Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Hiroshima then and now: the impact of atomic immolation on a Japanese city ion its people and the perpetrators

Japan Times 1945: New-type bombs used in raid on Hiroshima • Aug 1, 2020 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/08/01/national/history/japan-times-1945-new-type-bombs-used-raid-hiroshima/ 75 YEARS AGO Thursday, Aug. 9, 1945 New-type bombs used in raid on Hiroshima 1945 | THE JAPAN TIMES President Truman’s announcement on Monday that American aircraft had dropped a new-type bomb in an attack on the Japanese mainland was bitterly criticised by the Vatican spokesman who said that the news created a “painful impression” in the Holy See says a Reuters newscast received in Stockholm. The new bomb is regarded as a further step in the direction of indiscriminate employment of means of destruction, the spokesman said. New-type bombs were used by the small number of superforts that raided Hiroshima on Monday morning, causing considerable damage to the city quarters, the Imperial Headquarters announced, in its communique issued at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The communique follows: “1. In the attack made by a small number of B-29’s on August 6, considerable damage was caused to Hiroshima City. “2. In this attack, the enemy used new-type bombs. Details are now under investigation.” Urgency to bear witness grows for last Hiroshima victims August 4, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200804/p2g/00m/0na/080000c Michiko Kodama, assistant secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A and H Bomb Sufferers' Organizations, prepares to narrate her experience on a livestream of "Kataribe" or story-telling session on July 12, 2020, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) -- For nearly 70 years, until he turned 85, Lee Jong-keun hid his past as an atomic bomb survivor, fearful of the widespread discrimination against blast victims that has long persisted in Japan. Lee Jong-keun speaks his experience of atomic bombing during an interview with The Associated Press in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 4, 2020. For nearly 70 years, until he turned 85, Lee hid his past as an atomic bomb survivor, fearful of the widespread discrimination against blast victims that has long persisted in Japan. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) But Lee, 92, is now part of a fast-dwindling group of survivors, known as hibakusha, that feels a growing urgency -- desperation even -- to tell their stories. These last witnesses to what happened 75 years ago this Thursday want to reach a younger generation that they feel is losing sight of the horror. The knowledge of their dwindling time -- the average age of the survivors is more than 83 and many suffer from the long-lasting effects of radiation -- is coupled with deep frustration over stalled progress in global efforts to ban nuclear weapons. According to a recent Asahi newspaper survey of 768 survivors, nearly two-thirds said their wish for a nuclear-free world is not widely shared by the rest of humanity, and more than 70% called on a reluctant Japanese government to ratify a nuclear weapons ban treaty. "I can't live for another 50 years," said Koko Kondo, 75, who was an 8-month-old baby in her mother's arms when their house collapsed from the blast around a kilometer (half a mile) away. "I want each child to live a full life, and that means we have to abolish nuclear weapons right now." Even after so many years, too many nuclear weapons remain, Kondo said, adding, "We are not screaming loud enough for the whole world to hear." The first U.S. atomic bombing killed 140,000 people in the city of Hiroshima. A second atomic attack on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, killed another 70,000. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, bringing an end to a conflict that began with its attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 during its attempt to conquer Asia. Some 20,000 ethnic Korean residents of Hiroshima are believed to have died in the nuclear attack. The city, a wartime military hub, had a large number of Korean workers, including those forced to work without pay at mines and factories under Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. On the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, 16-year-old Lee, a second-generation Korean born in Japan, was on his way to work at Japan's national railway authority in Hiroshima when the uranium bomb nicknamed Little Boy exploded. The whole sky turned yellowish orange, knocking him face first to the ground. Lee suffered severe burns on his neck that took four months to heal. Back at work, co-workers wouldn't go near him, saying he had "A-bomb disease." Little was known about the effects of the bomb, and some believed radiation was similar to an infectious disease. Prospective marriage partners also worried about genetic damage that could be passed to children. Lee had been bullied at school because of his Korean background, his classmates ridiculing the smell of kimchi in his lunchbox. Revealing that he was also an A-bomb victim would have meant more trouble. So Lee lived under a Japanese name, Masaichi Egawa, until eight years ago, when he first publicly revealed his identity during a cruise where atomic bomb survivors shared their stories. "Being Korean and also being hibakusha means double discrimination," Lee said. Japanese bomb survivors had no government support until 1957, when their yearslong efforts won official medical support. But a strict screening system has left out many who are still seeking compensation. Assistance for survivors outside Japan was delayed until the 1980s. The atomic bombings set off a nuclear arms race in the Cold War. The United States justified the bombings as a way to save untold lives by preventing a bloody invasion of mainland Japan to end the war, a view long accepted by many Americans. But Gar Alperovitz, author of "Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb," said at a recent online event that documentary records show wartime American leaders knew of Japan's imminent surrender and the bombings were not necessary militarily. Koko Kondo, who survived the blast as a baby, is the daughter of the Rev. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, one of six atomic bomb survivors featured in John Hersey's book "Hiroshima." She struggled for decades until she reached middle age to overcome the pain she experienced in her teens and the rejection by her fiance. She was almost 40 when she decided to follow her father's path and become a peace activist. She was inspired by his last sermon, in which he spoke about devoting his life to Hiroshima's recovery. This year, the frustration of survivors is greater because peace events leading up to the Aug. 6 memorial have been largely canceled or scaled back amid the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in over a decade, Keiko Ogura won't provide English translation for a guided tour of Hiroshima's Peace Park. Ogura was 8 when she saw the searing bright flash outside her house, about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from ground zero. Smashed to the ground, she was woken by her little brother's wails. The rubble of their house was burning. Crowds of people with severe burns, their hair charred into curls, headed to a shrine near her home, grunting and asking for water. Two people dropped dead after receiving water from her, a scene that haunted her for years. She blamed herself for surviving when so many others died. Ogura's relatives and friends told her to hide her status as a hibakusha or nobody would marry her. She kept her past to herself for decades, until her husband, a peace activist, died and she decided to continue his efforts. She set up a group of interpreters for peace. Her relatives don't want her to mention them in her speeches. "Why? Because people are still suffering," Ogura, 83, said in a recent online briefing. "The impact of radiation, the fear of it and the suffering were not just felt during the moment of the blast -- we still live with it today." Survivors are frustrated by their inability to see a nuclear-free world in their lifetime, and by Japan's refusal to sign or ratify a nuclear weapons ban treaty enacted in 2017. "But no matter how small, we must pursue our efforts," said Ogura. "I will keep talking as long as I live." More than 300,000 hibakusha have died since the attacks, including 9,254 in the past fiscal year, according to the health ministry. "For me, the war is not over yet," said Michiko Kodama, 82, who survived the bombing but has lost most of her relatives to cancer. Years after the atomic bombing, a receptionist at a clinic noted Kodama's "hibakusha" medical certificate in a loud voice, and a patient sitting next to her moved away. The fear of death, prejudice and discrimination continues, and nuclear weapons still exist. "We don't have much time left. I want to tell our story to the younger generations when I still can," Kodama said. "If someone wants to hear my story, I will go anywhere and talk." I grew up near the plutonium source for the Nagasaki bomb. Let's end the nuclear nightmare. Steve Olson Opinion contributor USA TODAY, 3:15 AM EDT Aug 3, 2020 https://eu.