Posted: 23rd June 2022
War in Ukraine
The Guardian reports on Finnish preparations for conflict with Russia, as tensions continue to rise between Moscow and NATO over the latter’s support for Ukraine and a surge in support for NATO membership among Swedes and Finns. Finland’s armed forces chief, Gen Timo Kivinen, said his country was prepared for a Russian attack and would put up stiff resistance in the event that one should occur. It comes as Britain’s new Army chief said UK troops should be prepared to fight a war against Russia, prompting a flurry of nuclear threats by commentators in Russia’s state-media.
The Times reviews a new work of historical fiction, The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley. The novel starts in 1963 where Valery Kolkhanov, a biologist who specialises in the effects of nuclear radiation, plucked from a gulag and taken to a top-secret Soviet research facility, the Lighthouse: “He is told that an area around the base has been deliberately radiated, and his job is to study the long-term effects on the countryside. Valery owes his rescue to his former mentor, Dr Resovskaya, who in the past had to reassure Valery’s ethical qualms about the type of research they were involved in.”
The Telegraph reports on allegations made by CND Vice-President Jeremy Corbyn in an interview with Declassified UK – that British security services worked to undermine him during his time as leader of the Labour Party. Mi5 and Mi6 took umbrage with his policy positions like opposition to Trident renewal. One incident saw Corbyn “summoned” by Andrew Parker, the then director-general of MI5, for a “facts of life” talk in light of controversy surrounding his policy positions.
UK Nuclear Energy
The Morning Star covers the warning to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng by union bosses – that the Sizewell C nuclear power plant project may collapse if funding commitments aren’t made by the government. The letter was signed by TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, GMB general secretary Gary Smith and Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy. Smith said the issue was “beginning to look like another in a long line of government failures…From offshoring green jobs to closing our domestic gas storage — each contributing to the chaotic situation that exists in the British energy sector.”
Rolls Royce says it can deliver its first small modular reactor (SMR) by its 2029 target date – if the government commits to the mini-nuke technology despite it being years away from safety approval. The technology is being touted by a consortium led by the FTSE 100 group. While the project is not said to be seeking taxpayer funding, it wants government assurances that it can source initial funding by a levy on customer’s bills, using that base to attract outside funding. However, as The Times reports, the government is wary as the SMR technology has “only just begun the multi-year process of gaining safety approval for use in Britain.”
Construction of a new nuclear reactor at Trawsfynydd in Wales could start by 2027, the Welsh government-owned Cwmni Egino has said. The nuclear development company wants the disused site to house one of Rolls Royce’s SMRs. Also backing the plan is Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts, who said while the party is opposed to new nuclear power stations, “it supports maintaining existing sites, or in the case of Trawsfynydd restoring its use.”
EuroNews has a feature on the plan to build an undersea nuclear waste dump off the coast of Cumbria. Exploratory work ahead of any building includes a process of seismic blasting – in what its proponents are labelling as a geological survey. But a report by Radiation Free Lakelands warns the work will have a devastating impact on marine life. “We commissioned an independent reportbecause we need to counter the PR spin from the nuclear waste industry who are calling the seismic testing ‘non-invasive scientific research,’” says Marianne Birkby, Founder of the campaign group. She added: “Despite the marine protections this part of the Irish Sea has, it is an outrage that independent environmental impact assessments have not been carried out. Protections clearly mean nothing when the nuclear waste industry wants to pave the way to a deep nuclear dump.”
South Copeland GDF (Geological Disposal Facility) Community Partnership – the body set up to consult with locals over the siting of the underwater toxic waste dump - has met with international groupswho have had similar experiences of hosting such facilities. The Mayor of Ignace in Canada, Penny Lucas, and the Chair of the Ignace Community Nuclear Liaison Committee (ICNLC), Brad Greaves, gave a presentation online to the South Copeland GDF Community Partnership on a selection of key topics and issues which had been requested by members.
The Scotsman has a piece on the ‘propaganda war’ being waged by the nuclear industry in Scotland against opposition to building new nuclear sites. Dr Richard Dixon, an environmental campaigner and consultant writes: “It is obvious that new nuclear has no place in our energy future. Despite this obvious truth, the nuclear industry continues to flog their dead horse with their myths about costs, their propaganda about small reactors that aren’t small, and their bland reassurances about waste. The money and political capital they are throwing at this this would be much better spent making sure renewables expand at the fastest possible rate. You would hope that Scottish politicians gave the lobbyists short shrift in their recent meetings.”
The Week writes on nuclear powers ‘image problem’.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has been attending the country’s major meetings on defence and security policy, with topics including additional duties of frontline troops and force modernisation among the discussions. The pow-wow is being closely watched by neighbours and the US in an effort to spot clues that Pyongyang may be ready to conduct a nuclear test. While South Korean officials believe a nuclear test is imminent, others say this could be delayed due to the severity of Covid-19 in the country and considerations for China’s political calendar.
Iran Nuclear Deal
An Iranian court has demanded that the US pays $4 billion in compensation to the families of Iranian nuclear scientists that have been killed over the last decade. The largely symbolic gesture comes amid rising tensions over the failure to resuscitate the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted Western sanctions in Iran curbing its nuclear programme. Tehran has turbo-charged its nuclear ambitions in the years since former US President Donald Trump ditched the deal – and has previously accused Israel of being behind a spate of recent murders of its nuclear scientists.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Tehran to discuss the nuclear deal and deepening economic ties with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi. Speaking after the meeting, Lavrov said: “In all the countries experiencing the negative influence of the selfish line taken by the United States and its satellites, there arises the objective need to reconfigure their economic relations so they can avoid relying on the whims and vagaries of our Western partners.”