Archive for the ‘legal’ Category

Extradition looms for Julian Assange, after Supreme Court refuses to hear his appeal.

April 30, 2022

Extradition Looms for Assange After UK Supreme Court Refuses to Hear His Appeal, Marjorie CohnTruthout, March 16, 2022  

The British judicial system has erected still another barrier to Julian Assange’s freedom. On March 14, the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of the U.K. High Court’s ruling ordering his extradition to the United States. If extradited to the U.S. for trial, Assange will face 17 charges under the Espionage Act and up to 175 years in prison for revealing evidence of U.S. war crimes.

With no explanation of its reasoning, the Supreme Court denied Assange “permission to appeal” the High Court’s decision, saying that Assange’s appeal did not “raise an arguable point of law.” The court remanded the case back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which is the same court that denied the U.S. extradition request on January 4, 2021.

In all likelihood, the magistrates’ court will refer the case to the British Home Office where Home Secretary Priti Patel will review it. Assange’s lawyers then have four weeks to submit materials for Patel’s consideration. If she orders Assange’s extradition — which is highly likely — his lawyers will file a cross-appeal in the High Court asking it to review the issues Assange lost in the magistrates’ court.

If the High Court refuses to review those additional issues, Assange can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. That could take years. Meanwhile, he languishes in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, in fragile mental and physical health. He suffered a mini-stroke as his extradition hearing began. United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer wrote in a Twitter post that the “U.K. is literally torturing him to death.”

The Legal Background……………….

Issues Assange Seeks to Raise on Cross-Appeal

In the cross-appeal, Assange’s lawyers will raise the following points:

*The extradition treaty between the U.S. and the U.K. forbids extradition for a political offense and since espionage is a political offense, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case;

*Extradition would be oppressive or unjust due to the passage of time;

*The charges against Assange do not satisfy the “dual criminality test” which requires that they constitute criminal offenses in both the U.S. and the U.K.;

*Extradition is barred because the request is based on Assange’s political opinions;

*Extradition is barred because it would violate Assange’s rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression, as well as the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, under the European Convention on Human Rights; and

*The request for extradition is an abuse of process because it is being pursued for a political motive and not in good faith.

Human Rights Organizations Decry Supreme Court’s Refusal to Hear Appeal…………………..

Assange’s Fiancée Says U.S. Wants to Imprison Him for Exposing Its War Crimes

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, says Assange is being persecuted for carrying out a core journalistic mission: telling the truth.

“Whether Julian is extradited or not, which is the same as saying whether he lives or dies, is being decided through a process of legal avoidance,” Moris said. “Avoiding to hear arguments that challenge the UK courts’ deference to unenforceable and caveated claims regarding his treatment made by the United States, the country that plotted to murder him. The country whose atrocities he brought into the public domain. Julian is the key witness, the [principal] indicter, and the cause of enormous embarrassment to successive US governments.”

Moris added, “Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power.”

According to Moris, the United States wants to imprison Assange for 175 years because he “published evidence that the country that is trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; that it committed gross violations that killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children; that it tortured and rendered; that it bombed children, had death squads, and murdered Reuters journalists in cold blood; that it bribed foreign officials and bullied less powerful countries into harming their own citizens, and that it also corrupted allied nations’ judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.”

Assange and Moris, who have two small children together, have finally received permission to marry. They will be wed later this month in Belmarsh Prison.  https://truthout.org/articles/extradition-looms-for-assange-after-uk-supreme-court-refuses-to-hear-his-appeal/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=6141299d-bdd4-4062-8b24-47c47f1bdba5

In 2022, compensation funds for the nuclear-affected ”Downwinders” are due to expire

April 30, 2022

Funds for those impacted by nuclear weapons tests set to expire in 2022 https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/national/funds-for-those-impacted-by-nuclear-weapons-tests-set-to-expire-in-2022 By: Bo Evans, , Feb 01, 2022

Raymond Harbert may not have the words to describe it.

“It is really hard to relay all the feelings you get from one of those megaton tests,”

But he never forgot the details of the detonation of a nuclear bomb well.

“If you can imagine, 40 miles away, and you can feel the heat when it arrives. It arrives at a separate time. It’s a prickly heat, and then the pressure wave coming—the brightness. The feeling when they finally say, you can take your glasses off. Those are memories that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” said Harbert.

In this 2005 interview conducted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Harbert lays out an experience shared by thousands of Americans exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons tests between 1945 and 1962.

The fallout has lasted for decades.

“People don’t realize over 200 above-ground tests were done between 1945 and 1962, and an additional 900+ were done after that below ground. Which exposed Nevadans, people in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, places that were downwind of these tests to fallout,” said Dr. Laura Shaw.

Shaw works with the Nevada Radiation Exposure Screening & Education Program or RESEP at UNLV to provide medical services and cancer screening to people who are known as downwinders.

We review their history, we look at their medications, we offer additional screenings that include colon cancer screening, lung imaging, labs that screen for diabetes, anemia, cholesterol, so we do a lot,” said Shaw.

It’s all paid for by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act or RECA. The law was passed in 1990. The fund is set to expire in July 2022.

“These people have another 30, 40 years, hopefully, to live that were potentially exposed, so we need this program much, much longer,” said Shaw.

Some in Congress are attempting to extend and expand the fund.

“Tragically, for some, it is already too late. We’ve lost Idahoans Sheri Garmin, Teresa Valberg, and Srgt. 1st Class Paul Cooper to Cancer,” said Sen. Mark Crapo, (R) Idaho, in a congressional hearing.

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments of 2021 have been introduced in both the House and Senate and have been referred to committees.

Dr. Shaw remains hopeful it will pass.

“Cancer is still going to happen. These people are going to develop problems associated with their previous exposure. Cancer can happen years later, and it’s not going to pay any attention to any deadlines,” she said.

New files expose Australian govt’s betrayal of Julian Assange and detail his prison torment

December 26, 2021

The documents obtained by Tranter and provided to The Grayzone provide an unobstructed view of the Australian junior ally’s betrayal of one of its citizens to the imperial power that has hunted him for years. As Julian Assange’s rights were violated at every turn, Canberra appears to have been complicit. 

New files expose Australian govt’s betrayal of Julian Assange and detail his prison torment https://thegrayzone.com/2021/11/17/files-australian-julian-assange-prison/ KIT KLARENBERG· NOVEMBER 17, 2021

Documents provided exclusively to The Grayzone detail Canberra’s abandonment of Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, and provide shocking details of his prison suffering

Was the government of Australia aware of the US Central Intelligence Agency plot to assassinate Julian Assange, an Australian citizen and journalist arrested and now imprisoned under unrelentingly bleak, harsh conditions in the UK? 

Why have the country’s elected leaders refused to publicly advocate for one of its citizens, who has been held on dubious charges and subjected to torture by a foreign power, according to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer? What does Canberra know about Julian’s fate and when did it know it?

The Grayzone has obtained documents revealing that the Australian government has since day one been well-aware of Julian’s cruel treatment inside London’s maximum security Belmarsh Prison, and has done little to nothing about it. It has, in fact, turned a cold shoulder to the jailed journalist despite hearing his testimony of conditions “so bad that his mind was shutting down.”

Not only has Canberra failed to effectively challenge the US and UK governments overseeing Assange’s imprisonment and prosecution; as these documents expose in stark detail, it appears to have colluded with them in the flagrant violation of an Australian citizen’s human rights, while doing its best to obscure the reality of his situation from the public. 

(more…)

The reasons for the USA’s persecution of Julian Assange : Glenn Greenwald spells it out

December 26, 2021

“much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do.”


Julian Assange Loses Appeal: British High Court Accepts U.S. Request to Extradite Him for Trial

Press freedom groups have warned Assange’s prosecution is a grave threat. The Biden DOJ ignored them, and today won a major victory toward permanently silencing the pioneering transparency activist.

Glenn Greenwald  11 December   In a London courtroom on Friday morning, Julian Assange suffered a devastating blow to his quest for freedom. A two-judge appellate panel of the United Kingdom’s High Court ruled that the U.S.’s request to extradite Assange to the U.S. to stand trial on espionage charges is legally valid.

As a result, that extradition request will now be sent to British Home Secretary Prita Patel, who technically must approve all extradition requests but, given the U.K. Government’s long-time subservience to the U.S. security state, is all but certain to rubber-stamp it. Assange’s representatives, including his fiancee Stella Morris, have vowed to appeal the ruling, but today’s victory for the U.S. means that Assange’s freedom, if it ever comes, is further away than ever: not months but years even under the best of circumstances…………

In response to that January victory for Assange, the Biden DOJ appealed the ruling and convinced Judge Baraitser to deny Assange bail and ordered him imprisoned pending appeal. The U.S. then offered multiple assurances that Assange would be treated “humanely” in U.S. prison once he was extradited and convicted. They guaranteed that he would not be held in the most repressive “supermax” prison in Florence, Colorado — whose conditions are so repressive that it has been condemned and declared illegal by numerous human rights groups around the world — nor, vowed U.S. prosecutors, would he be subjected to the most extreme regimen of restrictions and isolation called Special Administrative Measures (“SAMs”) unless subsequent behavior by Assange justified it. American prosecutors also agreed that they would consent to any request from Assange that, once convicted, he could serve his prison term in his home country of Australia rather than the U.S. Those guarantees, ruled the High Court this morning, rendered the U.S. extradition request legal under British law.

What makes the High Court’s faith in these guarantees from the U.S. Government particularly striking is that it comes less than two months after Yahoo News reported that the CIA and other U.S. security state agencies hate Assange so much that they plotted to kidnap or even assassinate him during the time he had asylum protection from Ecuador. Despite all that, Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde announced today that “the court is satisfied that these assurances” will serve to protect Assange’s physical and mental health.

The effective detention by the U.S. and British governments of Assange is just months shy of a full decade. ……………………….. Assange has been imprisoned in the high-security Belmarsh prison, described in the BBC in 2004 as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay.” He has thus spent close to seven years inside the embassy and two years and eight months inside Belmarsh: just five months shy of a decade with no freedom………..

……….  In May 2019,the British government  unveiled an 18-count felony indictment against him for espionage charges, based on the role he played in WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and diplomatic cables, which revealed multiple war crimes by the U.S. and U.K. as well as rampant corruption by numerous U.S. allies throughout the world. Even though major newspapers around the world published the same documents in partnership with WikiLeaks — including The New York TimesThe GuardianEl Pais and others — the DOJ claimed that Assange went further than those newspapers by encouraging WikiLeaks’ source, Chelsea Manning, to obtain more documents and by trying to help her evade detection: something all journalists have not only the right but the duty to their sources to do.

Because the acts of Assange that serve as the basis of the U.S. indictment are acts in which investigative journalists routinely engage with their sources, press freedom and civil liberties groups throughout the West vehemently condemned the Assange indictment as one of the gravest threats to press freedoms in years. In February, following Assange’s victory in court, “a coalition of civil liberties and human rights groups urged the Biden administration to drop efforts to extradite” Assange, as The New York Times put it.

That coalition — which includes the ACLU, Amnesty International, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Committee to Protect Journalists — warned that the Biden DOJ’s ongoing attempt to extradite and prosecute Assange is “a grave threat to press freedom,” adding that “much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do.” Kenneth Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, told The New York Times that “most of the charges against Assange concern activities that are no different from those used by investigative journalists around the world every day.” ………………

But the Biden administration — led by officials who, during the Trump years, flamboyantly trumpeted the vital importance of press freedoms — ignored those pleas from this coalition of groups and instead aggressively pressed ahead with the prosecution of Assange. The Obama DOJ had spent years trying to concoct charges against Assange using a Grand Jury investigation, but ultimately concluded back in 2013 that prosecuting him would pose too great a threat to press freedom. But the Biden administration appears to have no such qualms, and The New York Times made clear exactly why they are so eager to see Assange in prison:

Democrats like the new Biden team are no fan of Mr. Assange, whose publication in 2016 of Democratic emails stolen by Russia aided Donald J. Trump’s narrow victory over Hillary Clinton.