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/08/03/hiroshima-nagasaki-plutonium-trump-nuclear-arms-choice-column/5565240002/ Seventy-five years ago this month, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Under the terms of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the bombings would be illegal today, because they targeted civilians rather than troops or military facilities. But in the summer of 1945, U.S. government leaders wanted to end the war as quickly as possible. I have a personal connection to the bombings. I grew up in the 1960s in a small Washington state town 15 miles away from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, which produced the plutonium that powered the Nagasaki bomb. My grandfather worked as a steamfitter at the facility. High school friends spent their careers there. The history of Hanford mirrors the history of the nuclear age. During World War II, the world’s first three large-scale nuclear reactors were built at Hanford to convert uranium ore into a newly discovered bomb-making element called plutonium. But a bomb using the new element had to be tested before it could be trusted in warfare. That why the world’s first nuclear explosion took place in the New Mexican desert early on the morning of July 16, 1945. At the center of the device was a sphere about the size of an apple, weighing just 13 pounds, of Hanford-made plutonium. Plutonium was the future of bombs The Hiroshima bomb used a different explosive material — a rare isotope of uranium produced at a facility in Tennessee. But pound for pound, plutonium is more powerful than uranium. Even before the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, the bomb makers knew that future bombs would rely on plutonium. Hanford and its corresponding facility in the Soviet Union, built partly with Hanford blueprints purloined by Soviet spies, boomed in the 1950s and 1960s. As the Cold War raged, workers like my grandfather built six more plutonium production reactors on the banks of the Columbia River, supplemented by an additional five in South Carolina, out of range of Soviet bombers. The Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland, Washington, on Jan. 28, 1998. Bob Brawdy/AP At the height of the madness, the United States and Soviet Union had more than 30,000 nuclear weapons each. At the core of almost all these weapons was a small pit of plutonium that served as the detonator for an even larger hydrogen-based explosion. Hard-liners make gains: Trump's Iran policy hasn't made America tired of winning yet When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union dissolved, both the United States and Russia recognized the tremendous risks posed by their immense stores of nuclear weapons. The two countries entered into a series of negotiations and treaties that gradually whittled down their stockpiles. Facing a surplus of plutonium from decommissioned weapons, they shut down their plutonium production facilities and began to clean up the horrendous environmental contamination surrounding the plants. At Hanford, the cleanup will take many more decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to complete. Close this dark chapter in history Today, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 limits the two countries to 1,550 deployed warheads and bombs each. That’s still enough to end human civilization. But smaller arsenals are easier to control, making a bomb less likely to be commandeered by terrorists or detonated by accident. Worried for my grandparents: War with Iran is terrifying prospect for Americans with family in the Middle East, like me The New START expires Feb. 5. So far, President Donald Trump has abandoned almost every nuclear arms control treaty established by his predecessors, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Open Skies Treaty and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. If he refuses to extend New START, Russia and the United States will most likely begin building new and even more dangerous nuclear weapons. Other countries will probably follow suit. Steve Olson, author of "The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age," published July 28, 2020, by W. W. Norton & Company Family photo The president now has an opportunity to establish a much more honorable legacy. If he accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer to extend New START for up to five years, he could begin negotiations to secure verifiable constraints on both countries’ weapons while bringing other countries, like China, into the agreement. Even more audaciously, he could propose further reductions in nuclear weapons, which would demonstrate his abilities as a negotiator to the American public and undercut accusations that he has made the world less safe. My grandfather never expressed regret for working on Hanford. He and many other Hanford employees believed they were helping to win the Cold War while providing for their families. But from a broader perspective, the construction and operation of Hanford clearly marked a dark chapter in human history. Constraining and ultimately eliminating the weapons that Hanford made possible would bring that chapter to a close. Steve Olson is an award-winning science writer and author of "The Apocalypse Factory: Plutonium and the Making of the Atomic Age," published last week. Published 3:15 AM EDT Aug 3, 2020 Abe to attend Hiroshima and Nagasaki events marking U.S. atomic bombings Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he will attend peace memorial ceremonies to be held this month in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commemorate U.S. atomic bombings during World War II. | KYODO Kyodo, August 3, 2020 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/08/03/national/shinzo-abe-hiroshima-nagasaki/ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he will take part in peace memorial ceremonies to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombings of the cities. This year’s ceremonies will be scaled back due to concerns around the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “I will offer my deepest condolences to the spirits of those who have been victimized by the atomic bombings in this milestone year of the 75th anniversary,” Abe told a meeting between the government and ruling coalition ahead of the annual events to be held Thursday in Hiroshima and Sunday in Nagasaki. “We can never repeat the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Abe said, vowing to uphold the country’s three nonnuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing the introduction of nuclear weapons and to play the role as a bridge between the nuclear and nonnuclear weapon states. The U.S. Embassy in Japan said the same day Deputy Chief of Mission Nicholas Hill will take part in the ceremonies in both cities. “The ceremonies are an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives, and to reflect on our shared vision of peace,” the embassy said in a statement. The Hiroshima Municipal Government said last month representatives from 93 countries and the European Union are expected to attend its peace memorial event, the second-largest figure since 100 countries took part in 2015 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary. The Nagasaki Municipal Government also said last week it expects to see 74 countries, the second-largest total, send officials to the event. A record-high 75 nations attended in 2015. RELATED STORIES • Hiroshima to downsize 75th annual A-bomb ceremony • Virus scuppers Nagasaki A-bomb museum’s plans for 75th anniversary • Hiroshima court recognizes atomic bomb 'black rain' victims Time fails to dim Hiroshima and Nagasaki's Peace Declarations Japanese gallery campaigns to share iconic A-bomb paintings worldwide August 3, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200803/p2g/00m/0fe/067000c Yukinori Okamura, the curator and managing director of the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, gives an interview at the gallery in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, on July 10, 2020.(Kyodo) HIGASHIMATSUYAMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- A small gallery in the suburbs of Tokyo is trying to share with the rest of the world a series of paintings by a couple who witnessed the aftermath of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima 75 years ago. This file photo shows the late husband-and-wife artist team of Iri, right, and Toshi Maruki posing for a photograph in front of the 14th piece of the Hiroshima Panels on July 29, 1972. (Kyodo) This photo taken on July 10, 2020, shows the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture. The 53-year-old gallery exhibits the works of the late Iri and Toshi Maruki.(Kyodo) The 53-year-old museum that displays the works by the late Iri and Toshi Maruki, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, started an online fundraiser in June to create a short video introducing the Hiroshima Panels. Combining Japanese traditional and western painting techniques, the husband-and-wife artists spent more than 30 years creating a set of 15 large paintings depicting the horrors of the U.S. atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. By posting the virtual-tour video on the internet, the Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels is hoping to broaden its fan base to include people from different ages and nationalities. Having already surpassed its initial goal of raising over $10,000, the gallery hopes introducing the panels to a wide range of people will allow it to strengthen its financial foundation and continue to pass on the historical artwork. "The paintings are on life-size panels and make it seem like the ruins are stretched right in front of the viewer," said Yukinori Okamura, the gallery's curator and managing director. "We want people from around the world to get to know the gallery. Even for those in Japan who have wanted to visit but couldn't, I hope the virtual tour will allow them to understand what kind of place this is and what we exhibit." The works, drawn on panels each standing 1.8 meters by 7.2 meters, are based on the Marukis' experience of going to Hiroshima just days after the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing and the scenes they reconstituted by gathering stories from survivors. The first panel was released in 1950. The gallery was built in 1967 by the couple in Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, after the panels were exhibited around the country and overseas. The virtual tour of the gallery will be directed by visual artist and filmmaker Takashi Arai, whose photographs focusing on nuclear issues have been held in collections by the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others. According to Arai, the roughly 20 to 40-minute video is set to be a "half fictional" short film in which a multiracial protagonist visits the gallery and learns about the Marukis and their work. Contemporary artists who held exhibitions there and others related to the Hiroshima Panels will share their experience and thoughts. Scheduled for completion by the end of the year, Arai said he hopes the video will act as an "entrance" for those who have never heard of the paintings. "The museum has often been discussed in the context of anti-war and anti-nukes, but the film will focus on something different. The priority is to inform people that the Hiroshima Panels are displayed and how the gallery has protected them and grown," Arai said. "I want to send a message that the Marukis' work is relevant today, even though they have passed away," the 42-year-old said. Yumiko Iwasaki, a supporter of the gallery who has been helping out with fundraising, said she wants the virtual tour to attract people who can chip in to assist the museum. Since its opening, the gallery has depended largely on admission fees from visitors since it does not financially rely on public subsidies and corporations. But its location -- more than an hour from Tokyo -- has been a challenge for people to make more than an occasional visit. "We have always been focused on increasing the number of visitors. But we only have three staff, so we are all very exhausted," Okamura said. "The biggest challenge