Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Michael Shellenberger has gone down a rabbit hole with his two essays promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

we can now add preventing war” to the list of nuclear energy’s superior characteristics – Shellenberger
Who are we to deny weak nations the nuclear weapons they need for self-defense? – Shellenberger
We “should be glad that North Korea acquired the bomb” according to Shellenberger. And on it goes ‒ his enthusiasm for nuclear weapons proliferation knows no bounds.
Understanding of the power-weapons connections, combined with opposition to nuclear weapons, is one of the motivations driving opposition to nuclear power.
Nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger, learns to love the bomb, goes down a rabbit hole, NUCLEAR MONITOR , 7 Sept 18  Author: Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia, NM865.4744 [original has many footnotes and references]
In 2015, Nuclear Monitor published a detailed critique of the many ways nuclear industry insiders and lobbyists trivialize and deny the connections between nuclear power (and the broader nuclear fuel cycle) and nuclear  weapons proliferation.

Since then, the arguments have been turned upside down with prominent industry insiders and lobbyists openly acknowledging power-weapons connections. This remarkable about-turn has clear origins in the crisis facing nuclear power and the perceived need to secure increased subsidies to prevent reactors closing and to build new ones.

One thread of the new sales pitch ‒ one which doesn’t fundamentally contradict long-standing denials of power weapons connections ‒ has been a ratcheting up of the argument that countries with a thriving nuclear export industry, (necessarily) underpinned by a thriving domestic nuclear industry, are best placed to influence which countries can or can’t pursue weapons.

Another thread of the new sales pitch ‒ and this really is new ‒ is to openly link to nuclear power to weapons, to celebrate the connections and to use them to lobby for  greater subsidies for nuclear power.2……….

Decades of deceit have been thrown overboard with  the new sales pitch linking nuclear power and weapons.  However there are still some hold-outs.Ted Norhaus, a self-styled ‘pro-nuclear environmentalist’, argues that to conflate nuclear power with nuclear weapons is extremely misleading” because they involve different physics, different technologies and different institutions.

Ben Heard ‒ a nuclear lobbyist in Australia whose Bright New World’ lobby group accepts secret corporatedonations‒ attacked the Australian Conservation  Foundation for its failure to acknowledge the “obvious distinction” between nuclear power and weapons and for “co-opting disarmament … toward their ideological campaigns against peaceful science and technology”.

Heard wrote in December 2017: “Peace is furthered when a nation embraces nuclear power, because it makes that nation empirically less likely to embark on a nuclear weapons program.…….

Until recently, another nuclear lobbyist continuing to deny power-weapons connections was Michael Shellenberger from the ‘Environmental Progress’ pro-nuclear lobby group in the US. He told an IAEA conference last year that “nuclear energy prevents the spread of nuclear weapons”.And he claimed last year that “one of FOE Greenpeace’s biggest lies about nuclear energy is that it leads to weapons” and that there is an “inverse relationship between energy and weapons”.He concluded that article by asserting that “nuclear is our only source of energy with a transcendent moral purpose, to lift all humans out of poverty, reverse humankind’s negative environmental impact, and guarantee peace.”

One of Shellenberger’s bright ideas was to launch a campaign to garner international support for the construction of nuclear power reactors in North Korea.15 That would ‒ somehow, magically ‒ curtail or end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. This “atoms for peace” initiative would be, in Shellenberger’s words, “one of the best means of creating peace with North Korea”. No matter that his new framework” is much the same as the old 1994 Agreed Framework, which was a complete failure.

Shellenberger’s backflip    In two articles published in August, Shellenberger has done a 180-degree backflip on the power-weapons connections.:    [N]ational security, having a weapons option, is often the most important factor in a state pursuing peaceful nuclear energy”, Shellenberger now believes.

A recent analysis from Environmental Progress finds that of the 26 nations that are building or are committed to build nuclear power plants, 23 have nuclear weapons, had weapons, or have shown interest in acquiring weapons.  While those 23 nations clearly have motives other thannational security for pursuing nuclear energy,” Shellenberger writes, “gaining weapons latency appears to be the difference-maker. The flip side also appears true: nations that lack a need for weapons latency often decide not to build nuclear power plants … Recently, Vietnam and South Africa, neither of which face a significant security threat, decided against building nuclear plants …”

Here is the break-down of the 26 countries that are  building or are committed to build nuclear power plants……….

Nuclear weapons ‒ a force for peace? So far, so good. The pursuit of nuclear power and weapons are often linked. That’s a powerful reason to eschew nuclear power, to strengthen the safeguards system, to tighten export controls, to restrict the spreadof enrichment and reprocessing, and so on. But Shellenberger has a very different take on the issues.

Discussing the Fuhrmann and Tkach article (and studiously avoiding a vast body of contrary literature), Shellenberger writes:

What was the relationship between nuclear latency and military conflict? It was negative. “Nuclear latency appears to provide states with deterrence-related benefits,” they [Fuhrmann and Tkach] concluded, that are distinct from actively pursuing nuclear bombs.”

Why might this be? Arriving at an ultimate cause is difficult if not impossible, the authors note. But one obvious possibility is that the “latent nuclear powers may be able to deter conflict by (implicitly) threatening to ‘go nuclear following an attack.” …

After over 60 years of national security driving nuclear power into the international system, we can now add preventing war” to the list of nuclear energy’s superior characteristics. …

As a lifelong peace activist and pro-nuclear environmentalist, I almost fell out of my chair when I discovered the paper by Fuhrmann and Tkach. All that most nations will need to deter military threats is nuclear power ‒ a bomb isn’t even required? Why in the world, I wondered, is this fact not being promoted as one of nuclear powers many benefits?

The answer is that the nuclear industry and scientific community have tried, since Atoms for Peace began 65 years ago, to downplay any connection between the two ‒ and for an understandable reason: they don’t want the public to associate nuclear power plants with nuclear war.

But in seeking to deny the connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the nuclear community today finds itself in the increasingly untenable position of having to deny these real world connections ‒ of motivations and means ‒ between the two. Worse, in denying the connection between energy and weapons, the nuclear community reinforces the widespread beliefthat nuclear weapons have made the world a more dangerous place when the opposite is the case. …

In the real world, nuclear weapons have only been used to end or prevent war — a remarkable record for the world’s most dangerous objects.

Nuclear energy, without a doubt, is spreading and will continue to spread around the world, largely with national security as a motivation. The question is whether the nuclear industry will, alongside anti-nuclear activists, persist in stigmatizing weapons latency as a nuclear power “bug” rather than tout it as the epochal, peacemaking feature it is.”

Shellenberger asks why the deterrent effect of nuclear power isn’t being promoted as one of its many benefits.

A better answer to the one he offers is that the premise is nonsense. Nuclear weapons can have a deterrent effect ‒ in a uniquely dangerous and potentially uniquely counterproductive manner ‒ but any correlation between latent nuclear weapons capabilities and reduced military conflict is just that, correlation not causation.

In a second article, Shellenberger offers the contrarian wisdom that “nuclear weapons make us peaceful”.He writes:

The widespread assumption is that the more nations have nuclear weapons, the more dangerous the world will be“.

But is that really the case? … [I]t is impossible not to be struck by these facts:

• No nation with a nuclear weapon has ever been invaded by another nation.

• The number of deaths in battle worldwide [per 100,000 of world population] has declined 95 percent in the 70 years since the invention and spread of nuclear weapons;

• The number of Indian and Pakistani civilian and security forces deaths in two disputed territories declined 95 percent after Pakistan’s first nuclear weapons test in 1998.…

The division of the world into nuclear-armed and unarmed nations has long been arbitrary and unfair.

Nuclear-armed nations, except for France, hypocritically punished India for decades with trade sanctions for acquiring a weapon. …

[A] world without nuclear weapons would be a world where relatively weak nations ‒ like France and Britain before World War II and North Korea and Iran today ‒ are deprived the only power on Earth capable of preventing a military invasion by a more powerful adversary. Who are we to deny weak nations the nuclear weapons they need for self-defense? The answer should by now be clear: hypocritical, short-sighted, and imperialistic.”

So Iran should be encouraged to develop nuclear weapons ‒ or perhaps Iran should be gifted nuclear weapons by an enlightened weapons state. Shellenberger cites long-term nuclear weapons proliferation enthusiast Kenneth Waltz, who claims that the “decades-long Middle East nuclear crisis … will end only when a balance of military power is restored”.

Dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi ought to have acquired nuclear weapons, according to Shellenberger, not least because they were killed and their regimes overthrown after they gave up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. 

Shellenberger cites a German academic who argues that a nuclear-armed Germany “would stabilize NATO and the security of the Western World”. We “should be glad that North Korea acquired the bomb” according to Shellenberger. And on it goes ‒ his enthusiasm for nuclear weapons proliferation knows no bounds.

What to make of Shellenberger’s conversion? No doubt there will be more acknowledgements of power-weapons connections by nuclear industry insiders and lobbyists. As Shellenberger notes, the nuclear community’ today finds itself in an increasingly untenable position denying the connections.

What to make of Shellenberger’s advocacy of nuclear weapons proliferation? There is a degree of domestic support for nuclear weapons programs in weapons states … but few people support generalized nuclear weapons proliferation and few would swallow Shellenberger’s arguments including his call to shred the non-proliferation and disarmament system and to encourage weapons proliferation.

Understanding of the power-weapons connections, combined with opposition to nuclear weapons, is one of the motivations driving opposition to nuclear power. According to Shellenberger, the only two US states forcing the closure of nuclear plants, California and New York, also had the strongest nuclear disarmament movements

There is some concern that claims that the civil nuclear industry is an important (or even necessary) underpinning of a weapons program will be successfully used to secure additional subsidies for troubled nuclear power programs (e.g. in the US, France and the UK). After all, nuclear insiders and lobbyists wouldn’t abandon their decades-long deceit about power-weapons connections if not for the possibility that their new argument will gain traction, among politicians if not the public………

Shellenberger has gone down a rabbit hole’ As for Shellenberger, Nuclear Monitor has previously exposed the litany of falsehoods in his writings on nuclear and energy issues.In his most recent articles he exposes himself as an intellectual lightweight prepared to swing from one extreme of a debate to the other if that’s what it takes to build the case for additional subsidies for nuclear power.

A dangerous intellectual lightweight. Responding to Shellenberger’s more-the-merrier attitude towards nuclear weapons proliferation, pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman puts it bluntly: “Here’s the problem. The more nations have nuclear weapons, the more dangerous the world will be. Sooner or later some tin pot dictator or religious zealot, is likely to push a button and send us all to eternity.” 

Shellenberger’s about-turn on power-weapons connections provoked a hostile response from Yurman:

Shellenberger has crossed a red line for the global commercial nuclear industry, which has done everything in its power to avoid having the public conflate nuclear weapons with commercial nuclear energy. Worse, he’s given opponents of nuclear energy, like Greenpeace, a ready-made tool to attack the industry. …

In the end he may have painted himself into a corner…….. “Shellenberger has gone down a rabbit hole with his two essays promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.………

 

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September 8, 2018 - Posted by | General News

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