In other words, the Biden administration is eager to see Assange punished and silenced for life not out of any national security concerns but instead due to a thirst for vengeance over the role he played in publishing documents during the 2016 election that reflected poorly on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Those documents published by WikiLeaks revealed widespread corruption at the DNC, specifically revealing how they cheated in order to help Clinton stave off a surprisingly robust primary challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). WikiLeaks’ reporting led to the resignation of the top five DNC officials, including its then-Chair, Rep. Debbie Wassserman Schultz (D-FL). Democratic luminaries such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Al Gore’s 2000 campaign chair Donna Brazile both said, in the wake of WikiLeak’s reporting, that the DNC cheated to help Clinton……………………………

It is difficult at this point to avoid the conclusion that Julian Assange is not only imprisoned for the crime of journalism which exposed serious crimes and lies by the west’s most powerful security state agencies, but he is also a classic political prisoner. When the Obama DOJ was first pursuing the possibility of prosecution, media outlets and liberal advocacy groups were vocal in their opposition. One thing and only one thing has changed since then: in the interim, Assange published documents that were incriminating of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, and Democrats, as part of their long list of villains who they blamed for Clinton’s defeat (essentially everyone in the world except Clinton and the Democratic Party itself), viewed WikiLeaks’ reporting as a major factor in Trump’s victory.

That is why they and their liberal allies in corporate media harbor so much bloodlust to see Assange imprisoned. Julian Assange is a pioneer of modern journalism, a visionary who was the first to see that a major vulnerability of corrupt power centers in the digital age was mass data leaks that could expose their misconduct. Based on that prescient recognition, he created a technological and journalistic system to enable noble sources to safely blow the whistle on corrupt institutions by protecting their anonymity: a system now copied and implemented by major news organizations around the world.

Assange, over the last fifteen years, has broken more major stories and done more consequential journalism than all the corporate journalists who hate him combined. He is not being imprisoned despite his pioneering journalism and dissent from the hegemony of the U.S. security state. He is imprisoned precisely because of that. The accumulated hostility toward Assange from employees of media corporations who hate him due to professional jealousy and the belief that he undermined the Democratic Party, and from the U.S. security state apparatus which hates him for exposing its crimes and refusing to bow to its dictates, has created a climate where the Biden administration and their British servants feel perfectly comfortable imprisoning arguably the most consequential journalist of his generation even as they continue to lecture the rest of the world about the importance of press freedoms and democratic values.

No matter the outcome of further proceedings in this case, today’s ruling means that the U.S. has succeeded in ensuring that Assange remains imprisoned, hidden and silenced into the foreseeable future. If they have not yet permanently broken him, they are undoubtedly close to doing so. His own physicians and family members have warned of this repeatedly. Citizens of the U.S. and subjects of the British Crown are inculcated from birth to believe that we are blessed to live under a benevolent and freedom-protecting government, and that tyranny only resides in enemy states. Today’s judicial approval by the U.K. High Court of the U.S.’s attack on core press freedom demonstrates yet again the fundamental lie at the heart of this mythology. https://greenwald.substack.com/p/julian-assange-loses-appeal-british

Need to establish compensation schemes for future nuclear accidents

April 5, 2021

Fukushima lesson: Victim compensation schemes need updating, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , By Hirokazu Miyazaki | March 10, 2021 At the 10th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that set off a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it is time to revisit the laws that govern compensation for victims of such disasters.

Fortunately, major nuclear accidents are rare. To date, only Fukushima and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Russia are rated level 7 “major” accidents by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But given the potential for nuclear power generation to expand, accidents of various levels of severity could also increase in frequency.

………..  expanding protection for victims, including the amount and scope of compensation they can receive, should become an international priority for the industry, policymakers, and global nuclear organizations.

As my colleagues and I who are part of the Meridian 180 Global Working Group on Nuclear Energy have found, domestic laws and international conventions around nuclear power and compensation for victims of accidents are insufficient and need to be revisited. These laws and protocols were designed, at least originally, to promote nuclear energy and protect the interests of the nuclear power industry. Given the infrequency of major accidents, the laws and protocols have not been tested very often.

The laws limit the liability faced by nuclear power plant operators and manufacturers and the amount of compensation paid to victims. As a result, investors can pursue nuclear energy projects without fear of a potentially significant burden to compensate victims if a major accident were to occur. But the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them—not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims.

Compensation claims remain unresolved. The Chernobyl disaster did lead to some reform of international and domestic laws to strengthen victim protections. But since Fukushima, few regulatory policy changes have been enacted, inside or outside Japan, and Fukushima damage compensation claims remain unresolved. Among the victims in Fukushima Prefecture are thousands of local residents who faced losses — of their homes, communities, ancestral homelands, and day-to-day life activities. Although not directly attributable, the deaths of more than 1,500 people have been linked to physical and mental stresses related to the evacuation after the nuclear reactor meltdowns.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has paid more than 9.7 trillion yen (or approximately $92 billion) to nuclear accident victims, the largest damage payout ever made to such victims and among the highest (if not the highest) paid in any industrial disaster. But dissatisfaction and unsettled claims remain. Some have not been compensated for losses because their residences were outside mandatory evacuation zones. Nearly 30 collective lawsuits brought against Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government are pending.

Three goals for deliberative conversation. Fair treatment and compensation for victims and those impacted by nuclear accidents can best be achieved through a deliberative conversation that is anticipatory, participatory, and transnational:

  • Anticipatory. Discussion of laws that govern nuclear power and provide for compensation of victims must occur before the next disaster. Many dedicated professionals continue working to prevent future nuclear accidents………….. the scope of responsibility is a question that requires careful and inclusive deliberation, before the next nuclear accident occurs.

    • Participatory
      . Any forum on nuclear disaster compensation must include a wide variety of people and interests, including ordinary citizens who have been impacted, or are likely to be impacted, by a disaster as well as nuclear engineers, medical doctors, environmental scientists, and other experts with specialized knowledge………

      • Transnational. 
        Nuclear disasters do not respect national borders, so forums on accident compensation must be transnational—a departure from past practice……….highlight the implications of compensating citizens who live beyond the borders of the state or region where a catastrophe occurs.Preparing for the next one. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima was deeply transnational in scope and participation: The US-designed reactors at the Fukushima plant used nuclear fuel that was mined outside Japan, likely in Canada, Kazakhstan, Niger, Australia, Russia, or Namibia, six countries that supply more than 85 percent of the nuclear fuel used worldwide. As nuclear power plants continue to operate, and with the prospect that more plants will be built in the future, the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them — not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims, which can only stem from discussions at all levels of government and industry that meaningfully include those most likely to be injured, should another nuclear disaster occur.  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/a-fukushima-lesson-victim-compensation-schemes-need-updating/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_Miyazaki_03102021

Courts threaten freedom of Russian nature protector

February 18, 2021

Courts threaten freedom of Russian nature protector, 10 Jan 2021, 

An act of love — Beyond Nuclear International 

Lyubov Kudryashova loves nature. Now she may be jailed for defending it

By Jack Cohen-Joppa

In Russian, her name means love. And it’s true. Lyubov Kudryashova loves the broad valley of Russia’s Tobol River, where it meanders out of Kazakhstan into the Kurgan Oblast. Her grandfather is buried there, she was born there, and she’s raised three sons there. As far as she knows, her ancestors have always lived there.

