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Kristen Iversen – Full Body Burden – Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats

argusfest – June 20, 2012

This talk was filmed at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado on June, 19, 2012.

Kristen Iversen shared excerpts from her new book “Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats”.

Here are some quotes about her book…

“In this powerful work of research and personal testimony, Iversen chronicles the story of America’s willfully blinkered relationship to the nuclear weapons industry . . . masterful use of the present tense, conveying tremendous suspense and impressive control of the material.” Publishers Weekly starred review

“Superbly crafted tale of Cold War America’s dark underside . . . exquisitely researched.” Kirkus starred review

“Iversen has crafted a chilling, brilliantly written cautionary tale about the dangers of blind trust . . . Full Body Burden is both an engrossing memoir and a powerful piece of investigative journalism.” Bookpage

“Full Body Burden is one of the most important stories of the nuclear era—as personal and powerful as Silkwood, told with the suspense and narrative drive of The Hot Zone. With unflinching honesty, Kristen Iversen has written an intimate and deeply human memoir that shows why we should all be concerned about nuclear safety, and the dangers of ignoring science in the name of national security. Rocky Flats needs to be part of the same nuclear discussion as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. So does Full Body Burden. It’s an essential and unforgettable book that should be talked about in schools and book clubs, online and in the White House.
–REBECCA SKLOOT, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“This terrifyingly brilliant book – as perfectly crafted and meticulously assembled as the nuclear bomb triggers that lie at its core – is a savage indictment of the American strategic weapons industry, both haunting in its power, and yet wonderfully, charmingly human as a memoir of growing up in the Atomic Age.”
–SIMON WINCHESTER, author of The Professor and the Madman and Atlantic

“News stories come and go. It takes a book of this exceptional caliber to focus our attention and marshal our collective commitment to preventing future nuclear horrors.”
–Booklist

Her website is: http://www.kristeniversen.com/

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, Video | | Leave a comment

The Tip of the Radiation Disaster Iceberg

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | August 31, 2018

The World Nuclear Association says its goal is “to increase global support for nuclear energy” and it repeatedly claims on its website: “There have only been three major accidents across 16,000 cumulative reactor-years of operation in 32 countries.” The WNA and other nuclear power supporters acknowledge Three Mile Island in 1979 (US), Chernobyl in 1986 (USSR), and Fukushima in 2011 (Japan) as “major” disasters. ¶ But claiming that these radiation gushers were the worst ignores the frightening series of large-scale disasters that have been caused by uranium mining, reactors, nuclear weapons, and radioactive waste. Some of the world’s other major accidental radiation releases indicate that the Big Three are just the tip of the iceberg.

CHALK RIVER (Ontario), Dec. 2, 1952: The first major commercial reactor disaster occurred at this Canadian reactor on the Ottawa River when it caused a loss-of-coolant, a hydrogen explosion and a meltdown, releasing 100,000 curies of radioactivity to the air. In comparison, the official government position is that Three Mile Island released about 15 curies, although radiation monitors failed or went off-scale.

ROCKY FLATS (Colorado), Sept. 11, 1957: This Cold War factory produced plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons 16 miles from Denver. It caused 30 to 44 pounds of breathable plutonium-239 and plutonium-240 to catch fire in what would come to be known as the second largest industrial fire in US history. Filters used to trap the plutonium were destroyed and it escaped through chimneys, contaminating parts of Denver. Nothing was done to warn or protect downwind residents.

WINDSCALE/SELLAFIELD (Britain), Oct. 7, 1957: The worst of many fires burned through one reactor igniting three tons of uranium and dispersed radionuclides over parts of England and northern Europe. The site was hastily renamed Sellafield. Another large radiation leak occurs in 1981and leukemia rates soared to triple the national average.

KYSHTYM/CHELYABINSK-65 (Russia), Sept. 29, 1957: A tank holding 70 to 80 metric tons of highly radioactive liquid waste exploded, contaminating an estimated 250,000 people, and permanently depopulating 30 towns which were leveled and removed from Russian maps. Covered up by Moscow (and the CIA) until 1989, Russia finally revealed that 20 million curies of long-lived isotopes like cesium were released, and the release was later declared a Level 6 disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The long covered-up explosion contaminated up to 10,000 square miles making it the third- or 4th-most serious radiation accident ever recorded.

SANTA SUSANA (Simi Valley, Calif.), July 12, 1959: The meltdown of the Sodium Reactor Experiment just outside Los Angeles caused “the third largest release of iodine-131 in the history of nuclear power,” according to Arjun Makhajani, President of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research. Released radioactive materials were never authoritatively measured because “the monitors went clear off the scale,” according to an employee. The accident was kept secret for 20 years.

CHURCH ROCK (New Mexico), July 16, 1979: Ninety-three million gallons of liquid uranium mine wastes and 1,000 tons of solid wastes spilled onto the Navajo Nation and into Little Puerco River, and nuclear officials called it “the worst incident of radiation contamination in the history of the United States.” The Little Puerco feeds the Little Colorado River, which drains to the Colorado River, which feeds Lake Mead—a source of drinking water for Los Angeles.

TOMSK-7 (Russia), April 7, 1993: In “the worst radiation disaster since Chernobyl,” Russian and foreign experts said a tank of radioactive waste exploded at the Tomsk nuclear weapons complex  and that wind blew its plume of radiation  toward the Yenisei River and 11 Siberian villages, none of which were evacuated.

MONJU (Japan), Dec. 8, 1995: This sodium-cooled “breeder reactor” caused a fire and a large leak of sodium coolant into the Pacific. Liquid sodium coolant catches fire on contact with air and explodes on contact with water. Costly efforts to engineer commercial models have failed. Japan’s Monju experiment was halted in 2018 after over 24 years of false starts, accidents and cover-ups.

TOKAI-MURA (Japan), Sept. 30, 1999: A uranium “criticality” which is an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction caused a “neutron burst” that killed three workers and dispersed neutron radiation throughout the densely populated urban area surrounding the factory.

Not to be slighted, deliberate contamination has also been enormous: Five metric tons of plutonium was dispersed over the earth by nuclear bomb testing, and other nuclear weapons processes; Over 210 billion gallons of radioactive liquids were poured into the ground at the Hanford reactor complex in Washington State; and 16 billion gallons of liquid waste holding 70,000 curies of radioactivity were injected directly into Idaho’s Snake River Aquifer at the Idaho National Lab.

Sources. 

Nuclear Roulette: The Truth About the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, by Gar Smith (Chelsea Green, 2012)

Mad Science: The Nuclear Power Experiment, by  Joseph Mangano (OR Books 2012)

In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age, by Stephanie Cooke (Bloomsbury, 2009)

Criticality Accident at Tokai-mura, by Jinzaburo Takagi (Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, 2000)

Nuclear Wastelands: A Global Guide to Nuclear Weapons Production & Its Health & Environmental Effects, by Arjun Makhijani, et al (MIT Press, 1995)

The Nuclear Power Deception, by Arjun Makhijani & Scott Saleska (Apex Press, 1999)

Nuclear Madness, Revised, by Helen Caldicot (Norton, 1995).

Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age, by Catherine Caufield  (Harper & Row, 1989).

Greenpeace Book of the Nuclear Age, by John May (Pantheon, 1989).

Deadly Defense: Military Radioactive Landfills, edited by Dana Coyle, et al (Radioactive Waste Campaign 1988)

No Nukes, by Anna Gyorgy (South End Press, 1979).

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

August 31, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , | 14 Comments

DPRK Slams Extension of US-Japan Nuclear Pact as US Double Standard – Report

Sputnik – 05.08.2018

North Korea denounced the extension of the US-Japanese atomic energy agreement, accusing Tokyo of undertaking activities allegedly aimed at nuclear weaponization and blaming the United States of double standards, local media reported on Sunday.

The Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) released a white paper on Saturday criticizing the 1988 US-Japanese nuclear pact, which was extended last month, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

According to the white paper, Japan has been conducting nuclear research since long ago, allegedly starting to push forward the A-bomb development in 1930s.

The paper also suggested that out of 518 tonnes of plutonium stockpiled around the world so far, 47 tonnes are stored by Japan.

The document accused the United States of a double-standard approach to treat North Korea and Japan differently on nuclear issues, calling on Washington to “judge the situation from a fair stand” if it wanted denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In July, the United States and Japan extended a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, which granted Japan the right to extract plutonium, reprocess spent fuel and enrich uranium on the condition that it was not used to build nuclear weapons.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , | 1 Comment

UK Parliament’s Committee Supports Nuclear Waste Disposal Under National Parks

Sputnik – 31.07.2018

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee of the UK House of Commons supported the government’s proposal to permanently bury highly radioactive nuclear waste under national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), the committee said in a report on Tuesday.

“We decided against adding an exclusionary criterion for National Parks and AONBs as in our view it is right for safety matters to prevail over environmental concerns in this case. Although we agree that major developments should not be allowed in designated areas except under exceptional circumstances,” the report’s summary read.

The committee also noted that the existing legislation and the NPS had sufficient safeguards against potential environmental damage to national parks and AONBs.

“We support the Government’s view that it is conceivable for a GDI to be designed in a way that would be acceptable to communities, preserve the socioeconomic benefits that National Parks and AONBs currently bring them and avoid any intrusive surface facility in conservation areas,” the report added.

On January 25, the UK government presented to the parliament its draft National Policy Statement (NPS) for Geological Disposal Infrastructure (GDI). The GDI is a facility made of specially-engineered underground vaults and tunnels located between 200 and 1,000 meters (124 and 621 miles) and designed to host the higher activity radioactive waste that cannot be stored at existing surface facilities on a permanent basis.

In 2013, the UK government failed to implement its plans on building an underground storage dump for nuclear waste, when the Cumbria County Council voted against the continuation of the preliminary work.

July 31, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

HuffPost Blames Populists And Russia For European Renewable Policy Failures

By Eric Worrall | Watts Up With That? | June 26, 2018

The alleged Russian conspiracy which is supposed to be helping populists win elections worldwide has now been blamed for a fall in EU nation state support for European renewable energy policies.

