Thursday, 21 September 2017

Mrs May's multilateral sleight of the nuclear hand


Letter sent to The Times:

 I was intrigued to note in your report of Mrs May's address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York ( "Talking tough: what Theresa May said at the UN summit, " The Times, September  21; ) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/talking-tough-at-the-un-w2vldnvxsthat she chose to illustrate the merits of multilateral cooperation over nationalist going-it-alone ( as championed by US President Trump),  by citing the 190-member state nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty (NPT).

 In a writen Parliamentary answer to Labour back bench MP Kelvin Hopkins on 30 January this year the Prime Minister said: "The UK Government remains determined to continue with partners across the international community to prevent proliferation and to make progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament." (Question 61754)


 Yet on18 July this year in another written answer to Mr Hopkins ( a vice chair of Parliamentary CND), foreign minister Sir  Alan Duncan admitted that no British nuclear warheads have been removed from deployment as a result of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations under the auspices of the NPT. (Question 5947).


Although he also insisted an unspecified number have unilaterally withdrawn.


 As the NPT - which was co-drafted by the UK, with the United States and Soviet Union in 1968 and has been in force since 1970 -  legally requires all signatory states to enter into negotiations in good faith to bring about complete nuclear disarmament at an early date ( under NPT article 6) the UK under successive governments has been in breech of this multilateral treaty for over 47 years.


 What kind of message does that send from the UK lecturing other countries' leaders from the UN podium on the important merits of multilateral accords, conventions  and treaties?

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

US has form on nuclear belligerence in Korea

Letter sent to the Guardian:
 

Your first leader (“A foreign policy doctrine cannot be  just bluster and belligerence, “  20 September; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/19/the-guardian-view-on-trump-at-the-un-bluster-and-belligerence) on President Trump’s bellicose  first address to the United Nations  argues that “ threats and grandstanding are just bluster, not policy.”

 

Your world affairs editor, Julian Borger, elsewhere in the paper (“Dark Rhetoric  leaves menace hanging in the air,” Analysis; https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/19/donald-trump-un-speech-analysis-north-korea)  reports North Korean president Kim Jong-un and his regime “expect to be targeted by a ‘decapitation strike’.”

 

Nearly 67 years ago, an earlier US President made similarly menacing threats of atomic annihilation over the long diplomatic dispute in the Korean peninsula.

 

"On 30 November 1950, five months after the Korean War broke out, US President Harry S. Truman presided over a chilling press conference in the Indian Treaty Room in the Executive Office Building at the White House, in which he nakedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against the advancing Chinese troops in North Korea.

 

Truman told the press corps "We will take whatever steps are necessary to meet the military situation, just as we always have." Asked to clarify whether that would "include the atomic bomb?" he responded bluntly "That includes every weapon that we have. ..There has always been active consideration of its use." (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13673



A White House statement later that day added "Consideration of the use of any weapon is always implicit in the very possession of that weapon." (ibid)

When will the world learn nuclear weapons are not playthings with which to  pay  games of “atomic chicken”?

Caroline Lucas MP and others (letter, 20 September; www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/19/sign-up-to-the-un-ban-on-nuclear-weapons) who argue the importance of the Nuclear Weapons Ban multilateral treaty – backed by 122 states - opened for signature on 20 September are absolutely right.

In an international twitter webinar last week ( how the foreign office has modernized under Boris!) , the UK ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft, said in response to a questions asking about the UK’s approach to the treaty, said Britain backed nuclear disarmament, but not yet.

Just as successive British governments have said since the UK became one of three depositary states for the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) - whose article 6 requires all signatory states to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith and at an early date – nearly fifty years ago in 1968!

 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Trump threatens total atomic annihilation of North Korea before dozens of diplomats at UN

In the most chilling speech by any Head of State to the United Nations annual General Assembly since the height of the cold war nuclear stand-off in th 1 950s, US President Donald Trump told the diplomatic delegates in New York if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, "we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,". ("Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy’ North Korea;"  THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 September 2017; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/world/americas/united-nations-general-assembly.html; "A l’ONU, Trump cible la Corée du Nord, l’Iran et le Venezuela," Les Echos, 19 Setiembre 2017; www.lesechos.fr/monde/etats-unis/030585572273-trump-cible-la-coree-du-nord-liran-et-le-venezuela-2115462.php#xtor=EPR-8-%5B18_heures%5D-20170919-%5BProv_paywall%5D-2034229)
 
He denounced North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, saying the nation "threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of life" as a result of its nuclear weapons program. "If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph,"he menacingly added. President Trump emphasized that it was against the interest of the entire world for North Korea — which he called a "band of criminals" — to obtain missiles and nuclear weapons. "Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself," he insisted in colourful rhetoric speaking of his nuclear nemesis, Kim Jong-un.


Nearly 67 years ago, an earlier US President made similarly menacing threats of atomic annihilation over the long diplomatic dispute in the Korean peninsula. As I recalled in my unpublished letter to The New York Times, published in my blog "Nuclear negotiator Trump," ( 5 September 2017, http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/nuclear-negotiator-trump.html):


"On 30 November 1950, five months after the Korean War broke out, US President Harry S. Truman presided over a chilling press conference in the Indian Treaty Room in the Executive Office Building at the White House, in which he nakedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against the advancing Chinese troops in North Korea.

 


Truman told the press corps "We will take whatever steps are necessary to meet the military situation, just as we always have." Asked to clarify whether that would "include the atomic bomb?" he responded bluntly "That includes every weapon that we have. ..There has always been active consideration of its use." (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13673








A White House statement later that day added "Consideration of the use of any weapon is always implicit in the very possession of that weapon." (ibid)


This demonstrates the US has historical form in threating use of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula to halt a diplomatic dispute

President Trump thanked Russia and China for supporting recent UN sanctions on North Korea, but then barely obliquely attacked them for continuing to do business with President Kim. "It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world," the President stressed.

