|The Week That Was
May 29, 2004
1. New on the Web: ANOTHER GOOD DISCUSSION OF RADIATION HORMESIS. The unnecessarily stringent radiation limits set by EPA and NRC impact on costly clean-up projects, spent-fuel storage, and reactor safety. The unrealistic standards also induce fears about so-called "dirty bombs."
2. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION BECOMING MORE REALISTIC
3. Meanwhile --- "PARIS APPEAL" FOR THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE
4. ANTI-CHEMICAL CAMPAIGN TARGETS INVESTORS
5. BIOMONITORING DATA USED TO CALL FOR PESTICIDE BANS:
6. GENERAL ELECTRIC WINS ROUND IN SUPERFUND LAWSUIT
7. WHY KYOTO IS FAILING TO MEET KYOTO TARGETS
8. RUSSIA AND KYOTO: UNSETTLED SITUATION
2. Nuclear Regulatory Commission May Become More Realistic
NRC Chairman Nils Diaz is "walking the walk" when it comes to applying realism. He recently defined what he meant, in a talk before the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum, April 21 in Tokyo:
"The regulation of nuclear power plants in the U.S is in a transitional phase We need, and we are constructing, a regulatory program that better meets our present needs I have said many times: "Regulation must result in a benefit or it will result in a loss." It is frequently too easy to do a little more "regulation," to appear a bit more "protective," and to add another ounce of "conservatism." More regulation can appear enticing The NRC is not in the business of zero risk Zero is not an option, it is a disruption We are learning how to define adequate protection in more precise terms that make sense to the American people We have the opportunity to change the future, and I submit to you that we have the obligation to do so
"I am convinced nuclear regulation now needs to be anchored in realistic
if we are to avoid the twin pitfalls of under-regulation
I use "conservatism" in the sense of
preserving adequate safety margins, and I use "realistic" in
the sense of being anchored in the real world of physics, technology and
When engineering margins are applied to input parameters,
they can distort our understanding of what is truly important. Safety
margins are better discerned when they are applied at the decision-making
stage, rather than at the analysis stage."
Against the backdrop of a recent meeting of cancer experts at the UN
Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a group of scientists,
environmental activists and physicians called on the UN and world governments
to ban many chemicals and adopt the precautionary principle as a guiding
model for future regulation. The 76 signatories to the "Paris Appeal"
called for an immediate ban on "all products that are certainly or
probably known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic," the
application of the precautionary principle to all chemicals that are persistent,
bioaccumulative and toxic or very persistent and very bioaccumulative
(regardless of toxicity); and the strengthening and adoption of the European
REACH program. The signatories claim that "chemical pollution in
all its forms has become one of the main causes of current human scourges
such as cancers, infertility, congenital diseases, etc
full text of the appeal can be found at http://www.artac.info/en_anglais.htm.
With activist group and foundation funding, an investment research firm
that analyzes corporate environmental and social performance has singled
out organochlorine producers as part of a broader attack directed at individual
companies. A recent report targeting chemical manufacturers was developed
by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. Of particular interest, the report
cites organochlorines as a risk, implying that biomonitoring efforts will
begin to link chemical exposures to adverse health effects, placing manufacturers
at a greater risk of liability. Innovest also plans an updated "benchmark
study" of the chemical industry as a whole, which should be released
in the fall. The full report is available at http://www.ecocenter.org/releases/20040421innov-dow.shtml..
A recently-released report from the U.S. Pesticide Action Network (PAN)
advocating for pesticide alternatives uses data from the CDC biomonitoring
effort to claim that Americans carry unsafe levels of pesticides in their
bodies. The study, Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate
Accountability, attempts to link biomonitoring data to health effects.
According to the Associated Press, PAN is using the report to call for
bans on certain pesticides, the adoption of tighter chemical regulations
(based on the precautionary principle) and a Congressional investigation
into the responsibility of chemical manufacturers for pesticide contamination.
Chlorpyrifos and other organochlorine pesticides are featured prominently
in the report, which is available online at http://www.ems.org/rls/2004/05/10/many_us_resident.html.
The US Court of Appeals (for the DC Circuit) ruled in favor of GE's Constitutional
challenge of the CERCLA (Superfund law). EPA would have required GE first
to spend billions to remove PCBs from the sediments of the Hudson River
and only then sort out the legal challenges. GE invoked the "due-process"
clause of the Fifth Amendment. The panel led by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg,
agreed with GE.
Associated Press, 15 May 2004
TOKYO (AP) - Japan, a staunch advocate of the Kyoto protocol on global warming, may not meet its targets for cutting pollution unless it takes drastic action. Environmentalists criticize Tokyo for making renewable energy - such as wind and solar power - a low priority. Tokyo has promised a 6 percent cut in emissions of greenhouse gases, thought to be a key cause of global warming.
The government recently released a progress report showing emissions of greenhouse gases up 8.2 percent in 2001 from the 1990 level. Automobile exhaust and effluents from coal-fired power plants are Japan's largest sources of pollution.
But greenhouse gases from office buildings have also increased sharply,
said Yoshinori Tanaka, assistant director of the Environment Ministry's
climate change policy division.
[Courtesy of CCNet]
The situation in Russia is confused. In return for WTO concessions by the EU, Putin has promised to "speed up" ratification of Kyoto -- but without promising to ratify or giving a date certain. Here is a sampling of reports. Our SEPP comments are appended.
EU supports Russian WTO bid; Moscow to speed ratification of Kyoto accord
"The EU has met us halfway in talks over the WTO and that cannot but affect positively our position on the Kyoto protocol," Putin said at a news conference. "We will speed up Russia's movement toward the Kyoto protocol's ratification."
Russia, which first applied to join the WTO in 1993, is the biggest economy still outside the 147-country body, which sets rules on international trade. Canada ratified the accord in 2002. As part of membership negotiations, countries must conclude bilateral agreements with any WTO members that demand it. Russia has completed many of the negotiations but has yet to sign deals with major members, including the United States and China.
At the close of the summit, Russian Economics Minister German Gref and European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy signed the trade protocol, putting Russia a step closer to joining the WTO. The two sides had been divided over the EU's push for Russia to raise its domestic energy prices to world levels, while Moscow had balked at the EU's demands to open its banking, financial and telecommunications sectors to foreign competition.
The 25-country EU long has urged Russia to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are widely seen as a key factor behind global warming. Kyoto foes in Russia, led by Putin's economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, have argued that the pact will stifle the country's economic development, derailing Putin's plan of doubling Russia's gross domestic product in 10 years. To come into force, the Kyoto Protocol must be ratified by at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990. That minimum now can be reached only with Russia's ratification because the United States, the world's largest greenhouse gas polluter, has rejected the treaty.
"We support the Kyoto process," Putin said in his clearest statement yet on the subject. "We have some concerns connected to the applications of the obligations we have to take."
European Commission President Romano Prodi said at the start of Friday's
talks that the EU would make efforts to help develop Russia's westernmost
Kaliningrad enclave, which is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
"Enlargement will bring the EU and Russia closer together, as it
brings us new opportunities for co-operation," said Irish Prime Minister
Bertie Ahern, current president of the European Council. Putin told the
news conference that it was a good sign that the first post-expansion
summit had ended "in such a positive vein." © The Canadian
Top scientists tell Putin to kill Kyoto
MOSCOW - The Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases has no scientific basis and puts the Russian economy at risk, Russia's leading scientists said in official advice to President Vladimir Putin. In the document, obtained by Reuters on Monday, the Russian Academy of Sciences said the global treaty would not stabilise greenhouse gases even if it came into force.
The Academy drew up the summary after a request from Putin, who has the power to kill off the treaty worldwide by refusing to pass it to parliament for ratification. Some diplomats hope for a decision on the matter by the end of the week. "The Kyoto Protocol has no scientific foundation," said the first of the Academy's conclusions, adopted in a closed session last Friday.
