With the distracting meme of “Russian Influence,” we are avoiding a fact-based analysis of the 2016 election – at our own peril.
By James Heddle, EON
Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason. Sir John Harington 1561-1612 – (Also credited with being the inventor of the flush toilet.)
Tragedy, Comedy and Farce All Rolled Into One
The official mythic revisionism of the recent US electoral debacle now seems to be settling firmly into place: Putin did it – the outcome was a result of ‘Russian influence.’ One can see how the Russian Influence Mind Fogging Meme might be mutually convenient for the elites of both parties to unite behind. For the Dems it deflects attention away from their terminal corruption and incompetence.
For the GOP it deflects attention away from their gargantuan election theft apparatus, patiently assembled by the ruthless radical right-wing billionaires over the past decades .
For the deluded and dis-informed members of the American populace it provides someone to hate besides themselves and each other.
For nuclear crackpots and war profiteers, it inches us all closer to self-obliteration.
The only parties not served by the meme are the bemused and beleaguered President-Select Himself and his converging wrecking crew of nabobs and knuckleheads. Not only have they no mandate, but their entire tenure will now be indelibly tarred by the Putin brush.
As for the GOP, it’s hard to imagine how they’ll really be comfortable with being known henceforth as the Putative Party of Putin.
All this brought to us thanks to ‘the intelligence community,’ whose professional stock-in-trade, after all, is propaganda and ‘psyops’ mind-fogging operations and whose recent reputation is rife with examples of falsified evidence, screw-ups and failures.
Why not just declare the election a ballsup and do it all over again? (No one can hear your screams.)
Anything but the facts, M’am
Unfortunately for the future prospects of democracy in America, the claim that 'Russian influence' was more determinative of the election's outcome than the vast GOP vote rigging complex, the Dems' own incompetence, and the systematic disenfranchisement of millions of voters does not fit the easily available, verifiable ‘facts- on-the-ground.’
It is well known common practice, in the rough and tumble, cloak and dagger machinations of normal geopolitics, for governments to seek to influence the outcomes of foreign elections in ways favorable to their own interests. Washington is a past master at this game, so is Russia, and so are all the other players having the capacity. This is not news, this is history.
So, with the latest ‘revelations’ – shown at this writing only to Obama, top officials and the President-Select – the intelligence community has reportedly concluded that ‘Russia developed a desire to influence the election in favor of Trump.’ Given the candidates’ respective publically declared attitudes toward Russia – Hillary, bellicose; Donald, friendly – that’s no surprise there either.
But were whatever ‘influences’ the Russians attempted to unleash on public perceptions so effective that – although Hillary won the popular vote by over 3 million ballots – Trump carried the key states that gave him the Electoral College victory?
Was the Russian ‘influence’ on the election outcome more significant than the systematic gerrymandering since 2011 of those key battleground states by GOP operatives using the REDMAP computer software and strategy, as documented in David Daley’s Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy?
Was it more effective than the massive voter suppression, purging and disenfranchisement tactics carried out by the Crosscheck computer program and discriminatory ID laws in battleground states, which blocked hundreds of thousands – if not millions – from voting, as documented by investigative reporter Greg Palast in his new documentary The Best Democracy Money Can Buy? http://thebestdemocracymoneycanbuy.com/
Was it more ‘influential’ than the $ billions in strategically targeted investments of the Koch donor network over the last decade and its multi-state army of astro-turf front-groups revealed in Jane Mayer’s Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right and on the interactive site Koch Cash – Tracking the Single Largest Source of Private Money Corrupting Democracy published by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG)? http://kochcash.org/the-kochtopus/
Was it more determinative than the partisan private ownership of the secretly programed, ‘Black Box’ electronic poll books, voting, ballot scanning and central tabulating machines that tallied the ‘official’ count, as predicted in Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman’s prescient book THE STRIP & FLIP SELECTION OF 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft?
[Their important post-election analysis can be found at http://freepress.org/ and http://solartopia.org/ The EON YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/eon3/videos See also Bev Harris’s invaluable http://blackboxvoting.org/ ]
Was it more significant than the unvarifiable, ‘adjusted exit polls’ supplied by the suspect Edison Research organization hired by the mainstream media consortium to ‘verify’ the vote, as revealed in Jonathan Simon’s CODE RED: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century: Election 2016 Edition? The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency on International Development treat un-adjusted exit polls as the gold standard of election integrity… everywhere but here at home.
If you can believe the ‘Russian influence’ meme after examining just those few easily available sources, I have a bridge to sell you, cheap. And, if such gullibility is widespread, there is little hope that the massively corrupted US electoral system will ever be unfixed.
Onward Through the MindFog
Since he famously doesn’t need to read much, Mr. Trump could well have groped his way into the White House without even knowing about the vast vote rigging apparatus painstakingly constructed over the years by the GOP and the ruthless radical rich who have now taken it over. But he and his billionaire band of crackpots and scoundrels are for sure taking advantage of it now. And so are the GOP operatives happily consolidating control over the states caught up in the nationwide ‘Red Sweep’ that has resulted from the most flawed election in US history.
But that history is a sine wave, not an arc. Progressives at home and abroad can still effectively resist the worst effects of the emerging Trumpocalypse, but our elections will never have integrity unless we arm ourselves with a fact-based understanding of what really went wrong in our electoral system provided by just those few sources listed above.
Meanwhile, goaded by the Russian Hacker scare, President Obama has imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 of its diplomats on suspicion of being ‘enemy agents.’ The chorus of Putin bashing rises in volume and intensity…as does the likely possibility of crackpot nuclearists pushing the US toward nuclear war with Russia, even China.
All this because we are unwilling or incapable of facing the fact-based reality of our systematically U.S. insider-compromised elections system.