The president insisted that the US would act alone if neede be, emphasizing the "America first" agenda he had used in his Presidential Election campaign, asserting that the United States would "forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies," but, as President, his primary responsibility was to American citizens.

He added to the diplomatic unease in the UN by next calling the Iran nuclear deal – the multilateral agreement between the UN Permanent Five security council Members and Germany, backed by the EU, and a pride of his predecessor, President Obama’s second term of office- ’"an embarrassment" that is "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."

President Trump rhetorically insisted: "It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction," he said.

However, the international community’s multilateral nuclear inspectors from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna- which is holding its own General Conference this week- declared at the end of last month that they had found no evidence that Iran is breaching the agreement. (IAEA Board Report: Verification and Monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in Light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), 31 August 2017; https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/gov2017-35.pdf)


This confidence in verification was re-inforced as dozens of diplomats from EU states wrote to the Trump Administration urging the President to certify the US’s own confidence of Iran’s compliance with the agreement

("More than 70 top European officials urge the U.S. to re-certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal; Los Angeles times, 18 September 2017; www.latimes.com/world/la-un-general-assembly-live-updates-over-70-senior-europeans-urge-united-1505768115-htmlstory.html)

A meeting of the P5 plus Germany is due to take place on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday. On the same day the UN’s own Treaty banning nuclear weapons (http://www.icanw.org/the-treaty/)- backed by 122 states in the negotiating phase- is due to be opened for signature by member states of the United Nations.



Campaigners from many peace groups will deliver thousands of letters to Downing Street on Wednesday calling on Theresa May to sign the ban treaty. Dr Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, has explained why:
 
"The anti-nuclear weapons movement across the world has been working towards this day for decades. The earliest CND placards called on our leaders to ban the bomb and abolish all nuclear weapons.
 
"As a result of that sustained campaign, and tireless efforts from the states that have brought this to fruition, a ban treaty will be launched at the United Nations this week In these turbulent times - when there is a real possibility of nuclear war - it is very inspiring to see the international community - the majority of world states - taking matters into their own hands to make progress on building a nuclear free world. That's why it's absolutely vital that Britain backs this multilateral attempt to kick start nuclear disarmament. We must not turn our backs on the world on this historic day."





Both the US and Britain (whose Ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said last week in a twitter exchange that the UK does back nuclear disarmament, but not yet!) have already made clear they refuse to sign, instead arguing the merits for themselves of possessing the very nuclear weapons they insist North Korea nor Iran should not possess, under threat of atomic annihilation!
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Nuclear cheerleaders' fake news


Your incisive editorial (“The Guardian view of offshore wind: cheaper and greener,” 14 September; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/13/the-guardian-view-of-offshore-wind-cheaper-and-greener) makes many strong points, not least highlighting the exigencies of  potential security compromises and terrorism vulnerabilities of the planned new  nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point.

But there is a fatal flaw in the arguments you set out, which merits challenge. The Editorial asserts: “Nuclear power has a trump card: it is a zero-carbon technology which delivers a continuous, uninterrupted supply.”
This is demonstrably untrue.
On the latter point, you only have to consult published the operating record of nuclear reactors to see this is an unsustainable claim. All reactors have  lengthy planned outages (shut downs) for operational reasons; some have significant unplanned outages due to operational failures; and in the extreme case of  post-accident safety prudence, such as in Japan, their  54 reactors were all closed for years ( nearly 50 still are closed) after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, and become hugely expensive “stranded assets.”
On the former point on  alleged zero carbon status of nuclear plants, you repeat a similarly erroneous assertion made in your editorial of  I October 2005 (“Pre-empting debate,”) where you wrote: “The big advantage of nuclear generation is that it does not produce environmentally degrading emissions in the way that fossil fuel generation does."
You kindly printed my response to this assertion (“There is nothing green about Blair's nuclear dream: to assess the industry's environmental impact, we must look at the whole fuel cycle (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2005/oct/20/greenpolitics.world) in which I set out in some detail the various ways the  carbon footprint of nuclear power is substantial, if the whole ‘cradle-to-grave nuclear fuel chain ( ie uranium mining, milling, enrichment, fuel production, in-reactor fuel irradiation, storage and ultimate final long term management), is properly calculated.
I pointed out then that  nuclear industry proponents, such as those  gathered at this week’s World Nuclear Association  jamboree in London, are fond  of spreading deliberate fake news such as  describing nuclear energy as "non-carbon emitting."
It is about time this  dangerously misleading falsehood was confined to the dustbin of history.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Nuclear negotiator Trump

Letter submitted to The Times newspaper:

Your  first leader (“Rogue State”, The Times, 5 September; www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/rogue-state-9jphc8h7j) is right to point out the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  declared North Korea in the 1990s to be in violation of its Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty (NPT) obligations.

The United States (and UK, Russia, China and France) are all very much more in violation of the obligation under NPT article 6 each country has to “negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith at an early date.” This commitment was entered into in 1968, so the ‘early date’ is surely well passed.

On 30 November 1950, five months after the Korean War broke out, US President Harry S. Truman presided over a chilling press conference in the Indian Treaty Room in the Executive Office Building at the White House, in which he  nakedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against the advancing Chinese troops in North Korea.

Truman told the press corps “We will take whatever steps are necessary to meet the military situation, just as we always have.” Asked to clarify whether that would  “include the atomic bomb?” he responded bluntly “That includes every weapon that we have. ..There has always been active consideration of its use.”

A White House statement later that day added "Consideration of the use of any weapon is always implicit in the very possession of that weapon.” (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=13673)

This caused a furor in Washington, and in many capital cities worldwide.

On 15 November 1984, the then 37 year old  property dealer Donald Trump  gave an interview  to the Washington  Post, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1984/11/15/donald-trump-holding-all-the-cards-the-tower-the-team-the-money-the-future/8be79254-7793-4812-a153-f2b88e81fa54/?utm_term=.8163f7b18298)  in which, out of the blue - amidst talking about being a successful business man, the deal-maker Trump told his interviewer he  wanted to talk about the threat of nuclear war, and  how the United States should negotiate over nuclear weapons. He proposed himself as the negotiator.

He said hitherto he had never acted on his nuclear concerns. "Some people have an ability to negotiate. It's an art you're basically born with. You either have it or you don't."

In a subsequent  published interview three years later with the now defunct magazine, Manhattan Inc (Trump’s Nuclear Experience: In 1987, he set out to solve the world’s biggest problem; www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_spectator/2016/03/trump_s_nuclear_experience_advice_for_reagan_in_1987.html)

Mr Trump surprisingly revealed he had read Deadly Gambits, the sagacious history of the START nuclear reduction talks penned by nuclear negotiator, Strobe Talbott, a former Time magazine senior reporter, now President of the prestigious Brookings Institution think tank in Washington DC.

 

Now as US President Trump, he has the ideal opportunity to demonstrate his  skills over the growing Korean nuclear crisis

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Hero of atomic abolition dies in Marshall Island home

Some people were put on our beautiful blue-green planet to do unqualified good for living creatures and the biosphere. Tony de Brum, who died  earlier this week in his home community on the Pacific Marshall islands, was one such  hero, to whom humanity owes a huge debt:

Tony deBrum, champion of action on climate change and nuclear abolition, dies      
On October 28, 2015, Beyond Nuclear (USA) was honored to be the presenter of the Nuclear-Free Future Award (NFFA) to Tony deBrum, Former Republic of the Marshall Islands Foreign Minister. Tony worked tirelessly to bring the world's attention to the deadly legacy of the  67 U.S. atomic bomb tests over the RMI and became a leading voice in calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Recently, deBrum had helped lead two law suits against nuclear weapons countries. He also played a pivotal role in securing the Paris Climate Accord, and dedicated his recent years to the crisis of climate change, already being felt on his low-lying islands. We are now saddened to report that Minister deBrum, 72, died August 22 at his Majuro home surrounded by family. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, deBrum won the Right Livelihood Award (pictured) in the same year he was honored by the NFFA. The Adam Horowitz film, Nuclear Savage, highlights much of deBrum's investigative work on the horrifying health consequences to Marshall Islanders during the 12 the years of atomic bomb tests there





Tony: ‘A giant of history’
http://marshallislandsjournal.com/Journal_WP/?cat=3

marshallislandsjournal.com
Make the check out to Micronitor for $52 and mail it to The Marshall Islands Journal, PO Box 14, Majuro MH 96960. Be sure to include your email details.




Tony: ‘A giant of history’
HILDA HEINE President   It is with great sadness and a very heavy heart that I announce that the Marshall Islands lost a national hero Tuesday with the passing of our Climate Ambassador and former Minister Tony deBrum. Tony passed away peacefully in Majuro, surrounded by his proud father, as well as his wife





First nuclear legacy conference

http://marshallislandsjournal.com/Journal_WP/?p=4221

marshallislandsjournal.com
Following the traditional annual program commemorating Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day at the Meto Court area in front of the capitol building Wednesday morning, the ...




Clockwise from left are Nuclear Legacy Conference speakers Tony ‘Ton-Ton’ deBrum Kattil, Dr. Neal Palafox, Tony deBrum, Bill Graham, Kenneth Kedi, Glenn Alcalay, Trudy Peterson, and Emlyn Hughes. Photos: Hilary Hosia.Clockwise from left are Nuclear Legacy Conference speakers Tony ‘Ton-Ton’ deBrum Kattil, Dr. Neal Palafox, Tony deBrum, Bill Graham, Kenneth Kedi, Glenn Alcalay, Trudy Peterson, and Emlyn Hughes. Photos: Hilary Hosia. Following the traditional annual program commemorating Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day at the Meto Court area in front of the capitol building Wednesday morning, the RMI’s first ever nuclear legacy conference opened in the afternoon at the International Conference Center. The theme for the conference was “Charting a Journey Toward Justice.”
After an invocation by the Reverend Enja Enos, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk gave welcoming remarks during which he explained that his involvement in dealing with the nuclear legacy began in the 1980s when he worked for Micronesian Legal Services Corporation assisting the people of Enewetak when they were moved back to their atoll from Ujelang.
He said that his experiences at that time taught him that the nuclear weapons testing program had “forever altered our culture.”
Minister Silk shared a personal perspective on the effects of the weapons testing that he has through his grandchildren. Five of them are descendants of the group of Bikinians originally removed from their atoll in 1946 and two are part Enewetakese. He described all of them as “children of the 21st century who are also orphans of the 20th century” and said the fact that they cannot return and live on all of the islands in their atolls “is testimony to the fact that the nuclear legacy is intergenerational for the Marshallese people.”
The conference included speeches by a wide range of experts and people with personal stories. A sample follows. To read the whole Nuclear Legacy Conference report, subscribe to the Journal by emailing us at marshallislandsjournal@gmail.com.
By HILARY HOSIA
Of all the dignitaries attending the first Nuclear Legacy Conference at the International Conference Center last week, including related activities held outside the ICC, the US Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Karen Stewart likely holds the record for attending all the conference events and for staying throughout the duration of each program.
Other notable people at the conference included the following:
Tony “Ton-Ton” deBrum Kattil
The youngest participant in the summit was 8-year old Tony “Ton-Ton” deBrum Kattil, who is related to both Tony deBrum and Charlie Domnick. The third grader brought laughter to the audience with this story: “When jimma (grandfather) Charlie was a small boy in Likep, he didn’t want to gather the leaves, as was the chore in those days. But when the bomb went off, jimma Charlie ran out of the house with no clothes on.”
Following young Tony’s speech, Charles Domnick added: “No one in the world has been exposed twice,” again the audience lit up in laughter as they pictured the scene.
Climate Change Ambassador Tony deBrum, Keynote Address
“We don’t dwell in the past. The Marshallese outrigger canoe does not have a rearview mirror. It’s like when you go fishing and you’re in the middle of the school and tuna is jumping. And you’re still trying to get your lines and your bait and your lures ready. They (tuna) will not wait for you to put your line together.
Things that had happened to us has happened already, and there can be no more waiting time. We need to create a solution at our own pace with the knowledge that we have.
We need to have our advisors, our scientists and our council inspect and advise the government to take a proper step forward.”


