Beyond Nuclear International

Six million dead

The Congo Holocaust has its origins in minerals plunder and colonialism

By Linda Pentz Gunter

When you’ve lost family members to the Nazi death camps, it’s a pain that never goes away. Six of my relatives were killed there, four more shot in Polish ghettos and at Forlì. They died long before I was born and were people I never knew. But we have their photographs. Their pain stares out from those images, a perpetual ache.

But what use is endless mourning if no lessons are learned? The most important one surely is that no such Holocaust must ever be allowed to happen again? And yet it has. To almost universal silence. No one speaks of today’s six million dead. They lie beneath the mineral-rich soil of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), invisible and unmourned by the world beyond their country’s borders.

“The Holocaust continues in DRC with the complicity of the international community,” Rodrigue Muganwa Lubulu wrote to me in an email exchange. “Women and girls are raped every day and the dead are counted by tens each day.” He is the program director for CRISPAL Afrique and gave a zoom talk recently hosted by ICAN Germany.

Congolese women and children are most at risk in the DRC, where six million people have died due to internal and cross-border violence. (Photo by United Nations Photo shows a Congolese woman from Aru, Ituri, knitting in front of her house. Martine Perret. www.unmultimedia.org/photo/)

The tragedy of the DRC, the second largest country in Africa, began with the discovery in 1915 of the Shinkolobwe uranium deposit, the richest ever discovered at the time. Its plunder, from 1921 until its closure in 2004, “has been a curse for the powerless community” around the mine, said Lubulu, “because not only have they been forced to abandon their lands, houses and fields in favor of uranium mining, but also all the men were forced to dig out those extremely radioactive materials without protective equipment.”

The cancers and other illnesses that killed those uranium workers are still harming the community today, Lubulu says, even though the mine is now shut down.

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A secret military-energy agenda

UK defence policy is driving energy policy – with the public kept in the dark

By David Thorpe

The UK government has for 15 years persistently backed the need for new nuclear power. Given its many problems, most informed observers can’t understand why. The answer lies in its commitment to being a nuclear military force. Here’s how, and why, anyone opposing nuclear power also needs to oppose its military use.

“All of Britain’s household energy needs supplied by offshore wind by 2030,” proclaimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a recent online Conservative Party conference. This means 40 per cent of total UK electricity. Johnson did not say how, but it is likely, if it happens, to be by capacity auctions, as it has been in the recent past.

But this may have been a deliberate distraction: there were two further announcements on energy – both about nuclear power.

16 so-called “small nuclear reactors”

Downing Street told the Financial Times, which it faithfully reported, that it was “considering” £2 billion of taxpayers’ money to support “small nuclear reactors” – up to 16 of them “to help UK meet carbon emissions targets”.

It claimed the first SMR is expected to cost £2.2 billion and be online by 2029.

Boris Johnson’s boast about offshore wind potential masked the UK government’s new nuclear power agenda, inextricably tied to its membership in the nuclear weapons club. (Photo of Rampion Offshore Wind Farm, United Kingdom by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash)

The government could also commission the first mini power station, giving confidence to suppliers and investors. Any final decision will be subject to the Treasury’s multiyear spending review, due later this year.

The consortium that would build it includes Rolls Royce and the National Nuclear Laboratory.

Support for this SMR technology is expected to form part of Boris Johnson’s “10-point plan for a green industrial revolution” and new Energy White Paper, which are scheduled for release later in the autumn.

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Losing paradise

Atomic racism decimated Kiribati and the Marshall Islands; now climate change is sinking them

This is an extract from the Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland report “Nuclear Weapons, the Climate and Our Environment”.

Kiribati

In 1954, the government of Winston Churchill decided that the UK needed to develop a hydrogen bomb (a more sophisticated and destructive type of nuclear weapon). The US and Russia had already developed an H-bomb and Churchill argued that the UK “could not expect to maintain our influence as a world power unless we possessed the most up-to-date nuclear weapons”.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand refused to allow a hydrogen bomb test to be conducted on their territories so the British government searched for an alternative site. Kiritimati Island and Malden Island in the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony in the central Pacific Ocean (now the Republic of Kiribati) were chosen. Nine nuclear weapons tests – including the first hydrogen bomb tests – were carried out there as part of “Operation Grapple” between 1957 and 1958.

