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South Korean Protesters Think THAAD System Aimed at Russia, China, Not DPRK

Sputnik – 27.04.2017

South Korean women protesting the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is aimed not to defend them against North Korea, but as a threat to Russia and China, analysts told Sputnik.

Namhee Lee, a UCLA Associate Professor of Modern Korean History, said, “many South Koreans think that the deployment of THAAD is actually to deter China and not North Korea.”

Namhee Lee was a signatory of the Women Cross DMZ group’s letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday calling on him to defuse military tensions and start negotiating for peace to prevent war from erupting on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s missiles are short-range SCUDs with a range of 500 km (300 miles), medium-range Rodong 1s with a range of 1,300km (780 miles) whereas THAAD is most effect for long range and high altitude missiles, the professor said.

“THAAD is not effective against the SCUD missile. THAAD is effective against the Rodong 1, but this missile is not developed to aim against South Korea, rather it is aimed against Okinawa,” she said.

As to the question why the US military was deploying THAAD in South Korea, Lee said, “Because it is aimed against China and Russia; to collect information, which is why China and Russia are upset about the deployment of THAAD.”

Namhee Lee noted the X-bend radar that is integrated with a THAAD system is able to detect missiles at a range of 1,000-5,000 km (600 miles to 3,000 miles).

“Many of China’s missiles can be detected by THAAD’s X-bend radar,” she stated.

Deploying THAAD’s radars also posed health hazards for the people of South Korea, the historian explained.

“Many are also afraid for the health and safety of people living nearby, especially from exposure to radiation from the systems’ powerful radar emissions. Especially Seongju residents who feel that the decision to deploy THAAD was made without their input and without independent health assessments,” she also remarked.

Radar emissions coming from THAAD will cause a great deal of harm to people living close by.

“Those who live within the radius of 100 meters would face the danger of losing lives, and those living within the radius of 3.6 km (six miles) would experience dizziness and vomiting,” she noted.

The protest is the last resort for the Koreans to show that they are opposed to the government’s decision to deploy the THAAD system, she observed. … Full article

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shift in Trump Policy on North Korea

By Stephen Lendman | April 27, 2017

Following heavy-handed threats, saber-rattling, and Wednesday’s administration meeting with all Senate members, a joint statement by Defense Secretary Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Coates and Secretary of State Tillerson announced a shift in US policy toward North Korea.

On the one hand, it called Pyongyang’s “pursuit of nuclear weapons… an urgent national security and top foreign policy priority.”

On the other, it said Trump “aims to pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our Allies and regional partners.”

Instead of a military option, the Trump administration now seeks dialogue and diplomacy to achieve “peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

At the same time, it may designate the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism, maintaining hostility towards its government over responsible outreach.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang’s Permanent Mission to the UN said “(t)he DPRK, as a peace-loving socialist state, highly values the sustaining of the peace most of all, but it neither fears a war nor wants to avoid it,” adding:

“The DPRK has access to a powerful nuclear deterrent to protect itself from the US nuclear threat… The DPRK will react to a total war with an all-out war, a nuclear war with nuclear strikes of its own style and surely win a victory in the death-defying struggle against the US imperialists.”

“It is an unshakable will of the DPRK to go to the end if the US wants to remain unchanged in its confrontational stance.”

Separately on Wednesday, US Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris told House Armed Services Committee members that North Korea remains the most “immediate threat” to US regional security, adding it’s trying to develop a “preemptive nuclear strike capability” against US cities.

Fact: Throughout its history, the DPRK never attacked another nation. It threatens none now. If attacked, it’ll surely respond with all the military force it believes necessary.

China, Russia and Pyongyang consider US deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea highly provocative.

In January, Moscow and Beijing announced unspecified measures to counter them, warning of escalating tensions and instigating an arms race.

Harris said the THAAD system will be operational “in the coming days.” China again expressed “grave concern,” saying THAAD breaks the region’s strategic balance, along with heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Urging cancellation of the deployment, Beijing warned it’ll take all necessary measures “to safeguard its own interests.”

Despite the threat of imminent war abating, regional tensions remain. Trump’s rage for warmaking endangers all independent nations.

On Wednesday after midnight, the Pentagon launched an unarmed Minuteman 3 ICBM from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

Col. John Moss said “(t)onight’s launch was an important demonstration of our nation’s nuclear deterrent capability.”

