USAID. Fifteen others were given two weeks to get their activities in order.

A handful of Indigenous organizations, which had previously mobilized against Correa’s government, attacked the decree via the Constitutional Court. Two years later, Ecuador reformed the regulations with Executive Decree 739, which fine-tuned the reasons for closing an NGO — the main one, “diverting from stated objectives” — and, caving to demand, eliminated the requirement for organizations to register projects financed from abroad.

Donor Nations: Generous or Greedy?

The trend that prompted Ecuador’s law was not without precedent.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and the linked but publicly independent National Endowment for Democracy, known as NED, the United States pumped over US$100 million into Venezuela to create 300 new organizations credited with contributing to the coup d’etat against Hugo Chavez in 2002. In a similar move, USAID admitted that it tried to provoke a “Cuban Spring” by setting up Zunzuneo, a kind of Cuban Twitter, to circulate calls to protest.

The most common nonprofits close to foreign governments and private interests are those that stand tallest against their states. In Ecuador, that tends to be groups that work closely with Indigenous communities, with those protecting their right to their land and with those defending women and the environment. Funding by private foundations and corporations, while more widespread, is far less transparent and tougher to quantify. Big names like the Ford Foundation and Open Society, however, are well known for injecting funds into NGOs in the global south to advance specific political visions.

But the United States isn’t the only country to have funneled funds to Ecuador through NGOs.

Official numbers from Ecuador’s Chief Administrative Office of International Cooperation, or SETECI, show that since Correa assumed office in 2007 until 2015, foreign NGOs have managed over US$800 million from abroad. Top givers include the U.K. and Spain, followed by several European states.

No one, however, beats the United States. In that same period, the U.S. sent over twice the amount of money of the next-highest donor, with a total of over US$282 million and 780 projects, or 35 percent of all funding.

Of those funds, which only count NGOs based abroad that invested in local or regional projects, 13 went to projects in the Amazon led by non-profits like Care International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas. Projects based in Morona Santiago, the province where the anti-mining protests that led to the death of a police officer broke out, brought in over US$1 million from the U.S. since 2007.

The flow of funds is indicative of a broader attitude between receiver and giver, who “take advantage of the assumption that they have a perfect democracy, which is completely false – there’s a paternalistic attitude that must be regulated,” said Fernando Casado, research fellow at the National Institute for Higher Studies on public administration in Ecuador and Venezuela. Conversely, a flow in the opposite direction would immediately raise suspicion from developed countries, he added.

Yet money itself doesn’t tell the full tale: the funds are tied directly to foreign policy objectives, Casado told teleSUR. “The powers of the North have changed strategy.”

Each state has its own way. Germany, which has had 151 NGO projects in Ecuador since 2007, is known for meddling in affairs of developing countries through its Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, or BMZ. When SETECI found that three-quarters of its funds went toward stopping another mining project in the Amazon’s Yasuni region last March, it kicked the German agency out of Ecuador.

The United States has several agencies do its work, the most prominent being USAID, NED — funded through money allocated to USAID by Congress — and the Broadcast Board of Governors. The stated missions: to promote development, democracy creation and a free press, respectively, while strictly adhering to U.S. foreign policy priorities.

“We should not have to do this kind of work covertly,” said former head of NED Carl Gershman on CIA missions to the New York Times in 1986. “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the 60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.”

What Givers Want

The “work” the United States has set out for Ecuador — according to a 2016 Office of Inspector General report on the U.S. embassy leaked by WikiLeaks — is “to mitigate the effects of the contentious political environment created by the Ecuadorean Government” with the help of other government agencies, which play a “critical role.”

The report, intended for the eyes of the BBG and Congress, said the embassy was “actively engaged with civil society leaders and nongovernmental organizations to increase Ecuadorean awareness of and support for U.S. policies and values, promote Ecuadorean civil society and government accountability, and strengthen environmental initiatives.”

To set up a climate conducive to U.S. meddling, the U.S. Government Accountability Office included Ecuador on a shortlist with Colombia, Egypt and the West Bank/Gaza the year Correa was elected to closely study public opinion in “specific, targeted public awareness campaigns.”

It also either commissioned or was the beneficiary of a study from Stratfor, a secretive intelligence company contracted by the State Department and the U.S.’s multinational titans, which evaluated the extent to which Ecuador is manipulable by NGOs. The 2013 report, leaked by WikiLeaks, focused especially on how NGOs can influence trade policy and corporate regulation. Its conclusion: based on a scale likely defined in relation to other developing nations, Ecuador is fairly resilient to NGO pressure but has submitted in certain instances.

USAID sends hundreds of millions to local projects in Ecuador, some less explicitly political, but some indirectly benefiting opposition groups, according to U.S. Ambassador in Ecuador Adam Namm. BBG affiliate, TeleAmazonas, has been accused of fomenting strong opposition rhetoric against Correa. And the NED spends over US$1 million annually on dozens of local programs with broad objectives like “promoting citizen oversight of elected officials,” “monitoring due process and the independence of the judicial system,” “monitoring the use of public resources in government advertising” and “facilitating dialogue and consensus on democracy.”

Both Germany’s BMZ and USAID are back in Ecuador following a deluge of NGO activity after the April earthquake. The workload of the National Ministry of Political Management has peaked ever since, said Pabon.

The Sneaky Alliance With Mother Earth

One pet project of USAID was the Conservation in Managed Indigenous Areas, or Caiman, which ended before Correa took office but was among several USAID programs to conserve the country’s biodiversity and promote alliances between Indigenous communities and private businesses.

Caiman worked with various groups working in ecological and Indigenous rights, including Accion Ecologica. For several years, Caiman had Accion Ecologica help them battle against the Ministry of the Environment and train park rangers to oppose contamination from oil and mining.

Whether or not USAID or foreign foundations have funded Accion Ecologica directly is unclear. Unlike many others in the industry, the non-profit does not publish its financial information on its website, and refused multiple requests from teleSUR for copies of audits. When asked, the organization’s president said she does not know specifics on foreign funders and could not answer.

Almeida did say that Accion Ecologica receives funds from Europe — from individuals, “small organizations, alliances, groups that form” around fundraising events on ecological issues. She did not say how much or cite specific names but mentioned Italy and Belgium.

A 2012 investigation from Andes, an Ecuadorean state publication, found that both Accion Ecologica and the Regional Foundation of Human Rights Advising, another powerful nonprofit, are financed by the European Commission, Oilwatch, the Netherlands embassy and a few international ecological networks. Almeida said the accusations were false.

While Europe may be the principal interested party in the success of Accion Ecologica, the U.S. is also well known to have played an active role in similar battles.

In 2013, the year after Correa took the lead against foreign NGOs and a year before he expelled USAID, Bolivia accused USAID of spending US$22 million to divide Indigenous groups on the exploitation and nationalization of oil in their lands.

“Since the right can’t find arguments to oppose the process of change, it now turns to campesino, Indigenous and native leaders who are paid by several NGOs and foundations with perks to foment a climate of conflict with the national government to deteriorate the process of unification that the country is experiencing,” said Morales as he gave USAID the boot.

Beyond Accion Ecologica

“Theoretically speaking, NGOs shouldn’t exist,” said Casado. NGOs operate within a logic of narrowing, minimizing and weakening the role of the state so they can keep filling holes in public services and keep their jobs, which are at risk of disappearing if the state works as it should, added Casado.

“They elect themselves representatives of civil society in general,” and yet their role is limited and entirely reliant on and responsive to funding, which at the end of the day remains in their pockets. Other social organizations and popular movements, said Casado, operate only on conviction.

If an NGO is completely free to operate without regulations, a country would open itself to any corporate and foreign interest that found an open hand, he argued. Latin America is intimately familiar with that process — of consolidating power in the monied class — and NGOs back similar corporate interests, only with a more benevolent face.

It’s near-impossible to identify the perfect case of foreign intrusion — and, as in Accion Ecologica’s case, near-impossible to prove. Multiple factors are always at play, from the ideology of individual members to the decision-making process to however events play out on the ground. Casado said that the first step to uncovering hidden interests is financial transparency — a move that faces stiff opposition precisely for the interests that it could reveal.

Ecuador’s answer is to carefully collect records and draw a clear line between what is acceptable and what is not. Foreign NGOs, state the decree, cannot participate “in any form of party politics, any form of interference or proselytism, any threat to national security or public peace or any other activity not permitted under their migratory status.”

Case Closed?

When Accion Ecologica testified before the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of the Environment, it argued that it had been doing the same work — protecting the rainforest — for decades, always in a peaceful manner. The evidence presented showing they provoked violence through a series of tweets in and around the time of violent clashes was “a bit absurd, very absurd,” said Almeida.

In the end, the government’s case did not hold, and the Environment Ministry concluded there was not enough credible evidence to shut down the group. Accion Ecologica credited “pressure” from its supporters, as its representatives continue to urge for a deregulation of NGOs.

“It’s not only NGOs, but also any organization that will be at risk, especially their right to free expression and the right to free association” if the decree regulating NGOs remains intact, said Almeida.

Her position echoes those taken up by opposition politicians, whose one commonality is their depiction of Correa’s government as one systematically trouncing on citizens’ rights and freedoms.

In an election year, rhetoric makes the difference.

Dianileysis Cruz contributed reporting.

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US admits using toxic depleted uranium against ISIS in Syria

RT | February 14, 2017

More than 5,000 rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition were used in two attacks on Islamic State oil tankers in eastern Syria, the US military has confirmed. The US-led coalition previously pledged it would not use the controversial ordnance.

A spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM) told Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing DU rounds were used in November 2015, during two air raids against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tanker convoys in the Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah provinces in eastern Syria.

A-10 ground attack aircraft fired the projectiles from their 30mm rotating cannons, destroying about 500 tanker trucks, according to CENTCOM spokesman Major Josh Jacques.

In March 2015, spokesman for the US-led coalition John Moore had explicitly ruled out the use of the controversial ammunition, saying that “US and coalition aircraft have not been and will not be using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq or Syria during Operation Inherent Resolve.” The Pentagon explained that armor-piercing DU rounds were not necessary because IS did not have the tanks it was designed to penetrate.

Investigative reporter Samuel Oakford first brought up the use of DU ammunition by the coalition in October 2016, when a US Air Force congressional liaison told Representative Martha McSally (R-Arizona) that A-10s flying missions over Syria had fired 6,479 rounds of “combat mix” on two occasions. The officer explained that a fifth of the “combat mix” consisted of high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds, while the rest were DU armor-piercers.

The first attack took place on November 16, near Al-Bukamal in the Deir ez-Zor province, with US planes destroying 116 tanker trucks. The strike took place entirely in Syrian territory. According to CENTCOM, 1,790 rounds of “combat mix” were used during the strike, including 1,490 rounds of DU.November 16

The second attack, on November 22, destroyed 283 oil tankers in the desert between Deir ez-Zor and Hasakah. On this occasion, the A-10s fired 4,530 rounds – of which 3,775 were DU armor-piercers.

Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals.

The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.

DU is also the prime suspect in the medical condition dubbed the “Gulf War Syndrome” afflicting US veterans of the 1991 conflict and some peacekeepers deployed in the Balkans.

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 4 Comments

Tepco’s Toughest Robot Fails Inside Fukushima Reactor

Sputnik – 11.02.2017

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the owner and operator of the now-defunct Fukushima-1 nuclear plant in Japan, had to pull its toughest radiation-resistant robot out of its Unit 2 reactor prematurely. The robot, built to withstand up to 1000 Sv/hr, failed to last the projected two hours inside the reactor, before starting to glitch.

As Sputnik reported earlier, Fukushima-1 Unit 2 reactor radiation readings had been estimated at “unimaginable” levels of 530 Sv/hr. This level of radiation is beyond extreme, even in comparison to the inside of the Chernobyl reactor, where radiation levels are ‘only’ 34 Sv/hr. The Chernobyl radiation levels are high enough to cause death in humans in about 20 minutes, and Fukushima’s earlier estimation, of 530 Sv/hr, is likely to kill a man in moments. Alarmingly, it is also more than powerful enough to kill purpose-built radiation-protected robots.

Tepco has previously lost five, less-shielded robots inside the Fukushima reactor. While earlier estimations showed 74 Sv/hr readings, Tepco, charged with decommissioning the destroyed facility, has been unpleasantly surprised to find that radiation levels underneath the reactor have spiked, due, in part, to nuclear fuel believed to have melted out of the reactor core. As a result, the company ordered the toughest robot available to clear the way for cleanup machines. Intended to function for two hours, Tepco pulled the machine prematurely, as its cameras developed noise and the image became too dark to use.

Radiation levels inside the damaged reactor are much higher than previously estimated, according to reports. Judging by camera noise and overall operation time, the team has increased its estimation to 650 Sv/hr. The robot failed to complete its mission of removing debris, including, it is thought, the remains of previous robots, inside the reactor chamber, and now the next robot to be sent inside will have less time to perform its job. The process of decommissioning the nuclear plant is expected to take at least 40 years, and cannot begin before a full assessment of the damage.

Tepco has reported that they have only acquired images of the reactor chamber, showing damaged structures, coated with molten material, possibly mixed with molten nuclear fuel. The robot was able to acquire images of a part of a disc platform that was located below the reactor core that had been melted through. This discovery supported earlier speculation that nuclear fuel has found its way outside of the reactor. Tepco continues to assert that no radiation is leaking outside of the building.

February 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Good News and Bad News at Hanford, America’s Most Polluted Site

By Joshua Frank | The Investigative Fund | February 7, 2017

It’s a new year and new administration, but the strong radioactive stench is the same out at Hanford in eastern Washington, home of the world’s costliest environmental cleanup. In January, a dozen workers reported smelling a toxic odor outside the site’s tank farms, where nuclear waste is stored underground. From April to December 2016, 70 people were exposed to chemical vapors emanating from the facility — and 2017 is off to the similar start.

Toxic odors at an old nuclear depot? This would be startling news anywhere else. But this is Hanford after all, where taxpayer money freely flows to contractors despite the snail-paced half-life of their work. Twenty years and $19 billion later, Hanford is still a nightmare — likely the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. Not one ounce of nuclear waste has ever been treated, and there are no indications Hanford will be nuke free anytime soon. To date, at least 1 million gallons of radioactive waste has leaked and is making its way to the Columbia River. It’s an environmental disaster of epic proportions — a disaster created by our government’s atomic obsession during the Cold War era.

No doubt, Hanford is a wreck in search of a remedy, yet the costs covered by American taxpayers appears to be growing exponentially. At the tail end of 2016, the estimated cost of turning the radioactive gunk into glass rods bumped up a cool $4.5 billion (adding to the ultimate price tag for the remaining Hanford cleanup, which had already reached a whopping $107.7 billion). These sorts of increases are so common they hardly make news anymore.

Donald Trump’s pick for Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, who infamously stated he’d like to do away with the DoE altogether [without a DoE there would be no nuclear weapons programs or US agency promoting nuclear energy], now admits that Hanford’s one of the most dangerous facilities in the nation. But his commitment to cleaning up the fiscal and nuclear boondoggle remains to be seen. The plant that is to turn the waste into glass rods is set to open in 2023, but it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening. It’s already two decades behind schedule.

Meanwhile, workers on the front lines of the cleanup are often put in situations that are poorly monitored and exceedingly unsafe. Over the past three years KING 5 News in Seattle has tracked dozens of employees who were exposed to chemical vapors at Hanford and found their illnesses to include “toxic encephalopathy (dementia), reactive airway disease, COPD, and painful nerve damage.”

“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”

Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.

No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.

“Currently, many Hanford workers are not receiving necessary medical care because they are put in the impossible situation of being unable to specify the chemicals to which they have been exposed, and in what concentrations, making it difficult for their doctors to connect their disease with their exposures,” Randy Walli, Business Manager for the pipefitters union, Local 598, told King 5.

Compensation for whistleblowers and employees whose health is impacted by their work are steps in the right direction. But Hanford’s contractors and the DoE that oversees them still have much to do to make the increasingly expensive nuclear cleanup at Hanford, safe, effective and transparent.

February 9, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima catastrophe ongoing: Leakage on a daily basis’

RT | February 7, 2017

There are many shoes still to drop at Fukushima Daiichi, said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste monitor at Beyond Nuclear. If something goes wrong with the radioactive waste storage pools, there could be a release of high-level radioactivity into the air, he added.

Radiation at Fukushima’s nuclear power plant is at its highest level since the tsunami-triggered meltdown nearly six years ago. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)  is reporting atmospheric readings inside Daiichi’s reactor No.2 are as high as 530 sieverts an hour, while a human exposed to a single dose of 10 sieverts would die in a couple of weeks.

RT: Can you explain what is likely going on here?

Kevin Kamps: This catastrophe that is ongoing is nearly six years old at this point. The fuel, the melted cores have been missing an action. TEPCO doesn’t know where they are; the Japanese government doesn’t know where they are; nobody knows where they are. What could have happened is these probes, these cameras, these robots, these radiation monitors that are being sent in by TEPCO to try to figure out what is going on, may have encountered the closest they have come yet to these melted cores. They may even have come upon melted fuel that is not under water, and water serves as a radiation shielding. So if this is an open area and there is no water – that could explain.

But what you’ve got are melted reactor cores. Of course, human beings can’t be in operating atomic reactors. They also can’t be in this area where there is a meltdown. There is also imagery – it looks like a melt through of a metal grade. It all stands to reason that the cores melted through the reactor pressure vessels and down into the containment structures right through that metal grating.

It is not unexpected, but we still don’t know where the cores are. There are claims that “it’s all contained, don’t worry about it.” It is indisputable that there is a daily flow of radioactively contaminated groundwater into the ocean. The figures something like 80,000 gallons per day of relatively low-level radioactive waste water. Then you’ve got those storage tanks – we’re talking 800,000 tons of highly radioactive water stored in tanks. Every day they pour a hundred tons of water on each of these three melted down cores. Sometimes they lose those tanks. They leak, they overflow – it is an ongoing catastrophe.

RT: So the contamination, in this case, could leak out, couldn’t it?

KK: There is some leakage on a daily basis. Then they try to capture as much as they can and contain it in the storage tanks, which they sometimes lose, whether during a typhoon or through human error – they have had overflows. So many shoes can still drop at Fukushima Daiichi. One of the ones is the high radioactive waste storage pools that aren’t even inside radiological containment. They don’t have all of that spent nuclear fuel transferred to a safer location in a couple of the units still. If something were to go wrong with that – those would be open air releases of very high-level radioactivity.

The prime minister at the time the catastrophe began, [Naoto] Kan, had a contingency plan to evacuate all of North-East Japan – up to 50 million people. It was predominantly because of those storage pools. We’re still in that predicament- if one of those pools were to go up in flames. As Tokyo plans to host the 2020 Olympics and bring in many millions of extra people into this already densely populated area -it is not a good idea.

RT: Going back to this specific leak: how does this complicate the cleanup efforts there? Is it possible even to get something in there right now to examine what is going on?

KK: State of the art robotic technology – Japan is a leader in robotics – can only last so long, because the electronics get fried by the gamma radiation, and probably neutron radiation that is in there. That is the situation deep in there. They are already saying it will take 40 years to so-called decommission this, but that may be optimistic.

RT: Also in December the government said it is going to take twice as much money – nearly twice as much as they originally thought – to decommission that. Does this make matters ever worse – this leak? Or is this just kind of the situation to expect at this point?

KK: It just shows how dire the situation is. The figures of $150 billion to decommission – I have seen figures from a think tank in Japan sided by Green Peace Japan up to $600 billion. If you do full cost accounting: where is this high-level radioactive waste going to go? It is going to need a deep geological depository. You have to build that and operate it. That costs a hundred billion or more. So when you do full cost accounting, this catastrophe could cost hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from. We’re just in the beginning.

READ MORE: Record high fatal radiation levels, hole in reactor detected at crippled Fukushima nuclear facility

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 5 Comments