19 April 2011

Position regarding Nuclear Energy

"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
Albert Einstein

The unfolding disaster in Fukushima, Japan and the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union lead World without Wars and Violence to declare its position regarding Nuclear Energy1.

This position is based on the following points:

Human life as the central value

As humanists, we put human life as the central value, we are in favour of development and technology, and we must learn from those disasters that have occurred in the development of technology and industry so that we do not repeat them again in the future.

The effects of radioactivity on human life

Radioactivity is not a man-made phenomenon, yet human activity since 1945 has constantly raised the level of radioactivity in the environment leading to unknown numbers of cancers and deaths.

Although medical science is not in agreement on all the details, it is beyond doubt that radioactivity is bad for life. When the body is subjected to the effects of ionising radiation such as those found in radioactive elements, the body’s cells start to break down which, in the most severe cases, leads to cancers and the failures of organic systems essential for life.

Whereas medical researchers (and those who fund them) argue over how much radiation is acceptable on a daily basis, it is accepted that the damage caused by exposure to radiation is cumulative and such damage does not always manifest itself immediately, making it impossible to attribute the cause of cancer to any one event alone.

The legacy and irresponsibility of nuclear energy

Nuclear power plant operators are unable to deal with the waste products they generate. The by-products of uranium and plutonium fission stay radioactive for millennia. Scientific research has been unable to find a way to speed up radioactive decay processes so that unstable elements decay quickly to stable elements.

Countries and operators have built their plants in geographically seismic regions and in coastal regions where they are susceptible to freak tsunamis. Incidents can never be completely eliminated and terrorism is too great a danger.

Since nuclear power started there have been hundreds of releases of radioactivity into the environment, including the major events of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima. Given that radioactive materials will be with us for thousands of years, if incidents keep on happening with the same frequency, the entire biosphere will be too toxic for life within a few centuries.

Nuclear power is economically unviable

Nuclear power facilities cannot be built without government assistance. Currently in the USA the only way funding for new nuclear power stations can be achieved is with government guarantees. Insurance companies will not give insurance because the potential for disaster is too great.

US government subsidies support the construction process, they support operating costs through subsidies to the mining and uranium enriching industries and they support water and security costs, they support the costs of nuclear waste management and finally they support the decommissioning costs. All of this is paid for by tax payers so that operators may make a profit and pay shareholders. If all of these costs were included in the cost of the electricity generated it would end up being the most expensive way imaginable of boiling water to turn electricity turbines.

In the same way that the coal power stations have to include the costs of carbon emissions and pollution costs, so the nuclear power industry should cover their own costs. Only in this way can the supposed market forces—the bible of today’s economics—work properly to get rid of this energy source.

Flawed logic in the planet’s energy strategy

There is an assumption that the planet can continue to consume energy at an accelerating rate for the rest of eternity, and there is a belief, actively-promoted by the nuclear industry, that nuclear energy of the sort generated today is capable of meeting this requirement. It is widely accepted that there is probably no more than 100 years supply of fossil fuels left. It is also known that solar energy, wind, hydro-electric, geo-thermal and tidal energy are available sources that don’t create carbon emissions once operational.

These energy sources also have the added advantage that they don’t create waste products that cause security and health risks for the planet for several millennia.

A truly global, humanist and intelligent approach to meeting the planet’s energy needs is to invest as much as we can afford into exploiting these energy resources. Clearly this means vast reductions in the military budget to meet such investment. In addition, the planet needs to invest in energy efficiency such as insulation and energy efficient appliances so that demand for energy reduces.

Nuclear energy is a pretence to create raw materials for nuclear bombs

Nuclear reactors were first built to create plutonium for nuclear weapons, the generation of electricity was seen as a way to subsidise the process. The process of obtaining plutonium from uranium is straightforward enough to make any country capable of generating nuclear energy, also capable of producing plutonium for weapons.

Nuclear power plants are bombs waiting to be detonated

Nuclear power plants—even were we to accept that they were designed for altruistic purposes of providing cheap energy—become military targets in times of war and are always terrorist targets in a world with such social injustice. When attacked by conventional bombs or a 9/11 style attack, although an explosion of the sort experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is unlikely, the distribution of radiation around the planet would have consequences far greater than those experienced then and later on in Chernobyl.

