LEAD IN ITS WINGS
Unlike the Chernobyl catastrophe of 1986 which was easy to shrug off as a faraway Soviet disaster with only “minor fallout impacts”, by political deciders and government-friendly media in the most extremely nuclear-committed Western democracies, especially France, the March 2011 Fukushima disaster is a paradigm changer. Germany and Switzerland now have official plans to exit and abandon nuclear power within 10 years; Italy voted 95 percent against a restart of its nuclear programme, already abandoned by a previous national referendum in 1987. Japanese opinion polls presently show that as many as 75 percent of Japanese want to exit nuclear power.
Rearguard action by the most-entrenched nuclear elites and their tame media, notably in France try to present Germany’s May 30th official announcement of its nuclear exist strategy as not only “irrational” but “treachery” in the sacred task of fighting climate change. This mission, which no longer persuades or motivates the majority of citizens in most countries due to its junk-science background, has itself slipped down the list of claims used by nuclear elites to justify their high cost and extreme high risk business. Due to Fukushima, the nuclear industry has re-centered its propaganda on the supposed “energy independence” conferred by the atom in a desperate quest to maintain sales.
LOST AND GONE
The sheer arrogance of claims by remaining nuclear diehards in France, the USA, UK and a very few other countries likely results from Herd Fear in the state-protected and subsidy-swilling nuclear sector that they have lost their gamble: the general public was not stupid enough, long enough to swallow their poison pill. The more extreme nuclear elites, concentrated in France have even worked the theme, in their tame media outlets that not loving nuclear power is an irrational mass fear, proven by anti-nuclear protest marches in Germany with a “semi-fascist” flavour, like Nazi mass rallies of the 1930s.
The basic problem for the molly-coddled and secretive nuclear elites and their paid apologists is they have now lost almost all and any market potential for their dangerous and unreliable wares in OECD countries and Western democracies. Wherever there is democracy, making nuclear power stick is difficult – because in democracies and from time to time, public opinion triumphs. Their only market strategy to gouge sales is now to focus the emerging and developing countries, where more “virile and muscular” political and corporate elites, or plain old dictators and absolute monarchs will soldier along with the so-called only solution of nuclear power. Until of course they experience their own nuclear disasters and spread toxic radiation and cancer death to neighbouring countries, and the world.
Probable or possible new entrant countries to nuclear power in the 2010-2020 period include lurid cases where nuclear catastrophe would be almost certain, if they went ahead. Proudly announced by nuclear boomers and promoters led by the World Nuclear Association (WNA – formerly called The Uranium Institute) these candidate countries include Kazakhstan, Mongolia, South Africa, Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Indonesia, Venezuela, Poland and others. Arab world nuclear power buyers already include the three Gulf Cooperation Council petromonarchies Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait. Elsewhere in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, probable or possible candidate countries – until the start of the Arab spring revolt – included Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Algeria. WNA web sites do not tell us what happens to large sized power reactors when one or other of these countries melts down in civil war – but reactor meltdown is a very sure or almost certain likely spinoff.
DR STRANGELOVE DREAMS ON
The geopolitical risks and dangers of this “nuclear wishlist” dating from as recently as late 2010, can be rapidly glimpsed by simply striking out the countries, in this list, which are now in the “impossible” category. Put another way, we could play with the idea of how the Libyan civil war would be playing out today, if Gaddafi’s Libya had purchased and built a French-supplied Fukushima-sized nuclear reactor. We can also try that idea for Sudan, now in the process of breaking apart into two countries, with rising risks of this triggering a bitter and possibly long civil war, able to spill over to neighboring Somalia and possibly Egypt and other neighbor countries.
The three GCC petromonarchies with autocratic and anti-democratic regimes surely have all the petrodollars needed to buy large-sized multi-reactor nuclear complexes – supposedly 16 in the case of Saudi Arabia – like Colonel Gaddafi had. Their apparent stability is however just that: apparent. Saudi troops, at this time, continue to gun down and beat to death unarmed democracy protestors in Bahrain, while Kuwait hangs them in public. This war criminal behavioururur is no different from the action by thugs and killers “defending” Bachr al Assad’s police state regime in Syria or Saleh’s corrupt and despotic regime in Yemen.
In the Gulf region, it is more than an open secret that Saudi interests in nuclear power extend far beyond producing electricity or desalinating water – and feature its rivalry with nuclear Iran. If not able to make weapons using civil nuclear power technology and radioactive materials, Saudi Arabia will at least have the “comfort” of a dissuasive and massive Dirty Bomb stationed inside its borders. The same reasoning is attributed to Kuwaiti and Emirati leaders, also menaced by Iran’s political expansion as the USA and its European allies abandon their criminal war in Afghanistan and tiptoe away from the Middle East at accelerating speed.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak had to count on other financing sources, than petrodollars, for his nuclear pipedreams, suspected by many observers as a disguised weapons programme to rival Israel’s “secret” nuclear weapons. Similar arguments apply to Jordan. Other “wishlist countries” and “wishlist engineering projects” for the world’s now fragile and destabilized nuclear and corporate elites – concentrated only in the big-5 supplier countries USA, France, Japan, South Korea and UK – will create risks that if anything are yet more massive for global environmental, economic and military security.
