Pork-barrel politics? President Trump has announced the US’ withdrawal from the INF treaty

On 20 October 2018 (below), citing Russian non-compliance, US President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing the US from the INF treaty and on 1st February 2019, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was suspending the treaty.

The INF Treaty eliminated all land-based ballistic and guided cruise missiles, as well as their launchers, with short medium-range and intermediate-range. It did not cover air- or sea-launched missiles. By May 1991, 2,692 missiles were eliminated, followed by 10 years of on-site verification inspections.

On several occasions since 2008 the US has accused Russia of violating treaty terms by testing the SSC-8 cruise missile. In 2013 it added the development of a new ground-launched cruise missile which violated the INF prohibition of missiles to these charges, but Russia denies that its range violates INF limits.

Russia argues that America’s establishment of bases capable of launching Tomahawk missiles in Poland and Romania and its usage of ballistic “target ” test missiles and armed UAVs such as the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-4 also violates the INF Treaty.

The military-industrial advantages

CNN adds that, according to a report obtained by *Breaking Defense, the US has since 2013 been considering the INF-range missiles it might develop should the treaty collapse.  In October 2018, it revealed that unreleased Pentagon documents and Congressional demands for information showed that Washington has long planned for the day when the INF treaty with Russia would be ‘ripped up’.

The report by the Joint Staff and Strategic Command, made it clear that as far back as 2013 — a year before the Obama administration first publicly complained about Russian violations of the treaty — the Defense Department was considering which technologies the US could develop should Washington walk away from the INF.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Michelle Baldanza confirmed that the department continues to work on “a review of U.S. options for conventional, ground-launched, intermediate-range missile systems, which would enable the United States to defend ourselves and our allies, should Russia fail to return to compliance.”

Welcomed by NATO hierarchy

Quartz reports that the start of the withdrawal process, which goes into effect tomorrow, has the backing of the US’s NATO allies – not sosome will oppose any proposal to site and deploy the new generation of nuclear missiles in Europe and such splits within NATO would strengthen Putin’s position

But the withdrawal certainly was welcomed by NATO’s Secretary General on BBC radio and online:

Donald Trump’s failure to alert allies about the final decision was criticised by Richard Burt, former U.S. chief negotiator of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty:

“The overwhelming view of people, not only in the United States and Russia but around the world, will be that it was the United States that killed this treaty . . .The handling of this decision is just simply god awful.”

Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of State for international security and nonproliferation, commented that the announcement has handed Moscow “the double-victory it sought: keeping a new system that adds to its military strength, while being able to shame/blame the US for accelerating an arms race.”

*Breaking Defense is published by Breaking Media, a network of ‘next-generation business-to-business media brands – including  Above the LawDealbreakerMedCity NewsBreaking Energy and Breaking Gov.





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Nuclear weapons tests in the Enewetak Atol: rising sea levels add to the toxic legacy


The Enewetak Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, is about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. After WWII, the atoll came under control of the US, and in 1948 the first nuclear test was carried out. For 10 years, as part of the Cold War, 43 nuclear bombs were detonated on Enewetak – twice as many tests as its neighbour, Bikini Atoll.  

The US sent around 4000 personnel to the area in 1977 to clean the site. During the three-year process, they mixed contaminated soil and debris with cement and buried it in one of the blast craters on the beach. The concrete dome was added and in 1980 the atoll was said to be safe for habitation. Local residents returned the same year. But the effect of rising sea levels due to climate change had not been anticipated. 

In 2013, Lawrence Livermore Laboratories issued a disturbing report commissioned by the US Department of Energy which examined the ‘Cactus’ dome on Runit Island, one of 40 islands of the Enewetak Atoll, recorded the cracks and ordered repairs. 

Double standards? 

It noted (p2) that “If the Cactus crater concrete containment structure on Runit Island were located in the United States proper (or subjected to U.S. regulatory authority), it would be formally classified as a Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site and be subject to stringent site management and monitoring practices”. 

A reader sent a link to an article by Australian journalist Phoebe Loomes, who reports that rising sea levels have added to the degradation of the large, concrete-dome holding the toxic materials which are leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Mike Willacy, an investigative journalist, travelled to the Marshall Islands for the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program in 2017. He said that the dome was only meant to be a temporary solution until the US came up with a permanent plan – a cost-cutting exercise.

He saw the cracks in the concrete dome and was told that residents feared for their lives if the structure collapsed. They warned of the fallout that could arise from the water flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

“Seawater is penetrating the underside of the dome, because when they threw all this material into the old bomb crater, they didn’t line it with anything. They were supposed to line it with concrete, but that never happened because of cost considerations. So, as the sea level has risen, the groundwater level has risen and therefore you have groundwater penetrating inside the dome, because a lot of this atoll is obviously sand (and) coral. It’s permeable material.”

In the Marshall Islands, the most common cause of death is diabetes, which is related to a thyroid disorder – the second is cancer. There are high levels of birth defects, cancer and thyroid problems, which locals attribute to continued fallout from the radioactive bombing of the area.

The population of the Marshall Islands is around 70,000 and local people are allowed to live and work in the US without a visa as part of the reparations for the nuclear testing that took place. Over a third have already moved to the US. Ms Loomes adds, “It is said that when you leave the Marshall Islands, you buy a one-way ticket”. 

As sea levels continue to rise and the climate becomes more unstable, residents of the Marshall Islands are faced with the harsh reality that their island homes are becoming uninhabitable. Willacy writes: “The children who live there refer to themselves as ‘the last generation’ “.





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December – a good month for burying news of government coercion


On the 19th December a written ministerial statement was issued by MP Richard Harrington (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Industry & Energy) following the publication of Implementing Geological Disposal – Working with Communities by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) (right).

Today, Ben Webster reports that the plan set out by the BEIS will prevent any council in an area with two tiers of local government from pulling out of discussions on hosting ‘higher activity radioactive waste’ dumps.

In 2008 the government offered communities up to £1 million a year for about five years to take part in discussions about hosting the dump, rising to £2.5 million a year for up to 15 years while test boreholes are drilled. Read more about community funds associated with the development of radioactive waste management facilities here.

In 2013 Copeland borough council in Cumbria — the home of Sellafield, where most of Britain’s nuclear waste is stored — wanted to be considered for the dump because it would create thousands of highly paid jobs and require local investment. But in Cumbria county council vetoed the idea.

Now, the BEIS plan for “the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste” stipulates that “no single principal local authority will be able to unilaterally invoke the right (to withdraw)”, though both councils can choose to withdraw. In effect the government has removed the right of county councils to veto plans.

And councils must join a “community partnership” set up to consider hosting the dump if they even wish to ‘have a say’ on the subject.

Stewart Young, Cumbria county council leader, said: “If you get into the process you then become locked into it. They are trying to force our hand.” He said the Lake District’s geology was unsuitable for the dump (“the long-term management of higher activity radioactive waste”) and that waste which would remain radioactive for 100,000 years could leak into water supplies.

Friends of the Lake District draw attention to previous studies showing that the Lake District’s geology makes it unsuitable for a Geological Disposal Facility

This facility must be sited 1km underground within 20 square kilometres of impermeable rock type such as clay or salt which will contain radioactive gases and particles for up to 100,000 years. The geology of the western Lake District is highly fractured and faulted and unfortunately, there is no guarantee that human engineered containment would last 100,000 years. Over such an extended timescale it is likely that water would permeate through the rock and into the Irish sea and other ground water bringing radioactive particles with it. It is unethical to leave future generations with a legacy of poorly contained radioactive waste.

We therefore believe that no community should be allowed to volunteer as a host unless it can be first be confirmed that the geology of the area is suitable.

Nevertheless, Mike Starkie, the mayor of Copeland, said the council is considering the plan but his area might offer again to be a location for the dump. “We agree with the idea of a geological disposal facility because it’s a safer way of storing it,” he said. “At the moment we have 80 per cent of the country’s nuclear waste and it’s all stored on the ground.”

There will be a “test of public support”, which could be a referendum, before a final decision is made.

