Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

“Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World”

June 17, 2021

A secondary theme in the book is the role of a free press.  Blume observes that “Hersey and his New Yorker editors created `Hiroshima’ in the belief that journalists must hold accountable those in power.  They saw a free press as essential to the survival of democracy.”  She does, too.

Review: Lesley Blume’s “Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World”, Portside,  June 1, 2021 Lawrence Wittner  In this crisply written, well-researched book, Lesley Blume, a journalist and biographer, tells the fascinating story of the background to John Hersey’s pathbreaking article “Hiroshima,” and of its extraordinary impact upon the world.

In 1945, although only 30 years of age, Hersey was a very prominent war correspondent for Time magazine—a key part of publisher Henry Luce’s magazine empire………..

Blume reveals that, at the time of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Hersey felt a sense of despair—not for the bombing’s victims, but for the future of the world.  He was even more disturbed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki only three days later, which he considered a “totally criminal” action that led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

…………. Blume shows very well how this approval of the atomic bombing was enhanced by U.S. government officials and the very compliant mass communications media.  Working together, they celebrated the power of the new American weapon that, supposedly, had brought the war to an end, producing articles lauding the bombing mission and pictures of destroyed buildings.  What was omitted was the human devastation, the horror of what the atomic bombing had done physically and psychologically to an almost entirely civilian population—the flesh roasted off bodies, the eyeballs melting, the terrible desperation of mothers digging with their hands through the charred rubble for their dying children.

The strange new radiation sickness produced by the bombing was either denied or explained away as of no consequence.  “Japanese reports of death from radioactive effects of atomic bombing are pure propaganda,” General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, told the New York Times.  Later, when, it was no longer possible to deny the existence of radiation sickness, Groves told a Congressional committee that it was actually “a very pleasant way to die.”

When it came to handling the communications media, U.S. government officials had some powerful tools at their disposal.  In Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the U.S. occupation regime, saw to it that strict U.S. military censorship was imposed on the Japanese press and other forms of publication, which were banned from discussing the atomic bombing.  As for foreign newspaper correspondents (including Americans), they needed permission from the occupation authorities to enter Japan, to travel within Japan, to remain in Japan, and even to obtain food in Japan.  American journalists were taken on carefully controlled junkets to Hiroshima, after which they were told to downplay any unpleasant details of what they had seen there.

In September 1945, U.S. newspaper and magazine editors received a letter from the U.S. War Department, on behalf of President Harry Truman, asking them to restrict information in their publications about the atomic bomb.  If they planned to do any publishing in this area of concern, they were to submit the articles to the War Department for review…………

Hersey had concluded that the mass media had missed the real story of the Hiroshima bombing.  And the result was that the American people were becoming accustomed to the idea of a nuclear future, with the atomic bomb as an acceptable weapon of war.  Appalled by what he had seen in the Second World War—from the firebombing of cities to the Nazi concentration camps—Hersey was horrified by what he called “the depravity of man,” which, he felt, rested upon the dehumanization of others.  Against this backdrop, Hersey and Shawn concluded that he should try to enter Japan and report on what had really happened there……….

Hersey arrived in Tokyo on May 24, 1946, and two days later, received permission to travel to Hiroshima, with his time in that city limited to 14 days.

Entering Hiroshima, Hersey was stunned by the damage he saw.  In Blume’s words, there were “miles of jagged misery and three-dimensional evidence that humans—after centuries of contriving increasingly efficient ways to exterminate masses of other humans—had finally invented the means with which to decimate their entire civilization.”   Now there existed what one reporter called “teeming jungles of dwelling places . . . in a welter of ashes and rubble.”  As residents attempted to clear the ground to build new homes, they uncovered masses of bodies and severed limbs.  A cleanup campaign in one district of the city alone at about that time unearthed a thousand corpses.  Meanwhile, the city’s surviving population was starving, with constant new deaths from burns, other dreadful wounds, and radiation poisoning.

Given the time limitations of his permit, Hersey had to work fast.  And he did, interviewing dozens of survivors, although he eventually narrowed down his cast of characters to six of them.

……… Ross and Shawn decided to keep the explosive forthcoming issue a top secret from the magazine’s staff.  

Given the time limitations of his permit, Hersey had to work fast.  And he did, interviewing dozens of survivors, although he eventually narrowed down his cast of characters to six of them.

……… Ross and Shawn decided to keep the explosive forthcoming issue a top secret from the magazine’s staff.  

Groves believed that the Japanese deserved what had happened to them, and could not imagine that other Americans might disagree. ………. and he believed that an article that led Americans to fear nuclear attacks by other nations would foster support for a U.S. nuclear buildup.

The gamble paid off.  Although Groves did demand changes, these were minor and did not affect the accounts by the survivors…….  

On August 29, 1946, copies of the “Hiroshima” edition of the New Yorker arrived on newsstands and in mailboxes across the United States, and it quickly created an enormous sensation, particularly in the mass media.  Editors from more than thirty states applied to excerpt portions of the article, and newspapers from across the nation ran front-page banner stories and urgent editorials about its revelations.  Correspondence from every region of the United States poured into the New Yorker’s office.  A large number of readers expressed pity for the victims of the bombing.  But an even greater number expressed deep fear about what the advent of nuclear war meant for the survival of the human race.

Of course, not all readers approved of Hersey’s report on the atomic bombing.  Some reacted by canceling their subscriptions to the New Yorker.  Others assailed the article as antipatriotic, Communist propaganda, designed to undermine the United States.  Still others dismissed it as pro-Japanese propaganda or, as one reader remarked, written “in very bad taste.”

………………………… The conclusion drawn by Blume in this book is much like Hersey’s.  As she writes, “Graphically showing what nuclear warfare does to humans, `Hiroshima’ has played a major role in preventing nuclear war since the end of World War II.”

A secondary theme in the book is the role of a free press.  Blume observes that “Hersey and his New Yorker editors created `Hiroshima’ in the belief that journalists must hold accountable those in power.  They saw a free press as essential to the survival of democracy.”  She does, too.

………… Blume has written a very illuminating, interesting, and important work—one that reminds us that daring, committed individuals can help to create a better world.https://portside.org/2021-06-01/review-lesley-blumes-fallout-hiroshima-cover-and-reporter-who-revealed-it-world

When USA attacks a foreign state, the media calls it ”Defense”

May 3, 2021

It’s Aggression When ‘They’ Do It, but Defense When ‘We’ Do Worse   https://fair.org/home/its-aggression-when-they-do-it-but-defense-when-we-do-worse/ALAN MACLEOD Aggression, in international politics, is commonly defined as the use of armed force against another sovereign state, not justified by self-defense or international authority. Any state being described as aggressive in foreign or international reporting, therefore, is almost by definition in the wrong.