Debate has intensified over the treaty, which aims to slow global warming, in advance of a self-imposed May 20 deadline for state bodies to give Putin their advice. One Putin aide attacked the treaty as an "international Auschwitz" that will strangle Russia's recovering economy. Key economic ministries and top companies back it, saying it bears no threat to the Russian economy.
But the Academy said it would endanger Putin's goal of doubling the size of Russian economy in a decade. "For the intended doubling of GDP in 10 years it is necessary to admit the existence of serious risks in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, even in its first phase." The treaty obliges countries to limit emissions of gases that cause global warming. It comes into force if developed countries responsible for 55 percent of emissions ratify it.
Since top polluter Washington has pulled out, Russia's 17-percent quota leaves it with the casting vote. International observers believe approval would be risk-free for Moscow since the post-Soviet economic collapse slashed national emissions by at least a quarter. That leaves Russia with spare capacity that it could trade with over-polluters.
Russia has vacillated over whether to agree to voluntarily limit its
emissions, and the Academy said there would be no point since the treaty
would not halt global warming anyway. "The Kyoto Protocol is ineffective
for fulfilling the aims of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change,
which it was created to fulfill," the scientists said. GAZETA.RU
Russia's Top Scientists Question Whether Global Warming Is Man-Made: Scientists Hand Putin Weapon To Kill Kyoto Treaty
The Guardian, 19 May 2004
Leading Russian scientists told President Vladimir Putin yesterday that the Kyoto emissions treaty discriminates against Russia, would damage its economy and would not significantly reduce global warming, increasing the chance that the Kremlin will refuse to ratify the agreement.
Experts from the Russian Academy of Sciences submitted a report to the Kremlin containing their long-awaited assessment of the scientific virtues of the pact for Russia. The document, according to the Interfax news agency, said: "Its effectiveness in reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in line with the framework convention on the climate change is low."
The scientists added that global warming was occurring, but that to conclude that "the warming is occurring exclusively due to anthropogenic pollutants, namely, manmade emissions" was questionable.
They said the total benefit to Russia would be a small drop in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air over the next 10 years, but the total cost of the pact's emission-reduction measures would be "tens of trillions of dollars over a hundred years".
The report said: "If Russia ratifies the Kyoto protocol, it would have to either reduce its economic growth or buy additional quotas on greenhouse emissions." The scientists added that Russia's extreme climate was not taken into account by the protocol.
The report, signed by a fierce Kyoto critic, Yuri Israel, will give Mr Putin the scientific justification he needs to kill off the treaty.
To come into effect, the 1997 protocol must be ratified by at least 55 countries that accounted for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. After the US and other key states rejected the pact, Russia's ratification became key for it to come into effect.
Mr Putin has procrastinated over the decision for months, saying he will not sign anything while it remains against Russia's national interests, yet apparently holding out for last minute concessions from the EU.
His key adviser, Andrei Illarionov, has repeatedly panned the treaty, saying it would amount to an "economic Auschwitz" for growth in Russia, where the Kremlin has ambitiously pledged to double GDP in 10 years.
On Friday, a Russia-EU summit in Moscow will see increased pressure for Russia to sign. Yet Mr Putin is thought to be torn between rejecting the treaty, which could ease Moscow's frayed relations with Washington and remove perceived constraints on economic growth, and ratifying it, which would improve its standing with the EU, its new, expanding neighbour.
The US is responsible for 24% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, while Russia accounts for 17.4%. Moscow in any case faces a daunting task in meeting treaty requirements, given its legacy of polluting Soviet industries.
The EU, Japan and the rest of the developed world adopted the agreement
more than three years ago.
IT'S A DEAL: PUTIN PROMISES TO RATIFY KYOTO PROTOCOL: Putin Says Moscow Moving Toward Backing Kyoto
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Friday came out in favor of rapid moves to approve the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, Russian news agencies said.