‘Anger hasn’t faded in 71 years’

http://marshallislandsjournal.com/Journal_WP/?p=4204

marshallislandsjournal.com
Make the check out to Micronitor for $52 and mail it to The Marshall Islands Journal, PO Box 14, Majuro MH 96960. Be sure to include your email details.








Ejit Elementary School students march in Wednesday’s Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day parade in Majuro. Ejit is one of the homes in exile for Bikini islanders. Photo: Isaac Marty.Ejit Elementary School students march in Wednesday’s Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day parade in Majuro. Ejit is one of the homes in exile for Bikini islanders. Photo: Isaac Marty.
GIFF JOHNSON
“Grief, terror and righteous anger” has not faded for Marshall Islanders despite the passage of 71 years since the first nuclear weapons test at Bikini Atoll, President Hilda Heine told the Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day ceremony Wednesday in Majuro.
The event, that included a parade, ringing of a bell 71 times to mark the years since the first Bikini tests, and speeches, was held at the courtyard of the former RMI capital building in Majuro.
This year’s nuclear test commemoration did not end as usual with the morning program. A three-day “Nuclear Legacy Conference: Charting a Journey Toward Justice” kicked off Wednesday afternoon at the International Conference Center with a keynote address by Ambassador Tony deBrum, and presentations by Marshall Islanders and experts from the US and Japan who traveled to Majuro to attend the conference.
At Wednesday morning’s ceremony, President Heine said the US government had not been honest as to the “extent of radiation and the lingering effects the US Nuclear Weapons Testing Program would have on our lives, ocean and land.”
She pointed out that US government studies kept secret from the Marshall Islands during negotiations on a compensation agreement reached in the 1980s “have now shown that 18 other inhabited atolls or single islands were contaminated by three of the six nuclear bombs tested in Operation Castle, as well as by the Bravo shot in 1954. The myth of only four ‘exposed’ atolls of Bikini, Enewetak, Rongelap and Utrik, has shaped US nuclear policy on the Marshallese people since 1954, which limited medical and scientific follow up, and compensation programs.
As your President, I cannot and will not accept the position of the United States government.”
Heine pointed out that Nitijela adopted into law the National Nuclear Commission to lead efforts for nuclear justice.
US Ambassador Karen Stewart honored islanders who suffered from nuclear testing and said “we will never forget Marshallese who sacrificed for global security.” Speaking about those who had already passed away, she said she was “encouraged by their and your courage for justice and your courage to build a better society.” Stewart said the US “will continue to be your partner…for a brighter future for the Marshall Islands.” She praised the aims of the three-day nuclear legacy conference, saying it was vital for the younger generation to learn about these issues.
Enewetak Senator Jack Ading, speaking on behalf of other nuclear-affected atolls, pointed out that few survivors of the 1940s evacuations and nuclear weapons tests are still alive. “For most of us, the paradise that God created is just a legend from our elders,” he said. “By the time most of us were born, our paradise was a paradise lost.”
Ading said the 67 weapons tests left a “toxic legacy” that will affect the Marshall Islands for generations.
A number of doctors, scientists and researchers from the United States and Japan are participating in the three-day Nuclear Legacy Conference that started Wednesday afternoon and is open to the public at the ICC.
Read more about this in the March 3, 2017 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.




Nuclear lawsuit testimony ends

http://marshallislandsjournal.com/Journal_WP/?p=3120

marshallislandsjournal.com
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wrapped up oral arguments last Wednesday in the preliminary phase of the nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall ...




Dutch attorney Phon van den Biesen, RMI UN Mission Chargé Deborah Barker-Manase, and Tony deBrum at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday. Photo: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek.Dutch attorney Phon van den Biesen, RMI UN Mission Chargé Deborah Barker-Manase, and Tony deBrum at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday. Photo: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wrapped up oral arguments last Wednesday in the preliminary phase of the nuclear disarmament cases brought by the Marshall Islands against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
The hearings, which took place at the ICJ from 7-16 March, were the first contentious cases on nuclear disarmament ever heard at the Court.
This set of hearings addressed the respondent nations’ objections to the cases relating to questions of jurisdiction and admissibility.
Tony deBrum, Co-Agent and former Foreign Minister of the RMI, recounted to the Court the Marshall Islands’ unique perspective about the effects of nuclear weapons due to 67 US nuclear weapons tests conducted in the Marshall Islands from 1946-58.
“Yesterday was a beautiful morning here in The Hague that featured a picture-perfect snowfall,” deBrum told the panel of ICJ judges. “As a tropical state, the Marshall Islands has experienced ‘snow’ on one memorable and devastating occasion, the 1954 Bravo test of a thermonuclear bomb that was one thousand times the strength of the Hiroshima bomb. When that explosion occurred, there were many people, including children, who were a far distance from the bomb, on our atolls which, according to leading scientists and assurances, were predicted to be entirely safe. In reality, within five hours of the explosion, it began to rain radioactive fallout at Rongelap. Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white, powdered-like substance. No one knew it was radioactive fallout.  The children thought it was snow. And the children played in the snow. And they ate it.”
The Marshall Islands was clear that while their history with nuclear testing gives context to their current actions for global nuclear disarmament, the cases at the ICJ relate specifically to nuclear-armed states’ breaches of Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law.
Read more about this in the March 25, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.