The Assent of the Trumpskyite Ruthless Radical Rich Wrecking Crew
While all this is going on President-Select Trump – described by one European observer as ‘the latest “bobble head doll on the dashboard of real [U.S.] power,”' has been busy appointing an administration peopled by the largest assembly of ideologically extremist billionaires and rabid militarists that have ever been gathered under one roof.
Cabinet appointees will work to pervert, hamstring or abolish the departments and regulatory agencies which they now head. http://commondreams.org/news/2017/01/06/new-resource-exposes-corporate-chieftains-filling-trump-cabinet
Simultaneously, the Captured Congress got off to an inglorious start, first revealing its true nature by attempting unsuccessfully to gut ethics oversight, then debating the abolition of Obamacare and the dismantling of Medicare.
The Planetarian Perplex – Surviving in the Nuclear Antropocene
Because of the widespread willful ignorance about our radically rigged election system, we are now about to be ruled for an indefinite – possibly terminal – period by an extremist regime of climate change denialists, fossil fuel moguls, crackpot nuclearists and racist neo-fascist billionaires.
No less an authority than Noam Chomsky tells us that the twin converging threats of nuclear war and climate change now present the greatest peril to survival ever faced by our species. Scientists have now identified human activity as the main factor in geological change and dubbed this new geologic era the ‘Anthropocene.’ Given recent developments, it might better be called the Nuclear Anthropocene. https://www.democracynow.org/2017/1/2/noam_chomsky_with_trump_election_we
President-select-without-a-mandate Trump recently tweeted “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” In a subsequent interview he added, “Let it be an arms race… we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” This from the guy who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax, while the Forces of Fossil Fuels have – at least temporarily – captured the machinery of government.
If all this doesn’t worry you much, check out Bill Perry Is Terrified. Why Aren’t You? John F. Harris and Bryan Bender’s Politico interview with a former US Defense Secretary turned nuclear abolitionist. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/william-perry-nuclear-weapons-proliferation-214604
Thus do we find ourselves in a domestically triggered existential crisis, global in scope, ripe with danger and opportunity, in which the question is starkly posed: can we, working with others at home and abroad, avert apocalypse and planetary ecocide in the Nuclear Anthropocene?
Since all that now seems left of ‘American exceptionalism’ is our nation’s overarching negative impacts on the planet and all its beings and ecosystems, it seems incumbent on those of us who have experienced the trauma of awakening to the realities of our situation to devote the rest of our lives to that planetarian purpose.
Don’t Mourn, Organize
Maybe the current crisis is triggering the immune cells in the body politic into action. Whether or not they have parsed all the contributing causes, people are clear they don’t like the result. Protests and campaigns of resistance are taking form across the nation and around the world.
One example is a Plan currently circulating in progressive circles called Indivisible: A practical guide For resisting the Trump agenda, in which ‘Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.’ https://www.indivisibleguide.com/ Indivisible, with no apparent sense of irony, calls for the adoption of Tea Party tactics – "If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump." Unlike the radical right they plan to mount “a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness….”
Others, who do view Trump as “the latest bobble head doll on the dashboard of real [U.S.] power,” are counting on non-compliance at home and international opposition abroad to precipitate transformative system-wide change and forestall a self-imposed extinction event.
[See: 'Social Self-Defense': Protecting People and Planet Against Trump and Trumpism by Jeremy Brecher
Margaret Mead famously advised, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." The rigging of the US electoral process by a relatively small network of the ruthless, the radical, and the rich has shown that Maggie’s aphorism can cut both ways.
To paraphrase a recent statement by ninety-year-old activist-icon Harry Bellefonte, we have some serious ass kicking to do in the Nuclear Anthropocene. Lets get started…. [ https://www.democracynow.org/2017/1/2/noam_chomsky_harry_belafonte_in_conversation ]
James Heddle co-directs EON, the Ecological Options Network with Mary Beth Brangan. http://eon3.net/ They blog at http://planetarianperspectives.net/ Their popular YouTube channel has featured video reports on vote rigging and the election protection movement since 2004. https://www.youtube.com/user/eon3/videos They are currently at work on a new documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection. http://www.shutdowndoc.tv/
Thanks for Your Help in Engaging the Key Issues of Our Time in 2016.
Please Make a Year-End Donation to Help Us in 2017!
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Just a quick scan of this past year's video reports on our popular YouTube Channel [on left] will give you a taste of the topics and events we've covered – with your support – in 2016:
- The biological effects of the on-going Fukushima disaster;
- The emergence of a New Nuclear Arms Race;
- The fight to shutdown Diablo Canyon before the Big One hits;
- The links between nuclear energy, weapons and waste;
- Former Japanese PM Koizumi's support for Fukushima-injured US sailors:
- The trans-pacific solidarity of Japanese and US nuclear abolitionists;
- Corruption our election system by the ruthless, radical rich .01%.
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Yet even that wouldn't give you the full picture. That's because our major, on-going focus since 2011 has been on an 2017 premiere of our documentary SHUTDOWN – The California-Fukushima Connection.
Six years in the making – and now in its post-production phase – this timely, empowering documentary telling California's nuclear stories also exposes the myths about the usefulness of nuclear power to confront climate change and the usefulness of nuclear weapons to resolve conflict.
President-select Trump recently tweeted "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes….Let it be an arms race… we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
This documentary is a passionate call to consciousness by nuclear war protesters and activists from local reactor communities who have recognized the looming existential threat of nuclear energy, weapons and waste – the real 'nuclear triad.' Their hard won knowledge is now even more necessary than ever – crackpot nuclearism is on the rise.