"We are in favor of the Kyoto process. We support it. We have a few worries about the obligations which we will have to take on," Itar-Tass quoted him as telling a news conference.
The fate of the Kyoto Protocol has depended on Russian approval since Washington pulled out in 2001, since it cannot come into force without the backing of developed nations responsible for 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
"The fact that the EU has met us halfway in negotiations on the WTO (World Trade Organization) entry could not but have helped Moscow's positive attitude to the question of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol," Interfax quoted him as saying.
"We will rapidly move toward ratification of this protocol," Putin added.
Minutes before Putin's announcement, Russia and the European Union signed
a deal on the terms of Moscow's entry into the WTO.
Putin's aide: Kyoto Protocol is totalitarian: BBC, 19 May 2004
Ideology on which the Kyoto Protocol is based, is a new form of totalitarian
ideology, along with Marxism, Communism and socialism, Andrei Illarionov,
Economic Adviser to President Putin, told the BBC. "For 70 years,
Russia suffered from Communism and Marxism, and it incurred huge losses.
And now they want us to accept another form of totalitarian ideology,"
he said. "We had doubts about the Kyoto Protocol, we wanted reasoning
from our partners in the European Union, in the IPCC (International Panel
of Climate Change). Formal requests had been sent to these organizations.
But we have not received responses yet, which suggests that no coherent
answers can be offered. What we hear is 'it is not comprehensive responses
that matter, we will not give them anyway; what is important is whether
you believe us or not'," Mr. Illarionov said. He stressed that government
agencies had to make responsible decisions based on scientific knowledge,
not on faith. "We have received no single argument in favor of this
document except political pressure. No link has been established between
carbon-dioxide emissions and climate change. No other objective facts
have been presented in recent time. The IPCC's reports in 1990 and 1995
show it clearly," Mr. Illarionov said. Economic reasoning provided
by the supporters of the Kyoto Protocol is also untenable because, according
to Mr. Illarionov, Russia will exceed limits established by the document,
not later than in 2010. "If we develop at the same rate as over the
past five years, we will exceed this level in 2009. If we develop at a
rate necessary to double the GDP within ten years - a goal set by President
Vladimir Putin, - we will reach this level in 2008," the Economic
Adviser said. "We are close to a consensus that the Kyoto Protocol
does huge economic, political, social and ecological damage to the Russian
Federation. In addition, it certainly violates the rights and freedoms
of Russian citizens, and well as the rights and freedoms of citizens in
those countries which
signed and ratified it," he stressed.
The Theology of today is the misanthropic belief that nature is
constant and benign and that man is the destroyer of nature who must be
stopped to preserve some ideal nature or climate.
1] Within the EU and Japan: Increased pressure to enact legislation and taxes to restrict energy use -- in essence increasing energy costs. Frustration, resentment , and opposition when these costs are imposed on the general population. Need for inspection, enforcement, and sanctions. Right now, advance deals are already taking place in preparation for an internal EU carbon-trading scheme that will be established in January 2005. Prices for carbon allowances held relatively steady at about 8 euros ($9.60) per ton. But these prices will rise once restrictions get underway. [And note that using up excess emission permits does not change actual carbon emissions into the atmosphere at all.]
2] Pressure on the US to ratify - through the WTO and in other ways to remove "unfair competition."
3] Within the US: Increased support for the McCain-Lieberman bill calling for unilateral application of Kyoto-like energy-use restrictions. Unilateral actions by certain states and cities - probably unconstitutional and certainly impractical. Political pressure and partisan attacks on George Bush from Europeans, Democrats, and enviro-activists. [The public is upset about $2 gasoline, what about $3 or more?]
4] While academic economists favor emission trading, there will soon
be a lack of cheap permits and a political demand for exemptions: Cheap
gasoline for police, fire departments, emergency services, hospitals,
clergy, etc and special allocations to state governors etc. And what about
farmers? What about poor people who cannot afford heat in winter and air-conditioning
during hot spells - will we let them die? We've been through all of this
30 years ago - it was called "oil crisis."