But a small proportion of the local population will get a vote: “only residents in the area that will be directly impacted by the development should have a final say”.





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President Putin’s belief in humanity’s common sense and sense of self-preservation


Tom Parfitt in Moscow reported from President Putin’s annual press conference, attended by 1,700 reporters yesterday.

After one of the correspondents asked a question about nuclear war, saying that people used to be afraid of it, the Russian president replied: “And now you are not afraid?”

He said that he had thought the danger of such a development in the world was fading, seeming impossible or at least, less important, adding:

“God forbid, if something like this happens it could lead to the death of all civilisation and maybe the planet”.

However, at present he sees a growing tendency to underestimate this [risk]: “There are dangers. The first is the breakdown, in actual fact we are now observing a falling apart of the international system of arms control.”

Parfitt reminds us that Russia and the US are at loggerheads over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987: “Washington threatened this month to withdraw from the treaty within 60 days if Moscow did not abide by the demands of the agreement. The US claims that Moscow is developing a ground-launched intermediate-range cruise missile in violation of the treaty, an accusation the Kremlin denies”.

Mr Putin said earlier in the week that Russia would be obliged to adapt sea and air-launched missiles for use on land if the US pulled out of the treaty: “Of course we will need to take some steps to ensure our security,” he said. “Let them not squeal then about us gaining some advantages.”

At the press conference, he said that western analysts were talking up the potential use of low-yield nuclear weapons for tactical use but that this “could lead to a global nuclear catastrophe”. He also warned that Russia would retaliate if the US deployed missile defence units in Europe.

He ended on a positive note, saying that he believed “humankind has enough common sense and sense of self-preservation not to carry things to extremes”.





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Minister contemplates a “dramatic reversal of decades-long government policy not to commit public funds to the construction of new reactors”

Horizon Nuclear Power (a subsidiary of Hitachi) has been granted permission to clear a square mile on which they hope to build the new Wylfa Newydd B nuclear reactor on the north coast of Anglesey, near Cemaes – reported cost being £12-16bn – double the amount quoted in 2014. Horizon have promised the planning committee in Llangefni that they will restore the site to its current condition if plans for a nuclear plant fall through. BBC Wales reports that a Development Consent Order (DCO) for the nuclear plant has not been granted and it could take at least 18 months for the planning inspectorate to reach a decision.

The former Magnox Wylfa Power Station, now being decommissioned 

A Financial Times article reports that Greg Clark, the business secretary, said the government will be considering a direct investment of £6.5bn alongside contributions from Hitachi and Japanese government agencies” – though at the estimated £77.50 per MWh, the price will still be far higher than the £57.50 per MWh price agreed for offshore wind projects in the government’s subsidy auction last year.

Greenpeace notes that there are “serious concerns about the viability and financing of the project” and has taken legal action arguing work should not start until Horizon has been given permission to build Wylfa B. People Against Wylfa B protest group and The North Anglesey Partnership, consisting of a number of local community councils, also raised concerns about “many unanswered questions”. 

In a letter to the Financial Times, David Blackburn, Vice-chairman of the UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities Steering Committee, NFLA Secretariat, Manchester City Council, UK responded to this news.

He described the billions being offered as ‘a huge kick in the teeth’ for the nascent tidal energy sector, indicating the preference of the government for nuclear power over a much more dynamic, efficient and effective renewable energy sector.

After pointing out that Hitachi’s great rival Toshiba has been brought crashing down by its own new nuclear power programme, he asks: “Should the UK government’s energy policy really be used to prop up foreign multinationals rather than deliver a domestic industrial strategy that supporting schemes like the Swansea tidal lagoon could provide? . . . How can the government justify £6.5bn of public money at a time when our public services remain under severe pressure and the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to fall?”

As renewable energy, battery storage and “smart” energy efficiency programmes have rapidly expanded, while inflexible new nuclear power has floundered, Blackburn believes that this proposed deal needs extensive parliamentary scrutiny and a complete review of the direction of UK energy policy.  