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EON Co-Directors Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle, ably assisted by the multi-talented Morgan Peterson, are now at work on their forthcoming documentary SHUTDOWN – The California-Fukushima Connection
Koizumi Supports US Sailors’ TEPCO Lawsuit
I want to say – and this is very important – in the end, we lucked out! It was luck that prevented nuclear war. [Holds up his thumb and forefinger an half-inch apart.] Rational individuals came that close to total devastation of their societies. And that danger exists today. Former U.S. Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara – in ‘The Fog of War” a documentary film by Errol Morris – 2003
Today we still have over 20 thousand real world nuclear weapons. Enough to blow up everybody on the planet several times over….
The antagonism between Russia and the United States has reached a point now where I believe we are on the brink of a new nuclear arms race. It breaks my heart.
Today, the danger of a nuclear catastrophe is actually higher than it was during the cold war. Let me say that again…. Former U.S. Sec. of Defense, William J. Perry – 2016
[ Video clips of Mr. Koizumi’s press conference with the sailors are at the end of this article. ]
[ Transcripts of the English translations of press conference segments from May 17 are available in PDF here: Pt. 1 – Mr. Koizumi’s Personal Statement Pt. 2 – Q&A ]
Crackpot Nuclearism and Ponerology – The Science of Evil
The pervasiveness of nuclear technology in our culture is arguably a symptom of the systemic institutionalization of evil in the current world system. In all its forms it is an assault on the collective future of humanity and the entire planetary biosphere.
The serious study of this increasingly common phenomenon, called political ponerology, was pioneered by Polish psychiatrist Andrzej Łobaczewski, a former member of the Home Army, an underground Polish resistance organization. According to Wikipedia, The original theory and research was conducted by a research group of psychologists and psychiatrists from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and pre-communist Hungary.
“Crackpot Realists” was the term coined by controversial mid-twentieth sociologist C. Wright Mills for the self-described ‘hard-headed realist’ Cold War strategists who thought it ‘realistic’ to plan for Mutually Assured Destruction of the planet in the name of ‘national security.’ To adapt his term in the 21st century, the Crackpot Nuclearists – those who advocate more nuclear power, more nuclear weapons, and (therefore) more radioactive waste – are either seriously deluded or seriously evil themselves.
Awakening from the Spell of Atomic Enchantment
Only a handful of contemporary statesmen have awakened from the Crackpot Nuclearism trance that has deluded decision makers and risked global destruction for more than half a century. They include Mikhail Gorbachev – Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of the USSR, Former American Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, Former Defense Secretary William Perry, Senator Sam Nunn, and, most recently, former Japanese Prime Ministers Naoto Kan and Junichiro Koizumi.
On March 7th, 2011 – coincidentally four days before the still on-going Fukushima nuclear disaster began – Kissinger, Shultz, Perry and Nunn published a joint letter in the Wall Street Journal declaring that “the doctrine of mutual assured destruction is obsolete in the post-Cold War era.”
The four elder statesmen explained,
The advent of the nuclear weapon introduced entirely new factors. It was possible, for the first time, to inflict at the beginning of a war the maximum casualties. The doctrine of mutual assured destruction represented this reality. Deterrence based on nuclear weapons, therefore, has three elements:
- It is importantly psychological, depending on calculations for which there is no historical experience. It is therefore precarious.
- It is devastating. An unrestrained nuclear exchange between superpowers could destroy civilized life as we know it in days.
- Mutual assured destruction raises enormous inhibitions against employing the weapons.
…[R]eliance on this strategy is becoming increasingly hazardous.
… With the spread of nuclear weapons, technology, materials and know-how, there is an increasing risk that nuclear weapons will be used.
It is not possible to replicate the high-risk stability that prevailed between the two nuclear superpowers during the Cold War in such an environment. The growing number of nations with nuclear arms and differing motives, aims and ambitions poses very high and unpredictable risks and increased instability.
…Our broad conclusion is that nations should move forward together with a series of conceptual and practical steps toward deterrence that do not rely primarily on nuclear weapons or nuclear threats to maintain international peace and security. [ Deterrence in the Age of Nuclear Proliferation http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703300904576178760530169414?mg=id-wsj ]
Joined at the Hip from Birth
The original, main, and continuing purpose of nuclear reactors was/is production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Electricity production, under the slogan ‘Atoms for Peace,’ was the cover story. Corporate profit from tax- and rate-payer subsidized nuclear weapons and energy technologies became the dominant business model in a permanent war economy. That there is an indissoluble relationship between the two applications of nuclear technology is taken for granted by policy-makers – witness the recent brouhaha about Iran’s nuclear program.
Many observers are alarmed by on-going re-militarization of Japan under the Abe government, aware that Japan has one of the largest stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium in the world. [See: Japan could change pacifist constitution after Shinzo Abe victory ]
Then there is the glaring fact that every operating reactor and radioactive waste storage site represents a weapon-of-mass-destruction-in-place for potential terrorists – of either the state or non-state varieties.
Lies My Advisors Told Me
During his tenure as Japan’s PM, Junichiro Koizumi believed his ‘expert’ advisors who assured him that nuclear energy is ‘cheap, clean and safe.’ Since Fukushima he has done his own research and concluded, he says, that “Those were all lies.”
Now, deeply regretting his former position, he has emerged as an outspoken international and domestic opponent of nuclear energy.
The Tomadachi Lawsuit – The Fukushima Four Hundred
Earlier this year he learned of the lawsuit filed against TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, by American military personnel suffering dire health impacts from their exposure to Fukushima fallout during the U.S. Navy’s disaster assistance operation Tomadachi in 2011.
More than 400 veterans who were part of the Operation Tomodachi mission to provide humanitarian relief after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and triple meltdown have filed a mass lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Co., seeking compensation their on-going health problems. So far seven plaintiffs have died as TEPCOs army of high-priced lawyers have fought tooth and nail to delay and block the Sailors’ lawsuit in the US court.
In May Mr. Koizumi took the unusual step of contacting the sailors’ attorneys Charles and Cabral Bonner and Paul Garner to request personal confidential interviews with a representative sampling of their clients.
EON has been covering this story since 2013 and was asked to provide video recordings of the interviews for Mr. Koizumi’s exclusive use. [ Previous EON reports: 2013 US Sailors Sue TEPCO for Radioactive Fallout Cover-Up 2015 – USS Reagan Sailors Sue for Nuclear Justice ]
On May 17, after days of face-to-face conversations with several of the plaintiffs and their families, Mr. Koizumi held a press conference in Carlsbad, CA to announce establishment of a fund to solicit donations for medical treatment for the sailors and their affected family members. He fought back tears as he told of the suffering he had learned about in the interviews.
In that press conference, when EON producer Jim Heddle asked Mr. Koizumi about the issues surrounding the holding of the 2020 Olympics in Japan, he responded that he was “not in a position to comment.” But he has since changed his mind.
Olympic Lies from Dishonest Abe
At a September 7th news conference, held at Tokyo’s Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Mr. Koizumi stated that current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lied when he told the Olympic committee in 2013 that Fukushima was ‘under control’ in order for Japan to be approved to host the 2020 Olympics.
Koizumi also pointed out that, now, 5 years later, Fukushima is still nowhere near ‘under control,’ as the locations of three melted-down cores beneath the plant remain unknown and radioactive water continues to collect at the site and to pour into the Pacific.
In the September 7th news conference Mr Koizumi said: “The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first… Japan can grow if the country relies on more renewable energy,” (Ayako Mie, staff writer, Despite Dwindling Momentum, Koizumi Pursues Anti-Nuclear Goals, The Japan Times, Sept. 7, 2016 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/07/national/politics-diplomacy/despite-dwindling-momentum-koizumi-pursues-anti-nuclear-goals/#.V9bwVoW1y9s ).
Because of its historical significance, we are making the May 17 Carlsbad, CA. press conference available in the following three video segments. In order to make them accessible to both Japanese and English speaking viewers, we have chosen to present his remarks and their real time translation in their entirety.
Pt. 1 – Mr. koizumi’s Statement
This is the first of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO..
Pt. 2. – Q&A with media
This is the second of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO..
Pt. 3. Sailors’ Story
This is the third of three segments of a May 17, 2016 news conference held in Carlsbad, CA by Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the US sailors’ lawsuit against TEPCO. Attorney Charles Bonner summarized the current status of their case,
For an excellent in depth update on this on-going story see Libbe HaLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat #272: EXCLUSIVE! USS Reagan v. TEPCO Hearing – Attorneys, Survivors + John Edwards
Extreme Slow Motion Nuclear Phase-Out Proposed in California
“OK, Buddy, you have just 9 years to stop beating your wife.”
Opinion by James Heddle and Mary Beth Brangan
EON – The Ecological Options Network
We knew, with certainty, with arrogant certainty, that we were in control of the power we were playing with. This was the day . . . We learned we were wrong.
Sergiy Parashyn, Chernobyl engineer
Approval of a lease extension from the State Lands Commission is critical to ensure the continued operation of this clean energy [sic] facility to 2025.
Blair Jones, Diablo Canyon spokesman
Reprieve for PG&E & Diablo, Extended Risk for the Rest of Us
On June 21, 2016, a press release from Friends of the Earth exploded on the internet like a nuclear reaction going critical.
“Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down,” read the headline, “power replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage.”
Digital cheers went up around the net as congratulatory messages poured onto the list serves. The news was featured on outlets from the New York Times, Forbes and Bloomberg, to NPR.
“For Friends of the Earth…it’s a wonderful moment,” said FoE’s Damon Moglen on Democracy Now! His organization is a co-signer of the phase-out proposal.
“The fact that the sixth largest economy on the planet is saying no to nuclear power and is going to replace nuclear power with safer, cleaner, cheaper renewable energy is a tremendous message. And it really does put an end to this nonsense that somehow nuclear power has any role to play in the future. “
“On the macro level, this is huge,” wrote commentator Harvey Wasserman. “On the big picture level this has become a…defining national story proclaiming the death of nuke power. “
They’re both correct. Whatever its final fate, this ‘Proposal’ is an implicit acknowledgement that nuclear energy is neither ‘clean,’ nor ‘green,’ nor a solution to carbon-caused climate change. It is another sign of the inevitable, eventual demise of nuclear power. So, hats off to those who have produced a precedent-setting first draft of a template for a potential orderly transition to renewable energy.
However, reading the fine print yields quite a mixed message.
So, before popping the Champaign corks and swooning in post-nuclear euphoria, let’s take a closer, critical look at this much-vaunted ‘Proposal,’ its implications, and the process of its creation.
Just days ahead of a California State Lands Commission (SLC) hearing at which a decision was to be made as to whether or not to require a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant’s continued operation in order to get SLC leases renewed, this self-selected body floated the ‘Joint Proposal’ to keep the plant running for nearly another decade without such a review.
Interesting timing. Forgotten in the excitement was the fact that just a week earlier the San Jose Mercury News had reported on PG&E entering federal court facing “13 criminal counts, including 12 charges that it violated pipeline safety regulations and one charge of obstructing a federal investigation into the lethal blast. The explosion and resulting fire killed eight people and destroyed 38 houses in one of the worst utility disasters in U.S. history.” The Merc also reported that the company had, “learned that a number of prospective jurors in the matter have an unfavorable view of PG&E.”
Would you want a company with that rap sheet running your local nuclear plant for 9 more years toward shutdown, with little incentive for investment in repairs or safety?
It’s unknown if the Commission would vote for the CEQA, but a CEQA review would most likely show PG&E’s Diablo Canyon could not comply with state laws governing water and could possibly force its closure in much fewer than nine years. The leases at issue expire in 2018 and 2019.
Snatching Capitulation from the Jaws of Victory?
This ‘agreement,’ between PG&E, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and the Alliance For Nuclear Responsibility proposes to give PG&E another nine years – until 2025 – to shut the reactors at the termination of their licenses. Moreover it has no assurance of compliance. The ‘Parties’ also sent a joint letter to the Lands Commission arguing that their proposal obviates the requirement for a CEQA review.
The Proposal by a self-selected group of ‘Parties,’ some of them not even active participants in the opposition of Diablo Canyon, was kept secret from the many groups involved in the Nuclear Free California movement. It’s worth noting that the long-term advocacy group Mothers for Peace, is excluded from the ‘Parties.’ For many decades it has been Mothers for Peace who have represented the interests of the population of the most at-risk population, namely those living in close proximity to the plant.
Because of these facts, many long time environmentalists working for decades to close Diablo were shocked and outraged at this announcement of the proposed agreement.
Judge to abusive husband: “You have just 9 years to stop beating your wife.”
Husband: “Thanks, your honor. I was planning to leave her then, anyway.”
A first reading of the Joint Proposal and its accompanying letter reveals it to be a devil of a gamble, involving prolonged seismic risk, routine radioactive pollution & tons more waste and plutonium production for nearly a decade, not to mention perpetuation of PG&E mismanagement, exorbitant profits, and ratepayer extortion.
It is an attempt to forestall both the CEQA being called for by the California Lands Commission, and compliance with Once Through Cooling (OTC) requirements under the State Water Resources Control Board and California’s Clean Water Act. Both these requirements, if enforced, could have caused PG&E to shut down Diablo.
On the other hand, this gave the environmental organizations bargaining chips to help drive PG&E’s decision to drop its attempt to relicense Diablo for another 20 years of operation. The re-licensing request – even if only a bargaining ploy – most likely would have been supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and would surely have been rubber-stamped by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC.)
Is another nine years really necessary?
Here’s the bottom line question about this proposal: Does it really have to take so long for an orderly phase-out of Diablo, and a responsible transition to renewable sources? What about a few second opinions here? Do we really have to sign onto an all-or-nothing ‘agreement’ negotiated in secret behind closed doors?
Now that it’s been admitted on paper by PG&E that it will be less expensive (not to mention less risky) to shut Diablo down than to run it, does the best possible scenario for PG&E have to be the only desideratum? How about what’s best for people, marine life, the environment and California’s economy?
What about a real, transparent public dialogue about real alternatives? What about Germany’s example? What about if PG&E were to stop opposing roof-top solar, net metering, and feed-in tariffs? What about if it started counting existing solar sources not now included in its inventory of available power? What about hydro and geothermal sources in Imperial County? Like everybody’s grandmother used to say, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ And maybe now PG&E has the will.
But this smells as if PG&E is setting us up for a my-way-or-the-highway extortion deal – ‘pay up or we’ll break your kneecaps.’ It’s a good guess that if a CEQA review is mandated, PG&E will take its radioactive fuel pellets and go home. Though, after the announcement of the ‘Proposal’, the SLC staff changed their recommendation to denying that a CEQA is necessary.
Do we really have to choose between 9 more years and 30? Do we even have 9 more years?
As wildfires rage currently causing ‘red flag’ conditions in three counties adjacent to Diablo Canyon, climate change-caused chaos is accelerating, adding increasing risk to its continued operating. Is it in compliance with fire safety regulations?
Faith Based Seismology
Despite the recent discovery that Diablo Canyon sits on the intersections of 13 active earthquake faults capable of releasing far more seismic force than the reactors were designed to withstand, the current Proposal completely ignores repeated dire predictions that a huge earthquake of devastating proportions is predicted any time now.
A June 23, 2016 article in The LA Times reminds us again about the immanent dangers of the overdue MAJOR earthquake, building from unreleased pressures between the two tectonic plates running along southern California’s coast.
[ See also: WHEN NOT IF: ‘Large-scale movement’ on San Andreas Fault, prompting fears of major quake ]
Not long ago, although one of NRC ‘s own Senior Inspectors reported that Diablo Canyon is out of compliance for earthquake resilience and called for the plant’s shutdown, the NRC failed to take action. The inspector was transferred out of state.
Just a year ago, in testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer’s Committee on Environment & Public Works, Daniel Hirsch, Nuclear Policy Analyst at UC Santa Cruz and Dr. Sam Blakeslee, a geophysicist, and former both California Assemblyman and Senator, revealed PG&E’s history of incompetence, fact-fudging and safety violations, the NRC’s history of lax regulation and new seismic risk discoveries. They called for a full adjudicatory re-licensing hearing for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in San Luis Obispo, California.
Hirsch heads CommitteeToBridgeTheGap.org, long an effective watchdog agency in California. His testimony showed that from Humboldt Bay to Bodega Head to Diablo Canyon, PG&E has consistently chosen nuclear sites on earthquake faults, and the NRC has consistently failed to enforce its own seismic safety standards.
These very real dangers are magnified by the fragility of Diablo’s embrittled reactor vessel, the fifth worst in the U.S.
Even without natural disasters, incredibly high radiation readings from EPA’s Radnet in Bakersfield, California correlate to refueling incidences at Diablo Canyon, according to a recent report by FukuLeaks.org.
Why so long if PG&E admits running Diablo Canyon is no longer profitable?
Why does PG&E need nearly a decade just to ‘begin to plan’ as stated in the ‘agreement’ for replacing Diablo’s electricity output and ‘beginning’ to make a transition to renewables? Why just begin in 2018 with a long-overdue emphasis on efficiency?
Long time anti-nuclear activists wonder is it because the utility has been dragging its feet for so long, resisting and blocking efforts toward conservation, efficiency, rooftop solar, net metering and small, decentralized solar installations and wants to keep doing so? Not to mention its $30 million attempt in 2010, via Prop 16, to kill the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) movement in the cradle, and the utility’s decades-long battle to stamp out public power projects wherever they dare crop up.
Reskilling and retraining employees does take time, but again, is nine years necessary?
Estimates say that Diablo generates 6-9% of California’s electricity, and 20% within PG&E’s service territory. Three years ago, a chart developed by the late Barbara George, founder of WomensEnergyMatters.org, and based on the California Energy Commission’s own data, showed that – even without nuclear – California has a 40% excess energy generation capacity.
To avoid rolling brown and black outs, redundancy in the system is required equal to the single largest source of electricity that could go out. The California Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) calls this quantity of spinning reserve the “MSSC” (Maximum System Single Contingency) in its tariff. Right now, that largest single source is Diablo Canyon. This dependence on centralized generation of electricity is an obsolete business model that increases risk and reduces resilience in our age of climate chaos.
The Joint Proposal is based on a study commissioned by FoE, titled Plan B: An Economic and Technical Case for Replacing Diablo Canyon with Greenhouse Gas Free Renewable, Efficiency and Energy Storage Resources addressed this and other issues. It found that “…when DCPP retires, the system requirement for spinning reserve will be cut approximately in half….”
On the basis of its 40-page analysis, Plan B concluded that it is:
…clearly in the interest of California ratepayers to replace DCPP with a renewable portfolio in an orderly transition on a timetable that will enable ratepayers to benefit from the renewable tax credits that may expire in 2020. These renewable resources will be additive to the recently adopted policy of a 50% RPS by 2030. It is also in ratepayer interests to overhaul and expand current energy efficiency programs to bear part of the load caused by retirement of DCPP.
Given the high cost of extending the NRC licenses, the high cost of continued operations at DCPP, and the risk of catastrophic failure of an aging plant on a seismically active site, the state of California needs to have a plan for retirement of DCPP. The plan must be to replace DCPP with zero GHG renewable energy and Energy Efficiency both of which are incremental to existing policy initiatives and programs. […T] time for that plan is now. P6
Rocky Mountain Institute’s seminal business book ‘Reinventing Fire’ used the state-of-the-art NREL ReEDS model to examine 80%-renewable US electricity in 2050, half centralized and half distributed, with no nuclear generation. The whole system turned out to cost the same as the alternatives (more-of-the-same, or new nuclear and “clean coal”, or centralized renewables) but to manage best all seven kinds of risk and to be the only known way to eliminate the risk of big cascading blackouts. According to Amory Lovins, their model included transmission and storage (only ~5–6% of renewable capacity needed).
As reported by The New York Times, ‘“Giant baseload nuclear power plants like Diablo Canyon cannot easily be taken offline, or ramped up and down, as system needs change,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the group’s lead negotiator on the agreement. “This worsening problem is forcing the California grid operator to shut down low-cost renewable generation that could otherwise be used productively.”’
And, according to The Washington Post, “Geisha Williams, PG&E’s president for electricity, said in a conference call that the company concluded that ratepayers would not pay more for new renewable sources of energy than they would have paid to keep Diablo Canyon open. But she said that calculation took as a given the state’s renewable portfolio standard, which mandates sharp increases in -renewable-energy use and might have forced the reactors to run at as little as half their capacity.”
Writing in Forbes, celebrated energy expert Amory Lovins observes,
PG&E also agrees that removing the inflexible “must-run” nuclear output, which can’t easily and economically ramp down much, will help integrate more renewable power reliably into the grid. Midday solar, rather than being increasingly crowded out by continued nuclear overgeneration, will be able to supply more energy. As Germany found, integrating varying solar and windpower with steady “baseload” plants can present challenges for the opposite of the reason originally supposed: not because wind and solar power vary (demand varies even less predictably), but because “baseload” plants are too inflexible.
…[A]s PG&E acknowledges, market forces have made California’s last nuclear plant redundant. As customers use electricity more productively, solar roofs generate homebrew power, and competitive renewables flood the wholesale market, Diablo Canyon has become superfluous—and cheaper to close than to run.
Translation: Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is the MAIN IMPEDIMENT TO CALIFORNIA’S TRANSITION TO RENEWABLES. It should be shut down ASAP, not in nine years.
Artificial Life Support for a Dying Industry & Obsolete Utility Business Model
On the other hand, a precipitous closure, as happened with the leaking San Onofre plant, prompted replacing its power with gas, creating more greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to avoid any disruption to the flow of electricity. Not long afterwards, California experienced the catastrophic months-long Aliso Canyon methane leak.
The similarities of this proposal to the 2013 San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown deal are striking. Both have the lingering aroma exuded by Governor Jerry Brown. Both agreements were conducted out of public sight and basically pay nuclear utilities extortion money to just go away. The key difference is that this ‘Agreement’ establishes ONLY greenhouse gas free sources to replace Diablo Canyon nuclear power and the community and workers’ needs are being considered.
This proposed agreement attempts to replace DCPP with a renewable portfolio in an orderly transition on a timetable that PG&E agrees it can comply with. But, as noted above, can we trust PG&E? The San Bruno gas disaster is but one incident in a long pattern of dubious corporate behavior.
It is worth remembering that Governor Brown’s two female gate-keepers, Nancy McFadden and Dana Williamson, are both former PG&E executives. In fact, it was McFadden, during her tenure as a PG&E VP, who managed the campaign for Prop 16, a voter-defeated attempt to stop the formation of locally-owned utilities which were cutting into the utility’s monopoly. Now, the prospect of customers fleeing PG&E for CCA’s is a real concern, one that the “Proposal” even acknowledges.
Trusting the CPUC?
It is Gov. Brown who appoints all the members of the California Public Utilities Commission, CPUC, which will be making the decisions on the PG&E slow motion phase-out proposal. But the CPUC is now a discredited agency, itself currently fighting multiple charges of corruption, and whose continued existence is in question by the State Legislature. Why should we trust it with so many key decisions on this issue?
A May 2016 article in American Prospect reported on a recent National Renewable Energy Foundation study that found up to 74 percent of California’s total electricity usage could be generated by rooftop solar power – far more than other states. However California only derives 2.4 percent of its energy from rooftop solar systems. To meet that goal, or even Reinventing Fire’s recommended 50% distributed generation, California’s CPUC would have to implement additional regulatory reforms, such as establishing statewide interconnection standards that allow Californians to connect to the grid no matter where they live, and clarifying the solar system installation permitting process to eliminate hidden fees.
With a cooperative CPUC undoing all impediments to the energy transition, couldn’t PG&E quickly sell storage to rooftop solar owners and rapidly replace its outdated business model, like Green Mountain Energy has done? Green Mountain Power changing the home energy storage game
Is this a done deal?
No, not by a long shot. And it should NOT be – even though it looks like the fix is in.
Backroom deals, conducted in secret, excluding key stakeholders, should not be the standard for creation of public policy. Consideration of this proposal should not deter the SLC from doing a rigorous CEQA review, and compliance with California’s Once Through Cooling regulations have been addressed.
The Proposal is full of wiggle-room conditionalities that might let PG&E off the hook. And given their track record, the public needs to guard against a scenario such as that advanced by Indian Point nuclear plant owners who continue operating their deteriorating plant without a license.
Is this a good deal? And for whom, exactly?
It’s most of all good for PG&E, because it protects on-going profits from Diablo Canyon for nine more years and mandates ‘full cost recovery’ of all the company’s expenditures involved in its license-extension applications to the NRC, seismic and decommissioning studies and transition costs past, present and future.
It’s not good for the PG&E ratepayers, already footing the second highest utility rates in the country, who will ultimately have to pay the bills for the company’s ‘full cost recovery’ AND another nine years of Diablo Canyon profits and risks.
It is good for the Inside-the-Beltway ‘Big Green’ groups like FoE and NRDC and their local allies, who can claim a great victory for environmentalism.
It’s not good for the regional resident population, who will have to continue to live another nine years with the health effects of continuous routine radioactive emissions from the plant, and the looming, possibly catastrophic, seismic risks of an overdue major earthquake and tsunami. Plus another nine years worth of tons of lethal radioactive waste will be left onsite, likely for millennia, unsafely stored in thin canisters each holding a Chernobyl’s worth of radioactivity that can’t be monitored for leaks until after they happen and can’t be repaired. NRC techn
It is good for the Electrical Workers and Utility Employees unions whose members are guaranteed employment, retraining and a gradual transition. This should set a good template for treatment of workers in the coming cascade of nuclear shutdowns across the country.
It’s not good for the creatures in the marine environment impacted by the plant’s on-going daily operation, already causing 80% of the marine damage along California’s coast – 1.5 billion fish per year killed.
It is good for the local county businesses and community groups who will benefit by being gradually weaned off PG&E’s tax revenue and philanthropic largess over the next decade.
AND it is not good publicity for a moribund global nuclear industry fighting for its life against a worldwide groundswell citizen opposition and an overdose of market forces.
But, ultimately – if the aged, embrittled reactors, run by a company with a history of safety violations, escape catastrophe in the next nine years (a big IF) – it will be good for a California free at last of nuclear energy, and officially committed to a renewable energy economy… but still stuck with thousands of tons of radioactive waste, lethal for millennia that are unsafely stored at the moment.
Is it the best deal possible?
It is certainly the best deal possible for Pacific Gas & Electric, ensuring its profits for the next 9 years and guaranteeing it ‘full cost recovery,’ with minor concessions on its part, given the reality of California’s mandate for 50% renewables by 2030 and dwindling demand for its inflexible, costly nuclear electricity which blocks the grid from accepting renewables. Operating with clean energy sources will be highly profitable.
In terms of public and environmental safety it’s a very high risk deal…short of extending the risk of re-licensing for another 20 years. And many more important environmental considerations are left out of the agreement.
But the beginning of the process of Diablo Canyon shutdown is happening and that is nationally and even internationally significant for the rest of the nuclear industry.
It articulates a vision of a solid transition away from dependence on nuclear power both for electricity provided to the grid as well as income provided for the San Luis Obispo community and county. It could be the beginning of a good shutdown scenario if the public is included and there’s transparency in the process to actualize the vision with active citizen participation.
A Realistic Timetable?
Going through the process at the CPUC for PG&E will take time. Preparing requests for proposals, putting bids out for Energy Efficiency; having the entities respond with projects; awarding funding; the start up time to implement the proposals; all this takes time. It will take time to build out the infrastructure and time to go through the regulatory hurdles at the CPUC.
Diablo workers need time for retraining and new job acquiring. The county needs time to reallocate funds. It actually may take many years for this transition, as much as we would like it all to happen yesterday. Two trusted experts were consulted and said that it may realistically take nearly all the nine years.
We call on the Governor, state legislature and public agencies like the State Lands Commission, the State Water Resources Control Board, the Coastal Commission, the California Energy Commission, the Independent System Operator, the CPUC and the NRC to really do their job of protecting public trust and safety through the shutdown of Diablo and the transition to renewables. But the public knows the government agencies are increasingly favoring corporate utility interests and increasingly hostile to the public and environmental concerns.
Should we sit back, relax and stop pushing for the shutdown of Diablo?
No flaming way! This ‘Proposal’ does sketch the parameters of a good beginning, though not with enough assurance of compliance. That will be up to concerned citizens to be on high alert and persistent involvement. And now the risk will be even higher until closing. Even more extreme vigilance is needed from now on, since, as Mothers for Peace spokeswoman, Linda Seeley explained, “It’s like knowing you’ll soon be retiring a used car. Expensive broken parts are unlikely to get replaced at Diablo.” And then there’s the waste – the aspect after fissioning that makes Diablo so dangerous will remain onsite even after shutdown and must be responsibly managed.
What’s the best deal?
* Full CEQA protection with a robust EIR
* Compliance with Once Through Cooling requirements
* Additional environmental safeguards and mitigation of serious issues not covered in the Joint Proposal
* Transparent CPUC process and meaningful citizen involvement in the transition to Energy Efficiency and renewables.
*Transparent CPUC process and meaningful citizen involvement in the management of waste
*Transparent CPUC process and meaningful citizen involvement in the decommissioning decisions and process
* Insist that responsible management of the lethal waste include robust casks thick as German and Japanese casks (6’ to 19’ thick – not the ½ in. thick canisters currently in use;)and that can be closely monitored.
* Insist that already loaded canisters be carefully checked; conditions for cracking exist now in a 2 year old canister at Diablo Canyon. Through-wall cracks occurred in another plant with a similar coastal environment within 17 years.
* Insist on monitoring technology since many canisters are now approaching the age when disastrous cracks can occur.
* Take extra care with spent high burn up fuel;
* Ensure the emergency planning continues for the community
*Insist on expert supervision of all decommissioning tasks
* Demand above-ground, hardened, monitored, retrievable (for re-containerizing when monitoring indicates necessity to avoid leaks) storage in the most thick robust storage casks. Other countries do this, California must also
* Make sure the workers continue to feel they’re safe
Learn from San Onofre
Also we can learn much from the San Onofre experience. Even more extreme vigilance is needed from now on, since, as Mothers for Peace spokeswoman, Linda Seeley explained, “broken parts are unlikely to get replaced at Diablo.” Do the workers feel safe?
We must also demand the most robust available casks for the millions of pounds of lethal waste and that decisions made about waste are based on what’s best for the environment, not just utilities’ bottom line. San Onofre’s waste situation is not a model to repeat at Diablo Canyon, as the present ‘Proposal’ states.
So what can we do?
Contact the Lands Commission: CSLCWeb@slc.ca.gov
Contact the State Water Resources Control Board: email@example.com
Get informed and get involved.
Attend important meetings Tuesday June 28:
•Attend the live meeting of the State Land Commission in Sacramento June 28 at 10 AM. at the Holiday Inn Capital Plaza, 300 J Street just east of route 5 and north of the route 80 intersection. Come early to sign up to speak. Google for directions.
•If you are in the San Luis Obispo area, attend the June 28, 10 AM SLC meeting at the Morro Bay Community Center at 1001 Kennedy Way. Join the Mot hers for Peace in a rally at 9 AM. Bring your signs! Come early and sign up to speak.
•Write the California Land Commission to order a complete environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before any new lease is considered in writing at CSLC.CommissionMeetings@slc.ca.gov
* A full CEQA review
* Compliance with Once Through Cooling requirements,
* Safe shutdown of Diablo, and an accelerated transition to renewables.
* Insist that responsible management of the lethal waste include monitoring and robust casks thick as German and Japanese casks (6’ to 19’ thick – not the ½ in. thick canisters currently in use;)
* Take extra care with spent high burn up fuel;
* Ensure the emergency planning continues for the community
*Insist on expert supervision of all decommissioning tasks
* Demand above-ground, hardened, monitored, retrievable (for re-containerizing when monitoring indicates necessity to avoid leaks) storage in the most thick robust storage casks. Other countries do this, California must also
* Make sure the workers continue to feel they’re safe
Learn from San Onofre
Also we can learn much from the San Onofre experience.
We must demand the most robust available casks for the millions of pounds of long -lived lethal waste and that decisions made about waste are based on what’s best for the environment, not just utilities’ bottom line. Southern California Edison’s disastrous plan for their San Onofre radioactive waste is not a model to repeat at Diablo Canyon, as the present ‘Proposal’ states.
For more info: MothersForPeace.org
Big thanks to Arnie Gundersen and Maggie Gundersen for expert consultation.
PG&E to close Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear power plant
Good News From Diablo Canyon
Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle co-direct EON, The Ecological Options Network. They are currently at work on a new documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection
In cooperation with Fairewinds Energy Education, EON – the Ecological Options Network presents two important new videos from Maggie and Arnie Gundersen’s recent California speaking tour. Maggie is Founder and CEO of Fairewinds and Arnie is Chief Nuclear Engineer.
Expect the Unexpected – Arnie Gundersen at CalPoly
Speaking Truth to Nuclear Power in PG&Eland
As the controversy rages in California over whether to shut down or re-license the state’s last operating nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon, Arnie Gundersen, Chief Nuclear Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education speaks about the risks of nuclear power at California Polytechnic State University, just down the road from Diablo.
World in Danger – Arnie Gundersen
As nuclear enthusiasts clamor to extend the operation of California’s last, aging nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, located on 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone, prominent whistleblower Arnie Gundersen points out ‘the California-Fukushima connection.’ Every operating reactor, where ever it is, poses a danger to the entire planet. Diablo is a ‘worst case’ waiting to happen.
For more info: