29 June 2011

Pakistan's Nuclear Bomb - 'We May Be Naive, But We Are Not Idiots'

'We May Be Naive, But We Are Not Idiots'

The father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan: a 'conditional pardon'
The father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan: a 'conditional pardon'
He built Pakistan's nuclear bomb and is accused of having sold his knowledge to Libya and Iran. Since 2004, Abdul Qadeer Khan has been under a state of house arrest. In an e-mail interview, he now explains why he accepted sole blame for the accusations at the time and points a finger at the Pakistani army.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Recent attacks on a naval base in Karachi, Pakistan, which resulted in the deaths of 16 people, show that extremists are posing a serious threat to the government in Islamabad. How safe is the Pakistani nuclear arsenal?
Khan: This hype has been created by the West. There never was, there is not and there never will be any threat to our nuclear assets. Right from the early 1980s on, the army put a fully fail-safe mechanism in place, which was subsequently improved upon by successive army chiefs. The plant was always secured by a fully armed army contingent and the perimeters were made impregnable using various tiers. Since then the security of our nuclear assets has been taken care of by the National Command Authority which has put in place a system whereby decisions are to be taken by a number of people who also possess specific security codes. It would thus be impossible, even if there were an infiltration of extremists, to pass all the components of the security system and get to the bomb.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nobody has been as active as you in the business of nuclear proliferation in problematic countries like Libya, Iran and North Korea. What drove you to do so? Was it money or the desire to help other Muslim countries build the bomb?
Khan: I did not indulge in proliferation and there is no such thing as an"A.Q. Khan Network."
Khan: International suppliers were willing to sell to anyone able to pay and they didn't need me for that. The suppliers to Libya and Iran were the same as the ones Khan Research Laboratories used. We had a contract with North Korea for the production of missiles. They already had their own plutonium production program and they used plutonium in their test procedures. Logistics and security at our plant was in the hands of the army and they checked each and every item that came in or left. How then could I have sent things to any country without the army's knowledge?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So you are seriously trying to suggest that you never dealt in nuclear weapons or benefited financially from doing so?
Khan: No, no and again no. I did not benefit financially. If that had been the case, would the Special Plans Division, the army unit I worked with, now be paying me a monthly "special pension"?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If nothing could be sent out of the country without the knowledge of the army, then who benefited from this major business? Certain officers?
Khan: Who benefited, I may not say.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Seven years ago, you publicly confessed to a television audience of millions that you sold nuclear technology out of greed for profit. You are retracting that statement today. Why?
Khan: I took sole blame for this whole episode because the political leadership urgently asked me to do so. General Pervez Musharraf promised me a full pardon with complete rehabilitation. However, within a few days the mischief started and he started talking of a "conditional pardon," the consequences of which we now all know. Our house was searched and bugged, our phones and Internet connection were disconnected.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So you are saying you feel you were tricked?
Khan: Tricked is not the right word. I feel stabbed in the back by the very people who benefited most from my work -- i.e., the army.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could a nuclear war between India and Pakistan ever even be won by either of the countries?
Khan: Pakistan was forced to go nuclear in response to the Indian tests and political aggression. The deterrence of nuclear weapons lies in the fact that both sides know that the other can retaliate in kind. Had Japan had nuclear weapons during World War II, the Americans never would have dared to use theirs. There has not been a war in Europe since 1945 …
SPIEGEL ONLINE: … other than the Balkan wars …
Khan: … and there has not been one between India and Pakistan since 1971. The Kargil skirmishes were localized and the issue of the use of nuclear weapons never arose. We may be naive, but we are not idiots. Both sides know what the consequences would be.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If it did not have nuclear weapons, Pakistan would not currently be considered one of the world's most dangerous countries. Do you regret having built the bomb?
Khan: I still believe I did Pakistan a favor. Nuclear weapons are a means of ensuring peace by using it as a tit-for-tat threat. I am convinced that there will never be another war between India and Pakistan as a consequence thereof.
Interview conducted by Susanne Koelbl

Fukushima radiation fears: children near nuclear plant to be given monitors

Dosimeters to be given to 34,000 children in city 45 miles from Tepco plant after high radiation readings
Fukushima protest
A Japanese schoolgirl walks past residents of Fukushima prefecture appealing for a halt to nuclear energy outside the Tepco annual shareholders' meeting in Tokyo. Photograph: Everett Kennedy Brown/EPA
Tens of thousands of children living near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are to be given personal radiation monitors, as concern grows over the long-term health effects of exposure to radiation.
Dosimeters will be given to 34,000 children aged between four and 15 living in Fukushima city, 45 miles from the plant, after abnormally high radiation readings were recorded in the area.
The risks posed by radiation from the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl have already driven 80,000 people from homes within 12 miles of the plant. Many of the child evacuees from communities that now lie empty attend schools in Fukushima, a city of 300,000 people.
Local authorities have provided monitors to schools outside the exclusion zone, but this is the first time they have been supplied to individual pupils. Data from the dosimeters will be analysed to assess the risks posed by cumulative radiation exposure.
The move, the latest concession to growing parental anger over patchy official information about the risks of radiation exposure, came as the company that operates the plant faced repeated verbal attacks at a rowdy annual shareholders' meeting in Tokyo.
More than 9,000 investors attended the meeting, held at a hotel under heavy police guard, with many berating Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] executives over their response to the 11 March tsunami, which crashed into the plant and knocked out vital cooling systems to reactors.
The crisis has knocked 85% off the value of Tepco shares and resulted in annual losses of $15bn (£9.4bn). The company also faces a compensation bill that could exceed $100bn, while a government plan to help fund damages claims has yet to be put to a parliamentary vote.
The executives got a more sympathetic hearing from others at the meeting, however, and late on Tuesday afternoon, institutional investors helped vote down a motion by activist shareholders to force Tepco to scrap its nuclear reactors.
The company's new chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata, opened the meeting with an apology for the accident. "We are working to get out of this crisis as quickly as possible," he said. But his attempts to answer questions were punctuated by heckles and demands for him and the rest of the Tepco board to resign. One man demanded that the utility's executives "jump into the reactors and die", while another said that in feudal times they would have been expected to commit ritual disembowelment.
The meeting was held the same day that Japan's nuclear safety agency said about 15 tonnes of low-level radioactive water had leaked into the ground from the Fukushima plant. Tepco, which is struggling to deal with huge volumes of contaminated water that have built up during the operation to cool damaged reactors, said it was investigating the cause of the leak.
In Fukushima city, a local official said children would be required to wear their dosimeters for three months. "We are still considering whether to expand the programme to include other residents," said Koichi Kato.
The government says radiation levels in the city remain well below those considered dangerous, but dozens of schools lying outside the official exclusion zone have taken extra precaution to protect children.
In some towns, authorities have limited the time children are allowed to pay outside and moved swimming lessons from outdoor pools to sports centres. Many have removed layers of radioactive topsoil from their playgrounds, often at the request of anxious parents.
Anti-nuclear campaigners said Fukushima city's move did not go far enough. "The meters don't protect children from radiation, they simply measure exposure after a certain amount of time," said Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action. "Children should be moved out of areas where radiation levels are high, not used as guinea pigs."
Last week, a coalition of civic and environmental groups in the Fukushima area issued an emergency petition demanding the evacuation of children and pregnant women from radiation hot spots outside the exclusion zone.
"Since atmospheric radiation levels show no sign of abating, the inhabitants of heavily contaminated areas will continue endure high radiation doses, both externally and internally," they said.;

26 June 2011

A nuclear-free future for America: Amy Goodman

A nuclear-free future for America

The US's ageing stock of nuclear reactors only grows more unsafe as it gets older. Renewables offer clean, green energy
Fort Calhoun, Nebraska nuclear reactor threatened by flooding of the Missouri River
The Fort Calhoun nuclear reactor, Nebraska, surrounded by flood waters from the Missouri River, on 14 June 2011. The plant has been shut down since April, partly due to the flooding, which may yet get worse. Photograph: AP Photo/Nati Harnik
New details are emerging that indicate the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is far worse than previously known, with three of the four affected reactors experiencing full meltdowns. Meanwhile, in the US, massive flooding along the Missouri River has put Nebraska's two nuclear plants, both near Omaha, on alert.
The Cooper nuclear station declared a low-level emergency and will have to close down if the river rises another 3in. The Fort Calhounnuclear power plant has been shut down since 9 April, in part due to flooding. At Prairie Island, Minnesota, extreme heat caused the nuclear plant's two emergency diesel generators to fail. Emergency generator failure was one of the key problems that led to the meltdowns at Fukushima.
In May, in reaction to the Fukushima disaster, Nikolaus Berlakovich, Austria's federal minister of agriculture, forestry, environment and water management, convened a meeting of Europe's 11 nuclear-free countries. Those gathered resolved to push for a nuclear-free Europe, even as Germany announced it will phase out nuclear power in 10 years and push ahead on renewable-energy research. Then, in last week's national elections in Italy, more than 90% of voters resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's plans to restart the country's nuclear-power-generation plans.
Leaders of national nuclear-energy programs are gathering this week in Vienna for the International Atomic Energy Agency's ministerial conference on nuclear safety. The meeting was called in response to Fukushima. Ironically, the ministers, including US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko, held their meeting safely in a country with no nuclear power plants: Austria is at the forefront of Europe's new anti-nuclear alliance.
The IAEA meeting was preceded by the release of an Associated Press report stating that consistently, and for decades, US nuclear regulators lowered the bar on safety regulations in order to allow operators to keep the nuclear plants running. Nuclear power plants were constructed in the US in the decades leading up to the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979. These 104 plants are all getting on in years. The original licences were granted for 40 years. The AP's Jeff Donn wrote:
"When the first ones were being built in the 1960s and 1970s, it was expected that they would be replaced with improved models long before those licenses expired."
Enormous upfront construction costs, safety concerns and the problem of storing radioactive nuclear waste for thousands of years drove away private investors. Instead of developing and building new nuclear plants, the owners – typically for-profit companies like Exelon Corp, a major donor to the Obama campaigns through the years – simply try to run the old reactors longer, applying to the NRC for 20-year extensions.
Europe, already ahead of the US in development and deployment of renewable-energy technology, is now poised to accelerate in the field. In the US, the NRC has provided preliminary approval of the Southern Company's planned expansion of the Vogtle power plant in Georgia, which would allow the first construction of new nuclear power plants in the US since Three Mile Island. The project got a boost from President Barack Obama, who pledged an $8.3bn federal loan guarantee. Southern plans on using Westinghouse's new AP1000 reactor. But a coalition of environmental groups has filed to block the permit, noting that the new reactor design is inherently unsafe.
Obama established what he called his "blue ribbon commission on America's nuclear future". One of its 15 members is John Rowe, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corp (the same nuclear energy company that has lavished campaign contributions on Obama). The commission made a fact-finding trip to Japan to see how that country was thriving with nuclear power – one month before the Fukushima disaster. In May, the commission reiterated its position, which is the same as Obama's, that nuclear ought to be part of the US energy mix.
The US energy mix, instead, should include a national jobs programme to make existing buildings energy efficient, and to install solar and wind-power technology where appropriate. These jobs could not be outsourced and would immediately reduce our energy use and, thus, our reliance on foreign oil and domestic coal and nuclear. Such a programme could favour US manufacturers, to keep the money in the US economy. That would be a simple, effective and sane reaction to Fukushima.
• Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column
© 2011 Amy Goodman; distributed by King Features Syndicate

Why is there a Media Blackout on Nuclear Incident at Fort Calhoun in Nebraska?

Since flooding began on June 6th, there has been a disturbingly low level of media attention given to the crisis at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Facility near Omaha, Nebraska. But evidence strongly suggests that something very serious has in fact happened there.
On June 7th, there was a fire reported at Fort Calhoun.  The official story is that the fire was in an electrical switchgear room at the plant.  The apparently facility lost power to a pump that cools the spent fuel rod pool, allegedly for a duration of approximately 90 minutes.

FORT CALHOUN NUKE SITE: does it pose a public risk?

The following sequence of events is documented on the Omaha Public Power District’s own website, stating among other things, that here was no such imminent danger with the Fort Calhoun Station spent-fuel pool, and that due to a fire in an electrical switchgear room at FCS on the morning of June 7, the plant temporarily lost power to a pump that cools the spent-fuel pool.

In addition to the flooding that has occurred on the banks of the Missouri River at Fort Calhoun, the Cooper Nuclear Facility in Brownville, Nebraska may also be threatened by the rising flood waters.

As was declared at Fort Calhoun on June 7th, another  “Notification of Unusual Event” was declared at Cooper Nuclear Station on June 20th.  This notification was issued because the Missouri River’s water level reached an alarming 42.5 feet. Apparently, Cooper Station is advising that it is unable to discharge sludge into the Missouri River due to flooding, and therefore “overtopped” its sludge pond.

Not surprisingly, and completely ignored by the Mainstream Media, these two nuclear power facilities in Nebraska were designated temporary restricted NO FLY ZONES  by the FAA in early June.  The FAA restrictions were reportedly down to “hazards” and were  ‘effectively immediately’, and ‘until further notice’. Yet, according to the NRC, there’s no cause for the public to panic.

FORT CALHOUN: Under water now. Is it potentially the next Fukushima?

A news report from local NBC 6 on the Ft. Calhoun Power Plant and large areas of farm land flooded by the Missouri River, interviews a local farmer worried about the levees, “We need the Corps-Army Corps of Engineers–to do more. The Corps needs to tell us what to do and where to go. This is not mother nature, this is man-made.” Nearby town Council Bluffs has already implemented its own three tier warning system should residents be prepared to leave the area quickly.

On June 6, 2011, the Federal Aviation Administration put into effect ‘temporary flying restrictions’–until further notice–over the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Blaine, Nebraska.

To date, no one can confirm whether or not the Ft Calhoun Nuclear incident is at a Level 4 emergency on a US regulatory scale. A Level 4 emergency would constitute an “actual or imminent substantial core damage or melting of reactor fuel with the potential for loss of containment integrity.” According to the seven-level International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, a Level 4 incident requires at least one death, which has not occurred according to available reports.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen explains how cooling pumps must operate continuously, even years after a plant is shut down.

According a recent report on the People’sVoice website, The Ft. Calhoun plant — which stores its fuel rods at ground level according to Tom Burnett – is now partly submerged and Missouri River levels are expected to rise further before the summer if finished, local reports in and around the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant suggest that the waters are expected to rise at least 5 more feet.

Burnett states, “Ft. Calhoun is the designated spent fuel storage facility for the entire state of Nebraska…and maybe for more than one state. Calhoun stores its spent fuel in ground-level pools which are underwater anyway – but they are open at the top. When the Missouri river pours in there, it’s going to make Fukushima look like an X-Ray.”

The People’s Voice’s report explains how Ft Calhoun and Fukushima share some of the very same high-risk factors:

“In 2010, Nebraska stored 840 metric tons of the highly radioactive spent fuel rods, reports the Nuclear Energy Institute. That’s one-tenth of what Illinois stores (8,440 MT), and less than Louisiana (1,210) and Minnesota (1,160). But it’s more than other flood-threatened states like Missouri (650) and Iowa (420).”

Conventional wisdom about what makes for a safe location regarding nuclear power facilities was turned on its head this year following Japan’s Fukushima disaster following the earthquake and tsunami which ravaged the region and triggered one of the planets worst-ever nuclear meltdowns.

As was the critical event in Fukushima, in Ft Calhoun circulatin­g water is required at all times to keep the new fuel and more importantl­y the spent radioactive material cool. The Nebraska facility houses around 600,000 – 800,000 pounds of spent fuel that must be constantly cooled to prevent it from starting to boil, so the reported 90 minute gap in service should raise alarm bells.

TV and radio journalist Tom Hartmann explores some of these arguments here:

Nebraska’s nuclear plant’s similarities to Japan’s Fukushima, both were store houses for years of spent nuclear fuel rods.

In addition to all this, there are eyewitness reports of odd military movements, including unmarked vehicles and soldiers. Should a radiation accident occur, most certainly extreme public controls would be enacted by the military, not least because this region contains some of the country’s key environmental, transportation and military assets.
Here is a video regarding the flooding experienced along the Missouri River in Nebraska:

RISK: Levees in and around Omaha were not designed for 3 months of water.
Angela Tague at Business Gather reports also that the recent Midwest floods may seriously impact food and gas prices.  Lost farmland may be behind the price spike to $7.55 a bushel for corn, already twice last year’s price.  Tague notes also:
“Corn is a key ingredient in ethanol gasoline, feeds America’s livestock and is found in many food products including soft drinks and cereal. Prices will undoubtedly increase steadily at the grocery store, gas pump and butcher shop throughout the summer as Midwest flooding continues along the Missouri River basin. Not only are farmers losing their homes, land and fields — ultimately their bank accounts will also suffer this season.”
One of the lessons we can learn for Japan’s tragic Fukushima disaster is that the government’s choice to impose a media blackout on information around the disaster may have already cost thousands of lives. Only time will tell the scope the disaster and how many victims it will claim.
More importantly, though, is that public officials might do well to reconsider the “safe” and “green” credentials of nuclear power- arguably one of the dirtiest industries going today. Especially up for inspection are those of 40 year old facilities like Ft Calhoun in the US, strangely being re-licensed for operation past 2030. Many of these facilities serve little on the electrical production front, and are more or less “bomb factories” that produce material for nuclear weapons and depleted uranium munitions.
Perhaps ‘Fukushima’ could become an annual event for the nuclear industry. 

Patrick Henningsen is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Patrick Henningsen