It’s a word that seems easy to apply to the United States, which launched 81 foreign interventions between 1946 and 2000 alone. In the 21st century, the United States has attacked, invaded or occupied the sovereign states of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Despite the US record, Western corporate media overwhelmingly reserve the word “aggression” for official enemy nations—whether or not it’s warranted. In contrast, US behavior is almost never categorized as aggressive, thereby giving readers a misleading picture of the world.

Perhaps the most notable internationally aggressive act in recent memory was the Trump administration’s assassination of Iranian general and political leader Qassem Soleimani last year. Yet in its long and detailed report on the event, the Washington Post (1/4/20) managed to present Iran as the aggressor. The US was merely “choos[ing] this moment to explore an operation against the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, after tolerating Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf for months,” in the Post’s words.

t also gave space to senior US officials to falsely claim Soleimani was aiming to carry out an “imminent” attack on hundreds of Americans. In fact, he was in Iraq for peace talks designed to bring an end to war between states in the region. The Iraqi prime minister revealed that he had invited Soleimani personally, and had asked for and received Washington’s blessing to host him. Trump instead used that information to kill him.

For months, media had been awash with stories, based on US officials’ proclamations, that Iranian aggression was just around the corner (e.g., Yahoo! News,  1/2/20Reuters4/12/19New York Times11/23/19Washington Post6/22/19). The Hill (10/3/19) gave a retired general space to demand that we must “defend ourselves” by carrying out a “serious response” against Iran, who is “test[ing] our resolve with aggressive actions.”

Russia is another country constantly portrayed as aggressive. The New York Times (11/12/20) described a US fishing boat’s mix up with the Russian navy off the coast of Kamchatka as typical Russian aggression, complete with the headline, “Are We Getting Invaded?” The Military Times (6/26/20) worried that any reduction in US troops in Germany could “embolden Russian aggression.” And a headline from the Hill (11/14/19) claimed that “Putin’s Aggression Exposes Russia’s Decline.” In the same sentence that publicized a report advocating that NATO expand to take on China directly, the Wall Street Journal (12/1/20) warned of “Russian aggression.” Suffice to say, tooling up for an intercontinental war against another nuclear power was not framed as Western warmongering.

Other enemy states, such as China (New York Times10/6/20CNBC8/3/20Forbes3/26/21), North Korea (Atlantic11/23/10CNN8/9/17Associated Press3/8/21) and Venezuela (Wall Street Journal11/18/05Fox News3/10/14Daily Express9/30/19) are also routinely accused of or denounced for “aggression.”

Corporate media even present the Taliban’s actions in their own country against Western occupation troops as “aggression” (Guardian 7/26/06CBS News11/27/13Reuters3/26/21). The New York Times (11/24/20) recently worried about the Taliban’s “aggression on the battlefield,” while presenting the US—a country that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and still has not left—as supposedly committed to the “peace process.”

Even as the US has been flying squadrons of nuclear bombers from North Dakota to Iran and back, each time in effect simulating dropping atomic bombs on the country, media have framed this as a “defensive move” (Politico12/30/20) meant to stop “Iranian aggression” (Defense One1/27/20) by “deter[ring] Iran from attacking American troops in the region” (New York Times12/30/20).

In February, President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on a Syrian village against what the White House claimed were Iran-backed forces. The Department of Defense absurdly insisted that the attack was meant to “deescalate” the situation, a claim that was lamentably uncritically repeated in corporate media, with Politico (2/25/21) writing that “the strike was defensive in nature” and a response to previous attacks on US troops in Iraq. Needless to say, it did not question the legitimacy of American troops being stationed across the Middle East.

That the US, by definition, is always acting defensively and never aggressively is close to an iron law of journalism. The US attack on Southeast Asia is arguably the worst international crime since the end of World War II, causing some 3.8 million Vietnamese deaths alone. Yet in their seminal study of the media, Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky (Extra!12/87) were unable to find a single mention of a US “attack” on Vietnam. Instead, the war was commonly framed as the “defense” of South Vietnam from the Communist North.

Even decades later, US actions in Vietnam are still often described as a “defense” (e.g., Wall Street Journal4/29/05Christian Science Monitor1/22/07Politico10/10/15Foreign Policy9/27/17). In a 2018 autopsy of the conflict headlined “What Went Wrong in Vietnam,” New Yorker staff writer Louis Menand (2/26/18) wrote that “our policy was to enable South Vietnam to defend itself” as the US “tried to prevent Vietnam from becoming a Communist state.” “Millions died in that struggle,” he adds, as if the perpetrators of the violence were unknown.

It was a similar story with the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, which was presented as a defense against “Soviet and Cuban aggression in the Western hemisphere” (San Diego Union-Tribune10/26/83).

There have only been three uses of the phrases “American aggression” or “US aggression” in the New York Times over the past year. All came in the mouths of Chinese officials, and in stories focusing on supposedly aggressive Chinese actions. For example, at the end of a long article warning about how China is “pressing its territorial claims aggressively” from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, in paragraph 28 the Times (6/26/20) noted that Beijing’s priority is “confronting what it considers American aggression in China’s neighborhood.” Meanwhile, two articles (10/5/2010/23/20) mention that Chinese disinformation calls the Korean War the “war to resist American aggression and aid Korea”. But these were written off as “visceral” and “pugnacious” “propaganda” by the Times.

Likewise, when the phrase “American aggression” appears at all in other leading publications, it is largely only in scare quotes or in the mouths of groups long demonized in corporate media, such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen (Washington Post2/5/21), the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad (Associated Press2/26/21) or Saddam Hussein’s generals (CNN3/3/03).

The concept of US belligerence is simply not being discussed seriously in the corporate press, leading to the conclusion that the word “aggression” in newspeak means little more than “actions we don’t like carried out by enemy states.”

American media and politicians, including Biden, in the grip of the war profiteers

February 18, 2021

Who Are the Ultimate War Profiteers? A U.S. Air Force Veteran Removes the Veil, Covert Action Magazine By Christian Sorensen,  February 10, 2021  “………….The most well-known industry pressure comes in the form of lobbying both political parties and funding their congressional campaigns (with extra focus on members of pertinent committees, such as Armed Services, Intelligence, Appropriations, and Foreign Relations)

This produces tangible results. As Steven Semler of the non-corporate Security Policy Reform Institute calculated, Democratic votes on the National Defense Authorization Act

correlate strongly with the campaign cash members accepted from the war industry. On average, House Democrats who voted for the NDAA accepted four times the amount of war industry cash as those who voted against it. In the Senate, Democrats who cast supporting votes took in six times as much industry cash.

Warmonger-In-Chief

The Executive Branch is not exempt. Rapacious financiers—including hedge fund chiefs and venture capitalists—top the list of donors to the Biden Administration, though dark money groups prevent a full understanding of the overall campaign finance picture. Between July and September at least 67 billionaires and their spouses made contributions of more than $100,000 to committees supporting Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Biden’s campaign received over $9 million from Donald Sussman, CEO of Palmora Partners, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, which has more than 260,000 shares in Raytheon, a preeminent weapons manufacturer and supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which recently won a $100 million contract for Afghan Air Force training

Another of Biden’s top donors, Jim Simons, who gave over $7 million, founded Renaissance Capital, which owns 1.2 million shares in Raytheon worth over $75 million, and 130,000 shares in Lockheed Martin worth $50 million.

Big Tech is positioned prominently among donors to the Biden inauguration celebration. Biden has been clear on the campaign trail that he does not intend to cut the military budget, even going so far as stating, “I’ve met with a number of my advisors and some have suggested in certain areas the budget is going to have to be increased.” Biden’s advisors are part and parcel of the military-industrial-congressional complex. Cozying up to wealthy donors, Biden infamously assured them that “nothing would fundamentally change” in a Biden presidency. https://covertactionmagazine.com/2021/02/10/who-are-the-ultimate-war-profiteers-a-u-s-air-force-veteran-removes-the-veil/

Corporate Media Kool-aid

Corporate media prevent the public from understanding the nature of the problem. A handful of business interests owns media outlets in the United States. Profit drives corporate media. U.S. corporate media (e.g. CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews) share the same business model: air what attracts the highest ratings in order to get more advertising revenue.

Corporate media air info-tainment, designed not to inform or foster critical thinking. Informing the public is not a priority. Maintaining the existing economic order is.

To the extent that corporate media air any information at all, the information reflects the opinions of the ruling class and the dogma of Corporate America.

Politically conditioning the U.S. public, corporate media never blame the military-industrial-congressional complex or capitalism for any of the problems in the world. Aiming for high ratings and lucrative advertising revenue, corporate media self-censor and taper the spectrum of acceptable foreign policy debate. War corporations purchase advertisements on corporate “news” shows to further confine the debate. Corporate pundits and newscasters do not speak out against advertisers.

Corporate media hire career militants (e.g. former CIA Director John Brennan, MSNBC; former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell, CBS News; retired General Jack Keane, FoxNews) who further confine the debate. Retired generals and admirals regularly contribute to all forms of corporate media, often without disclosing existing ties to war corporations or financial investments in war.

The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 allowed government to increase its propaganda in corporate media. Drawing funding from the wealthy donor class and large corporate interests, National Public Radio is similarly confined. NPR’s new CEO as of September 2019 is John Lansing, who recently led U.S. propaganda at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
Other industry pressure comes in the form of funding and running pressure groups [e.g. National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Association of the United States Army (AUSA)] to dominate the Pentagon, administer arms fairs, and push favorable policies; funding think tanks to keep the narrative neoliberal and pro-war; recruiting retired generals and admirals (e.g. Dunford at Lockheed Martin, Mattis at General Dynamics, Winnefeld at Raytheon) to leverage their knowledge for financial gain; and flooding the Pentagon’s civilian offices with corporate executives (e.g., Esper and then Austin, Secretary of Defense; Lord, Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment; McCarthy, Secretary of the Army).  …………

Christian Sorensen is an Air Force veteran and author of the new book entitled Understanding the War Industry. See CAM’s review of the book: Wars R Us: A Review of Christian Sorensen’s New Book.  https://covertactionmagazine.com/2021/02/10/who-are-the-ultimate-war-profiteers-a-u-s-air-force-veteran-removes-the-veil/

Revealed by Wikileaks – facts about nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry

February 13, 2020

What we know about nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry thanks to WikiLeaks,  https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/can-europe-make-it/what-we-know-about-nuclear-weapons-and-nuclear-industry-thanks-wikileaks/    The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded on 11 October. Why I support the nomination of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.” Felicity Ruby, 7 October 2019  The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded on 11 October. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been nominated for the prize again this year, as they have since 2010. As the first staffer of the campaign that won the Peace Prize in 2017, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), I support this nomination for a number of reasons.

The vast majority of governments on this planet want nuclear disarmament negotiations to occur and produce results. ICAN has been mobilising this willingness to push for a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons. From the outset, the campaign deployed accurate information to mobilise public opinion and reeducate a new generation. In facing the truth about nuclear dangers, answers became available and courageous action was taken. Facing the truth about climate change similarly involves the public having accurate information and courageously acting on it.

WikiLeaks and Assange have made a great deal of information available about nuclear weapons and the nuclear industry. A search on the WikiLeaks site for the word ‘nuclear’ brings up 284, 493 results. These documents traverse the nuclear fuel cycle – from uranium mining to nuclear waste – with many thousands exposing nuclear energy industry giants, and nuclear weapon threat assessments, numbers, doctrines and negotiations.

Ten examples

Below are just ten examples of where WikiLeaks exposed wrongdoing on the part of governments and corporations that meant citizens could take action to protect themselves from harm, or governments were held to account:

– Chalk River nuclear reactor shut down – released 11 January 2008 – Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on Chalk River reactor.

After the Chalk River nuclear reactor was shut down for routine maintenance on 18 November 2007, inspectors verified the reactor’s cooling systems had not been modified as required by an August 2006 licensing review. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) did not start the reactor but said upgrades could be done as part of maintenance while still operating safely. This impasse lasted a month, with the government intervening to grant an exemption to the reactor to allow its restart.  The responsible Minister for Natural Resources, Gary Lunn MP, fired Linda Keen, the President of the Nuclear Safety Commission. Their exchange of letters revealed much about the safety standards and routine practices of the Canadian nuclear regulatory system, and particular problems with the ageing Chalk River reactor previously unknown to the public.

– Footage of the 1995 disaster at the Japanese Monju nuclear reactor – released 25 January 2008
Following the 2008 announcement that the Japanese Monju fast breeder nuclear reactor would be reopened, activists leaked the suppressed video footage of the sodium spill disaster that led to its closure in 1995. Named after the Buddhist divinity of wisdom, Monju, located in Japan’s Fukui prefecture, is Japan’s only fast-breeder reactor. Unlike conventional reactors, fast-breeder reactors, which “breed” plutonium, use sodium rather than water as a coolant. This type of coolant creates a potentially hazardous situation as sodium is highly corrosive and reacts violently with both water and air. On December 8, 1995, 700 kg of molten sodium leaked from the secondary cooling circuit of the Monju reactor, resulting in a fire that did not result in a radiation leak, but the potential for catastrophe was played down the extent of damage at the reactor and denied the existence of a videotape showing the sodium spill. Further complicating the story, the deputy general manager of the general affairs department at the PNC, Shigeo Nishimura, 49, jumped to his death the day after a news conference where he and other officials revealed the extent of the cover-up.