we face is how to continue to stabilize our financial base in the future. Gaining support from overseas is absolutely necessary for our survival." During the novel coronavirus pandemic this year, the gallery launched its first online project, an emergency relief fund to make up for the loss of revenue during its two-month closure. To the staff's surprise, it collected over 50 million yen ($472,000). The gallery exhibits 14 paintings of the Hiroshima Panels, with the final piece "Nagasaki" displayed at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum in southwestern Japan. Among the paintings, "Ghosts," the first panel of the series made public five years after the end of the war, shows people walking with their arms extended in front of them after their clothes were burned off and skin peeled due to the bombing. The couples' artwork did not only focus on the Japanese as victims -- it also depicts the sufferings inflicted by the Japanese. "The Death of American Prisoners of War" shows American POWs who were assaulted by the Japanese after the bombing in Hiroshima, and "Crows" illustrates the discriminatory treatment of Korean victims. The Marukis also dealt with other war-related subjects, such as the Nanjing Massacre, the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the Battle of Okinawa, before Iri died in 1995 at the age of 94 and Toshi passed away in 2000 at 87. "We can never really understand the pain of the survivors by viewing the work, it is absolutely impossible. Nobody can imagine or feel the pain that the atomic bomb caused," Okamura, 46, said. "But even though we live in a different time, people are in pain or feeling hurt to some extent. Many people are mentally in a state of war even if they are not physically fighting in a war," he said. "I think that is why the (Marukis') work moves people." According to Okamura, the couple and their supporters exhibited the panels around Japan when reporting the effects of the bombings was restricted under the occupation of the Allied powers. Okamura said the panels served as a way to convey to the public the suffering caused by the bombings. In 2015, the Hiroshima Panels were flown to the United States and exhibited in Washington, New York and Boston. Peter Kuznick, a history professor at American University, who helped organize the exhibition at his university in the U.S. capital, recalled that many people who viewed the paintings were "moved to tears" and pinned high hopes for the virtual tour. "The gallery is not that accessible to most citizens or visitors and it is not nearly as well known as it should be. Virtual tours will allow so many more, including my students in the U.S., to experience the paintings," he said. "On one level, they (the Hiroshima Panels) are magnificent works of art. On another, they are profound and often terrifying statements about humanity," he said. "They are a testament to both human cruelty and human creativity, resilience, and the ability to survive even the most nightmarish of conditions," he said. While introducing the paintings virtually will allow the Marukis' work to gain recognition, Okamura and Kuznick agree that visiting the gallery and becoming absorbed in them still means the most. "The internet has the power to diminish physical distance. It is a huge merit for a gallery like ours where people had trouble coming," Okamura said. "At the same time, the paintings are a work of art. It is important for people to look at them with their own eyes." Editorial: Hiroshima 'black rain' victims' legal victory should spur Japan to expand aid July 30, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200730/p2a/00m/0na/008000c Japanese version The Japanese judiciary system for the first time acknowledged an appeal by residents who claimed that it was unjust that they were not covered by the government's health care relief measures even though they were caught in radioactive "black rain" that fell on Hiroshima and surrounding areas in the immediate aftermath of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of the city and later caused health problems. Eighty-four people who were in an area approximately 8 to 29 kilometers from the A-bomb's hypocenter had filed a class action lawsuit. Due to their locations at the time, which fell outside of the government-designated relief zone based on the law related to supporting atomic bomb survivors, these 84 plaintiffs had not been officially recognized as A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha. The Hiroshima District Court on July 29 recognized all plaintiffs as hibakusha and ordered the Hiroshima Municipal Government and other parties to issue them hibakusha health handbooks that are needed to receive free health care. In other words, the plaintiffs won a sound victory. Based on the results of investigations up to this point, the court found that the black rain fell over a wide area beyond the designated zone. It did not find testimonies by the plaintiffs and other parties unnatural and ruled that the plaintiffs were caught in the radioactive rain. The ruling brought up the point that how the central government drew a line for the relief zone, which only covered a small area, was inappropriate. The Japanese government must take the latest legal decision seriously. Another contested point in the court battle was whether the health problems were caused by radiation from the black rain. The court pointed out that the black rain could have caused health issues due to the radiation. The ruling went as far as to conclude that the plaintiffs could have been affected not only by direct exposure to radiation but also internal exposure by drinking water contaminated with radiation and other means. It has been pointed out that, scientifically speaking, many of the possible effects of the black rain remain unknown. Still, the ruling prioritized giving relief to the victims. As a formality, defendants in the lawsuit included the Hiroshima Municipal Government, which is in charge of screening applications for A-bomb victim health handbooks, but what was actually being called into question was the administrative relief measures taken by the central government. The 84 plaintiffs were aged between 4 months and 21 years at the time of the Aug. 6, 1945 bombing. They took their case to court, hoping to be legally recognized as hibakusha, but 12 of them passed away during the trial process, which spanned nearly five years. There were also those who could not join the class action due to financial and other reasons. This coming August marks 75 years since the Hiroshima atomic bombing. There is no time to waste in providing relief to the victims. The A-bomb survivors relief law was established to save those who fell victim to "a particular kind of suffering different from other kinds of damage caused by wars." The central government needs to go back to the objective of that law and focus on the real damage that the victims have had to endure. What needs to be done from now is not continuing the legal battle but to work on expanding the relief measures immediately. A nuclear arms race in space? It seems we've learned nothing from Hiroshima Opinion:Nuclear weapons Simon Tisdall As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan, it must wake up to the new rearmament https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/02/a-nuclear-arms-race-in-space-it-seems-weve-learned-nothing-from-hiroshima Sunday 2 August 2020 07.50 BST Russia’s apparent test-firing of an anti-satellite weapon in outer space on 15 July, as alleged by the US and Britain, could be dismissed as another of Vladimir Putin’s annoying provocations. That would be a mistake. The alleged new space weapon should be seen in the broader context of a rapidly evolving, hi-tech, high-risk international arms race involving all the major nuclear powers that, largely undiscussed, is spinning out of control. This week sees the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed over 200,000 people, but the absence of public debate or a sense of alarm about the grim advent of sophisticated new nuclear, hypersonic, cyber and space weapons is striking. In the decades after Hiroshima, noisy anti-nuclear “ban the bomb” protests by CND and others spanned the globe. Today, by comparison, an eerie silence reigns. The battle for outer space is only getting going – yet deserves immediate attention. Russia’s alleged development of anti-satellite weapons is almost certainly matched by the US and China, and undermines past undertakings about the peaceful use of space. Christopher Ford, US assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, warned last week that Russia and China had already turned space into a “war-fighting domain”. “What [the Russians] are doing is signalling to the world that they’re able to destroy satellites in orbit with other satellites,” Ford said. “This is the sort of thing that could get out of hand and go very badly rather quickly.” The UK called the alleged test “a threat to space systems on which the world depends” – meaning use of such weapons could, in theory, produce an instant global security and communications blackout. Yet in relaunching US space command last year, Donald Trump also pointed to space as the next great-power battlefield. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance will not deploy weapons in space but is obliged to defend its interests, which include 2,000 orbiting satellites. For Nato, too, space is now an “operational domain”. New and “improved” nuclear weapons are proliferating in parallel with the race for space. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), nine states – the US, Russia, China, Israel, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and North Korea – together possess about 13,400 weapons. While the overall total is falling, “retired” warheads and bombs are being replaced by more powerful, versatile devices, such as smaller, “use-able” US battlefield nukes. “All these states are either developing or deploying new weapon systems or have announced their intention to do so,” Sipri’s annual report said. The US and Russia each possessed about 1,550 deployed, long-range weapons, while China had about 300. Both the US and Russia were spending more and placing greater reliance on nuclear weapons in future military planning, it said, while China was rushing to catch up. “China is in the middle of a significant modernisation of its nuclear arsenal. It is developing a so-called nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft. India and Pakistan are slowly increasing the size and diversity of their nuclear forces,” Sipri reported. Meanwhile, North Korea continued to prioritise its military nuclear programme, while conducting “multiple” ballistic missile tests. Trump looks set to scupper New Start on the spurious ground that it does not reduce China’s much smaller arsenal. “Instead of planning for nuclear disarmament, the nuclear-armed states appear to plan to retain large arsenals for the indefinite future, are adding new nuclear weapons, and are increasing the role such weapons play in their national strategies,” a Federation of American Scientists survey said. It estimated about 1,800 warheads were kept on high alert, ready for use at short notice. Russia claims to lead the world in developing hi-tech weaponry. Speaking in July, Putin boasted that Russia’s navy was being equipped with nuclear-powered hypersonic cruise missiles, which supposedly have unlimited range, and submarine-launched underwater nuclear drones. Despite celebrated speeches supporting a nuclear-free world, Barack Obama authorised a $1.2tn plan to upgrade America’s nuclear triad while pursuing strategic arms reductions via the 2010 New Start treaty with Russia. Trump has doubled down, at the same time abandoning arms control pacts. His 2018 nuclear posture review proposed an extra $500bn in spending, including $17bn for low-yield, battlefield weapons. Trump looks set to scupper New Start, which expires in February, on the spurious ground that it does not reduce China’s much smaller arsenal (which it was never intended to do). He has previously reneged on the 2015 Iran nuclear treaty, the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, and is said to favour resumed nuclear testing in Nevada in defiance of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban treaty. Like Britain and other signatories, the US continues to fail to fulfil its obligation under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty “to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of nuclear arsenals”. Despite its acute financial situation, Britain remains committed to replacing its Trident missile system at an estimated cost of £205bn over 30 years. While nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945, great-power military flashpoints are increasing the risk that they might be. These potential triggers include the South China Sea, Taiwan, the India-Pakistan and India-China borders, the US-Israel-Iran conflict, North Korea and Ukraine. Heightened international tensions and collapsing arms-control regimes only partly explain the accelerating pace of nuclear rearmament. Resurgent nationalism, authoritarian rightwing populism, revived or new territorial rivalries (as in space), the bypassing of the UN and multilateral institutions, and a shifting economic and geopolitical power balance are all aggravating factors. But so, too, is amnesia. Seventy-five years after Armageddon was visited upon the people of Japan, the world seems to have forgotten the truly existential horror of that moment. A history lesson, and a renewed debate, are urgently needed. My grandfather, the man who helped build the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima Daily Telegraph, 1 August 2020 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/01/grandfather-man-helped-build-bomb-destroyed-hiroshima/ Emily Strasser's grandfather George Strasser died before she was born On August 6, 2015, I knelt on the banks of the Motoyasu in Hiroshima, Japan, and hovered a paper lantern on the dark water. Following the current, it joined the stream of thousands of others adorned with hand-drawn peace signs, flowers, globes and prayers for peace in many languages, flowing past the skeleton ruins of the legendary A-bomb cathedral and under the Aioi Bridge, which existed before 70 Years had served as the target for the atomic bomb. On the night of August 6, 1945, the victims of the bombing raids on the same river gathered in deaf shock and horror as their city burned around them. They sought refuge in the water and hoped to soothe their wounds. Some people's skin hung in strips or slipped in sheets. The dead hovered next to the living. Many of the injured cried out for water. Still, many survivors later remembered the eerie silence that night. Before I put my lantern in the water, I pushed a photo of my grandfather into the corner where the wood met paper. It flickered ghostly before the candle flame. I wanted him to testify what I think he has never seen in his life: that his work in a top secret laboratory in the southeastern United States has contributed to this atrocity. Oak Ridge, Tennessee, code-named Site X, was a secret city built by the Manhattan Project to house the production facilities and workers needed to enrich the uranium that is ultimately destined for the Hiroshima bomb. As a medium-sized chemist, my grandfather George Strasser was probably not told the ultimate purpose of his work for safety reasons. He died before I was born, so I could never ask him. I vividly remember a photo that hung in my grandmother's house as a child and that my grandfather stood in front of a mushroom cloud. At the time, I didn't understand what it meant, but it sparked a lifelong interest in being involved in the atomic bomb. When I realized the meaning of the photo, I was persecuted to be involved in the horror released in Hiroshima and estimated an estimated 80,000 lives from a single explosion and hundreds of thousands in the days and weeks months and years later when the radiation ran its way through the Body of those who had been there that day. The bomb claimed an estimated 80,000 lives in a single explosion - STANLEY TROUTMAN / AP My trip to Hiroshima was the culmination of years of grappling with this story when I tried to understand my grandfather and the legacy of his work. Even after Hiroshima, he decided to pursue a career in nuclear weapons production. His rapid rise was stopped when his mental health spiraled in the 1960s. He spent almost a decade in and outside of psychiatric hospitals, alcoholics and suicides, and was eventually retired medically, declared "completely and permanently disabled" by his psychiatrist. Part of my trip was understanding how his work helped decipher it. I spent several months of the pandemic ashore outside Oak Ridge, which was my grandfather's farm. When I saw how spring and then summer rolled into this beautiful country that was bought with nuclear weapons money, I thought about his contradictions - how he built bombs and planted trees, how he found his way out of the farm and a middle-class life for himself built his family through weapons of mass destruction. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings on Thursday, I repeated the story of the bomb using the story of another man: Leo Szilard. As a Hungarian physicist and Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, Szilard was responsible both for the existence of the bomb and ultimately against its use. In a moment of terrible inspiration, when Szilard crossed a London street in 1933, he first came up with the idea of a nuclear chain reaction that could make an atomic bomb possible. Fearing such a weapon in the hands of the Nazis, he persuaded Albert Einstein to write to President Roosevelt and urge him to counter the Nazi threat by first building an American bomb. This program became a Manhattan project. After Germany's defeat, Szilard did everything possible to prevent the bomb from being used, to influence the military leaders and to recruit 155 Manhattan Project scientists to sign a petition calling on President Truman to explain the serious moral and dangerous consequences Precedent of using the bomb to check bomb. But it never reached the president. George Strasser with his children Kurt, Dale and Nell in 1965 I had always seen Szilard as a kind of tragic hero, whose good intentions to contain the power of the Nazis triggered a nightmare he couldn't stop. After that, Szilard continued to fight that the weapon he had dreamed of would not be the end of humanity and campaigned for international arms control and nuclear truth-clarification. He was a rare mixture of genius, imagination and conscience, a man who was ready to take responsibility for the consequences of his work. In many ways I wished Grandfather was more like him. In my research, I hoped to find a moment of protest or moral reckoning. But he was a man who accepted a culture of secrecy to suppress conscience and dissent. He followed the instructions from above. He did his job. And yet there is a story that suggests that he ended up questioning the work on which he built his life. My mother, an anti-nuclear activist, met my father's father only once with some friends who weren't too keen to get George's approval. They overwhelmed him with direct questions about the morale of nuclear weapons and he answered without hesitation that no nation, not even the United States, should have them: we should disarm, he said, even if we did so one-sidedly. My mother was stunned. It was a radical position at the time, especially for someone from the nuclear weapons industry. I am relieved to know that my grandfather was facing the moral implications of his work for at least a moment, but I am disappointed, even angry, that he did not speak publicly earlier. Instead, his concerns were directed inward. In July 1983, the same summer George met my mother, a congressional hearing was held in Oak Ridge to address the discovery that decades ago, huge amounts of mercury had leaked into the local environment in the manufacture of hydrogen bomb fuel. My grandfather had monitored this process; One of his former psychiatrists told me that he was tortured with guilt for his part in the contamination of his home, the place where he had raised his children. George died of a heart attack six months after the hearing. Seventy-five years ago, my country released the bomb on the world. I don't think we've ever fully expected this legacy. Today, the United States has an estimated 3,800 nuclear weapons in its military inventory; According to the Federation of American Scientists, the world has more than 13,000 inhabitants. The Doomsday Clock was designed by former scientists from the Manhattan Project to teach the world the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons. Experts have met each year since 1947 to determine how many minutes we are until "nuclear midnight". They have been considering climate change since 2006. Earlier this year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' science and security committee presented the minute hand at 100 seconds to midnight, which came closest to the apocalypse, and pointed to the weakening and termination of arms control contracts by world leaders Climate change and cyber warfare, which are hampering the international response to these existential threats. Our survival depends on how brave we can change course. The Bomb is available as a podcast on BBC Sounds and starts today at 7 p.m. in the BBC World Service.

Monday, 3 August 2020

A New Nuclear Threat?

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic immolation of the large Japanese city on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Here are some contemporary reflections on nuclear weapons: The New Nuclear Threat https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2020/08/20/new-nuclear-threat Jessica T. Mathews August 20, 2020 Issue The Age of Hiroshima edited by Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry Princeton University Press, 431 pp., $99.95; $32.95 (paper) The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War by Fred Kaplan Simon and Schuster, 372 pp., $30.00 The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump by William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina BenBella, 268 pp., $27.95 The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States: A Speculative Novel by Jeffrey Lewis Mariner, 294 pp., $15.99 (paper) Illustration by Molly Crabapple Seventy-five years ago, at 8:16 on the clear morning of August 6, the world changed forever. A blast equivalent to more than 12,000 tons of TNT, unimaginably larger than that of any previous weapon, blew apart the Japanese city of Hiroshima, igniting a massive firestorm. Within minutes, between 70,000 and 80,000 died and as many were injured. Hospitals were destroyed or badly damaged, and more than 90 percent of the city’s doctors and nurses were killed or wounded. By the end of the year, thousands more had died from burns and radiation poisoning—a total of 40 percent of the city’s population. The mushroom cloud became a universal symbol of horror. As Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry, the editors of The Age of Hiroshima, describe, entirely new ways of thinking about war and peace had to be invented, together with a new understanding of global interconnectedness. “Very few aspects of life,” geopolitical, technological, or cultural, they write, “have been left untouched,” not just among the superpowers but worldwide. In part because of effective deterrence, fear of their destructiveness, and a growing taboo against their use, and in part because of dumb luck, nearly a century has passed without nuclear weapons being used again in conflict. The US and the Soviet Union survived the cold war, living on a knife edge of fear that drove each to accumulate more than 30,000 nuclear weapons, enough to destroy all life on the planet many times over. In retrospect, as documents are declassified and participants speak and write about their experiences, and as brilliantly chronicled by Fred Kaplan in The Bomb, the competition emerges, on the US side at least, as a largely mindless cycle of more and larger weapons aimed at ever more targets, and more and more targets deemed to require ever more weapons, the whole enterprise impervious to the efforts of administration after administration to define saner policies. Kaplan tells the story of how, two weeks into the Kennedy administration, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara traveled to Strategic Air Command (SAC) headquarters in Omaha for his first briefing on nuclear war’s holy text, the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). One of its thousands of targets, he learned, was an air defense radar station in Albania. The bomb slated to destroy it was—by then only a few years into the arms race—roughly three hundred times larger than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. “Mr. Secretary,” said the commanding general, “I hope you don’t have any friends or relations in Albania, because we’re going to have to wipe it out.” Albania, a tiny country, was Communist but politically independent of Moscow. Decades later, the same thinking—if that’s what it should be called—still prevailed. A Carter administration effort to reduce the consequences of nuclear war added “leadership” targets to the list of those to be hit in the belief that it would effectively deter Soviet leaders. The SIOP was accordingly revised to include not only government ministries but the homes and vacation dachas of every government minister, not just in Moscow but in every oblast across Russia. The use of megaton bombs to kill individuals meant, of course, that many hundreds of thousands of other people would also be killed. The cold war ended peacefully, and the deployed nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia have been reduced by nearly 90 percent, but we are not safer today—quite the reverse. After decades of building just enough weapons to deter attack, China is now aggressively modernizing and enlarging its small nuclear arsenal. Russia and the US are modernizing theirs as well with entire menus of new weapons. Activities in space are enlarging the global battlefield. Advances in missile technology and conventional weapons “entangle” scenarios of nuclear and nonnuclear war, making outcomes highly unpredictable. The risk of cyberattacks on command and control systems adds another layer of uncertainty, as does research on artificial intelligence that increases the prospect of accidents and the unintentional use of nuclear weapons. Arms control agreements that significantly limited the US–Soviet arms race are being discarded one by one. And from Russian efforts to destabilize America through social media attacks on its democracy, to Chinese bellicosity in the South China Sea and clampdown on Hong Kong, to erratic lunges in US foreign policy, there is deep and growing distrust among the great powers. Yet the public isn’t scared. Indeed, people are unaware that a second nuclear arms race has begun—one that could be more dangerous than the first. Decades of fearing a nuclear war that didn’t happen may have induced an unwarranted complacency that this threat belongs to the past. A million people gathered in New York’s Central Park in 1982 to call for an end to the arms race in the largest political demonstration in US history. Today the prospect of nuclear disaster is barely noticed. In the US, the nuclear age has been a fruitless, decades-long search for answers to three linked questions. The most basic is: What is our goal in a nuclear war? The military has a definite answer: “to prevail.” Civilian leaders’ answers have varied widely. President Eisenhower favored nuclear weapons because they were less expensive than conventional forces, yet he nevertheless told the Joint Chiefs that our aim in a general nuclear war should be not “to lose any worse than we have to.” Defense Secretary Harold Brown, reaching for a formula to satisfy President Carter, described the goal as ending a war “on acceptable terms that are as favorable as practical,” leaving “acceptable” and “practical” undefined. Ronald Reagan wrote in his memoir that he thought that those who claimed nuclear war was “winnable” were “crazy,” apparently forgetting that he had signed a nuclear policy document that stated the US “must prevail.” What winning might look like is what makes this seemingly simple question so hard to answer. In the early 1960s, SAC was asked how many Russians, Chinese, and Eastern Europeans would die from its all-out attack plan. The answer was a nearly inconceivable 275 million, just from the bombs’ blasts. (Heat, fire, smoke, and radiation would kill tens of millions more, but the numbers would vary depending on wind and weather, so SAC did not count them.) Presidents and their advisers found it difficult if not impossible to imagine the conditions under which they would launch such a holocaust. Only in the basement at SAC headquarters—where targeters sat, day after day, assigning weapons to targets in a policy-free environment—did it make sense. “Look,” yelled the SAC commander General Thomas Power at a nagging policy analyst from Washington who was arguing for a war plan with fewer casualties, “at the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!” The second question concerns deterrence: What weapons and force structure are needed to deter an enemy or enemies from attacking us? Unfortunately there are no metrics to measure what makes a deterrent credible. Answers are entirely in the eye of the beholder, and arguments can almost always be contrived to justify the need for more weapons. What can be said with certainty, however, is that the threshold the US judges necessary to deter the enemy is always set immensely higher than what has actually deterred the US. In The Button, former defense secretary William J. Perry writes that at the time of the Cuban missile crisis the US had about five thousand warheads to the Soviets’ three hundred, but “even with this seventeen-to-one numerical superiority, the Kennedy administration did not believe it had the capability to launch a successful first strike.” Notwithstanding the enormous gap between the two arsenals (which has never again been anywhere near as large), Washington was deterred by the risk of a Soviet counterstrike. The third question, closely tied to what it takes to create deterrence, asks what happens if deterrence fails. Can nuclear weapons then be useful instruments for fighting, as opposed to preventing, a war? Understandably, presidents demand all kinds of flexibility—weapons and war plans suited to a general war and to regional aggressions in different settings of greater or lesser geopolitical importance. The problem is that weapons and plans tailored to every situation, especially smaller weapons and plans for limited nuclear war, may be understood by the enemy (and by domestic opponents) as preparations for going to war. “The logic,” writes Kaplan, involved convincing adversaries that you really would use the bomb in response to aggression; part of that involved convincing yourself that you would use it, which required building certain types of missiles, and devising certain plans, that would enable you to use them—and, before you knew it, a strategy to deter nuclear war became synonymous with a strategy to fight nuclear war. Many plans for limited nuclear war have been created on paper, but they immediately raise yet another critical question: Can there really be such a thing? To assert that the answer is yes, one has to believe that intentions can be clearly signaled (“I’m attacking you but with much less firepower than I might have used”), accurately interpreted by the other side, and responded to not in rage or fear but with calm reasonableness (“I’m retaliating but much more lightly than I might have”). There are all kinds of technical reasons to doubt that this is more than a fantasy. For example, at one point an American analyst discovered that Russian air defense systems could pinpoint no more than two hundred incoming missiles before they merged into a blob on the radar screen. Yet at that time the SIOP’s smallest limited attack option called for launching one thousand missiles, which would therefore be indistinguishable to the Russians from an all-out attack. The more powerful reasons to doubt that there could be a limited nuclear war, to my mind, are those that emerge from any study of history, a knowledge of how humans act under pressure, or experience in government. In his “speculative novel” The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States (2018), the nuclear analyst Jeffrey Lewis convincingly traces the path to an unintended war. The book’s lessons are much broader than the particulars of the Korean setting. Lewis uses variations on actual events to trace a series of miscalculations, mistakes, coincidences, domestic pressures, and misreadings of others’ intentions, beginning with the mistaken shooting down of a commercial South Korean plane by North Korea and ending in a nuclear war involving both Koreas, Japan, and the US. Each step toward disaster is plausible. After a limited South Korean missile response to the downing of its plane, to which Seoul chooses not to alert its American ally in advance, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un finds that he can’t use his phone. The phone system is simply overloaded, but in the aftermath, one of his aides tells the commissioners investigating how the war had happened that the North Koreans had concluded something quite different: “We assumed it was an American cyber-attack. Wouldn’t you?” Photographers taking pictures of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile being tested by the US military at Vandenberg Air Force Base Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images Photographers taking pictures of an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile being tested by the US military at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, May 2017 The recent real-world version of the recurring debates about limited war and the weapons needed to fight one is the Trump administration’s decision to deploy low-yield warheads on American Trident submarines. The move was prompted by Russia’s fielding of new low-yield tactical warheads aimed at Europe. Did this mean that Moscow had detected some gap in our deterrent that such a weapon could exploit? Didn’t Washington have to respond in kind, asked proponents of the new warheads? Opponents argued that Russia had turned to tactical nukes because it feared American advances in long-range conventional weapons. The disadvantage was on their side, not ours. Moreover, the Russians would be unable to quickly distinguish one of these low-yield warheads fired by a submarine from the many megaton strategic warheads these ships carry, and hence unable to immediately distinguish a limited from an all-out attack.