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As EDF proposes that customers pay in advance for nuclear investment, their Hunterston plant crumbles

The Financial Times reports that the French state-backed power utility EDF is proposing to finance nuclear investment in Britain by charging customers upfront for new infrastructure – a technique commonly used in utilities such as water, airports and power distribution. But the nuclear industry has a poor record for delivering on time and to cost; consumers who paid up front for five to ten years would run the risk that if the reactor were delayed, over-budget or ultimately not commissioned, the power savings would not materialise and they might suffer a total loss.

Twelve years ago, British Energy found cracks in one of the two reactors at Hunterston B, with almost a fifth of the 500 boiler tubes experiencing defects. A year later Power Technology reported a sharp decline in output, with wear and tear due to high operating temperatures.

Reuters reported in May this year that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was informed in March 2018 about keyway root cracks found during planned inspections of graphite bricks in the core of Reactor 3 at Hunterston. EDF Energy said in a statement, “Inspections confirmed the expected presence of new keyway root cracks in the reactor core and also identified these happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”. The ageing reactor was due to come back online in May, but EDF Energy extended the outage until later this year.

On 22nd November the Times reported that the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) announced that it had carried out the most recent checks. an ONR spokesman said “A conservative assessment of the inspection results shows that the number of cracks in reactor three exceeded the operational limit of 350 cracks in the existing safety case,” which pushed the total over government safety limits according to a BBC report. An EDF Energy spokeswoman said that the number of cracks exceeded the operational limit but added that the situation was “mitigated by the cracks being much narrower than modelled in the safety case”.

The BBC report added that Rita Holmes, chairwoman of the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group, challenged the energy supplier, saying she did not believe reactor three should be brought back into operation and told an investigative journalist “If safety were indeed EDF’s number one priority, then reactor three would remain shut down. As it is EDF is seeking permission to restart an aged reactor, which despite huge efforts and high cost, failed to back up its current safety case”.

Other campaigners have called for the plant’s closure, objecting to the country spending more millions on ‘outdated’ power stations and adding to the growing nuclear waste pile.




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The world’s nuclear weapons & security without nuclear deterrence

Lest we forget

This post is primarily aimed at our random visitors – the overwhelming majority coming from the United States and HongKong SAR China.

Most of those on this site’s mailing list will have long known about the updated edition of ‘Security without Nuclear Deterrence’ by Commander Robert Green, Royal Navy (Ret’d),who gave the first TEDx talk on nuclear deterrence last year. Some attended its July launch in Portcullis House by Caroline Lucas MP and Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham. Dr Rebecca Johnson addressed former service people and peace movement campaigners, including Commander Rob Forsyth RN (Ret’d), a former Polaris submarine commander, who gave an excellent explanation of why he now opposes Trident.

Spokesman Books is the publishing imprint of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. Bookshop  

From the new Foreword by Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham KCB MA

The nuclear-armed states and their allies cite deterrence as the primary justification for maintaining nuclear weapons. Its fallacies must therefore be exposed and alternatives offered if they are to be eliminated. As a former operator of British nuclear weapons, Commander Green chronicles the history, practical difficulties and dangerous contradictions of nuclear deterrence. He offers, instead, more credible, effective and responsible alternative strategies to deter aggression and achieve real security.

‘This is a most important contribution to the debate on a subject which is crucial to the survival of the human race, and it needs to be read with a degree of humility and with an open mind – qualities not always apparent amongst our decision makers and their advisers. So vital an issue deserves nothing less.’

Reviews from the First Edition:

‘It is hard-won wisdom that today’s nuclear-armed states and those who would follow in their footsteps would do well to heed.’
Dr Zia Mian, Princeton University

‘I commend this book to all who wish to gain a deeper understanding of nuclear deterrence, surely one of the most controversial ideas of our time.’
H.E. Sergio Duarte, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

‘One of the best informed and most searching critiques of the central strategic doctrine of the nuclear age – nuclear deterrence – that I know of.’
Jonathan Schell, author of The Fate of the Earth, Yale University

Price: £14.99, 266 pages | ISBN: 9780 85124 87, paperback





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