There, below the southern Urals, frigid continental winters give way to spring floods that inundate a landscape of oxbow lakes, wetlands, forests and fields. The waters sustain a large aquifer that Russia recognizes as a strategic reserve of fresh water.

“We, native people of the land, are against a barbaric attitude towards nature,” she says. “But our voices are too low.”

Which is why the passion of this campaigning environmentalist and entrepreneur has been met with fabricated charges of encouraging terrorism via the internet. She’s now on trial in a military court in Yekaterinburg, six hours away from her small town.

But Lyubov Kudryashova will not be spurned. “My ecological activity is going to continue. Well, I guess till the day the unjust court could takes away my freedom.”

In 2017, the government awarded an operating license for borehole leeching of uranium to Dalur, a uranium mining subsidiary of the Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom. The license to tap the Dobrovolnoye deposit around the village of Zverinogolovskoye condemned the very farmland Kudryashova’s father managed when she would accompany him as a child.

Dalur has two other leaky in-situ uranium projects in the Kurgan.

Many Tobol Valley residents feared environmental disaster when they learned that hundreds of exploratory wells would be drilled through the aquifer into the mineral deposit lying beneath it, without any public environmental review. Borehole leeching would eventually involve drilling thousands of wells and the injection of a million tons of sulfuric acid over 20-30 years, then withdrawing the dissolved minerals and chemically extracting the uranium.

Several times, activists tried to start a referendum and demand an independent environmental review, but met only refusals from the local officials.

Last fall, environmentalists surveyed some of Dalur’s other boreholes in Kurgan and documented much higher radiation levels than permitted. Despite the concerns, construction began on an in-situ leaching pilot plant and the huge clay-lined “mud pits” needed to receive the massive volume of toxic, acidified sludge produced in the process.

Beginning in 2017, Kudryashova was involved in the legal case against the Russian Federation over its refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment before awarding the license to develop the mine.

That year, she also co-founded the Public Monitoring Fund for the Environmental Condition and the Population Welfare with the regional branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. One month later, a judge of the Kurgan Regional Court issued an order giving the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) authority to wiretap her telephone.

The Fund publishes information on the environmental impact of Dalur’s mining activity. Kudryashova writes, “Shortly after the completion of the case in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the registration of the environmental fund, a hidden judgment of another court was rendered that allowed the FSB to begin wiretapping my phone and, I believe, begin to look for fictitious crimes in order to stop my work.

“I guess money is more important than the radioactive contamination of land,” she observed.

So it was that on January 29, 2019, armed men led by an FSB captain broke into her family’s home and spent the day searching it. That summer the FSB got a local court to involuntarily commit Kudryashova to the Kurgan District Psychiatric Hospital for most of the month of July. She was kept from speaking with family or others outside without permission of the agency.

Then in March 2020, the FSB charged Kudryashova with 12 counts of “public justification of terrorism using the Internet” based on a specious forensic analysis of posts on the social network VKontakte, which, according to Kudryashova, never belonged to her page. The actual source of those posts remains unknown because the protocol and the DVD-R capturing those posts show evidence of fabrication and forgery.  And at the most recent session of her trial in late December, a CD-R the defense had presented to the court for evidence was found to have been erased by an FSB operative.

Prosecutors say she advocated for violent overthrow of the constitutional order by re-posting memes with such seditious phrases as, “The fate of Russia is determined by each of us, what you personally or I do, then Russia will. A correct position can only be revolutionary” and “If the nation is convinced that the ruling power in the state is directed not at the development of its cultural, economic and other needs, but, on the contrary, at trampling them, then it is not only the right, but also the duty of the nation to overthrow that power and establish one corresponding to the national interests of the people.”

Kudryashova writes, “Nonviolent ecological activism, in the understanding of the rulers of my country, is a crime. That’s why prisons are full of people who wanted to protect nature, but those who harmed it are free… Ecological crimes against present and future generations are not subject to the judgement of a military court.

“I’m 55 years old and my life is not as important as the preservation of nature. My duty and responsibility are to make a small contribution in a great cause — to stop violence against nature and people. The price of atomic energy is the life of future generations.”

Her trial is in the Central District Military Court of Yekaterinburg, where the next hearing is scheduled for 28-29 January, 2021. Agora International Human Rights Group and the Memorial civil rights society in Russia have provided an attorney and other support for Kudryashova.

Letters in support of Lyubov Kudryashova and seeking dismissal of the charges against her should be addressed to the chair of the court collegium examining the case, Judge Sergei Gladkih, st. Bazhova 85, Yekaterinburg, Russia 62005, or by email to opo.covs.svd@sudrf.ru. Refer to Case №: 2-42/2020, Lyubov Kudryashova.

Jack Cohen-Joppa is the co-editor of The Nuclear Resister, the co-founder of the eponymous organization and co-winner with Felice Cohen-Joppa of the 2020 Nuclear Free Future Award in the category of Education.

 

 

USA government resists paying compensation to nuclear workers made ill by ionising radiation

December 22, 2020

the labor department ignored overwhelming evidence that her husband became sick from working at SRS

the system has become hard to navigate, with the government often fighting tooth-and-nail against the workers they were supposed to help

More than 2,200 workers had spent five years or more going through the exhaustive claims process, according to McClatchy’s 2015 “Irradiated’’ series. Some workers who filed for benefits died while awaiting decisions from the government, McClatchy found.

Death and despair. How the feds refused to help a nuclear worker’s family in SC, The State, BY SAMMY FRETWELL, December18, 2020 Every time Jerry Bolen came home from a construction job at the local nuclear weapons complex, he took off his dusty coveralls before stepping into the house he shared with his wife and children.

It was a precaution against tracking hazardous, radioactive materials into the family’s home in rural Barnwell County, says his widow, recalling how she would gingerly place the contaminated garment into the washing machine.

But while the effort protected the couple’s three kids, Jerry Bolen suffered. The long days he spent working at the Savannah River Site, exposed to chemicals and radiation, eventually killed him, his widow says.

Now, an exasperated Carolyn Bolen has sued the U.S. Department of Labor following a 13-year battle with the government over whether the family should receive compensation for the cancer that took Jerry Bolen’s life in 2006.

Her story is a familiar one. Many people who worked at SRS have complained for years that a federal compensation program for sick workers and their families is a bureaucratic morass that takes too long to maneuver and often doesn’t provide the benefits they were promised.

In Carolyn Bolen’s case, however, she was turned down so many times for benefits through the federal program that she exhausted all her appeals, prompting the federal lawsuit, she and her lawyers say.

The Nov. 20 suit against the labor department is among a handful of cases in South Carolina by ex-SRS workers and their families who were denied benefits in recent years through the federal compensation program, said Bolen’s lawyers, who specialize in helping sick workers.

Bolen’s attorneys said the labor department ignored overwhelming evidence that her husband became sick from working at SRS. They are seeking $275,000, the maximum she can get under the program. Other suits are expected as more workers or their loved ones are turned down by the government, said attorneys Warren Johnson and Josh Fester.

The federal government launched the compensation program two decades ago after conceding that employment at nuclear weapons sites likely made some of the workers ill. It was designed to help former employees who got sick working in U.S. nuclear sites during the Cold War.

To receive compensation, workers or their families must show that radiation on the site was as likely as not to have caused cancer or a handful of other ailments. Or, in some cases, they must show that people worked on the site during times when records of exposure are difficult to find.

The nuclear compensation program provides benefits to sick workers, but in some cases, covers their families after the person has passed away, such as with Bolen.

Unfortunately, the system has become hard to navigate, with the government often fighting tooth-and-nail against the workers they were supposed to help, Johnson said. Taking legal action to force federal compensation shouldn’t be necessary, said Johnson and Fester, whose law practice has represented sick SRS workers for years.

“This was supposed to be a way to make up for, or show our gratitude to these patriotic workers,’’ Johnson said of the compensation program. “They gave their health for our sake for the Cold War. We can at least offset the burden, by giving financial security, knowing they aren’t leaving a burden on their wives and children.’’………..

In 2015, the labor department told The State and the McClatchy Co. the program had approved more than 40 percent of the claims made by nuclear workers and their families, far more than the 25 percent the government anticipated when the program launched in 2001. The labor department said Friday the approval rate nationally is now more than 50 percent.

Even so, many claims don’t get approved and the wait for answers can be time-consuming. More than 2,200 workers had spent five years or more going through the exhaustive claims process, according to McClatchy’s 2015 “Irradiated’’ series. Some workers who filed for benefits died while awaiting decisions from the government, McClatchy found.

Earlier this month, a federal panel considered a proposal, advocated by Johnson, that could make it easier for thousands of workers and their families to receive benefits. But the board put off a decision until next year…………

he never complained about the long hours or said much about hazardous conditions at the site. That was important to the federal government because, during the Cold War, much of the work on the Savannah River Site needed to be kept confidential, family members say.

Tim Bolen, his son, said he never knew his father worked at SRS until just a few weeks before his death. But Carolyn Bolen did.

She remembers the days her husband came home with his coveralls coated in “white stuff’’ that she says came from the Savannah River Site. Bolen never knew what the material was, but she was always wary of the potential danger. And her husband occasionally offered clues that the white material came from SRS, she said……….

The site, a 310-square-mile complex, contains an array of nuclear production areas with some of the most toxic substances in the world.

Among them is a tank farm, which houses nuclear waste deadly enough to rapidly kill a person directly exposed to it. Carolyn Bolen’s lawsuit says her husband worked for a while in the tank farm area and another section where radioactive material is used.

The Savannah River Site, located near the Georgia border outside Aiken, was part of the national effort to produce atomic weapons between World War II and the early 1990s. Nationally, the effort employed some 600,000 people, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office……

After working periodically at SRS through the years, Jerry Bolen began to feel an uncomfortable sensation in the late 1990s that he couldn’t shake.

Something was wrong with his bladder. During trips to the bathroom, bloody urine flowed into the toilet and a sharp sting caused him to gasp. The pain was so bad, at times, that Carolyn Bolen could hear her husband’s cries throughout the house.

“He just screamed for mercy,’’ she said.

The discomfort sent him to a doctor, where the family learned the man who had faithfully kept a roof over their heads and food on the table was gravely ill. He had bladder and prostate cancer…….

In August 2006, Jerry “Little Mac’’ Bolen died at the age of 60, leaving his wife and family wondering how the once robust man could slip from their world. It didn’t seem right that a man so young and energetic had become so sick, family members say. …….

MISSING RECORDS

Jerry Bolen’s time at SRS, and his devotion to his family, haven’t impressed federal officials who have considered whether his family is eligible for benefits through the labor department’s sick worker compensation program. They’re skeptical an award to his widow is warranted, saying they need more evidence.

An obstacle some workers face is gaining access to records that could show there is at least a 50 percent chance radiation caused cancer they developed after working at the Savannah River Site, a complex developed in the early 1950s.

Many records either can’t be located, are inaccurate or don’t exist, meaning workers can’t prove how many days they worked on site, or the amount of radioactive material they might have been exposed to.

That’s a particular concern for subcontractors like Bolen, who did not work directly for the government or for the major contractors hired by the U.S. Department of Energy to run the site. Subcontractors often were local construction companies brought in to do specific jobs.

Johnson and Fester said records of subcontractors often are harder to find than those for energy department workers.

In Bolen’s case, the labor department turned down the family’s claim for benefits because “the submitted documentation does not establish covered SRS employment for the employee,’’ according to the federal lawsuit Carolyn Bolen filed. In declining comment on the Bolen case, a Department of Labor spokeswoman said Friday that claims can be turned down for a variety of reasons…..

Bolen’s lawsuit, however, said the labor department simply dismissed credible evidence that would prove the case. Jerry Bolen, for instance, worked with acquaintances or for his brothers’ construction businesses in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, according to five affidavits filed in Carolyn Bolen’s federal lawsuit last month.

Those affidavits, provided by family and friends who worked with Jerry Bolen, were combined with SRS identification badges issued in his name, and records of radiation doses the family ran across in his belongings. Some material was unearthed and provided to the government after the labor department had initially denied requests for compensation.

Despite the evidence, the Department of Labor ruled against the Bolen family’s request for reconsideration this past summer. Her case had been turned down at least three times before 2020.

“The department simply ignored additional evidence that Mr. Bolen was present at the site before 1968 and after Jan. 24, 1969,’’ the lawsuit said. “Mrs. Bolen’s request for reconsideration further asserts the department misapplied the law in determining covered employment by holding Mrs. Bolen to an impossible burden of proof.’’

While the Bolens have been turned down repeatedly in seeking compensation, Johnson and Fester are hoping the lawsuit will succeed. Fester said one of the five other cases the firm has filed resulted in a verdict that would have required payment to a sick worker. But the worker died before benefits were dispersed.

In the meantime, Fester and Johnson are pushing the federal government to approve a proposal that could open up benefits to thousands of people who worked at the Savannah River Site.

Under federal law, the government can acknowledge that it is too difficult to find records during certain years that would prove a person’s case for compensation for radiation-related cancer. As a result, the government can declare periods of years free of the need to provide records showing that a person likely got cancer from working at SRS.

The government already has done that for the time from 1953 to fall 1972. Some ex-workers at SRS, who were employed there for at least 250 days between these times, are eligible for benefits without producing extensive documentation about exposure to radioactive materials.

Now, a federal advisory board is considering whether to extend that to cover up to 1990 for some types of workers at SRS. It’s clear that Jerry Bolen worked well above 250 days between 1972 and 1990 at the site, so it’s possible his family could gain compensation if the time period is expanded to 1990, Johnson and Fester said.

A decision, under consideration for years, could be rendered as early as February if the federal advisory board recommends expanding the period. Such a decision ultimately would be made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the labor department said Friday.

Carolyn Bolen said a favorable decision — and her lawsuit — would mean a lot to many people who need help after they or their loved ones got sick at SRS.

“There are a lot of poor people in this world, and they don’t have the money like the president or the people in the White House,’’ she said. “I ain’t just talking about myself. There are people with needs.’’

This story has been updated with information provided Friday Dec. 18, 2020 by the U.S. Department of Labor.  https://www.thestate.com/news/local/environment/article247828620.html

Correcting 5 wrong opinions about the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

November 28, 2020

FIVE COMMON MISTAKES ON THE TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEARWEAPONS https://warontherocks.com/2020/11/five-common-mistakes-on-the-treaty-on-the-prohibition-of-nuclear-weapons/

ALICIA SANDERS-ZAKRE, 16 Nov 20,  In late January 2021, something big is happening to influence international politics. And no, I’m not talking about the inauguration of the new U.S. president.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first international ban on nuclear weapons, will take full legal effect on Jan. 22, 2021. It joins the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention as a treaty prohibiting weapons of mass destruction and follows the roadmap of the Mine Ban Treaty (known as the Ottawa Treaty) and Cluster Munitions Convention to bring together a coalition of civil society and diplomats to prohibit and eliminate weapons based on their humanitarian harm. The treaty has widespread support in the international community — 122 countries voted for its adoption in 2017, and these countries have continued to express their support for the treaty in subsequent statements to the U.N. General Assembly, in spite of resistance from nuclear-armed states and some of their allies, who have not joined the treaty.

This treaty is a big deal. And yet, political scientists and nuclear policy experts, largely from nuclear-armed states, repeatedly make mistakes in their analysis and interpretation of this treaty and international law. At a gathering of roughly 800 nuclear policy experts in Washington, D.C. in 2019, experts overwhelmingly and incorrectly predicted the treaty would not enter into force by March 2021. A French academic even misread the actual treaty text — a clear error that was not flagged by any of the article’s expert reviewers, and was only corrected after publication.

I work at the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to negotiate the ban treaty. Its work is informed by international lawyers, academics, technical experts, diplomats, survivors of nuclear weapon use and testing, and advocates with regional expertise. This diverse and rich foundation of knowledge and experience informs our work to this day. But some academics and nuclear policy experts that haven’t worked as closely on the treaty often make five key mistakes when analyzing this treaty and international law: that the treaty may be just symbolic, that NATO countries cannot join, that the treaty doesn’t address compliance, that it won’t have any impact on nuclear-armed and NATO states, and that the treaty will only affect democracies.

Mistake One: The Treaty Is Purely Symbolic

The legal impact of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is clear: Once it enters into force, all states parties will need to comply with the treaty’s prohibitions and implement its obligations. While some treaty articles reinforce existing obligations under other treaties, states parties do actually take on new legal obligations, contrary to what some have claimed. Even without any other states joining the treaty, from a strictly legal perspective, the treaty is not merely “symbolic.”

The treaty prohibits states parties from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using (or threatening to use) nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits states parties from assisting, encouraging, or inducing states to engage in any of these prohibited activities. Some of these prohibitions are already enshrined in nuclear weapon-free zone treaties, but not all prohibition treaty states parties are members of these treaties. Given that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty unfortunately has yet to enter into force, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will be the only agreement in force banning nuclear testing internationally.

In addition to adhering to prohibitions, states parties must implement positive obligations, some of which echo previous agreements, but many of which are new to this treaty.

There are some technical requirements. For example, states parties must submit a declaration with the U.N. secretary-general on their nuclear weapon status. They must also bring into force a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on inspecting their peaceful nuclear program, or maintain a more intrusive inspections regime (an “additional protocol”) if they have one in force already.

But the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons also includes ground-breaking provisions on providing assistance to victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and remediating contaminated environments. This is the first time that international law has mandated that countries address the humanitarian devastation caused by decades of nuclear weapons testing and the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. It is a critical step forward to address the racist, colonialist, and unjust legacy left by these uniquely horrible weapons of mass destruction. Analysis of this treaty would do well not to ignore these historic articles.

Specifically, Article 6  of the treaty requires states to “provide age- and gender-sensitive assistance, without discrimination, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological support,” for victims of nuclear weapons use and testing “as well as provide for their social and economic inclusion.” States must also “take necessary and appropriate measures” towards the remediation of contaminated environments. States with affected communities and contaminated environments under their jurisdiction are primarily responsible to structure and implement these obligations in order to respect these states’ sovereignty and follow the legal precedent for victim assistance in other treaties. However, Article 7, which requires that all countries cooperate to implement the treaty’s provisions, specifically calls on all states “in a position to do so” to provide assistance to other states as they carry out these initiatives. Such assistance can take many forms, including technical, financial, and material, so every state should be in a position to contribute.

These provisions will be at the center of the first meeting of states parties to the treaty, to take place within one year of the treaty’s entry into force. Austria has already offered to host this meeting in Vienna. At this meeting, states will discuss routine logistics of international treaty meetings, such as costs and establishing the rules of procedure. Observer states, including signatory states, and some non-signatory states, including at least Sweden and Switzerland, will also attend and share the cost of the meeting. The extent of their participation will be determined by the rules of procedure. Civil society will also likely play an active role.

Mistake Two: NATO Countries Cannot Join the Treaty

One academic recently argued that membership in NATO and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be “mutually exclusive.” While fully compliant membership in both treaties would require a few policy adjustments, it is certainly possible. There is no prohibition in the treaty for a member to be involved in military alliances or exercises with nuclear-armed states, as long as there is not a significant nuclear dimension to those alliances. NATO itself states, “NATO is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance.” However, legal experts explain that if a NATO state would like to join the treaty, they may certainly do so and remain in the alliance as long as that state renounces participation in the nuclear dimension of the alliance and indicates that it does not support activities prohibited by the treaty. There is a precedent of NATO members “footnoting” alliance documents to signal disagreement with certain policies. A NATO state could thus announce its change in policy and adjust its behavior accordingly to be in compliance with the treaty’s provisions. Exactly how the NATO state would need to adjust its behavior to be in compliance with the treaty varies by country and could be determined in consultation with states parties.

Historically, different members of NATO can take different positions on controversial weapons without obliterating the alliance. Indeed, there are already divergent policies within NATO on the extent of participation in the nuclear aspect of the alliance: Some NATO countries go so far as to host U.S. nuclear weapons on their soil while others do not allow deployment on their territory under any circumstances. Opposition within NATO to banning landmines and cluster munitions did not stop those prohibitions from moving forward, even as the United States pressured countries to not even participate in the process to negotiate a treaty banning cluster munitions, and certainly did not destroy the alliance. Dozens of former leaders from NATO states, including two former NATO secretaries-general, recently called on their countries to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and certainly did not suggest that such a move would involve leaving NATO or that it would fracture the alliance. NATO’s status as a nuclear alliance has evolved over time, and it could continue to adapt to shifting international norms.

Mistake Three: There Is No Mechanism to Address Compliance Concerns in the Treaty

If there are any concerns about compliance with the terms of the treaty, the treaty explains clearly what states should do in Article 11. When a state party has a concern about another state party’s implementation of the accord, the two states may resolve the dispute amongst themselves or bring the matter to a meeting of states parties to discuss.

Concerns about compliance with an international treaty would certainly not be unique to this treaty and do not indicate that it is any less legitimate or valuable than other treaties with compliance disputes. States parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regularly raise concerns about nuclear weapon-state compliance with their obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament under Article VI during meetings of states parties of that treaty. Likewise, states parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention condemn Syrian and Russian violations. These examples demonstrate the value of international treaties to reinforce norms and provide a forum to discuss and condemn violations of international standards for peace and security. Of course, given that the treaty has not yet entered into force, no state can currently be judged to be in non-compliance with the accord.

Mistake Four: The Treaty Will Only Impact Countries That Have Joined It

States parties’ implementation of their obligation to assist victims of nuclear weapons use and testing will also have lasting impact beyond those countries themselves. There is currently no international standard for adequate victim assistance for those who have been impacted by nuclear weapons use and testing and no standard for how to judge that a nuclear-contaminated site has been adequately remediated. States parties’ work on these provisions in the treaty will help to provide research and experience in these fields that can be applicable and useful even beyond countries that have joined the treaty.

Countries that are not part of the treaty can still contribute to these important measures. The United States, for example, is one of the largest donors to Mine Action, which facilitates mine clearance, despite not joining the Mine Ban Treaty. Mounir Satouri, a French member of the European Parliament, has expressed interest in encouraging European Union countries, including NATO members, to contribute to victim assistance and environmental remediation measures under the treaty, even if they have not yet joined as states parties.

The treaty will continue to grow and integrate into the international system well beyond its entry into force in January and first meeting of states parties. The norm established by previous weapons prohibitions impacted banks, companies, and government policies in countries that had not joined the treaty, and the same can be expected for the nuclear prohibition norm. The treaty’s adoption has already caused a major Dutch pension fund to divest from companies involved in nuclear weapons, and more divestment can be anticipated once the treaty takes full legal effect.

Mistake Five: The Treaty Only Impacts Democracies

Countries that have not yet expressed support for the treaty are also expected to join in time. In many countries that do not officially support the treaty, polls show that domestic opinion is behind the ban and capitals in nuclear-armed and NATO states have adopted resolutions calling on their governments to join. Critics claim that domestic support may push Western democracies – in particular France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and NATO allies — to join the treaty, while more autocratic states — without a strong civil society to demand they adhere — remain unfazed by the new international law and norm.

That’s not how international law works. International law applies to all countries, regardless of their governance structure, and all countries are influenced by the new norms advanced by international treaties. Pressure to join the treaty does not just come from an active civil society, but from other states, international organizations, and the changing norm established by the treaty itself. Article 12 of the treaty legally requires that all states parties urge other countries to join. This can be done in the form of public statements in international fora, like the United Nations, or privately in bilateral meetings. Pressure to adhere can even come from international figures like the U.N. secretary-general, the Dalai Lama, and the Pope who have all welcomed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

So far, the record shows that Western democracies are not necessarily more susceptible to pressure to support the treaty or to join it. While the United States and some NATO allies held a press conference outside the negotiations of the treaty in protest, China merely abstained on the resolution to start negotiations. When the treaty reached 50 states parties, a U.S. official Twitter account called the treaty “counterproductive,” while the Chinese UN Mission on Twitter claimed its objectives were “in line with purposes of the TPNW.” Of the states that have already joined the treaty, many have done so not because of civil society pressure, but due to their desire to adhere to international laws and norms against nuclear weapons.

Conclusion

In January, the treaty will take its rightful place among the other international treaties regulating nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, as an implementing instrument of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s Article VI and complement to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Most countries support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an important achievement for peace and security and towards a world free of nuclear weapons. As the risk of nuclear weapons use increases alarmingly, nuclear disarmament measures like this treaty are urgently needed.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will impact the norm against nuclear weapons and in the meantime will provide concrete assistance for victims of nuclear weapons use and testing and contribute to remediating radiologically contaminated areas. It is a powerful tool: important enough for leaders to ratify even in the midst of a global pandemic and influential enough that the United States actually called on countries to withdraw their instrument of ratification or accession. Analytical attempts to belittle or undermine the significance of this treaty may appease the minority of countries that cling to these weapons of mass destruction for now, but make no mistake — the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a game-changer. And it is not going anywhere.