America’s only enemies are ones it invents – no others. America’s homeland hasn’t been attacked by a foreign power since the War of 1812 with Britain.

Hawaii didn’t become a US state until March 1959. During WW II, Japan occupied the remote, sparsely inhabited islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians off Alaska from June 1942 until summer 1943.

America’s homeland faces no threats except in response to US aggression on a nation able to retaliate in kind. Otherwise, none exist.

Stephen Lendman can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

April 27, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

US missile shield aims to cover sudden nuclear strike against Russia – General Staff

RT | April 27, 2017

The United States is pursuing global strategic domination through developing anti-ballistic missile systems capable of a sudden disarming strike against Russia and China, according to the deputy head of operations of the Russian General Staff.

There is an obvious link between Washington’s prompt global strike initiative, which seeks capability to engage “any targets anywhere in the world within one hour of the decision,” and the deployment of missile launch systems in Europe and aboard naval vessels across the globe, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

“The presence of US missile defense bases in Europe, missile defense vessels in seas and oceans close to Russia creates a powerful covert strike component for conducting a sudden nuclear missile strike against the Russian Federation,” Poznikhir explained.

While the US keeps claiming that its missile defenses are seeking to mitigate threats from rogue states, the results of computer simulations confirm that the Pentagon’s installations are directed against Russia and China, according to Poznikhir.

American missile attack warning systems, he said, cover all possible trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles flying toward the United States, and are only expected to get more advanced as new low-orbit satellites complement the existing radar systems.

“Applying sudden disarming strikes targeting Russian or Chinese strategic nuclear forces significantly increases the efficiency of the US missile defense system,” Poznikhir added.

American ABM systems are not only creating an “illusion” of safety from a retaliatory strike but can themselves be used to launch a sneak nuclear attack on Russia.

In a blatant breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the standard land-based launching systems can be covertly rearmed with Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of interceptors – and the Pentagon’s denial of this fact, according to Poznikhir, is “at the very least unconvincing.”

Moreover, Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union, allowed it to develop more advanced weapons that can now not only pose a threat to targets on the ground but in space as well.

“In February 2008, the Pentagon demonstrated the possibility of engaging spacecraft with its ABM capabilities,” Poznikhir said. “An American satellite at an altitude of about 250 km was destroyed by a Standard-3 missile, an earlier modification, launched from a US Navy destroyer.”

“Given the global nature of the ABM ships’ deployment, the space operations of any state, including the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, are under threat.”

Russia has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the risk American ABM systems pose to the global balance of power and thus peace and stability, but has consistently been sidelined.

“Within the framework of cooperation, we also proposed jointly to develop a missile defense architecture for Europe, which could guarantee security against the impacts of nonstrategic ballistic missiles,” said Poznikhir.

“However, all Russian initiatives were rejected.”

“In this regard, Russia is compelled to take measures aimed at maintaining the balance of strategic arms and minimizing the possible damage to national security as a result of the United States’ ABM systems expansion.”

“This will not make the world a safer place,” he warned, urging Washington to engage in a constructive dialogue instead of dully repeating that the systems are not aimed at undermining Russia’s or China’s national security.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

After Syria and ‘mother of all bombs’, Trump fakes again

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 19, 2017

A quarter of the way through TV programmes in the weekend on two leading Malayalam channels, it dawned on me that some woolly-headed local “strategic thinker” must have been spreading a yarn that World War III is in the offing because US President Donald Trump has abandoned his campaign pledges and has embraced the classic US imperialistic policies – and that the missile attack in Syria, the use of the ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and the war clouds over North Korea were all symptomatic of the Armageddon.

Of course, I tried to reason by detailing empirical evidence that much of what is happening is due largely to the confusion prevailing in Washington under a president who is hopelessly besieged, and that things are in reality far from what meets the eye.

So, today, I laughed uncontrollably when the American press reports started appearing that, after all, Trump’s show of force in the Far East was a contrived playact. The formidable American armada, the Carl Vinson carrier strike force, apparently never really headed for North Korea! It was a charade!

