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UKRAINE: a ticking nuclear time-bomb

Ukraine’s ageing nuclear power facilities are unfit for purpose and post a Chernobyl style danger to the region. Even if the endlessly delayed safety upgrades ever do get completed, there are still many pressing questions that both Ukrainian and European officials are afraid to answer due to political embarrassment.

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While the proliferation of war crimes, including the use of chemical weapons on civilian targets by the Ukrainian regime is consistently ignored by the western mainstream media, there is another long-term problem that is if anything, being silenced in an even more sinister manner. It is a problem that could cause suffering not only to the people and the environment within Ukraine’s current borders but also those far beyond.

Over 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster, Ukrainian authorities are displaying an irresponsible attitude to the safety of nuclear power facilities that could cause another Chernobyl style disaster.

In 2016, the The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Euratom loaned Ukraine €300 million each as part of a safety upgrade of Ukraine’s ageing nuclear reactors.

12 of Ukraine’s 15 active nuclear reactors will be deemed unsafe to operate by 2020. In order to meet the deadline, the safety upgrades should have been completed by 2017. As things stand, the upgrades have barely started.

Ukrainian nuclear safety campaigner Irina Holovko described the situation in the following way,

“The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Euratom – each extended EUR 300 million in loans for improving the safety of Ukraine’s 12 nuclear energy units – had also practically acknowledged, that in their current condition, these Soviet-era nuclear reactors are a serious risk for both Ukraine and its neighbours.

Over the next four years these ageing nuclear reactors will reach the end of their original lifespan, but the government in Kiev is as keen as ever to use the EU’s financial support to keep them going for at least ten extra years.

And indeed, rather than helping Ukraine to retire its nuclear fleet and chart a new, sustainable energy course, Europe is now knowingly helping perpetuate a profoundly precarious energy source.

Nearly a quarter of European public money invested in Ukraine’s energy sector between 2007 and 2014 has gone into nuclear energy generation, concentrated in the hands of state-owned operator Energoatom. The European financiers were hoping to be able to positively influence the nuclear regulatory framework in the country, but have so far failed to act on a governmental decree in effect since January 2015 that bars SNRIU, the state nuclear regulator, from initiating inspections in nuclear facilities. This decree was issued a mere month after the EBRD gave the green light for the disbursement of its loan’s first tranche.

One year on, the Ukrainian government’s irrational fixation on nuclear energy means it does not even stop to consider alternatives. And even worse, Ukraine is consistently overlooking its legal obligations under both international treaties and the conditions to the loans it has received.

In May, when unit 2 at the South Ukraine nuclear power plant exceeded its design lifetime, it was taken off the grid. Unit 1 in the same nuclear power plant has already been operating beyond its original operational deadline since 2013, even though an independent expert study released in April this year determined the nuclear reactor has critical vulnerabilities due to substantial wear. When the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine, a Bankwatch member organisation, commented on the news about unit 2, Energoatom filed a libel lawsuit against us.

And the Ukrainian authorities appear to be quite consistent. In early December, South Ukraine’s unit 2 became the fourth to have its expiry date rewritten and was swiftly switched on again. The fact it had at least ten safety issues of the highest priority still pending did not seem to bother the SNRIU’s board, and addressing them has been postponed for 2016-2017.

The day before last Christmas another nuclear unit reached its original expiry date and was shut down. This time it was unit 1 in the Zaporozhye  nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, barely 250 kilometres from the front lines of the ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine. But in its meeting a week earlier the SNRIU’s board clarified that, once again, this is merely a technical intermission after which it will approve a similar lifetime extension. This could happen as soon as March 31, probably regardless of the state of safety improvements.

One might think that the Ukrainian authorities are equally in rush to guarantee the safety of these nuclear units, or that perhaps European involvement would help ensure that all safety upgrades are implemented fully and in a timely manner.

But, apparently, not if the Ukrainian government considers this a hurdle in its nuclear energy race. The deadline for the implementation of the European-financed program was agreed to be 2017. Yet, earlier this year the government decided to move this deadline to 2020 without the approval of the program’s financiers.

It is then no wonder that, even though the Ukrainian authorities receive support from EU taxpayer money for its hasty nuclear adventure, they blatantly ignore international treaties. The Aarhus and Espoo Conventions oblige Ukraine to carry out transboundary environmental impact assessments and consult neighbouring countries which could be affected by projects of this kind before permitting lifetime extension. In fact, several EU governments and the European Commission have already expressed their concerns to their Ukrainian counterparts.

The current government has been elected primarily with the mandate of fostering tighter relations with the EU. Keeping these outdated nuclear reactors at once condemns Ukraine to decades of unsustainable energy, and jeopardises the safety of both Ukrainians and their neighbours. The ball is now in Ukraine’s court because real solidarity is based on mutuality”.

Many suggest that the so-called safety upgrades, even if implemented on time (according to the new self-set extended timeline) and thoroughly, would still be insufficient due to the advanced age and outdated technology of the 12 reactors in question. Bankwatch have suggested that the entire process violates UN conventions on nuclear power safety.

The response of the authorities in Kiev has been dismissive and patronising. While they admit that the project was supposed to be complete by 2017 at the latest, they blame the delays on the coup which transpired in Kiev in 2014.

A statement from Gregoriy Plachkov, the deputy director of investment and long-term development at Energoatom, the state owned nuclear energy company of Ukraine, dismissed concerns over the delays in safety upgrades in the following way during a brief statement from 2015,

“The project began in 2011 … we were supposed to complete it in 2017, but unfortunately, due to the fact that the European credit came into force only this year – due to a change of government and bureaucracy – we are now engaged in a change to the timing of this program and we hope that it will be implemented before the end of 202”.

Others yet have pointed out the dangers of Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, the Zaporozhye being located in close proximity to the Donbass war-zone.

Sergey Shygyn, the chief specialist for nuclear reactors at Zaporozhye nuclear power plant has publicly admitted that Zaporozhye was not designed to withstand the conditions of war. Incidentally, not long after the post-coup regime took power an accident occurred at Zaporozhye.

With many of the necessary parts and equipment necessary to repair and maintain Ukraine’s ageing reactors only being available in Russia and considering the regime’s refusal to do business with Moscow, things begin to look even more troublesome.

International authorities reacted to the concerns of environmental and nuclear safety activists by holding a recent meeting of parties to the Espoo convention for environmental safety behind closed doors.

The Ukrainian regime has frequently played political football with issues of local and global public safety. The regime in Kiev had the last clear chance to avert the MH-17 disaster by re-routing the civilian aircraft away from what was a known war-zone where rockets capable of shooting down such a plane were known to be in operation. The regime was and is so hellbent on hiding the true violent nature of their war of aggression on Donbass, that they were willing to risk civilian life in order to prove that the region was safe when it clearly was not. They took a gamble and lives were taken as a result.

Can a regime which routs a civilian aircraft over a war-zone where anti-aircraft missiles are present be trusted with nuclear safety? Can a regime which uses chemical weapons on civilian targets be trusted with nuclear safety? Perhaps most importantly, can a regime which cavalierly delays the safety upgrades of nuclear reactors that many say should be permanently shut down due to safety concerns be trusted with nuclear safety?

The clear answer is no. Even if one agreed with the fascist ideology of the regime, one ought to consider how dangerous it is for the wider world for nuclear safety to be in such deeply corrupt and irresponsible hands.

The Chernobyl disaster took place within the modern borders of Ukraine. One might have surmised that Ukraine’s rulers would have learnt the lessons of Chernobyl more than any in the world. As it turns out, they seem to have learned the least.

 

 

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Sergey Lavrov SLAMS new US sanctions over Skripal case

Ruble continues to tank under the spectre of looming American sanctions imposed on the basis of circumstantial evidence and insinuation.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS News Agency reported on Sunday, 12 August that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed the US Department of State’s accusation against Russia regarding the attack on Sergey and Yuliya Skripal in Salisbury, England earlier this year.

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The State Department made the decision to impose new and very painful sanctions against Russia based on this premise.

This new round of sanctions is hitting the Russian economy very hard. The Ruble slid against the dollar from about 63 rubles on Thursday to more than 67.6 rubles as of 1:30pm UTC (Greenwich Summer Time) on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Lavrov had this to say:

“I think that all who know even a little bit about the so-called Skripal case, understand the absurdity of the statement in the official document of the US. Department of State that the US has established it was Russia behind the Salisbury incident.”

TASS went on to outline the circumstances:

On Wednesday, the US Department of State said in a statement that Washington was imposing new sanctions on Moscow over its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the British city of Salisbury. The first round of sanctions will take effect on August 22, while a second round may be introduced in 90 days in case Russia fails to meet certain conditions, the State Department said. Moscow has on numerous occasions rejected all the allegations about its involvement in the Salisbury incident.

The current round of sanctions goes into effect on 22 August, and is directed as follows, according to Bloomberg.com:

The initial round of these sanctions will limit exports to Russia of U.S. goods and technology considered sensitive on national security grounds, including electronics, lasers and some specialized oil and gas production technologies, according to a State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity Thursday. The official said the action could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports. Waivers will be allowed for space-flight activities and U.S. foreign assistance.

Under the 1991 law — invoked previously only against North Korea and Syria — a second, far more extensive round of sanctions would follow later unless Russia meets conditions including providing assurances it will no longer use chemical or biological weapons and will allow on-site inspections to verify it has stopped doing so, the official said.

Russia Thursday repeated its denials that it has the weapons or used them and held out little hope for compromise.

The added sanctions could include a downgrading in diplomatic relations, blanket bans on the import of Russian oil and exports of “all other goods and technology” aside from agricultural products, as well as limits on loans from U.S. banks. The U.S. also would have to suspend aviation agreements and oppose any multilateral development bank assistance.

The additional sanctions also could be averted if Trump declared that waiving them would be in the U.S. national interest, a politically risky move in light of criticism that he’s been too soft on Russia on issues including interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The action by the US State Department is being viewed as an internal political counterattack against US President Donald Trump in response to his overtures to President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki Summit in July of this year. In that summit, the two leaders had very frank discussions that looked incredibly positive for the prospect of a true thawing out of the troubled relations between the two great world powers.

However, the event appears to have drawn out the elements within the American power establishment which presently comprises most of Congress and almost all of the news media. Even some conservative media outlets joined briefly in condemning Mr. Trump for “selling out” to Vladimir Putin by saying he had no reason to believe Russia would interfere with the American elections.

While Mr. Trump tried to politically backpedal this remark, the die had been cast and now much of this establishment has invested their time and energy into branding Mr. Trump a traitor to the USA. In a similar vein, as reported by Jim Jatras in his piece here, US Senator Rand Paul also made overtures that were warmly received by Russian senators, and now he too, has been marked as a traitor.

In that light, plus even British media acknowledgement that there is no hard evidence whatsoever that ties the Russian Federation to the poisoning of the Skripals or the second couple in Amesbury more recently, it is clear that all deductions have been made on spurious reasoning and no hard facts.

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War is coming – to the United States and to the world

The all-but-inevitable Second American Civil War is likely to be fought away from US soil if the globalists have their way.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Jim Jatras’ piece, reposted in The Duran framed the political mess that Donald Trump – and the United States –  is in, extremely accurately:

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First US President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and appears to make some progress towards his stated goal of putting ties between Washington and Moscow on a positive course. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Trump is a called a traitor. The “sanctions bill from hell” is introduced in the Senate. Trump is forced on the defensive.

Next Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky visits Moscow, where he meets with Putin and gives him a letter from Trump proposing moderate steps towards rapprochement. Paul also talks with Russian Senators and invites them to come to Washington to continue the dialogue. Immediately, all hell breaks loose. Paul is called a traitor. The State Department “finds” the Russians guilty of the using illegal chemical weapons (CW) in the United Kingdom and imposes sanctions. Trump is forced even more on the defensive.

It is debatable how much of the US government Trump actually controls. This is the crux of the problem.

One President and one US Senator standing alone against all the Democrats and almost all Republicans in both Houses of Congress. Standing alone against a media culture dominated in the West by interests along the lines of cultural Marxism and anti-Christianity at any and all costs.

The truly fearsome power of the globalists appears to have the upper hand.

President Trump and President Putin are both dedicated and brilliant men. They have been trying to make a difference despite the enormous power being brought to bear against them. Rand Paul, for his part is also contributing to this.

The effort to marginalize President Trump has met with great success, though not total. The Russiagate investigation may be coming to its end; certainly a lot of information has revealed that the matter of election interference was never a Republican, much less Trump-related, phenomenon.

But the matter continues not to die.

The changes in prosperity and economic growth in the United States are astounding, especially in light of former President Obama’s insistence that it could never happen.

But the midterm elections approach, and there is not a clearly resounding wave to get more people who are on the Trump Train so to speak to continue to make and widen the impact of domestic change, as well as geopolitical change.

The inevitable outcome appears to be only one thing: War.

This war will be the Second American Civil War. 

While it must be said that the attribution of fault made is utterly incorrect, the New Yorker piece linked above does correctly list five conditions that set the table for such a conflict:

[Keith] Mines [with the US State Department] cited five conditions that support his prediction [of a new American civil war]:

  • entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution
  • increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows
  • weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary
  • a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership
  • the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes

It is not hard to see how these conditions have come to be so in the US.

The only problem is that it is very unlikely to be fought in the United States. It is likely to end up in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, perhaps parts of the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia.

We might well be faced with the prospect of a “government in exile” as Mr. Trump and those supporting his viewpoints are forced to flee the US.

The ideological viewpoints about Russia are not very important to many American people, but the home front will pit two sides that are both destined to lose.

One side is the ideological Left – like those people we consider “loony California liberals”, whose belief in open borders and the rejection of any sort of Christianity-based or traditional family values will cause their side to eventually implode.

The other side is what we might call the “right” or the Americans that support President Trump. However, they too are somewhat influenced by the very pervasive anti-Russian propaganda and it is likely that this group will be divided within itself, though they will be allied against the left.

For this reason, this opposition group will also suffer from a great deal of internal weakness.

This would normally lead to a bloody and protracted conflict. However, the greater danger with this lies in the pervasive power of the Western Media. It is extremely likely that the media will work to deflect attention from the true nature of the war and incite American forces to strike at Russia in some sort of direct, or by-proxy military action.

The picture the American people will be presented with is that Russia is trying to take over the world, when in reality Russia is simply trying to hold her own territory and her own ways.

Is there a way to stop this?

Yes. There is a way to stop it. The election of President Trump bought the US and the world a bit of time because Mr. Trump is so dynamic that it is difficult to truly stop him. The hallmark of his presidency is success in just about every aspect he has paid attention to.

But what he needs is congressional support.

It is very unlikely that the upcoming 2018 midterm elections offer a chance to create a truly pro-Trump agenda majority in Congress. But it can raise the number of dissenting voices to a number greater than one (Rand Paul). A strong vocal bloc of senators and representatives that speak with one voice about this issue could be enough to break through the wall of censorship of the American media. It could give voice to millions of Americans who also believe that this fight is coming, and who want to stop it.

Avoidance of this war will certainly not happen if establishment candidates or worse – liberal Democrats – win the midterm. With such a situation, the President will be marginalized greatly, and the rhetoric against Russia as a scapegoat will only increase.

The outcome is mercilessly logical.

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Saudi Crackdown On Canada Could Backfire

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

The Duran

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Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via Oilprice.com.


Like many spats these days, the Saudi Arabia/Canada one started with a tweet. Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist who is the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen.

The arrests had taken place in OPEC’s largest producer and leading exporter Saudi Arabia, which has amassed its wealth from oil and now looks to attract foreign investors as it seeks to diversify its economy away from too much reliance of crude oil sales.

Canada’s foreign ministry’s global affairs office urged “the Saudi authorities to immediately release” civil society and women’s rights activists.

Saudi Arabia—often criticized for its far from perfect human rights and women’s rights record—didn’t take the Canadian urge lightly. Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, stopped direct Saudi flights to Canada, stopped buying Canadian wheat, ordered Saudi students and patients to leave Canada, froze all new trade and investment transactions, and ordered its wealth funds to sell their Canadian stock and bond holdings in a sweeping move that surprised with its harshness many analysts, Canada itself, and reportedly, even the U.S.

The Saudi reaction shows, on the one hand, the sensitivity of the Kingdom to criticism for its human rights record. On the other hand, it sent a message to Canada and to everyone else that Saudi Arabia won’t stand any country meddling in its domestic affairs, or as its foreign ministry put it “an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom.”

The Saudi reaction is also evidence of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s harsher international diplomacy compared to the previous, ‘softer’ diplomacy, analysts say. Saudi Arabia is also emboldened by its very good relations with the current U.S. Administration, and picking a fight with Canada wouldn’t have happened if “Trump wasn’t at the White House,” Haizam Amirah-Fernández, an analyst at Madrid-based think tank Elcano Royal Institute, told Bloomberg.

The United States hadn’t been warned in advance of the Saudi reaction to Canada and is now trying to persuade Riyadh not to escalate the row further, a senior official involved in talks to mediate the dispute told Bloomberg.

The row, however, will not affect crude oil exports from the Kingdom, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih has said, adding that Riyadh’s policy has always been to keep politics and energy exports separate.

Canada imports around 75,000-80,000 bpd of Saudi oil, and these barrels can easily be replaced, CBC quoted analyst Judith Dwarkin as saying earlier this week. The chief economist of RS Energy Group referred to this amount as “a drop in the bucket” at less than a tenth of Canadian crude imports compared with imports from the United States, which amount to about 66 percent of the total. The United States could easily replace Saudi crude thanks to its growing production, Dwarkin said.

Still, the strong Saudi message to Canada (and to the world) is not entirely reassuring for the investor climate in Saudi Arabia, which is looking to attract funds for its economic overhaul and mega infrastructure projects worth hundreds of billions of dollars each.

“The Saudi leadership wants to drive home a message that it’s fine to invest in Saudi Arabia and bring your money to Saudi Arabia, but that there are red lines that should not be crossed,” Riccardo Fabiani, a geopolitical analyst at Energy Aspects, told Bloomberg, but warned that such strategy could backfire.

Analysts are currently not sure how the feud will unfold, but Aurel Braun, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Toronto, told Canada’s Global News that Saudi Arabia is unlikely to back down and reverse all its retaliatory measures without getting something back from Canada.Related: The Unforeseen Consequences Of China’s Insatiable Oil Demand

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is not apologizing for his country’s call that the Saudis release human rights activists.

“We have respect for their importance in the world and recognize that they have made progress on a number of important issues, but we will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights, at home and abroad, wherever we see the need,” Trudeau told a news conference this week.

The economic impact of the Saudi retaliation on Canada is unlikely to be large, but the fact that Saudi Arabia is whipping the oil wealth stick to punish economically what it sees as “blatant” interference with its affairs is sending a message to other countries, and a not-so-positive message to foreign investors.

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