– Serious nuclear accident lay behind Iranian nuke chief’s mystery resignation – released 16 July 2009

WikiLeaks revealed that a source associated with Iran’s nuclear program confidentially told the organisation of a serious, recent, nuclear accident at Natanz. Natanz is the primary location of
Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and the site targeted with the Stuxnet worm that contained 4 zero days and was designed to slow down and speed up centrifuges enriching uranium. WikiLeaks had reason to believe the source was credible, however contact with this source was lost.

– 180 confirmed US tactical nuclear weapons stationed in Europe – released 7 December 2010

In advance of the nuclear posture review, a briefing was provided by US Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Jim Miller to NATO in July 2009. Federation of American Scientists nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen stated, “Whether Miller was providing certified U.S. intelligence numbers or simply referenced good-enough nonofficial public estimates is less clear. But his use of a specific number (180) for Europe rather than a range suggests that it might an official number.”

– Italian nuclear industry corruption – released 18 March 2011    American diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks revealed how, “bribes could have a major impact on the future of the country’s energy industry,” in a four-year US campaign, which began in 2005, to encourage Italy to re-start a nuclear power program with a view to reducing its energy dependence on Russian gas and limiting the influence of the partnership between Italian energy company ENI and Russia’s Gazprom.

– Cash payments were made to Indian MPs for support of US India nuclear deal – released 18 March 2011     WikiLeaks revealed a cable by US Charge d’Affaires Steven White dated 17 July 2008 that indicated that the ruling Congress Party in India had bought MPs a vote on the 2008 India-US nuclear deal. Nachiketa Kapur, a political aide to Congress leader Satish Sharma showed a US Embassy employee “two chests containing cash” saying it was part of a bigger fund of Rs. 50 crore to Rs. 60 crore that the party had assembled to purchase the support of MPs.

– The IAEA warned Japan about safety issues at nuclear plants in 2009 – released 17 March 2011 In 2009, years before the Fukushima disaster, Japan was warned that its power plants could not withstand powerful earthquakes. The US was highly critical of Japan’s senior safety director at the International Atomic Energy Association “particularly with respect to confronting Japan’s own safety practices.”

– Safety and security issues with the UK Trident nuclear weapon system – released 17 May 2015

In an exclusive report to WikiLeaks, Trident nuclear weapons submariner, Royal Navy Able Seaman William McNeilly, aged 25, stated, “Please make sure this information is released. I don’t want to be in prison without anyone knowing the truth,” about the detailed nuclear safety problems he says he has been “gathering for over a year… This is bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us. We are so close to a nuclear disaster it is shocking, and yet everybody is accepting the risk to the public… Our Nuclear weapon systems are the prime target and we are wide open to attack. We must unite globally in order to eliminate the biggest threat the world has ever seen.”

– Western and Chinese companies expose workers in African uranium grab – released 5 February 2016       WikiLeaks released a collection of documents that open up a corrupt multi-billion dollar war by Western and Chinese companies which grab uranium and other mining rights in the Central African Republic (CAR) and escape paying for the environmental consequences. French giant Areva failed to protect miners from high levels of radiation who processed soil samples with no radiation protection, and neglected local employees when pulling out of a financially and politically disastrous venture in the CAR.

– Uranium One links with the Clinton Foundation – released 7 October 2016

As Russian Rosatom company Uranium One gained control of 1/5th of the US uranium production between 2009 – 2013, its chairman used his family foundation to make donations of over USD$ 2 million to the Clinton Foundation. Because uranium is a strategic asset, such a deal had to be approved by a Committee, whose decision was signed off by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Uranium One paid $20,000 to The Podesta Group to lobby the State Department for this deal, a lobbying firm founded by Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman, John Podesta.

WikiLeaks and Assange have brought forward many truths that are hard to face, publishing well over 10 million documents since 2006. Often forgotten is that each one was provided by a whistleblower who trusted this platform to publish, and who sought reform of how political, corporate and media power elites operate. Each release has shared genuine official information about how governments, companies, banks, the UN, political parties, jailers, cults, private security firms, war planners and the media actually operate when they think no one is looking.

Assange is nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of these many releases of information, used as evidence in court cases, freeing prisoners and exposing scandals, torture, murder and surveillance for which redress is only possible when the wrongdoing is dragged into the light. For publishing this true information, Assange, an Australian based in the UK at the time of publication, is on the health ward of Belmarsh Prison, facing extradition and charges attracting 175 years in a US jail, an effective death sentence.

Google publicly decries climate change, privately donates to climate denialism

February 13, 2020

Google and other companies were engaged in a “functional greenwashing” given the contradiction in their public pronouncements and private donations.

Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/11/google-contributions-climate-change-deniers

Firm’s public calls for climate action contrast with backing for conservative thinktanks.  The obscure law that explains why Google backs climate deniers,   Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington @skirchy  Email      11 Oct 2019

Google has made “substantial” contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers in Washington despite its insistence that it supports political action on the climate crisis.

Among hundreds of groups the company has listed on its website as beneficiaries of its political giving are more than a dozen organisations that have campaigned against climate legislation, questioned the need for action, or actively sought to roll back Obama-era environmental protections.

The list includes the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a conservative policy group that was instrumental in convincing the Trump administration to abandon the Paris agreement and has criticised the White House for not dismantling more environmental rules.

Google said it was disappointed by the US decision to abandon the global climate deal, but has continued to support CEI.

Google is also listed as a sponsor for an upcoming annual meeting of the State Policy Network (SPN), an umbrella organisation that supports conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, a radical anti-science group that has chided the teenage activist Greta Thunberg for “climate delusion hysterics”.

SPN members recently created a “climate pledge” website that falsely states “our natural environment is getting better” and “there is no climate crisis”.Google has defended its contributions, saying that its “collaboration” with organisations such as CEI “does not mean we endorse the organisations’ entire agenda”

It donates to such groups, people close to the company say, to try to influence conservative lawmakers, and – most importantly – to help finance the deregulatory agenda the groups espouse.A spokesperson for Google said it sponsored organisations from across the political spectrum that advocate for “strong technology policies”.“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” the spokesperson said.

Amazon has, like Google, also sponsored a CEI gala, according to a programme for the event reported in the New York Times.CEI has opposed regulation of the internet and enforcement of antitrust rules, and has defended Google against some Republicans’ claims that the search engine has an anti-conservative bias.

But environmental activists and other critics say that, for a company that purports to support global action on climate change, such tradeoffs are not acceptable.“You don’t get a pass on it. It ought to be disqualifying to support what is primarily a phoney climate denying front group. It ought to be unacceptable given how wicked they have been,” said Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island who is one of the most vocal proponents of climate action in Congress.“What all of corporate America should be doing is saying if you are a trade organisation or lobby group and you are interfering on climate, we are out. Period,” he added.On its website, Google says it is committed to ensuring its political engagement is “open, transparent and clear to our users, shareholders, and the public”.

Bill McKibben, a prominent environmentalist who has been on the frontline of the climate crisis for decades, said Google and other companies were engaged in a “functional greenwashing” given the contradiction in their public pronouncements and private donations. He said Google and other technology companies had also not used their own lobbyists to advocate for change on climate.

“Sometimes I’ll talk to companies and they will be going on and on about their renewable server farm or natural gas delivery, and I say thank you, but what we really need is for your lobbying shop in Washington to put serious muscle behind it. And they never do,” McKibben said. “They want some tax break or some regulations switch and they never devote the slightest muscle behind the most important issue of our time or any time.”A spokesperson for Google said: “We’ve been extremely clear that Google’s sponsorship doesn’t mean that we endorse that organisation’s entire agenda – we may disagree strongly on some issues.“Our position on climate change is similarly clear. Since 2007, we have operated as a carbon neutral company and for the second year in a row, we reached 100% renewable energy for our global operations.”The company said it called for “strong action” at the climate conference in Paris in 2015 and helped to sponsor the Global Climate Action summit in San Francisco last year.But that position is at odds with the support it gives to CEI.The group’s director of energy and environment policy, Myron Ebell, helped found the Cooler Heads Coalition 20 years ago, a group of libertarian and rightwing organisations that have sowed the seeds of climate denial with funding from the fossil fuel industry.

When Donald Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, Ebell joined the transition team and advised the new president on environmental issues, successfully lobbying Trump to adhere to a campaign promise and abandon the Paris agreement.

Kert Davies, the founder of the Climate Investigations Center, a research group that examines corporate campaigning, said Ebell had led the anti-climate-action crusade for decades.

“They’re extremists,” he said, referring to the Cooler Heads Coalition. “They are never finished,” he said. “Myron has taken a lot of credit for Trump’s actions and is quite proud of his access.”

Recently, however, Ebell – who declined a request for an interview – has criticised the White House for not rolling back environmental protections aggressively enough, even though the Trump administration has gutted every major environmental act established under Obama.

His wishlist now includes reversing a 2009 finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that CO2 and other greenhouse gases endanger the health and welfare of Americans.

CEI said it “respects the privacy of its donors” and declined to answer questions about Google. A CEI spokesperson told the Guardian: “On energy policy, CEI advances the humanitarian view that abundant and affordable energy makes people safer and economies more resilient. Making energy accessible, especially for the most vulnerable, is a core value.”

One source who is familiar with Google’s decision-making defended the company’s funding of CEI.

“When it comes to regulation of technology, Google has to find friends wherever they can and I think it is wise that the company does not apply litmus tests to who they support,” the source said.

 

“The Guardian” co-opted by UK security services?

February 13, 2020

Getting Julian Assange   The Guardian also appears to have been engaged in a campaign against the WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who had been a collaborator during the early WikiLeaks revelations in 2010.

It seems likely this was innuendo being fed to The Observer by an intelligence-linked individual to promote disinformation to undermine Assange.

In 2018, however, The Guardian’s attempted vilification of Assange was significantly stepped up. A new string of articles began on 18 May 2018 with one alleging Assange’s “long-standing relationship with RT”, the Russian state broadcaster. The series, which has been closely documented elsewhere, lasted for several months, consistently alleging with little or the most minimal circumstantial evidence that Assange had ties to Russia or the Kremlin.

How the UK Security Services neutralised the country’s leading liberal newspaper.   https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-09-11-how-the-uk-security-services-neutralised-the-countrys-leading-liberal-newspaper/ By Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis• 11 September 2019, The Guardian, Britain’s leading liberal newspaper with a global reputation for independent and critical journalism, has been successfully targeted by security agencies to neutralise its adversarial reporting of the ‘security state’, according to newly released documents and evidence from former and current Guardian journalists.

The UK security services targeted The Guardian after the newspaper started publishing the contents of secret US government documents leaked by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013.

Snowden’s bombshell revelations continued for months and were the largest-ever leak of classified material covering the NSA and its UK equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters. They revealed programmes of mass surveillance operated by both agencies.

According to minutes of meetings of the UK’s Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee, the revelations caused alarm in the British security services and Ministry of Defence. (more…)

News Corp – a propaganda machine for the mining industries

August 18, 2019

Veneer of ‘impartiality’ no longer needed

When it was founded in 1923, News Limited concealed its mining company connections at the same time it promised the public that its news would be “independent” and “impartial”.

Lip service or not, notions of balance and the public interest were important then. This was because News Limited’s founders knew that respect was an important precondition for influence, and that newspapers had to be responsive to the communities they served in order to attract a wide audience and prosper.

News Corp’s recent behaviour suggests it now sees such notions as quaint.  

The secret history of News Corp: a media empire built on spreading propaganda https://theconversation.com/the-secret-history-of-news-corp-a-media-empire-built-on-spreading-propaganda-116992?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2016%202019%20-%201310512227&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2016%202019%20-%201310512227+CID_373319b1d6127aa702c8cac26d83d7d2&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=The%20secret%20history%20of%20News%20Corp%20a%20media%20empire%20built%20on%20spreading%20propaganda Sally Young
Professor, University of Melbourne, May 16, 2019, News Corp must have been startled to find itself becoming one of the major issues in this election campaign. But this is just another sign that, in recent years, the company’s ability to read the public mood has gone wildly off-kilter.

From attacking the decision of the jury in the sexual assault trial of Cardinal George Pell to last week’s Daily Telegraph attack on Bill Shorten using his deceased mother as ammunition, there are mounting signs of panic and folly at one of Australia’s largest media companies.

With the media and political landscape shifting rapidly around the company, there is a feeling akin to the last days of the Roman Empire.
Rupert Murdoch is winding back after six decades building up an Australian, and then global, media empire. The Murdoch family has retreated from buying up assets and instead become a seller, offloading, for instance, 21st Century Fox to Disney last year.

If the next generation of Murdochs starts looking to sell unprofitable assets, the Australian newspapers have reason to be concerned. Because they are no longer financially valuable to the newly slimmed down company, the Australian papers seem to be trying to prove their worth by being politically useful while they still can.

Since 2013, the News Corp papers have become more politically aggressive, with some adopting the shrill, cartoonish and openly-partisan approach of British “red top” tabloids. During the 2019 election, News Corp journalists – past and present – have spoken out against the company’s determined barracking for the return of the Coalition government.
Academic Denis Muller recently called News Corp a “propaganda operation masquerading as a news service”. Remarkably, this statement neatly encapsulates how News Corp actually began.

(more…)

TThe Court Of Public Opinion And The Blood-Curdling Untold Story – on Julian Assange

August 18, 2019

This prospect prompted the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and 33 EU parliamentarians to issue strongly worded statements to both the UK and Ecuadorian governments in December last year, warning against facilitating the prosecution of a journalist, editor and publisher for “publishing the truth”. The statements demanded Assange’s “immediate release, together with his safe passage to a safe country”, and reminded the UK of its “binding” legal obligations to secure freedom for Assange.

A critical task for propagandists such as those waging a psychological war on Wilkileaks, then, is to feed audiences material that supports official narratives and exclude that which does not. Since its inception, the smear campaign against Julian Assange and Wikileaks has been remarkably concerted and consistent in that regard.

With the new year, however, news broke that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had offered Ecuador a $10 billion bailout in return for handing Julian Assange over to the United States. This bounty came on top of earlier US pressures and inducements, reportedly including increased oil exportsmilitary co-operation and another $1.1 billion in IMF loans, with the US representative of the IMF instructing Ecuador that it must “resolve” its relationship with Julian Assange in order to receive the IMF money.

Australian Barrister Greg Barns has called it the blackmailing of a nation. News website 21st Century Wirecalled it “one of the biggest international bribery (or extortion) cases in history.”

While there is “not a single shred of evidence that any of [Wikileaks’] disclosures caused anyone harm”, writes journalist and author Nozomi Hayase, what Wikileaks did do in 2010 was expose thousands of previously unreported civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. These deaths included the nonchalant gunning down of children, journalists and their rescuers, and other “indiscriminate violence… torture, lies [and]bribery”, writes Chris Hedges. According to Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Elsberg, the leaks exposed “a massive cover-up over a number of years by the American authorities”.

Julian in ‘critical danger’, new rules ‘torture’ – Assange mother *AUDIO*

The Psychology Of Getting Julian Assange, Part 2: The Court Of Public Opinion And The Blood-Curdling Untold Story, New Matilda, By Dr Lissa Johnson February 25, 2019  In her ongoing special investigation into the detention of Julian Assange, Dr Lissa Johnson turns to the art of smear, and how to corrupt a judicial system.

On Friday 14th February, the Editor in Chief of news website Consortium News, Joe Lauria, visited Sydney to host a ‘Politics in the Pub’ event: Whistleblowing, Wikileaks and the Future of Democracy. The event took place in anticipation of upcoming rallies to free Assange…….

. It is imperative that we pressure the Australian government to make sure its citizen, Julian Assange, is protected from the lawlessness of the American Empire.” (more…)

Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis explodes the myths around Julian Assange

August 18, 2019

CN LIVE! Mark Davis Wikileaks Revelations

While the Internet was meant to democratise the transmission of information we see a few giant technology companies, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, have near total control of what is seen and shared.

The situation is even worse in Australia with two or three media companies and the same technology giants having control. And the Government of Australia has granted them ever wider market access to extend their monopolies.

Slowly, instance by instance, the malicious and deceitful smears of Julian Assange’s character have been exposed for what they are; an effort to destroy trust in a system of anonymous leaking that will educate everyone.

WikiLeaks’ threat to the powerful was recognised and every effort was, and is, being made to criminalise anonymous leaking, which would be akin to criminalising Gutenberg’s printing press, but there is not much chance this criminalisation will succeed.

It’s time to bring Julian Assange home. Torturing and punishing him has never been legitimate and serves absolutely no purpose.

Media dead silent as Wikileaks insider explodes the myths around Julian Assange, Michael West, by Greg Bean — 16 August 2019 – It is the journalists from The Guardian and New York Times who should be in jail, not Julian Assange, said Mark Davis last week. The veteran Australian investigative journalist, who has been intimately involved in the Wikileaks drama, has turned the Assange narrative on its head. The smears are falling away. The mainstream media, which has so ruthlessly made Julian Assange a scapegoat, is silent in response.

 

Another nuclear film advertisement – “The New Fire”

November 3, 2018

Film review:  ‘The New Fire’ and the old Gen IV rhetoric  Author: Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor NM866.4751, October 2018   The New Fire is a pro-nuclear propaganda film directed and produced by musician and film-maker David Schumacher.It’s similar in some respects to the 2013 film Pandora’s Promise.1,2 The New Fire premiere was held in October  2017 and it can be streamed online from 18 October 2018.

Promotional material claims that the film lacked “a supportive grant” (and celebrity endorsements and the backing of a major NGO) but the end-credits list numerous financial contributors: Berk Foundation, Isdell Foundation, Steven & Michele Kirsch Foundation, Rachel Pritzker, Roland Pritzker, Ray Rothrock, and Eric Uhrhane.

The film includes interviews with around 30 people (an overwhelming majority of them male) interspersed with footage of interviewees walking into buildings, and interviewees smiling. The musical underlay is a tedious drone ‒ a disappointment given Schumacher’s musical background.

A highlight is hearing Eric Meyer ‒ an opera singer turned pro-nuclear activist ‒ bursting into song at various locations around the COP21 climate conference in Paris in December

2015, while he and his colleagues handed out free copies of the pro-nuclear book Climate Gamble  Interviewees are mostly aging but the film’s main  message is that young entrepreneurs may save the  planet and its inhabitants with their Generation IV reactor projects. The film’s website states: “David Schumacher’s film focuses on how the generation facing the most severe impact of climate change is fighting back with ingenuity and hope. The New Fire tells a provocative and startlingly positive story about a planet in crisis and the young heroes who are trying to save it.”3

Schumacher writes (in the press kit): “These brilliant young people – some of the most gifted engineers of their

generation, who in all likelihood could have cashed in for a fortune by doing something else – believe deeply that nuclear power could play a key role in saving the planet. And they are acting on that conviction. They did the research. They raised the money. They used cutting edge computer technology to perfect their designs. They are the new face of nuclear power, and to me, the newest and most unlikely climate heroes.”

These climate heroes are contrasted with anti-nuclear environmentalists. One interviewee says that “people of our generation are the first ones that have the opportunity to look at nuclear power without all the emotional baggage that previous generations have felt.” Another argues that anti-nuclear environmentalists are “very good, decent, smart people” but the “organizational DNA … that they have inherited is strongly anti-nuclear.” Another argues that environmental organizations “have been using nuclear power as a whipping boy for decades to raise funds”. Another interviewee attributes opposition to nuclear power to an “irrational fear of the unknown” (which surely poses a problem for the exotic Generation IV concepts promoted in the film) and another says that “once people sort of understand what’s going on withnuclear, they are much more open to it”.

The film trots out the usual anti-renewables tropes and falsehoods: 100% renewables is “just a fantasy”, renewables can contribute up to 20% of power supply and the remainder must be baseload: fossil fuels or nuclear power.

In rural Senegal, solar power has brought many benefits but places like Senegalese capital Dakar, with a population of one million, need electricity whether the sun is shining or not. A Senegalese man interviewed in the film states: “Many places in Africa definitely need a low cost, reliable, carbon neutral power plant that provides electricity 24/7. Nuclear offers one of the best options we have to do that kind of baseload.” The film doesn’t explain how a 1,000 megawatt nuclear plant would fit into Senegal’s electricity grid, which has a total installed capacity of 633MW.4 The ‘microreactors’ featured in The New Fire might help … if they existed.

Accidents such as those at Fukushima and Chernobyl get in the news because they are “so unusual” according to interviewee Ken Caldeira. And they get in the news, he might have added, because of the estimated death tolls (in the thousands for Fukushima5, ranging to tens of thousands for Chernobyl6), the costs (around US$700 billion for Chernobyl7, and US$192 billion (and counting) for Fukushima8), the evacuation of 160,000 people after the Fukushima disaster and the permanent relocation of over 350,000 people after the Chernobyl disaster.9

Most people understand that it’s impossible for a nuclear power plant to literally explode in the sense of an atomic explosion”, an interviewee states. And most people understand that chemical and steam explosions at Chernobyl and Fukushima spread radionuclides over vast distances. The interviewee wants to change the name of nuclear power plants to avoid any conflation between nuclear power and weapons. Evidently he didn’t get the memo that the potential to use nuclear power plants (and related facilities) to produce weapons is fast becoming one of the industry’s key marketing points.

Conspicuously absent from the film’s list of interviewees is pro-nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger. We’ve taken Shellenberger to task for his litany of falsehoods on nuclear and energy issues10 and his bizarre conversion into an advocate of worldwide nuclear weapons proliferation.11 But a recent article by Shellenberger on Generation IV nuclear technology is informative and insightful ‒ and directly at odds with the propaganda in The New Fire.12

So, let’s compare the Generation IV commentary in The New Fire with that in Shellenberger’s recent article.

Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor concept The film spends most of its time promoting Generation IV reactor projects including Transatomic Power’s molten salt reactor (MSR) concept. [Ed note. recently failed and abandoned] .

Scott Nolan from venture capital firm Founders Fund says that Transatomic satisfies his four concerns about nuclear power: safety, waste, cost, proliferation. And he’s right ‒ Transatomic’s MSRs are faultless on all four counts, because they don’t exist. It’s doubtful whether they would satisfy any of the four criteria if they did actually exist.

Shellenberger quotes Admiral Hyman Rickover, who played a leading role in the development of nuclear-powered and armed submarines and aircraft carriers in the US: “Any plant you haven’t built yet is always more efficient than the one you have built. This is obvious. They are all efficient when you haven’t done anything on them, in the talking stage. Then they are all efficient, they are all cheap. They are all easy to build, and none have any problems.”

Shellenberger goes on to say:12 “The radical innovation fantasy rests upon design essentialism and reactor reductionism. We conflate the 2-D design with a 3-D design which we conflate with actual building plans which we conflate with a test reactor which we conflate with a full-sized power plant.

 “These unconscious conflations blind us to the many, inevitable, and sometimes catastrophic “unknowns” that only become apparent through the building and operating of a real world plant. They can be small, like the need for a midget welder, or massive, like the manufacturing failures of the AP1000.

“Some of the biggest unknowns have to do with radically altering the existing nuclear workforce, supply chain, and regulations. Such wholesale transformations of the actually existing nuclear industry are, literally and figuratively, outside the frame of alternative designs.

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” a wise man once said. The debacles with the AP1000 and EPR are just the latest episodes of nuclear reactor designers getting punched in the face by reality.”

 Shellenberger comments on MSR technology:12

New designs often solve one problem while creating new ones. For example, a test reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory used chemical salts with uranium fuel dissolved within, instead of water surrounding solid uranium fuel. “The distinctive advantage of such a reactor was that it avoided the expensive process of fabricating fuel elements, moderator, control rods, and other high precision core components,” noted Hewlett and Holl.

 “In the eyes of many nuclear scientists and engineers these advantages made the homogeneous reactor potentially the most promising of all types under study, but once again the experiment did not reveal how the tricky problems of handling a highly radioactive and corrosive fluid were to be resolved.”

In The New Fire, Mark Massie from Transatomic promotes a “simpler approach that gives you safety through physics, and there’s no way to break physics”. True, you can’t break physics, but highly radioactive and corrosive fluids in MSRs could break and rust pipes and other machinery.

Leslie Dewan from Transatomic trots out the silliest advantage attributed to MSRs: that they are meltdown-proof. Of course they are meltdown-proof ‒ and not just in the sense that they don’t exist. The fuel is liquid. You can’t melt liquids. SMR liquid fuel is susceptible to dispersion in the event of steam explosions or chemical explosions or fire, perhaps more so than solid fuels.

Michael Short from MIT says in the film that over the next 2‒3 years they should have preliminary answers as to whether the materials in Transatomic MSRs are going to survive the problems of corrosion and radiation resistance. In other words, they are working on the problems ‒ but there’s no guarantee of progress let alone success.

Dewan claims that Transatomic took an earlier MSR design from Oak Ridge and “we were able to make it 20 times as power dense, much more compact, orders of magnitude cheaper, and so we are commercializing our design for a new type of reactor that can consume existing stockpiles of nuclear waste.”

Likewise, Jessica Lovering from the Breakthrough Institute says: “Waste is a concern for a lot of people. For a lot of people it’s their first concern about nuclear power. But what’s really amazing about it is that most of what we call nuclear waste could actually be used again for fuel. And if you use it again for fuel, you don’t have to store it for tens of thousands of years. With these advanced reactors you can close the fuel cycle, you can start using up spent fuel, recycling it, turning it into new fuel over and over again.”

But in fact, prototype MSRs and fast neutron reactors produce troublesome waste streams (even more so than conventional light-water reactors) and they don’t obviate the need for deep geological repositories. A recent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ‒ co-authored by a former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission ‒ states that “molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors – due to the unusual chemical compositions of their fuels – will actually exacerbate spent fuel storage and disposal issues.”13 It also raises proliferation concerns about ‘integral fast reactor’ and MSR technology:

“Pyroprocessing and fluoride volatility-reductive extraction systems optimized for spent fuel treatment can – through minor changes to the chemical conditions – also extract plutonium (or uranium 233 bred from thorium).”

Near the end of the film, it states: “Transatomic encountered challenges with its original design, and is now moving forward with an updated reactor that uses uranium fuel.” Transatomic’s claim that its ‘Waste-Annihilating Molten-Salt Reactor’ could “generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor” was severely downgraded to “more than twice” after calculation errors were discovered. And the company now says that a reactor based on the current design would not use waste as fuel and thus would “not reduce existing\stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel”

So much for all the waste-to-fuel rhetoric scattered throughout The New Fire.

Michael Short from MIT claims MSRs will cost a “couple of billion dollars” and Dewan claims they will be “orders of magnitude cheaper” than the Oak Ridge experimental MSR. In their imaginations, perhaps. Shellenberger notes that “in the popular media and among policymakers, there has remained a widespread faith that what will make nuclear power cheaper is not greater experience but rather greater novelty. How else to explain the excitement for reactor designs invented by teenagers in their garages and famous software developers [Bill Gates / TerraPower] with zero experience whatsoever building or operating a nuclear plant?”12

Shellenberger continues:12

Rather than address the public’s fears, nuclear industry leaders, scientists, and engineers have for decades repeatedly retreated to their comfort zone: reactor design innovation. Designers say the problem isn’t that innovation has been too radical, but that it hasn’t been radical enough. If only the coolant were different, the reactors smaller, and the building methods less conventional, they insist, nuclear plants would be easier and cheaper to build.

“Unfortunately, the historical record is clear: the more radical the design, the higher the cost. This is true not only with the dominant water-cooled designs but also with the more exotic designs ‒ and particularly sodium-cooled ones.”

Oklo’s sodium-cooled fast neutron microreactor The New Fire promotes Oklo’s sodium-cooled fast neutron microreactor concept, and TerraPower’s sodium cooled fast neutron ‘traveling wave’ reactor (TerraPower is also exploring a molten chloride fast reactor concept).

Oklo co-founder Jacob DeWitte says: “There’s this huge, awesome opportunity in off-grid markets, where they need power and they are relying on diesel generators … We were talking to some of these communities and we realized they use diesel because it’s the most energy dense fuel they know of. And I was like, man, nuclear power’s two million times as energy dense … And they were like, ‘Wait, are you serious, can you build a reactor that would be at that size?’ And I said, ‘Sure’.”

Which is all well and good apart from the claim that Oklo could build such a reactor: the company has a myriad of economic, technological and regulatory hurdles to overcome. The film claims that Oklo “has begun submission of its reactor’s license application to the [US] Nuclear Regulatory Commission” but according to the NRC, Oklo is a “pre-applicant” that has gone no further than to notify the NRC of its intention to “engage in regulatory interactions”.16

There’s lots of rhetoric in the film about small reactors that “you can roll … off the assembly line like Boeings”, factory-fabricated reactors that “can look a lot like Ikea furniture”, economies of scale once there is a mass market for small reactors, and mass-produced reactors leading to “a big transition to clean energy globally”. But first you would need to invest billions to set up the infrastructure to mass produce reactors ‒ and no-one has any intention of making that investment. And there’s no mass market for small reactors ‒ there is scarcely any market at all.17

TerraPower   TerraPower is one step ahead of Transatomic and Oklo ‒ it has some serious funding. But it’s still a long way off ‒ Nick Touran from TerraPower says in the film that tests will “take years” and the company is investing in a project with “really long horizons … [it] may take a very long time”.

TerraPower’s sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor remains a paper reactor. Shellenberger writes:12

“In 2008, The New Yorker profiled Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive, on his plans to re-invent nuclear power with Bill Gates. Nuclear scientist Edward “Teller had this idea way back when that you could make a very safe, passive nuclear reactor,” Myhrvold explained. “No moving parts. Proliferation-resistant. Dead simple.”

“Gates and Myhrvold started a company, Terrapower, that will break ground next year in China on a test reactor. “TerraPower’s engineers,” wrote a reporter recently, will “find out if their design really works.”

“And yet the history of nuclear power suggests we should have more modest expectations. While a nuclear reactor “experiment often produced valuable clues,” Hewlett and Holl wrote, “it almost never revealed a clear pathway to success.” …

“For example, in 1951, a reactor in Idaho used sodium rather than water to cool the uranium ‒ like Terrapower’s design proposes to do. “The facility verified scientific principles,” Hewlett and Holl noted, but “did not address the host of extraordinary difficult engineering problems.” …

“Why do so many entrepreneurs, journalists, and policy analysts get the basic economics of nuclear power so terribly wrong? In part, everybody’s confusing nuclear reactor designs with real world nuclear plants. Consider how frequently advocates of novel nuclear designs use the future or even present tense to describe qualities and behaviors of reactors when they should be using future conditional tense.

“Terrapower’s reactor, an IEEE Spectrum reporter noted “will be able to use depleted uranium … the heat will be absorbed by a looping stream of liquid sodium … Terrapower’s reactor stays cool”.

 “Given that such “reactors” do not actually exist as real world machines, and only exist as computer-aided designs, it is misleading to claim that Terrapower’s reactor “will” be able to do anything. The appropriate verbs for\ that sentence are “might,” “may,” and “could.” …

“Myhrvold expressed great confidence that he had proven that Terrapower’s nuclear plant could run on nuclear waste at a low cost. How could he be so sure? He had modeled it. “Lowell and I had a month-long, no-holdsbarred nuclear-physics battle. He didn’t believe waste would work. It turns out it does.” Myhrvold grinned. “He concedes it now.”

 “Rickover was unsparing in his judgement of this kind of thinking. “I believe this confusion stems from a failure to distinguish between the academic and the practical,” he wrote. “The academic-reactor designer is a dilettante. He has not had to assume any real responsibility in connection with his projects. He is free to luxuriate in elegant ideas, the practical shortcomings of which can be relegated to the category of ‘mere technical details.””