Monthly Archives: March 2016

De nieuwe Koude Oorlog

Henk van der Keur | 28.03.2016

Is er een nieuwe Koude Oorlog? Of je het nu wel of niet zo noemt is een semantische kwestie. De nieuwe Koude Oorlog is er, maar hij is anders dan de vorige. De retoriek van zowel de Amerikaanse als de Russische regering doet sterk denken aan de vorige Koude Oorlog op zijn hoogtepunt. Maar er zijn fundamentele verschillen.

Toen was de wereld verdeeld in de ideologische scheidslijn tussen het reëel bestaande socialisme en de niet minder utopische wereld van de vrije markteconomie. Nu zitten met de afnemende economische en politieke invloed van de Verenigde Staten op het wereldtoneel in een overgangsfase naar een nieuw tijdperk, waarin financiële, politieke en militaire macht zal worden herverdeeld. De Amerikaanse president Barack Obama laat zich in zijn buitenlandpolitiek leiden door de agenda van de neo-conservatieven, de dominante politieke stroming in de VS. Die agenda wordt vooral bepaald door nog meer oorlog. Met neoconservatieve propaganda en wapens zetten ze hun bondgenoten in Europa en Azië op tegen Rusland en China.

De Balie

Auke Bakker uit Amsterdam, een leraar aan het middelbaar beroepsonderwijs, was in juni 2015 de initiatiefnemer van een bijeenkomst in de Balie waarin de toenemende spanningen tussen de VS en Rusland werden geanalyseerd. De belangrijkste boodschap was dat de Europese Unie en de NAVO zich teveel laten leiden door de buitenlandpolitiek van de haviken binnen het Amerikaanse politieke establishment. Verontrustend is dat er nauwelijks tegengeluid valt te vernemen. De enorme risico’s van de Amerikaanse oorlogspolitiek dringen nauwelijks door in de Nederlandse samenleving, en ondertussen melden ingewijden aan zowel Amerikaanse als Russische kant dat de kans op een kernoorlog groter is dan ooit. In Amsterdam namen Auke Bakker, Willy Klinkenberg en ik het besluit verder te gaan werken aan nieuwe bijeenkomsten en andere activiteiten onder de noemer ‘Oost-West in Gesprek’. De weken voor het referendum over het associatieverdrag van de EU met Oekraïne, 6 april a.s., zijn bij uitstek de gelegenheid om een ander geluid te laten horen dan het aanhoudende wapengekletter in onze media. Alle ogen van de internationale politiek en buitenlandse media zijn op Nederland gericht.

Recent sloot ons groepje zich aan bij de landelijke organisatie ‘Oorlog is geen oplossing’. Op 20 maart zullen we een bijeenkomst organiseren met buitenlandse gasten. Eén van onze voorbeelden is de American Committee for East-West Accord. Binnen dat comité werken onder meer wetenschappers, voormalige ministers, politici en journalisten van een uiteenlopende politieke kleur samen om bij te dragen aan ontspanning in de betrekkingen tussen de Verenigde Staten en Rusland. Dat is wat de leden van dit comité bindt. En dat geldt ook voor ‘Oorlog is geen oplossing’.

Stephen Cohen

De nieuwe Koude Oorlog is volgens de Amerikaanse Ruslandkenner Stephen Cohen, lid van de American Committee for East-West Accord, om meerdere redenen veel gevaarlijker dat de Koude Oorlog van de 20ste eeuw. Ten eerste omdat het epicentrum zich niet in Berlijn bevindt, maar pal aan Rusland’s grenzen. Ten tweede doordat er geen helemaal geen gedragsregels zijn van de soort die door Moskou en Washington werden opgesteld na de Cubaanse raketcrisis. En ten derde omdat er anders dan bij de vorige Koude Oorlog in de VS nauwelijks hoorbare tegenstanders van de nieuwe Koude Oorlog bestaan. Bij de Democraten wellicht nog minder dan bij de Republikeinen. Hillary Clinton is de kandidaat van de oorlogsmachine.

Het Amerikaanse establishment in de politiek en media wijst Poetin aan als schuldige voor de nieuwe Koude Oorlog. Maar daarvoor bestaat geen enkel bewijs. Poetin wordt in de Westerse media afgeschilderd als een autocraat, maar is hij dat wel? De nieuwe Koude Oorlog begon niet toen Poetin in 2000 aan de macht kwam, of met de Amerikaans-Russische proxy-oorlog in Georgië in 2008, of met de uitbarsting van de Oekraïense crisis in november 2013. Nee, zo benadrukt Cohen terecht, het begon vanaf het moment dat Bill Clinton in 1993 aantrad als Amerikaanse president. Hij spreidde een houding ten toon van een triomferende overwinnaar. Clinton weigerde eenvoudigweg Rusland voor vol aan te zien, laat staan te behandelen als een potentiële strategische partner. Onder zijn leiding breidde de NAVO verder uit naar het oosten en daarbij sloot hij Rusland ook uit van veiligheidsmaatregelen in het Europa van na de Koude Oorlog. Clinton weigerde ook te onderhandelen over (anti)ballistische raketten (missile defence) en zelfs samenwerking daarover. Die ‘winner-takes-all’ mentaliteit, met inbegrip van een hele reeks gebroken beloften aan Russische leiders, is door alle opeenvolgende Amerikaanse regeringen voortgezet. Ook door president Obama.

Obama’s besluit om de begroting voor de VS/NAVO-troepen nabij Rusland’s grenzen te verviervoudigen en Rusland officieel te verklaren als de belangrijkste dreiging voor de VS maken een akkoord met Rusland er niet makkelijker op en dragen verder bij aan de militarisering van de nieuwe Koude Oorlog. Dit beleid kwam duidelijk uit de koker van zijn defensieminister Ashton Carter. Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken John Kerry heeft kenbaar gemaakt dit beleid te verwerpen. Hij lijkt het kleine Amerikaanse kamp te vertegenwoordigen dat uit is op een akkoord met Rusland. Hij komt uit een diplomatenfamilie en heeft veel gesprekken gevoerd met zijn Russische ambtgenoot Sergej Lavrov, de nestor van de buitenlandministers van grote staten.

Noodzaak tot ontspanning

Gaandeweg zijn er veel mogelijkheden om tot een detente met Moskou te komen verloren gegaan. Voornamelijk door besluitvormers in Washington en Brussel. Het is zaak dat de nieuwe kansen worden benut, om zo de nieuwe Koude Oorlog af te zwakken en misschien zelfs te beëindigen. Eén daarvan is het uitonderhandelen van de Minsk Akkoorden, die ontworpen zijn door kanselier Merkel en president François Hollande om de burgeroorlog in Oekraïne, tevens een Amerikaans-Russische proxy-oorlog, te beëindigen.

Zowel in Washington als in Moskou zijn we getuige van een strijd tussen politieke krachten die voor en tegen een overeenkomst zijn tussen de VS en Rusland. Het Amerikaanse kamp dat naar een politieke oplossing streeft is klein en zwak, niet verenigd, zonder leider en beroofd van een stem in de mainstream media. Cohen stelt dat de enige weg naar een duurzame vrede met Rusland kan komen van een nieuwe president voor een detente is met Rusland. Bernie Sanders lijkt daarvoor de aangewezen kandidaat.

Er staat veel op het spel. De oorlog in Syrië heeft inmiddels aan 400.000 mensen het leven gekost. Een groot deel van Syrië ligt in puin. Allemaal het gevolg van het Amerikaanse besluit om het Midden-Oosten binnen te vallen. Die oorlog houdt niet op zonder nauwe samenwerking met Rusland. Er moet dus een einde komen aan de verdere militaire escalatie tussen de VS en Rusland. De NAVO moet stoppen met de opbouw van hun militaire activiteiten in Oost-Europa. Rusland heeft geen ambitie om Europa binnen te vallen. Vanuit Russisch perspectief vormen de Amerikaanse maatregelen een directe bedreiging voor hun veiligheid. Deze geweldspiraal kan alleen maar stoppen als er weer ruimte komt voor ontspanning in de betrekkingen tussen de VS en Rusland, als er weer een beschaafde toon klinkt in de gesprekken tussen beide landen.

Het associatieverdrag van de EU met Oekraïne zet de verhoudingen van de EU met Rusland verder op scherp en voedt de tegenstellingen in Oekraïne. Ofschoon de werkelijkheid een stuk ingewikkelder is, kun je grofweg stellen dat er Oekraïners zijn die bij de Europese Unie willen horen, maar ook Oekraïners, vooral in het oosten van het land, die liever in de invloedsfeer van Rusland blijven. Een keuze voor de EU is een keuze die je Oekraïners niet kunt en mag opdringen ten koste van een burgeroorlog. Dat moeten ze zelf regionaal kunnen bepalen. Oekraïne en Rusland onderhouden al vele eeuwen heel nauwe betrekkingen. Dat historische gegeven kun je niet uitwissen. Oekraïne betekent niet voor niets grensland. Het is gebaat bij goede betrekkingen met de EU én met Rusland. Gegronde redenen dus om bij het referendum ‘NEE’ te stemmen. Volg onze activiteiten op de website van ‘Oorlog is geen oplossing’.

Dit artikel is verschenen in het Onderzoeksdossier VD AMOK in het VredesMagazine van maart 2016

Geschreven op persoonlijke titel

Washington voedt de nieuwe Koude Oorlog

Henk van der Keur | 28.03.2016

Het is verbijsterend te zien hoe slecht wij, burgers in het Westen, door onze media worden geïnformeerd over ‘ons conflict’ met Rusland over Oekraïne. Er is opvallend veel ruimte voor oorlogszuchtige retoriek vanuit de Verenigde Staten en de Europese Unie, zoals van NAVO-aanvoerder Jens Stoltenberg. Af en toe afgewisseld met volstrekt ridicule aanvallen op de persoon Vladimir Poetin. Niets mis met satire, maar niet bij de brengers van het dagelijks nieuws. Koude Oorlogstaal beheerst het politieke debat over Rusland. In die zin begint de EU steeds meer te lijken op de VS van Barak Obama. Het klinkt hol en het is inhoudsloos. Over de zaken waar het werkelijk zou moeten gaan, om te beginnen de positie van Rusland over Oekraïne – niet onbelangrijk voor onze meningsvorming, vernemen we helemaal niets.
Ondertussen neemt Obama de roekeloze beslissing om de begroting voor de VS/NAVO-troepen op of in de buurt van Rusland’s grenzen te verviervoudigen. Alles wijst erop dat Moskou al is begonnen met de opbouw van hun strijdkrachten in hun westelijke gebieden, waardoor de nieuwe Koude Oorlog verder wordt gemilitariseerd. Obama heeft officieel verklaard dat Rusland de nummer één dreiging is van de VS. Op onverklaarbare wijze meer dan China, Noord-Korea, en het internationale terrorisme. En dan de abrupte aankondiging van de door de VS gesteunde regering van Oekraïne om de Minsk Akkoorden niet te tekenen. Zo lijkt een beëindiging van de Oekraïense burgeroorlog (en proxy-oorlog) steeds verder uit het zicht te raken. Rusland heeft geen enkel belang om het conflict in het oosten van Oekraïne te laten escaleren.

Amerikaanse belangen versus eigen nationale belangen
Op 26 januari waren vele – waaronder bekende – Westerse journalisten aanwezig op de jaarlijkse persconferentie van de Russische minister van buitenlandse zaken Sergej Lavrov. Daarbij blikt hij terug op kwesties waar zijn ministerie het afgelopen jaar mee te maken had en geeft hij zijn taxatie van de resultaten die zijn bereikt. Zijn inleidende opmerkingen zijn beknopt, hooguit een kwartier. Uit zijn belangrijkste punten blijkt dat de Russische visie op internationale zaken vooral wordt gekarakteriseerd door realpolitik en nationale belangen. Vanuit het perspectief van Sergej Lavrov is het voornaamste probleem hoe we in de wereld met de teloorgang van de VS als supermacht tot een nieuw systeem kunnen komen voor het beheer van internationale zaken. De betrekkingen met het Westen beschouwt hij als een essentieel onderdeel van deze bredere uitdaging. Het gewenste nieuwe systeem van ‘global governance’ moet volgens Rusland worden gebouwd op volledige gelijkheid van betrekkingen tussen staten, respect voor hun belangen en niet-inmenging in binnenlandse aangelegenheden. Hervormingen bij de internationale financiële instellingen betekent ook dat de politieke en economische macht moet worden herverdeeld op basis van de huidige economische en militaire verhoudingen in de wereld. Volgens Lavrov frustreert de Amerikaanse regering deze vernieuwing door vast te houden aan haar hegemonistische controle over de financiële instellingen en haar bondgenoten in Europa en Azië. Dat druist, volgens hem, in tegen de eigen nationale belangen van de Amerikaanse bondgenoten.

Sancties snijden in eigen vlees
Sergej Lavrov maakt duidelijk dat Rusland niet wenst te buigen voor de eisen van de VS. Ook niet bij wijze van compromis. Nu er in de VS en Europa steeds meer stemmen op gaan om de economische sancties tegen Rusland op te heffen, hoopt het Westen Rusland ertoe te bewegen om in ruil voor een overeenkomst over Oekraïne zijn steun voor Bashar al-Assad in Syrië in te trekken. Dat kan dan aan de wereld worden uitgelegd als een compromis. In werkelijkheid zoekt het Westen een uitvlucht, omdat de Westerse belangen door de sancties tegen Rusland en de tegensancties van Rusland veel meer worden geschaad dan de Russische belangen. Dat is het gevoel dat Lavrov probeert over te brengen: dat het Westen Rusland meer nodig heeft dan Rusland het Westen nodig heeft. De aanhoudende schade voor Europese boeren en andere sectoren van de economie door de Russische tegenboycot is duidelijk. En in Washington lijkt eindelijk het besef door te dringen dat de alternatieve wereldwijde financiële instellingen, anders dan die gevestigd zijn in Washington, voor eens en voor altijd een einde gaan maken aan de mogelijkheden van de VS om een allesverlammende economische pijn toe te brengen aan landen die de VS als vijand beschouwd.
Voor zover mij bekend heeft geen enkele aanwezige westerse journalist over de persconferentie van Sergej Lavrov geschreven. De hele persconferentie is terug te vinden op youtube. Een Engelstalige transcriptie ervan staat op de website van het Russische ministerie van buitenlandse zaken.

Referendum over associatieverdrag
Ofschoon de Tweede Kamerverkiezingen pas in maart 2017 aan de orde zijn, wordt 6 april a.s. een referendum gehouden over de ratificatie van het Associatieverdrag van Oekraïne met de EU. Dit referendum werd afgedwongen na een petitie van Geen Peil. Deze rechtse organisatie is tegen het associatieverdrag omdat anders de visumplicht voor arbeidsmigranten uit Oekraïne wordt opgeheven. Een belachelijke reden om nee te stemmen. En in die zin is dat referendum natuurlijk flauwekul.
Maar nu dat referendum er eenmaal is zijn er gegronde redenen om een duidelijke ‘NEE’-stem te laten horen vanuit een andere motivatie. Het is een sterk neoliberaal verdrag waarbij alleen grote Westerse bedrijven en Oekraïense oligarchen belang bij hebben. Bovendien zet het de verhoudingen met Rusland verder op scherp en jaagt het de wapenwedloop verder aan. De Europese landen moeten nu juist al hun invloed aanwenden om ervoor te zorgen dat het Oekraïense parlement het Minsk Akkoord 2 goed gaat keuren zodat er uitzicht is op vrede in het door burgeroorlog geteisterde grensland van de EU.

Dit artikel is verschenen in Proces Nieuws 108 (maart 2016) van Tribunaal voor de Vrede.

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Video reports Amsterdam meeting “Ukraine between East and West”

Because of the Dutch referendum on the EU Association Treaty with Ukraine (6 April 2016), the Dutch coalition “War is No Solution” (Oorlog is geen Oplossing) held the meeting “Ukraine between East and West” in the Amsterdam debate centre De Balie (20 March 2016).

It has been cut into five fragments with respectively the contributions by prof.dr. Nikolaj Petro of de University of Rhode Island (VS):

prof.dr. Richard Sakwa of the University of Kent (GB):

Andrej Hunko, member of Die Linke in the German parliament, the Bundestag:

Tiny Kox, member of the Dutch Socialist Party in the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer):

Stan van Houcke, an Amsterdam based journalist:

And a discussion with the audience:

EDF chief executive warns France over Hinkley costs

The Guardian | Terry Macalister | 11 March 2016

Jean-Bernard Lévy says nuclear project will not go ahead without more financial backing from French government

Jean-Bernard Lévy, chief executive of EDF.
Jean-Bernard Lévy, chief executive of EDF. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

The boss of the French state-owned company behind the UK’s first new nuclear power station for 20 years has threatened to pull the plug on the £18bn project without further backing from François Hollande’s government.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, chief executive of EDF, said he needed more financial support from the Elysée Palace to proceed with construction of the plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

A letter sent to the company’s staff admits the “tense” financial situation at EDF and the potential danger to a scheme that is at the centre of British energy policy.

“We are negotiating with the [French] state to obtain commitments allowing us to secure our financial position. It is clear that I will not engage in this EDF project as long as these conditions are not met,” said Lévy.

Pressure on the EDF bosss increased last week when his finance director resigned, saying Hinkley needed to be postponed for at least three years while the company restructured its finances. French trade unions on its board, angry at planned job cuts in France, have also called for Hinkley to be shelved. Those concerns were echoed on Thursday by country’s top public auditor, which warned over the cost and complexity of the project.

Explaining why he was taking the usual step of addressing staff, Lévy said: “In recent weeks, our group is the subject of much debate, especially around the renewal of our nuclear fleet and the construction of two EPR [European pressurised reactors] in the UK at Hinkley Point C.

“You know, the financial situation is tense, and this issue deserves to be clarified. I receive your messages of encouragement, but I also hear some concerns. That is why I address myself directly to you.”

Despite the problems facing the group, Lévy underlined both his and the French government’s desire to make the Hinkley project successful.

“Hinkley Point C has the support of the French government and the British government, which places it at the heart of new nuclear energy policy. The UK needs to secure its supply of electricity and decarbonise its energy mix.”

Referring to the British government subsidy for the project, represented by a guaranteed electricity price of £92.50/MWh , he added: “I am convinced of the robustness of the guaranteed selling price, approved by Brussels.”

EDF’s share price has slumped and its debts have risen over recent years. It has also been hit by falling energy prices and demands from the French government that it took over ailing nuclear engineering group Areva.

Its difficulties have put enormous pressure on the British government, which has already promised generous financial subsidies for Hinkley, to be paid for by taxpayers. The subsidy agreements have drawn scorn from investment bankers in the City.

One analyst earlier this week described the Hinkley project as “insane” because ofthe problems EDF and Areva had experienced at similar schemes at Flamanville in Normandy and Olkiluoto in Finland.

The Japanese prime minister at the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident has warned that nuclear power is unsafe and too expensive to justify building new plants anywhere in the world.

Speaking on the fifth anniversary of the disaster on Friday, Naoto Kan said he was against the idea of Japanese manufacturers such as Hitachi and Toshiba building nuclear plants in the UK.

“Nuclear power is not safe. In the worst case scenario up to 50 million people would have had to be evacuated.Nuclear power is not a suitable technology and renewable power is much better,” Kan told the Guardian.

He insisted he did not want to tell other countries such as Britain what to do but said he did not support the reactors being switched back on in Japan. Neither did he support the idea of Japanese companies working on new nuclear schemes.

While EDF is at the centre of the Hinkley scheme, Hitachi and Toshiba are behind similar initiatives being developed for new reactors at Wylfa on Anglesey,Oldbury in south Gloucestershire, and Sellafield in Cumbria.

Kan said it did not make sense to construct new atomic plants because of the cost, especially in those countries where there were no long-term storage facilities for high-level radioactive waste. This includes Britain and Japan.

“What I experienced as prime minister made me feel that it does not make sense to rely on nuclear. New generation plant designs are supposed to increase safety but all these do is increase the cost,” he added.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of Britain’s atomic lobby group, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said he was comfortable that Hinkley and the other reactors being planned in Britain would be safe because they would go through the UK’s most rigorous regulatory scrutiny.

“The process of assessing the reactor design is done in a different way in the UK and that gives confidence that the reactor design [EDF’s European pressurised reactors] will be safe and that is what we need to see,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Energy and Climate Change said the safety of British reactors would be paramount. “Any nuclear power station built in the UK will need to comply with our world-leading nuclear safety regulation.

“The British government is backing new nuclear. It is an important part of our plan to give hardworking families and businesses clean, affordable and secure energy that they can rely on now and in the future.”

Marshall Islands suing India, Pak, UK for not stopping N-race. Here’s why

CATCH News | Aleesha Matharu | 8 March 2016

Marshall Islands, a US protectorate until 1986, is trying to press India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to curb their nuclear programmes.

And it has a very good reason for making this move. In the early days of the Cold War, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs over the Marshall Islands as part of its atomic weapons test programme.

Now, over a half-century later, the small Pacific nation will at last have its day in court.

The island nation has filed nine lawsuits – Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the US – alleging that despite their suffering, the world’s nuclear powers have failed to comply with the terms of the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Britain has signed the NPT, but not India and Pakistan. Together, the three countries are expected to argue that the Marshall Island’s claims are beyond the Hague court’s jurisdiction and should not proceed any further.

Yet activists have said just getting the case to the United Nations was a victory in itself.

While the US has refused to participate, preliminary hearings are underway for the first time at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in what many activists see as a step towards highlighting the issue of nuclear disarmament.

“It’s a shame that the other six nuclear armed states have decided that for them there was no need to respond,” said Phon van den Biesen, a lawyer for the Marshall Islands.

Will this accomplish anything?

The Marshall Islands is pursuing global disarmament as a result of its “particular awareness of the dire consequences of nuclear weapons,” according to court documents.

While it seems unlikely that the lawsuits will result in complete disarmament by world powers, but the hearings show that global tribunals can give a voice – however slight – to small nations.

Also, the International Court of Justice hasn’t issued an opinion on nuclear weapons since 1996. As Dapo Akande, professor of international law at Oxford University, told Reuters: “The success will be in putting the issue back on the agenda. … This is as much as the Marshall Islands can hope for.”

What damage was done by the tests by the US?

Several of its atolls were vaporised entirely. Many people were killed and over the ensuing year, people suffered birth defects never seen before and cancer as a result of contamination.

Tony deBrum, a Marshall Islands representative, said he watched one of the US nuclear tests in his home country as a nine-year-old boy while fishing with his grandfather.

“The entire sky turned blood red,” he told judges.

Bikini Atoll, which hosted 23 nuclear tests, remains uninhabitable. While the descendants of the residents relocated prior to the nuclear testing have long wanted to return to the atoll, residual radiation has forced them to remain in exile.

A 2012 UN report estimates that the atoll suffers from “near-irreversible environmental contamination.”

On the island of Runit, in nearby Enewetak Atoll, the US military constructed a massive concrete dome to house tons of radioactive waste.

Never meant as a permanent fix, the dome now leaks radioactive materials into the surrounding environment.

In 2014, the Two-Way reported on the lasting impact of those tests: “Although islanders were relocated from Bikini and Eniwetok atolls – ground zero for the majority of the tests – three other Marshall atolls underwent emergency evacuations in 1954 after they were unexpectedly exposed to radioactive fallout. The Marshallese say they’ve suffered serious health issues ever since.”

So why isn’t Marshall Islands dragging the US to court?

It tried.

As the Two-Way reported when the case was filed in 2014, the island chain attempted to file suit against all nine countries believed to possess a nuclear arsenal: “In court documents, the Marshall Islands argues that the 1958 NPT, which did not come into force until 1970, amounts to a compact between nuclear haves and have-nots. Non-weapons states essentially agreed not to try to acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for weapons states moving toward disarmament, the Marshalls says.”

Why is India complying?

The ICJ has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.

Despite not having signed the NPT, India and Pakistan had an obligation under “customary international law” to negotiate and eventually reduce their nuclear arsenals.

“Contrary to the obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations on nuclear disarmament… India’s conduct includes the quantitative build-up and improvement of its nuclear arsenal,” deBrum said.

It’s Not An Anniversary

On Five Years Of An Ongoing Accident In Fukushima: It’s Not An Anniversary

DiaNuke editorial on the Five Years since the Earthquake-Tsunami-Meltdown

by Kumar Sundaram, March 12, 2016

On March 11, 2011, I was sitting in my office in the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, when the news of massive tsunami and earthquake came. I was working as a Senior Research Fellow on a project funded by the Dept. of Atomic Energy.

I was new to Facebook, and wished safety to all my Japanese friends, and I asked some over Facebook messaging and emails if they were fine.

And then, the news of nuclear accident in Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors flashed. Within hours, it turned into an unimaginable horror.

I almost didn’t sleep for several days – checking every detail on the internet – the radiation counts, the design details of the reactors, every single news release, the weather reports for understanding the direction and speed of wind, getting glued to the map of Tohoku region. A number of other people tracking Fukushima on the social media from different countries became friends. We kept doing that for months. Some still meticulously gather every single detail.

For me, it was a reckoning of the insurmountable nature of nuclear accidents. The accidents might not happen so frequently, but the fact that every reactor can undergo an accident and there is no human response possible for nuclear accidents, even in technologically most advanced countries, makes nuclear power uniquely and unacceptably dangerous.

The accident also revealed decades of complacency in Japan. The nexus between politics, nuclear corporations, the elites, and the media was openly exposed. We can rely on the Indian system to be far worse than Japan in that respect. The labour mafia in Japan has been callously using the poor and migrant workers as cheap fodder in Fukushima’s clean-up.

The clean-up will take decades. They have not been able to get the reactor under control, even after 5 years. We have no clue about the state of tons of molten fuel in the crippled reactor. What the government means by ‘under control’ is just that they are pouring water daily to keep the temperature in the crumbled building low. Thousands of litres of contaminated water from the reactor are coming out daily, and they have no idea what to do with the water except storing it in thousands of huge tanks and stealthily letting it go into the Pacific Ocean.

A 20-kilometre radius area around the reactor remains uninhabitable, and more than 20,000 people evacuated from this area have no hope to return.

I have been to Fukushima twice since the accident. I went inside the evacuation zone and saw the ghost towns like Namie, Futaba and Itate. Houses, offices, shops, schools, playgrounds, railway stations, everything is there, but there are no humans. In 5 years, heavy dust and moss has accumulated everywhere.

There are decontamination workers working in this 20 kilometre zone, mostly scraping the top-soil and cleaning houses and offices. This highly radioactive dump is transported, shifted from one place to other in ‘temporary’ storage sites. The people doing this work know there’s no solution. They know everything is just an eyewash, for appearance’s sake. The same company which didn’t heed to warnings before the accident, and played every trick in the book to exclude as many people as possible from getting compensation, is gaining from these decontamination contracts.

Life for the evacuated people is unimaginably hard and shattered. Building a new life is not easy for most of them. There’s very little support from the government, and there are many attempts to stop even that as the years pass. There are documented proofs that the community in Fukushima is also facing social ostracism, as people fear that radiation-caused diseases might appear after several years. People are experiencing psychological breakdowns.

The resilience of the community, and the larger Japanese society, however, is moving. People across the country are providing support in every possible manner.

The political fallout of Fukushima is historic. Something has changed in the normally apolitical Japanese society. The kind and gentle Japanese people are angry. They understand the connections between corporations, government, politicians and the media. They are still grappling with how to make their collective response more effective. Thousands of reluctant activists flock to the Japanese parliament building in Tokyo every Friday after their work, chant slogans, play music, light candles, and share dreams of a better future. This has proliferated and there are weekly protests all over Japan.

In India, we have a additional set of problems when it comes to nuclear: higher population density, deeper corruption and unaccountability in the system, absence of an independent nuclear safety regulator, attempts to dilute even the ridiculously low nuclear liability. And more than anything else, brutal bulldozing of public dissent, environmental and safety concerns as the commitment for setting up new reactors stems primarily from the elite’s foreign policy choices rather than some well-thought energy policy.

Fukushima has led to policy changes in several countries. As a BBC survey has revealed, popular support for nuclear power is touching bottom, globally.

But in India, legitimate concerns about nuclear safety are deemed superstition. The previous government sent psychological counselors to Koodankulam when local residents raised objections about the project. And when these counselors couldn’t “cure” them, the police came. Thousands of para-military forces surrounded the villages, ransacked houses and fishing boats, and killed innocents.

Asking questions has become anti-national in India. Thousands of villagers on the southern-most tip of India face sedition charges for peacefully protesting against the project, which has now revealed itself as an expensive and dangerous white elephant. In almost 3 years since its commissioning, after much fanfare and repression, Koodankulam nuclear plant has not even operated successfully for 100 consecutive days. The latest news is that the reactor has been shut down again due to a dangerous leak. People around the area have reported a pungent smell coming from the plant for the last few days.

I left my previous job and have associated myself with the Coalition For Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP) after the Fukushima accident. We have been trying to mobilise solidarity for the struggling villagers, amplify their voices and connect the dots by collaborating with civil society groups to ask questions on liability, safety, economic viability and environmental impacts of the proposed and existing nuclear plants in India.

In this country with hugely anachronistic nuclear ambitions, which is one of the handful countries with expansion plans after Fukushima, we all have been labeled anti-national.

One of the first things the new BJP government did after coming to power was to deliberately ‘leak’ an intelligence report calling CNDP and other such organisations anti-national. Some 40 names were mentioned, including mine. The IB became an economist and axiomatically said we are bringing down India’s growth by 2 to 3 percent. How more absurd can it get? I survive in Delhi on odd freelance pieces of work and minimum organisational support.

In the 5th year of Fukushima, I have lost track of the details that I started accumulating in March 2011. It’s not about facts and figures any more. It’s about politics. It’s about power structures. It’s about our lifestyles. Everything needs to be questions and transformed if the world has to be kept safe from nuclear horror and climate change.

If challenging the status-quo is anti-national, so be it. I am proud to carry the label.

Fukushima Report: 10,000 Excess Cancers Expected in Japan as a Result of 2011 Reactor Meltdowns, Ongoing Radiation Exposure

Report Gauges Cancer Prospects for Children, Rescue/Recovery Worker, and General Population; Japanese Government Criticized for “Disturbing” Failure to Examine Wider Radiation-Related Diseases

PSR | March 9, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. & BERLIN – March 9, 2016 – Residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancers as a result of radiation exposure from the triple-reactor meltdown that took place on March 11, 2011, according to a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

Titled “5 Years Living With Fukushima” and available online atwww.psr.org/FukushimaReport2016, the PSR/IPPNW report laments that the full impact of Fukushima may never be known, due to Japan’s failure to immediately and fully track radiation exposures, as well as a “disturbing” lack of testing of the general population for radiation-related diseases and other impacts (miscarriages, fetal malformations, leukemia, lymphomas, solid tumors or non-cancerous diseases). The massive initial radioactive emissions were not recorded at the time of the triple-reactor meltdown and some radioactive isotopes (including strontium-90) have not been measured at all.

The PSR/IPPNW report uses the best available science and data to gauge the excess cancer rates among children, rescue and clean-up workers, and the general population of Japan. In addition to the 200,000 Fukushima residents relocated nearby into makeshift camps, the exposed include millions of others in Japan as a result of fallout-contaminated food, soil and water. Fukushima is often incorrectly seen as a “past” event; the reality is that radioactive emissions from the wrecked reactors continue to this day both into the atmosphere and in the form of 300 tons of leakage each day into the Pacific Ocean.

Key findings of the PSR/IPPNW report include the following:

  • Children. “116 children in Fukushima Prefecture have al­ready been diagnosed with aggressive and fast-growing, or already metastasizing, thyroid cancer – in a population this size about one to five case per year would normally be expected. For 16 of these children a screening effect can be excluded as their cancers developed within the last two years.”
  • Workers. “More than 25,000 cleanup and rescue workers received the highest radiation dose and risked their health, while preventing a deterioration of the situation at the power plant site. If data supplied by the operator TEPCO is to be believed, around 100 workers are expected to contract cancer due to excess radia­tion, and 50 percent of these will be fatal. The real dose levels, how­ever, are most likely several times higher, as the operator has had no qualms in manipulating the data to avoid claims for damages – from hiring unregistered temporary employees to tampering with radiation dosimeters and even crude forgery.”
  • The rest of Japan. “The population in the rest of Japan is exposed to increased radiation doses from minor amounts of radioactive fallout, as well as contaminated food and water. Calculations of increased cancer cases overall in Japan range from 9,600 to 66,000 depending on the dose estimates.”

Catherine Thomasson, MD, report co-editor, and executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: “The health legacy of Fukushima will haunt Japan for years to come and it cannot be wished out of existence by cheerleaders for nuclear power. Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear Japanese government and the country’s influential nuclear lobby are doing everything in their power to play down and conceal the effects of the disaster. The high numbers of thyroid cancers already verified with 50 additional waiting for surgery in the children of Fukushima prefecture is astounding. The aim seems to be to ensure the Fukushima file is closed as soon as possible and the Japanese public returns to a positive view of nuclear power. This rush to re-embrace nuclear power is dangerous to the extent that it sweeps major and very real medical concerns under the rug.”

Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said: “One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the “manmade disaster” are neither ‘negligible’ nor ‘insufficient,’ as Japanese authorities, the nation’s nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe.”

Tim Mousseau, PhD, professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, said: “It is unfortunate that, in some regards, we have better and more complete data about the impacts of Fukushima radiation on trees, plants and animals than we do on humans. We are seeing higher mortality rates, reduction in successful reproduction and significant deformities. A great deal of this research has been done to date and it has troubling implications. The research findings should be heeded to direct human studies, particularly regarding the question of genetic and transgenerational effects of radiation.”

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar specializing in nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies, Institute for Public Studies, and former senior policy advisor, US Department of Energy, said:“Radioactive fallout from the reactors has created de faco ‘sacrifice zones’ where human habitation will no longer be possible well into the future. In November 2011, the Japanese Science Ministry reported that long-lived radioactive cesium had contaminated 11,580 square miles (30,000 sq km) of the land surface of Japan. Some 4,500 square miles – an area almost the size of Connecticut – was found to have radiation levels that exceeded Japan’s allowable exposure rate of 1 mSV(millisievert) per year. Fourteen of the nation’s 54 reactors are permanently shut down as they are on fault lines and only four have been restarted.”

The PSR/IPPNW report also cautions that Fukushima was far from a one-time radiation incident: “The wrecked reactors have been leaking radioactive discharge since March 2011, de­spite assurances by the nuclear industry and institutions of the nuclear lobby such as the International Atomic Energy Organi­zation that a singular incident occurred in spring 2011, which is now under control. This statement ignores the continu­ous emission of long-lived radionuclides such as cesium-137 or strontium-90 into the atmosphere, the groundwater and the ocean. It also ignores frequent recontamination of affected ar­eas due to storms, flooding, forest fires, pollination, precipitation and even clean-up operations, which cause radioactive isotopes to be whirled into the air and spread by the wind. Thus, sev­eral incidents of new contamination with cesium-137 and stron­tium-90 have been discovered during the past years, even at considerable distance beyond the evacuation zone.”

The report also notes: “Finally, there are frequent leaks at the power plant itself – par­ticularly from the cracked underground vaults of the reactor buildings and from containers holding radioactive contaminated water, which were hastily welded together and already exhibit numerous defects. According to TEPCO, 300 tons of radioactive wastewater still flow unchecked into the ocean every day – more than 500,000 tons since the beginning of the nuclear disaster. The amount and composition of radioactive isotopes fluctuate widely so that it is not possible to ascertain the actual effect this radioactive discharge will have on marine life. What is clear, however, is that increasing amounts of strontium-90 are being flushed into the sea. Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope that is incorporated into living organisms in a similar way to calcium – in bones and teeth. As it travels up the marine food chain, it undergoes significant bioaccumulation and, because of its long biological and physical half-lives, will continue to contaminate the environment for the next hundreds of years.”

ABOUT THE GROUPS

Physicians for Social Responsibility has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both the present and future generations. PSR advocates on key issues of concern by addressing the dangers that threaten communities. www.psr.org.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. www.ippnw.org

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, +1 (703) 276-3255 (in US) ormkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.