Nuclear lawsuits move forward


marshallislandsjournal.com
The Marshall Islands gained global headlines this week as the government’s cases against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom were launched at the International ...


Dutch attorney Phon van den Biesen, RMI UN Mission Chargé Deborah Barker-Manase, and Tony deBrum at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday. Photo: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek.Dutch attorney Phon van den Biesen, RMI UN Mission Chargé Deborah Barker-Manase, and Tony deBrum at the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Monday. Photo: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek.
The Marshall Islands gained global headlines this week as the government’s cases against India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom were launched at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
In addition to Dutch attorney Phon van den Biesen representing the RMI government before the court, former Foreign Minister Tony deBrum spoke to the court, and RMI UN Mission Chargé Deborah Barker-Manase observed for the government.
These unprecedented lawsuits were submitted by the RMI to the International Court of Justice on April 24, 2014,” said Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which is supporting the suits. “They aim to hold the nine nuclear-armed states (US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) accountable for violating international law by failing to respect their nuclear disarmament obligations under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and customary international law.”
The hearings this week and next are for the RMI, UK, India and Pakistan to present their arguments for and against the ICJ having jurisdiction to hear the RMI’s cases. The RMI is presenting its case this week, with India and UK’s responses expected next week. Pakistan is reportedly boycotting the court hearings. The ICJ must determine if it has jurisdiction to hear the RMI’s cases.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs dispatched Barker-Manase from New York to “observe the proceedings and feed back information to us,” said Foreign Minister John Silk Wednesday. Silk added that before this time, “no one knew what was happening (with the suits).”
He also said a legal opinion on the lawsuits has now been produced by the RMI Attorney General’s office, and Silk was planning to review the document with the Cabinet Wednesday afternoon this week.
In briefing papers filed with the ICJ, India questioned the basis of RMI’s claims against India, saying India has shown greater resolve in supporting negotiations to end nuclear weapons. “It is revealing that for ten years (2003-2012) prior to the RMI contemplating this recourse to the ICJ, while India consistently voted for and sponsored (a UN) resolution (calling for international negotiations to ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons), the RMI voted against the resolution or abstained nine times and voted in favor only once,” said India. “This shows not only the inconsistency of the RMI’s belief in multilateral negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament but also the artificiality of its claim in this case.”
“From a legal perspective, the issues presented by these cases are ordinary ones, but a positive outcome will, spectacularly, change the world,” said van den Biesen. “We are asking the Court to tell the respondent states to live up to their obligations under international law and to conduct negotiations leading to the required result: nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”
Of the nine suits originally filed, only the cases against India, Pakistan and the UK are proceeding. This is because these are the only three countries that have “made a commitment to respond to suits brought at the ICJ.”
Read more about this in the March 11, 2016 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.



Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Nuclear nexus: Brexit, secrecy and continued cover-up


Today the Guardian reported on the Government publication of the Brexit department’s latest policy position paper on leaving the EU (‘Confidentiality and access to documents www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/638957/Confidentiality_and_access_to_documents_Position_Paper.pdf)


In the article ‘UK calls on EU to prevent leaks of sensitive information after Brexit’,          (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/21/uk-calls-on-eu-to-prevent-leaks-of-sensitive-information-after-brexit) the Guardian’s Brexit editor, Dan Roberts, accurately quotes me as saying: “current regime of sharing documents confidentially with the European commission covers up government duplicity [This] denies citizens the opportunity to assess the integrity of documents provided in secret to the commission that directly impacts on public policy and spending of taxpayers’ money. The government wants to maintain this exclusion of British citizens from what they are doing.”

But he does not provide the context of why I would make such a claim. Below I set out the backstory for readers to judge if I have such justification, reproducing an earlier blog from 2 June last year.

Why did Information Commissioner back secrecy over disclosure over Hinkley C nuclear waste?



On Tuesday The Guardian published a story based on a refusal by the Information Commissioner’s Office to back my appeal against the Department for Energy and Climate Change(DECC’s) refusal to provide the documents they sent to the European Commission to justify the planned subsidies for the radioactive waste created by the proposed Hinkley C nuclear power plant.

 

The full Guardian article is pasted below.

 

This is the second time in less than a year that the Information Commissioner has adjudicated in favour of keeping secret documents dealing with Hinkley C nuclear plant costings (see: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2015/1432387/fer_0571064.pdf) after I appealed an initial refusal by DECC.

 

I wrote about the first occasion in an earlier blog on 21 March 2016. (“Hinkley's secret document cache,” http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/hinkleys-secret-document-cache.html

 

The opening three paragraphs of the Information Commissioner’s latest decision to back secrecy over disclosure- and hence a foreign State-owned company over a British citizen- read as follows

 

 

 

 

 

1. The complainant [Dr Lowry] has requested information relating to the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) justification for state aid clearance submitted to the European Commission (the Commission) in respect of the EU’s consideration of the pricing methodology for Waste Transfer Contracts (WTCs) to be concluded between the UK government and operators of new nuclear power plants.

