Category Archives: Resources

Fukushima reactor disaster costs near $200 billion


The latest sobering numbers from Japan Today:

Japan’s trade ministry has almost doubled the estimated cost of compensation for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and decommissioning of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to more than 20 trillion yen ($177.51 billion), the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday.

The trade ministry at the end of 2013 calculated the cost at 11 trillion yen, which was comprised of 5.4 trillion yen for compensation, 2.5 trillion yen for decontamination, 1.1 trillion yen for an interim storage facility for contaminated soil, and 2 trillion yen for decommissioning, the report said.

The new estimate raised the cost of compensation to 8 trillion yen and decontamination to 4-5 trillion yen, the cost for an interim storage facility remained steady, and decommissioning will rise by several trillion yen, it added.

The part of the cost increase will be passed on in electricity fees, it added, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

A parallel story from California

The Fukushima reactor complex was constructed adjacent to the Pacific Ocean coast in a nation known for it’s frequent and furious earthquakes.

Remind you of California?

As we’ve written previously and extensively, California allowed construction of both its commercial power reactor complexes on the Pacific Coast and in areas riddled with earthquake faults.

And when one of the reactor complexes suffered a major breakdown, the Golden State did just as Japan is now doing. They stuck utility customers with the bill.

From a 3 June story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, reporting on the shutdown of the San Onofre reactor complex in northern San Diego County, a project of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.:

According to the utility, customers are on track to save $500 million or more off their share of the original $4.7 billion deal adopted by regulators 19 months ago.

An insurance payout and funding from a federal nuclear decommissioning trust have helped, the utility said. And further reductions in the ratepayer contribution may come if Edison is successful in a lawsuit against vendor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and in selling off fuel purchased for the nuclear plant that will no longer be needed.

Consumer advocates criticized Edison’s response to the utilities commission. They said the company cherry-picked numbers to make it appear customers are being charged less than they are.

The critics said that nowhere in the filing does the utility accept responsibility for installing flawed equipment that led to the shutdown of the plant amid a radiation leak in January 2012.

The reason for the shutdown is that the company installed a faulty piping system inside the reactor complex, a set of pipes so flawed that they leaked radioactively “hot” water inside the containment structure.

The whole nuclear power industry was an offshoot of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, and the government lied to the American people in order to get concessions and support run through Congress.

The most notorious lie came in 1954, when the first chair of the Atomic Energy Commission [now the Department of Energy] told science writers that “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.”

Those children now have children of their own, and those meters are still clocking up the dollars.

And now when those power stations go flooey [a favorite phrase of esnl’s own dad], the customers are stuck with the bill.

Consider an analogy

You’re in a grocery store when an earthquake hits, hurling all those beer and wine bottles, milk containers, pickle jars, and all the rest smashing to the floor.

Where they break.

Then you go the the checkout line to pay for whatever you’re gathered before the earth moved, only to discover that you’re forced to pay for all that smashed inventory — goods smashed because the store didn’t built in devices to restrain those goods from hurtling into into a catastrophic mess of goo and gunk. . .

Seem fair to you?

Bolivia devastated by drought; glaciers vanish


California isn’t the only major region afflicted by a devastating and ongoing drought.

Bolivia, a nation with far less financial resources than the Golden State, is being hit even harder, with glaciers that once provided the major water source for one of its largest cities now rapidly vanishing.

From EcoWatch:

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto—where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply—have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time.

A recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) says:

“Temperatures in the region have risen by 0.5°C in the period 1976 to 2006, and the people of La Paz and El Alto can observe evidence of climate change in the form of the shrinking snowline in the mountains above them.

“One glacier on Chacaltaya mountain—which rises above El Alto and which once hosted the world’s highest ski resort—has already completely disappeared. And the two Tuni-Condoriri glaciers that provide water for El Alto and La Paz lost 39 percent of their area between 1983 and 2006—at a rate of 0.24 sq km per year.”

Threats to crop pollinators imperil billions


That’s just the humans, and not the hundreds of billions of earth’s herbivores and the carnivores dependent on them.

It’s a threat directly resulting from the massive agricultural use of pesticides and other chemicals.

From Agence France Presse:

About 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops depend on pollinators, researchers said Monday warning of a dire threat to human welfare if the falls in bee and butterfly numbers are not halted.

“World food supplies and jobs are at risk unless urgent action is taken to stop global declines of pollinators,” said a statement from the University of Reading, whose researchers took part in the global review.

Animal pollination directly affects about three-quarters of important crop types, including most fruits, seeds and nuts and high-value products such as coffee, cocoa and oilseed rape.

>snip<

There are some 20,000 species of bees responsible for fertilising more than 90 percent of the world’s 107 major crops.

Bee populations have been hit in Europe, North America and elsewhere by a mysterious phenomenon called “colony collapse disorder”, which has been blamed on mites, a virus or fungus, pesticides, or a combination of factors.

The authors of the review called for measures to protect pollinators against farming’s worst side-effects.

Agroecology, anyone?

Army says it won’t evict Dakota pipeline protesters


Some good news, for the moment for protesters attempting to blockade the Dakota Access Pipeline [previously].

From Deutsche Welle:

The US Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday it has “no plans for forcible removal” of protesters who have been camping in North Dakota to protest the pipeline. The Corps had notified tribal leaders Friday that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River would be closed to public access December 5 out of “safety concerns.” The move sparked fears of a violent confrontation with law enforcement officials as they attempted to evict thousands of activists from the Oceti Sakowin camp erected in April.

Protesters and local law enforcement have regularly clashed over efforts by activists to disrupt final construction of the 1,172-mile (1,885-kilometer) pipeline that would move crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

But in a statement the Army Corps’ district commander in Omaha, Nebraska clarified that federal agencies aren’t planning to forcibly evict protesters.  “I am very concerned for the safety and well-being of all citizens at these encampments on Corps-managed federal land, and we want to make sure people are in a safe place for the winter,” Colonel John Henderson said.  “We fully support the rights of all Americans to exercise free speech and peacefully assemble, and we ask that they do it in a way that does not also endanger themselves or others, or infringe on others’ rights.”

The Standing Rock Sioux have challenged the project in federal court, saying the pipeline’s more than 200 water crossings, including one less than a mile upstream of the reservation, would imperil drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions downstream. Activist organizers told a news conference on Saturday at the main protest site where about 5,000 people are camped that they had no intention of moving. There are smaller camps on land not subject to the planned restrictions, including an area south of the Cannonball River where the Corps said it was establishing a so-called “free-speech zone” by authorities.

How regulatory processes fail to protect tribal lands


Following up on our earlier post about indigenous protests against corporate developments threatening emotionally invested sacred landscapes, Chip Colwell, Lecturer on Anthropology at University of Colorado—Denver, addresses the failure of the regulatory process to adequately consider the tremendously deep and vital associations between tribal people and their ancestral landscapes.

From The Conversation, an open access academic journal for the lay reader:

This summer, Tim Mentz Sr. took to YouTube to tell the world about the destruction of his cultural heritage. A former tribal historic preservation officer of the Standing Rock Sioux, Mentz wore a baseball cap, rimless glasses and two thin braids of graying hair. He was upset and spoke rapidly about the area behind him, an expanse of the Great Plains cut by a new 150-foot-wide road.

Two days before, Mentz had testified to the D.C. District Court to report the area that lay in the path of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) corridor holds 82 cultural features and 27 graves. By the next day, DAPL construction workers graded the area. Behind where Mentz stood in the video was a place known as the Strong Heart Society Staff, where a sacred rattle or staff was placed within stone rings. Here members of the elite warrior society would come to make pledges. Mentz explained the site is tangible evidence that Strong Heart members followed a “spiritual path.”

As an anthropologist who has worked with Native Americans for more than a decade to document their sacred places in the paths of new power plants, power lines, water pipelines and more, the battle in North Dakota is all too familiar.

I have seen how the legal process behind environmental and archaeological reviews for energy projects, such DAPL, work – and often don’t work. The tragedy in North Dakota for cultural heritage – and the violence against protesters that has resulted – comes in part from a failure of the U.S. legal system. Consultation with tribes too often breaks down because federal agencies are unwilling to consider how Native Americans view their own heritage.

“Archaeologists – they don’t see these,” Mentz said in the video of features, including graves, within the Strong Heart Society site. “The [archaeological] firm that came through here walked over these. They do not have a connection that we have to our spiritual walk of life.”

Irreplaceable heritage

If completed, the Dakota Access Pipeline would run from North Dakota to Illinois for nearly 1,200 miles, carrying up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. DAPL would meander across the landscape, through farms, around cities, buried underground and across more than 200 waterways. The passage of the pipeline over and under waterways requires permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This federal authorization in turns requires compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).

Passed into law in 1966, the NHPA arrived in the churning wake of WWII, when America’s waiting future was threatening its irreplaceable past. The expansion of American infrastructure – highways, dams, electrical grids – was swiftly destroying ancient archaeological sites, cemeteries and historic buildings. With the NHPA, Congress declared that preservation of America’s shared heritage is in the public interest.

When considering a new undertaking, a number of effects on historic properties must be considered: direct (like physical destruction), indirect (like spoiling a viewshed), short-term, long-term, or cumulative (like how one pipeline may not harm a site, but perhaps a dozen of them will). The NHPA does not guarantee preservation. But it requires that decision-makers balance America’s interest in development with the need to honor its history.

Continue reading

A tale of two indigenous land protest movements


The Dakota Access Pipeline [DAP] is a 1,600-mile pipeline being built to carry high-grade petroleum from North Dakota’s fracked-up Bakken Shale proposed across North and South Dakota and on through Iowa to Illinois.

The only problem, besides all the environmental worries connected with oil, fracking, and constructing a pipeline that could leak into some of the nation’s most environmentally sensitive landscapes and waterways, the project is being driven through land considered sacred by several of the nation’s indigenous tribes.

Native American take a different view of land that do the statutes of states and the federal government, which see land as property, susceptible to “improvements” — usually those proposed by folks looking out to make a fast buck.

Indigenous people tend to see land different, as a living thing of which they are a small but significant part.

Mother Earth, in other words, is more than just as advertising slogan.

The DAP passes through landscape — a better term than the purely utilitarian land favored by legislators, banksters, and corporateers — considered sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux, and it was a woman, tribal Historic Preservation Officer LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who formally launched the protest movement against the project by opening the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1.

The protest has been joined by other indigenous groups, environmentalists, and scientists concerned about the ecological impacts and threats to endangered species.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that protesters blockading pipeline construction must end by 5 December or mass arrests would follow, and the Obama administration shows no sign of intervening as of this writing.

Which brings us to the story of another protest, and a successful campaign launched by women to thwart a housing development of scared landscape north of the U.S. border.

From the National Film Board of Canada, a 2009 documentary film by Sara Roque:

Six Miles Deep

Program notes:

A documentary portrait of a group of women who led their community, the largest reserve in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, in an historic blockade to protect their land. On February 28, 2006, members of the Iroquois Confederacy [also known as the Haudenosaunee or People of the Longhouse] blockade a highway near Caledonia, Ontario to prevent a housing development on land that falls within their traditional territories. The ensuing confrontation makes national headlines for months. Less well known is the crucial role of the clan mothers of the community who set the rules for conduct. When the community’s chiefs ask people to abandon the barricades, it is the clan mothers who overrule them, leading a cultural reawakening in their traditionally matriarchal community.

Fidel Castro is gone, the man the U.S. tried to kill


In the end, the killer was one that awaits us all, humanity’s finite lifespan.

From the New York Times:

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90.

His death was announced by Cuban state television.

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

More from the Guardian:

Castro’s younger brother Raúl, who assumed the presidency of Cuba in 2006 after Fidel suffered a near-fatal intestinal ailment, announced the revolutionary leader’s death on television on Friday night.

“With profound sadness I am appearing to inform our people and our friends across [Latin] America and the world that today, 25 November 2016, at 10.29pm, Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban revolution, died,” he said.

“In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated.”

Raúl Castro concluded his address with the famous revolutionary slogan: “Onwards to victory!”

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that Fidel Castro’s ashes will be interred at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba on 4 December. The cemetery is the resting place of 19th century Cuban independence hero José Martí and numerous other leading figures in the country’s torrid history.

Hundreds of assassination attempts foiled

Castro lived a charmed life, surviving hundreds of would-be assassins, many of them dispatched by a U.S. government outraged that a revolutionary regime could challenge its hegemony and flourish just 90 miles off its shore.

Powerful U.S. corporations had seen their lucrative Cuban assets nationalized, and the mob lost its casinos, infuriating syndicate heads in Chicago, Miami, and New Orleans, as well as notorious money launderer Meyer Lansky, who lost his own casino.

Other governments as well loathed Castro for his backing of revolutuonary regimes and dispatched their own killers.

And all of their attempts failed, as documented in this 2013 report from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

638 Ways To Kill Castro

A noteworthy legacy

So we bid farewell to Fidel, who created a national healthcare system that’s one of the world’s best [the island nation’s infant mortality rates are much lower than those of the U.S., a fact the CIA acknowledges], and where the U.S. sends troops to maintain its dominance over the globe, Cuba sends doctors to heal folks in some of the world’s poorest lands and assist when disaster strikes.

Barred by a trade embargo from importing food from the U.S., Cuba developed the world’s best system of agroecology, raising crops without pesticides and an over-reliance on synthetic fertilizers, while turning vacant lots into rich urban farms.

While the American right has long demonized Castro as a despot, the truth is that he accomplished much good for the Cuban people and countless numbers of the sick and the afflicted in other lands.

And now we bid him farewell, a man whose legacy is — like that of all of us — mixed, but one that is far better than so often portrayed in the U.S. media.