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Monday
Aug202018

Is Bechtel out of the Wylfa B nuclear project?

On August 17, the Asahi Shimbun ran an encouraging story saying that construction firm, Bechtel, had pulled out of the unpopular Wylfa B Hitachi nuclear power plant project on the north coast of Wales (planned project pictured above in an unrealistic diagram that fails to show the devastating destruction of the surrounding countryside that will include hilltop removal).

The article said the US firm had bailed due to the obvious unprofitability of the two-reactor project which is facing growing public and political opposition as well as resistance from nature conservation groups. The paper said Bechtel withdrew due to the fact that "the drastic rise in construction costs would make it hard to make money on the project."

However, the next day, Bechtel was quoted by a UK newspaper, The Daily Post, as saying the withdrawal story was "categorically untrue." Observers in the UK are skeptical of this denial given the reality of the financial mountain the project faces and the reputation of the Asahi Shimbun which, as UK activist Pete Roche observed, "does not usually make mistakes."

Beyond Nuclear will be watchdogging this story with our UK colleagues to get to the bottom of what is really going on. The UK government has been considering public financing, given that no corporations are willing to take the full financial risk of building an unneeded, expensive and slow nuclear white elephant.

Monday
Aug202018

UN summit on nuclear disarmament in jeopardy

In less then two months the United Nations General Assembly will decide whether to hold the UN High-Level Conference (Summit) on Nuclear Disarmament, which has been planned for five years, or to yield to the pressure from pro-nuclear forces and cancel the event. The Basel Peace Office and Unfold Zero urge you join them in ensuring the Summit goes ahead.

Among other things, a nuclear disarmament summit could:

  • Put pressure on additional governments to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
  • Encourage nuclear armed and allied States to adopt policies to never use nuclear weapons first;
  • Support the peace and disarmament process in North East Asia;
  • Protect the Iran deal, which the US has left despite it being the best way to ensure Iran does not aquire nuclear weapons;
  • Encourage nuclear armed States to announce the next cuts in their nuclear stockpiles, and agree to a framework to achieve zero nuclear weapons

Read the full article and sign the petition!

Monday
Aug202018

Saudi Arabia is blackballing Canadian products. The good news is, one of those is a 14-reactor nuclear project

In an excellent new piece, now also published on Beyond Nuclear International, Henry Sokolski and Victor Gilinsky, of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, show how Saudi Arabia's decision to suspend all new business with Canada could inadvertently aid the non-proliferation cause. That's because Westinghouse, which was to sell 12-14 reactors to the Saudis, is now owned by a Canadian company. US president, Donald Trump, had hoped the nuclear deal, forged with the Saudi Crown Prince, would keep the Westinghouse name -- and coffers -- alive. Now, because of one tweet by a Canadian minister in favor of women's human rights, that deal could mercifully be off.

"In the latest you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up event, Saudi Arabia’s furious campaign of economic retaliation against Canada — in response to Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland’s criticismof the arrest of Saudi women’s rights activists — threatens to dash Westinghouse’s hopes for a lucrative nuclear deal with the Saudis. And, ironically, it may help to preserve tough rules on nuclear exports (“gold standard”) that the Saudi deal might otherwise scuttle.

On Aug. 7, the Saudis recalled their ambassador and expelled Canada’s ambassador, canceled flights to and from Canada, ordered Saudi students and even Saudis in Canadian hospitals to leave Canada, ordered the immediate sale of Saudi-owned Canadian assets “no matter the cost,” and — what is most important for our story — suspended all new business with Canada." Read the full article.

Friday
Aug172018

Fukushima workers exploited and exposed

The United Nations has criticized the Japanese government for exploiting low-income workers at the stricken Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant and exposing them to unacceptable levels of radioactivity while they conduct "cleanup" work at the site.

In a breaking news story on August 18, the UN special rapporteurs revealed that workers suffering financial hardship were being coerced into working at the site where they were then improperly protected and effectively lied to about the amount of radiation exposure they received on the job, multiple news sources reported.

In a damning report, the UN experts said that tens of thousands were affected, some of whom are homeless or migrant workers with no other employment options. They wrote that workers are "often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it."

This is a major black eye and exposé that Japanese authorities must now confront even as they continue to indulge in shameless propaganda suggesting that evacuees can return and that 2020 Olympic events planned for Fukushima will not expose athletes and spectators to radioactivity.

Friday
Aug172018

Vigilance needed against FirstEnergy Nuclear's attempted ratepayer/taxpayer robbery to prop up dangerously old atomic reactors

As reported by the Fremont (Ohio) News-Messenger: "Perry, Davis-Besse nuclear power plants move one step closer to deactivation."

However, as Akron, OH-based FirstEnergy officials make clear in their quotes in the article, the company's lobbyists' quest continues for state-level bailouts (as from the state legislatures in OH and PA -- FirstEnergy also owns/operates Beaver Valley in Shippingport near Pittsburgh), regional bailouts (as from the PJM grid operator), and even federal bailouts.

Re: the latter, NIRS, Public Citizen, and UCS board member Peter Bradford recently reported that the FirstEnergy so-called "emergency request" (bending old laws to the breaking point) to President Trump and Energy Secretary Perry, if approved, could cost the public (ratepayers and taxpayers) a total of $34 billion (yes, with a B) per year, half in old nuke bailouts, and half in old coal bailouts.

Obviously, FirstEnergy's announced closure dates for its atomic reactors at Perry, Davis-Besse, and Beaver Valley must be viewed with deep skepticism. Multiple announced reactor closure dates in NY and IL were simply reversed, when massive public bailouts were awarded, to keep dangerously old reactors operating. The announced closures were simply used as a lobbying ploy to secure bailouts -- the nuclear power plant workers' jobs, local tax revenues, etc., were threatened, till complicit decision makers went along -- at public expense, and increasing safety risk to countless communities downwind and downstream.

Here are links to related media coverage: