Saturday, 29 August 2020

Deposing democracy: how UK state put stealing Iran's oil before protecting its new democracy

At the beginning of August, the Observer newspaper’s arts and culture correspondent, Vanessa Thorpe, wrote a film review (“MI6, the coup in Iran that changed the Middle East, and the cover-up,” Observer, Sunday 2 August 2020; of a new docu-drama on the 1953 coup in Iran that deposed its elected prime minister, and first democratic leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. She reported that the documentary reveals evidence confirming a British spy’s role in restoring the Shah in 1953 – and how the Observer exposed the plot. While this may be the first film to expose the British complicity in wrecking a nascent democracy, it is not the first time detailed documented support for this appalling act of political interference has been made public. Three years earlier, the independent US National Security Archive, based at George Washington University in Washington DC, issued a stash of key hitherto secret diplomatic documentation from inside the US State Department, fingering the British role in wrecking Iranian democracy to protect the UK state’s role in stealing Iran’s oil and gas.( I shared this with the Guardian/Observer’s international diplomatic and security issues editor, Julian Borger, based himself in Washington DC , at the time of the document release, three years ago. He chose not report it. Here is the kernel of what they revealed “...evidence has existed for years that the British were intimately involved in promoting and then planning the overthrow of Mosaddeq. The most compelling sources include a leaked CIA after-action report written in 1954 and memoir accounts by various coup participants. Today’s posting consists of the most explicit, officially declassified records on the subject released to date by any government. The two documents were originally considered for inclusion in the latest official U.S. publication on the coup period. In June 2017, the State Department published a 1,007-page compilation of declassified State, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Council documents as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. But while both records are mentioned in the volume by title and date, their content was withheld in its entirety. The first memo in the posting is entitled “Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran,” and is dated November 26, 1952. In it, Assistant Secretary of State Henry Byroade informs his superior, Deputy Under Secretary of State H. Freeman Matthews, that Britain’s Minister in Washington, Sir Christopher Steel, has requested a meeting to discuss a possible coup. He reminds Matthews that the British Embassy first raised the idea on paper on October 8, 1952. He goes on to give his own views about the concept, which are generally negative, yet recommends that Matthews take the meeting. The second memo, similarly entitled “British Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran,” and dated December 3, 1952, is the State Department’s record of the meeting with Steel (date unclear). Other officials from both governments attended the session, notably Paul Nitze, Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. The authors of today’s posting filed separate Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the two memoranda following the June 2017 publication of the new FRUS volume. That compilation was originally commissioned in the early 1990s as a supplement to a previous iteration that covered the same time period but, on political and intelligence grounds, omitted all references to the American and British roles in the coup. The 2017 volume contains rich detail about American perspectives on Iran along with records describing the planning and execution of the operation, but it barely mentions Great Britain's contributions – undoubtedly because of specific British requests not to do so. (For a document-based account of this issue, see the National Security Archive’s posting of August 19, 2013.) A number of other records that have been withheld from the volume – and are currently the subject of MDR requests by the National Security Archive – presumably contain more detail about London’s activities.” >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> BACKSTORY 1953 Iran Coup: New U.S. Documents Confirm British Approached U.S. in Late 1952 About Ousting Mosaddeq Published: Aug 8, 2017 Briefing Book #601 Edited by Malcolm Byrne and Mark Gasiorowski For more information contact: 202/994-7000 and State Department Temporarily Declined, in Part Because U.S. Was Still Hoping to Reach Oil Deal with Iranian Prime Minister Paul Nitze Proposed Targeting Ayatollah Kashani and Tudeh Party as Test before Attempting Full-blown Coup Just-Declassified Documents Were Withheld from Foreign Relations of the United States Volume on Iran Coup Published in 2017 RELATED LINKS Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran June 22, 2004 Iran 1953: State Department Finally Releases Updated History June 15, 2017 The Battle for Iran, 1953 June 27, 2014 CIA Confirms Role in 1953 Iran Coup August 19, 2013 IN THE NEWS The Trump administration wants regime change in Iran. But regime change usually doesn’t work. The Washington Post Jul 31, 2017 New Documents Show US Role in 1953 Iranian Coup WNYC Radio Jun 30, 2017 US quietly publishes once-expunged papers on 1953 Iran coup ABC News Jun 29, 2017 US Publishes full papers showing how CIA plotted 1953 Iran coup The Times of Israel Jun 29, 2017 US Quietly Publishes Once-Expunged Papers on 1953 Iran Coup Associated Press Jun 29, 2017 Oblivious to History, Trump's Turning Up the Heat on Iran. He Should Look at the 1953 CIA Coup The Daily Beast Jun 26, 2017 El último secreto de la CIA en el golpe de Estado de Irán El Pais Jun 23, 2017 64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup Foreign Policy Jun 20, 2017 Washington, D.C., August 8, 2017 – The British Foreign Office approached the Truman administration on more than one occasion in late 1952 to propose a coup to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, according to freshly declassified State Department documents. Posted today for the first time, two previously Top-Secret memoranda from senior officials at State refer to a series of communications and meetings beginning in October 1952 in which British officials tried to win U.S. approval of Mosaddeq’s ouster. The British government has steadfastly refused to release any materials that directly refer to its role in the operation that eventually took place in August 1953, and has consistently pressed the United States not to reveal any substantiation from American files. In fact, evidence has existed for years that the British were intimately involved in promoting and then planning the overthrow of Mosaddeq. The most compelling sources include a leaked CIA after-action report written in 1954 and memoir accounts by various coup participants. Today’s posting consists of the most explicit, officially declassified records on the subject released to date by any government. The two documents were originally considered for inclusion in the latest official U.S. publication on the coup period. In June 2017, the State Department published a 1,007-page compilation of declassified State, Central Intelligence Agency, and National Security Council documents as part of its Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. But while both records are mentioned in the volume by title and date, their content was withheld in its entirety. The first memo in the posting is entitled “Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran,” and is dated November 26, 1952. In it, Assistant Secretary of State Henry Byroade informs his superior, Deputy Under Secretary of State H. Freeman Matthews, that Britain’s Minister in Washington, Sir Christopher Steel, has requested a meeting to discuss a possible coup. He reminds Matthews that the British Embassy first raised the idea on paper on October 8, 1952. He goes on to give his own views about the concept, which are generally negative, yet recommends that Matthews take the meeting. The second memo, similarly entitled “British Proposal to Organize a Coup d’etat in Iran,” and dated December 3, 1952, is the State Department’s record of the meeting with Steel (date unclear). Other officials from both governments attended the session, notably Paul Nitze, Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. The authors of today’s posting filed separate Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the two memoranda following the June 2017 publication of the new FRUS volume. That compilation was originally commissioned in the early 1990s as a supplement to a previous iteration that covered the same time period but, on political and intelligence grounds, omitted all references to the American and British roles in the coup. The 2017 volume contains rich detail about American perspectives on Iran along with records describing the planning and execution of the operation, but it barely mentions Great Britain's contributions – undoubtedly because of specific British requests not to do so. (For a document-based account of this issue, see the National Security Archive’s posting of August 19, 2013.) A number of other records that have been withheld from the volume – and are currently the subject of MDR requests by the National Security Archive – presumably contain more detail about London’s activities. To their credit, NARA responded immediately and positively to the MDRs. However, even before the official replies arrived, Tulane University Professor Mark Gasiorowski had located the original records while conducting research at NARA in College Park, Maryland, in July 2017. The November 26 document was marked declassified on May 17, 2017, just a month before the FRUS volume appeared. An earlier State Department declassification review stamp indicated a downgrade in classification to Secret in 1999, and authorization to declassify “with concurrence of CIA after STATE approves release or 2025.” In other words, release might not have occurred until the year 2025 (though even that cannot be taken as a given). The December 3 document has similar markings, except the 1999 stamp notes that full declassification would have to follow “release [of] info by GBR or 2025.” GBR refers to the British government – further confirmation that London was – at least originally – deemed to have authority over when, or whether, U.S. archival documents (not British records) would be allowed to be seen by the American public. However, it is not clear whether British officials were ultimately consulted about the release of these particular documents in 2017. The documents are of great interest on several levels. As indicated, they are the first officially released confirmation of Britain’s expressed aim in late 1952 to persuade Washington to help oust Mosaddeq.