Hypocrisy of United Nations Agencies and nuclear weapons states

The Non-Proliferation Treaty was designed to achieve nuclear disarmament, prevent proliferation and allow member states to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Clearly it has failed in its mandate; there has been no disarmament and there are now four nations (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) possessing nuclear weapons and not belonging to the NPT. To achieve this all of these nations have been assisted by one or more Nuclear Weapon State in contravention of the treaty. Iran, who is a signatory to the NPT, is treated as some kind of pariah state and threatened with war as it pursues its goal of creating a nuclear power station – as is Iran’s right under the NPT agreement.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was established in 1957 to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and has since been endowed as the promoter and regulator of nuclear technology – a situation that, were it to happen in other industries, would be denounced as undemocratic. In addition the World Health Organisation has a written agreement with the IAEA to the intent that no report on the subject of radiation can be written by the WHO without prior approval by the IAEA.

In conclusion

Although our primary focus is the end of wars and violence, recent events in Japan have once again shown that we live in an interconnected world and something happening on one side of the planet can have dire consequences for people on the other side of it. When one nation is capable of poisoning the entire planet, the consequences are a form of violence that we cannot remain silent about.

Therefore World without Wars and Violence strongly opposes the use of nuclear energy by fission as a means to meet the energy needs of the planet and we call for an end to fission-driven nuclear power as soon as it is technically feasible.
We call for an immediate moratorium on new nuclear power facilities: those in the process of being built should be stopped and all those in the planning stages should be scrapped.

We are not naïve, and recognise that existing nuclear facilities cannot be turned off overnight. Nevertheless we call on all nations of the world to make plans to phase out their existing nuclear facilities within ten years. All those nations with nuclear waste must invest in secure storage facilities in seismically inactive zones of the planet where all radioactive materials may be stored until science has discovered a way of safely removing radioactivity from radioactive substances. Global cooperation and financial support must be made available for those countries unable to finance these costs.
We call for vastly increased global cooperation in the field of renewable energy and we support the existence of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) with its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates and call for it to be given a budget to enable it to do its job effectively. We call on all nations that have not yet signed or ratified the IRENA statute to do so and we call for progressive and proportional reductions in military spending to fund research, development and implementation of renewable energy schemes.
We demand nuclear and radiological weapons to be eradicated from the face of the planet, and for all fissile materials for weapons to be mixed back into the waste products of nuclear power so that they may not be readily re-assembled into new weapons. All nations must take collective responsibility for the security of radioactive materials so that they may never fall into the hands of terrorists.
We call for criminal charges to be brought against the executives of TEPCO and those members of the Japanese Government who are responsible for the inability of the Fukushima power station to cope with the tsunami that knocked out its backup power systems. It is criminally negligent to build nuclear power stations in earthquake and tsunami zones.

In the light of Fukushima, we believe it is urgent that the planet wakes up from its ignorance of the danger it is facing from nuclear energy and the danger it faces from refusing to invest everything it can, now, in renewable sources of energy. We denounce those who promote nuclear energy as a clean and cheap source of energy (we have shown that it is neither).

We in World without Wars and Violence are in favour of the development of science and we do not oppose research into nuclear technology and we believe that more research into nuclear fusion will result in interesting future possibilities for humanity. Also we are not calling for an end to small-scale reactors that are used to prepare medical isotopes.

Understanding that the environment must be taken care of, as in other matters, we consider that scientific development should be at the service of human beings alive today and future generations, and not at the service of economic, military and political interests. There is a crisis in the field of nuclear fission; it is exhausted by insecurity, contamination, economic cost, uncontrollable in certain circumstances and with clear connections to an industry responsible for producing the most murderous and destructive weapons in human history.

There is no doubt that the way of nuclear fission must be closed.

Human society has been built on an industrial revolution powered by gas, coal and oil. Today’s fission-based nuclear technology is not the replacement for these energy sources, which must be phased out, partly because they will run out in a few generations, but also because of the dangers of climate change. If humanity fails in its task, and we do not address the energy needs of the planet, it will take the planet hundreds of millions of years to rebuild its carbon stocks to allow a future industrial revolution to take place.

