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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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Recent developments show that 31 years after the Chernobyl disaster Ukrainian government considers alternatives to nuclear energy means and displays sustainable attitude to the safety of nuclear power facilities. In particular, Ukraine affirms its will to expand renewable energy in the Chernobyl exclusion zone by holding talks with French Engie SA about the construction of a huge solar park in the contaminated area: http://ukraine-investment-opportunities.org/2017/07/15/french-build-giant-solar-park-chernobyl-exclusion-zone/

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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