[1] They also provide insights into how the British conceived of the political scene inside Iran and why a coup was called for, in their view. At the early December meeting, Sir Christopher Steel laid out what the memo describes as the "only three possible lines which events in Iran might take." In essence, Steel commented, Mossadeq could either stay in power and take action against the Communist (or Tudeh) party, or he would leave office and be replaced by someone who would do so, or there would be no change and "the Communists would gradually take control." Steel declared that the Iranian prime minister was highly unlikely to act firmly against the Communists but he professed to be uncommitted for the time being toward actually mounting a coup. His only purpose at the meeting with Mathews and Nitze, he claimed, was to propose the idea and suggest that the British and American governments should seriously consider taking action along those lines. This scrupulously mild approach reflects another interesting aspect of the memoranda – what they reveal about British tactics in their appeal to the Americans. Scholars of the coup generally agree that London’s overriding objective in the Iran crisis was to restore their stake in Iran's petroleum industry by virtually any available means, including military action. But ever since Mosaddeq nationalized the industry in Spring 1951 (then expelled British diplomats and intelligence officials from the country the following October – incidentally, not long after the first British-U.S. coup discussions mentioned in the Byroade memo), the Truman administration had balked at Britain’s persistent prodding for radical action – beyond the substantial step Washington had already taken of supporting an economic boycott against Iran. President Harry Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson repeatedly insisted that their priority was to keep the Soviet Union and its Communist allies in Iran from gaining any advantage from the crisis. For Truman and Acheson, overtly protecting Britain's colonial interests was a non-starter because they believed it would play into Communist hands. By late 1952, the British had adapted their methods and, as the new records confirm, couched the subject in terms that would be more appealing to the Americans – not to ask for their help in reclaiming control of Iranian oil but to assist in "combating Communism in Iran." Steel's claim that "the British government had not yet come to any definite conclusions" about how exactly to accomplish the goal seems clearly aimed at not putting off the American side any further, after months of London's steady, militant drumbeat. The Truman administration never agreed to the idea of Mosaddeq’s overthrow. To the end of his term in January 1953, the president believed that the West’s best hope for an exit strategy to the crisis lay in working with the Iranian prime minister, not against him. The November 26 memo, in fact, importantly confirms that the administration was still planning to side with Mosaddeq’s government against what they evidently saw as Britain’s lack of cooperation in coming to an equitable oil agreement. “One element which must be taken into consideration in making our decision" about a coup, wrote Byroade, "is that we are presently thinking of unilateral action to assist the Mosadeq Government in the event that the British do not agree to an oil settlement acceptable to Mosadeq." Presumably struggling to suppress any expression of irony, Byroade continued, "It would be virtually impossible to proceed with plans to overthrow Dr. Mosadeq while at the same time giving him open assistance." Byroade went on to assess Britain’s motives in revisiting their proposal and to predict the ramifications of each possible U.S. response. "[I]t is not inconceivable that one reason for the British suggestion is a desire to forestall unilateral American assistance to Mosadeq." If the U.S. were to back the overthrow it "might lead them to be less flexible with regard to new oil settlement proposals," whereas "our refusal to consider the new plan for a coup might induce them to make more determined efforts to reach an agreement with Mosadeq." Matthews backed Byroade’s position in his conversation with Steel. The Americans specifically did not rule out a coup even though they were clearly not enthusiastic about it. At this point in the December 3 memo, Matthews alluded to another dimension of the British approach. Other records now available, including a leaked internal CIA history of the coup, indicate that members of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service were also meeting with their counterparts in the United States in November 1952. Those officials are not named here (they were Christopher Montague Woodhouse and Sam Falle[2]) but Matthews pointedly ruled out any further contacts “between CIA and the British intelligence representatives on the subject until further notice.” In addition, the American side pointed out that President Truman was about to leave office. Steel politely acknowledged this but, reflecting a sense of urgency – and subtle pressure – remarked that “it would probably be necessary to take a decision by the end of January, since the best time for the coup would be in the Spring.” The memo does not explain why this would be the case. Two other intriguing points about the memos are worth noting. One is the comment at the December 3 meeting by John Jernegan, Byroade’s deputy, that Loy Henderson, the U.S. Ambassador to Tehran, “believed Mosadeq was sincerely anti-communist.” Jernegan was responding to the British conclusion that the prime minister “was by nature too vacillating to take a strong stand” against the Tudeh. According to Jernegan, Henderson would have argued that if Mosaddeq could only get an oil settlement or “otherwise strengthen the financial position of his Government,” he would be tougher on the Tudeh. This reading of Henderson goes sharply against many other accounts of his views, which as the crisis unfolded increasingly dismissed the Iranian prime minister as a lunatic. Henderson’s actual opinions about and influence on U.S. policy are one of many elements of the 1953 narrative that are still subject to lively debate. Finally, Paul Nitze’s role in the coup saga has generally received scant attention, although he appears several times in the new FRUS volume published in 2017. In the December 3 memo printed here, he spoke up on the question of how likely the theoretical operation was to be successful. The celebrated Cold War strategist showed his penchant for bare-knuckle tactics by asking if the unnamed group the British proposed to work with inside Iran might not agree to undertake a trial run targeting the politically active Ayatollah Abolqasem Kashani along with the Tudeh. If that operation succeeded, Nitze said, it would bode well for an actual coup d’etat. The memo records a respectful but unanimous rejection of the scheme. Other fascinating insights appear in the new memos relating to American and British perspectives on the Iran crisis and how to cope with it. Along the way, they raise a number of larger themes relevant to the coup, not least the nuanced question of how closely the two allies’ interests in Iran actually intersected. ________________________________________ READ THE DOCUMENTS Document 01 State Department, Memorandum of Conversation, Byroade to Matthews, "Proposal to Organize a Coup d'etat in Iran," Top Secret, November 26, 1952 1952-11-26 Source: NARA, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, 1950-54 Central Decimal File, File: 788.00/11-2652 Henry Byroade provides his superior, H. Freeman Matthews with a moderately lengthy memo on Great Britain's desire to promote a coup against the Mosaddeq government. He notes that the idea first came up in a paper the British presented to the Americans on October 8, 1952. Since then, three meetings had been held but the conclusion was that the prospects were not hopeful. The lack of a viable substitute for Mosaddeq and the risk of a Tudeh counter-action were among the reasons. Another very interesting argument is the fact that the U.S. at the time has plans to try to prop up Mosaddeq in some way in the event the British continue to be unsupportive of an oil deal. This is a new piece of evidence on the open question of whether the U.S. government genuinely sided with the Iranian prime minister against their principal ally, or simply paid lip service to the idea. Byroade offers a list of his own doubts about the coup proposal but still recommends that Matthews meet with British Minister Sir Christopher Steel to hear him out. Document 02 State Department, Memorandum of Conversation, "British Proposal to Organize a Coup d'etat in Iran," Top Secret, December 3, 1952 1952-12-03 Source: NARA, RG 59, General Records of the Department of State, 1950-54 Central Decimal File, File: 788.00/12-352 H. Freeman Matthews, Paul Nitze and John Jernegan represent the State Department at this meeting with senior British Embassy representatives in Washington. This is the meeting Henry Byroade mentioned in the above memo to Matthews. According to this record, the Americans are skeptical about the prospects for a successful coup and are further disinclined because the Truman administration will shortly be replaced and therefore is even less in a position to act on an issue of this kind. The British purport to be unconvinced themselves about the idea, yet they pointedly note that they will probably need an American decision within a few weeks because they would prefer to carry out the operation in Spring. Subtlety in the wake of months of exhortations to the U.S. government seems to have been the British modus operandi at this stage. Categories: Cold War – General Covert Action Secrecy and FOIA Third World and Decolonization Regions: Middle East Events: Iran – Mosaddeq Overthrow, 1953 Project: Iran Henry Byroade, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East, South Asian, and African Affairs, 1952-1955 (Photo: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum) H. Freeman Matthews, Deputy Under Secretary of State, 1950-1953 (Photo: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum) NOTES [1] It is possible that random references in a small handful of declassified documents point to the British role but none do so as directly or in the level of detail presented in these memoranda. [2] Falle was ostensibly a Foreign Office official. Whether intentionally or not, the other British representative at the meeting, Bernard Burrows, Counselor at the Embassy in Washington, referred specifically to “the two British intelligence officers now in Washington...,” according to Matthews’ memo MI6, the coup in Iran that changed the Middle East, and the cover-up Documentary reveals evidence confirming a British spy’s role in restoring the Shah in 1953 – and how the Observer exposed the plot Vanessa Thorpe Observer, Sunday 2 August 2020 Protesters in Tehran during the 1953 coup. Photograph: AFP The hidden role of a British secret service officer who led the coup that permanently altered the Middle East is to be revealed in detail for the first time since an Observer news story was suppressed in 1985. The report, headlined “How MI6 and CIA joined forces to plot Iran coup”, appeared in the 26 May edition but was swiftly quashed. It exposed the fact that an MI6 man, later named as Norman Darbyshire, had run a covert and violent operation to reinstate the Shah of Iran as ruler of the country in 1953. Yet just a few days after the newspaper came out, all fresh evidence of this British operation and of Darbyshire’s identity disappeared from public debate. “We still do not know who leaked this to the Observer originally, or why,” said film-maker Taghi Amirani this weekend, ahead of the release of his documentary, Coup 53. “We only know that any record of the interview with Darbyshire quickly disappeared and no one followed up the story. It smacks of a complete cover-up of British involvement to this day.” The background to the 1953 coup d’etat has long been the cause of international suspicion and conjecture. Prime Minister Winston Churchill opposed the rule of the country’s first democratic leader, Mohammad Mossadegh, largely because it threatened Britain’s interests in Iran’s oil industry. Working with the CIA, who also hoped to see the Shah Reza Pahlavi back on the throne, it is now clear that MI6 did much more than agitate for Mossadegh to be overthrown. In June, documents found in a Washington archive showed how Queen Elizabeth II’s name was mistakenly used to persuade the Shah to stay in Iran prior to the coup. Coup 53 now makes a clear case that the British were orchestrating an uprising, going as far as kidnapping, torturing and paying for protesters to go out on to the streets of Tehran. Coup 53, released on 19 August, the 67th anniversary of the coup, follows the investigations of Anglo-Iranian director Amirani. Working with Walter Murch, the acclaimed editor of films such as The Conversation, Apocalypse Now and The English Patient, Amirani delves into the archives and interviews many of those involved. “We knew nothing of the Darbyshire mystery, or of the mystery about that mystery, when we started making this film,” said Murch. “None of this was on our radar. Taghi discovered things as we went along. The thriller element was not part of our template, which was to look back at unseen interviews. This was the most material I have ever had to work with – 532 hours – more than double what I handled on Apocalypse Now.” The turning point was when Amirani found key evidence in abandoned research carried out for a landmark Granada documentary series of the mid-1980s, End of Empire. A transcript of an episode about Iran originally contained an interview with Darbyshire, who spoke candidly. “My brief was very simple,” says Darbyshire. “Go out there, don’t inform the ambassador, and use the intelligence service for any money you might need to secure the overthrow of Mossadegh by legal or quasi-legal means.” The MI6 officer goes on to explain he spent “vast sums of money, well over a million-and-a-half pounds”, adding, “I was personally giving orders and directing the street uprising.” Yet the explosive interview was never broadcast. In Amirani’s film, the part of Darbyshire is played by Ralph Fiennes, who delivers lines from the unused Granada material. The 1985 Observer article by reporter Nigel Hawkes was published just before the Iranian episode was shown by Channel 4. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Ralph Fiennes as Norman Darbyshire in Coup 53. Photograph: Chris Morphet But when the programme went out, Darbyshire and his testimony were absent. A TV review a week later by Observer critic Julian Barnes made no mention of this part of the story. Amirani, Murch and the intelligence experts they have consulted now conclude the government stepped in after a private screening, preventing the producers from using the Darbyshire interview. Newspapers, including the Observer, edited at the time by Donald Trelford, would also have been told to go no further with the story, using a state provision known as a D Notice. Darbyshire worked closely with a CIA counterpart, Stephen Meade, whose interview for the End of Empire documentary was also not broadcast. He describes his British colleague as “a very competent individual who spoke Farsi fluently as well as French”. Perhaps the most shocking evidence in Coup 53 concerns British guilt in the kidnapping and eventual “accidental” killing of the Iranian police chief Mahmoud Afshartous. This incident deliberately provoked the unrest that led to the arrest and imprisonment of Mossadegh in August. In the “lost footage”, Darbyshire claims he made “the correct psychological reading of the Persian mob character”, but that he understood that they “had the feeling they were being screwed, and rightly so, from 1920 onwards”. Darbyshire died in 1993, and former Granada researcher Alison Rooper, who worked on End of Empire, together with her producer/director Mark Anderson, tell Amirani they have no clear memory of interviewing the MI6 officer or of what happened to the footage. The shah, who had been living in exile in Italy, flew back to Iran, then governed by CIA- and MI6-approved General Fazlollah Zahedi. In America, the coup was known as Operation Ajax, while in Britain it was Operation Boots. The shah ruled the country until the Islamic revolution of 1979. “This coup shaped not only western relations with Iran for 60 years, but changed the Middle East. Imagine if there had been a democracy there,” said Amirani. • This article was amended on 2 and 15 August 2020 because an earlier version said that Stephen Meade appeared in End of Empire; in fact his interview was not broadcast. It also said the role of the British agent who led the coup in Iran has been revealed for the first time since the 1985 Observer news story. To clarify: while the 1985 story did not identify Norman Darbyshire, he was named in a New York Times piece in 2000 and quoted on the coup in Stephen Dorril’s book, ‘MI6: Fifty Years of Special Operations’, published the same year. The article was also amended because the original stated Coup 53’s conclusion that government stepped in to prevent inclusion of the agent’s testimony in End of Empire as fact when it referred to the Granada material as “censored”. This claim is rejected by makers of End of Empire. Advertisement • Letter of response to this article from Alison Rooper and Mark Anderson.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

In the eye of the beholder

This is a letter submitted to The Times from my hospital bed today: Your decision to illustrate the extracts from the new book on former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s travails with anti-semitism (“Pride, prejudice and a problems that struck at Corbyn’s core,” 24 August 2020; ) with a photograph captioned as an “antisemitic” mural in Tower Hamlets in East London, is emblematic of how what may seem obvious to one beholder.’, is not obvious at all to another. The mural shows six elderly bewhiskered men sitting around a table comprising a board game top held up by several bent-double dark-skinned young men. This claimed to be a classic antisemitic trope: but it isn’t. The artist, from Los Angeles, is Kalen Ockerman (who likes to be called by his pseudonym, MearOne). His mural is certainly an attack of on the turn-of-the 19th century capitalists and bankers. But his representations are of six real men, only two of who were Jewish. It is not designed to be anti Jewish, but is much more a representation of the exploitative capitalist class. It it, therefore, unsurprising that Mr Corbyn‘s initial reaction was to support the mural, as his own politics are very much aimed at challenging exploitation and expropriation by the rich of the poor, regardless of religion or creed. It is a class reaction. Unfortunately, the authors of the new book - one a Times journalist- do not comprehend this subtlety in their narrative Neither does your correspondent, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, who described the Labour Party as led by Mr Corbyn as “ “infused with antisemitism in its leadership.” ( “Labour and racism”, letters, Aug 25). I hope his synagogue has good lawyers, as that assertion is defamatory, and a clear indefensible libel, which he should withdraw.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Danger threat of Sellafield going bang!

I offered this article to Channel Four News, The Sun, The Guardian and Observer, the "i", The Morning Star and The Ecologist, none of which responded; and to the defence and securituy editor at The Daily Mirror, who, after showing initial interest, failed to respond to emails. I have worked with the media on nuclear issues for over 40 years, and have never come across such resistance to a story as this. Has the Government issued a "D Notice" ( or its modern day equivalent) to censor the problem? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Is the biggest nuclear site in Europe containing the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear explosives at risk of blowing up? 23 August 2020 On 13 August, Sellafield’s chief propagandist, Jamie Reed - formerly MP for the Copeland parliamentary seat that contains Sellafield (and before that a press officer for the then nuclear waste disposal company, NIREX, now defunct) - issued a Panglossian press briefing that he entitled “Cleaning up our nuclear past: faster, safer and sooner” ( One section was headlined “Beyond Sellafield: Investing in the next generation” – and started with the very positive assertion: “In recent weeks we’ve announced and revisited projects that will have an almost immediate impact in our communities…” adding “ We know that in the future we’re going to need higher-level skills to progress our clean-up mission at Sellafield.” He could say that again! The very next day, Sellafield Ltd issued another press release, under the anodyne headline “Chemical disposal at Sellafield” It opened, revealing that “chemicals have been identified as requiring specialist disposal on the Sellafield site,” and added “During a routine inspection of chemical substances stored on the Sellafield site, a small amount of chemicals (organic peroxide) were identified as requiring specialist disposal. This chemical is used for a variety of purposes across many industries. In line with established procedures, support has been requested from Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD). The EOD team is now in attendance at the Sellafield site and will dispose of the chemical safely. Chemical monitoring is undertaken across the site to understand changing chemical states and to inform when and how industrial chemicals should be stored or disposed of. This chemical substance was stored in the site’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant. The storage area is safely segregated from the nuclear operations of the plant and the risk has been identified as a conventional safety issue rather than a nuclear safety risk. As a precautionary measure, a controlled evacuation of the Magnox Reprocessing Plant was carried out yesterday in order to investigate the chemical and devise the appropriate course of action. The plant was non-operational at the time. The plant will remain non-operational while the chemical is disposed of. As ever, our priority remains the protection of our workforce, community and the environment.” It sounded transparent and seemed un-alarming. But this was not the first time Sellafield had failed to control safely dangerously chemicals with potential to cause an explosion Local Sellafield monitoring group, CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) were so alarmed they circulated a comprehensive press release first issued on 4 July 2018, under the appropriate headline: “Chemical Chaos and Confusion at Sellafield – yet another intolerable risk?” CORE properly noted one of several alarming conclusions of the internal Sellafield Ltd Board of Inquiry into this incident read: ‘As a site, the full appreciation of chemical legislation, including The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations DSEAR, has been inadequate’ CORE recorded that of Sellafield’s 1400 buildings (operational and legacy), some are considered by the independent financial watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO) to fall short of modern standards and, through deterioration, ‘pose a significant risk to people and the environment’. Identified as amongst Sellafield’s top 10 highest hazards is the site’s plutonium stock and associated management facilities, the NAO report warns specifically of decaying plutonium canisters – a leak from which would add to the growing list of ’intolerable risks’ posed by Sellafield as identified by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the acknowledged risks posed by the volumes of hazardous wastes and materials stored in run-down buildings. The owner of Sellafield – Europe’s largest nuclear site- on behalf of the taxpayer is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). In a 164-page draft strategy document released on 17 August, the NDA revealed this alarming situation on its plutonium stored on site. (Sellafield has 140,000 kilogrammes of explosive plutonium in store: for context of the hazard, the atomic bomb that obliterated the centre of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on 9 August 75 years ago, killing 70,00 people instantly, contained just 6.4 kilogrames of plutonium!) In the report’s section on plutonium storage – at page 60 - it admits alarmingly: “The NDA considers some of the older plutonium packages and facilities used in early production to be amongst the highest hazards on the Sellafield site. A major programme of asset care has and continues to be undertaken at these facilities to support safe operation until they can be taken out of service and decommissioned. Some older packages are to be repacked in existing plants to ensure their safe management in the short to medium term.” ( Rickety labs are waiting for accidents to happen Sellafield’s Analytical Services Laboratory (ASL) is one of the oldest facilities on site (built in 1951) and located in the tight and highly controlled confines of Sellafield’s so called ‘Separation Area’ alongside old reprocessing plant ( where nuclear explosives plutonium and uranium are recovered from nuclear waste) and the high hazard legacy radioactive waste ponds and silos. Around 50 of ASL’s original 150 laboratories are currently operational They were . described by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in June 2017 as a “relatively high risk’ facility whose laboratories hold a ‘considerable radiological inventory” that “has potentially high off-site consequences in the event of a major accident.” So, when the ‘Bomb Squad’ arrived in late October 2017 to deal with these unstable chemicals with their potential to ignite or explode, they demanded the immediate evacuation of workers and a 100-metre cordon thrown up around ASL should have triggered major alarm bells locally and further afield. Sellafield’s website quietly published an update of this first alarming incident, and concluded on 1 November 2017 that “our chemical disposal work has concluded and the Analytical Laboratory is preparing to restart’” suggesting that all was well with ASL. But this was fake news, as was later made clear by the findings of Sellafield’s subsequent Board of Inquiry report, finally published on 1st February two years ago . Sellafield censored the full contents- in a ‘blacked out’ procedure called redaction. They have never released the full unaltered report. The Sellafield safety campaigners CORE – led by giant former policeman, Martin Forwood, who died nearly a year ag o- finally obtained a fuller version of the report after demanding its release from Sellafield in the public interest. [Martin Forwood] It alarmingly highlighted the current day and past chaos and confusion that has underpinned Sellafield’s management of the hazardous chemical inventory contained within ASL in which radioactive materials are also stored. The Board of Inquiry report into the event highlights a catalogue of incompetence of which the legendary Homer Simpson himself would have been proud!
It revealed that the initial discovery of the suspect chemicals – a part filled 500ml bottle of potentially unstable Tetrahydrofuran (THF)- unbelievably stored in a flammable vault within ASL , had actually been made on 3rd October, almost three weeks earlier. Only then did Sellafield declare an Operational Alert and the Army’s Bomb Squad was belatedly called in to detonate the chemicals via a series of controlled explosions made on 21st and 22nd October. Then, following further inventory check of the laboratories which discovered more suspect THF and vials and bottles of Quickszint, the Bomb Squad had to be recalled and continued to make further disposals until the 1st November 2017. Last week it happened all over again,with apparently no lessons learned by a dopy Sellafield management! Highlighting the many failings of Sellafield’s chemicals management, the Board of Investigation’s critical report arrives at the following alarming conclusions: BOX Over 14 years prior to the October 2017 event, there had been a number of both weak and strong clues indicating problems with the management of chemical hazards. • • There had been no deliberate involvement of people, teams and departments with the right capability on chemical hazard and management of the chemical inventory in ASL. • • In the context of a highly complex and time-pressured environment, ASL employees had inadvertently reduced the vast and complex array of chemicals and samples into four broad categories – chemicals in use, samples, redundant chemicals and orphan wastes. • • the redundant chemicals category does not form part of the Analytical Services daily analysis and as a result has remained in the unconscious ie out of sight, out of mind. This has meant that chemicals within this category have held very low visibility and, in general, are not considered or thought about. • • There was a lack of priority given to the disposal of redundant chemicals due to them not being visible and out of conscious awareness to a majority of people within ASL. • • The legislative instrument for identifying the flammable and explosive risk posed by the chemicals THF and Quickszint which form part of the redundant chemicals category is The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR.) Yet both chemicals had routinely been missed from DSEAR assessments. • • Quickszint has peroxide generation potential and the bottles found to have degraded with evidence of crystallisation identified • • The knowledge that THF can degrade over time to form potentially explosive compounds is not widely held either within the organisation or externally. • • The poor understanding of the DSEAR regulations within ASL lead to the failure to recognise the potential risk associated with the long term storage of THF and Quicksint. • • As a site, the full appreciation of chemical legislation, including The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations DSEAR, has been inadequate. • • Across the site there are 18 safety advisors with basic competency in DSEAR – none of these allocated to ASL. The two safety advisors available to ASL are safety generalists rather than specialists in chemicals and chemical legislation requirements. • • A review of the DSEAR process highlighted that the presence of the same root and contributory causes were also evident in the THORP (thermal oxide, after the nuclear fuel type) reprocessing facility where 44 redundant chemicals listed within the facility were described as not visible and their potential degradation risk not understood. Now, nearly three years on, we could have another massive explosion on our hands in the north of England. But this could make the Beirut blast that destroyed their port -killing over 100 people - look like a vicar’s tea party. Because we would not have a grain storage silos spewing out its contents, but the biggest store of nuclear explosives on the planet- bigger than America’s or Russia’s- releasing its deadly toxic contents. If even extremely small quantities (micro-particles) of this radioactive material – named after Pluto, the God of Hell - were blown into the atmosphere by a chemical explosion, it would threaten the entire north of England. In particulate form it can cause cancer with just one speck, if the so-called alpha radiation particles from the plutonium got into human lungs. It could even render Britain’s countryside jewel of the Lake District – located just inland from Sellafield on Cumbria’s coast - out of bounds for many years. So, the outstanding question remains: What are our safety and nuclear regulators doing about this terrifying - and utterly unacceptable - threat other lives of millions of British residents? They need to top of their game to face down this home made threat! *Dr David Lowry, senior international research fellow, Institute for Resource and security Studies, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA He has been a member of the UK Chief Nuclear Inspector’s Independent Advisory Panel for the past two years

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Who is now in charge of radiation protection in the UK?

Letter submitted to The Guardian on 19 August 2020: Your scathing leader on the fatuity of scrapping Public Health England watchdog (“Scrapping PHE is not just wrong. It is also risky,” 19 August 2020; ) is not scathing enough. You mention that its replacement, the National Institute for Health Protection(NIHP) will focus on external threats, but omit to mention the vehicle listed by the department for health and social care briefing is to address these problems is to be a new Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards. But in Matt Hancock’s 2330 word speech ( on the future of public health on 18th August , when he unveiled the plans, he made no mention whatever of what body is henceforth is to be responsible for the public protection from radiation hazards arising within the UK, which PHE hitherto delivered, having inherited the responsibility from its predecessor, the Health Protection Agency 7 years ago, having itself incorporated the original responsibility for the National Radiological Protection Board.(NRPB) I find it extraordinary that there is apparently now no independent body to set standards of protection against dangerous ionising (and other) radiation hazards, when ministers seem equally determined to push ahead with a programme of new giant Giga-watt sized nuclear power plants, (such as Hinkley C, Sizewell C and Bradwell B) – at a cost of £75 billion- plus an unspecified number of so-called small modular reactors (SMRs) and advance nuclear technology (ANTs) power plants What are the views of joint nuclear regulators, the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency /Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, on this staggering omission in public health protection?

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Sellafield nearly goes bang, and The Guardian totally misses story

I find it impossible to comprehend the Guardian news agenda priorities, which includes a full column article on a comedian halting a live performance because an audience member was filming it ("'You've ruined it, "August 15), but no room at all in the print version, or on line, to report that a "routine" inspection at Europe's biggest and most dangerous nuclear plant at Sellafield, uncovered unstable stored chemicals with the potential to explode in the same way as the chemical stash at the Port of Beirut did so with catastrophic consequences earlier this month. Sellafield contains huge quantities of highly radioactive and chemically toxic liquid nuclear waste stored in decrepit tanks, all urgently requiring renovation and modernisation. But more importantly, Sellafield is also the home for the biggest single stockpile of explosive plutonium on the planet: some 140, 000 kilogrammes of a material named after the god of Hell. To give an indication of its damage potential, the atomic bomb that immolated the Japanese city of Nagasaki in an instant 75 years ago this month, killing 70,000 people, contained just 6.4 kilos of plutonium. Do the maths! In light of this, the national nuclear safety regulator - the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) - should make public what exactly Sellafield Ltd told them about this incident and when; and make clear whether they were given a written report; and say whether they approved of explosive chemicals being stored in the vicinity of highly hazardous nuclear materials. Sellafield Limited, the plant operator on behalf of the Government-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, should come clean on: when the potentially explosive material was discovered ; in what quantities; what potential explosive capacity the chemicals contained; explain why was it stored where it was; how close it was stored to nuclear materials; why was the whole site evacuated; when were the local emergency authorities informed; how sure are they there is no other overlooked explosive cache in the site; and reveal whether any such incident has happened before at Sellafield? I find the whole incident astonishing; and the reaction of the safety authorities complacent in the extreme.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Impact of atomic bomb use over Japan in 1945 upon aircrew and victims on the ground

Letter published on 12 August 2020 in the Morning Star: Phil Brand is right to point out (Letter, 8 August) that the airs crew of the planes (th “Enola Gay” and (that dropped atomic bombs of n Hiroshgim aand Nagaskai in August 1945 had their reservations. But he is wrong to assert "this has never been mentioned.” An article in a Japanese newspaper (in english) two years ago reported that tape recordings of testimonies by Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay aircraft hat transported and dropped the atomic bomb that immolated 200,000 civilians in Hirsoshima ( and with hi screw members) had been put on show at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. “Interview tapes of American airmen who dropped A-bomb on Hiroshima found” (Mainichi Shimbun, 4 August 2018; The records include 27 tapes spanning about 30 hours, and 570 pages of transcripts. The records contain vivid testimonies every crew member and have clear, huge historic value. Another article (“The Crew of the Enola Gay on Dropping the Atomic Bomb” ( includes thes following testimonies: Captain Theodore Van Kirk, the plane’s navigator, said: “I pray no man will have to witness that sight again. Such a terrible waste, such a loss of life. We unleashed the first atomic bomb, and I hope there will never be another. I pray that we have learned a lesson for all time. But I'm not sure that we have.” Co-pilot Robert Lewis recorded in the official log of the mission "My God, what have we done." Later he explained, "I was dumbfounded. Remember, nobody had ever seen what an A-bomb could do before. ..there was almost no talk I can remember on our trip back to the base. It was just too much to express in words, I guess. We were all in a kind of state of shock. " Private Richard Nelson, Radar Operator, said: “"War is a terrible thing . It takes and it destroys. Anyone feels sorry for people who are killed. We are all human beings. “ Phil Morrison, a Los Alamos atomic weapons scientist on board as an observer said: “We stared in disbelief...there below was the flat level ground of what had been a city, scorched red..” Thirty years ago this week, on a visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to attend ceremonies to mark the terrible few days in August 1945 when the world safety was changed for the worst forever, I met an old Japanese gentleman, who had survived both atomic bombs! He witnessed the first atomic bomb from the outskirts of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 ; in shock, he headed for his home city of Nagasaki, arriving on its outskirts in time to see the mushroom cloud rise a second tim, on 9th August. I was a very salutary and unforgettable meeting.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Beirut blast bad, nuclear blast incomparably worse!

When an unloaded cache of 2,750 tonnes ammonium nitrate, congealed and caked in a Beirut Port dockside warehouse where it had festered for 7 years, without interference - latterly alongside a stockpile of fireworks – spectacularly and devastatingly exploded on 3 August, so massive was the dust cloud and immediate destruction, the first comparator used was with the Hiroshima Bomb, which had around four times th explosive e potency of this rogue fertilizer stash, which it was detonate dover the benighted Japanese city 75 years ago this week. But, the eminent security issues expert, Professor Emeritus Paul Rogers, explained that as terrible as this conventional explosion in Beirut was, it is in no way comparable with the destruction capacity of even the smallest of nuclear weapons. He is of course, correct. Here is what he wrote: The Beirut blast was terrible – nuclear weapons are far, far worse A new nuclear arms race is under way. The 75th anniversary of Hiroshima should make us reflect on the sheer destructive potential of these weapons. Professor Emeritus PAUL ROGERS Imagine an explosion 100 times more powerful On 6 December 1917 in the harbour at Halifax, Nova Scotia, a cargo ship loaded with munitions bound for France collided with another ship carrying relief supplies to Belgium. The collision caused a fire on the munitions ship and then a massive explosion that killed nearly 2,000 people, injured 9,000 and destroyed much of the city Yesterday’s terrible explosion in Beirut was smaller but may still have involved the detonation well over 1000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, perhaps a kiloton equivalent of TNT. At least 4,000 people have been injured and well over 100 killed. What has made the Beirut disaster so visceral is that the fire and small explosions that preceded led hundreds of people to capture the main explosion on cameras and smartphones. These showed, in sharp detail, the massive shock wave that spread out at amazing speed and they went on to record the damage and casualties right across the city. The Beirut disaster happened less than 48 hours before the start of Hiroshima Day, 6 August, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Japanese city in 1945 by a US atom bomb. Three days later, Nagasaki was destroyed, the two bombs combining to kill over 150,000 people. The death tolls in Japan was much higher than in Beirut or Halifax, partly because the bombs were far larger, exceeding 10 kilotons each in destructive power, and partly because they were detonated in a manner designed specifically to cause as many deaths as possible. Both of the A-bombs were detonated at altitude, Hiroshima at 8.15 am, during the morning rush hour, and Nagasaki at 11.02am Both cities had many flimsy buildings, but the Beirut explosion shows what even a much smaller explosion can do in a much more modern city. By modern-day nuclear standards, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were small devices, similar in destructive power to the anti-submarine nuclear depth bombs that the UK deployed during the Falklands/Malvinas War back in 1982. A more relevant comparison with this week’s Beirut disaster would be the UK’s modern arsenal of nuclear-armed Trident MIRV missiles. A single Vanguard-class submarine can carry sixteen of these ballistic missiles and each normally carries three thermonuclear warheads, which can be released from the missile mid-flight to hit different targets (hence the MIRV jargon – ‘multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle’). Each warhead has a destructive power of 100 kilotons, probably around 100 times as powerful as the explosion that devasted the port area of Beirut and damaged buildings right across the city, so a single British missile submarine could utterly wreck a place the size of Beirut along with 47 other targets. Nuclear arsenals Even then we are still in the small-time when it comes to world nuclear arsenals. At the height of the Cold War back in the mid-1980s, the US and the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons numbering over 60,000 between them, with some of these many times more powerful than those current UK warheads. A combination of arms control agreements and unilateral decisions in the early 1990s did cut those numbers down a lot, but both the US and modern-day Russia currently deploy over 1000 nuclear warheads each, with many thousands more in reserve. Both countries also maintain strategic triads – long-range weapons that can be delivered by land-based missiles, bombers or submarine-launched weapons. The ‘smaller’ nuclear states are the UK, France, China, Israel, Pakistan and India, all with under 500 warheads. The ninth nuclear state, North Korea, probably has twenty to forty. That may be bad enough in terms of the gross misuse of human resources, but the added worry is that in recent years, to the dismay of peace campaigners and many diplomats, we have moved away from an era of arms control and into the start of a new nuclear arms race. Four factors are behind this. One is that neither former President George W. Bush nor current President Donald Trump have supported nuclear arms control, preferring to ‘make America great again’ partly by eschewing agreements while modernising the arsenals. Meanwhile, Putin in Moscow presides over a small economy that is no larger than that of Spain or Italy and has generally weak armed forces. He therefore chooses to emphasise three specialisms – cyber-warfare, well-equipped special forces and a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal, the latter being seen as a key attribute of great power status. The second factor is that all the other nuclear powers are increasing or at least upgrading their nuclear arsenals. The UK, for example, is building a new generation of missile-carrying submarines at great cost and is now embarking on building a new nuclear warhead. Until recently China had land-based and sea-based long-range nuclear delivery systems but is also now developing a strategic stealth bomber, the H-20. It is well behind schedule in its development but is already being used by the US military-industrial complex to advocate more spending on the US’s own new B-21 stealth bomber. Thirdly is the proliferation of nuclear forces. While this is happening much more slowly than in the tense days of the Cold War, the 1990s saw Pakistan acquiring nuclear status, India then upgrading its own forces and both countries expanding their arsenals since. More recently we have had North Korea building its own nuclear force and the collapse of the JCPOA agreement with Iran. Finally, there is the matter of group memory. No one under the age of forty has much memory of the sheer destructive potential or multiple risks of a nuclear-armed world. All that Cold War history has been much diminished with the passage of time so that there is much less interest in nuclear arms control and disarmament in the nuclear-armed countries. There is, though, genuine interest across much of the rest of the world, shown by the recent negotiations on the UN Treaty on the Prevention of Nuclear Weapons. That was passed on 7th July 2017 by 122 to one and has since been signed by 82 states and ratified by forty. It comes into force ninety days after the fiftieth state ratifies it. That is welcome progress but 69 states, including most members of NATO and all existing nuclear-armed states, did not sign the original treaty. The latter, especially, will most likely ignore it when it comes into force. That is no reason to stop campaigning and part of this work is meeting the urgent need for much more knowledge of what a nuclear conflict would be like. The devastation in Beirut gives some small indication of those consequences and, coming just two days before Hiroshima Day, is an added reminder. Annex Op-Ed: U.S. leaders knew we didn’t have to drop atomic bombs on Japan to win the war. We did it anyway Paper lanterns are floated on the Motoyasu River in Hiroshima every year to mark the anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the city by the U.S. (Toru Yamanaka / AFP/Getty Images) By GAR ALPEROVITZ AND MARTIN J. SHERWIN LOS ANGELES TIMES, AUGUST. 5, 2020 a time when Americans are reassessing so many painful aspects of our nation’s past, it is an opportune moment to have an honest national conversation about our use of nuclear weapons on Japanese cities in August 1945. The fateful decision to inaugurate the nuclear age fundamentally changed the course of modern history, and it continues to threaten our survival. As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock warns us, the world is now closer to nuclear annihilation than at any time since 1947. The accepted wisdom in the United States for the last 75 years has been that dropping the bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later was the only way to end the World War II without an invasion that would have cost hundreds of thousands of American and perhaps millions of Japanese lives. Not only did the bombs end the war, the logic goes, they did so in the most humane way possible. However, the overwhelming historical evidence from American and Japanese archives indicates that Japan would have surrendered that August, even if atomic bombs had not been used — and documents prove that President Truman and his closest advisors knew it. The allied demand for unconditional surrender led the Japanese to fear that the emperor, who many considered a deity, would be tried as a war criminal and executed. A study by Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command compared the emperor’s execution to “the crucifixion of Christ to us.” “Unconditional Surrender is the only obstacle to peace,” Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired Ambassador Naotake Sato, who was in Moscow on July 12, 1945, trying to enlist the Soviet Union to mediate acceptable surrender terms on Japan’s behalf. But the Soviet Union’s entry into the war on Aug. 8 changed everything for Japan’s leaders, who privately acknowledged the need to surrender promptly. Allied intelligence had been reporting for months that Soviet entry would force the Japanese to capitulate. As early as April 11, 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Intelligence Staff had predicted: “If at any time the USSR should enter the war, all Japanese will realize that absolute defeat is inevitable.” Truman knew that the Japanese were searching for a way to end the war; he had referred to Togo’s intercepted July 12 cable as the “telegram from the Jap emperor asking for peace.” Truman also knew that the Soviet invasion would knock Japan out of the war. At the summit in Potsdam, Germany, on July 17, following Stalin’s assurance that the Soviets were coming in on schedule, Truman wrote in his diary, “He’ll be in the Jap War on August 15. Fini Japs when that comes about.” The next day, he assured his wife, “We’ll end the war a year sooner now, and think of the kids who won’t be killed!” The Soviets invaded Japanese-held Manchuria at midnight on Aug. 8 and quickly destroyed the vaunted Kwantung Army. As predicted, the attack traumatized Japan’s leaders. They could not fight a two-front war, and the threat of a communist takeover of Japanese territory was their worst nightmare. Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki explained on Aug. 13 that Japan had to surrender quickly because “the Soviet Union will take not only Manchuria, Korea, Karafuto, but also Hokkaido. This would destroy the foundation of Japan. We must end the war when we can deal with the United States.” While a majority of Americans may not be familiar with this history, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C., states unambiguously on a plaque with its atomic bomb exhibit: “The vast destruction wreaked by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the loss of 135,000 people made little impact on the Japanese military. However, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria … changed their minds.” But online the wording has been modified to put the atomic bombings in a more positive light — once again showing how myths can overwhelm historical evidence. Seven of the United States’ eight five-star Army and Navy officers in 1945 agreed with the Navy’s vitriolic assessment. Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur and Henry “Hap” Arnold and Admirals William Leahy, Chester Nimitz, Ernest King, and William Halsey are on record stating that the atomic bombs were either militarily unnecessary, morally reprehensible, or both. No one was more impassioned in his condemnation than Leahy, Truman’s chief of staff. He wrote in his memoir “that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender …. In being the first to use it we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages.” MacArthur thought the use of atomic bombs was inexcusable. He later wrote to former President Hoover that if Truman had followed Hoover’s “wise and statesmanlike” advice to modify its surrender terms and tell the Japanese they could keep their emperor, “the Japanese would have accepted it and gladly I have no doubt.” Before the bombings, Eisenhower had urged at Potsdam, “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” The evidence shows he was right, and the advancing Doomsday Clock is a reminder that the violent inauguration of the nuclear age has yet to be confined to the past. Gar Alperovitz, author of “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb,” is a principal of the Democracy Collaborative and a former fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Martin J. Sherwin is a professor of history at George Mason University and author of the forthcoming “Gambling With Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette From Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Historians Kai Bird and Peter Kuznick contributed to this article. Urgency to bear witness grows for last Hiroshima victims August 4, 2020 (Mainichi Japan) 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 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 Tianjin explosion: China sets final death toll at 173, ending search for survivors This article is more than 4 years old Authorities call off search for remaining eight missing in a massive chemical warehouse explosion last month, declaring them dead Associated Press in Beijing Saturday 12 September 2015 06.08 BST Firefighters in protective gear watch as smoke continues to billow out on 13 August after an explosion at a warehouse in northeastern China’s Tianjin municipality. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP Chinese authorities ended the search for the remaining eight missing in a massive chemical warehouse explosion last month, setting the final death toll at 173 in China’s worst industrial disaster in years. Tianjin blasts: plans to turn site into 'eco park' mocked on Chinese social media Read more The announcement by the Tianjin city government said there was no hope of finding the eight people and the court would start issuing death certificates. “After thorough investigations by all parties it is certain that there is no possibility of survivors,” said a statement on Friday night. The eight include five firefighters, underscoring the explosion’s status as the worst disaster for Chinese first responders, more than 100 of whom were killed, including police officers. Among firefighters a total of 104 were killed. Investigations into the 12 August blasts at the Ruihai International Logistics warehouses showed they were located closer to homes than permitted, and stored much more hazardous material than authorised, including 700 tonnes of highly toxic sodium cyanide. A series of massive explosions late at night shattered windows and tore facades off buildings for miles around, while launching debris including heavy steel storage canisters into nearby communities with the force of an artillery shell. Homeowners have held protests demanding the government buy back their apartments, saying they are unliveable. The disaster has raised questions about corruption and government efficiency, potentially tarnishing the government led by Xi Jinping, who has made those two issues a hallmark of his administration. Authorities are investigating malfeasance in the issuing of permits and regulation of the company, and have detained 12 of its employees and executives. They include the primary owner, who was on the board of a state-owned company and kept his ownership of Ruihai hidden as a silent partner. Also detained as part of the investigation are 11 government officials, while the head of the government body in charge of industrial safety, Yang Dongliang, has been placed under investigation for corruption. Yang had previously worked for 18 years in Tianjin in state industry and local government, rising to executive vice mayor. Authorities say they have sealed all waterways leading out of the blast zone to curb cyanide contamination as teams in hazmat suits clean up hazardous debris. According to the Tianjin Environmental Protection Bureau, water samples inside the disaster zone have shown levels of cyanide as high as 20 times above that considered safe. No cyanide has been detected in nearby seawater or areas outside the 1.8-mile (three-kilometre) radius quarantine zone. The Arrest News, Newsletter to ship arrests, Issue 11. Edited by F.Arizon October 2015 WITH THIS NETWORK OF TOP SHIPPING LAWYERS, ARRESTING OR RELEASING A QUARTERLY ISSUE m/v Rhosus - Arrest and Personal Freedom of the Crew On 23/9/2013, m/v Rhosus, flying the Moldovian flag, sailed from Batumi Port, Georgia heading to Biera in Mozambique carrying 2,750 tons of Ammonium Nitrate in bulk. En route, the vessel faced technical problems forcing the Master to enter Beirut Port. Upon inspection of the vessel by Port State Control, the vessel was forbidden from sailing. Most crew except the Master and four crew members were repatriated and shortly afterwards the vessel was abandoned by her owners after charterers and cargo concern lost interest in the cargo. The vessel quickly ran out of stores, bunker and provisions. Various creditors came forward with claims against her. Our firm acting on instruction of these creditors obtained three arrest orders against the vessel. Efforts to get in touch with the owners, charterers and cargo owners to obtain payment failed. In the meantime, the Master and crew remaining on board were in jeopardy due to the shortage of stores and provisions. To make things worse, the crew were restrained on board the vessel owing to immigration restrictions. Diplomatic efforts were attempted to have the crew repatriated but without success. The crew subsequently approached us for assistance. Acting on compassionate grounds, we applied to the Judge “Of Urgent Matters” in Beirut for an order authorizing the crew to disembark and return home. Our application was based on the breach of the right to personal freedom which is protected under the Constitution of Lebanon and the International Convention of Human Rights and Personal Freedoms. Emphasis was placed on the imminent danger the crew was facing given the “dangerous” nature of the cargo still stored in ship’s holds. The port authorities and the vessel’s agents were invited by the Judge to comment on our application. Our application eventually succeeded and the Judge ordered that necessary permits be issued for the crew to disembark and return home. The decision rendered by the Judge is considered of landmark importance because as it has established the principles that personal freedoms ought to be protected regardless of any administrative considerations and that the Judge “Of Urgent Matters” can intervene to ensure protection of these rights. Owing to the risks associated with retaining the Ammonium Nitrate on board the vessel, the port authorities discharged the cargo onto the port’s warehouses. The vessel and cargo remain to date in port awaiting auctioning and/or proper disposal. Charbel joined Baroudi & Associates in 2009. He holds an LL.B. from the Lebanese University, School of Law (2009) and an LL.M. in Private Law from the Lebanese University, School of Law (on-going). Charbel is a key member of the Commercial and Transport Departments. He deals with maritime and aviation litigations and is constantly involved in disputes and advices of commercial nature. Charbel is member of Beirut Bar Association and he is fluent in Arabic, English, French and Spanish. Christine joined Baroudi & Associates in 2010. She holds an LL.B from Filière Francophone de Droit, Lebanese University (2009), a Professional Degree in Mediation from Saint Joseph University of Beirut, Professional Mediation Center (2010) and an LL.M in Oil and Gas Law and Policy from the CEPMLP of the University of Dundee, Scotland (on-going). Christine is a professional Mediator, admitted to practice in Lebanon and abroad. She is an active member in the Commercial and Transport Departments. She is also heavily involved in corporate matters and also assists in court litigation and international arbitration and ADR in disputes of commercial nature. Christine is member of Beirut Bar Association, Mediator at the Professional Mediation Center – Saint Joseph University (from 2010 to date), member of the International Bar Association IBA – Oil and Gas TEXAS CITY, TEXAS, DISASTER April 16, 17, 1947 Report by FIRE PREVENTION AND ENGINEERING BUREAU OF TEXAS DALLAS, TEXAS and THE NATIONAL BOARD OF FIRE UNDERWRITERS 85 John Street NEW YORK 7, N. Y. Dedicated to the people of Texas City and their heroic firemen whose tragic disaster, we pray, will be a lesson to those who say "it can't happen here". COVER This arial photograph , looking south over Monsanto Chemical Co., was taken about 30 minutes following the blast of the S. S. GRANDCAMP. ILLUSTRATIONS Figures: 1. Diagram of general area of destruction (in back of report). 2. Diagram of the Monsanto Chemical Company (in back of report). 3. Diagram of the Texas City Terminal Railway Company (in back of report). 4. View of Docks before explosion 5. View of Docks after explosion 6. General view of damage area looking southwest. 7. Principal dock area 8 days after explosion. 8. General view of damage area looking north. 9. Damage to grain elevator and dock warehouses. 10. S.S. GRANDCAMP a few minutes before explosion. 11. View of Monsanto site and Warehouse "O" before the explosion. 12. View east with S.S. WILSON B. KEENE and Warehouse "B". 13. Destruction of Warehouse "B" and grain elevator. 14. Warehouse No. 6 Texas City Terminal Railway. 15. Power plant and locomotives. 16. Interior of Warehouse "B". 17. Warehouse "B" looking west. 18. Warehouse "B" looking east. 19. Warehouse "D" with bags of tin ore. 20. Warehouse "C" and overturned box cars. 21. Grain elevator and conveyor. 22. Seatrain Loader and site of Monsanto plant. 23. Ruins of Monsanto Chemical Company. 24.Monsanto Polystyrene plant showing 1-story section destroyed. 25. Monsanto office building with wrecked cars in foreground. 26. Benzol tanks in Monsanto plant 30 minutes after S.S. GRANDCAMP explosion. 27. Propane Cracking Unit Monsanto Chemical Company. 28. 150-foot barge washed ashore. 29. Recovering bodies in North Slip. 30. Buckled oil tanks resulting from concussion. 31. Wrecked mercantile building in city. 32. General view of city from dock area. 33. General view of South Tank Farm. 34. View of refinery tank farms looking east. 35. Burning oil tanks of Humble Pipe Line Company. 36. Stone Oil Company 30 minutes after explosion of S.S. GRANDCAMP. 37. General view of South Tank Farm showing burned and crushed tanks. 38. Interior views of Monsanto Chemical Company. Photograph Credits Witwer Studios, Galveston, Texas, Nos. 5,6,7,14,15,32,33,34,36,37. Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas, Nos. 8,9,13,23,24,25,27,35. Galveston News, Galveston, Texas, Nos. 10,12,26,28. National Fire Protection Association, No. 38. FOREWARD In view of the confusing and chaos existing at the time of and immediately following a catastrophe of this nature, it is felt that some explanation is necessary of the conditions under which the data in this report was collected. The primary thought in the minds of all personnel in the area was the removal of the dead and injured, consequently little attention was given to the conditions of structures in the time intervening between the first and second explosion. Any attempt to evaluate damage done by the explosion of the S. S. GRANDCAMP and the explosion of the S. S. HIGH FLYER sixteen hours later is almost impossible except through the use of the few photographs taken during this interval. It must also be realized that practically the entire dock area was obscured by dense smoke from the burning Monsanto Chemical Company and the numerous oil tanks in the area which made it extremely difficult for observation and practically impossible to obtain photographs of the warehouse area. Considerable information regarding the condition of the structures in the dock area immediately following the explosion of the S. S. GRANDCAMP was obtained from personnel aboard the S. S. HIGH FLYER who survived the explosion of the first ship and escaped across the deck of the WILSON B. KEENE which was berthed alongside Warehouse "B". Grateful acknowledgement is made to the various people of Texas City, to rescue workers in the dock area, to officials and employees of the various companies in the area for the valuable information given regarding the disaster. The numerous courtesies and the most excellent cooperation given members of the investigating party by Chief W. L. Ladish of the Texas City Police Department and members assisting police departments from other cities, by Colonel Homer Garrison, Jr., Director and all members of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers and by Assistant Chief F. Dowdy and the surviving members of the Texas City Fire Department are gratefully acknowledged. Data collected for this report was obtained by M. M. Braidech, Research Director, National Board of Fire Underwriters, Hugh V. Keepers and H. H. Davis, Engineers, Fire Prevention and Engineering Bureau of Texas. A. SIDNEY BRIGGS, Manager Fire Prevention and Engineering Bureau of Texas W. E. MALLALIEU, General Manager National Board of Underwriters SUMMARY A fire discovered by stevedores preparing to resume loading of ammonium nitrate aboard the S. S. GRANDCAMP at Warehouse (Pier) "O", about 8 A. M., April 16, 1947, resulted in the first of two disastrous explosions at 9:12 A. M., April 16, 1947 which destroyed the entire dock area, numerous oil tanks, the Monsanto Chemical Company, numerous dwellings and business buildings. The second explosion resulted from a fire in ammonium nitrate aboard the S. S. HIGH FLYER which occurred some sixteen hours later at 1:10 A. M., April 17, 1947. Damage to property outside the dock area was widespread. Approximately 1000 residences and business buildings suffered either major structural damage or were totally destroyed. Practically every window exposed to the blast in the corporate limits was broken. Several plate glass windows as far away as Galveston (10 miles) were shattered. Flying steel fragments and portions of the cargo were found 13,000 feet distant. A great number of balls of sisal twine, many afire, were blown over the area like torches. Numerous oil tanks were penetrated by flying steel or were crushed by the blast wave which followed the explosions. Drill stems 30 feet long, 6 3/8 inches in diameter, weight 2700 pounds, part of the cargo of the S. S. GRANDCAMP were found buried 6 feet in the clay soil a distance of 13,000 feet from the point of the explosion. Only brief mention is made of the fire protection features such as automatic sprinkler systems and the fire department. The initial explosion disrupted the sprinkler systems and the water supply to them, destroying all of the fire equipment owned by Texas City and wiped out much of the personnel of the department who were endeavoring to extinguish the fire aboard the S. S. GRANDCAMP. The loss of life was high. All firemen and practically all spectators on their pier were killed as were many employees in the Monsanto Chemical Company and throughout the dock area. At this date, April 29, 1947, 433 bodies have been recovered and approximately 135 (many of whom were on the dock) are missing. Over 2000 suffered injuries in varying degrees, among whom were many school children injured by flying glass fragments and debris in school buildings located about 6000 feet distant. The loss of property excluding marine (which was not ascertainable) is estimated to be $35,000,000 to $40,000,000. Time for rebuilding the various docks, warehouses and the chemical plant is expected to take one to two years. AMMONIUM NITRATE Properties: Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) has the following physical and chemical properties of interest to the matter under consideration: Melting Point:…………………338 F. Slow Decomposition Point:……393 F. Boiling Point:…………………..410 F. Heat of Explosion:……………..384 calories/kilogram It is a crystalline powder, varying in color from almost white to brown. In military use it is mixed (as an oxidizer or promoter of combustion) with TNT in the manufacturer of 'Amatol' which is used primarily as a bursting charge in demolition bombs. In peacetime use it is an excellent source of nitrogen for all crops, and it is one of the most concentrated forms of nitrogen fertilizer (35%N). Ammonium nitrate usually cannot be detonated by heat or friction, it is comparatively insensitive. However, it may be exploded under favorable conditions by severe mechanical shock or by sufficiently heavy initiation of an intermediate explosive agent (such as detonation with a fulminating cap used in exploding dynamite). Fertilizer piles containing this material should not be blasted. A shock may mechanically set up a chain of events which will result in the detonation of the entire mass of material. Shock waves propagated at a velocity of about 5,000 meters per second, or over, appear to be required. Incidents have been reported in laboratories when the material was heated rapidly, but larger quantities in wooden kegs and casks have been exposed to test fires without detonation. However, impure salts may be exploded by relatively high initiation. If ammonium nitrate is mixed with carbonaceous materials. it is exploded more readily. It is sensitized by the presence of explosive substances like nitrocellulose or aromatic nitro compounds, or of non-explosive combustible substances like sulphur, charcoal, flour, sugar, or oil and by incombustible substances such as zinc, cadmium, and copper. Ammonium nitrate is not very flammable at atmospheric temperatures, and is considered an incombustible salt. However, when undergoing decomposition it is accompanied by a series of thermal chemical changes involving heat-absorbing (endothermic, - 41,3000 calories) and subsequent heat evolving (exothermic, + 51,000 calories) reaction and when subjected to temperature of 350 F to 390 F rapid decomposition occurs with production of a whole series of toxic oxides-of-nitrogen gasses (N2O, NO2, N2O2, N2O3 and N2O4) evidenced by brown to orange-reddish fumes. The progressive acceleration of successive changes may result in the production of temperatures as high as 2700 F with pressures of 160,000 pounds per square inch. One initial reaction at more moderate temperatures results in the formation of oxygen, nitrogen and steam, promoting self sustained combustion (reducing the effectiveness of the smothering action of steam.) Ammonium nitrate is possessed of deliquescent or hygroscopic (moisture absorption) properties to the extent that the individual salt grains become cemented, through this moisture pickup, and form large cake masses from bulk material in storage. To permit safer, prolonged storage (particularly in humid climate), and promote the maintenance of loose bulk and free-flowing product for the use in agricultural implements (drills or distributors), certain conditioning agents such as parting dust and water repellent coatings are being admixed. End of World War I brought about such coating agents as petrolatum, parafin, resin and Gilsonite (asphalt material). The addition of small amounts of various dust (Kaolin, Kieselguhr, Plaster of Paris, Soapstone, ect.) to minimize caking has long been practiced in the explosive industry and is now being adapted for fertilizer conditioning. Large grains of rounded granules tend to decrease the explosibility and it might be noted that the United States Department of Agriculture does not consider ammonium nitrate as explosive when stored in wooden containers or paper bags as long as they are segregated from other explosives. It should be remembered that the use of certain organic substances named above as anti-caking or anti-cementing, they may also act in some respects like a fuse and increase the possibilities of spontaneous combustion. The addition of other substances like super-phosphate and ammonium sulfate may act in the same way. It is especially dangerous if ammonium nitrate decomposes at a temperature less than 212 F., because of the formation of ammonia and nitric acid. Nitric acid may sensitize this compound to thermal and mechanical shock more readily. There are three important factors which seem to control the thermal decomposition and possible explosion of ammonium nitrate - one is temperature, the second one is crystal structure and the third a trace of impurities or extraneous matter. Other factors include detonation, density, packing, particle, size and moisture content. Uniformity of blending and coating of the non-caking addition agent may also be of particular concern. Ammonium Nitrate Involved In Texas City Explosion The ammonium nitrate involved in this explosion was brown in color and in small pellets or grains about the size of medium grains of sand. It was packed in six-ply moisture proof paper bags two of which were impregnated with some material, apparently an asphaltic compound. Below is reproduced the printing with the letters shown in relative sizes as they appear on the bag. FERTILIZER (Ammonium Nitrate) 32.5% Nitrogen 100 lbs. Net 101.5 lbs. Gross 1.6 cu. ft Made in U. S. A. The original source is not known but is believed to have been one of the mid-western Army ordnance plants since similar bags with identical lettering were shipped by such a plant. Bags of ammonium nitrate, observed elsewhere, manufactured by private plants indicate the name of the company and its point of manufacture. Analysis of the ammonium nitrate was not completed in sufficient time to be embodied in this report but will be contained in a forthcoming bulletin to be issued by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Explosion Incidents: (1) 1918 - Morgan, N. J.: Fire broke out in the amatol loading plant where over 30,000,000 lbs. of explosives were stored in magazines and loaded in shells. Upwards of 9,000,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate were involved. Craters 150'x140'x20' were formed. Other quantities of ammonium nitrate stored at other sites within this area did not detonate or explode, although exposed to fire and shock. (2) 1921 - Oppau, Germany: An enormous pile (4,500 tons) of ammonium sulfonitrate (ammonium nitrate - ammonium sulfate) fertilizer salt was detonated apparently by blasting charges, though blasting had been done many times previously, 450 lives were lost, more than 700 homes destroyed, the buildings housing the plant disappeared entirely - with a mammoth crater 250 ft. in diameter and more than 50 ft. deep - the shock was felt 150 miles away - cause of the explosion was undetermined. (3) 1924 - Nixon, N. J.: Ammonium nitrate was being recovered from military explosives for its fertilizer value, when a disastrous explosion and fire took place in a works recovering the material from 'amatol' an explosive consisting of 80% ammonium nitrate and 20% TNT. (4) 1925 (April 4 and May 3): Two carloads of ammonium nitrate from Muscle Shoals were destroyed by fire while in transportation. Each car contained 220 barrels of the material - packed in new flour barrels (manila paper lined). These barrels, with their contents, had been standing in the warehouses for some 6 years, therefore, exposed to varying changes in humidity. The barrel staves were believed to be well impregnated with ammonium nitrate, and it was thought that the fire may have been initiated by friction of the niter-impregnated staves upon one another. It was also reported that other shipments came through successfully. THE DISASTER CITY IN GENERAL The City Of Texas City located 10 miles north of Galveston on Galveston Bay and with deep water (32-35 feet) access to the Gulf of Mexico had a population of approximately 20,000. It is chiefly a manufacturing community with two large chemical plants, three large oil refineries, oil tank farms and a concentrated dock area for both general cargo and petroleum products. These plants drew employees from numerous nearby communities and the City of Galveston in addition to those residing in Texas City. During the late war, its plants were of considerable importance particularly that of Monsanto Chemical Co., a large producer of styrene, a material used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber. The topography is general level and only a few feet above sea level. Weather conditions at the time of the first explosion 9:12 A.M. April 16, 1947, as obtained from the U.S. Weather Bureau located at Galveston 10 miles distant, indicated a wind from N.N.W. at 20 miles per hour, temperature 56 degrees, and barometric pressure 30.07 inches. Practically the same weather conditions prevailed at 1:10 A.M. April 17, 1947 when the S.S. HIGH FLYER exploded. Wind from the N.N.W. and cool weather is unusual for this area this late in the year but proved very helpful in driving smoke and gasses away from the city and permitted accelerated rescue operations. THE EXPLOSIONS First Explosion - S.S. GRANDCAMP. The S.S. GRANDCAMP, a former Liberty ship of 7176 tons about 437 feet long was owned by the French Government. It was berthed at Warehouse (Pier) "O" as shown on figures 3, 5, 6 and 7 opposite the Monsanto Chemical Co., plant. The ship had previously loaded considerable oil field machinery, drill stems, about 200 tons of peanuts at Houston and a large quantity of sisal twine in balls (amount unknown). Loading at Texas City consisted principally of ammonium nitrate, which was stored in the two east sections of Warehouse (Pier) "O" along with sacked flour and rolls of wire fencing in the west section. The stevedores had been ordered to report for loading at 8 A.M. instead of the usual hour of 7 A.M. but why this later hour was specified is not known. The fact that the loading operations started later than usual probably delayed the explosion and saved many lives in the Monsanto plant since shifts change at the plant at 8 A.M. It has been stated by one of the stevedores that it took about 10 minutes to remove the hatch from No. 4 Hold preparatory to begin loading operations. He descended into the hold, which contained part of the 2300-ton cargo of ammonium nitrate previously loaded at this port; to receive cargo when to odor of smoke was noticed. He immediately began to examine the material in an attempt to locate the fire. The source proved to be alongside the hull in the space formed by sweat boards installed to prevent damage to cargo from condensation on the interior of the ship. This is more or less common practice on ships where the cargo is bulky and subject to damage from moisture. Unable to locate the seat of the fire, he removed several tiers of bags to obtain a better view and could readily see that the cargo was on fire. Calling for water, a container was lowered and thrown and a second container was lowered and thrown on the fire without appreciable effect; a soda-acid extinguisher was next tried to no avail. A hose line was called for but before one could be obtained and used, someone gave orders not to apply water, as the cargo would be damaged. It has been reported but without confirmation that steam was used in an attempt to extinguish the fire. About this time (estimated to be 8:30 A.M. by witnesses who left the area and survived) the stevedores were ordered to abandon ship. The orders were carried out promptly and all left the area and survived. It is reliably reported that the ship's captain also issued orders sometime during this period to abandon ship. The crew abandoned but the majority of them remained in the vicinity and were lost. It is known that only 7 of the entire crew survived the explosion. It is reliably that No. 2 Hold also contained ammonium nitrate but no fire is known to have existed in this section. Several cases of ammunition, a portion of which is known to have been for small arms was loaded in No. 5 Hold. Attempt was made by the stevedores to remove this cargo and a portion had been carried out when the abandon ship order was given. The character of the remaining ammunition is not known but no evidence points to this cargo as contributing to the explosion. The story of the fire department operations prior to the explosion is somewhat meager as all firemen on the dock (26) at the time were killed and all equipment destroyed (4 pieces). The alarm was received by telephone at about 8:30 A.M. (no record was kept but several persons verified the time). Two trucks responded with paid driver and volunteers responded both to the ship and the fire station. The two remaining trucks responded subsequently. One of the officers of the S.S. HIGH FLYER berthed in the Main Slip succeeded in obtaining a number of photographs and returned to his ship (See Fig.10). It is from these photographs that a part of the story can be told. All of these photographs were taken between 8:37 and 8:50 A.M. and show lines being laid and at least one stream being used from the dock. Another line is in evidence on the gangplank so the conclusion can be drawn that at least one line was in use on deck. All witnesses to the fire stated that the color of smoke issuing from the burning ship was quite dense and reddish-orange in color. It is very evident in the photograph of the ship taken about 8:45 A.M. (See Fig.10). This reddish-orange color is typical of oxides-of-nitrogen smoke or fumes. A reliable source stated that the hull of the ship was sufficiently hot at 9 A.M., 12 minutes before the blast, to vaporize water the water flowing from the deck. The time of origin of the fire and the cause will probably never be known. The hatch on No. 4 Hold had been battened down since the previous days loading and it is possible that the fire had been smoldering for some time. It is also possible that fire had been introduced into this Hold shortly after the hatch was removed, perhaps by a cigarette, but it is doubtful whether enough time had elapsed from the time the hatch was open until the fire became evident even though the fuel was an oxidizing chemical in six-ply heavy paper bags. It is probable that it could have been extinguished in its incipiency had water in large quantities been used. Once the fire made headway, the fact that the cargo was ammonium nitrate in combustible bags cause the extremely rapid spread. At 9:12 A.M. April 16,1947 the S.S. GRANDCAMP exploded with great violence. Numerous witnesses testify to the fact that a second explosion followed not more than 5 seconds later. Some witnesses state a third and much less severe explosion followed but at somewhat longer interval. Two distinct shocks followed by sound some time later were easily felt in Galveston, 10 miles distant. The shocks there were of sufficient intensity to shatter several plate glass windows and shake building over a wide area. Reliable reports indicate shocks and broken plate glass in Baytown, 25 miles distant. It is significant that both of the cities are located on land bordering Galveston Bay and the shocks were probably transmitted through water. An immense tidal wave, known to be more than 15 feet high, was created by the blast and caused water to flow over a considerable area in the immediate vicinity of the explosion. There is evidence throughout the Monsanto Chemical Co. property and the north dock area of this wall of water. An oil barge (See Figs. 28, 29) 150 feet in length, 28 feet wide and 11 feet deep was lifted from the north Slip carried about two hundred feet and dropped. It is clear that this was the result of the wave as there is no evidence that the barge was dropped with any force. It is practically undamaged except for minor holes in the starboard side from flying steel fragments. Second Explosion - S.S. HIGH FLYER. The S.S. HIGH FLYER was owned and operated by Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., Inc. It was a modern C-2 (modified type) and one of the newer ships of the company. The cargo was 2000 tons of sulfur loaded at Galveston, 961 tons of ammonium nitrate in paper bags loaded at Warehouse (Pier) "O" in Texas City. At the time of the explosion of the S.S. GRANDCAMP it was berthed in the Main Slip alongside Warehouse (Pier) "A". (See Figs. 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7). A cargo of knocked-down boxcars was being loaded. The ships turbines were down for repair making it impossible for the ship to move without the aid of tugs. Berthed about opposite this ship on the south side of the Main Slip alongside Warehouse (Pier) "B" was the S.S.WILSON B KEENE of the Lykes Bros. Steamship Co., Inc., engaged in loading sacked flour. This was a Liberty Ship, 441 ft. long with a gross tonnage of 6214. The explosion of the S.S. GRANDCAMP tore the S.S. HIGH FLYER loose from its moorings and across the slip to the side of the S.S. WILSON B. KEENE at the same time the stern anchor broke loose and secured the ship in this location. All crewmembers abandoned ship immediately and most left the area. It is not known when or in what manner the ammonium nitrate became ignited. From information available it is understood that tugs with volunteer crews from Galveston arrived in the early afternoon and attempted to move the ship but were unsuccessful due to entanglements between the two ships and the stern anchor of the S.S. HIGH FLYER. After several attempts the tugs abandoned their efforts and retired. Again about 10 or 11 P.M. tugs from Galveston with volunteer crews arrived and attempted to move the vessel. The ship was freed of the S.S. WILSON B. KEENE but was held in place by the stern anchor, which caused the hawser on the tug to snap. It is reported that the anchor chain was finally severed or that the chain was pulled loose when a larger hawser was attached to the ship and some progress was being made. As the S.S. HIGH FLYER drew clear of the S.S. WILSON B. KEENE and about 100 feet away from Warehouse (Pier) "B" and at a point about midway out of the slip the explosion occurred, (See Figs. 3, 5, 6, 7 and 12). Time 1:12 A.M., April 18, 1947. Practically everyone had been cleared of the area and it is reported that only a few people were killed or injured, including several injured aboard the tug. It is practically impossible to segregate the damage caused by the explosion of the S.S. GEANDCAMP first and the S.S. HIGH FLYER second, but from reliable witnesses it is know that the complete collapse of Warehouse (Pier) "A" was caused by the second explosion. Warehouse (Pier) "B" which was damaged by the first explosion was still standing and fairly intact but after the second explosion all had collapsed except a small portion of the first floor on the west end. The grain elevators and grain tanks were slightly damaged by the first explosion but holes were blown in the east tanks and the elevator section was badly damaged in the second explosion. Damage elsewhere was overlapping and it is difficult if not impossible to segregate the loss resulting from each explosion. DESTRUCTION Since the major destruction was caused in a small number of industrial plants, each will be covered separately as will the damage to the business and residential areas and to the automobiles. MONSANTO CHEMICAL COMPANY In the early stages of World War II, the site of the old Texas Sugar Refining Co., was acquired by the government and Monsanto Chemical Co., constructed and operated a large modern styrene plant for Rubber Reserve Corp. The plant supplied a large portion of the styrene used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber and prior to the explosion a portion of their output (polystyrene) was being used in the manufacture of plastics by other concerns. Raw material was received by rail and finished product shipped in the same manner. The original sugar plant buildings were being used as storage space, a new polystyrene plant, offices, machine shop, and boiler house (See Figs. 2, 11, 23, and 24). The Defense Plant Corporation had constructed a styrene plant located adjoining and to the north of this area. (See Figs. 2 and 37). The Styrene Area consisted of Pump House, Dehydrogenation Unit, Distillation Area, Propane Cracking Unit, Alkylation Unit, Ethylene Area, Propane Tanks, Styrene Tanks and Benzol Storage. Numerous small process tanks and buildings were scattered throughout the area. No attempt has been made to evaluate the damage to the individual buildings or unite, however, a general estimate of the extent of loss to these areas is apparent from a close visual inspection. PUMP HOUSE: The pump house building (fireproof construction) suffered considerable damage to the north and south walls form the explosion but motors and pumps are apparently undamaged. It is possible that some piping may be broken. STEAM BOILERS: These units in the open, just north of the Dehydrogenation Unit, had only minor damage from flying fragments. DEHYDROGENATION UNIT: The Control House, which extends through the center of the unit, shows heavy damage. All instruments are wrecked and the brick walls are cracked. The steam super heaters are apparently undamaged except for broken lines and small damage from flying fragments, there was practically no fire in this area. DISTILLATION AREA: Destruction in this area is difficult to determine due to its construction. Practically all tanks are burned and fire was still in evidence in the two tower clusters as late as April 19, 1947. Both control houses are badly damaged primarily by blast effect. Tanks to the north of this unit were heavily damaged by fire and control house in the unit is badly wrecked. There is no apparent damage to the underground storage tanks. ETHYLENE AREA: The two heaters appear to be slightly damaged by fire and there is some damage from the blast. Gas Compressor building suffered heavily but compressors appear to be in good condition. There appears to have been only a small amount of fire in this building. The two-fractionation units appear to be a total loss; towers are warped and leaning and the area experienced considerable fire. BENZOL STORAGE: The two 11,600 lb benzol tanks are a total loss. The north tank burned for 7 days before burning out. STYRENE STORAGE AND LOADING DOCKS: The entire area along with the fuel oil tank is a total loss. The 8 propane tanks suffered some fire damage, but except for dents caused by flying fragments appear in fair condition. Only a close examination will disclose their actual condition. LABORATORY SERVICE AND OFFICE BUILDINGS: These brick and steel buildings were heavily damaged by blast. The Laboratory is a total loss and the interior of the Service Building is completely wrecked. OLD SUGAR REFINING BUILDINGS: This group of brick and steel buildings which housed the polystyrene plant, machine shop, various warehouses and boiler house bore the brunt of the explosion and were so severely wrecked as to be considered a total loss. The Polystyrene Warehouse and the Equipment Storage section have disappeared except for scattered rubble. The dock extending alongside has vanished. GENERAL: The wave of water thrown up by the explosion of the S.S. GRANDCAMP swept across the entire plant premises leaving a layer of oil and styrene over most of the area. All instruments and instrument control lines were broken. Numerous pipelines throughout the area were broken allowing material in process to escape and burn. Flying fragments from the ship pierced tanks and buildings causing leakage of contents and fire. From an inspection of the area and a study of photographs, there is no evidence of an explosion anywhere in the plant area.