How A Populist Europe In Thrall To Russia Threatens Climate Change Action

“We are in a really dangerous moment.”

By Arthur Neslen
26/06/2018 7:45 PM AEST

As a growing number of European countries tip toward the far right politically, attempts to curb climate change are coming under pressure. The region’s race to cut planet-warming greenhouse gases is generating friction, and some Members of European Parliament and experts point the finger of blame at Russian big energy interests and populist governments in thrall to them.

This month, a bid to raise the European Union’s supply of renewable energy to 35 percent of the electricity mix by 2030 was stymied by a bloc of EU states led by populist governments in the Visegrad countries ― Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia ― even though it had the support of the European Parliament and European Commission.

The same bloc of countries helped whittle down proposals for a binding 40 percent energy conservation target, despite signs of accelerating climate change from the Antarctic to the African savannah.

“We see a pattern of populist governments clearly opposing ambitious climate and energy regulations, which is in line with the primary Russian economic interest: exporting fossil fuels and nuclear technology,” Benedek Jávor, the vice-chair of the European parliament’s environment committee and a Hungarian Green MEP, told HuffPost.

Russia supplies more than a third of Europe’s gas but this could be reduced to nothing by an ambitious energy saving target, according to analyses by several think tanks and consultancies.

Hungary, for example, which is becoming an increasingly authoritarian government under far-right leader Viktor Orbán, is a valued advocate for Russian gas infrastructure and is also building a Russian-financed €10 billion ($11.5 billion) nuclear reactor outside Budapest.

Russia’s energy agenda plays to a wider audience than extreme nationalists. Gas and nuclear are both seen as relatively lower carbon options than coal, which could “bridge” the path to a mid-century world powered solely by renewables. However, some climate studies suggest that, where gas is concerned, the bridge could also burn the chances of limiting global warming to no more than a 2 C temperature rise above pre-Industrial levels ― the target the majority of scientists say cannot be exceeded if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Several academic papers have found that investment in gas could crowd out desperately needed funds for renewable energy while providing few emissions-cutting benefits.

Full article: https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/europe-populism-russia-climate-action_us_5b30b86fe4b0321a01d33adf

In my opinion HuffPost are making it up as they go. If renewable energy was viable, gas wouldn’t have an opportunity to “crowd out” renewable investment, because renewable investment would make sense on its own terms.

As for Huffpost’s evidence free allegation that Russia is pushing populism to undermine the green agenda, in my opinion it would make far more sense for the Russian government to support the green agenda – to support anti-fracking, anti-nuclear and renewable energy advocacy movements.

More fracking in Europe would undermine Russian gas sales. A Nuclear power renaissance in Europe would undermine Russian gas sales. Useless green energy “investments” not so much.

Of course I’m not suggesting Russia is doing anything of the sort. Why risk scandal and exposure, when liberal green European politicians are doing everything in their power to wreck European energy independence without outside help?

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Nuclear Power, Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

Nuclear Power Won’t Survive Without A Government Handout

By Maggie Koerth-Baker | FiveThirtyEight | June 14, 2018

Once upon a time, if you were an American who didn’t like nuclear energy, you had to stage sit-ins and marches and chain yourself to various inanimate objects in hopes of closing the nation’s nuclear power plants. Today … all you have to do is sit back and wait.

There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they’re responsible for producing about 20 percent of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren’t being built. And the ones still operational can’t compete with other sources of power on price. Just last week, several outlets reported on a leaked memo detailing a proposed Trump administration plan directing electric utilities to buy more from nuclear generators and coal plants in an effort to prop up the two struggling industries. The proposal is likely to butt up against political and legal opposition, even from within the electrical industry, in part because it would involve invoking Cold War-era emergency powers that constitute an unprecedented level of federal intervention in electricity markets. But without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion.

“Is [nuclear power] dying under its own weight? Yeah, probably,” said Granger Morgan, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Morgan isn’t pleased by this situation. He sees nuclear energy as a crucial part of our ability to reduce the risks of climate change because it is our single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity. Morgan has researched what the U.S. could do to get nuclear energy back on track, but all he’s come up with is bad news (or good news, depending on your point of view).

The age of the nuclear fleet is partly to blame. That’s not because America’s nuclear reactors are falling apart — they’re regularly inspected, and almost all of them have now gone through the process of renewing their original 40-year operating licenses for 20 more years, said David McIntyre, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A few, including the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida, have even put in for a second round of renewals that could give them the ability to operate through their 80th birthdays.

Instead, it’s the cost of upkeep that’s prohibitive. Things do fall apart — especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren’t especially profitable. Historically, nuclear power plants were expensive to build but could produce electricity more cheaply than fossil fuels, making them a favored source of low-cost electricity. That changed with the fracking boom, Morgan told me. “Natural gas from fracking has gotten so cheap, [nuclear plants] aren’t as high up in the dispatch stack,” he said, referring to the order of resources utilities choose to buy electricity from. “So many of them are now not very attractive economically.”

Meanwhile, new nuclear power plants are looking even less fetching. Since 1996, only one plant has opened in the U.S. — Tennessee’s Watts Bar Unit 2 in 2016. At least 10 other reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade. Morgan and other researchers are studying the economic feasibility of investment in newer kinds of nuclear power plants — including different ways of designing the mechanical systems of a reactor and building reactors that are smaller and could be put together on an assembly line. Currently, reactors must be custom-built to each site. Their research showed that new designs are unlikely to be commercially viable in time to seriously address climate change. And in a new study that has not yet been published, they found that the domestic U.S. market for nuclear power isn’t robust enough to justify the investments necessary to build a modular reactor industry.

Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025. Those closures aren’t set in stone, however. While President Trump’s plan to tell utilities that they must buy nuclear power has received criticism as being an overreach of federal powers, states have offered subsidies to keep some nuclear power plants in business — and companies like Exelon, which owns 22 nuclear reactors across the country, have been happy to accept them. “Exelon informed us that they were going to close a couple plants in Illinois,” McIntyre said. “And then the legislature gave them subsidies and they said, ‘Never mind, we’ll stay open.’”

So intervention can work to keep nuclear afloat. But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can’t do without the handouts.

June 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

The California – New Mexico Nuclear Connection

By James Heddle | CounterPunch | June 7, 2018

Target: ‘Nuclear Alley,’ New Mexico

In the past few weeks – un-reported in the scandal/crisis-pre-occupied American main stream media – New Mexico has become the epicenter of an on-going national controversy: how to responsibly manage the tons of radioactive waste accumulated at all the nuclear energy reactors around the country so far in the Nuclear Age.

Why, New Mexicans and others around the country are asking, has this region suddenly become the potential target destination for all of America’s radioactive waste?

Will the Shimkus Bill ‘Bring Death to New Mexico’?

New Mexico cattle rancher Ed Hughs is one of the many around that state and the country who think so.

Having, with his neighbors, just successfully fought off a proposed deep bore hole nuclear waste depository next to his ranch in Quey County, NM, Hughs told a recent Roswell, New Mexico NRC meeting to rousing applause,

“There are a lot of questions that have not been answered. One of the questions, how do you retrieve if there are accidents? How do you monitor? How do you repair? Those questions have not been answered. So I guess in summing up I want to say that the Holtec and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, and I agree with an earlier statement that, you know, you aren’t bad people in the sense that you are trying to do us harm, but you are making a huge mistake…. You are in fact proposing to bring death to New Mexico.”

Yucca Redux and the ‘Fukushima Freeway’

The Congressional trigger to this rising national controversy is the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 2018, HR 3053, known as the Shimkus Bill, which recently passed the House on its way to the Senate.

It calls for restarting the failed Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada, and establishing a system of Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) sites for radioactive waste around the country until Yucca is operational.

First on the list of possible ‘temporary’ CIS nuke dumps is a site proposed by Holtec International and the local Eddy-Lea Alliance just outside Hobbs, New Mexico. It’s just over the border from Andrews, Co., Texas – where another high level nuke waste dump is also being proposed by Waste Control Specialists, which already operates a controversial toxic materials dump in the area.

In early may, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a series of five so-called ‘scoping’ meeting around New Mexico to take public comments on the Holtec/Eddy-Lea site proposal.

Proponents of the dump tout it as a regional economic boon and a patriotic service to the nation.

Opponents see it as a public health, environmental and economic disaster waiting to happen that could ruin the region’s thriving dairy ranching, pecan growing and oil drilling industries.

Planned to eventually hold more metric tons of waste than Yucca Mtn. itself will be designed for, the Hobbs site could well become – if the Yucca site never gets built – America’s de facto national dump site, and make the region a national ‘nuclear sacrifice area.’

The region targeted for the proposed ‘interim’ radioactive waste storage sites is already known to the region’s population as ‘nuclear alley.’

Welcome to Nuclear Alley

Nuclear Alley is on the edge of one of the world’s richest and – currently on pace to be – most productive petroleum patches: the Permian Basin, which straddles the New Mexico-Texas border.

We traveled there recently for our forthcoming documentary series on the shutdown and decommissioning of California’s last remaining nuclear energy plants at San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. We also wanted to express our support of the groups resisting the ill-conceived consolidated interim storage agenda.

Along with the coming cascade of waste from other scheduled nuclear power reactor shutdowns around the country, California’s radioactive waste could well be headed for New Mexico… if the proposed Holtec and WCS ‘Consolidated Interim Storage’ sites are licensed by the industry-captured NRC.

Oil Patch Central

To get to this region we flew into Midland, Texas. The thriving city is a prime beneficiary of the area’s present oil- and gas-fueled economic boom. As we got off the plane, we entered a bustling airport space dominated by a battery of animated electronic screens showing glitzy ads – not for consumer goods – but for the region’s thriving, readily available, fracking and oil drilling services and products.

From Midland we headed to Eunice, New Mexico, an epicenter of New Mexico’s Nuclear Alley. To get there, we drove through endlessly flat countryside dotted every few yards stretching to the horizon with temporarily dormant or busily functioning oil pumps.