I had suspected all along that some back-room deal between the US and China was going on and that the pantomime was complex and, perhaps, beyond belief. The first cloud of suspicion arose when the Chinese commentaries began hinting vaguely that if both Pyongyang and Washington showed restraint, it was not coincidental but there would have been a mutual awareness that neither side would push the envelope. Of course, Chinese commentators will never acknowledge whether Beijing acted as a guarantor of sorts to Pyongyang that Trump has no intentions to attack North Korea or decapitate the Kim Jong-un regime.

The Chinese and I are on the same page here, perhaps, being votaries of dialectical materialism. I too believe that the US economy is hardly in a position to start an imperial war anywhere on the planet, and that Trump knows this better than anyone in America. Which only, after all, explains his consistent campaign pledge that much as he’d build up the US military as by far the most powerful war machine that man ever knew and would restore American prestige and influence worldwide, he will not be an interventionist and will use American power most sparingly, only if US interests are threatened – and, most important, that the core of his foreign-policy doctrine is “America First”, as distinct from his predecessor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s.

Now, let me reproduce the extracts from a Chinese commentary that appeared today in the Communist Party daily Global Times :

  • Most observers say that the Korean Peninsula is approaching the most volatile point, but the possibility of a war remains slim. There are signs that the US President Donald Trump would resort to a tougher Pyongyang policy than his predecessor… However, it will not act rashly… Trump will not forget the promise he made during the presidential campaign. Though he vigorously believes American foreign policy comes from its military might, to “make America great again” can in no way rely entirely on military prowess. In the near future, the Trump administration will attach more importance to the economy, employment and immigration than to diplomacy… The new administration has made it clear that instead of seeking a regime change, it will put “maximum pressure” upon Pyongyang and calls for engagement with the North Korea regime, if and when it changes its behavior.
  • US national interests and domestic politics, especially American citizens’ political appeal, have determined that Trump must give top priority to domestic affairs… It demonstrates the pragmatic and flexible side of the new government. If the US truly implements the new policy, the global community will see the world’s most powerful country spending more time and energy in dealing with domestic affairs. The future circumstances surrounding Pyongyang will likely enter a new phase.

Now, does it mean China will lower its guard? No way. Make no mistake, China won’t take chances with the unstable political environment in which Trump operates. Thus, explicit warnings have also been held out to the US that any attack on North Korea will inevitably trigger Chinese military intervention. This is what an editorial in Global Times warned on Tuesday:

  • Chinese people will not allow their government to remain passive when the armies of the US and South Korea start a war and try to take down the Pyongyang regime. The Chinese will not let something like that happen, especially on the same land where the Chinese Volunteer Army once fought in the early 1950s. It is a land covered with the blood of Chinese soldiers who bravely fought in the early 1950s. Furthermore, if Pyongyang were to be taken by the allied armies of the US and South Korea, it would dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, government-owned China Daily reported today that President Xi Jinping in his capacity as the chairman of the Central Military Commission has stressed to the PLA commanders the imperative of being “combat ready”. (China Daily )

So, what lies ahead? My prognosis: Beijing is actively promoting direct talks between the US and North Korea without any pre-conditions, which can be expected in a near future. Would Trump get around to realising his wish to have a McDonald cheeseburger with Kim some day, as he once said? Welcome to the Trump era in world politics.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

This is What Can Prompt China Not to Defend N Korea in the Event of War

Sputnik – April 14, 2017

Recently, there have been a growing number of suggestions by Chinese diplomatic and military commentators that Beijing is not obliged to defend Pyongyang in the event of a military attack, an article in the South China Morning Post read.

The assumption comes as senior officials in the United States have warned of a strike against North Korea.

In particular, Washington has positioned two destroyers in the region that can deploy Tomahawk missiles, according to what intelligence officials told NBC News, along with heavy bombers stationed in Guam that could provide support should such a strike take place.

“North Korea is a problem, the problem will be taken care of,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday.

Chinese media outlets and even some official websites have recently published articles saying that in the current situation there are fewer options to find the peaceful solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

For example, on March 22, website China Military, sponsored by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published an article commenting on a ground test by Pyongyang of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine.

“We believe that warfare is just a matter of time if DPRK continues its nuclear and missile program. […] Under no condition will the international community accept DPRK’s legal possession of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. As Pyongyang continues with its nuclear programs, international sanctions will get tighter, and it will eventually be isolated from the rest of the world for a long time,” the article read.

It is not in Pyongyang’s interests to go against international community’s stance on nuclear weapons. In a situation when the US, Russia and China share views of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions Pyongyang has almost no room for maneuvering. On the other hand, Pyongyang’s decision to give up its nuclear ambitions would satisfy the interests of the North Korean political elite, without posing a threat to the country’s existence.

This assumption was made before President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Florida, which proves that Beijing toughened rhetoric towards Pyongyang not under the influence by Washington.

In formal terms, China is North Korea’s only military ally, according to the 1961 Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. At the same time, many Chinese experts say that de-facto those obligations do not exist anymore. The reason is that Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have formed an epicenter of tensions near China’s border.

“Despite China’s support for North Korea during the 1950-1953 Korean War, in the current environment, Beijing will prioritize national security over ideology,” Andrei Karneyev, deputy director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, told Sputnik China.

According to the expert, this change of heart is not related to any pressure from Washington, but is dictated by security needs. However, the question remains: what would China do in the event of a military confrontation against North Korea?

Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong told the South China Morning Post that Beijing would need to provide military assistance to its neighbor if US troops invaded, but Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty was a “strong reason” for China not to help.

According to Zhan Debin, an expert from the Shanghai University of Foreign Trade, there is little chance of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

“The US is unlikely to attack North Korea on its own initiative. It would be possible if Pyongyang endangered the key security interests of Washington and Seoul. This would be an adequate reason for the US,” he told Sputnik China.

The expert pointed out that the US military force redeployed to the Korean Peninsula is rather a warning for Pyongyang.

He added that the probability of minor conflicts between the US and North Korea is very low because any minor conflict will turn into a large-scale confrontation.

“We can’t say that the US recklessly wants to start a war. Of course, South Korea doesn’t want war. If a conflict broke out South Korea would be hit the most,” Zhan Debin said. Commenting on China’s actions during the hypothetical confrontation, the expert noted that Beijing may not get involved if Pyongyang provoked a conflict, but at the same time China cannot turn a blind eye to instability in the region.

“Of course, Beijing will try to prevent a conflict from turning into war. China will not supply weapons and provide military and combat assistance,” he said.

The expert continued: “It is not correct to speculate on the matter. This makes no sense. What we should do is to have a backup plan of actions. Of course, China would act [in the event of a confrontation], but there should be a reason for actions. On the whole, China’s goal is to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

China tells US to resolve North Korea tensions peacefully

Press TV – April 12, 2017

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told US President Donald Trump to resolve ongoing tensions with North Korea peacefully.

According to China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, Xi and Trump discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula in a phone call initiated by the US president on Wednesday.

“China insists on realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula… and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side over the issue on the peninsula,” Xi told Trump during the conversation.

The White House has not released details on the phone conversation.

Last week, the Chinese and American leaders met in the United States, where Trump reportedly called on China to increase pressure on Pyongyang.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump said that if China refused to help, “we will solve the problem without them!”

The US has dispatched a strike group, including an aircraft carrier, to the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions with North Korea. The Carl Vinson strike group also comprises two destroyers and submarines.

North Korea’s rapidly developing missile and military nuclear programs have unnerved Washington. The presence of US forces in the region and repeated threats of military action by Washington have on the other hand angered the North.

Meanwhile, an article on the Chinese Global Times newspaper warned Pyongyang in an editorial to “hit the brakes for peace.” It called on the North to halt any plans for nuclear and missile activities “for its own security.”

“Pyongyang can continue its tough stance; however, for its own security, it should at least halt provocative nuclear and missile activities. Pyongyang should avoid making mistakes at this time,” the article read.

Angered by the deployment of the US strike group, North Korea has warned to attack US mainland with an atomic bomb. Trump has said Pyongyang “is looking for trouble.”

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

North Korea Vows Response to ‘Reckless’ US Navy Move

Al-Manar | April 11, 2017

North Korea denounced the US deployment of a naval strike group to the region Tuesday, warning it is ready for “war” as Washington tightens the screws on the nuclear-armed state.

The strike group — which includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson — cancelled a planned trip to Australia this weekend to head to the Korean peninsula in a show of force.

“This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said according to state news agency KCNA.

“The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” he said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

President Donald Trump, fresh from ordering a missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea, has asked his advisors for a range of options to rein in Pyongyang, a top US official said Sunday.

Trump has previously threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if China — the North’s sole major ally — fails to help curb its neighbor’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

“We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms,” the North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said.

“We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”

Speculation over an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its late founding leader on Saturday — sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.

April 11, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

China rejects coal shipments from North Korea

RT | April 11, 2017

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships laden with coal is returning to their home port of Nampo after China ordered its trading companies to refuse the shipments, Reuters reports quoting shipping data.

This appears to show China is committed to the ban on imports of North Korean coal after Pyongyang carried out globally criticized missile tests. Coal is the crucial export product of the isolated state, especially the deliveries of the type used for steel making – coking coal.

To curb coal traffic between the two countries, Chinese customs ordered companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes starting from April 7, according to Reuters sources.

Two million tons are stranded at Chinese ports; the agency reported quoting a source at Dandong Chengtai, one of China’s biggest buyers of North Korean coal.

To reduce the shortfall in coal imports, China resumed buying American coal this year. According to trade data, China bought over 400,000 tons by late February. The US did not export coking coal to China between late 2014 and 2016. However, President Donald Trump pledged to revive the country’s coal sector.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that following the missile strike again Syria, North Korea could be the next. Beijing and Washington have reportedly agreed to impose tougher sanctions against Pyongyang if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests.

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that a trade deal between China and the US depends on how Beijing tackles North Korea.

“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the US will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem! North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!” he posted.

April 11, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Russia and China Catch Security Council in a Devastating Lie

Russia – Insider | March 25, 2017

Russia and China have teamed up once again in the U.N. Security Council — and this time they called a rather embarrassing bluff.

On Friday, Moscow and Beijing proposed that a United Nations panel investigating chemical weapons use in Syria be extended to Iraq, a proposal that was immediately rejected by the U.K.

This came as a bit of a shock, because earlier the Security Council had expressed “unanimous concern” about Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons in Iraq.

As AFP reports:

Security Council members expressed “unanimous concern” about the latest information concerning IS’s use of chemical weapons, according to British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chaired the talks.

Russia and China then presented a draft resolution that “seeks to expand the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism to Iraq,” Rycroft said, adding that Britain opposes the measure.

“The UK pointed out that there were many differences between the situation in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Rycroft claims that the reason the U.K. opposed the measure is because the Iraqi government is “fully cooperating” with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

That’s odd logic. If the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with the U.N., then surely they would be open to investigating chemical weapon attacks by Islamic State?

The proposal was suggested during a Security Council discussion “about the battle of Mosul, where Iraqi forces are fighting Daesh group jihadists”.

Reading between the lines, it seems like there’s really only two good reasons why the U.K. would block this proposal:

1. For whatever odd reason, the U.K. does not want investigators to be snooping around the ongoing carnage in Mosul

Or:

2. “Unanimous concern” is a meaningless baloney phrase used to feign outrage about atrocities in non-western countries

We suppose a third possibility is that “someone else” has been using chemical weapons in Mosul.

At any rate, Russia and China just caught the West in a big, embarrassing and shameful lie — and anyone who’s paying attention can see the double-standards and hypocrisy.

This is just the latest diplomatic team victory for Beijing and Moscow. Expect many more.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 5 Comments

SIGAR Report Notes US Failures in Afghanistan

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 23.03.2017

A report of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), especially prepared for the US Congress and the Trump administration, finds what should be called a magnanimous failure of the US in achieving any of its major objectives in Afghanistan even after spending almost 16 years in the country. Ironic though it may sound, this report, along with its list of grave threats that the US needs to tackle, endorses the war as, what Trump himself has called, totally “disastrous” for the US. While the actual intention behind the preparation of this report seems to be to impress upon the president and the Congress to sanction more funds, commit more US troops and continue the rehabilitation programme (read: Trump has vowed to end the programme), it ends up enlisting the US’ multiple failures in Afghanistan, ranging from eliminating the Taliban completely to restoring even a semblance of peace and establishing a strong security force in the war torn country. Hence, the question: will commitment of more resources (funds and troops) to Afghanistan make any difference, especially when the proposed increase is nothing compared to what the US had committed and continued to utilize for years after it invaded Afghanistan in 2001?

