Monthly Archives: July 2014

Uitblijven onderzoek naar gezondheidseffecten verarmd uranium wordt politiek gestuurd

Henk van der Keur | stichting Laka | 30 juli 2014

In het vroege voorjaar van 1992 nam ik deel aan een fact-finding missie naar Irak. De opdracht was om na anderhalf jaar VN-sancties en een jaar na de Golfoorlog meer inzicht te verkrijgen over de rampzalige situatie in Irak. Als kernenergiedeskundige van de stichting Laka was ik gevraagd voor het nemen van grondmonsters in de buurt van de kernreactor Al-Tuwaitha – dertig kilometer van de hoofdstad Bagdad – die naar verluidt door het Amerikaanse Leger tijdens de Golfoorlog was gebombardeerd. We arriveerden in het verkeerde hotel en in de lobby maakten we kennis met de Duitse arts Dr. Siegwart-Horst Günther. Hij vertelde over de wijdverbreide ondervoeding en ziektes die vooral kinderen troffen. De arts was verontrust over de snelle toename van geboorteafwijkingen, leukemie en andere vormen van kanker. Een bezoek aan een kinderziekenhuis bevestigde het beeld dat hij schetste. Het waren hartverscheurende taferelen. Doodzieke kinderen, wanhopige ouders en artsen die niets konden uitrichten door ernstig gebrek aan medicamenten. Officieel maakten geneesmiddelen en voeding geen deel uit van de sancties, maar in de praktijk was er een schreeuwend tekort aan de meest elementaire medische voorzieningen en levensmiddelen. Siegwart-Horst Günther had kinderen zien spelen met munitie en restanten daarvan die radioactief bleken te zijn. Ze waren vervaardigd van het zware metaal verarmd uranium, een bijproduct van de kernindustrie, dat in Westerse landen wordt opgeslagen in bunkers voor radioactief afval. De arts vermoedde een verband tussen de blootstelling van deze kinderen aan dit giftige en radioactieve materiaal en de symptomen die deze kinderen vertoonden. Ik kon mij niet voorstellen dat verarmd uranium op zo korte termijn geboorteafwijkingen, en kanker zou kunnen veroorzaken. Pas later in de jaren negentig begreep ik uit onderzoek van het Pentagon dat die mogelijkheid niet valt uit te sluiten.

Tijdens Operatie Desert Storm hadden de Amerikaanse en Britse strijdkrachten bijna 300 ton aan antitankmunitie van verarmd uranium (DU) afgevuurd. Met name in de zuidelijke provincies, waar tijdens de Golfoorlog een grote tankveldslag plaats vond. Naast besmettingen door afgevuurde uraniummunitie waren er ook besmettingen die veroorzaakt werden door brandende tanks en pantservoertuigen van de Amerikanen en Britten. Deze voertuigen waren getroffen door ‘eigen vuur’ (friendly fire) van verarmd uranium waardoor ook tanks met bepantsering van verarmd uranium uitbrandden. Volgens Jane’s Defence News (2004) hebben de Amerikanen en Britten tijdens de invasie van 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom) meer dan 1700 ton aan uraniummunitie afgevuurd. Veel van deze munitie werd gebruikt in stedelijke gebieden. Ook tussen 1991 en 2003, en in de periode daarna hebben de Amerikanen in Irak gebruik gemaakt van deze munitie. Midden jaren negentig verbood de Amerikaanse regering het testen en trainen met uraniummunitie op haar eigen grondgebied. De kosten van de sanering van de testterreinen, voor zover dat mogelijk was, rezen de pan uit.

Het venijn van DU-munitie zit vooral in de minuscule stofdeeltjes uraniumoxide die na inslag van het projectiel op een hard doel ontstaan en zich tot in de wijde omgeving kunnen verspreiden. Juist in Irak met zijn droge klimaat blijven die radioactieve en giftige deeltjes een constante bedreiging voor de bevolking. Dat hebben ook de Nederlandse mariniers ervaren die van 2003 tot 2005 gelegerd waren in de zuidelijke Iraakse provincie Al Muthanna. In de zomer van 2003 nabij de provinciehoofdstad As Samawah zouden de mariniers een verlaten treindepot overnemen van Amerikaanse troepen, die daar al maanden bivakkeerden. Deze stationsruïne zou de basis Camp Smitty worden van waaruit de Nederlanders zouden gaan opereren. Het was omringd door uitgeschakelde tanks, niet-geëxplodeerde munitie en patroonhulzen. Bij aankomst van de Nederlanders werd door een NBC-team onacceptabel hoge stralingsniveaus gemeten en werd besloten om een nieuw Camp Smitty in te richten in de woestijn in plaats van in de stationsruïne langs de spoorweg van Basra naar Bagdad. Maar de verplaatsing van de troepen was drie weken vertraagd waardoor zowel Nederlandse als Amerikaanse troepen risico liepen op blootstelling aan verarmd uranium. Acht Amerikaanse marechaussees en soldaten die in het oude Camp Smitty waren gelegerd werden ernstig ziek. Ze werden bij thuiskomst van het kastje naar de muur gestuurd tussen het Walter Reed ziekenhuis in Bethesda, Maryland en het medisch centrum van Fort Dix in New Jersey en kregen te horen dat hun klachten tussen de oren zit. Onafhankelijk medisch onderzoek wees uit dat ze allemaal verarmd uranium in hun urine hadden.

Documenten die recent door Wim Zwijnenburg van PAX zijn verkregen via een WOB-procedure verschaffen meer inzicht in de gebeurtenissen tijdens het verblijf van de Nederlandse mariniers in Camp Smitty in de provinciehoofdstad As Samawah. Zo verkeerden de Nederlandse mariniers lange tijd in onzekerheid over het te voeren beleid over verarmd uranium. Een sergeant van het regiment stoottroepen Prins Bernhard in As Samawah schrijft op 5 augustus 2004, één jaar na aankomst van de Nederlanders, aan het hoofd van het contingentscommando wat het beleid is omtrent DU-munitie van de multinationale divisie in zuidwest Irak en Defensie. Hij meldt “zowel vanuit het oogpunt van de explosieven opruim dienst (EOD) als vanuit het oogpunt van algemene veiligheid van zowel de Nederlandse militair als van de plaatselijke bevolking, lijkt het mij dat hierover een duidelijke besluit moet worden genomen. In mijn ogen is het ondenkbaar dat Defensie willens en wetens dit probleem laat liggen.” Maar dat was volgens het Bureau van NBC-training wel de bedoeling. De hot spots mochten alleen worden gemarkeerd door in een straal van ministens 20 meter een afzetting te creëren. In februari van datzelfde jaar berichtte de Japanse onderzoeksjournalist Mamoru Toyoda dat burgers van As Samawah overmatig blootgesteld werden aan verarmd uranium doordat de Nederlandse militairen die gelegerd zijn in het gebied weigeren om besmette restanten met verarmd uranium te verwijderen. Toyoda mat met zijn Geigerteller stralingsniveaus die 300 keer hoger waren dat de normale waarde in de stad bij een plek met een achtergebleven luchtafweerartillerie installatie.

De opsteller(s) van een “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB)” van mei 2003 komen met een buitengewoon openhartige observatie. Een IPB beschrijft alle actoren en factoren van de operatieomgeving, de manieren waarop zij elkaar mogelijk kunnen beïnvloeden en welke mogelijke ontwikkelingen zich in die omgeving voor kunnen voordoen. Op pagina 82 wordt verklaard: “Er is door politieke omstandigheden geen onderzoek gedaan naar onder andere de relatie met kanker en genetische afwijkingen en de concentratie van verarmd uranium in potentieel besmette mensen.”

Al twintig jaar antwoorden opeenvolgende ministers van Defensie en Buitenlandse Zaken dat wetenschappelijk onderzoek uitwijst dat er geen oorzakelijk verband is tussen blootstelling aan verarmd uranium en het ontstaan van geboorteafwijkingen en kanker. Feit is dat dit onderzoek door de grootmachten stelselmatig wordt gesaboteerd. Minstens twee topfunctionarissen van de Wereldgezondheidsorganisatie (WHO) zijn vanwege dit soort praktijken opgestapt. Onafhankelijke wetenschappers, waaronder de twee opgestapte topfunctionarissen verdenken de WHO van het verdonkeremanen van gegevens van artsen over het voorkomen van kankers en geboorteafwijkingen in de Iraakse stad Fallujah dat in 2004 door de Amerikanen werd bestookt met antitankgranaten van verarmd uranium.

Al eind jaren negentig toonden Dr. Alexandra Miller en haar team van een onderzoekscentrum van het Pentagon aan dat proefdieren die ze aan verarmd uranium blootstelden verrassend snel tumoren ontwikkelden. Haar hypothese luidt dat de chemische giftigheid en radiotoxiciteit van verarmd uranium elkaar versterken. Ofschoon proefdieren niet kunnen worden vergeleken met mensen, zou men op zijn minst verwachten dat deze verontrustende waarnemingen aanleiding zouden zijn voor onafhankelijk epidemiologische onderzoek onder mensen die naar alle waarschijnlijkheid aan uraniumstofdeeltjes hebben blootgestaan. Maar dat blijft tot op heden uit. Inmiddels is ook vastgesteld dat de uraniumdeeltjes via de neus direct de hersenen kan bereiken. De lijst van gezondheidsproblemen als gevolg van besmetting met uraniumstofdeeltjes is oneindig lang.

Alles wijst erop dat de Verenigde Staten en het Verenigd Koninkrijk helemaal geen nader onderzoek wensen naar de gezondheidseffecten van verarmd uranium. En zij vinden de andere leden van de VN-Veiligheidsraad aan hun zijde. Frankrijk, China en Rusland beschikken ook over een uitgebreid assortiment aan DU-wapensystemen in hun arsenalen. Het draait allemaal om strategische belangen over de ruggen van onschuldige burgers, en soldaten.

Het rapport Laid to Waste van Wim Zwijnenburg van PAX is hier te vinden. Het is gebaseerd op zijn bevindingen over een recent bezoek aan Irak. Onderaan dezelfde webpagina staan de links naar de ge-WOBte documenten

U.S. Moves to Dismiss Marshall Islands Lawsuit

by NAPF Press Office

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Rick Wayman
(805) 965-3443 or (805) 696-5159
rwayman@napf.org

U.S. Moves to Dismiss Marshall Islands Lawsuit

On July 21, 2014, the United States filed a motion to dismiss the Nuclear Zero lawsuit that was filed by the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) on April 24, 2014 in U.S. Federal Court.

The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands filed a lawsuit against the United States, claiming that the U.S. has breached its obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by continuing to modernize its nuclear arsenal and by failing to pursue negotiations in good faith on nuclear disarmament. The RMI requested that the Court declare the United States in breach of its Treaty obligations and order the U.S. to call for and convene, within one year from the Court’s judgment, negotiations on nuclear disarmament.

The RMI was used as the testing ground for 67 nuclear tests conducted by the United States from 1946 to 1958. These tests resulted in lasting health and environmental problems for the Marshall Islanders. The RMI lawsuit against the U.S. seeks no compensation, but rather, seeks to end the nuclear weapons threat, not only for itself, but for all humanity, now and in the future.

The U.S., in its move to dismiss the RMI lawsuit, does not argue that the U.S. is in compliance with its NPT disarmament obligations. Instead, it argues in a variety of ways that its non-compliance with these obligations is, essentially, justifiable, and not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.

Laurie Ashton, lead attorney representing the RMI, states, “The U.S. government assumes, as it must at this stage in the case, that the U.S. is in breach of its promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Nonetheless, the U.S. government argues that there is no legal remedy for those breaches—either because the breaches cause no harm or because the breaches raise only political issues, or because the Marshall Islands waited too long to complain in court about the breaches.  These disappointing arguments hammer at the very foundation of every treaty to which the U.S. is a party, and the courts should reject them.”

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) is a consultant to the Marshall Islands on the legal and moral issues involved in bringing this case. David Krieger, President of NAPF, upon hearing of the motion to dismiss the case by the U.S. responded, “The U.S. government is sending a terrible message to the world – that is, that U.S. courts are an improper venue for resolving disputes with other countries on U.S. treaty obligations. The U.S. is, in effect, saying that whatever breaches it commits are all right if it says so. That is bad for the law, bad for relations among nations, bad for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament – and not only bad, but extremely dangerous for U.S. citizens and all humanity.”

Krieger continued, “In 2009, President Obama shared his vision for the world, saying, ‘So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’ This lawsuit provides the perfect opportunity for President Obama to move his vision forward. Yet, rather than seizing that opportunity, the U.S. government is seeking dismissal without a full and fair hearing on the merits of the case.”

In similar lawsuits filed in the International Court of Justice, the RMI has sued all nine nuclear-armed countries for breaching their nuclear disarmament obligations. In the case against the U.S., the RMI legal counsel has one month to respond to the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss.

To read the Motion to Dismiss in its entirety, visit www.wagingpeace.org/documents/motion_to_dismiss.pdf. For the latest updates on the Nuclear Zero lawsuit, visit www.nuclearzero.org.

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For further information, or if you would like to interview David Krieger, contact Rick Wayman at rwayman@napf.org or call (805) 696-5159.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – NAPF’s mission is to educate and advocate for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons and to empower peace leaders.  Founded in 1982, the Foundation is comprised of individuals and organizations worldwide who realize the imperative for peace in the Nuclear Age. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with consultative status to the United Nations.  For more information, visit www.wagingpeace.org.

Iran optimistic about final nuclear deal: president

Xinhua English | 2014-07-23

TEHRAN, July 22 (Xinhua) — Tehran is optimistic that its talks with six other world powers will yield a comprehensive deal on the country’s controversial nuclear program, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday.

“Dialogue is the only way ahead of us, and we are hopeful about the success of the talks,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Press TV.

Iran is ready for cooperation within the framework of international regulations, Rouhani said, adding that Iran expects to enjoy its inalienable right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad-Zarif said Tuesday that the P5+1 group, which includes the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany, should seize the chance to reach a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, Press TV reported.

In the most recent talks, Iran and the P5+1 group had disagreements on Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity, the Arak heavy water reactor and sanctions against Tehran, but both sides know that a final agreement with Iran is the only solution to the nuclear issue, Zarif said.

Iranian nuclear talks would be extended for another four months till November 24, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Zarif said Saturday in a joint statement, which came only one day ahead of the deadline for a final and comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

The interim deal, which took effect on January 20, was designed to buy time for negotiations. Under the deal, Iran would suspend some sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for a limited sanction relief.

Twenty-First-Century Energy Wars

Global Conflicts Are Increasingly Fueled by the Desire for Oil and Natural Gas — and the Funds They Generate
American Empire Project | Michael T. Klare | July 8, 2014

Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ukraine, the East and South China Seas: wherever you look, the world is aflame with new or intensifying conflicts.  At first glance, these upheavals appear to be independent events, driven by their own unique and idiosyncratic circumstances.  But look more closely and they share several key characteristics — notably, a witch’s brew of ethnic, religious, and national antagonisms that have beenstirred to the boiling point by a fixation on energy.

In each of these conflicts, the fighting is driven in large part by the eruption of long-standing historic antagonisms among neighboring (often intermingled) tribes, sects, and peoples.  In Iraq and Syria, it is a clash among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Turkmen, and others; in Nigeria, among Muslims, Christians, and assorted tribal groupings; in South Sudan, between the Dinka and Nuer; in Ukraine, between Ukrainian loyalists and Russian-speakers aligned with Moscow; in the East and South China Sea, among the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and others.  It would be easy to attribute all this to age-old hatreds, as suggested by many analysts; but while such hostilities do help drive these conflicts, they are fueled by a most modern impulse as well: the desire to control valuable oil and natural gas assets.  Make no mistake about it, these are twenty-first-century energy wars.

It should surprise no one that energy plays such a significant role in these conflicts.  Oil and gas are, after all, the world’s most important and valuable commodities and constitute a major source of income for the governments and corporations that control their production and distribution.  Indeed, the governments of Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, South Sudan, and Syria derive the great bulk of their revenues from oil sales, while the major energy firms (many state-owned) exercise immense power in these and the other countries involved.  Whoever controls these states, or the oil- and gas-producing areas within them, also controls the collection and allocation of crucial revenues.  Despite the patina of historical enmities, many of these conflicts, then, are really struggles for control over the principal source of national income.

Moreover, we live in an energy-centric world where control over oil and gas resources (and their means of delivery) translates into geopolitical clout for some and economic vulnerability for others.  Because so many countries are dependent on energy imports, nations with surpluses to export — including Iraq, Nigeria, Russia, and South Sudan — often exercise disproportionate influence on the world stage.  What happens in these countries sometimes matters as much to the rest of us as to the people living in them, and so the risk of external involvement in their conflicts — whether in the form of direct intervention, arms transfers, the sending in of military advisers, or economic assistance — is greater than almost anywhere else.

The struggle over energy resources has been a conspicuous factor in many recent conflicts, including the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and the Sudanese Civil War of 1983-2005.  On first glance, the fossil-fuel factor in the most recent outbreaks of tension and fighting may seem less evident.  But look more closely and you’ll see that each of these conflicts is, at heart, an energy war.

Iraq, Syria, and ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni extremist group that controls large chunks of western Syria and northern Iraq, is a well-armed militia intent on creating an Islamic caliphate in the areas it controls.  In some respects, it is a fanatical, sectarian religious organization, seeking to reproduce the pure, uncorrupted piety of the early Islamic era.  At the same time, it is engaged in a conventional nation-building project, seeking to create a fully functioning state with all its attributes.

As the United States learned to its dismay in Iraq and Afghanistan, nation-building is expensive: institutions must be created and financed, armies recruited and paid, weapons and fuel procured, and infrastructure maintained.  Without oil (or some other lucrative source of income), ISIS could never hope to accomplish its ambitious goals.  However, as it now occupies key oil-producing areas of Syria and oil-refining facilities in Iraq, it is in a unique position to do so.  Oil, then, is absolutely essential to the organization’s grand strategy.

Syria was never a major oil producer, but its prewar production of some 400,000 barrels per day did provide the regime of Bashar al-Assad with a major source of income.  Now, most of the country’s oil fields are under the control of rebel groups, including ISIS, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and local Kurdish militias.  Although production from the fields has dropped significantly, enough is being extracted and sold through various clandestine channels to provide the rebels with income and operating funds.  “Syria is an oil country and has resources, but in the past they were all stolen by the regime,” said Abu Nizar, an anti-government activist.  “Now they are being stolen by those who are profiting from the revolution.”

At first, many rebel groups were involved in these extractive activities, but since January, when it assumed control of Raqqa, the capital of the province of that name, ISIS has been the dominant player in the oil fields.  In addition, it has seized fields in neighboring Deir al-Zour Province along the Iraq border.  Indeed, many of the U.S.-supplied weapons it acquired from the fleeing Iraqi army after its recent drive into Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities have been moved into Deir al-Zour to help in the organization’s campaign to take full control of the region.  In Iraq, ISIS is fighting to gain control over Iraq’s largest refinery at Baiji in the central part of the country.

It appears that ISIS sells oil from the fields it controls to shadowy middlemen who in turn arrange for its transport — mostly by tanker trucks — to buyers in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.  These sales are said to provide the organization with the funds needed to pay its troops and acquire its vast stockpiles of arms and ammunition.  Many observers also claim that ISIS is selling oil to the Assad regime in return for immunity from government air strikes of the sort being launched against other rebel groups.  “Many locals in Raqqa accuse ISIS of collaborating with the Syrian regime,” a Kurdish journalist, Sirwan Kajjo, reported in early June.  “Locals say that while other rebel groups in Raqqa have been under attack by regime air strikes on a regular basis, ISIS headquarters have not once been attacked.”

However the present fighting in northern Iraq plays out, it is obvious that there, too, oil is a central factor.  ISIS seeks both to deny petroleum supplies and oil revenue to the Baghdad government and to bolster its own coffers, enhancing its capacity for nation-building and further military advances.  At the same time, the Kurds and various Sunni tribes — some allied with ISIS — want control over oil fields located in the areas under their control and a greater share of the nation’s oil wealth.

Ukraine, the Crimea, and Russia

The present crisis in Ukraine began in November 2013 when President Viktor Yanukovych repudiated an agreement for closer economic and political ties with the European Union (EU), opting instead for closer ties with Russia.  That act touched off fierce anti-government protests in Kiev and eventually led to Yanukovych’s flight from the capital.  With Moscow’s principal ally pushed from the scene and pro-EU forces in control of the capital, Russian President Vladimir Putin moved to seize control of the Crimea and foment a separatist drive in eastern Ukraine.  For both sides, the resulting struggle has been about political legitimacy and national identity — but as in other recent conflicts, it has also been about energy.

Ukraine is not itself a significant energy producer.  It is, however, a major transit route for the delivery of Russian natural gas to Europe.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Europe obtained 30% of its gas from Russia in 2013 — most of it from the state-controlled gas giant Gazprom — and approximately half of this was transported by pipelines crossing Ukraine.  As a result, that country plays a critical role in the complex energy relationship between Europe and Russia, one that has proved incredibly lucrative for the shadowy elites and oligarchswho control the flow of gas, whille at the same time provoking intense controversy. Disputes over the price Ukraine pays for its own imports of Russian gas twice provoked a cutoff in deliveries by Gazprom, leading to diminished supplies in Europe as well.

Given this background, it is not surprising that a key objective of the “association agreement” between the EU and Ukraine that was repudiated by Yanukovych (and has now been signed by the new Ukrainian government) calls for the extension of EU energy rules to Ukraine’s energy system — essentially eliminating the cozy deals between Ukrainian elites and Gazprom.  By entering into the agreement, EU officials claim, Ukraine will begin “a process of approximating its energy legislation to the EU norms and standards, thus facilitating internal market reforms.”

Russian leaders have many reasons to despise the association agreement.  For one thing, it will move Ukraine, a country on its border, into a closer political and economic embrace with the West.  Of special concern, however, are the provisions about energy, given Russia’s economic reliance on gas sales to Europe — not to mention the threat they pose to the personal fortunes of well-connected Russian elites.  In late2013 Yanukovych came under immense pressure from Vladimir Putin to turn his back on the EU and agree instead to an economic union with Russia and Belarus, an arrangement that would have protected the privileged status of elites in both countries.  However, by moving in this direction, Yanukovych put a bright spotlight on the crony politics that had long plaguedUkraine’s energy system, thereby triggering protests in Kiev’s Independence Square (the Maidan) — that led to his downfall.

Once the protests began, a cascade of events led to the current standoff, with the Crimea in Russian hands, large parts of the east under the control of pro-Russian separatists, and the rump western areas moving ever closer to the EU.  In this ongoing struggle, identity politics has come to play a prominent role, with leaders on all sides appealing to national and ethnic loyalties.  Energy, nevertheless, remains a major factor in the equation.  Gazprom has repeatedly raised the price it charges Ukraine for its imports of natural gas, and on June 16th cut off its supply entirely, claiming non-payment for past deliveries.  A day later, an explosion damaged one of the main pipelines carrying Russian gas to Ukraine — an event still being investigated.  Negotiations over the gas price remain a major issue in the ongoing negotiations between Ukraine’s newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, and Vladimir Putin.

Energy also played a key role in Russia’s determination to take the Crimea by military means.  By annexing that region, Russia virtually doubled the offshore territory it controls in the Black Sea, which is thought to house billions of barrels of oil and vast reserves of natural gas.  Prior to the crisis, several Western oil firms, including ExxonMobil, were negotiating with Ukraine for access to those reserves.  Now, they will be negotiating with Moscow.  “It’s a big deal,” said Carol Saivetz, a Eurasian expert at MIT.  “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia.”

Nigeria and South Sudan

The conflicts in South Sudan and Nigeria are distinctive in many respects, yet both share a key common factor: widespread anger and distrust towards government officials who have become wealthy, corrupt, and autocratic thanks to access to abundant oil revenues.

In Nigeria, the insurgent group Boko Haram is fighting to overthrow the existing political system and establish a puritanical, Muslim-ruled state.  Although most Nigerians decry the group’s violent methods (including the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from a state-run school), it has drawn strength from disgust in the poverty-stricken northern part of the country with the corruption-riddledcentral government in distant Abuja, the capital.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa, pumping out some 2.5 million barrels per day.  With oil selling at around $100 per barrel, this represents a potentially staggering source of wealth for the nation, even after the private companies involved in the day-to-day extractive operations take their share.  Were these revenues — estimated in the tens of billions of dollars per year — used to spur development and improve the lot of the population, Nigeria could be a great beacon of hope for Africa.  Instead, much of the money disappears into the pockets (and foreign bank accounts) of Nigeria’s well-connected elites.

In February, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi, told a parliamentary investigating committee that the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to transfer some $20 billion in proceeds from oil sales to the national treasury, as required by law.  It had all evidently been diverted to private accounts.  “A substantial amount of money has gone,” he told the New York Times.  “I wasn’t just talking about numbers.  I showed it was a scam.”

For many Nigerians — a majority of whom subsist on less than $2 per day — the corruption in Abuja, when combined with the wanton brutality of the government’s security forces, is a source of abiding anger and resentment, generating recruits for insurgent groups like Boko Haram and winning them begrudging admiration.  “They know well the frustration that would drive someone to take up arms against the state,” said National Geographic reporter James Verini of people he interviewed in battle-scarred areas of northern Nigeria.  At this stage, the government has displayed zero capacity to overcome the insurgency, while its ineptitude and heavy-handed military tactics have only further alienated ordinary Nigerians.

The conflict in South Sudan has different roots, but shares a common link to energy.  Indeed, the very formation of South Sudan is a product of oil politics.  A civil war in Sudan that lasted from 1955 to 1972 only ended when the Muslim-dominated government in the north agreed to grant more autonomy to the peoples of the southern part of the country, largely practitioners of traditional African religions or Christianity.  However, when oil was discovered in the south, the rulers of northern Sudan repudiated many of their earlier promises and sought to gain control over the oil fields, sparking a second civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2005.  An estimated two million people lost their lives in this round of fighting.  In the end, the south was granted full autonomy and the right to vote on secession.  Following a January 2011 referendum in which 98.8% of southerners voted to secede, the country became independent on that July 9th.

The new state had barely been established, however, when conflict with the north over its oil resumed.  While South Sudan has a plethora of oil, the only pipeline allowing the country to export its energy stretches across North Sudan to the Red Sea.  This ensured that the south would be dependent on the north for the major source of government revenues.  Furious at the loss of the fields, the northerners charged excessively high rates for transporting the oil, precipitating a cutoff in oil deliveries by the south and sporadic violence along the two countries’ still-disputed border.  Finally, in August 2012, the two sides agreed to a formula for sharing the wealth and the flow of oil resumed. Fighting has, however, continued in certain border areas controlled by the north but populated by groups linked to the south.

With the flow of oil income assured, the leader of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir, sought to consolidate his control over the country and all those oil revenues.  Claiming an imminent coup attempt by his rivals, led by Vice President Riek Machar, he disbanded his multiethnic government on July 24, 2013, and began arresting allies of Machar.  The resulting power struggle quickly turned into an ethnic civil war, with the kin of President Kiir, a Dinka, battling members of the Nuer group, of which Machar is a member.  Despite several attempts to negotiate a cease-fire, fighting has been under way since December, with thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

As in Syria and Iraq, much of the fighting in South Sudan has centered around the vital oil fields, with both sides determined to control them and collect the revenues they generate.  As of March, while still under government control, the Paloch field in Upper Nile State was producing some 150,000 barrels a day, worth about $15 million to the government and participating oil companies.  The rebel forces, led by former Vice President Machar, are trying to seize those fields to deny this revenue to the government.  “The presence of forces loyal to Salva Kiir in Paloch, to buy more arms to kill our people… is not acceptable to us,” Machar said in April.  “We want to take control of the oil field.  It’s our oil.”  As of now, the field remains in government hands, with rebel forces reportedly making gains in the vicinity.

The South China Sea

In both the East China and South China seas, China and its neighbors claim assorted atolls and islands that sit astride vast undersea oil and gas reserves.  The waters of both have been the site of recurring naval clashes over the past few years, with the South China Sea recently grabbing the spotlight. 

An energy-rich offshoot of the western Pacific, that sea, long a focus of contention, is rimmed by China, Vietnam, the island of Borneo, and the Philippine Islands.  Tensions peaked in May when the Chinese deployed their largest deepwater drilling rig, the HD-981, in waters claimed by Vietnam.  Once in the drilling area, about 120 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam, the Chinese surrounded the HD-981 with a large flotilla of navy and coast guard ships.  When Vietnamese coast guard vessels attempted to penetrate this defensive ring in an effort to drive off the rig, they were rammed by Chinese ships and pummeled by water cannon.  No lives have yet been lost in these encounters, but anti-Chinese rioting in Vietnam in response to the sea-borne encroachment left several dead and the clashes at sea are expected to continue for several months until the Chinese move the rig to another (possibly equally contested) location.

The riots and clashes sparked by the deployment of HD-981 have been driven in large part by nationalism and resentment over past humiliations.  The Chinese, insisting that various tiny islands in the South China Sea were once ruled by their country, still seek to overcome the territorial losses and humiliations they suffered at the hands the Western powers and Imperial Japan.  The Vietnamese, long accustomed to Chinese invasions, seek to protect what they view as their sovereign territory.  For common citizens in both countries, demonstrating resolve in the dispute is a matter of national pride.

But to view the Chinese drive in the South China Sea as a simple matter of nationalistic impulses would be a mistake.  The owner of HD-981, the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), has conducted extensive seismic testing in the disputed area and evidently believes there is a large reservoir of energy there.  “The South China Sea is estimated to have 23 billion tonsto 30 billion tons of oil and 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, accounting for one-third of China’s total oil and gas resources,” the Chinese news agency Xinhua noted.  Moreover, China announced in June that it was deploying a second drilling rig to the contested waters of the South China Sea, this time at the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin.

As the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China is desperate to acquire fresh fossil fuel supplies wherever it can.  Although its leaders are prepared to make increasingly large purchases of African, Russian, and Middle Eastern oil and gas to satisfy the nation’s growing energy requirements, they not surprisingly prefer to develop and exploit domestic supplies.  For them, the South China Sea is not a “foreign” source of energy but a Chinese one, and they appear determined to use whatever means necessary to secure it.  Because other countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, also seek to exploit these oil and gas reserves, further clashes, at increasing levels of violence, seem almost inevitable.

No End to Fighting

As these conflicts and others like them suggest, fighting for control over key energy assets or the distribution of oil revenues is a critical factor in most contemporary warfare.  While ethnic and religious divisions may provide the political and ideological fuel for these battles, it isthe potential for mammoth oil profits that keeps the struggles alive.  Without the promise of such resources, many of these conflicts would eventually die out for lack of funds to buy arms and pay troops.  So long as the oil keeps flowing, however, the belligerents have both the means and incentive to keep fighting.

In a fossil-fuel world, control over oil and gas reserves is an essential component of national power.  “Oil fuels more than automobiles and airplanes,” Robert Ebel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told a State Department audience in 2002.  “Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics.”  Far more than an ordinary trade commodity, “it is a determinant of well being, of national security, and international power for those who possess this vital resource, and the converse for those who do not.”

If anything, that’s even truer today, and as energy wars expand, the truth of this will only become more evident.  Someday, perhaps, the development of renewable sources of energy may invalidate this dictum.  But in our present world, if you see a conflict developing, look for the energy.  It’ll be there somewhere on this fossil-fueled planet of ours.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Copyright 2014 Michael T. Klare

Japanese groups challenge potential nuclear restarts, and other news from Japan

sendaireactors

The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority has issued its draft approval for restart of the Sendai reactors.

Green World | Michael Mariotte | July 17, 2014

Yesterday, the new Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority gave its preliminary approval for restart of Kyushu Electric’s two Sendai reactors. In response, seven Japanese clean energy groups issued the statement below, challenging that approval on several grounds. The draft approval does not necessarily guarantee a speedy restart; there are several more step in the process. As Aileen Mioko-Smith of GreenAction put it, “The fight is on!”

Joint Statement Protesting Nuclear Regulatory Authorityʼs Draft Approval of Sendai Nuclear Power Plantʼs Conformation to New Nuclear Regulatory Standards
16 July 2014

Issued by: The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group and 7 other organizations

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) issued a draft report on Kyushu Electricʼs Sendai
Nuclear Power Plant application for restart, stating the NRAʼs review found the plant conforming to the New Regulatory Standards. We strongly protest this report. 

The NRA review to inspect conformation to the New Regulatory Standards does not learn from the lessons of Tokyo Electricʼs Fukushima Daiichi accident, and, for the following reasons it is
clearly evident that the situation is far from being able to issue such conformation to New
Regulatory Standards.

1. In spite of acknowledging the warnings issued by experts that assessments on the effects of volcanoes cannot predict volcanic eruptions, the NRA review is ignoring this fact, thus violating its own Volcanic Effects Assessment Guide.

* Although Kyushu Electricʼs claim which states that the possibility is extremely small that
a gigantic volcanic eruption (caldera eruption) would occur during the operation of the nuclear
power plant is not substantiated with sufficient evidence, the NRA, with not a single volcano
expert on its committee, without asking the opinion of experts, and with virtually no discussion,
allowed this claim to pass.

*With volcano experts stating that a huge volcanic eruption (caldera eruption) is difficult
to predict, the government admitted the difficulty of being able to predict the extent and timing
of such eruptions. Being able to predict the extend of the volcanic eruption and when pyroclastic flow will occur is absolutely necessary because nuclear fuel must be removed from the power plant site beforehand and because this removal takes years to complete. In spite of this, the NRA has only put monitoring in place for now, and has tossed aside this issue as an issue to be handled in the mid-term future.

2. The NRA is requiring absolutely no measures to be undertaken to prevent contaminated water from being released into the ocean and other areas in the event of a serious accident.

The New Regulatory Standards require that, even though the containment has been breached during a serious nuclear accident, countermeasures must be undertaken to limit the dispersal of radiation. Although it is stated that the New Regulatory Standards are based on lessons learnt from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the review process completely ignored the serious situation of contaminated water emissions currently occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and did not require measures be undertaken to prevent radioactive emissions from the Sendai Plant in the event of an accident.

Moreover, at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, 300 tons of groundwater are being pumped out daily, and when the pump equipment no longer functions in the event of a serious accident, groundwater would enter the nuclear power plant facility and mix with the contaminated coolant water that has leaked from the bottom of the containment, thus creating the danger that large quantities of contaminated water would be generated. No countermeasures have been put in place to prevent such an occurrence.

3. Measures to prevent breaching of the containment and hydrogen explosions in the event of a serious accident are inadequate—cross-checking to verify the reliability of the analysis code has not been undertaken.

Kyushu Electric has a shocking plan in the event of a serious accident involving loss of coolant
and loss of power. The company plans to abandon cooling of the reactor vessel and instead will
switch to pooling water at the bottom of the containment vessel and having the molten fuel which has breached the reactor vessel fall into the pooled water. The company claims that this would not lead to breach of the containment vessel nor hydrogen explosions, but its claims are only based on computerized analyses.

The accuracy of the computer code used by Kyushu Electric has been put into question. Nevertheless, the Nuclear Regulation Authority / Nuclear Regulatory Agency did not undertake a cross-check with another computer code, a procedure which is normally undertaken.

4. Seismic motion has been underestimated.

The NRA did not have the method utilized for estimating the effects of a tsunami, the Takemura
Method, used for estimating the earthquake motion at the Sendai Plant. The Takemura Method takes into account the special characteristic of Japanese earthquakes. If the Takemura Method had been utilized, it would have approximately doubled the earthquake motion estimation for the Sendai Plant.

Although the inadequacy of the New Regulatory Standards regarding estimation of volcanic effects became evident during the review process, as Chair of the NRA Shunichi Tanaka points out, the New Regulatory Standards do not guarantee safety.

With regards to the nuclear accident emergency preparedness plans which NRA Chair Tanaka calls “the second wheel” of a two-wheel vehicle (the other wheel being the New Regulatory Standards) the situation is as follows:

* Kagoshima Prefecture has stated it will abandon plans to evacuate people living beyond the
10-kilometer radius who require special support. It has instead forced responsibility for
undertaking plans for these people upon the welfare facilities and hospitals. As a result, no plans are in place for these people. These people are being abandoned, sacrificed.

* As for the emergency preparedness plans for the general public, there is not enough capacity
at the evacuation points to take in the people who have evacuated, thus no environment exists for remaining there. Also, there is a possibility that these evacuation points will be downwind.
Moreover, the plans do not take into account the possibility of an earthquake, tsunami, or some
other event occurring simultaneously to the nuclear accident. Plans for distributing potassium
iodine are not in place. The screening points (the locations to undertake measurements and
decontamination of radioactive materials) has not been established and no resolution for this is in sight. The possibility that evacuation may be required beyond a 30- kilometer radius has not been taken into consideration, etc.

Numerous issues remain problematic. An effective nuclear accident emergency preparedness plan is not in place. The greater the efforts put into making such plans concrete, the more apparent it becomes that there are great difficulties with evacuation.

The Sendai Nuclear Power Plant restart process should not be allowed to continue under these
circumstances. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) should retract its review report. Restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant must not proceed.

原子力規制を監視する市民の会
The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group
反原発かごしまネット
Anti-Nuclear Kagoshima Network (ANK Net)
玄海原発プルサーマルと全基をみんなで止める裁判の会
People’s Action Against The Genkai Nuclear Power Plant
グリーン・アクション
Green Action
美浜・大飯・高浜原発に反対する大阪の会
Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Oi and Takahama Nuclear Power Plants (Mihama-no-Kai)
国際環境NGO FoE Japan
International Environmental NGO FoE Japan
福島老朽原発を考える会
Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai)

Contact: The Nuclear Regulation Authority Citizen Watchdog Group
Tel: +81-90-8116-7155 (Sakagami)
Contact: (in English): Green Action
Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223 Fax: +81-75-702-1952 Cell: +81-90-3620-9251 (Smith)

The statement is available in pdf format here.

Greenpeace Japan also weighed in on the issue here, stating, “As we approach the one year birthday of no nuclear-powered electricity in Japan (the last of the country’s remaining 48 reactors were shutdown in September 2013) it is clear that Japan can function as a society without risking catastrophic nuclear accidents, while rapidly growing its renewable energy sector and embracing efficiency. The NRA decision may make headlines around the world but Japan is a long long way from restarting its large nuclear program—and the people of Japan are determined to make its future energy path a very different one from its past.”

The Japan Times’ account of the NRA’s action is here.

In other news from Japan:

*Removal of radioactive rubble from the ruins of Fukushima is being blamed for contamination of rice paddies more than 20 kilometers from the site.

*There are growing doubts that the ice wall being built around Fukushima to block the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean will work.

The world’s uranium industry is counting on restart of Japanese reactors for its recovery–uranium prices have dropped 60% since the meltdowns at Fukushima. Here are two somewhat different perspectives on the industry and its prospects:

*Post-Fukushima uranium recovery slower than anticipated.

*Uranium seen rebounding as Japan readies nuclear restarts.

UK decision to take over foreign plutonium raises safeguards questions

IPFM Blog | David Lowry, with Mycle Schneider | July 19, 2014

The UK Government has announced that it has struck an agreement with German and Swedish governments to take title to plutonium arising from the reprocessing at Sellafield and management at Dounreay respectively of spent nuclear fuel from the two nations.

In a written statement to the UK Parliament on 3 July 2014 by then energy minister Michael Fallon–who has since been promoted to become Defense Secretary–it was revealed that the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has agreed to the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) taking ownership of about 800 kg of material previously owned by a Swedish utility, and about 140 kg of material previously owned by a German research organization. It was reported earlier this year that Sweden was seeking to transfer to the United Kingdom of 834 kg of plutonium.

As of 31 December 2013, the UK held around 123 tons of separated civil plutonium on its territory, of which 23.4 tons is foreign owned, according to the latest published government data.

In April 2013 DECC announced taking over 750 kg of plutonium belonging to German utilities, 1,850 kg previously loaned from France, and 350 kg from Dutch firm GKN. At the same time, 650 kg of plutonium stored at Sellafield was transferred from German to Japanese ownership. A similar deal with Germany in 2012 saw the UK take ownership of four tons of plutonium.

Mr Fallon said in his statement:

“These transactions, which have been agreed by the Euratom Supply Agency, will not result in any new plutonium being brought into the UK and will not therefore increase the overall amount of plutonium in the UK. We have agreed to these transactions as they offer a cost effective and beneficial arrangement, which: removes the need to transport separated plutonium, allows the UK to gain national control over more of the civil plutonium in the UK and enables an outstanding contract with a Swedish utility to be concluded.

In line with the DECC policy statement, the NDA continues to engage with other third parties regarding taking ownership of further overseas plutonium in the UK arising from overseas reprocessing contracts. As well as UK government approval, these transactions will require consent from the relevant overseas Governments and regulatory bodies, and thereafter EURATOM Supply Agency agreement, before any contracts are enacted.”
Backstory

In December 2011, DECC published its response to the consultation on Plutonium Management, which indicated that the UK Government’s preferred option was to reuse the plutonium as MOX fuel, but that it would be open to consider alternative options if they offered better value to the UK taxpayer.

In addition, the UK Government said that overseas owners of plutonium stored in the UK could have that plutonium managed in line with UK plutonium, subject to commercial terms that are acceptable to the UK Government. Subject to compliance with inter-governmental agreements and acceptable commercial arrangements, the UK is prepared to take ownership of overseas plutonium stored in the UK as a result of which it would be treated in the same way as UK-owned plutonium. The Government stated that it “considers that there are advantages to having national control over more of the civil plutonium in the UK, as this gives us greater influence over how we ultimately manage it.”

However, one way the UK government could manage the plutonium, is to remove at least some of it from safeguards, and provide it for any form of unsafeguarded (military) uses it wishes.

In a written Parliamentary answer on 10 July 2014, (Official Report : Column 412W) Minister Fallon assured Labour MP Paul Flynn: “There is no intention to withdraw from safeguards the plutonium recently allocated to the UK by Germany and Sweden.” He explained that all civil nuclear material in the UK is subject to Euratom safeguards and the terms of the 1977 UK/Euratom/IAEA Voluntary Safeguards Agreement, including its Article 14. What he did not say was Article 14 permits the UK Government to withdraw unlimited quantities of nuclear materials from safeguards at any time.

Fallon did however add: “As part of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, the Government announced that as a matter of policy future withdrawals of nuclear material from safeguards would be severely limited, and that the quantities of material involved would be orders of magnitude less than the amounts used to make nuclear weapons. “According to information provided by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), over the past decade 2004 to 2013, the UK withdrew small quantities of plutonium from safeguards on 53 occasions. According to the declarations, the material involved did not exceed gram quantities on each occasion and they were officially withdrawn from safeguards for use in instrument calibration, radiation detectors, analytical tracers or radiological shielding.

At this point in time, the question is not whether the UK intends to use foreign origin plutonium for military purposes, but rather that according to the existing tripartite agreement, the UK is free to withdraw any amount of material from safeguards any time. Once the UK has taken title to foreign plutonium, there will be no distinction between UK origin and foreign origin plutonium.

The UK has a history of withdrawing nuclear materials–mainly plutonium, enriched uranium and depleted uranium–from safeguards hundreds of times since 1978, when the tripartite voluntary safeguards agreement came into force. In the first announcement to Parliament in 1998, twenty years after the withdrawal option became activated, it was revealed that 591 withdrawals had been carried out over that period (Official Report, 29 July 1998 : Column: 358).

Information on nuclear material withdrawn from safeguards is available on the Office for Nuclear Regulation website.

What Are Acceptable Nuclear Risks?

FAS | Martin Hellman | July 16, 2014

When I read Eric Schlosser’s acclaimed 2013 bookCommand and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety, I found a tantalizing revelation on pages 170-171, when it asked, “What was the ‘acceptable’ probability of an accidental nuclear explosion?” and then proceeded to describe a 1957 Sandia Report, “Acceptable Premature Probabilities for Nuclear Weapons,” which dealt with that question.

Unable to find the report online, I contacted Schlosser, who was kind enough to share it with me. (We owe him a debt of gratitude for obtaining it through a laborious Freedom of Information Act request.) The full reportSchlosser’s FOIA request, and my analysis of the report are now freely accessible on my Stanford web site. (The 1955 Army report, “Acceptable Military Risks from Accidental Detonation of Atomic Weapons,” on which this 1957 Sandia report builds, appears not to be available. If anyone knows of an existing copy, please post a comment.)

Using the same criterion as this report*, which, of course, is open to question, my analysis shows that nuclear terrorism would have to have a risk of at most 0.5% per year to be considered “acceptable.” In contrast, existing estimates are roughly 20 times higher.**

My analysis also shows, that using the report’s criterion*, the risk of a full-scale nuclear war would have to be on the order of 0.0005% per year, corresponding to a “time horizon” of 200,000 years. In contrast, my preliminary risk analysis of nuclear deterrence indicates that risk to be at least a factor 100 and possibly a factor of 1,000 times higher. Similarly, when I ask people how long they think we can go before nuclear deterrence fails and we destroy ourselves (assuming nothing changes, which hopefully it will), almost all people see 10 years as too short and 1,000 years as too long, leaving 100 years as the only “order of magnitude” estimate left, an estimate which is 2,000 times riskier than the report’s criterion would allow.

In short, the risks of catastrophes involving nuclear weapons currently appear to be far above any acceptable level. Isn’t it time we started paying more attention to those risks, and taking steps to reduce them?

* The report required that the expected number of deaths due to an accidental nuclear detonation should be no greater than the number of American deaths each year due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

** In the Nuclear Tipping Point video documentary Henry Kissinger says, “if nothing fundamental changes, then I would expect the use of nuclear weapons in some 10 year period is very possible” – equivalent to a risk of approximately 10% per year. Similarly, noted national security expert Dr. Richard Garwin testified to Congress that he estimate the risk to be in the range of 10-20 percent per year. A survey of national security expertsby Senator Richard Lugar was also in the 10% per year range.