 

2. DECC responded refusing to disclose the requested information citing regulations 12(5)(a) and 13 of the EIR. [Environmental Information Regulations]

 

3. The Commissioner’s decision is that DECC has acted appropriately by refusing to disclose the requested information under regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR. He therefore does not require any further action to be taken. (my emphasis)

 

(Reference: FER0608720)

 

 

 

Background

 

 

 

 

 

On 10 October 2015, I wrote to DECC and requested information as follows:

 

 

 

“Please would you send me under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 the main document setting out the United Kingdom justification for state aid clearance, along with a full list of the titles of all support documents, submitted to the European Commission, in respect of the European Commission consideration the pricing methodology for waste transfer contracts to be concluded between the UK Government and operators of new nuclear power plants and its compatibility with EU state aid rules, on which the Commission reported its conclusions on 9 October 2015.”

 

 

 

DECC responded on 6 November 2015, conceding it did indeed “hold the requested information” but “considered it is exempt from disclosure under regulations 12(5)(a) and 13 of the EIR.”

 

I immediately requested an internal review on 9 November 2015, which DECC carried out and notified me of findings on 7 December 2015, reaffirming it “remained of the opinion that the requested information is exempt from disclosure under the [cited] regulations.” 

 

 

 

Next I contacted the Commissioner on 9 December 2015 to complain about the way his request for information had been handled. Specifically, that I did not agree with the application of the exceptions cited and believed the public interest rests in disclosure.

 

 

 

DECC, in response, explained that the Government “requires operators of new nuclear power plants to manage the disposal of their waste safely while ensuring that sufficient funds are available to avoid these costs being borne by the tax payer. To achieve this, the government will enter into WTCs with the prospective nuclear operator regarding the terms on which the government will take title to and liability for the operator’s spent fuel and intermediate level waste (ILW) for disposal in a geological disposal facility (GDF) once the plant has been decommissioned. The method by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

which the price is set for the provision of this disposal service is known as the Waste Transfer Pricing Methodology. Being a first of its kind the government sought state aid clearance of its proposals in order to provide prospective nuclear operators with absolute clarity on the waste disposal arrangements.”

 

DECC went on to confirm that these proposals and the case for state aid clearance is referred to as ‘the nuclear waste transfer state aid case’. It first submitted the pre-notification of the nuclear waste transfer state aid case to the Commission at the start of June 2012; thereafter, engagement with the Commission was  on-going, with the project team submitting responses to several rounds of questions in 2012 and 2013. Engagement with the Commission stepped up following the decision on the Hinkley state aid case (UK plans to subsidise the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset in conjunction with EDF Energy) in October 2014 when the Commission submitted a significant amount of detailed questions to DECC between November and May 2015. The Commission case team was ultimately satisfied with the analysis and the case was notified on 10 July 2015. Following the Commission‘s inter-service consultation (consultation with other parts of the Commission), a positive decision was adopted on 9 October 2015.

 

My FOI request was submitted to DECC the same day.

 

DECC asserted that at the time of the request,  the Commission had prepared a draft of the adopted decision. The official decision had not been published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and that remained the case for some time afterwards too.

 

 

 

 

 

In its reasons for backing secrecy over disclosure, theInformation Commissioner wrote 

 

“Regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR states that a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its disclosure would adversely affect international relations, defence, national security or public safety.

 

“DECC referred the Commissioner to a previous decision notice he issued in relation to the Hinkley case and a request for very similar information to that being considered here ( reference FER0571064) It referred to the Commissioner’s decision to uphold the application of this exception in the Hinkley case and to the circumstances at the time of the Hinkley request being very similar to the circumstances at the time of the request the subject of this notice.

 

“In line with the Commissioner’s decision outlined in the decision notice for FER0571064 (and also FER0219897 referred to within it), the Commissioner is satisfied that the requested information being considered here falls within the category of ‘international relations’ and is therefore covered by regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR. The exception not only covers the UK’s direct relations with another state but also the UK’s relationships with international organisations such as the EU and the Commission. (my emphasis- DL)

 

The Commissioner next needed to consider whether disclosure of the requested information would adversely affect international relations. There are two elements to this request: the notification document for the nuclear waste transfer state aid case; and the list of documents provided in support of the notification.

 

The IC wrote: “Dealing with the notification document first, DECC has argued that the information the government provided to the Commission and the subsequent exchanges were based on the expectation that they would remain confidential. DECC advised that the timing of the complainant’s request is important and the request was made just after a positive decision had been adopted. But at the time of the request the Commission had only prepared a draft of the adopted decision and it had not been published in the OJEU. If the government was to disclose the information in the waste transfer notification at this stage it would adversely affect its working relationship with the Commission in this area making it difficult to negotiate freely in the future. It would be detrimental to the Commission’s ability to discharge its investigatory functions in future cases and would be likely to risk prejudicing the government’s reputation with the Commission in relation to confidentiality of information provided for other state aid investigations.

 

“Furthermore, DECC argued that if the information requested was provided before the time period for bringing forward an annulment of the decision had expired, therefore potentially prejudicing the UK’s position, it is likely to compound the adverse effect on relations with the Commission which was supportive of the position the UK adopted in the nuclear waste transfer state aid case.

 

“In relation to the list of documents provided to the Commission in support of the notification, DECC confirmed that these documents were provided in response to questions raised by the Commission. The titles themselves would reveal a number of the Commission’s key areas of investigation concerning the case and DECC confirmed that it is of the view that the same arguments apply to the list.

 

 

 

IC continued: “DECC stated that for the sake of completeness it wished to confirm that two of the documents in the list are publically available; the Wardell Armstrong Design Assessment for Geological Repositories 2004 and the Mott MacDonald Review of Large Public Procurement in the UK 2002. These two documents are of a more generic nature, and in contrast to the other documents in the list of titles, they were not prepared by DECC in response to points raised by the Commission or related matters.

 

DECC stated that “disclosure of all other titles in the list would give an insight into aspects of the UK’s discussion with the Commission and so they should be withheld.

 

“It reiterated that disclosure of this information would adversely affect the UK’s relationship with the Commission regarding the consideration of future state aid cases and the timing of the complainant’s request strengthens this view. To disclose the information prior to the time period for seeking an annulment of the decision has expired would adversely affect relations between the government and the Commission especially in light of the support the Commission has given the UK in this case.

 

The Information Commissioner asserted he “considers the timing of the request is very important. In this case it is noted that a positive decision had been received from the Commission but only just and the decision itself was only in draft form. At the time of the complainant’s request the Commissioner understands that a press release had been made but the official decision had not been published in the OJEU.

 

He added: “The Commissioner accepts that disclosure of the notification document and list of documents submitted in support of it at the time of the request would have made relations between the UK and the Commission more difficult. It would have adversely affected the UK government and the Commission’s ability to work together effectively. A positive decision had only just been received so there was still a need to protect the confidentiality of communications between the two parties and protect the willingness of both parties to offer unfettered and detailed submissions for investigations of this

 

“The Commissioner also accepts that the investigation had not been concluded at the time of the request. The official decision had not been published and was only in draft form. Once the official decision is published there is then a period of 2 months plus 24 days in which proceedings to seek an annulment may be brought. If any proceedings are instigated the case continues into this stage and so there was still a need to protect and safeguard the confidentiality of the government’s contact and communications with the Commission.

 

And extraordinarily concluded: “For the above reasons, the Commissioner is satisfied that disclosure would adversely affect international relations and therefore that regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIR  applies in this case.

 

No public interest in disclosure?

 

The IC said: “As this exception is subject to the public interest test, the Commissioner will now go on to consider the weight of the competing arguments for and against disclosure.

 

“ As his previous decision notice under case reference FER0571064 highlights, the Commissioner accepts that there is a considerable amount of public interest in the disclosure of this information. There are clear environmental implications and safety concerns relating to the use and reliance on nuclear energy. There are also strong public interest considerations relating to the cost of potentially developing a new generation of power stations and the impact of this shift in energy policy on UK electricity consumers.

 

“The Commissioner accepts that the public interest arguments in favour of disclosure are therefore weighty in this case. However, the Commissioner must now consider the public interest arguments in favour of maintaining this exception and whether the harm disclosure would cause is severe enough to tip the balance towards this.

 

“As stated above, although a positive decision had been received and overall there was no prospect of this decision changing at the time of the request, the Commissioner has accepted that the investigation had not come to an end. This is because the decision had not been officially published thereby commencing the 2 months plus 24 days’ timeframe for potential challenges to the decision. The importance of safeguarding the confidentiality of the UK government’s contact and communications with the Commission in relation to this case still existed at the time of the request. There remained a real risk that disclosure would adversely affect relations between the two parties at the time of the complainant’s request and a real risk that any parties choosing to lodge an appeal against the Commission’s decision could use the material provided by the UK to their own advantage when building a challenge. The Commissioner accepts that this would be unfair, adversely affect the consideration and outcome of any such appeals and ultimately, potentially, lead to a poorer deal

 

And concluded: “Although the Commissioner acknowledges that there are strong public interest arguments in favour of disclosure, he accepts that disclosure of the information at the time of the request would have been premature. The Commissioner is of the view that there was still a need to protect the confidentiality of the requested information and the ability of both parties to continue to work effectively together at the time of the

 

request and strong public interest arguments in favour of allowing the overall process to be completed.

 

“Overall, therefore, the Commissioner has decided in this case that the public interest rests in maintaining the exception.”

 

 

 

I disagree, and have appealed to the FirstTier Information Tribunal.

 

Here is the media coverage

 

EDF's Hinkley Point deal over radioactive waste sparks anger

 

Expert criticises ministers over refusal to disclose agreement with energy supplier for planned nuclear plant

 


 

Guardian, Tuesday 31 May 2016 

 


 

  •  

 

A furious row has broken out after the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) refused to disclose the arrangement with EDF for dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

 

The information commissioner’s office has turned down a freedom of information (FoI) request for state aid arrangements between the UK and the European commission to be made public.

 

The FoI complainant, Dr David Lowry, has launched an appeal, claiming it is in the public interest for British citizens to be able to judge whether their government had made the right decision about the new reactors in Somerset.

 

Lowry, a British-based senior research fellow with the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in the US, said: “I do not believe the balance of judgment should be in favour of a foreign company, EDF Energy, who will potentially make huge multibillion-pound financial gain from the continued non-disclosure, and hence non scrutiny, over myself as a British tax and electricity bill payer.”

 

The government said that anyone building new reactors in Britain must manage and pay for the cost of handling waste products, unlike the existing situation where all radioactive materials are effectively dealt with through the public purse via the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

 

However, although the operator must agree to take responsibility for the spent fuel and other radioactive waste, the cost is expected to be passed on to the domestic electricity user through higher bills.

 

Under the new arrangements, the prospective nuclear operators must enter into a waste transfer contract (WTC). Those contracts, like the one covering Hinkley, must be submitted for scrutiny by the EC under its state aid rules. It is the pricing methodology of the WTC that Lowry wished to review and which remains under wraps.

