The lessons of those 38 nightmare minutes in Hawaii

The 38+ minutes of terror felt by the residents of Hawaii after receiving a text alert about incoming nuclear missiles that proved to be a mistake, was a reminder that so-called civil defense is fundamentally useless. People sheltered in their bathrooms. There was nowhere to run to and no time to go. It also reminded us that our nuclear warning and even launch systems are vulnerable, too. This was a human error. The same thing could happen along the chain of command, or in a nuclear silo. A human or systems error could even lead to an accidental missile launch instead of an accidental message about one. The Hawaii incident further brings home the one inalienable truth: that no one should have to live with the traumatic prospect of “inbound” nuclear missiles and the only way to avoid that is for the world’s nuclear powers to disarm. And that’s also why diplomacy with North Korea is the essential and only option. The UN has called for an Olympic Truce. Beyond Nuclear is endorsing the Ploughshares Fund organizational initiative — Call for Olympic Truce Actions: Diplomacy NOT War. As an individual, you can also sign the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea, here. 


Hawaii’s Nuclear Wake Up Call (And Why We Should Take MLK’s Advice)

An op-ed by Joe Cirincione published in Defense One.

This is a time to have faith in our power to challenge these ominous trends. A time, in fact, to heed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

For King, the struggle against racism was part of a larger struggle for peace and justice. He repeatedly spoke out against nuclear war. As early as 1957 he said, “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned.”

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King eloquently spoke to the hopes of many.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history…I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction…we must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world.

Amen, brother.


Letting It Be an Arms Race

As reported by Adam Mount in The Atlantic.

The article is sub-titled "A leaked draft of the Trump administration’s nuclear-weapons plan imagines a more dangerous world."

It begins:

As Americans question whether President Donald Trump has the judgment necessary to command the most capable nuclear arsenal on earth, the Pentagon is moving to order new, more usable nuclear options. Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a Pentagon document that sets the nation’s nuclear policy, demonstrates an aggressive shift that will add to the spiraling cost of the nuclear arsenal, raise the risk of a nuclear exchange, and plunge the country into a new arms race, according to a draft published by HuffPost three weeks ahead of its planned release. Though the document is marked “pre-decisional,” insiders have told me it reflects the final text.

Here is the link to the full article. 

Adam Mount is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.


California’s last nuclear plant to close after unanimous vote by regulators

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) and Friends of the Earth have issued statements.

See here for more info. on this historic victory for a genuinely clean energy future, free from dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power.

Beyond Nuclear, alongside Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), will co-present on radioactive waste issues at a MFP educational event in San Luis Obispo, CA on Jan. 19, 2018.


FERC stands by competitive utility market by rejecting Trump’s nuke-coal bailout

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to rig the nation’s competitive wholesale marketing of electricity with a colossally expensive bailout through rate tariffs for financially failing nuclear power and coal-fired generators. On January 8, 2018, the FERC Order terminated the Trump Administration Energy Department’s September 29, 2017 proposed rulemaking for “Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing.” The FERC regulates interstate electricity and gas transmission as well as the licensing of hydroelectric dams.  

In October 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) had ordered the FERC to open a proposed rulemaking aimed at providing full cost recovery for financially ailing plants that have 90-days of fuel stored onsite as a national security measure to assure electric grid reliability and resilience during disruptive events like extreme weather. Secretary Perry’s disingenuous attempt was in fact more focused averting the impending economic failure and closure of increasingly expensive and unreliable nuclear power plants and coal-fired generators. But merely having a 90-day onsite fuel supply, such as enriched uranium fuel rods or a humongous coal pile, does not assure grid stability during extreme events. To the contrary, when hurricane force winds cause perturbations on the electrical transmission lines that supply 100% power to an operating reactor’s safety systems, nuclear power stations are designed to automatically shut down. Federal safety standards, in fact, require all U.S. nuclear power stations to manually SCRAM once a hurricane’s sustained wind exceeds 73 miles per hour (Category 1). It is because of safety concerns that nuclear power plants cannot re-energize or “black start” the electrical grid even once its repaired.  Similarly, extreme cold weather is responsible for shutting down coal-fired generators when coal piles freeze solid as did during the Polar Vortex of 2014. A frozen coal pile cannot be efficiently transferred as fuel to the generator’s furnace.  

Critics of Perry’s rulemaking, including Harvey Peskoe, a senior fellow of electricity law at the Harvard Law School of Environmental Policy Initiative, pointed out that DOE didn’t bother to make a cogent argument nuclear power’s reliability and failed to even define “resilience” of fossil and fissile power generators. What is crystal clear from expert and former regulators testimony alike is just how unpredictably expensive the Trump nuke and coal bailout was going to be. Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff was quoted to say “It’s going to be as expensive as hell. Expensive as it can be because we will be paying the full freight on coal and nuclear plants.”

Meanwhile, FERC is predicting an additional 116 gigawatts of renewable wind and solar power to be installed in the US by 2020 with the continued decline of coal and nuclear over the same timeframe.