The frenetic attempt by the nuclear cancer-and-weapons industry to keep itself alive, when it has no remaining credibility and is rejected wherever and whenever people can vote against it, very likely explains the grotesque security risks this secretive and corrupting industry is prepared to have us all run. Not content with ruining the present day it seeks to do that for long decades into the future – even long after this sick and useless industry bites the dust, proving its entire irresponsibility.
DR STRANGELOVE KEEPS MINING
Burrowing frenetically for its depleting fossil fuel – uranium – the supposed “green and clean” nuclear industry creates massive environmental damage anywhere it can produce its fuel. To be sure this especially focuses low wage nations in Africa and Central Asia, with corrupt and usually dictatorial governments, and zero concern for miners’ safety or the environment. Grovelling in poverty, untrained and flimsily protected miners work in uranium dust to supply the “clean green fuel” for middle class consumers of the nuclear nations – so hypocritically anxious and falsely concerned about the environment and climate, at weekends and leisure moments.
In the majority of cases, reactor building projects include an obligation for the construction companies to supply start-up fuel, and downstream fuel needs for a certain time ahead. Uranium production, stocks, supply and pricing are therefore a key part of the nuclear industry strategy to keep supplying their dirty and dangerous wares, pollute the planet with radiation and with chemically toxic wastes, and corrupt the governments of any and all participating players.
Despite the frenzy of mining projects, world reactor fuel demand at about 65 000 tons a year far outstrips mine output of about 55 000 tons a year: we could play with the question of what price oil traders would bid up the barrel price, if world oil supply was 20 percent less than demand ! Showing the nuclear industry is a fake, this permanent supply shortage has no real impact on uranium prices and is claimed to be made-up and covered by a range of Strangelove Fuels. These include MOX fuel, almost exclusively produced by France’s Areva, which mixes and mingles plutonium and other ultra-dangerous residues and wastes, with uranium tailings and wastes, to “stretch” the supply, and turn a buck. Other hyper-dangerous fixes include the US-Russian Megatons to Megawatts program for recycling weapons-grade nuclear materials from surplus A-bombs, mix it with wastes, and produce a dangerous and vastly toxic reactor fuel, similar to MOX.
This does not cover the gap in supply, and in Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Niger and Namibia uranium mine expansion, upgrading, and development programs, is under way – at high cost. Exploration and development activity focuses a range of “exotic” countries, mostly in Africa. In most cases these are large scale high cost operations with long lead times, before supply starts. Consequently, because this is the nuclear industry and corruption-based, many of these projects are fragile corporate finance strategies that can or may collapse overnight – or in the case of exploration and development, never go beyond the stage of paper concessions on maps waved in front of financial players.
END OF EMPIRE
The corrupt and corrupting nuclear elites are part and parcel of the political-corporate kleptocracy that through its own fault, greed and incompetence has created the endless finance and debt crisis we have today. Nuclear power can only fall, with the kleptocracy that protects it, but before doing so it is likely we will need further nuclear disasters – called “accidents” by corporate-controlled world media.
These disasters can be caused by human error, ageing plant and equipment, sabotage and terrorist attack on nuclear installations, cyber attack on plant control and cooling systems, theft and utilisation of nuclear wastes to make dirty bombs, and natural disasters such as flood, drought, temperature extremes, volcanoes and earthquakes. The nuclear industry has full knowledge of the extreme risks it forces all persons to accept, by default and with the protection of corrupt political and corporate leaderships.
Of one thing we could be hopeful: the next nuclear disaster will seal the fate of this sick and dangerous industry whose disaster risks are so high no insurer, anywhere, will provide full cover. Public reaction and response to the next disaster will almost certainly be far more muscular than the present – and mounting – determination of responsible citizens and action groups in all countries, to remove this permanent threat to human society and the environment – before it is too late.
Public action will by necessity have to engage long-term and high cost action to fully neutralize the nuclear menace. This in turn will need permanent and powerful agencies charged with the task of dismantling and decommissioning reactors and safely disposing of all nuclear materials, due to the certainty that current-generation nuclear business players will merely declare themselves bankrupt, offer “sincere apologies” in government-friendly media, and try to disappear from the scene. These players – that is criminals – will need to be pursued, placed on trial and punished in the same way as any other high level and dangerous criminal organizations.
By Andrew McKillop