Beyond Nuclear International

The $100 billion dollar man

Senator Ed Markey wants to slash nuclear weapons spending and get the US back to the negotiating table with North Korea

By Linda Pentz Gunter

“The Libya model as Kim Jong-un has been interpreting it, is that it’s one where the leader of the country surrenders their nuclear capability only to then be overthrown and killed. Why would you not think that Kim would not interpret that, as it continued to escalate with John Bolton on the Sunday shows, with the Vice President talking about the Gaddafi model? Why would you think that there would be any other interpretation than what happened to Gaddafi at the end of his denuclearization, which is that he wound up dead? Why would you think that would not in fact elicit hostility from a negotiating partner only three weeks from sitting down across the table?”

The man on the receiving end of this May 24th peppering was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The gentle barrage came during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing after the North Korean regime reacted with unsurprising offense to National Security Advisor John Bolton’s reference to the 2003 disarming of Libya as the model for the White House approach to “denuclearizing” North Korea.

As we already know, the North Korean response — along with its accurate assessment of Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” — prompted President Trump to call off the talks and accuse North Korea of “tremendous anger and open hostility.” And then say the talks were back on. Maybe. And then….who knows?

But who was grilling Pompeo? Many might spot his identity from the style of the written transcript alone. It is reasonable, tinged with humor, polite but persistent. To the point. For those unfamiliar with the speaker, the answer is the same as another question: Who is the US anti-nuclear movement’s most enduring and steadfast ally in Congress? That person would be Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

Markey3

Senator Ed Markey was honored by the Alliance For Nuclear Accountability for his decades of dedication to the anti-nuclear cause.

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Water is life. Will the Supreme Court disagree?

Court will decide if uranium can be mined in rainy Virginia

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Virginia Uranium, the Canadian company that wants to extract uranium from a deposit in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, has tried for years to argue its case on merit. And failed. That’s because there are no environmental, health or, at present, even economic arguments to support lifting the Commonwealth’s moratorium on uranium mining.

But corporations eager to plunder and profit do not readily throw in the towel. Instead, the company has taken its case to the US Supreme Court where it will argue the issue from a legal perspective.

Virginia Uranium has the support in this venture of the lapdog federal regulator, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which never fails to be on side with its corporate masters. (Technically the NRC answers to Congress, not the nuclear industry, but the agency annually assesses and collects fees from the industry totaling about 90 percent of its annual budget authority.)

The specifics of the Supreme Court case will debate who actually has the jurisdiction to decide whether the Virginia Uranium project can go forward. The federal government will make the case that it falls under the terms of the Atomic Energy Act. This would give the NRC the power to oversee all matters related to radiation risks posed by the mine — the core of the state’s reasoning in opposing it.

The state will argue that the Coles Hill site is on privately owned land. This would mean the mine site falls outside the jurisdiction of the AEA which is aimed at regulating mines on federal land.

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“What’s at stake here is life for the whole planet”

Vincent Laroza’s art delivers “a visual representation” of nuclear colonialism in New Mexico and around the world

An inflatable “mock” radioactive waste cask (pictured above in a photo by Don Hancock) has been touring New Mexico to draw attention — and opposition — to the proposed “Consolidated Interim Storage” radioactive waste dump slated for 1,000 acres of land approximately halfway between the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, N.M.

On April 19th, the cask was at the 10th Annual Sustainability Expo at Cornell Mall on the University of New Mexico campus. There, University of New Mexico student, Vincent Laroza, had an interactive art exhibit titled “Radioactive Colonialism, Desecration, and My Way to Wholeness.”

In this short video by Christina Rodriguez of New Mexico News Port, Laroza describes his project and the many ways people have been negatively impacted by nuclear colonialism across the world.

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The pro-nuclear lobby goes bananas

The nuclear industry wants you to believe that fruit is more fatal than Fukushima

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Desperate times call for desperate propaganda. Accordingly, the declining nuclear power industry would have you believe that bananas are a teensy bit too radioactive for comfort. If you eat a banana a day, they say — or for that matter live in Denver, or fly in an airplane, or salt your food with Morton’s — then you are a high-risk taker who would be far safer just living contentedly next door to a nuclear power plant. We debunked these false arguments in our 2013 report, Pandora’s False Promises (see page 30 on bananas.)

At the Cop23 Climate Talks last November in Bonn, a group calling itself, oxymoronically, Nuclear for Climate, hoped delegates would once again slip on their false banana propaganda and fall for their nonsensically unscientific notion that bananas are actually more dangerous than nuclear power plants! I am not making this up. They actually handed out bananas complete with a sticker that read: “This normal, every day banana is more radioactive than living near a nuclear power plant for one year.”

We’ve long contended that these pro-nuclear front groups treat the public like readily dupable dunderheads. But it’s they who are the dunderheads if they really think we would believe this piffle. Frankly, if this is all they’ve got, then the industry rhetoric is now on a par with its finances: in full bankruptcy.

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“We were rich in uranium, and we have been sacrificed”

Native Tribes try once again to stop uranium mining at sacred Mt. Taylor

By Linda Pentz Gunter

It’s a tale almost as old as time, except that the “White Man” has not been around as long as that. But long enough to massacre, expel, plunder, desecrate, abandon, repeat.

It’s the story Native Americans know all too well — a Trail of Tears that never really ended. Sacred places and burial sites disrespected, traditions ignored, the health and well-being of people dismissed, while the fundamental civil rights of indigenous populations in the United States continue to be trampled on by the US government and its friends in industry.

It would be tempting to say that the current battle over resumption of uranium mining at the sacred Mount Taylor, which sits atop one of the richest known uranium ore reserves in the country, is just the latest in this long and shameful saga. But it is not alone. There are stories like this everywhere in Indian Country — Bears Ears would be just one more example.

Mt. Taylor art

Mt. Taylor by Fred Harvey. New York Public Library.

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MOX got nixed. Now it could be the pits

US could use canceled plutonium fuel plant to make new nuclear weapons

By Linda Pentz Gunter

After wasting $7.6 billion on a plan to manufacture a fuel that no commercial US nuclear reactor is designed to use, the US Department of Energy finally indicated last week that it will cancel the facility still under construction. That’s the (only partially — given the vast expense) good news. The bad news is that the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would instead like to use the site to make nuclear weapons.

What got canceled was a long-overdue, vastly over-budget and totally unneeded MOX fuel fabrication plant (pictured above the headline in a photo by High Flyer © 2018.) The now abandoned MOX plant would have combined surplus US weapons plutonium left over from the Cold War with uranium extracted from irradiated commercial reactor fuel, into mixed-oxide or MOX fuel. The fuel was slated to be used in commercial reactors. (Technically, the MOX plant will only be officially canceled 30 days after the May 10 submission of the waiver letter to Congress. But there is little doubt there will be any change in the decision.)

The new proposal would turn one boondoggle — that at least had an albeit flawed non-proliferation agenda — into an overtly dangerous, and some argue unnecessary, proliferation operation. The South Carolina site would be converted into a plutonium pit production facility. Pits are the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear weapons.

“Siting of new factories at SRS or elsewhere to produce the plutonium components of nuclear weapons is a provocative move that will further stimulate a nuclear arms race and result in a host of nuclear waste and toxic waste streams,” said Tom Clements, director of the public interest organization Savannah River Site Watch, in a press statement he released on May 10. Clements however, welcomed the cancelation of the MOX plant.

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