Beyond Nuclear International

What are nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats?

As shorelines creep inland and storms worsen, nuclear reactors around the world face new challenges

By John Vidal for Ensia

The outer defensive wall of what is expected to be the world’s most expensive nuclear power station is taking shape on the shoreline of the choppy gray waters of the Bristol Channel in western England.

By the time the US$25 billion Hinkley Point C nuclear station is finished, possibly in 2028, the concrete seawall will be 12.5 meters (41 feet) high, 900 meters (3,000 feet) long and durable enough, the UK regulator and French engineers say, to withstand the strongest storm surge, the greatest tsunami and the highest sea-level rise.

But will it? Independent nuclear consultant Pete Roche, a former adviser to the UK government and Greenpeace, points out that the tidal range along this stretch of coast is one of the highest in the world, and that erosion is heavy. Indeed, observers reported serious flooding on the site in 1981 when an earlier nuclear power station had to be shut down for a week following a spring tide and a storm surge. However well built, says Roche, the new seawall does not adequately take into account sea-level rise due to climate change.

San Onofre

San Onofre nuclear generating station on the California coast. The plant is closed but the radioactive waste remains on site. (Photo: NRC)

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Sticking with nuclear power will make climate change worse

New A-Z anti-nuclear handbook chapter lays out all the arguments against nuclear power as a climate change “solution”

Nuclear power as a climate change “solution” is probably the most frequently made pitch by the pro-nuclear lobby. And now we hear that the nuclear industry is about to make another major push on both sides of the Atlantic — on Capitol Hill and in the British Parliament at Westminster — to convince lawmakers not to abandon nuclear power and that it is essential to curb climate change.

Politicians listen to this facile rhetoric and believe it. And yet the nuclear-for-climate-change argument should never really get out of the starting gate for one simple reason: Time. We are out of it.

Climate change has arrived and it is an existential crisis. A nuclear power plant can take a decade (or more) from start to finish. We cannot wait a decade for nuclear power plants to arrive and we would need scores or more of them to come on line every year to make even a dent in global carbon emissions.  Countries with new build such as the US, France, Finland, China, are struggling to complete even one, and when they do, they can years to arrive.

The time argument is such an obvious showstopper when it comes to arguing the case for nuclear power that proponents simply avoid it altogether. James Hansen, the “guru” of the pro-nuclear movement, uses his NASA credentials and unarguable knowledge about the perils of climate change, to push for nuclear while bridging quickly to phantoms like “new” reactor designs when confronted with the question of time. So on the one hand, Hansen sounds the alarm about the terrible and rapid  countdown we are on to address climate change. On the other, he claims nuclear energy is the answer. Baffling.

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Japan tries to dilute tritium danger

TEPCO still wants to dump radioactive water into the ocean. Help stop it!

From various correspondents

More than one million tonnes of radioactively contaminated water has already accumulated at the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant site, stored in steel tanks and increasing in volume daily — by some accounts one new tank is added every four days. Space to store it is rapidly running out. So far, the only “plan” Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has come up with to deal with the problem is to dump the water into the Pacific Ocean.

The water is accumulating in part because about 150 tonnes of groundwater seeps daily through cracks in the stricken reactors’ foundations, thereby becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes. In addition, water flows down the surrounding hillsides onto the site, picks up radiation, and must be captured and stored.

TEPCO has so far been pumping the contaminated water through a filtering system that can only remove cesium and strontium. But the process creates a highly toxic sludge as a byproduct, which also has to be stored in sealed canisters on site.

Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, cannot of course be removed from water. Hence the plan to dump the radioactive (tritiated) water into the ocean. This move has long been strongly opposed by people from many spectra in Japan. A “Resolution Against the Ocean Dumping of Radioactive Tritium-contaminated Waste Water From the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant,” has been initiated by physics Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University, Kosaku Yamada, under the auspices of the Association for Citizens and Scientists Concerned about Internal Radiation Exposures (ACSIR). It has already garnered signatures from 280 individuals and 35 organizations. The Resolution is reproduced further below.

The goal of the resolution is to raise public awareness about the prolonged serious health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that the Japanese government is taking every step to conceal.