A Handley Page Hastings (TG 582) flying over London, Christmas Island (now Kiritimati), Line Islands, at the time of the British H Bomb test. (Photo by Dennis Hobbs, Navigator of the plane/Wikimedia Commons)

Military personnel from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji (then a British colony) and Gilbertese labourers were brought in to work on the operation. Many of the service personnel were ordered to witness the tests in the open, on beaches or on the decks of ships, and were simply told to turn their backs and shut their eyes when the bombs were detonated. There is evidence that Fijian forces were given more dangerous tasks than their British counterparts, putting them at greater risk from radiation exposure. The local Gilbertese were relocated and evacuated to British naval vessels during some of the tests but many were exposed to fallout, along with naval personnel and soldiers.

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#ICANSAVE my city!

Your country might not endorse the ban treaty, but your city can

From the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)

In the blink of an eye a nuclear detonation will wipe a metropolitan center off the map, laying waste to countless lives, destroying all infrastructure and poisoning the environment. This isn’t hypothetical: cities are the main targets of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are designed to inflict comprehensive damage upon their targets. It is the very nature of the nuclear threat to a rival country’s most important places that underpins the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence, which is promoted as a legitimate defense strategy by all nine nuclear-armed states, and the several dozen more that endorse the use of nuclear weapons.

These governments are putting their citizens’ lives at risk by subscribing to this strategy, which has been undermined time and again by near misses and miscalculations which very nearly unleashed nuclear war. Local governments bear a special responsibility for the safety of their residents. It is therefore incumbent upon cities to speak out against nuclear weapons.

Engaging the cities is an important way to pressure governments to be responsive to the will of their people. When cities call on their governments to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it’s a tangible reminder that citizens are against these weapons of mass destruction and that governments are consistently ignoring this view. A new coalition of cities and towns around the world will amplify these voices and compel governments to ditch any involvement with nuclear weapons and encouraging their peers to follow suit.

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The science is in: Nuclear is out

Every dollar wasted on nuclear is a dollar not invested in renewables

By Tim Judson and Luis Hestres

We’ve known for a long time that nuclear energy is a false solution to climate change. Not only are the health and environmental impacts of nuclear power intolerable, but it also gobbles up investments we should be making in clean and safe renewable energy.

Now, a new study by researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK brings us the latest and most robust evidence of these facts.

The study, published last week in Nature Energy, considers three hypotheses: Firstly, that emissions decline the more a country adopts nuclear power; secondly, that emissions decline the more a country adopts renewables; and thirdly, that nuclear and renewables are ‘mutually exclusive’ options that tend to crowd each other out at an energy system level. The hypotheses were tested against 25 years’ worth of electricity-production and emissions data from 123 countries.

The result? Investment in nuclear is mostly negatively correlated with decreases in carbon emissions, while investment in renewables was positively correlated with such decreases across the board. In other words, countries that invested in nuclear didn’t see emission reductions but countries that invested in renewables did. 

Investment in renewables was positively correlated with decreases in carbon emissions across the board. (Photo: “Wind Farm at Sunset” by chaunceydavis818?CC BY 2.0.jpg)

The only exceptions were higher per-capita GDP countries, which saw some decreases in emissions while investing in nuclear—but countries with lower per-capita GDP didn’t. But this last finding didn’t take into account the costs associated with nuclear waste storage and cleanup, the dangers of nuclear accidents, or the fact that those reductions might have been deeper if renewables had been chosen.

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Dear “President-elect Biden”

Please start with the easiest problem to solve

Editor’s note: The author’s assumption that Joe Biden will be elected president is of course his own.

By Alan Robock

Here is a letter I intend to mail in November. But I want you to know about it now, to bring up an issue that is crucial to consider before you vote, and which has not received enough attention.

Dear President-Elect Biden,

I’m so happy that you were elected because in January you can start to address major problems in America. But before you deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, immigration, gun violence, and climate change, all of which are very important, I recommend that first you take immediate steps to lower the danger of nuclear war. You will be Commander in Chief, and there are several first steps you can take immediately to make the world safer.

In the early 1980s, I was one of the American and Russian scientists who, working together, discovered that in a war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union smoke from fires ignited by nuclear explosions would block out the Sun, producing instant climate change, turning the Earth cold, dark and dry, killing plants and preventing agriculture for at least a year, producing global famine.

Watch Dr. Alan Robock’s TED Talk on nuclear winter

As I described in a New York Times op-ed on Feb. 11, 2016, this nuclear winter theory was accepted by presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and was instrumental in ending the nuclear arms race. But although the Russian and American nuclear arsenals have decreased, our research shows they can still produce a nuclear winter.

Furthermore, there are seven other nuclear nations now: China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. Even a nuclear war between two with much smaller arsenals, such as India and Pakistan (one of the scariest scenarios, given continued conflict over Kashmir), could produce global climate change unprecedented in recorded human history and major impacts on the world food supply.

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