The decisions to be taken by today’s politicians and today’s citizens will affect not only our children and grand-children; they will ultimately affect the survival of the human species and all life on the planet.

In the meantime we give our total backing to forms of energy that are non-contaminating, that don’t leave waste, that are respectful of the environment and above all not aggressive towards human beings.

As Einstein said, "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal." Let us take the axe out of the hands of this violent, consumerist and military system and build a new system based on the value of human life as the central value, to transform the criminal one we currently live in.


Fission vs. Fusion

In our position we are specifically referring to the nuclear energy generated through processes of nuclear fission (splitting of atoms) used in every one of the 442 power stations scattered around the world. Physicists believe it is theoretically possible to generate nuclear energy through the fusion (or joining together) of atoms and we are in favour of research in this field.
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In preparing this report we have studied the following references among others:

Human Life as the central value

The works of Silo in general which can be found at www.silo.net and in particular a talk he gave in Peru in 1989.

Fission vs. Fusion

Regarding the number of nuclear power stations in the world http://www.euronuclear.org/info/npp-ww.htm

The effects of radioactivity on human life

Effects of radioactivity

IAEA report about Radiation Safety http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Radiation/radsafe.html#seven

Effects of Chernobyl disputed by various agencies

Page 18 of the report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2008/Advance_copy_Annex_D_Chernobyl_Report.pdf
Report from the New York Academy of Sciences http://www.nyas.org/Publications/Annals/Detail.aspx?cid=f3f3bd16-51ba-4d7b-a086-753f44b3bfc1
“Chernobyl: A Million Casualties” a 30 minute video presenting the findings of the New York Academy of Sciences report http://www.blip.tv/file/4922080

Effects of radioactivity on human genes

New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans’ Study – a Cytogenetic Analysis http://www.llrc.org/epidemiology/subtopic/nzvetsrept.pdf

The legacy and irresponsibility of nuclear energy


Nuclear power is economically unviable


Flawed logic in the planet’s energy strategy


Hypocrisy of United Nations Agencies


15 April 2011

U.S. Nuclear Plants Confronted 14 Serious Failures in 2010

A report authored by the prestigious Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that in year 2010 nuclear plants in the United States experienced at least 14 "near misses", serious failures in which safety was jeopardized, at least in part, due to lapses in oversight and enforcement by U.S. nuclear safety regulators.
By J Chandler
California, 4/14/11 "While none of the safety problems harmed plant employees or the public, they occurred with alarming frequency -- more than once a month -- which is high for a mature industry," says the report authored by the prestigious Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

"The severe accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 occurred when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues -- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes," says the report, adding: "That plant owners could have avoided nearly all 14 near misses in 2010 had they corrected known deficiencies in a timely manner suggests that our luck at nuclear roulette may someday run out."

The report was prepared by UCS nuclear engineer David Lochbaum and scheduled for release before the crisis in Japan began to unfold, but the disaster makes the its conclusions all the more significant.

It is the first in an annual series on the safety-related performance of the owners of U.S. nuclear power plants and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which regulates the plants. The NRC's mission is to protect the public from the inherent hazards of nuclear power.
The UCS' overview shows that many of the significant near misses occurred "because reactor owners, and often the NRC, tolerated known safety problems," says the report.

It mentions as an example that the owner of the Calvert Cliffs plant in Maryland ended a programme to routinely replace safety components before launching a new programme to monitor degradation of those components. "As a result, an electrical device that had been in use for longer than its service lifetime failed, disabling critical safety components," according to the report.

"In another example, after declaring an emergency at its Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina, the owner failed to staff its emergency response teams within the required amount of time. That lapse occurred because workers did not know how to activate the automated system that summons emergency workers to the site," the report points out

Overall, Union of Concerned Scientists' analysis of NRC oversight of safety-related events and practices at U.S. nuclear power plants in 2010 concludes that:

-- Nuclear power plants continue to experience problems with safety-related equipment and worker errors that increase the risk of damage to the reactor core -- and thus harm to employees and the public.

-- Recognized but misdiagnosed or unresolved safety problems often cause significant events at nuclear power plants, or increase their severity.

-- When on-site NRC inspectors discover a broken device, an erroneous test result, or a maintenance activity that does not reflect procedure, they too often focus just on that problem. Every such finding should trigger an evaluation of why an owner failed to fix a problem before NRC inspectors found it.

-- The NRC can better serve the U.S. public and plant owners by emulating the persistence shown by on-site inspectors who made good catches while eliminating the indefensible lapses that led to negative outcomes.

-- Four of the 14 special inspections occurred at three plants owned by Progress Energy.

-- While the company may simply have had an unlucky year, corporate-wide approaches to safety may have contributed to this poor performance. When conditions trigger special inspections at more than one plant with the same owner, the NRC should formally evaluate whether corporate policies and practices contributed to the shortcomings.

Commenting the report, Chris Williams, a professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University with campuses in New York City and Westchester County, says: "In the United States, 23 of the 104 operational nuclear reactors are built on the same 1960s design by the same company, General Electric, as the reactors at Fukushima."

"They have been recognized to have serious design faults since the 1970s and have been regularly retrofitted (patched up) to address design vulnerabilities that are routinely discovered and that could lead to a core breach and the release of radioactive isotopes," adds Williams, the author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis.
Williams points out that "California has a 99.7 percent chance of being hit with a magnitude 6.7 earthquake or greater within the next 30 years." This is because nuclear plants in California with the same design as Fukushima’s are only built to withstand magnitude 7 to 7.5 quakes, while the one that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 was 9.0.

"We know a larger earthquake is possible because the 1906 earthquake that tore San Francisco apart measured 8.3. California would not be immune to a powerful tsunami such as the one responsible for the multiple meltdowns in Fukushima, and as crazy as it sounds, one nuclear power plant, the San Onofre facility located south of Los Angeles, is built right on the beach," writes Williams in The Independent, a New York-based free newspaper published 16 times a year on Wednesdays to print and on-line readership of more than 200,000.

Williams advises therefore: "Instead of waiting for another devastating nuclear accident to occur in the United States rivaling the one at Three Mile Island in 1979, we need to push the government to abandon plans both to relicense old plants for another 20 years and build new ones."

09 April 2011

Presence of Humanist Party of India at India Gate, Delhi, 09 Apr 2011.

Presence of Humanist Party of India at India Gate, Delhi, 09 Apr 2011.

The HP members Sudhir & Saket participated in the rally from Jantar Mantar to India gate and then the celebrations at India Gate with a passionate and peaceful crowd of a few thousand people.

The whole environment was like a celebrations, with happy, satisfied, confident faces all around. People seem to have regained faith in life and they were vibrating with energy, talking positively about the power of non-violence and the need of using non-violence as the method of struggle against crisis.

Our banner showing Anna Hazare's cricket-shot (that blew away the Prime Minister Monmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi) became an instant super hit with people who saw it.
Everyone wanted to take a picture of the banner, then a picture of banner with themselves in it.
Then, as we reached India gate, media came after us one by one and in groups, taking video of the banner and asking us brief question about the theme of the banner. Our explanation: "When the non-violent honest people start playing cricket, the corrupt ones will be thrown far away than the seas of India".

Hundreds of people took pictures of the banners with us and the theme became the super hit theme among the people there. This was very encouraging for us also and showed us a new way to reach people.

08 April 2011

Anna's sixer does it - India wins major round against Corruption!!!

Congratulations, My India, Our India, we have won the first battle with Non-violence against the corrupt mafia that has its vice grip on the country.
Finally, after 4 days of fasting by Anna Hazare, supported by hundreds of volunteers fasting with him in Delhi and hundreds of thousands of other supporting the cause across India and in many other countries, the Government caved in and agreed to all the demands of the group "India Against Corruption", led by Anna Hazare.
This is truly a win of every honest Indian who has waited for more than 40 years to get this law enacted. Hold on, the law is far from being enacted, but the first battle has been won and there is a time bound program to create the law by the end of June so that it is approved by the cabinet of Government of India to send it to Parliament for its passage in monsoon session of the Parliament.
Yes, we know that the mafia will not give it in so easy and they can produce many hurdles like a magician does with the rabbit. But, let the beware ! People have tested a victory and they now know that they can create victory through non-violence by coming together. This is a historic progress in the evolution of India as a democracy.
As we always said, if we people come together, everything can change. We will keep working for this change and for enhancing this faith among the people.
08 April 2011, 2320 hrs, IST.

People's Cricket league - India Vs Corruption !!!

Lets have some home grown Cricket now !

01 April 2011

Iceland, a country that wants to punish the bankers responsible for the crisis

Since 2008 the vast majority of the Western population dream about saying "no" to the banks, but no one has dared to do so. No one except the Icelanders, who have carried out a peaceful revolution that has managed not only to overthrow a government and draft a new constitution, but also seeks to jail those responsible for the country's economic debacle.
Image by: Helgi Hall
Peaceful protests, pots and pans and demonstrations against the banks
Reikjavik, 3/28/11 

Last week 9 people were arrested in London and Reykjavik for their possible responsibility for Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008, a deep crisis which developed into an unprecedented public reaction that is changing the country's direction.

It has been a revolution without weapons in Iceland, the country that hosts the world's oldest democracy (since 930), and whose citizens have managed to effect change by going on demonstrations and banging pots and pans. Why have the rest of the Western countries not even heard about it?

Pressure from Icelandic citizens’ has managed not only to bring down a government, but also begin the drafting of a new constitution (in process) and is seeking to put in jail those bankers responsible for the financial crisis in the country. As the saying goes, if you ask for things politely it is much easier to get them.

This quiet revolutionary process has its origins in 2008 when the Icelandic government decided to nationalise the three largest banks, Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir, whose clients were mainly British, and North and South American.

After the State took over, the official currency (krona) plummeted and the stock market suspended its activity after a 76% collapse. Iceland was becoming bankrupt and to save the situation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) injected U.S. $ 2,100 million and the Nordic countries helped with another 2,500 million.

Great little victories of ordinary people
While banks and local and foreign authorities were desperately seeking economic solutions, the Icelandic people took to the streets and their persistent daily demonstrations outside parliament in Reykjavik prompted the resignation of the conservative Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde and his entire government.

Citizens demanded, in addition, to convene early elections, and they succeeded. In April a coalition government was elected, formed by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement, headed by a new Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

Throughout 2009 the Icelandic economy continued to be in a precarious situation (at the end of the year the GDP had dropped by 7%) but, despite this, the Parliament proposed to repay the debt to Britain and the Netherlands with a payment of 3,500 million Euros, a sum to be paid every month by Icelandic families for 15 years at 5.5% interest.

The move sparked anger again in the Icelanders, who returned to the streets demanding that, at least, that decision was put to a referendum. Another big small victory for the street protests: in March 2010 that vote was held and an overwhelming 93% of the population refused to repay the debt, at least with those conditions.

This forced the creditors to rethink the deal and improve it, offering 3% interest and payment over 37 years. Not even that was enough. The current president, on seeing that Parliament approved the agreement by a narrow margin, decided last month not to approve it and to call on the Icelandic people to vote in a referendum so that they would have the last word.

The bankers are fleeing in fear
Returning to the tense situation in 2010, while the Icelanders were refusing to pay a debt incurred by financial sharks without consultation, the coalition government had launched an investigation to determine legal responsibilities for the fatal economic crisis and had already arrested several bankers and top executives closely linked to high risk operations.

Interpol, meanwhile, had issued an international arrest warrant against Sigurdur Einarsson, former president of one of the banks. This situation led scared bankers and executives to leave the country en masse.

In this context of crisis, an assembly was elected to draft a new constitution that would reflect the lessons learned and replace the current one, inspired by the Danish constitution.

To do this, instead of calling experts and politicians, Iceland decided to appeal directly to the people, after all they have sovereign power over the law. More than 500 Icelanders presented themselves as candidates to participate in this exercise in direct democracy and write a new constitution. 25 of them, without party affiliations, including lawyers, students, journalists, farmers and trade union representatives were elected.

Among other developments, this constitution will call for the protection, like no other, of freedom of information and expression in the so-called Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, in a bill that aims to make the country a safe haven for investigative journalism and freedom of information, where sources, journalists and Internet providers that host news reporting are protected.

The people, for once, will decide the future of the country while bankers and politicians witness the transformation of a nation from the sidelines.

Source: www.elconfidencial.com
Pressenza Editorial Team in Chile
translation: Silvia Swinden