Rose Gardner is a feisty Hispanic grandmother and co-founder of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies organization in opposition to the Holtec dump.  In keeping with her name, she runs a flower shop on the Main Street of Eunice.

The little town’s local landscape is dominated by the presence, just five minutes up the highway, of Waste Control Specialists’ toxic waste materials site – where WCS is proposing adding a new CIS ‘parking lot’ nuclear dumpsite.

Just next-door to WCS is the Urenco uranium enrichment facility, which supplies much of the fuel for the country’s nuclear power reactors.  [A January, 2018 NRC Inspection Report noted both a security violation and the loss of criticality controls at this Urenco plant.]

Both proposed sites are about 40 miles from the now infamous Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), where more than 171,000 waste containers are stored in salt caverns 2,100 feet underground.

Touted as the demonstration ‘Flagship’ model for the feasibility of long-term deep geological radioactive storage facilities for nuclear weapons waste, and advertised to last for thousands of years, WIPP experienced underground fires and explosions on February 14, 2014, after only 15 years of operation.

The disaster caused a major radiation release of plutonium and americium that contaminated at least 22 workers. The release was tracked by monitors and acknowledged by DOE as far away as 26 miles.

Reports the LA Times “the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.”

But, says the Southwest Research and Information Center’s Dan Hancock, “There is no question the Energy Department has downplayed the significance of the accident.”

Diagnosed as being caused by the use of the use of ‘organic cat litter’ in the storage barrels, the WIPP disaster was dubbed a ‘comedy of errors’ by commentators around the world. Not to worry. Sustaining such huge potential costs (that are charged to the state of New Mexico) WIPP is now again accepting waste – presumably packed with the right brand of inorganic kitty litter.

Cui Bono?

Guiding us on a tour of the local Eunice roadside attractions, Rose showed us a sprawling, sun-baked trailer park, on land owned by a local politician. The bleak dusty field is home for many of the workers at the town’s two dominant facilities.

If WCS succeeds in getting an NRC license for a CIS site here, the workers’ ranks will expand, and so will the trailer park owner’s profits. That’s one of the ‘economic benefits,’ Rose noted to us wryly, that are loudly touted by the region’s CIS advocates.

“This crap that could kill us!”

Speaking at the NRC’s first regional meeting in Roswell, Gardner told the standing-room-only crowd,

This isn’t the right thing to do. It’s an injustice to this state, to this community…. Most of the people in this area are like me, Brown-skinned or darker. We’re already poor. We don’t have insurance. We speak another language and we’re at least 50 percent here. And that’s an environmental injustice because they’re basically saying it’s okay… because those people aren’t going to speak up, because they can get run over just like they’ve been run over for the last several hundred years.

I’m here to tell Holtec, ‘Hell No, we don’t want it!’ I am so sick and tired of all these big companies coming into New Mexico or close to my town in Eunice, wanting to give us all this crap. This crap that could kill us!

New Mexico as ‘National Sacrifice Area?’

Leona Morgan, a fiery young Diné [Navajo] community organizer and co-founder of  New Mexico’s Nuclear Issues Study Group, expands on Rose’s points.

“Starting with uranium mining and milling,” she says, “to modern weapons production, uranium enrichment, and storage of low-level and transuranic wastes, New Mexico has been targeted as a national sacrifice zone for too long,”

“New Mexico is the birthplace of nuclear colonialism,” Morgan points out. “We have been impacted by just about every step in the nuclear fuel chain! We did not generate this waste from nuclear reactors that is intended to come here. So why should we take it? As a state with many indigenous nations and people of color, and being at the tail end of several measures of quality of life, it is environmental racism at its core to keep dumping on New Mexico. And it’s time to stop!”

Speaking to the NRC meeting in Hobbs, New Mexico, Morgan gave a greeting in her native language and went on to remind the group that they were assembling on land originally stolen from the Mescalero Apache and Comanche tribes. “The things I want to talk about,” she said, “have to do with indigenous rights across the nation.“

“How many of you from the NRC or any of the regulating Agencies are aware,” she asked, “of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Or, for that matter, any of the elected officials here, how many of you know about this document called the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples passed in 2008?”

She scanned the crowd.

“Okay, let the record show no hands going up. How many of you are aware of the Organization of American States’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?“

She glanced around at the blank official faces.

“Okay, again, nobody’s hands went up. This was passed in 2016 and so I’d like to read directly from this Declaration.”

She went on to quote language from the Declarations’ Articles declaring that

Article 19: Indigenous peoples are entitled to be protected against the introduction of abandonment, dispersion, transit, indiscriminate use or deposit of any harmful substance that could negatively affect indigenous communities’ lands, territories, and resources.

And that

Article 22: The indigenous law and legal systems shall be recognized and respected by the national, regional, and international legal systems

“The reason I’m reading this,” she told the meeting, “is because it cites that the Federal Government needs to recognize tribal law.”

“Specifically with my tribe, the Navajo nation, we have a law against the transport of radioactive materials through our lands.

“So, if this transport should occur, it’s directly violating our tribe’s laws that were put in place because of all the history and the health impacts of the horrendous things that the United States did, not just going back to the genocide of our people but more recently, the exploitation of uranium on our lands.

“And so we have a law against uranium mining and we have a law against transport because we’ve already suffered the impacts from these industries for United States imperialism and capitalism. And so that did not benefit our people. We wrote these laws for the protection of our future generations, however, they are not being respected here.”

Based on indigenous historical experience, it would be a pleasant surprise if such legal provisions were ruled to be within the scope of the NRC’s consideration of the Eddy-Lea/Holtec license application for their proposed project.

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

The Eddy-Lea Alliance Project’s point man and lead salesman is John Heaton, a former member of the NM state legislature and current Chairman of the Alliance.

The Alliance is a limited liability corporation made up of 8 people appointed by the Councils of Hobbs, Lea, Eddy and Carlsbad counties. According to its promotional material it was “Formed Under the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) for Economic Development Purposes in 2006 & to Respond to Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) Proposal from DOE.”

Heaton qualifies as what Eric Hoffer called a ‘True Believer’ in his 1951 best seller of that title. Heaton’s energetic sales-pitch is persuasive… at least to the uninformed.

As Heaton tells it, seeing opportunity in a recommendation by Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’ Nuclear Future for creation of ‘consent-based’ Centralized Interim Storage sites around the country, the Alliance believed it had secured what Heaton calls ‘an ideal site.’ It’s located 35 miles outside the town of Hobbs, and about equidistant from the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) outside Carlsbad.

Although ‘consent-based siting’ was recommended by Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission, the DOE has not finalized rules for how a state or community gives or denies consent. Already some cities have forced construction of highway bypasses around their metropolitan jurisdictions.

New Mexico’s ‘High Nuclear IQ’ vs. ‘Fear Mongering’

Heaton describes the proposed Eddy-Lea site as ‘dry’ and ‘seismically stable.’  In addition he says, because of all the existing neighboring facilities in Nuclear Alley, “we have what I call an area of the country with a very high nuclear IQ. The local population understands nuclear materials,” he claims, “and know they can now be handled competently.”

“This is deja vu for us,” an irritated Heaton told the NRC in its Hobbs meeting. “We went through this same thing with WIPP. We went through all the fear mongering. WIPP has shipped more than 12,000 shipments and traveled over 14 million miles. That’s like going to the moon and back 28 times, without a serious accident and absolutely no release.”

However, there are many members of that regional ‘high nuclear IQ population’ Heaton refers to who also remember that – touted as the country’s flagship deep geological nuclear waste repository, designed to remain secure for ten thousand years – WIPP suffered an explosion and release of plutonium in 2014, after a mere15 years of operation.

An ‘Ideal Site’ for Holtec

Having secured their ‘ideal site,’ the Alliance issued an RFP to potential contractors and chose Holtec. “Because,” Heaton says, “they are a great company with a fabulous record [and] have the best, safest, most secure system in the world.”

Joy Russell is a Holtec Vice President and nuclear engineer who is proud, she told us, of being both a West Point graduate and a co-designer of the Holtec transport cask modeled by the scaled-down inflatable replica being toured around the state by opponents as the growing Halt Holtec campaign gathers momentum.

She boasts that her company has been in the radioactive waste storage business for over 30 years, and that “sixty per cent of nuclear plants in the U.S. use Holtec dry storage equipment.”

“We have an impeccable safety record,” Russell told an NRC community meeting in Roswell, NM. “None of our equipment has ever experienced a safety issue, ‘leak,’ as you so call it.

But, I would like to point out,” she told the Roswell auditorium – packed 5-1 with opponents of the proposed project – in a tone dripping with ill-concealed condescension, “spent nuclear fuel is not a liquid, it can’t ‘leak’.”

Opponents cite a number of disquieting facts, which call Heaton and Russell’s confident public relations assertions into question.

Halt Holtec!

A group of New Mexico and Texas organizations, including the Nuclear Waste Study Group, the SEEDS Coalition, and Alliance For Environmental Strategies, started a ‘Halt Holtec’ campaign. They toured an inflated, scaled-down model of the kind of transport cask proposed by Holtec that would carry thousands of shipments of highly radioactive waste shipments through the nation’s towns and metropolitan areas on dilapidated highways, bridges and railway lines for the next 20 years or more.

One significant result of their campaign is that on Monday, May 21, the Albuquerque City Council, in a 4-3 vote, approved what it called a ‘memorial’ against the transportation of nuclear waste through the Albuquerque metropolitan area.

Similar measures by other municipalities and counties along the potential shipment routes around the country are in the works.

Details and additional Cask Tour dates will be posted online at: 
www.facebook.com/HaltHoltec

Websites with more information:
   Here   Here    Here

‘Strange Bedfellows’

The Halt Holtec Campaign has quickly gathered strong momentum surprising both to its organizers, and the Holtec dump proponents, whose claim of ‘wide-spread regional public support’ has been totally debunked by the turnout in opposition to the project. Public statements have so far run 5-1 ‘against’ the proposed site in all five New Mexico NRC meetings.

At the recent series of NRC community meetings, this opposition was strong from a wide cross section of New Mexico and Texas demographic sectors, including Native American Tribes, growers, ranchers, the Jewish and Christian faith communities, and the powerful oil and gas fracking industry.