After 4 decades of Plowshares Actions, It’s Nuclear Warfare that Should Be on Trial — Not Activists

November 28, 2020

Most of the Kings Bay Plowshares still await sentencing. Mom was sentenced to time served by video conference in June — a surreal and dislocating experience that is now more and more common in our criminal justice system. Her co-defendants opted to postpone sentencing in hopes that it could be in person, but it is unclear if that will happen.

After 4 decades of Plowshares Actions, It’s Nuclear Warfare that Should Be on Trial — Not Activists, Forty years ago, the Plowshares Eight sparked a movement of nuclear disarmers that continues to take responsibility for weapons of mass destruction.

Common Dreams, by Frida Berrigan 26 Sep 20,      “Nuclear warfare is not on trial here, you are!” said Judge Samuel Salus, in exasperation.

Before him were eight activists, including two priests and a nun. As Judge Salus tried to preside over the government’s prosecution of them for their trespass onto — and destruction of — private property, the eight were trying to put nuclear warfare, nuclear weapons, nuclear policy and U.S. exceptionalism on trial.

That was 40 years ago this week — ancient history by some measures. And no one reading this will be surprised to find that the eight were found guilty and the human family is still threatened by almost 15,000 nuclear warheads. So, four decades later, why isn’t nuclear warfare on trial?

They are the crime responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians 75 years ago. They have littered the landscape with radioactive waste. They have cost the United States more than $5 trillion from the public coffers. They are the apocalyptic nightmare on hair-trigger alert that haunt our children’s dreams.

On September 9, 1980, my father, Philip Berrigan, along with his brother Daniel, John Schuchardt, Dean Hammer, Elmer Maas, Molly Rush, Sister Anne Montgomery, and Father Carl Kabat, gained entry into the General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Once inside the complex, they poured blood over two nuclear weapons’ nose cones, and used household hammers to dent the metal. They came to be known as The Plowshares Eight. (more…)

USA’s nuclear insurance places the big responsibility on the tax-payer

March 10, 2020

The US government insurance scheme for nuclear power plant accidents no longer makes sense, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Victor Gilinsky, February 26, 2020   The Japan Center for Economic Research, a source sympathetic to nuclear power, recently put the long-term costs of the 2011 Fukushima accident as about $750 billion. Contrast that with the maximum of $13 billion that could be available after a catastrophic US nuclear accident under the plant owners’ self-insurance scheme defined by the Price-Anderson Act. The Act will have to be renewed before 2025; Congress should seize the opportunity not only to reflect on the lack of insurance in the event of a catastrophic accident, but also to reconsider our approach to nuclear power plant safety altogether.


Price-Anderson
 frees nuclear plant operators and all firms involved in nuclear construction and maintenance of any liability for offsite accident damage. The only chance for additional compensation lies in the act’s declaration that if accident damages exceed the legal limit “Congress will thoroughly review the particular incident” and will “take whatever action is determined to be necessary” to provide full compensation to the public. In short, a Fukushima-level accident would toss the costs of compensation and cleanup unto the lap of Congress. ……….

The main public risk of nuclear power plants comes from rare but devastating nuclear accidents. Because data on such accidents is sparse, the probability of their occurrence has to be calculated on the basis of a model, rather than obtained from experience. Moreover, the extent of an accident and its monetary consequences are postulated on the basis of models that are limited by analysts’ imagination. Who would have imagined, for example, that the Fukushima accident would involve several reactors? Or that Japan would subsequently shut down all its other nuclear power plants?……….

Curiously, from the chairman on down, the NRC misstates the legal standard for its safety decisions. The NRC and its staff claim their job is to provide “reasonable assurance of adequate protection,” whereas the standard in the Atomic Energy Act is “adequate protection.” Under the law, their job is to provide adequate protection, period. Do the commissioners think the extra cushion of “reasonable assurance” justifies weaker regulation?

To return to the Price-Anderson Act: As we’ve seen, a catastrophic accident would render the US self-insurance scheme for nuclear power plants pretty much irrelevant. But the indemnification of all industry participants would remain highly relevant: The industry would be free of any liability for offsite death or damage, whereas the victims would have to go hat in hand to Congress for restitution. This is an enormous subsidy—consider, again, the $750 billion and counting tab for Fukushima—that the federal government provides the nuclear industry, one without which not a single US nuclear power plant would or could operate. Freedom from liability also has had a perverse effect on nuclear safety. Without the liability protection of Price-Anderson, industry incentives to develop nuclear designs safer than light water reactors would surely have been higher.

Freedom from liability was put into law in the 1950s to get the US commercial nuclear power industry off the ground. It was meant to be temporary, until industry and insurers got some experience with the new technology. But even as time went on, industrial organizations like General Electric and Westinghouse would not participate in the civilian nuclear program if they risked responsibility for offsite damage from a nuclear plant accident………

What is clear is that the nuclear firms—the largest of which possess an understanding of nuclear safety far beyond that of the public—do not believe the NRC safety conclusions that the risk of a catastrophic nuclear accident is infinitesmal. Nor do they accept that probable risk—probability of an accident times the consequences, were one to occur—as the right measure of risk to their companies. They don’t want to risk their companies, period.

If they don’t believe the NRC numbers, why should the rest of us accept them?

Why shouldn’t we have the same protection from physical harm that the nuclear industry has from financial liability? And just as the nuclear vendors will not participate on terms that do not include indemnification from the overwhelming cost of a severe accident, so should the public have the analogous power to only accept future nuclear designs that can demonstrate that they preclude offsite harm. And the designs should demonstrate that level of safety in a clear way, based on physical principles, not on complicated probabilistic calculations put forward by interested parties.

Such new designs would eliminate the current dilemma of a federal nuclear self-insurance scheme that cannot, as a practical matter, cover the financial consequences to the public of catastrophic nuclear power plant accidents. But how to get there? One of the disincentives is the Price-Anderson Act’s limitations on industry liability for offsite accident consequences. That should get phased out.  https://thebulletin.org/2020/02/the-us-government-insurance-scheme-for-nuclear-power-plant-accidents-no-longer-makes-sense/#