The resolution has already been submitted to the Japanese government, TEPCO, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the governor of Fukushima Prefecture. On August 30 and 31, the government held public hearings on this issue at three sites — Tomioka and Koriyama (both Fukushima Prefecture) and Tokyo.

There, several members of the ACSIR, including Professor Yamada, presented their views against the dumping of tritiated water. But, reports Professor Yamada, despite the fact that “only one speaker endorsed the government plan, and only on the condition of rigorous measurement of radioactivity, and all the 45 other speakers opposed the dumping plan, the Japanese government and mainstream mass-media continue to blatantly promote their PR campaign that radiological risks of tritium are ‘ignorable'”.

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Iranians want peace. Trump isn’t helping

Tehran Peace Museum is a vibrant hub of peacemaking and education

By Linda Pentz Gunter

The fact that there is a Tehran Peace Museum seems like an important thing to know right now. Despite the bellicose, all capital letters Twitter rhetoric of the man inflicted on us to run the United States, there are many ordinary people in Iran who want peace. 

That peace has been put in greater jeopardy, not only by a man who refuses to look in the mirror (or the history books) when accusing Iran of “DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH.” It has been undermined by the White House decision to withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA, forged under the Obama administration, created the greatest likelihood to date that Iran would not develop nuclear weapons.

On the face of it, given the Trump administration’s hostile stance toward Iran, you would think this White House would be all for the JCPOA. But for Trump’s friends in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — for whom he does a devoted puppet dance second only to the one he performs for Russia — the JCPOA was not enough. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and therefore the Trump regime, would like to see Iran collapse, even destroyed. We should probably mention Israel in the same breath here as well, although why Israel would want to see a nuclear armed Iran is as illogical as Trump’s decision to effectively encourage it.

Tehran_Peace_Museum

The Tehran Peace Museum, whose slogan is “Peace is more than the absence of war”. (Photo: WikiCommons.)

Consequently, not only has the US Trump administration withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, it has now begun the imposition of harsh sanctions on a country already struggling economically. Those sanctions will hurt the people who have the least the most. But Trump is willing to starve children just to undo an Obama policy and make a point, even though undoing it actually runs contrary to what Trump says he wants: a nuclear weapons-free Iran.

In the middle of this perpetual nightmare, the Tehran Peace Museum holds a very special place.

The Museum was founded and is run by many individuals who are themselves victims of war, and specifically of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. Iraq used chemical weapons during that conflict, in particular nerve agents and mustard gas. One of the countries that aided Iraq in acquiring and deploying those chemical weapons was the United States. Iran suffered more than 50,000 casualties as a result of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons.

German Ambassador May 31 2017

The German ambassador visits the museum on May 31, 2017, welcomed by staff including its director, MohammadReza Taghipoor Moghadam, a war victim and double amputee.

Several of those people now work, or volunteer at the Tehran Peace Museum. The head of the volunteer guides at the museum, Hasan Hasani Sadi, was exposed twice to mustard gas in 1984 and ’85 on the southern front of the Iran-Iraq border. He suffers severe lung and eye lesions. Several of the volunteers he leads are similar victims of chemical warfare. One, Ahmad Zangiabadi, suffered respiratory collapse and died in a Tehran hospital in November 2014.

The museum’s director, MohammadReza Taghipoor Moghadam, is a double amputee, injured in Khoramshahr in 1982.

These people understand war. They have lived it. And they want to see an end to it. Permanently. The Trump administration is certainly not helping.

The US sanctions against Iran undermine that goal, says Dr. Leila Moein, a member of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and an associate of the museum. “The withdrawal of America can greatly harm peace in the Middle East,” she said, “firstly due to the economic harm to Iran and consequently to the neighboring countries of Iran. Then, economic tensions will eventually lead to political tension. And finally, America’s conspiracy with Saudi Arabia could lead to hostile relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”

The JCPOA, she says, “was a rare event in recent years that made peace between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union. It was the face of peace. But the United States closed the door of peace on Iran.”

The idea for the Tehran Peace Museum — whose slogan is “Peace is more than the absence of war” — came about, says the museum’s website, “with a conversation between the founders of the Tehran-based Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support (SCWVS) and a coordinator for the International Network of Museums for Peace in 2005, along with a visit by SCWVS members to Hiroshima. It was at Hiroshima, that the Iranian delegation began to understand the parallels between those victims and their own suffering due to the use of chemical weapons.”

The long version of the museum’s slogan is “Real peace comes from our heart (inner peace) and leads to peaceful relations in the family and community and among nations. Let’s inspire others with non-violence every day. Let’s be messengers of peace in every interaction.”

Explains Moein: “It means that peace doesn’t just focus on nonviolent relations among governments. The cease-fire after the war or the avoidance of war are just two kinds of peace.

“First of all, you have to look at the root of peace. This is in our heart, where kindness, happiness and forgiveness are made. Humans must grow peace in their hearts. After that they can exchange peacefully with others. Here, peace enters the next stage — relationships between people. For example colleagues that work in a company, or our contact with shopkeepers and so on.

“After that, these peaceful relations can be extended to the behavior of societies and beyond states.

“Peace is not just lack of fighting between states. It starts with each of us. Peace comes from our heart (inner peace) and leads to peaceful relations in the family and community and among nations. Let’s inspire others with non-violence every day.”

The Museum attracts a broad variety of visitors to its vibrant, interactive education center, conferences, workshops, and exhibitions. It also has a library and a documentary studio that continues to capture stories about the victims of warfare. In addition to the general public, the museum also hosts visiting dignitaries and foreign guests including ambassadors, UN representatives, writers and doctors.

Kids TPM

Children and their art at the Tehran Peace Museum. (Photo: Erfan Eskamaei for the Tehran Peace Museum.)

In keeping with its mantra that war does not end when peace comes, the museum also draws attention to the legacy of war. In particular, it educates visitors about how, decades after the Iran-Iraq conflict ended, tens of thousands of chemical weapons victims still suffer from chronic ill health. The museum includes information on other similar attacks, including the use of Agent Orange by American forces in Vietnam.

“Iraqi veterans have visited the museum several times and recounted a lot of memories of the war,” Moein said. “They talked about the domination of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, who expelled Iraqi men from their homes and captured their families in order to force them to go to war. We also have an Iraqi narrator who volunteers at the Peace Museum and who fled the Iraqi army as a refugee to Iran.”

Through its teachings and educational programs, the museum tries to bring hope to younger generations. This past June, a “Children and Peaceful Dreams” art exhibition was held at a Tehran gallery, a collaboration between Hadis Early Childhood Education Centre and the Tehran Peace Museum. All of the artists were aged six. After hearing an explanation of the concept of peace from their school teachers, the children used their imaginations to depict it.

TPM mediator conference

Among its activities, the Tehran Peace Museum held a conference to train mediators. (Photo: TPM).

Also in June, the museum held a mediation course, in conjunction with Berghof Foundation and Allame Tabatabei University, to train mediators to act in different types of conflicts. 

At the end of June, a new exhibition of paintings, the Scent of Almond, memorialized the June 28, 1987 chemical weapons attack on Sardasht when Iraq used mustard gas bombs, the first time in history that chemical weapons were used against civilians. A Tehran court subsequently ordered the US to pay $600 million in compensation to the victims of Sardasht due to US involvement in Iraq’s acquisition and use of chemical weapons.

Needless so say, that sum was never paid.  Nor were the many other cities that were destroyed and hit by chemical weapons, including Zarde and Deyreh, ever compensated

The Trump administration would do well to remember the US backed atrocities of places like Sardasht (not to mention its facilitation of the Saudi bombing of Yemen and Syria — although one should note that Iran is of course engaged in the Syrian war on the side of the Assad government and with the support of Russia) before it unleashes another tirade accusing Iran of being the world’s “leading sponsor of terrorism.”

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CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin takes a look inside Iran

Anti-war activist wants peace talks with Iran, not crushing sanctions

By Sophia Akram, The Iranian

Medea Benjamin’s entry into the public sphere came with disruptive vigor in May 2013, when she interrupted an address by former US President Barack Obama to object to his then policy on the use of armed drones.

Obama responded to Benjamin at the time saying, “The voice of that woman is worth paying attention to… these are tough issues, and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong.”

The incident perhaps gave Benjamin a bigger audience for her activism via the organization CODEPINK, through which she had been involved for years. And through which she’s tackled a number of global issues across the world.

Having looked at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a book published in 2016, she’s now taking on Iran.

medea_and_book_2

CODEPINK co-founder, Medea Benjamin, has a new book out about Iran and is a dedicated campaigner for peace and justice.

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Trump’s chaos campaign

Iran honored its nuclear deal. But Trump’s sanctions could plunge the region into conflict

By Vijay Prashad, Independent Media Institute

On August 4, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani went on television to talk about the reinstatement of sanctions by the United States against his country. He prepared the country for more privations as a result of the sanctions. Responding to Trump’s offer for a meeting, Rouhani said pointedly, “If you stab someone with a knife and then say you want to talk, the first thing you have to do is to remove the knife.”

It is clear to everyone outside the U.S. government that Iran has honored its side of the 2015 nuclear deal that it made with the governments of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the U.S., the UK, France, China and Russia) as well as the European Union. In fact, quite starkly, the European Union’s foreign policy chief—Federica Mogherini—said, “We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something that for us is a security priority.” In other words, Mogherini is asking companies to resist Trump’s policy direction. What she is saying, and what Rouhani said, is that it is the United States that has violated the nuclear deal and so no one needs to honor the U.S. sanctions that have been reinstated.

President_Hassan_Rouhani_speaking_at_Bandar_Abbas_Stadium_02

Iran president, Hassan Rouhani, says it is the United States that has violated the nuclear deal, so no one need honor U.S. sanctions. (Photo:WikiCommons)

Mogherini pointed to “small and medium enterprises” because these would not be the kind of multinational corporations with interests in the United States. But it is more than small and medium enterprises that are going to challenge the U.S. sanctions. China, Russia and Turkey have already indicated that they will not buckle to U.S. pressure.

China: “China’s lawful rights should be protected,” said the Chinese government. China has no incentive to follow the new U.S. position. First, China imports about $15 billion of oil from Iran each year and expects to increase its purchases next year. Chinese state energy firms, such as China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Sinopec, have invested billions of dollars in Iran. CNPC and Sinopec have also got shares in Iran’s major oil fields—CNPC has a 30 percent share in the South Pars gas field and has investments in the North Azadegan oil field, while Sinopec has invested $2 billion in Yadavan oil field. China’s Export Import Bank, meanwhile, has financed many large projects in Iran, including the electrification of the Tehran-Mashhad railway. Other Chinese investment projects include the Tehran metro and the Tehran-Isfahan train. These projects are worth tens of billions of dollars.

Second, China is in the midst of a nasty trade war with the United States. In late August, Trump’s government slapped 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese imports into the United States. China responded with its own tariffs, with the Chinese Commerce Ministry saying that the U.S. is “once again putting domestic law over international law,” which is a “very unreasonable practice.” The “once again” is important. China is seized by the unfairness of the reinstatement of sanctions on Iran, not only for its own economic reasons but also because it sees this as a violation of international agreements and a threat to Iranian sovereignty—two principles that China takes very seriously. Sinopec, knee-deep in Iran’s oil sector, has now said that it would delay buying U.S. oil for September. Iran has now been drawn into the U.S. “trade war” (on which, read more here). The Chinese have been quite strong in their position. The Global Times, a Chinese government paper, wrote in an editorial, “China is prepared for protracted war. In the future, the U.S. economy will depend more on the Chinese market than the other way around.” This fortitude is going to spill over into China’s defense of Iran’s economy.

Russia: Russia and Iran do not share the kind of economic linkages that Iran has with China. After the 2015 sanctions deal, Iran did not turn to Russian oil and gas companies for investment. It went to France’s Total—which signed a $5 billion deal. Russia and Iran did sign various massive energy deals ($20 billion in 2014), but these did not seem to go anywhere. Russia’s Gazprom and Lukoil have toyed with entry into Iran. In May, Lukoil directly said that it would be hesitant to enter Iran because of the proposed U.S. reinstatement of sanctions. Lukoil’s hesitancy came alongside that of European firms such as Peugeot, Siemens and even Total, which decided to hold off on expansion or cut ties with Iran. Daimler has now officially halted any work in Iran. It was a surprise earlier this year when the Iranian Dana Energy firm signed a deal with the Russian Zarubezhneft company to develop the Aban and West Paydar oilfields. The contract is for $740 million, which in the oil and gas business is significant but not eye-opening.

Iran_s senior leader Ali Akbar Velayati meets Russia_s Vladimir Puti

Iran’s senior leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, right, meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin. (Photo: WikiCommons)

In July, Iran’s senior leader Ali Akbar Velayati met Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Moscow. He left the meeting saying, “Russia is ready to invest $50 billion in Iran’s oil and gas sectors.” Velayati specifically mentioned Rosneft and Gazprom as potential investors—“up to $10 billion,” he said. When Putin had been in Tehran last November, Russian companies signed preliminary deals worth $30 billion. Whether these deals will go forward is not clear. But, after Trump’s reinstatement of sanctions, Russia’s foreign ministry said that it would “take appropriate measures on a national level to protect trade and economic cooperation with Iran.” In other words, it would see that trade ties are not broken.

Turkey: Both Iran and Turkey face great economic challenges. Neither can afford to break ties. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that his government will only honor international agreements, and that the U.S. reinstatement of sanctions is not part of an international framework. Turkey, therefore, will continue to trade with Iran. Iran’s oil and gas are crucial for Turkey, whose refineries are calibrated to Iran’s oil and would not be able to easily and cheaply adjust to Saudi Arabian imports. Almost half of Turkey’s oil comes from Iran.

Turkish-U.S. relations are at a low. Conflict over the detention of a U.S. pastor—Andrew Brunson—has led to the U.S. sanctioning two Turkish ministers—Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu. Gul is a leader of the ruling party, AKP, while Soylu came to the party at the personal invitation of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These are not men to be intimidated by U.S. pressure.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets Trump

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with Donald Trump but US-Turkish relations are now at an all-time low (Photo: WikiCommons)

A U.S. mission—led by Marshall Billingslea, assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury—went to Turkey to convince the government to join the U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, the U.S. has begun to put pressure on Turkey’s Halkbank, one of whose senior officials was found guilty of violation of the U.S. sanctions on Iran by a court in the United States earlier this year. This kind of pressure is not sitting well with the Turkish government.

Inside Iran: Pressure mounts inside Iran. Protests have begun across the country, a reflection of the distress felt by the population as the country’s currency—the rial—slides around and as fears of inflation mount. In early August, the Iranian government fired the head of Iran’s central bank—Valiollah Seif—and replaced him with Abdolnasser Hemati. It reversed the foreign exchange rules, including the failed attempt to fix the value of the rial that was put in place in April. Hemati had been the head of Iran’s state insurance firm and before that of Sina Bank and Bank Melli. He is a highly trusted person by the government, which had already appointed him as ambassador to China before hastily rescinding that offer and moving him to the central bank. Whether Hemati will be able to balance the stress inside the Iranian economy is to be seen. Faith in the currency will need to be strengthened.

As part of that, Iran’s government has cracked down harshly against financial fraud, particularly scandals over foreign exchange. The man who signed the 2015 nuclear deal—Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi—now watches as his nephew—Ahmad Araghchi, the central bank’s vice governor in charge of foreign exchange—is arrested with five other people as part of an inquiry over fraud. The message: no one, not even the Araghchi family, is immune from the long arm of the law.

Trump’s belligerence, the refusal of key countries to abide by Trump’s sanctions (including the European Union, but mainly Russia and China) as well as the internal pressure in Iran could very likely create the conditions for a military clash in the waters around Iran. This is a very dangerous situation. Sober minds need to push against the reinstatement of these sanctions—which the Iranians see as economic warfare—as well as the escalation into military war.

Vijay Prashad is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. 

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. It was first published on August 8, 2018 on AlterNet and is reproduced by Beyond Nuclear International with kind permission from the author.

Headline photo by Alisdare Hickson, UK, WikiCommons.