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Tuesday
Aug132019

Test of Russian atomic-powered rocket engine explodes in missile test range above the Arctic Circle

On August 8, 2019, a test of a Russian nuclear-powered rocket engine for the “Skyfall” or Burevestnik cruise missile program exploded on its launch platform at the Nynonksa test range above the Arctic Circle on the White Sea.  At least five scientists and workers have been killed and dozens injured. Sustained gamma radiation was measured at multiple monitoring stations for 40 minutes to an hour, eighteen miles away in the closed military city of Severodvinsk (pictured by Михаил солобаев for Wikimedia Commons). The radiation is reported to have spiked six to twenty times above normal before documentation was shutdown.  As concern grew over the potential radiation exposure to the 500 residents of Nynoksa, the village nearest the explosion, on August 13th the Russian military ordered their evacuation but  rescinded it only hours later. Since the accident, the 180,000 residents of Severodvinsk have been seeking and ingesting potassium iodide (KI) to block the uptake of cancer-casuing radioactive iodine to the thyroid gland. Saturating the thyroid with stable iodine is a critical prophylactic for the limited radiation protection it offers the most vulnerable population (infants, young children and pregnant women). According to the American Thyroid Association, KI should always be used  as an "essential adjunct" to prompt evacuation or limited sheltering-in-place and restricted ingestion of contaminated food and water.

The Skyfall nuclear-powered cruise missile system is part of Russia’s newly developed experimental warfighting strategy where nuclear weapons could be launched and held aloft indefinitely, evasively traveling over the global at hypersonic speed by an atomic-powered ramjet propulsion system. Skyfall initially uses conventional liquid jet fuel for launch but as the cruise missile reaches supersonic speed, the air is drawn into the missile system and super-heated by the nuclear reactor to rapidly expand and discharged for hypersonic thrust. Because the super-heated air comes in direct contact with the reactor, it would be highly radioactive.  The Burevestnik cruise missile, aka Skyfall, is similar to what the United States Air Force contemplated before it abandoned nuclear-powered rockets in “Project Pluto” during the Cold War. The weight of a reactor engine raised questions. Oddly,  U.S. scientists were concerned about the populations and the environment in the nuclear weapon's flight path being irradiated by the radioactive exhaust enroute to target.

Putin's Kremlin has conducted numerous Skyfall tests estimated at 16 to 20 to date. All of the missiles have failed to sustain flight and crashed as radioactive reactor fragments and nuclear waste in northern Russia’s Arctic territory and sea.

At publication, there are no reports of elevated radiation being detected outside of Russian territory. However, this is a matter of ongoing discovery and concern.

Thursday
Aug082019

Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui's peace declaration on August 6

We offer here the opening paragraphs of Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui's (pictured) remarks on the anniversary of the atomic bombing of his city. Click at the end to read the full statement:

"Around the world today, we see self-centered nationalism in ascendance, tensions heightened by international exclusivity and rivalry, with nuclear disarmament at a standstill. What are we to make of these global phenomena? Having undergone two world wars, our elders pursued an ideal -- a world beyond war. They undertook to construct a system of international cooperation. Should we not now recall and, for human survival, strive for that ideal world? I ask this especially of you, the youth who have never known war but will lead the future. For this purpose, I ask you to listen carefully to the hibakusha of Aug. 6, 1945.

A woman who was five then has written this poem:

Little sister with a bowl cut / head spraying blood

embraced by Mother / turned raging Asura

A youth of 18 saw this: "They were nearly naked, their clothes burned to tatters, but I couldn't tell the men from the women. Hair gone, eyeballs popped out, lips and ears ripped off, skin hanging from faces, bodies covered in blood -- and so many." Today he insists, "We must never, ever allow this to happen to any future generation. We are enough." Appeals like these come from survivors who carry deep scars in body and soul. Are they reaching you? 

"A single person is small and weak, but if each of us seeks peace, I'm sure we can stop the forces pushing for war." This woman was 15 at the time. Can we allow her faith to end up an empty wish?" Read More

Wednesday
Aug072019

The promise of offshore wind

As Karl Grossman, Beyond Nuclear board member, writes this week in Counterpunch, offshore wind holds great promise for addressing carbon emissions. In the US, it has gotten off to a very late start, however, held back not only by the big polluters, but by environmental concerns. However, what has been noticeable in the wind industry (both on- and off-shore) is a concerted effort to mitigate any environmental harm. There is constant research -- and progress -- on this in the wind industry. This stands in stark contrast to the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, which do everything possible to circumvent environmental concerns and even laws. In the case of the nuclear industry, this is achieved with the willing compliance of its lapdog regulator.

Grossman reports on how New York State is now making strides in offshore wind, led by its governor, Andrew Cuomo. However, as Grossman adeptly points out later in his article, Cuomo has not been so sound on nuclear power, pushing a massive bailout that will raise electricity rates.

"New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed off on the largest offshore wind agreement—so far—off the United States," Grossman writes. 

"What has been named the Empire Wind Project—to consist of 88 wind turbines if 10 megawatt turbines are used—would rise in the ocean south of New York City, adjacent Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island. The turbines would be between 14 and 30 miles from shore. It would be built by Equinor, a company headquartered in Norway.

"The second is called the Sunrise Wind Project and start 30 miles east of Montauk Point in eastern Suffolk County on Long Island. It would have 82 wind turbines if 10 megawatt turbines are used. It would be built by Orsted, a Danish company, in partnership with Eversource, the largest energy supplier in New England. Read Karl Grossman's column in full. 

Wednesday
Aug072019

Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

“Seventy-four years ago, everything here in Hiroshima was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb and so were the people living here.” These were the opening words of Hidehiko Yuzaki, the Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, when he spoke at the city’s memorial site on August 6. “Underneath the lush greenery here in Peace Memorial Park, and below the riverbed, lie the bones of many innocent people whose bodies were burned away in a moment and whose souls are grieving forever,” he said. Around the world, many who hope — and work — for peace, marked that day, and August 9, 74 years since Nagasaki was also destroyed by a second US atomic bomb. In New York, a group of peace and anti-nuclear activists gathered in front of the Consulate General of Japan in New York with a bouquet of flowers to express their “sincere regrets and apologies for our nation’s atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.”

Together they, and many other groups and individuals from around the world, including Beyond Nuclear, signed an “open letter” to the people of Japan, advocating for the abolition of nuclear weapons globally, and for Japan, especially, “to be the first country in the U.S. nuclear alliance to give up the U.S. nuclear umbrella by swiftly signing, ratifying and playing a leadership role in pro­moting the (UN)(Treaty (on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.) More

Tuesday
Aug062019

Help us educate Congress on nuclear power!

Congress is on recess until September 9 and Beyond Nuclear is encouraging its members to meet with their elected officials to talk about nuclear power. The presence of Representatives and Senators in their home districts gives our members the ideal opportunity to follow up on our own political education work, reinforcing the depth of support among their voters for an end to the use of nuclear power.

Our focus is on two key issues — climate change and keeping nuclear power out of the solutions; and the much greater harm caused to women and children from exposure to radioactive releases, whether routine or as a result of a nuclear power plant accident.

Beyond Nuclear staff members visited Capitol Hill this summer and circulated our handbook, Climate Change and Why Nuclear Power Can’t Fix It; and the summary fact sheet, to all new House members and every member who signed the Green New Deal. We want to make sure that when the Green New Deal is finalized, nuclear power isn’t in it. While its primary authors appear to agree, there are many in Congress — on both sides of the aisle — who think keeping nuclear plants open and even allocating funding for new ones — is a good idea. We all need to work together to enlighten them!

We also shared our handbook Radiation and Harm to Human Health, and accompanying fact sheet with every female member of the U.S. House and Senate. There is far too little information available that shows how much more harmful — and indeed dangerous — nuclear power operations are to the health of women, especially pregnant women and their babies and young children. Women in Congress need to know this and should never endorse nuclear power!

We are asking you, our members, to follow up with those we already lobbied (and of course others, too) by arranging a visit to their home office. We have put together some talking points on the climate crisis and on women and children, in case you need them as a supplement to the handouts and booklets.

You can see who we visited here: Every female member of the House and Senate; and the list of House members who received our climate change information.

Please let them know that, as their constituent, you want them to keep nuclear power out of climate solutions and out of any Green New Deal. Please help them understand the true risks of nuclear power — especially to women and children.

And finally, if you are willing to help us with our hashtag campaign  — #NukeFreeGND — feel free to download our sign and take a selfie during your visit. We’ll run it on our Twitter page. And thank you!

(Headline photo: Martin Falbisoner/Wikicommons)