It is worth recalling that since 2001, around 2250 US military personnel have died and over 20,000 wounded in Afghanistan and the war is not over—yet. Apart from it, as the report notes, the US has spent more money in Afghanistan than it collectively spent to reconstruct the whole Europe after the Second World War, marking this the “largest expenditure to rebuild a single country in our (US) nation’s history.” Given the scale of the loss, it cannot be gainsaid that it is also the greatest failure the US has suffered ever since. And as the report highlights, “after 15 years the task is incomplete.”

Afghanistan, for the US, remains a “high risk” territory—something that warrants, the US policy makers think, a long-term military presence. Despite spending a whopping US$70 billion on establishing Afghan security forces—almost half of the reconstruction budget going to this particular sector of national reconstruction— the report finds that Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) remain acutely incapable of tackling the war on their own.

While the report places the onus of responsibility on Afghan forces for ceding territory to the Taliban, the fact remains that the US forces have not left the country either and remain militarily engaged.

According to the US-Afghanistan Bi-Lateral Security Agreement (BSA), the very purpose of retaining a significant strength of US troops and military personnel is to “enhance the ability of Afghanistan to deter internal and external threats against its sovereignty.”

However, despite the fact that two years have passed since the agreement was signed, no major progress has been seen in terms of the Afghan forces’ ability to recover territory from the Taliban. On the contrary, as the SIGAR report notes, “approximately 63.4% of the country’s districts are under Afghan government control or influence as of August 28, 2016, a decrease from the 70.5% reported as of January 29, 2016.”

What this indicates is that the US has been unable to achieve, so far, its publicly stated objectives. According to the SIGAR report, the other “high risk” areas include corruption, sustainability, on-budget support, counter-narcotics, contract management, oversight, strategy and planning.

Curiously enough, SIGAR does not mention the rising threat of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and the threat it is posing to the regions surrounding this country. The regions surrounding Afghanistan include Central Asia, South Asia and China.

Were the Islamic State to be allowed, by not taking action against it, to spread in Afghanistan and be able to set foothold in this region, it will spread utter devastation—something that will directly serve the US interest against Russia and China. Not only will it jeopardize China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ project but will also cause a manifold increase in the threats of ISIS finding support in China’s Xinjiang province and in Central Asia states i.e., Russia’s “under belly.”

No wonder, the US doesn’t see ISIS as a “real threat” to their interests in Afghanistan because it is not, as yet, posing any direct threat. For the US, the primary threat remains the Taliban and the imperative of silencing their movement remains the primary objective.

It is for this reason that both China and Russia have found a justifiable reason in establishing contacts both with the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to prevent ISIS from gaining foothold in Afghanistan. While China has already started to conduct counter-terror operations in co-operation with Kabul, Russia is equally setting itself up to lead the peace process by holding a global peace conference on Afghanistan in Moscow.

What are Trump’s options for an un-winnable war?

Given the dark scenario depicted in the report, it seems that the US military is deeply interested in raising troop levels in Afghanistan. But the question is: will sending more troops do any good when 16 years of war have led only to deterioration? What it will do is intensify the war with the Taliban and provide ISIS a ready-made scenario to gain strength.

It is obvious that the US cannot win the war against the Taliban. As a matter of fact, the question of actually winning the war has lost whatever significance it previously had. Therefore, the new question that must be raised and duly addressed is how to prevent Afghanistan from becoming another Levant?

It is again self-evident that ISIS doesn’t figure as a threat in the US officials’ calculation. Therefore, China and Russia must step up their efforts and help negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban. Pakistan’s role is crucial in this regard and fortunately enough, both Russia and China are on good terms with Afghanistan’s immediate and most important neighbour.

Therefore, the best option for the US/the Trump administration is to engage with countries that can actually pave the way for settlement. On the contrary, were the US to continue to walk the lonely path in Afghanistan, it will continue to progressively lose space and momentum to China-Pakistan-Russia nexus just as it lost space and advantage in Syria after Russia started its own military campaign in September 2015. As such, with Russia and China willing to facilitate a peace settlement, the US needs to tap into this opportunity and turn the “disastrous war” into a meaningful settlement.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hong Kong: Anglo-America’s Struggling Foothold in China

By Joseph Thomas – New Eastern Outlook – March 22, 2017 

Prominent American propagandist Howard French recently published a lengthy editorial in the Guardian titled, “Is it too late to save Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian grasp?,” in which he attempts to buttress an otherwise categorically false narrative surrounding an alleged indigenous struggle for democracy and independence within Hong Kong.

French attempts to hold China accountable for backtracking on an agreement made with Britain over the return of its own territory taken from it by force in 1841. He also attempts to portray Beijing’s crackdown on US-UK subversion in Hong Kong as “authoritarian,” never making mention of the extensive funding and meddling both the United States and the United Kingdom are engaged in within Chinese territory.

The article documents only one side of the so-called “independence” movement in Hong Kong, sidestepping any critical analysis of the colonial background of the ongoing political crisis or the neo-colonial aspects that shape current events even now.

The lengthy piece was paid for by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a Washington D.C.-based front that collaborates with the New York Times, PBS, NPR, Time Magazine and other mainstays of US propaganda. These are the same media outlets that helped sell the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as US-led attacks on Libya and US meddling in Syria beginning in 2011. By supporting French’s work, they now help sell to the public a narrative that undermines Chinese sovereignty an ocean away from American shores.

The entire editorial, its contents, author and the special interests that paid for it as well as its placement in the Guardian, represent a continued and concerted effort to maintain an Anglo-American foothold in Hong Kong, part of the last vestiges of Western hegemony within Chinese territory.

The Truth About Hong Kong 

Had Howard French penned an honest account of Hong Kong’s recent political crisis, he would have included the extensive, some may say exclusive, control the United States and the United Kingdom exercised over an otherwise fictitious and impossible pro-independence movement.  Quite literally every leader of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” is either directly funded and directed by the US and/or UK government, or possesses membership within an organisation, institution or front funded by Anglo-American money.

The notion that a teen-aged Joshua Wong was single-handedly defying Beijing is preposterous even at face value. He was but one cog of a much larger, well-documented foreign-funded machine aimed at stirring up conflict within Hong Kong, undermine Beijing’s control of the territory and infect Chinese society as a whole with notions of Western-style “democracy.”

Just months before the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution,” one of its leaders, Martin Lee, was literally in Washington D.C., before members of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), pleading for material and political support for upcoming demonstrations. Toward the end of that same year, and despite NED denying Lee was a protest leader, Lee would find himself in the streets of Hong Kong leading the protests from the front shoulder-to-shoulder with Benny Tai and Joshua Wong.

Ironically, after the protests diminished and were finally pushed off the streets by both local police and impatient residents, Lee, Tai and Wong would be invited to Washington D.C. for a special event organised by NED subsidiary, Freedom House, dubbed, “Three Hong Kong Heroes.” The three protest leaders, having attempted to shake off accusations of being Washington puppets, or even protest leaders altogether, would take to the stage with yellow umbrellas in hand.

Howard French, and others attempting to persuade Western audiences of their version of events in Hong Kong omit these critical facts regarding the foreign-funded and directed nature of the “pro-independence” movement. They do so intentionally, with French himself being a 2011 Open Society fellow, Open Society being one of several fronts the US has channelled money through in support of subversion in Hong Kong.

In reality, there is nothing “pro-independence” about the movement in Hong Kong. It is simply the latest in a centuries-long attempt by Western powers to project geopolitical hegemony into Asia and more specifically, upon China itself.

French’s lengthy lament regarding China’s “authoritarianism” captures what may possibly be frustration that Washington and London’s tricks no longer work, and the more “Umbrella Revolutions” they attempt to organise against Beijing, the more familiar the Chinese public will be with them and subsequently, the more determined they will become to frustrate them.

Additionally, China’s influence over Hong Kong and even across Asia as a whole, is stronger, more sustainable and continuously expanding versus waning Western influence. Spectacular political stunts like the “Umbrella Revolution” attempt to leverage global public opinion over which the US media still maintains considerable influence, but ultimately such strategies have been confounded by Beijing and are, in the long-term, unsustainable.

Hong Kong represents a past, strong bastion of Western colonial power, now struggling to maintain itself even as a minor regional foothold. Despite the efforts of manipulators like Howard French and media platforms that lend themselves to his disingenuous narrative, footholds like Hong Kong will continue to diminish until the last remnants of the West’s colonial past are all but swept from modern geopolitics and permanently assigned to the pages of history.

March 23, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a 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