* Nevertheless, proponents won the day. The warheads have been deployed, strengthening the hand of those who believe that nuclear wars can be fought and won. A decade ago, President Obama made a fateful bargain to secure Senate approval of the New START arms limitation treaty he had reached with Russia. He agreed to a major upgrade of the aging American nuclear complex, including production facilities and laboratories, with a controversial price tag nearing $100 billion. This was the seed of a modernization program that has since multiplied to include command and control systems, all the delivery vehicles of the nuclear triad—bombers, ICBMs, and submarines—refurbishment of existing warheads, and the development of a range of new warheads and weapons. The need for modernization results partly from aging systems that require replacement and partly, in an all-too-familiar pattern, from a perceived need to keep up with the Russians. Moscow began a sweeping modernization program in the early 2000s to keep up with American advances and compensate for weakness in its conventional forces. Rose Gottemoeller, the former deputy director general of NATO and chief US negotiator of the New START Treaty, argues that the real purpose of Russia’s program, which includes exotic weapons like an underwater nuclear drone and a nuclear-propelled cruise missile, had more to do with politics than with security. These weapons are meant, she says, to signal Russia’s “continuing scientific and military prowess at a time when the country does not otherwise have much on offer.” Unfortunately, the program coincides with an American president who loves nukes. At the disastrous briefing session arranged for Donald Trump in the summer of 2017 in the Joint Chiefs’ secure room at the Pentagon known as the “tank,” he was shown a chart illustrating US and Russian success in cutting their arsenals from more than 30,000 warheads to about 6,000 each (which in both countries includes 2,500 retired warheads waiting to be destroyed). Like everything else that awful morning, it backfired. Why aren’t we building back up to 30,000, Trump demanded in a tantrum, during which he called the assembled military and civilian leaders “dopes and babies.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper leaves no doubt that modernizing the entire strategic nuclear force is the president’s “priority number one.” The modernization plan now includes a new fleet of ballistic missile submarines, a new stealth bomber, new ICBMs, the first new warhead design in more than thirty years, a sea-launched cruise missile, and a new air-launched cruise missile. The estimated price tag over the coming twenty-five years is $1.7 trillion (assuming, against experience, no cost overruns)—seventeen times Obama’s down payment—and represents a policy that is as far as it is possible to go from Obama’s plan to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy”—of which Vice President Joe Biden was a strong supporter. Some modernization is necessary, but there is no question that the current plan goes far beyond what is needed. Contractors are now driving it forward, and there is no one with sufficient standing to say “Stop.” But there are ways to save hundreds of billions of dollars without loss to national security. For decades, the triad has been the sine qua non of nuclear force structure. The apparent need for missiles, submarines, and bombers is now so entrenched that it is difficult to remember that it emerged not out of strategic necessity but from fierce rivalry among the military services, the Air Force and Navy especially, each of which wanted its own nuclear weapons. Of the three legs of the triad, ground-based ICBMs are both the most threatening weapons to the enemy, because of their number and huge megatonnage, and the most vulnerable, because they sit in fixed, easily targeted silos. They are therefore “use them or lose them” weapons that must be fired on warning of an attack, before they are hit by incoming missiles. This means that a president has about ten minutes—less than the time it takes to confirm an attack—to make a life-or-death decision for the country and probably for the planet. Rather than spend $150 billion or more to replace these missiles, the sensible step is to retire them. Ballistic missile submarines, backed up by bombers plus cruise and hypersonic missiles launched from ships and planes, can provide the necessary firepower and strategic depth for an ironclad deterrent and the capability for a devastating second strike. Years from now, the Trump administration’s wholesale withdrawal from international agreements, its “unsigning” of treaties, and its weakening of international organizations will stand out from the lies, the corruption, the incompetence, and the breaking of norms as one of its most damaging features. A partial list includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, NAFTA, the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Arms Trade Treaty, and, most recently, the World Health Organization. Among these, withdrawals in the nuclear arena may prove to be especially harmful. The administration’s hostile view of arms control was evident in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review: The US “will remain receptive to future arms control negotiations if conditions permit.” These agreements have their flaws. Negotiations take years and years. Often the sides agree to give up weapons they no longer want. Violations are not uncommon and, to satisfy domestic hawks, both sides frequently build new weapons to compensate for those they negotiate away. Nonetheless, over more than three decades of painstaking effort by Republican and Democratic administrations, a set of agreements was hammered out that built trust between the West and Russia, created a degree of transparency into what the other side was doing, and banned or severely limited particularly destabilizing types of weapons, such as missile defense systems and multiple-warhead missiles. Over time the agreements slowed the arms race from a gallop to a jog. Without them, the two sides might still be holding 65,000 warheads instead of 13,000. The dismantling of these agreements began with President George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, but in the last few years Trump has wiped away almost everything that was still in place. In 2018 he announced that the US would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Russian violations of the agreement, which Moscow had refused to acknowledge over many years, made this a close—and understandable—call. Still, withdrawing from an agreement gives the other side what it wants. And prompt American testing of a missile banned under the treaty suggests that Washington was eager to dispose of it. The administration then announced its intention of leaving the Open Skies Treaty, a 1992 multilateral agreement that allows signatories to fly unarmed observation flights over the territory of the others to collect data on military forces and activities. Though its value to the superpowers has diminished with satellite technology, it remains important to European parties and has been a significant contributor to strategic stability. The only remaining limit on strategic arms is New START, which is due to expire two weeks after the next president is inaugurated, unless extended by mutual agreement for a further five years. The treaty limits each side to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 launchers. The US now insists it will not extend the treaty unless China is included. Since both Russia and the US have about five times as many warheads as China (which may double its arsenal in the next ten years), Beijing has absolutely no reason to become part of US–Russian arms control talks at this point and has made that clear on many occasions. Moreover, although the administration has been talking about this for two years, it has taken no diplomatic steps—plans, proposals, or drafts exchanged—to make it happen. The policy bears all the signs of a poison pill designed to force New START’s demise while obscuring the cause. In addition, news leaked in May—perhaps purposefully—that administration officials were discussing breaking the twenty-eight-year moratorium among the major powers on nuclear testing. The stated reason was to try to use a nuclear test to pressure Russia and China to agree to Washington’s New START position. On the very long list of self-defeating moves this administration has made, breaking the moratorium belongs near the top. A nuclear test would not frighten Moscow or Beijing into doing what the US wants, it would drastically weaken global nonproliferation efforts, it would make the US an international pariah, and it would erase an important US advantage. The US has conducted more tests than any other country—more than one thousand to China’s forty-five, for example—so if testing is resumed, every other nuclear power stands to gain much more than the US. Taken together, the loss of New START, a tease—at least—on a resumption of testing, and the vast weapons modernization plan, all enhanced by work on new cyber and space weapons, applications of AI, and a range of new weapons capable of carrying either conventional or nuclear warheads, amount to a running leap into a new arms race, this time among at least three powers, perhaps joined by North Korea, Iran, and other new nuclear states. The Trump administration seems eager for it, no matter the cost. “We know how to win these races,” said the US arms control negotiator Marshall Billingslea recently, “and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion.” Little can be done to reverse direction unless Donald Trump is defeated in November. Even if he loses, stopping a burgeoning arms race will have to compete for public attention with an overwhelming list of priorities: repairs to democratic governance, health care reform, racial justice, climate change, economic recovery—and enormous post-pandemic budget deficits. Only the last of these can help focus attention where it’s needed. Without public pressure the military-industrial-congressional complex will push nuclear modernization forward step by multibillion-dollar-step without attention to the $2 trillion bottom line, locking in a new generation of threats that Russia and China will feel they must counter. The deficits, however, demand a more provident approach to the ballooning defense budget (now larger than everything else in the federal discretionary budget combined). A spasm of spending on what are essentially twentieth-century weapons, without a pause to rethink, is strategically irresponsible and fiscally unsound. Congress can instead insist that appropriated dollars not be spent on nuclear weapons tests, support the new president in restoring various arms limitation agreements, and undertake a serious, nonpartisan study of the actual need for a new fleet of ICBMs. The single step from which profound policy change could flow, domestically and internationally, would be formal endorsement by the five original nuclear powers—the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China—of the Reagan-Gorbachev principle, jointly articulated by the two leaders at their 1985 summit. It states simply, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” International adoption would simultaneously indicate the nuclear powers’ recognition of the rising dangers of nuclear conflict and the need to move toward nuclear forces around the world that are structured for deterrence, not war fighting. Words as principle have power. Eventually, these eleven words could underlie the next generation of arms control negotiations, strengthen the global nonproliferation regime, and help short-circuit a second nuclear arms race. —July 22, 2020 * Strategic warheads are much larger and have a longer range than tactical weapons; they are meant to be used far from the battlefield (against cities, for example) and to influence the outcome of a war rather than a battle. ↩

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Nuclear secrecy and cover-ups are unacceptable

Two letters sent to the press from my hospital bed on Friday Ed Conway is so correct that that the U.K. would be so much better governed if its governance were more transparent and not so secretive. (“ Britain needs to cure its secrecy obsession," The Times, July 31; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2020-07-31/comment/britain-has-a-damaging-addiction-to-secrecy-vnvxj6gn6) Tony Blair once said that the worst decision he took as Prime minister was to enact freedom of information legislation. He was wrong: the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was his best political legacy. But the Act does not go far enough. It has too many convenient exclusion clauses, allowing government departments and other public bodies to hide behind exclusion clauses to avoid disclosing Inconvenient information. I have been battling with nuclear regulators for nearly 12 months to secure release of details of its evaluation of a new sort of mini nuclear plant called a small modular reactor(SMR). Details of potential vendor designs have been withheld due to “ commercial confidentiality” and “ protection of international relations” exclusions. But surely if these designs are ever to be licensed for deployment in the U.K. they will require examination in detail in a public inquiry, so I can see no justification in keeping such details secret. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Your detailed report “ Ministers challenged in future of nuclear energy,“ Financial Times, 31 July 2020;https://www.ft.com/content/3c3658e0-27f5-49a5-b948-3986da3e5bcd ) rightly focuses on whether nuclear power is any longer regarded as an essential strategic infrastructure asset by British ministers, or is perceived, especially by the Treasury, as an atomic albatross around the neck of a new, nimble and flexible energy policy. Just this week Electricite de France (EdF), the parent company of EdF, constructors and co-financiers ( with another foreign company, China General Nuclear) of the £24 billion Hinkley Point C (twin reactor)nuclear power plant, have been fined €6,000,000 for telling lies to the French authorities about the development of the plant. While the fine is a small percentage of the cost of constructing the plant, it is a significant dent in the corporate reputation of EdF. EdF has also Ben less than candid in accurately reporting the impact of the Coronacrisis on the construction of this plant. In late March, photographs were covertly taken off several breaches of safe-spacing by construction workers queuing to enter via security controls and exiting the HPC construction area. Similar pictures were taken of over congestion inside the works canteen . EdF asserted to regulators they had sorted this out, but insiders have made clear to local campaigners of the Stop Hinkley! group that this is not the case. Moreover, many HPC workers living in dormitory accommodation have breached regulations covering out door gatherings by reportedly holding ( alcoholic) drinks parties in public spaces of the communities near the plant. EdF made the boastful promise a decade ago that it would be generating electricity from HPC by two years ago cooking the Christmas turkeys for millions of households. The only turkey cooked at HPC is itself. It has prove a technical, logistical and disaster, with a seemingly never ending cost escalation( already more than double its original projected cost) The Government should cut the growing loses of this atomic white elephant and cancel it, along with the other two new nuclear plants at Sizewell C and Bradwell B both involving EdF and CGN, which doubles up as a nuclear weapons builder for Beijing.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Fantasy and corruption in the nuclear industry

Two article son nuclear activities caught my attention in recent days. One is about base corruption in the US nuclear industry, and probably the tip of an iceberg. The other , an example of the occasional complete  flight of fantasy that grips atomic advocates periodically; this time the ultimate lunacy: plans to build a nuclear- powered  base on Mars and the Moon:

 https://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-utilities-nuclear-breakdown-000000663.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS91cmw_c2E9dCZyY3Q9aiZxPSZlc3JjPXMmc291cmNlPXdlYiZjZD0mdmVkPTJhaFVLRXdqMXFwNmxtZkxxQWhVMHQzRUtIU3ZqQTZZUUZqQUJlZ1FJQVJBQiZ1cmw9aHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZmaW5hbmNlLnlhaG9vLmNvbSUyRm5ld3MlMkZ1cy11dGlsaXRpZXMtbnVjbGVhci1icmVha2Rvd24tMDAwMDAwNjYzLmh0bWwmdXNnPUFPdlZhdzNwck0wUFI0UVFQRENSeUkxZm44Qlk&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAE2IpAZSU7jLUxhof3eC02eFNjhUmgTvtNpP7QoJQt1h70mG3s9acSxMTIR7RXtsqZE3YS3GWwmYWFyVysuPBL6VssBVUdq6XG_7P17J-ch608krD-HSHYhN8LNA8B4ke3RExWKQpt8IUEAwIGzC7LUQPeHEXP6A3oOvBn4SuOsoS U.S .utilities: nuclear breakdown
Companies like free markets. Until the moment they do not. In an extraordinary criminal complaint last week, a top Ohio legislator and four others were arrested by federal authorities and accused of illegally collecting $60m in political contributions. The purpose of the money: helping to bail out the nuclear power industry.
Ohio was one of several states that deregulated power generation, allowing companies to sell electricity based on market prices. Nuclear power plants cost billions of dollars and require years to build. In the past decade, wholesale power prices have fallen sharply and unexpectedly because of plentiful production from inexpensive natural gas and increasing contributions from renewable sources such as solar and wind.
FirstEnergy is the entity which has been connected to the $60m that allegedly flowed to an Ohio politician and his political machinery. The Midwest state enacted a billion-dollar bailout that saved two nuclear plants once affiliated with First Energy in 2019. The plants have subsequently been spun off into a new company.
The chief executive of First Energy said last week that while the company had supported the bailout legislation it had “acted properly in this matter”. Still worries about potential liability sent the company’s shares down more than one-quarter, losing nearly $6bn of equity value.
According to the US Department of Energy, wind power became the third-largest source of US generating capacity in 2019. And by 2050, nuclear power will provide just above a tenth of US electricity generation, down from a fifth today.
Big utilities are politically powerful in the US — not just because of the thousands of jobs they provide, but because they also contribute heavily to political parties and causes. Incumbent nuclear players have lobbied extensively to get multiple states to prop them up even while their economics continue to deteriorate. The Ohio case, if proven, shows just how toxic this can be.

Nucleargate in Ohio

Huge criminal racketeering conspiracy orchestrated reactor bailouts

By Linda Pentz Gunter
It’s been a bit of a Watergate week for nuclear power, with individuals in two states arrested for criminally defrauding the public to keep nuclear power alive. In Ohio, it was public officials, believed to be backed by nuclear company money, who illegally orchestrated a massive subsidy. In South Carolina, it was the arrest of an energy company official who has pled guilty to a $9 billion nuclear fraud. This week, we feature the Ohio story. Next week, it will be South Carolina’s turn.
If you were going to pull someone out of central casting to play a thuggish villain, you would choose Larry Householder. But he wouldn’t need any acting skills.
On July 21, Householder, along with four others, was arrested for his alleged involvement in what amounts to the biggest criminal racketeering conspiracy in Ohio history. Somehow it’s not a surprise that it revolved around pots of money to keep two aging and unaffordable nuclear power plants open
While Householder may physically embody everyone’s idea of a gangster, it’s not his official profession. He is — and presumably that will soon be a “was” — the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.
The scheme is laid bare in an 81-page criminal complaint. It was busted open by a year-long, detailed and covert investigation by the US Attorney’s office and the FBI, and involves the flow of $61 million of dark money directed toward activities that would ensure the passage of legislation in Ohio guaranteeing the bailout of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear reactors to the tune of $1.5 billion. The subsidy is being funded via a surcharge on electricity customers.
The bill, known as HB6, also slashed mandates for wind and solar energy and eliminated energy efficiency requirements. It was, as David Roberts described it on Vox just after the bill passed in July 2019, “the worst piece of legislation in the 21st century” and “the most counterproductive and corrupt piece of state energy legislation I can recall in all my time covering this stuff.”
FirstEnergy Solutions, the then owner of the plants, had threatened their closure if the subsidy was not forthcoming..

US Eyes Nuclear Plants for the Moon, Mars

A fission surface power system could allow humans to live in harsh space environments for long periods.
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. wants to build nuclear power plants that will work on the moon and Mars, and on Friday put out a request for ideas from the private sector on how to do that.
The U.S. Department of Energy put out the formal request to build what it calls a fission surface power system that could allow humans to live for long periods in harsh space environments.
The Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility in eastern Idaho, the Energy Department and NASA will evaluate the ideas for developing the reactor.
The lab has been leading the way in the U.S. on advanced reactors, some of them micro reactors and others that can operate without water for cooling. Water-cooled nuclear reactors are the vast majority of reactors on Earth.
“Small nuclear reactors can provide the power capability necessary for space exploration missions of interest to the Federal government,” the Energy Department wrote in the notice published Friday.
The Energy Department, NASA and Battelle Energy Alliance, the U.S. contractor that manages the Idaho National Laboratory, plan to hold a government-industry webcast technical meeting in August concerning expectations for the program.
The plan has two phases. The first is developing a reactor design. The second is building a test reactor, a second reactor be sent to the moon, and developing a flight system and lander that can transport the reactor to the moon. The goal is to have a reactor, flight system and lander ready to go by the end of 2026.
The reactor must be able to generate an uninterrupted electricity output of at least 10 kilowatts. The average U.S. residential home, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, uses about 11,000 kilowatt-hours per year. The Energy Department said it would likely take multiple linked reactors to meet power needs on the moon or Mars.
In addition, the reactor cannot weigh more than 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms), be able to operate in space, operate mostly autonomously, and run for at least 10 years.
The Energy Department said the reactor is intended to support exploration in the south polar region of the moon. The agency said a specific region on the Martian surface for exploration has not yet been identified.
Edwin Lyman, director of Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit, said his organization is concerned the parameters of the design and timeline make the most likely reactors those that use highly enriched uranium, which can be made into weapons. Nations have generally been attempting to reduce the amount of enriched uranium being produced for that reason.
“This may drive or start an international space race to build and deploy new types of reactors requiring highly enriched uranium,” he said.
Earlier this week, the United Arab Emirates launched an orbiter to Mars and China launched an orbiter, lander and rover. The U.S. has already landed rovers on the red planet and is planning to send another next week.
Officials say operating a nuclear reactor on the moon would be a first step to building a modified version to operate in the different conditions found on Mars.
“Idaho National Laboratory has a central role in emphasizing the United States’ global leadership in nuclear innovation, with the anticipated demonstration of advanced reactors on the INL site,” John Wagner, associate laboratory director of INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate, said in a statement. “The prospect of deploying an advanced reactor to the lunar surface is as exciting as it is challenging."

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

What was the origin of the Wuhan virus?


Carrie Gracie (“China has been rewriting the facts to suit its Covid-19 story,” 26 July 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/27/china-truth-coronavirus-panorama-xi-jinping) is a very experienced sinologist, and explains cogently some of the disinformation practices by Beijing over the coronacrisis.

But she is too accepting of the received narrative that the virus emerged from a viral transfer between bats and mammals (perhaps pangolins) within the Wuhan wet-live food market in December 2019.

There have been copious reports from athletes from Germany (Jacueline Bock), Italy (Matteo Tagliariol) and France (Elodie Clouvel)  that they had Covid19 symptoms while  participating in the World Military games held in Wuhan in October last year.

And, as the Guardian has reported (“French hospital discovers Covid-19 case from December,  4 May 2020; www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/04/french-hospital-discovers-covid-19-case-december-retested) Dr Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in Paris recorded one patient who had his blood sample re-analysed was found positive for Covid-19 on 27 December, before China claimed the outbreak happened in the Wuhan market.

I recorded in my own blog, posted on 27 April this year (“China's brilliant virology discoveries go unrecognized in the West;” http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/2020/04/chinas-brilliant-virology-discoveries.html) stated the following:

“In 2018, the Chinese state Nanjing Military Research Institute published details research on a new bat virus they had found near Zhoushan city, in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.”

Building on this, the virologist, Dr Zhi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology  Research Institute (WVRI) did complex research on ‘splitting’  the Sars virus, producing four key papers [published in Western science journals], that looked into the possibility of  developing self-replicating synthetic coronaviruses ( assessing the  so-called “S” protein).”

On 26 January this year, the United States’ Government Centers for Diseases Control published a paper on viral transfer from bats. 

The researchers found the new virus was not one found in the kind of bats sometimes on sale at the Wuhan market.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome, asked the department of health in late March if mmonsit would initiate research into the security control of viruses under investigation at the Wuhan State Institute of Virology, only to be dismissed bluntly by heath minister Jo Churchill with: "We have no plans to authorise research into the security control of viruses under investigation at the Wuhan State Institute of Virology." (Written answer, 26 March 2020;

Number 29268)


Why is the UK Government not interested in discovering the source of the pandemic? 

Which leaves the unanswered question: what was the original source of the fugitive virus in Wuhan, if not the market?”