 

Greenpeace said Lowry raised critical issues that went to the heart of whether the £18.5bn project was good or bad value for the taxpayer and British energy consumers.

 

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said: “The government has repeatedly said that Hinkley is great news for the British public and our energy security. But they refuse to back this up with hard evidence. In fact, DECC is incredibly cagey and is failing to answer questions on where the dangerous radioactive waste will go or how much Hinkley will cost us.

 

“If Hinkley is such a good deal, it should be no problem for the government to release the information to prove it. Their failure to do so leaves us to believe that their assumptions are correct - it’s a terrible deal for bill payers and they simply don’t know what to do with the nuclear waste.”

 

DECC turned down the original request under regulation 12(5)(a) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 arguing, “disclosure would adversely affect international relations, defence, national security or public safety”.

 

This argument was accepted by the information commissioner who believed that disclosure of the state aid discussions with the EC “would adversely affect the relationship between the (UK) government and the commission’s ability to work effectively together”.

 

The information commissioner acknowledged that there were “strong public interest arguments in favour of disclosure” but he believed there was a stronger argument for protecting the confidentiality of the material.

 

Lowry said he thought the real reason the government did not want to disclose the information was to save ministers from embarrassment. “I think the concern is if the truth were to come out with documents being made public would adversely affect the credibility of the government submissions as their threadbare content would be laid bare for all to see,” he said.

 

DECC declined to comment, saying it was a matter for the information commissioner.

 

 

 

Radioactive waste fears denied

 

By WMNKRossiter  |  Posted: May 31, 2016

 

By Keith Rossiter

 

·SHARE PICTURE

The government has denied claims that it is keeping arrangements for dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power station a secret "for national security".

 

The claim was made in the Guardian newspaper this week.

 

The Guardian said a "furious row" had broken out after the Department of Energy and Climate Change refused to disclose the arrangement with French energy giant EDF for dealing with radioactive waste at the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.

 

Copy link to paste in your message

 

The Guardian article

 

EDF, which won the contract to build the new power station in Somerset, is reported to be struggling to sign off the deal.

 

The Guardian said the Information Commissioner's office has turned down a freedom of information request for State aid arrangements between the UK and the European commission to be made public.

 

South West Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato, a longstanding critic of the proposed power plant, weighed into the row. "I am shocked that the government is refusing to disclose the details of the way the highly toxic radioactive waste will be disposed of if the Hinkley project goes ahead," she said.

 

"Disposal costs could mean a huge extra cost added on to our electricity bills in addition to the £18.5 billion.

 

"In a democracy decisions need to be made in a fully transparent manner so it is essential that both political representatives like myself and the public at large have access to full information.

 

Dr Scott Cato, said: "The department's suggestion that disclosure of this information would damage national security or public safety is nonsense.

 

"We need public and political scrutiny of the plans for waste disposal to ensure that it achieves the highest standards of safety as well as value for money."

 

"Objectivity is of the very essence of photography, its contribution and at the same time its limitation...' Paul Strand. Discover Paul Strand's photos in our retrospective. Exhibition must end 3 July

 

Referring to plans by the French energy giant EDF to go into partnership with a Chinese company to build the power station, she said: "It is allowing our nuclear facilities to pass into the hands of Chinese companies that is the real threat to national security."

 

However, a Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesperson said: "Taxpayers won't have to pick up the bill for the safe disposal of waste produced by new power stations.

 

"Developers will have to prove that they can meet their waste and decommissioning costs in the future and there are publicly available documents setting out how this will happen."

 

She declined to comment on the record about the disputed FoI inquiry and national security claims.

 

 



Friday, 11 December 2015


Letter sent to Daily Mail, 10 December 2015

Well done on the Daily Mail for its campaign to protect our fragile Freedom of Information Act (Mail 10 Dec.), including your robust  Comment setting out why we need to strengthen FOI -  not dilute or neuter it.

Almost exactly a year ago (3 Dec, 2014)  I asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC )in an FOI request if it would send me the “ full documentation provided to the European Commission is support of the UK application for State Aid agreement on the Hinkley Point C nuclear project,  including :

a report by KPMG on potential distortions to competition; a report by Oxera on market failures, proportionality and potential distortions of competition; a study by Pöyry on potential distortions to the internal market and alternatives to new nuclear; report by Redpoint on the evolution of the UK electricity sector; & details of the Cost Discovery and Verification process, compiled by KPMG and LeighFisher.”

DECC refused, but admitted there were actually 126 documents, not just the five I listed, and also threw out my appeal. DECC told me: "Having balanced the public interest arguments, we consider the public interest in releasing the full notification is outweighed by the need to ensure that the Commission is able to carry-out its investigatory functions effectively which involves the submission of candid and frank views by the Government and requires a safe space for the Commission to consider matters out of the public eye. This would not be possible if information contained in State aid notifications were subject to disclosure

I passed my request on to the Information Commissioner.

After several months of exchanging  e-mail communications, in which I explained in great detail the public interest in disclosure, in mid-August, the Commissioner – who is supposed to protect  citizens’ right to know – unbelievably  rejected my appeal in a fifty page justification for secrecy.( https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2015/1432387/fer_0571064.pdf)

Distilling the verbiage, the Information Inspector came down on the side of the French-owned  energy supplier EDF (Electricité de France) Energy’s commercial interests to  keep documents secret over the public interest of taxpayers to know how billions of pounds of their taxes are going to be handed over to this foreign company, who will no doubt repatriate our taxes to Paris.

I have appealed to the next level of adjudication, the so-called First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) . Will it take yet another 12 months to draw a blank?  Is the FOI system really fit-for-purpose when a public authority (ie DECC) can filibuster for six months, and our Information Commissioner can come down on the side of secrecy not Joe Public?