A regional leader of that booming industry is the Fasken Oil and Ranch company, which has been in business since 1913. Their representative, Jimmy Carlisle, explained his company’s position to the visiting NRC officials.

I work for Fasken Oil and Ranch based in Midland. We are an oil and gas company, but we also are a major landowner in the State of Texas.

We own some 200,000 net acres in the State of Texas. Our largest ranch is a 165,000 acre contiguous ranch just north and west of Midland.

The WCS site definitely comes into play in this discussion. The Holtec side, however, has the same issues … groundwater issues.

On our ranches [we depend on] everything we look at: we look at vegetation, we look at soil characteristics, we look at moisture in the soil, but the thing we watch the closest is the quantity and the quality of our groundwater.

Our company is the first one really in West Texas that made the determination to get off of use of fresh water in our drilling and fracking operations and we started recycling produced water and using brackish water as a result.

So we believe firmly that the freshwater issue is a major significance that has to be addressed.

Stressing that the State Engineer’s Office lacks definitive maps of the ground water aquifer locations in New Mexico, Carlisle told the NRC panel, “We’re not alone in this fight.”

Explaining that it had taken ‘less than two hours to get four letters of opposition from major landowners in West Texas, Carlisle concluded,

Groundwater, folks, is the lifeblood of the ranching business. If you don’t have groundwater you’d just own dirt. Think about that for a second.

The bottom line is we believe that this [Holtec] application and the WCS application need to be withdrawn.

A group letter from oil industry representatives to Holtec warned that Holtec and the Eddy-Lea Alliance would ‘need more money than God’ to compensate them if their project damaged the thriving drilling industry in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin, which is currently on pace to become the world’s most booming region of petroleum production.

“I don’t intend to let this thing run over us.”

Randy Prude, an influential county commissioner from Midland, Texas, told the Roswell NRC meeting that he had spent $2000 of his own money to fly Fasken representative Jimmy Carlisle and other opposition speakers to the event.

“I intend to organize all the ranchers and all the commissioner’s courts and everybody in all the governments in all this whole region,” Commissioner Prude went on.

I will tell you, I am an odd duck, I am a Republican — (Laughter) and this is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, this is an important issue to all of us….

I just cannot tell you the horror that could happen if we ever have an accident. And so I intend to organize all of our governments that are willing to listen….

I am going to get to all the ranchers and all the ranch oil men to contact their commissioners and their mayors and their representatives, house representatives, senators, and so forth, and I don’t intend to let this thing run over us.

The Permeable Permian

The contentions by dump proponents that the Eddy-Lea/Holtec site is ‘dry and seismically stable’ were repeatedly debunked by facts presented by opposing speakers.

Activists visiting the site, despite Heaton’s attempts to stop them, discovered clear signs that it contains a ‘playa,’ where seasonal rain water collects, feeding the ground water deposits and aquifer below.

The region’s most famous tourist attraction – the Carlsbad Cavern – was formed by such a subterranean body of water, the Capitan Reef Aquifer.

“It’s hard to think of a worse place to choose for placing an interim waste site,” consulting geologist Dr. Steve Schafersman told the meeting.

The area is surrounded by aquifers, some close, some far. The sediments and the sedimentary rock are porous and permeable. The thin barrier they claim is on the top is not sufficient. It’s just like the WCS site, which is really no better. So this is not a good place to put a hazardous waste site, especially one for nuclear waste.

There are soluble rocks below the site, limestone and rock salt. There is karst limestone in the area, which is a soluble limestone that develops caverns, the caverns collapse and sinkholes develop.

It is conceivable that a sinkhole would collapse and take down the depository with it, which would be a terrible, colossal tragedy. In addition there is the soluble Salado formation below that.

In West Texas unplugged wells carry fluids to this formation, the salt dissolves, and sinkholes develop. This is a matter of fact.

An Earth-Shaking Announcement of Seismic Significance

Several of the opposition speakers referred to a recently-published, peer-reviewed study in the March 16, 2018 issue of Nature, with the catchy title, ‘Association between localized geohazards in West Texas and human activities, recognized by Sentinel-1A/B satellite radar imagery.

The study by Southern Methodist University geophysicists Jin-Woo Kim and Zhong Lu reported literally earth-shaking findings.

It showed that, in the last two and a half years, large sections of the four Texas counties they studied, spanning a 4000-square-mile area, had shown ‘vertical deformation,’ that is, sunk or uplifted as much as 40 centimeters or nearly 16 inches.

“The ground movement we’re seeing is not normal. The ground doesn’t typically do this without some cause,” said co-author Zhong Lu, a recognized global expert in satellite radar imagery research.

“These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water,” Lu declared.

Co-author Jin-Woo Kim notes that, “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.”

In fracking, liquid is injected into bore holes under pressure, then extracted, causing uplift while the wells are in operation, and subsidence when they are abandoned.

The researchers’ Nature article states,

… the rapid subsidence is likely induced by the freshwater impoundments from the nearby abandoned wells. During our field trip, we observed numerous recent ground fissures…. These growing fissures can allow the rainwater to swiftly flow down to the Salado formation and promote the dissolution of the salt layers. [ Thus causing subsidence. ]

Although their analysis focused on just that one 4000-square-mile area, Kim says, “We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that.”

The area they’ve studied so far lies just adjacent to the two proposed storage sites in New Mexico and Texas.

The Oil Drilling and Fracking Connection – Oil & Nuclear Waste Don’t Mix

Evidence of the links between oil and gas extraction and earth movement are clear. Researching an unprecedented swarm of earthquakes in Oklahoma and Texas, a 2016 Stanford University study published in Science found a direct connection between a quake series in Texas in 2012 and 2013, which included the largest on record, and the high volume injection of wastewater into oil and gas fracking wells that happened between 2005 and 2007. The high pressure forced water into fault zones and triggered the subsequent quakes, the study showed. Read more

One of the people Commissioner Randy Prude flew in to speak at the Roswell meeting was Cody Rogers. “I am an ex-Navy nuke,” he told the NRC. “I have operated nuclear reactors for eight years. I am a huge proponent of nuclear power. I think we need it. We have 99 operating nuclear reactors. We do not have anywhere to dispose of the spent fuel. This is a major, major problem and we have to fix it.

“I know we need a site” Rogers told the group. But the Eddy-Lea/Holtec site, he said emphatically, “is not it.”

“We [the U.S.] are on the cusp of being the world’s largest energy producer, okay. We are going to control oil very soon. We are going to control our own destiny. So West Texas is one of the most valuable places in the world right now, especially in the United States, and, because of this I implore you to look up the study from SMU. West Texas is sinking… fast!

“I know we need a site. This is not it. If this thing sinks and we get something like the WIPP accident, that was never supposed to happen, the environmental impact is forever, and if we lose West Texas oil, natural gas, the people of Roswell, the people of New Mexico, the people of Texas, the United States, we’re done.

”We’re not going back to Saudi Arabia and getting their oil. We need independence and this site is sinking and I truly believe that we need to look at that and study its environmental impact.”

Reputations and Rap Sheets

Opponents stress that entrusting the economic and environmental future of this area to companies with corporate histories like those of Holtec and Waste Control Specialists is a highly risky proposition.

Growth Industry

With aging reactors closing down around the country in an accelerating cascade – and with no ‘national permanent geological repository’ for their accumulated SNF in sight – decommissioning and radwaste storage are on pace to become major growth industries for some time to come.

Holtec’s visionary head Dr. Krishna Singh is positioning his huge company, based in Camden, New Jersey, to dominate both industries, as well as to be a leader in the manufacture of small modular reactors (SMRs), the failing nuclear energy industry’s latest bid for survival.

Back in October 2010, based on the results of a criminal investigation of bribery, conducted by its Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) debarred Holtec International, Inc. for sixty days. And fined it $2 million.

According to a TVA document,

Holtec agreed to pay a $2 million administrative fee and submit to independent monitoring of its operations for one year. The TVA Board’s Audit, Risk, and Regulation Committee and TVA management fully supported the OIG’s recommendation to create a suspension and debarment process and submit Holtec to that process. TVA’s Supply Chain organization and Office of General Counsel worked collaboratively with the OIG to achieve this milestone in TVA history. Why wasn’t the company permanently debarred? A subsequent Department of Justice document seems to suggest that a TVA employee may have been bribed by Holtec to falsify a financial disclosure report. Read more.

Meanwhile, just miles away on the other side of the state border in Texas, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and its new French partner Orano each have their own checkered pasts.

WCS was founded in 1989 as a landfill company by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who controlled it until his death in 2013. During that time, Simmons used his financial muscle and political connections to morph the site into a licensed low level waste dump with some highly questionable maneuvers.

His generous support for then Texas Governor, now Energy Secretary Rick Perry, no doubt eased his path. Critics allege that “Radioactive Rick” Perry appointees at key regulatory agencies bent rules on WCS’s behalf, including the Texas Water Development Board’s altering of maps showing that Simmons’ waste facility is located over part of the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies and supplies drinking and agricultural water for eight western bread basket states. Another water body, the Dockum Aquifer lies nearby as well. Many Texas environmental officials resigned in protest.

For its part, WCS’s new partner Orano, parent company of Orano USA, is a recent reincarnation of the radically reorganized French government-owned struggling reactor maker AREVA, after years of business losses brought it to the brink of bankruptcy.

These are the strange bedfellows hoping to profit from the nuclear energy industry’s decline by making New Mexico’s ‘nuclear alley’ America’s de facto radioactive waste repository for the foreseeable future.

There are several things wrong with this scenario, not the least of which, as noted, is that poor and minority residents make up a large portion of the population in and around ‘Nuclear Alley.’

Until and unless the existing Nuclear Waste Policy Act is changed by currently proposed, but not yet enacted legislation, licensing of these CIS sites will be illegal. This is because the Act requires that a permanent repository is approved before any consolidated interim storage site can be licensed.

If the NRC were to license the sites without a central repository being established, they would likely become in effect the national dump, because utilities would probably stop lobbying for – and lawmakers could be less inclined to authorize funding for – establishing a central repository.

If that happens, thousands of shipments of deadly radioactive waste will be moving daily along rail and truck transportation corridors, through our nation’s population centers, for decades to come.

A Shell Game of Nuclear Russian Roulette on Wheels

Eddy-Lea/Holtec project proponents are fond of citing the transport record claimed by the Navy, which proudly states that it has been shipping both new and used nuclear fuel cross-country by rail for over 60 years without mishap.

However the Navy admits that, “All shipments [are] classified (security) and invoke the Department of Transportation (DOT) National Security Exemption (49CFR173.7b).” It claims that 850 spent fuel containers have been safely shipped from March, 1957 to the present.

However, no radioactive labels and placards are ever used in these boxcar and flatcar shipments, and there is no advance notification given to authorities along the route, so reports of any incidents that may have occurred would also be classified – secret for ‘security reasons.’

Those 850 shipments over 6 decades are far fewer than the estimated 17,000 shipments it would take to move the projected 173,000 metric tons of radioactive SNF from US nuclear plants to the Eddy-Lea/Holtec site across the entire lower 48 states in the coming years.

Government documents show that other details of Navy shipping methods make them significantly different than those anticipated for the Shimkus Bill’s proposed nation-wide rail, highway and barge transport network:

+ Transport has been along only one specific rail route;

+ The Navy uses a different containment system than the Holtec transport cask;

+ Each Navy transport cask holds just 1/10th of what is planned for each Holtec spent fuel canister.

Itemizing Nuclear Transport Risks

Kevin Kamps from the Washington DC-based group Beyond Nuclear traveled to New Mexico to show his organization’s solidarity with the Halt Holtec movement and to share knowledge gained from a professional life spent campaigning for nuclear safety.

His hand-out list of the documented high risks involved in transporting highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel, whether by train, truck, or barge, on rails, roads, or waterways included “high-speed crashes into immovable objects, like bridge abutments, or high-temperature long-duration fires, or long-duration underwater submergence.”

“Intentional attacks,” he warned, “such as by anti-tank missiles or shaped charges, could also breach shipping containers and release their contents into the environment.”

Since Holtec has claimed in its license application that any and all NRC certified canisters can be accommodated at this facility, Kamps explained, not only rail-sized shipping containers must be worried about, but also legal weight limits for the truck casks which would travel on interstate highways throughout the country.

“X-Ray Machines that can’t be Turned Off”

Contrary to Holtec VP Joy Russell’s reassurance that, since spent fuel shipments aren’t liquid, “they can’t leak,” all shipments would emit dangerous gamma and neutron radiation for several yards in every direction, dissipating with distance. Because of the large expense and added weight necessary to provide shielding against these gamma and neutron emissions, the NRC has set ‘allowable’ limits.

“But,” Kamps reminded the meeting, “Allowable does not mean safe. Any exposure to ionizing radioactivity carries a health risk, and these risks accumulate over a lifetime.”

According to NRC guidelines, at six feet away from the container’s exterior surface, a dose rate of 10 millirem per hour is allowed – about one to two chest x-rays’ worth per hour.

At the exterior surface of the container, the allowable dose rate increases dramatically to 200 millirem per hour. That’s 20 to 40 chest x-rays’ worth.

But workers, such as truck drivers, locomotive engineers, inspectors, security guards, and the like, who come in very close physical proximity into the shipping container would be exposed to the highest radiation dose rates.

Even innocent passersby and bystanders in the general public would also be exposed, including those who live close to transport routes exposed to large numbers of shipments going by over time.

Some people, Kamps noted, such as pregnant women, should not be exposed to any radiation dose that can be avoided due to the high risk of harm caused to the fetus in the womb.

He reported that the state of Nevada, based on federal government data, has documented 49 incidents of accidental surface contamination on these highly radioactive waste shipments between the years of 1949 and 1996.

And in France, Areva Corporation has had many hundreds of externally contaminated shipments, a full one-quarter to one-third of all shipments bound for the La Hague reprocessing facility. On average, these French contamination incidents emitted 500 times the allowable radiation dose rates. One even emitted 3,300 times the allowable dose rate.

De Facto National Dump in Disguise?

But, perhaps the greatest danger to be considered by New Mexicans, Kamps, warned, is the “question of temporary versus permanent.”

This is the danger, Kemps says, of so-called centralized or consolidated interim storage facilities becoming actually de facto permanent surface storage parking lot dumps.

Holtec-ELEA have applied for a permit to NRC to store irradiated nuclear fuel here for 40 years. But this time period could, as they admit, be extended to 120 years.

But, Kamps’ research shows that, on page 12 of a January 27th, 2017 report that Holtec prepared and submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Andrew Griffith over company Vice President Joy Russell’s signature, Holtec’s response to the DOE request for proposal on centralized interim storage, stated that “the CIS should have a minimum service life of 300 years.”

“How can 40 years be called temporary, let alone 300?” Kemps asked the gathering. “That’s longer than the United States has been a country.”

“So, just to end with some political reality,” he said, “If this waste comes out here, it would turn out to be one New Mexico member of the United States House of Representatives versus 434 others for it to ever move again. And in the U.S. Senate it would be a vote of 98 against 2.”

“So,” Kemps concluded, “folks had better think about this deeply before it’s allowed to come out here.”

‘Chernobyl in a Can’

Expanding on the theme of transportation risks, EON producer, Mary Beth Brangan pointed out that “Every one of these canisters that would be coming would contain roughly as much cesium alone, as was released in the Chernobyl accident. Every canister. […]

“My partner and I are here,” Brangan told the meeting, “because we’re very, very concerned about this. And I want to assure you there are other Californians who do not want to send their radioactive waste here.

“We don’t want to do that for a great many reasons but the first one is its environmental racism, and we really object to the concept of putting anymore of the burden of the nation’s radioactivity on your communities,” she said to appreciative applause.

We were not the only concerned Californians who came to the NRC’s New Mexico scoping meetings to say, “We don’t want our radioactive waste dumped on you.”

Another was Southern California urban planner and community organizer Torgen Johnson, whose efforts helped shut down San Onofre’s reactors. He flew in to the Albuquerque meeting to show support for the Halt Holtec Campaign and network with regional organizers.

“The New Mexico people hammered Holtec and the NRC,” he reported. “They didn’t need our help, but they welcomed our solidarity. It was so great and encouraging to hear these well-informed, passionate and articulate people expressing the same concerns we have at the other end of the potential rail line.”

Johnson says he heard testimonies from down-winders of the 1945 Trinity test with long, tragic family histories of cancer and health impacts. Being among them, he says, deepened his understanding of the human rights, social justice and environmental issues at stake, and his commitment to continued public education about them.

What impressed him, he says, is the realization of the “Link between the low income, red and brown people in New Mexico and wealthy white people in Southern California – both being victimized by the plans and decisions of Holtec and the NRC.”

“Its a representative cross-section of America” he says, “united against the onslaught of the nuclear waste disposal industry.”

Sharon and Ace Hoffman, whose efforts had also contributed to the shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear plant, attended several of the meetings to share their experience and voice their solidarity with the Halt Holtec movement.

“We are very happy that San Onofre is closed,” Sharon Hoffman said.  “It is a really bad place for the waste. But that doesn’t mean that we solve the problem by moving it to a different place. We have to look at the transportation. We are talking about moving the most dangerous stuff on the planet all over the country. And if we moved it all today, we would have more tomorrow.

“So the real question here is, when are we going to shut down all these plants and stop making more waste? That’s really the problem.

“This is a beautiful place,“ she concluded. “And it might be contaminated forever. This is not something that you want to take on for the rest of the country. Yes, you can help the rest of the country. You can say, stop making this, and then let’s figure out together the best thing to do with what is left.”

“I am a stakeholder,” Ace Hoffman told the assembly. “I am from Carlsbad. Not Carlsbad, New Mexico; Carlsbad, California, which is about 15 miles as the crow flies, or the plutonium flies, from San Onofre. So it was very important to me that we do something about this waste.”

Based on his experience of the NRC’s actions during the controversy about shutting down San Onofre, Hoffman warned his New Mexico counterparts, “don’t expect anyone to be telling you the truth about what is possible or what is going to happen. And I strongly advise — even though I would love to get rid of the waste, and I would love to find a sucker that will take it — don’t be that sucker.”

From the Mouths of Babes…

But it was the little daughter of artist and prominent Halt Holtec campaigner Noel Marquez who perhaps best summarized New Mexico’s majority view that emerged from the 5 meetings held around the state on the Elea-Holtec proposed dump site.

When the moderator, Chip Cameron offered to hold the mike for her, she responded, “I can hold it myself. Thank you.”

Handling the mike with confident ease, she continued, “My name is Pakeia Marquez and I am 11 years old. I’m here on behalf of unborn kids and born kids like me. I think this whole situation is very important because it affects everything and everybody. It affects the plants and wildlife around here.

“I have recently been writing an essay about ecosystems. I read that ecosystems can be very easily poisoned through water, air, and soil. Water, if all this radiation leaks into the water, everything that’s living needs water. It’s going to suck up all of that, and it’s going to get poisoned. Who is going to, like, you know, reimburse us for it?

“You may think you might be solving a problem, but really you’re just creating more problems to solve, and they might just be forever, and you might just not be able to solve them.

“Please remember that I cannot vote,” she told the NRC officials. “So please do vote against this horrible mistake. Thank you.”

The applause was loud and long as Pakeia Marquez made her way back to her seat.

James Heddle is a filmmaker and writer who co-directs EON – the Ecological Options Network with Mary Beth Brangan. Their forthcoming documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection Pt. ! – The Case of San Onofre is now in post-production. He can be reached at jamesmheddle@gmail.com

June 8, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 8 Comments

Move Over Chernobyl, Fukushima is Now Officially the Worst Nuclear Power Disaster in History

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | April 27, 2018

The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels.[1](A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)

Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.[2]

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl.[3] Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.

Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s

The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.[4]

To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the Cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:

Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of Cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).

Total release of Cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of Cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.

The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of Cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.

In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.

The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times.

John Laforge’s field guide to the new generation of nuclear weapons is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of CounterPunch magazine.

Notes.

[1]Duluth News-Tribune & Herald, “Slight rise in radioactivity found again in state milk,” May 22, 1986; St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, “Radiation kills Chernobyl firemen,” May 17, 1986; Minneapolis StarTribune, “Low radiation dose found in area milk,” May 17, 1986.

[2]Ian Fairlie, “TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster,” March 2016 (https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/GLOBAL_TORCH%202016_rz_WEB_KORR.pdf).

[3]James K. Asselstine, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Testimony in Nuclear Reactor Safety: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, May 22 and July 16, 1986, Serial No. 99-177, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1987.

[4] Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol. 74, July 2014, pp. 61-70; ENENews.org, Oct. 20, 2014.

April 29, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 5 Comments

US struggling to handle excess plutonium

The Nevada Radioactive Waste Dump (File photo)
Press TV – April 24, 2018

The United States is struggling to handle the excessive amounts of plutonium generated at the cores of its many retired nuclear reactors, according to a new report, raising fears that it might end up in the wrong hands.

Today, there are some 54 metric tons of surplus plutonium stored in nuclear facilities the US Department of Energy operates around the country, according to Reuters.

In Pantex, a plant located near Amarillo, Texas, the surplus plutonium has long exceeded the 20,000 cores, also known as “pits,” that regulations allow such facilities to store in their temporary storage facility.

That means a mishap in the process, which is mostly done manually by contract workers, can trigger massive nuclear explosions.

While in the past the US simply used the leftover plutonium to produce more nuclear munitions, it is now obliged under a 2010 treaty with Russia to keep its arsenal under 1,550 warheads.

Moscow and Washington have also agreed in a separate agreement to render unusable for weapons 34 metric tons of plutonium.

This helps the two sides to keep the deadly material out of reach for terrorists and prevent nuclear proliferation. According to experts, terrorists would only need 11 pounds (5 kg) or less plutonium to make a bomb.

According to data by the US Energy Department, collectively the two countries have 68 metric tons of plutonium designated for destruction, enough to make 17,000 nuclear weapons.

US President Donald Trump’s desire to dismantle older warheads and refill them with more lethal nuclear payloads is another factor that has put American nuclear authorities under immense pressure to get rid of the country’s plutonium stockpile and make room for more.

Then there’s the problem of burying the material, a long and complex process that involves digging repositories and making them impenetrable to make sure the plutonium remains out of reach as it slowly passes its radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

This is while Washington has not even started to take necessary measures to acquire additional space for burying plutonium more than 2,000 feet (610 meters) below ground, the depth considered safe.

“We are in a much more dangerous situation today than we were in the Cold War,” William Potter, director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Reuters.

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power | | 2 Comments

Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout

By Chris Busby | CounterPunch | March 20, 2018

George Monbiot, who has now been diagnosed with prostate cancer at the young age of 55, was therefore born in 1963, at the peak of the atmospheric test fallout. He is thus a peak exposed (at risk) member of a cohort of those exposed in the womb to the fallout (1959-63) and currently suffering the consequences of exposure to Strontium-90 in the milk, and (measured) in the childrens’ bones.

In his article in the Guardian, he says that he has always done all the healthy things, done lots of exercise, eaten vegetables, didn’t smoke or drink, all that stuff. He is clearly puzzled about being singled out by the three ladies. But the cause was something that he had no control over, and neither had anyone else who was born in the fallout period. George writes that he is happy. This insane response to his predicament, (which I personally am not happy about despite his intemperate attacks on me in his Guardian column and blogs) must go alongside his equally insane response about the Fukushima events where he publicised his road-to-Damascus conversion to nuclear power.

The effect of the genetic damage of the fallout on babies can be seen in the graph below, Fig 1, taken from a recent paper I published (Busby C (2017) Radiochemical Genotoxicity Risk and Absorbed Dose. Res Rep Toxi. Vol.1 No.1:1.).  The babies that did not die were just those with insufficient genetic damage to kill, but this damage would have affected them in later life in various ways. The most measurable effect (apart from genetic defects and congenital diseases) is higher cancer risk which is presented as early cancer onset. The issue of the 1959-63 cancer cohort was discussed in my 1995 book Wings of Death, and a letter I published in 1994 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The issue is one of Absorbed Dose. If internal exposure to radionuclides like Strontium-90 and Uranium-238 and Uranium-235 bind to DNA, which is the target for genetic damage, then Dose, which is an average quantity over kilograms of tissue, is an unsafe way of quantifying genetic damage. The issue of genetic damage from radioactive pollution was first raised in 1950 by Herman Muller, the Nobel Prize winning geneticist who discovered the effects of radiation, but his warnings were ignored, though they are now found to be accurate.

The serious effects of internal radionuclide exposures on Prostate Cancer were revealed in a study of UK Atomic Energy Agency workers also published in 1993 in the BMJ (Fraser P, Carpenter L, Maconochie N, Higgins C, Booth M and Beral V (1993) Cancer mortality and morbidity in employees of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority 1946-86. Brit. J. Cancer 67 615-624.) This paper showed a 2-fold excess cancer risk in workers who had been monitored for internal radionuclides versus those who had not been. Prostate cancer mortality was significantly high. Although later cover-up studies by the nuclear industry, using a larger cohort reduced this effect for prostate cancer, the internal/ external exposure result for all cancers has not been satisfactorily followed up.

Fig 1. First day neonatal mortality USA shows the effects of the fallout. Because of advances in medicine and better social conditions, infant mortality was falling everywhere. But as soon as the atmospheric tests began, rates went up in time with the fallout. 1st day neonatal mortality is a measure of congenital damage: the baby survives in the mother by using the mothers’ oxygenation and other support but because the babies own organs are damaged and it cannot survive after birth. Strontium-90 was measured in bone where it built up to a peak in 1964. It will also have attached to chromosomes due to its affinity for DNA.

The fallout cohort is now entering the cancer bracket and these people are driving up the cancer rates in the Northern hemisphere, especially for breast cancer and prostate cancer. I have been studying this group since 1995, but now my predictions are appearing in the data.

But the true picture of the fallout effects is even more scary. Not only are the babies born over the peak fallout period, like George, at higher risk of more and earlier cancer, but it is now emerging that their children, born around 1980- 1990 are carrying the same genetic (or rather genomic) curse. I am in the process of putting together a scientific paper on this. There is a sudden increase in cancer rates in young people aged 25-35 which began after 2008. This is an extraordinary development. The finding was confirmed for colon cancer in the USA in a paper published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Rebecca L. Siegel, Stacey A. Fedewa, William F. Anderson, Kimberly D. Miller, Jiemin Ma, Philip S. Rosenberg, Ahmedin Jemal Colorectal Cancer Incidence Patterns in the United States, 1974–2013 JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2017) 109(8): djw322). The authors were unable to explain their findings of increases in colon cancer in young people but decreasing colon cancer rates in older people. They were “puzzled”. The explanation is simple. These were children born to those who were themselves born during the fallout and genomically damaged at birth. The damage is passed to the children (and will be in turn passed to theirs and so on). The effect is clear also in the England and Wales data.

So, for the logical positivists, let’s have a look at the prostate cancer data in England and Wales.

In Table 1 below I show some data from the official ONS government annual reports on prostate cancer incidence in some selected years from 1974 to 2015.

 

No argument there then. The amazing thing is that there are huge amounts of money received and spent on cancer research: but no-one looks at the cause. Or rather that those who do look at the cause are attacked and marginalised and their work is not reported.

For example, and relevant here, are the serious genetic effects of small dose internal exposures in Europe after Chernobyl reviewed by Prof Inge Schmitz-Feuerhake, Dr Sebastian Pflugbeil and myself in a peer review publication in 2016 (Schmitz-Feuerhake, Busby C, Pflugbeil P  Genetic Radiation Risks-A Neglected Topic in the Low Dose Debate. Environmental Health and Toxicology.  2016. 31Article ID e2016001. .) You would think that this evidence, which was reported in the peer review literature from 20 studies from countries all over Europe, might make it into one of the newspapers. But nothing.

My attempts to draw attention to these internal genetic damage issues have also been ignored or dismissed by the British establishment. This year, in September, I was to have presented this evidence to British Government Minister Richard Harrington at a meeting of the NGOs and the government at Church House Westminster. My flight from Sweden was sabotaged but I made it to the meeting nevertheless, to find that the Minister had made some excuse, and had not come. )

At the meeting, the government radiation expert committee members (COMARE) refused to consider anything I said.

This behaviour by the British can be compared with the Swedish Environmental Court in Stockholm to which I had been presenting the same findings the previous week. In January 2018, the 8 judges of the Swedish Court told the Swedish government that they must not permit the development of the nuclear waste facility at Forsmark. This landmark decision was also omitted from any newspapers in the UK, which itself is currently busy trying to find a local council they can bribe to allow them to bury nuclear waste somewhere in England and (more probably) Wales.

When I presented the same genetic damage evidence in the nuclear test veteran case in the Royal Courts of Justice in 2016, I submitted reports by 4 eminent radiation experts, including Prof Schmitz-Feuerhake/ All gave evidence under cross examination. We filed the evidence of genetic damage in the Test Veteran children: a 10-fold excess risk for congenital malformations and in the grandchildren 8-fold. The British Judge, Sir Nicholas Blake, refused to listen to any of this evidence and dismissed our experts. Blake found for the Ministry of Defence. I am taking a new Test Veteran case this summer. We shall see what happens.

But no surprise about judge Blake. In a recent survey of judges in Europe, it was found that Britain was only exceeded by Albania in the percentage of judges (45%) who reported that their decisions had been made at the direction of the establishment. The lowest rates of interference with judges was found (1%)  in—guess where—Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

It seems that we live in a corrupt society here in Britain and I am ashamed to be part of this State which has poisoned its citizens consistently since 1945 and continues to do so, and to cover it all up, aided by dishonest scientists and celebrity reporters like George Monbiot. Those who have a magical view of events might delight in thinking that George has received his just due; for myself I just hope that this may make him look into the issue more deeply and change his mind about the effects of radioactive contamination.

Dr Chris Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Riskand the author of Uranium and Health – The Health Effects of Exposure to Uranium and Uranium Weapons Fallout (Documents of the ECRR 2010 No 2, Brussels, 2010). For details and current CV see chrisbusbyexposed.org. For accounts of his work see greenaudit.orgllrc.org and nuclearjustice.org.

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Searching for the Catastrophe Signal: The origins of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Review by Martin Kokus | February 7, 2018

Searching for the Catastrophe Signal: The origin of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by Bernie Lewin.
Published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Paperback $16.00, Kindal $7.00. Available from Amazon

This book is a must read for those interested in the current climate debate and its origin. The book does not argue the science as much as it challenges the narrative of the “consensus.” It challenges the popular notion that the primary drivers of climate change are greenhouse gases and that the theory originated in climate and environmental science departments. One cannot read the book without concluding that the theory hadn’t originated anyplace but the national nuclear labs of the United States government. Lewin’s is the first book on the subject I have read compatible with the history of the modern theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming that I lived through.

In 1973 I hoped to dedicate my life to studying human impacts on climate and weather. I went to the University of Virginia which had perhaps the only department in the US which was actively studying the subjects. My research concerned the lower atmosphere and the effect that changes in its heat capacity and albedo had on atmospheric circulation.  I took what I believe was the first course offered on human impacts on climate, titled Urban Meteorology which was taught by Roger Pielke and Mike Garstang. We spent many hours discussing the effects of deforestation, desertification, aerosols and urbanization on climate.  We did not spend much time on the greenhouse effect.  Estimates of the effect were small compared to the other effects and the planet was not warming.

There are many things which could cause the climate to change. There is the natural variation of the sun and a periodic variation of volcanic dust. Human industry can throw smoke into the atmosphere which clouds out the sun’s energy. Cutting, draining, plowing, and paving can change the amount of energy the earth absorbs and how fast it heats up and cools off. This was the subject of decades of research, strong correlations, and reasonable models. Most of which are now ignored.

The first time I heard a positive discussion of the theory that CO2 could catastrophically change earth climate, it was from speakers sponsored by the Nuclear Engineering department.  Their motivation was obvious.

Lewin describes how the funding for the study of non-greenhouse gas mechanisms of climate change was cut while funding for the study of greenhouse gas effects was increased. I lived through this and I appreciate that someone finally wrote it down.

So I thank Bernie Lewin for assembling an accurate history of the climate debate.

February 7, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Manufacturing consensus: the early history of the IPCC

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | January 3, 2018

Short summary: scientists sought political relevance and allowed policy makers to put a big thumb on the scale of the scientific assessment of the attribution of climate change.

Bernie Lewin has written an important new book:

SEARCHING FOR THE CATASTROPHE SIGNAL:The Origins of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The importance of this book is reflected in its acknowledgements, in context of assistance and contributions from early leaders and participants in the IPCC:

This book would not have been possible without the documents obtained via Mike MacCracken and John Zillman. Their abiding interest in a true and accurate presentation of the facts prevented my research from being led astray. Many of those who participated in the events here described gave generously of their time in responding to my enquiries, they include Ben Santer, Tim Barnett, Tom Wigley, John Houghton, Fred Singer, John Mitchell, Pat Michaels . . . and many more.

You may recall a previous Climate Etc. post Consensus by Exhaustion, on Lewin’s 5 part series on Madrid 1995: The last day of climate science.

Read the whole book, it is well worth reading. The focus of my summary of the book is on Chapters 8-16 in context of the theme of ‘detection and attribution’, ‘policy cart in front of the scientific horse’ and ‘manufacturing consensus’. Annotated excerpts from the book are provided below.

The 1970’s energy crisis

In a connection that I hadn’t previously made, Lewin provides historical context for the focus on CO2 research in the 1970’s, motivated by the ‘oil crisis’ and concerns about energy security. There was an important debate surrounding whether coal or nuclear power should be the replacement for oil. From Chapter 8:

But in the struggle between nuclear and coal, the proponents of the nuclear alternative had one significant advantage, which emerged as a result of the repositioning of the vast network of government-funded R&D laboratories within the bureaucratic machine. It would be in these ‘National Laboratories’ at this time that the Carbon Dioxide Program was born. This surge of new funding meant that research into one specific human influence on climate would become a major branch of climatic research generally. Today we might pass this over for the simple reason that the ‘carbon dioxide question’ has long since come to dominate the entire field of climatic research—with the very meaning of the term ‘climate change’ contracted accordingly.

This focus was NOT driven by atmospheric scientists:

The peak of interest in climate among atmospheric scientists was an international climate conference held in Stockholm in 1974 and a publication by the ‘US Committee for GARP’ [GARP is Global Atmospheric Research Programme] the following year. The US GARP report was called ‘Understanding climate change: a program for action’, where the ‘climate change’ refers to natural climatic change, and the ‘action’ is an ambitious program of research.

[There was] a coordinated, well-funded program of research into potentially catastrophic effects before there was any particular concern within the meteorological community about these effects, and before there was any significant public or political anxiety to drive it. It began in the midst of a debate over the relative merits of coal and nuclear energy production [following the oil crisis of the 1970’s]. It was coordinated by scientists and managers with interests on the nuclear side of this debate, where funding due to energy security anxieties was channelled towards investigation of a potential problem with coal in order to win back support for the nuclear option.

The emergence of ‘global warming’

In February 1979, at the first ever World Climate Conference, meteorologists would for the first time raise a chorus of warming concern. The World Climate Conference may have drowned out the cooling alarm, but it did not exactly set the warming scare on fire.

While the leadership of UNEP (UN Environmental Programme) became bullish on the issue of global warming, the bear prevailed at the WMO (World Meteorological Organization). When UNEP’s request for climate scenario modelling duly arrived with the WCRP (World Climate Research Programme) committee, they balked at the idea: computer modelling remained too primitive and, especially at the regional level, no meaningful results could be obtained. Proceeding with the development of climate scenarios would only risk the development of misleading impact assessments.

It wasn’t long before we see scientific research on climate change becoming marginalized in the policy process, in context of the precautionary principle:

At Villach in 1985, at the beginning of the climate treaty movement, the rhetoric of the policy movement was already breaking away from its moorings in the science. Doubts raised over the wildest speculation were turned around, in a rhetoric of precautionary action: we should act anyway, just in case. With the onus of proof reversed, the research can continue while the question remains (ever so slightly) open.

Origins of the IPCC

With regards to the origins of the IPCC:

Jill JÅNager gave her view that one reason the USA came out in active support for an intergovernmental panel on climate change was that the US Department of State thought the situation was ‘getting out of hand’, with ‘loose cannons’ out ‘potentially setting the agenda’, when governments should be doing so. An intergovernmental panel, so this thinking goes, would bring the policy discussion back under the control of governments. It would also bring the science closer to the policymakers, unmediated by policy entrepreneurs. After an intergovernmental panel agreed on the science, so this thinking goes, they could proceed to a discussion of any policy implications.

While the politics were already making the science increasingly irrelevant, Bert Bolin and John Houghton brought a focus back to the science:

Within one year of the first IPCC session, its assessment process would transform from one that would produce a pamphlet sized country representatives’ report into one that would produce three large volumes written by independent scientists and experts at the end of the most complex and expensive process ever undertaken by a UN body on a single meteorological issue. The expansion of the assessment, and the shift of power back towards scientists, came about at the very same time that a tide of political enthusiasm was being successfully channelled towards investment in the UN process, with this intergovernmental panel at its core.

John Houghton (Chair of Working Group I) moved the IPCC towards a model more along the lines of an expert-driven review: he nominated one or two scientific experts—‘lead authors’—to draft individual chapters and he established a process through which these would be reviewed at lead-author meetings.

The main change was that it shifted responsibility away from government delegates and towards practising scientists. The decision to recruit assessors who were leaders in the science being assessed also opened up another problem, namely the tendency for them to cite their own current work, even where unpublished.

However, the problem of marginalization of the science wasn’t going away:

With the treaty process now run by career diplomats, and likely to be dominated by unfriendly southern political agitators, the scientists were looking at the very real prospect that their climate panel would be disbanded and replaced when the Framework Convention on Climate Change came into force.

And many scientists were skeptical:

With the realisation that there was an inexorable movement towards a treaty, there was an outpouring of scepticism from the scientific community. This chorus of concern was barely audible above the clamour of the rush to a treaty and it is now largely forgotten.

At the time, John Zillman presented a paper to a policy forum that tried to provide those engaged with the policy debate some insight into just how different was the view from inside the research community.  Zillman stated that:

. . . that the greenhouse debate has now become decoupled from the scientific considerations that had triggered it; that there are many agendas but that they do not include, except peripherally, finding out whether and how climate might change as a result of enhanced greenhouse forcing and whether such changes will be good or bad for the world.

To give some measure of the frustration rife among climate researchers at the time, Zillman quoted the director of WCRP. It was Pierre Morel, he explained, who had ‘driven the international climate research effort over the past decade’. A few months before Zillman’s presentation, Morel had submitted a report to the WCRP committee in which he assessed the situation thus:

The increasing direct involvement of the United Nations. . . in the issues of global climate change, environment and development bears witness to the success of those scientists who have vied for ‘political visibility’ and ‘public recognition’ of the problems associated with the earth’s climate. The consideration of climate change has now reached the level where it is the concern of professional foreign-affairs negotiators and has therefore escaped the bounds of scientific knowledge (and uncertainty).

The negotiators, said Morel, had little use for further input from scientific agencies including the IPCC ‘and even less use for the complicated statements put forth by the scientific community’.

There was a growing gap between the politics/policies and the science:

The general feeling in the research community that the policy process had surged ahead of the science often had a different effect on those scientists engaged with the global warming issue through its expanded funding. For them, the situation was more as President Bush had intimated when promising more funding: the fact that ‘politics and opinion have outpaced the science’ brought the scientists under pressure ‘to bridge the gap’.

In fact, there was much scepticism of the modelling freely expressed in and around the Carbon Dioxide Program in these days before the climate treaty process began. Those who persisted with the search for validation got stuck on the problem of better identifying background natural variability.

The challenge of ‘detection and attribution’

Regarding Jim Hansen’s 1998 Congressional testimony:

An article in Science the following spring gives some insight into the furore. In ‘Hansen vs. the world on greenhouse threat’, the science journalist Richard Kerr explained that while ‘scientists like the attention the greenhouse effect is getting on Capitol Hill’, nonetheless they ‘shun the reputedly unscientific way their colleague James Hansen went about getting that attention’.

Clearly, the scientific opposition to any detection claims was strong in 1989 when IPCC assessment got underway.

Detection and attribution of the anthropogenic climate signal was the key issue:

During the IPCC review process (for the First Assessment Report), Wigley was asked to answer the question: When is detection likely to be achieved? He responded with an addition to the IPCC chapter that explains that we would have to wait until the half-degree of warming that had occurred already during the 20th century is repeated. Only then are we likely to determine just how much of it is human-induced. If the carbon dioxide driven warming is at the high end of the predictions, then this would be early in the 21st century, but if the warming was slow then we may not know until 2050.

The IPCC First Assessment Report didn’t help the policy makers’ ‘cause.’ In the buildup to the Rio Earth Summit:

To support the discussions of the Framework Convention at the Rio Earth Summit, it was agreed that the IPCC would provide a supplementary assessment. This ‘Rio supplement’ explains:

. . . the climate system can respond to many forcings and it remains to be proven that the greenhouse signal is sufficiently distinguishable from other signals to be detected except as a gross increase in tropospheric temperature that is so large that other explanations are not likely.

Well, this supplementary assessment didn’t help either. The scientists, under the leadership of Bolin and Houghton, are to be commended for not bowing to pressure. But the IPCC was risking marginalization in the treaty process.

In the lead up to CoP1 in Berlin, the IPCC itself was badgering the negotiating committee to keep it involved in the political process, but tensions arose when it refused to compromise its own processes to meet the political need.

However, the momentum for action in the lead up to Rio remained sufficiently strong that these difficulties with the scientific justification could be ignored.  

Second Assessment Report

In context of the treaty activities, the second assessment report of the IPCC was regarded as very important for justifying implementation for the Kyoto Protocol.

In 1995, the IPCC was stuck between its science and its politics. The only way it could save itself from the real danger of political oblivion would be if its scientific diagnosis could shift in a positive direction and bring it into alignment with policy action.  

The key scientific issue at the time was detection and attribution:

The writing of Chapter 8 (the chapter concerned with detection and attribution) got off to a delayed start due to the late assignment of its coordinating lead author. It was not until April that someone agreed to take on the role. This was Ben Santer, a young climate modeller at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

The chapter that Santer began to draft was greatly influenced by a paper principally written by Tim Barnett, but it also listed Santer as an author. It was this paper that held, in a nutshell, all the troubles for the ‘detection’ quest. It was a new attempt to get beyond the old stumbling block of ‘first detection’ research: to properly establish the ‘yardstick’ of natural climate variability. The paper describes how this project failed to do so, and fabulously so.

The detection chapter that Santer drafted for the IPCC makes many references to this study. More than anything else cited in Chapter 8, it is the spoiler of all attribution claims, whether from pattern studies, or from the analysis of the global mean. It is the principal basis for  the Chapter 8 conclusion that. . .

. . .no study to date has both detected a significant climate change and positively attributed all or part of that change to anthropogenic causes.

For the second assessment, the final meeting of the 70-odd Working Group 1 lead authors . . . was set to finalise the draft Summary for Policymakers, ready for intergovernmental review. The draft Houghton had prepared for the meeting was not so sceptical on the detection science as the main text of the detection chapter drafted by Santer; indeed it contained a weak detection claim.

This detection claim appeared incongruous with the scepticism throughout the main text of the chapter and was in direct contradiction with its Concluding Summary. It represented a change of view that Santer had only arrived at recently due to a breakthrough in his own ‘fingerprinting’ investigations. These findings were so new that they were not yet published or otherwise available, and, indeed, Santer’s first opportunity to present them for broader scientific scrutiny was when Houghton asked him to give a special presentation to the meeting of lead authors.

However, the results were also challenged at this meeting: Santer’s fingerprint finding and the new detection claim were vigorously opposed by several experts in the field.

On the first day of the Madrid session of Working Group 1 in November 1995, Santer again gave an extended presentation of his new findings, this time to mostly non-expert delegates. When he finished, he explained that because of what he had found, the chapter was out of date and needed changing. After some debate John Houghton called for an ad-hoc side group to come to agreement on the detection issue in the light of these important new findings and to redraft the detection passage of the Summary for Policymakers so that it could be brought back to the full meeting for agreement. While this course of action met with general approval, it was vigorously opposed by a few delegations, especially when it became clear that Chapter 8 would require changing, and resistance to the changes went on to dominate the three-day meeting. After further debate, a final version of a ‘bottom line’ detection claim was decided:

The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.

All of this triggered accusations of ‘deception’:

An opinion editorial written by Frederick Seitz ‘Major deception on “global warming” appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 12 June 1996.

This IPCC report, like all others, is held in such high regard largely because it has been peer-reviewed. That is, it has been read, discussed, modified and approved by an international body of experts. These scientists have laid their reputations on the line. But this report is not what it appears to be—it is not the version that was approved by the contributing scientists listed on the title page. In my more than 60 years as a member of the American scientific community, including service as president of both the NAS and the American Physical Society, I have never witnessed a more disturbing corruption of the peer-review process than the events that led to this IPCC report.

When comparing the final draft of Chapter with the version just published, he found that key statements sceptical of any human attribution finding had been changed or deleted. His examples of the deleted passages include:

  • ‘None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.’
  • ‘No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to date] to anthropogenic [manmade] causes.’
  • ‘Any claims of positive detection of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.’

On 4 July, Nature finally published Santer’s human fingerprint paper. In Science, Richard Kerr quoted Barnett saying that he is not entirely convinced that the greenhouse signal had been detected and that there remain ‘a number of nagging questions’. Later in the year a critique striking at the heart of Santer’s detection claim would be published in reply.

The IPCC’s manufactured consensus

What we can see from all this activity by scientists in the close vicinity of the second and third IPCC assessments is the existence of a significant body of opinion that is difficult to square with the IPCC’s message that the detection of the catastrophe signal provides the scientific basis for policy action.

The scientific debate on detection and attribution was effectively quelled by the IPCC Second Assessment Report:

Criticism would continue to be summarily dismissed as the politicisation of science by vested interests, while the panel’s powerful political supporters would ensure that its role as the scientific authority in the on-going climate treaty talks was never again seriously threatened.

And of course the ‘death knell’ to scientific arguments concerned about detection was dealt by the Third Assessment Report, in which the MBH Hockey Stick analysis of Northern Hemisphere paleoclimates effectively eliminated the existence of a hemispheric medieval warm period and Little Ice Age, ‘solving’ the detection conundrum.

JC reflections

Bernie Lewin’s book provides a really important and well documented history of the context and early  history of the IPCC.

I was discussing Lewin’s book with Garth Partridge, who was involved in the IPCC during the early years, he emailed this comment:

I am a bit upset because I was in the game all through the seventies to early nineties, was at a fair number of the meetings Lewin talked about, spent a year in Geneva as one of the “staff” of the early WCRP, another year (1990) as one of the staff of the US National Program Office in the Washington DC, met most of the characters he (Lewin) talked about…… and I simply don’t remember understanding what was going on as far as the politics was concerned.  How naive can one be??  Partly I suspect it was because lots of people in my era were trained(??) to deliberately ignore, and/or laugh at, all the garbage that was tied to the political shenanigans of international politics in the scientific world. Obviously the arrogance of scientists can be quite extraordinary!

Scientific scepticism about AGW was alive and well prior to 1995; took a nose-dive following publication of the Second Assessment Report, and then was was dealt what was hoped to be a fatal blow by the Third Assessment Report and the promotion of the Hockey Stick.

A rather flimsy edifice for a convincing, highly-confident attribution of recent warming to humans.

I think Bernie Lewin is correct in identifying the 1995 meeting in Madrid as the turning point. It was John Houghton who inserted the attribution claim into the draft Summary for Policy Makers, contrary to the findings in Chapter 8.  Ben Santer typically gets ‘blamed’ for this, but it is clearly Houghton who wanted this and enabled this, so that he and the IPCC could maintain a seat at the big policy table involved in the Treaty.

One might forgive the IPCC leaders for dealing with new science and a very challenging political situation in 1995 during which they overplayed their hand.  However, it is the 3rd Assessment Report where Houghton’s shenanigans with the Hockey Stick really reveal what was going on (including selection of recent Ph.D. recipient Michael Mann as lead author when he was not nominated by the U.S. delegation). The Hockey Stick got rid of that ‘pesky’ detection problem.

I assume that the rebuttal of the AGW  ‘true believers’ to all this is that politics are messy, but look, the climate scientists were right all along, and the temperatures keep increasing. Recent research increases confidence in attribution, that we have ‘known’ for decades.

Well, increasing temperatures say nothing about the causes of climate change.  Scientists are still debating the tropical upper troposphere ‘hot spot’, which was the ‘smoking gun’ identified by Santer in 1995 [link]. And there is growing evidence that natural variability on decadal to millennial time scales is much larger than previous thought (and larger than climate model simulations) [link].

I really need to do more blog posts on detection and attribution, I will do my best to carve out some time.

And finally, this whole history seems to violate the Mertonian norm of universalism:

universalism: scientific validity is independent of the sociopolitical status/personal attributes of its participants

Imagine how all this would have played out if Pierre Morel or John Zillman had been Chair of WG1, or if Tom Wigley or Tim Barnett or John Christy had been Coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 8. And what climate science would look like today.

I hope this history of manufacturing consensus gives rational people reason to pause before accepting arguments from consensus about climate change.

January 3, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Corruption, Deception, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment