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Karen Silkwood: A Radioactive Angel

Korean Unions Call for a “Just Energy Transition” to Move Away From Coal and Nuclear

By Staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 4, 2017

In a series of landmark statements following the May 2017 election of the pro-reform President Moon Jae-in, Korean energy, transport and public service workers have called for “a just energy transition” allowing the sector to “function as a public asset under public control.”  Unions support the new government’s decision to close the country’s aging coal-fired and nuclear power stations, and its planned reconsideration of two new nuclear facilities, Kori 5 and Kori 6. In a statement issued in late July, the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) and the Korean Labour and Social Network on Energy (KLSNE), a coalition of unions and civil society organization, said, “We actively support the policy of phasing out coal and nuclear and expanding clean renewable energy.” The statement urged the development of, “A roadmap for energy transition that ensures public accountability and strengthens democratic control of the energy industry.” KPTU and KLSNE also committed  “to work together with the public and civil society to achieve a just transition.”

The Korean Labour and Social Network on Energy (KLSNE) and the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU) Support the Government’s Policy of a Transition towards a Coal-free, Nuclear-free Energy System

The Moon Jae-in government, which was elected on a pledge to phase out coal and nuclear generation and scale up clean renewables, is now moving quickly to enact these promises. Following a temporary shutdown of old coal-fired power plants, the Kori 1 nuclear reactor was permanently closed down on June 19. The government is now reconsidering plans to build new nuclear reactors Kori 5 and 6. The KLSNE and KPTU declare our support for these policies and our intentions to play a leading role in bring about a just energy transition.

The government’s establishment of a commission to assess public opinion on the plans to build Kori reactors 5 and 6 on July 24 sparked immediate outcry from nuclear power business interests and pro-nuclear power scholars. The press has exacerbated this conflict with sensational reporting. It is deeply regrettable that those who oppose the government’s policies are speaking only from their individual self-interest without putting forth viable alternatives.

It is even more regrettable that the voices of workers at the Korean Hyro & Nuclear Power Corporation and other nuclear-power related companies who support a just transition are being stifled in the process. We stress the importance of recognising the difference between nuclear power business interests and the nuclear power workers. These workers are the people most easily exposed to radiation and at the most risk in the case of accidents. Electricity and gas workers, who have been discussing paths for a just transition for many years now, are sure that nuclear power workers will soon join us in this effort.

During the last nine years of conservative rule, South Korea’s energy policy has been focused on restructuring aimed only at meeting the interest of corporations (i.e. privatisation). The result has been the expansion of nuclear power and private coal and LNG generation and massive profits for corporations. Energy policy has been consistently undemocratic and anti-climate.

With South Korea now facing the threat of earthquakes and air contaminated with fine dust it is only natural that we energy workers, who have fought for almost two decades to stop privatisation and protect our public energy system, would take a leading role in the fight for a just energy transition.

Full Report from an “International Meeting on the Energy Mix and the Commons” – Buenos Aires, Argentina (English)

By admin - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, September 27, 2017; English translation provided by Daniel Chavez of this original report.

The Energy Mix and the Commons

On 4-5 September 2017, an International Meeting on the Energy Mix and the Commons was held at the ATE National trade union’s main office, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The meeting was framed within a broader process of exchange of knowledge and experiences on climate and energy policies in Argentina, Latin America and the world. The Argentinian State Workers’ Association (Spanish acronym ATE; acronyms will be for Spanish names where applicable) and the Autonomous Argentinean Workers’ Congress (CTA-A) are engaged in international processes towards the construction of regional and global alternatives, in particular the Development Platform of the Americas (PLADA) and the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) initiative. The PLADA platform was conceived within the framework of the Trade Unions Confederation of the Americas (TUCA; CSA in Spanish) as a strategic political proposal centred around four dimensions—political, economic, social and environmental—aiming to contribute to the design and implementation of a regional model for sustainable development. PLADA proposes a gradual reduction in the use of fossil fuels, the universalisation of access to energy services, and the rationalization of those sectors of the economy that pollute the most. TUED, a global network composed of workers’ confederations and trade unions, focuses on democratizing generation, distribution and consumption of energy around the world.

The meeting was organised by ATE and CTA-A, with the support of the Transnational Institute (TNI, a worldwide network of scholar-activists based in the Netherlands) and the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of State Workers (CLATE).

King CONG vs. Solartopia

By Harvey Wasserman - The Progressive, December 5, 2016

As you ride the Amtrak along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, you pass the San Onofre nuclear power plant, home to three mammoth atomic reactors shut by citizen activism.

Framed by gorgeous sandy beaches and some of the best surf in California, the dead nukes stand in silent tribute to the popular demand for renewable energy. They attest to one of history’s most powerful and persistent nonviolent movements.

But 250 miles up the coast, two reactors still operate at Diablo Canyon, surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults. They’re less than seventy miles from the San Andreas, about half the distance of Fukushima from the quake line that destroyed it. Should any quakes strike while Diablo operates, the reactors could be reduced to rubble and the radioactive fallout would pour into Los Angeles.

Some 10,000 arrests of citizens engaged in civil disobedience have put the Diablo reactors at ground zero in the worldwide No Nukes campaign. But the epic battle goes far beyond atomic power. It is a monumental showdown over who will own our global energy supply, and how this will impact the future of our planet.

On one side is King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas), the corporate megalith that’s unbalancing our weather and dominating our governments in the name of centralized, for-profit control of our economic future. On the other is a nonviolent grassroots campaign determined to reshape our power supply to operate in harmony with nature, to serve the communities and individuals who consume and increasingly produce that energy, and to build the foundation of a sustainable eco-democracy.

The modern war over America’s energy began in the 1880s, when Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed over the nature of America’s new electric utility business. It is now entering a definitive final phase as fossil fuels and nuclear power sink into an epic abyss, while green power launches into a revolutionary, apparently unstoppable, takeoff.

In many ways, the two realities were separated at birth.

To our working-class brothers and sisters across the world Invitation to the International Joint Action in November in Tokyo and Seoul

By Doro-Chiba/KCTU - Transport Workers Solidarity Committee, October 23, 2016

Neoliberalism has led to a rapid increase in irregular workers and indirect employment all over the world, as well as the strengthening of monopoly, the deepening of wealth polarization, more and more privatization, and the oppression of the labor union movement.

Moreover, the intensified competition among capitalist powers has brought about the impending crisis of conflict and war, especially in Northeast Asia.

Workers of the world! We, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Seoul Regional Council and three unions in Japan (Doro-Chiba, Kan-Nama and Minato-Godo), have decided to organize a Workers’ International Solidarity Action in November against the merciless capitalists’ oppression of the labor movement and the growing crisis of imperialist war in Northeast Asia and the Middle East.

Neoliberalism, which is controlled by the “1%” monopoly capitalists, totally deprives workers of their freedom. While the number of irregular workers and indirectly employed workers increases, public services (transportation, education, medical care, municipality, etc.) are shrinking, being privatized, and transformed into mere tools for profiteering.

Above all, the capitalists’ greed has forced the world into economic depression and the collapse of the world economy, and is drawing the world into the disaster of impending imperialist war (a world war and nuclear war).

In face of the first crisis ever to seriously threaten the survival of mankind, the international solidarity of workers is the only way to defend the world.

We workers of the world must stand together in a united struggle under the banner of international solidarity.

In 1995, South Korean workers established the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) to unite workers and stand in the vanguard of their struggles, overcoming the harsh repression of state power and capital that had existed on labor movements for a long period of time. Since then, KCTU has been relentlessly fighting and continuously moving forward.

The workers of KCTU keep fighting without fear even to die in their struggle. They go on strikes regardless of the risks of being fired or arrested. In fact, our comrade Han Sang-gyun, President of KCTU, recently received an unprecedented sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and now strives behind bars. Despite such a brutal rule of the present regime that speaks only for big capital and the far right wing, the workers never waver in their efforts and continue fighting on militantly.

This coming September, workers in South Korea are preparing to wage another robust general strike led by the public sector union. Also, 200,000 workers from all over the country will gather together in a massive protest at the People’s All-out Rally in Seoul. There the working class people will vigorously launch the decisive battle to fight back against the oppressive rule of the government and capitalism. This will pave the way for further general strikes and then link up with the struggle of the presidential election in 2017. All these militant struggles will create a new turning point toward the fundamental transformation of South Korean society.

Doro-Chiba has been carrying on the struggle against the division and privatization of Japan National Railway. It was the greatest attack on the labor movement in the Japanese postwar period. But Doro-Chiba’s 30-year consistent struggle has eventually succeeded in forcing even the reactionary Supreme Court to admit that the JR and the state power itself had committed unfair labor practices. Doro-Chiba thus achieved a historic breakthrough and started a fresh fight against JR East Company for the withdrawal and reinstatement of fired 1,047 railway workers.

The Shinzo Abe government shamelessly concealed the risk of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, and is forcing the evacuees to move back into their hometowns where radiation levels remain dangerously high. In order to proceed with the so-called “Reconstruction of Fukushima,” Abe is desperately trying to reopen the railway line in Fukushima. Doro-Mito, a fraternal union of Doro-Chiba, has been at the forefront of the struggle to fight against the operation of contaminated trains and radiation-exposed work through repeated strikes.

In 2010, Kan-Nama waged a general strike in the ready-made mixed concrete industry for 139 days, which violently shook the monopoly in the construction industry and the domination of big cement manufacturers. The workers of Kan-Nama made a great effort to establish a labor union in every workplace and are today still striving hard to organize hundreds of thousands of workers.

Minato-Godo organizes the workers of small- and medium-sized enterprises in its community. Minato-Godo has been working hard to take back workers’ right to organize, and has succeeded in creating a strongly fortified community that can fight together against common enemies.

Now the Abe administration has launched a full-scale attack on workers. Intent on tearing up the pacifist clause of the Constitution and rushing head-on into war, Abe moves forward with further revising labor laws that force all workers into a state of unstable employment in the name of “Working-Style Reform.” We are determined to stand up against the ruthless attacks of the Abe government. We hold a National Workers’ Rally on November 6th and join our forces in an all-out effort to fight back.

The danger of nuclear war in Northeast Asia is imminent. The international solidarity between Korean and Japanese workers forged since the November Rally in 2003 is now more important than ever before. We believe it is vital to expand this into a worldwide workers’ solidarity movement. Therefore, we will link the Workers Rally in Tokyo on November 6th with the Workers’ Rally/People’s All-out Rally in Seoul on November 12th and November 13th, and ask you all to join these rallies in both countries. The capitalist assault on the working class transcends borders and has common features all around the world. Our enemy is one and the same. The working class of the world must be united to overcome every attempt to divide us. Join us in Japan and South Korea in a union of workers across races, nationalities, and borders! Let us launch a movement for fundamentally transforming society that has plunged into economic depression, large-scale unemployment, poverty, and war!

If it's jobs they want, Labour and the unions must back renewables, not Hinkley C!

By Ian Fairlie - The Ecologist, August 30, 2016

On July 28, the Prime Minister's Office announced a delay until the autumn to allow a review to take place re the nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C proposed by the previous Government.

Since then, press criticisms of the mooted Hinkley C have continued unabated led by flagship editorials from the FT and The Economist.

These echo widespread concerns by the National Audit Office (NAO) in its recent preliminary report - Nuclear Power in the UK.

A detailed reading reveals serious question marks about the proposed project. According to The Times of July 31, the NAO will publish another damning report on Hinkley as soon as the Government has made its decision.

It would be infinitely preferable for the NAO's considerations to be made available to the Government before legally binding decisions were taken on Hinkley C, rather than afterwards.

This is not a minor matter: the Government is understood to have ready a draft Investor Agreement - essentially an irrevocable contract for electricity from Hinkley C for 35 years at a cost of £29.7 billion to British energy consumers, as estimated in the above NAO report. This is a discounted sum: economists consider an undiscounted sum of about £37 billion should really be applied. Whichever figure is used, this is an unconscionable sum.

But it is not just the NAO which is concerned: other institutions including the Treasury's National Infrastructure Commission, chaired by Lord Adonis, and its Infrastructure and Projects Authority. Members of Energy UK are also worried.

And two years ago, as stated in the UK Government's report of October 8, 2014 to the European Commission on state aid for Hinkley, the then Infrastructure UK arm of the Treasury evaluated the Hinkley project as 'Speculative BB+'.

Even this junk rating would have depended on the proper functioning of the proposed EPR at Flamanville in France which is by no means assured. In 2016, two years later, it is likely Hinkley's investment rating will be even lower.

Japan Railway Workers Doro-Chiba: Fight back against forced exposure to radiation! Refuse work while exposed to radiation! Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil

International Labor Solidarity Committee of Doro-Chiba - www.doro-chiba.org, June 2016

  • Fight back against forced exposure to radiation!
  • Refuse work while exposed to radiation!
  • Stop “reuse” of contaminated soil!

In September 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shamelessly lied to win the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo, claiming that the contaminated water leaking from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was “under control” and there had been “no health problems,” nor would there be.

Now all the lies and cover-ups have been exposed. Over 1,000 contaminated water storage tanks already occupy almost all of the space at the nuclear plant site. The $300 million “ice wall” project,

once hyped as the most reliable solution for substantial reduction of contaminated water by preventing groundwater infiltration into the wrecked reactor buildings, has become a fiasco. Far from being a “wall,” it is now derided as a “lace curtain.” As many as 173 child thyroid cancer or suspected cancer cases have appeared in the last five years. The incidence rate in Fukushima ranges to around 50 times that of the general population.

The Abe government is forcing evacuees to move back to villages, towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture that remain heavily contaminated. It is doing this by terminating all compensation payments available for evacuees by 2018. This amounts to economic coercion. The Japanese government has achieved a change to radiation exposure standards from 1mSv/y to 20mSv/y. According to the Japanese government’s post-disaster decontamination target, 20mSv/y is now acceptable. This is 20 times the maximum allowed dose for the general public! Moreover, on July 12th, the Abe government will lift an evacuation order for the bulk of Minamisoma City (designated a “zone in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order”), which has been in place since the 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In accordance with Abe’s plan, on the same day JR East Japan will resume rail services between

Haranomachi Station and Odaka Station, which is about 16km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, on the JR Joban Line.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has raised the level of recyclable conta- minated waste to 8,000Bq/kg, 80 times more than the current norm. It also plans to recycle the waste for use in public works, espe- cially construction for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Even more incredibly, Tokyo Metropolitan Government is planning to build a cross-country course, rowing and canoe-kayak waterway and mountain bike course on a landfill called Central Breakwater Disposal Site, which is the most dangerous hot spot. The site has been a constant dumping ground for highly radioactive waste (8,000Bq/kg to 100,000Bq/kg), such as incinerator bottom ash, incinerated sewage sludge ash and clean water sediment.

The previous governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, cooperated with Prime Minister Abe and helped bring the 2020 Olympics to Tokyo, but was then forced to resign over a loan scandal. Inose’s successor, Yoichi Masuzoe, easily won the position with the full support of Abe, but has also now resigned due to yet another financial scandal. The Olympics are intrinsically linked to the interests of only a handful of large capitals and their governments. In order to secure their own survival, they put money first, rather than valuing the lives of ordinary people.

On June 24th, the Abe administration and Shikoku Electric Power Co. trampled on the protesting municipal workers and local residents, and started loading MOX fuel into the No. 3 reactor at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Ehime Prefecture. Since April
14th and the Kumamoto Earthquake, tremors have continued to affect wide parts of Kyushu. This indicates that the Median Tectonic Line, the largest belt of faults running from central Honshu to Kyushu, has now finally started to move. In spite of a disaster as large as the Kumamoto Earthquake, the Abe administration and Kyushu Electric Power Co. still refuse to shut down Sendai Nuclear Power Plant, the only nuclear power plant operating in the country. And furthermore, they insist on reopening Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in July, which is located on the Median Tectonic Line.

“We care only about today, regardless of what may happen tomorrow.” This is the reality of Japanese imperialism and the Abe administration, which is desperate to survive in the worldwide economic depression.

  • Crush the Abe administration that is rushing to reopen Japan’s nuclear power plants!
  • Follow the example of Doro-Mito and refuse to work in conditions exposed to radiation!
  • Stop radiation-contaminated soil from being used for constructing Olympics-related facilities!

Download a PDF Of this release.

Diablo Canyon nuclear plant to be shut down, power replaced by renewables, efficiency, storage

By Damon Moglen and Julia Peek - Friends of the Earth, June 21, 2016

An historic agreement has been reached between Pacific Gas and Electric, Friends of the Earth, and other environmental and labor organizations to replace the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors with greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Friends of the Earth says the agreement provides a clear blueprint for fighting climate change by replacing nuclear and fossil fuel energy with safe, clean, cost-competitive renewable energy. 

The agreement, announced today in California, says that PG&E will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors -- the operating licenses for which expire in 2024 and 2025 respectively. In the intervening years, the parties will seek Public Utility Commission approval of the plan which will replace power from the plant with renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. Base load power resources like Diablo Canyon are becoming increasingly burdensome as renewable energy resources ramp up. Flexible generation options and demand-response are the energy systems of the future.

By setting a certain end date for the reactors, the nuclear phase out plan provides for an orderly transition. In the agreement, PG&E commits to renewable energy providing 55 percent of its total retail power sales by 2031, voluntarily exceeding the California standard of 50 percent renewables by 2030.

"This is an historic agreement," said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth. "It sets a date for the certain end of nuclear power in California and assures replacement with clean, safe, cost-competitive, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage. It lays out an effective roadmap for a nuclear phase-out in the world's sixth largest economy, while assuring a green energy replacement plan to make California a global leader in fighting climate change."

A robust technical and economic report commissioned by Friends of the Earth served as a critical underpinning for the negotiations. The report, known as “Plan B,” provided a detailed analysis of how power from the Diablo Canyon reactors could be replaced with renewable, efficiency and energy storage resources which would be both less expensive and greenhouse gas free. With the report in hand, Friends of the Earth’s Damon Moglen and Dave Freeman engaged in discussions with the utility about the phase-out plan for Diablo Canyon. NRDC was quickly invited to join. Subsequently, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Environment California and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility partnered in reaching the final agreement. The detailed phase out proposal will now go to the California Public Utility Commission for consideration. Friends of the Earth (and other NGO parties to the agreement) reserve the right to continue to monitor Diablo Canyon and, should there be safety concerns, challenge continued operation.

The agreement also contains provisions for the Diablo Canyon workforce and the community of San Luis Obispo. “We are pleased that the parties considered the impact of this agreement on the plant employees and the nearby community,” said Pica. “The agreement provides funding necessary to ease the transition to a clean energy economy.” 

Diablo Canyon is the nuclear plant that catalyzed the formation of Friends of the Earth in 1969. When David Brower founded Friends of the Earth the Diablo Canyon was the first issue on the organization’s agenda and Friends of the Earth has been fighting the plant ever since. This agreement is not only a milestone for renewable energy, but for Friends of the Earth as an organization.

For more information, see the final, signed Joint Proposal and the Joint Letter to the State Lands Commission.

Just Transition: Joint Proposal of PG&E, Friends of the Earth, NRDC, IBEW Local 1245, et. al. to Retire Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

By Various - June 20, 2016

This document is an example of an actual "Just Transition" agreement hammered out through negotiations after years of organizing by environmental organizations and dialog with unions. While it's no doubt far from perfect, it still represents a starting point for similar campaigns elsewhere, and like a union contract, it's the product of negotiations following struggle. To secure better deals, the unions and ecological movements need to keep organizing and building their collective power.

Read the report (PDF).

Doro-Chiba Declaration of Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Fukushima Action On March 11th, 2016

By H Yamamoto - Doro-Chiba, April 16, 2016

The Abe administration is rushing to start war and restart the nuclear power plants. Down with the Abe administration, gathering the Fukushima people’s widespread anger together with the labor unions waging strikes at the forefront of the fight!

The Abe government has decided to lift the evacuation orders in all municipalities in Fukushima that are still exposed to radiation doses of up to 20 mSv/year. This means the evacuees in and outside Fukushima Prefecture are forced to go back into these heavily contaminated areas by March 2017 except for “the difficult-to-return-to areas.”

In line with this, the “compensation for mental suffering” by Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) for more than 100,000 evacuees and the government-subsidized apartments for “voluntary evacuees” will be cut off with the intention of forcing these evacuees to return home. This is essentially economic coercion.

The big construction companies make easy money from the wasteful and ineffective “cleanup” operation of the contaminated areas. Contaminated waste is packed into thousands of black bags that have nowhere to go. Radioactive contaminated water increases 500 tons per day as it is used to cool the hundreds of tons of molten fuel, and it will finally be poured into the sea. Even though 167 children in Fukushima have developed thyroid cancer, both the central and prefectural governments repeatedly say that this “has nothing to do with the effects of radiation.” No one can believe such a blatant lie.

The government and TEPCO have never assumed responsibility for the accident, and have been driving wedges against the angry people of Fukushima. Moreover, the government is moving to promote nuclear power plants again as if nothing had happened. We fiercely condemn this shameless covering up of the apparent facts, and are determined to fight resolutely against the restarting of nuclear power plants and export of nuclear power plants.

March 11th marked a starting point for each of us. “Something is wrong with this society”—everyone shared this same feeling and stood up to challenge the political and social situation. It has been five years since that day. Now an aggressive war on the Korean Peninsula is imminent. Furthermore, World War III is actually on the near horizon. There are numerous people who earnestly seek a fundamental change of the society. In South Korea, workers are waging general strikes repeatedly to protest against the drive to war and rampant onslaught of temporary labor.

Let us join together to fight against neoliberalism through international solidarity of the working class! Wage strikes to stop war! Masses of workers have fallen into non-regular jobs and are suffering from extreme poverty. The working class has the power to lead the struggle to change this society.

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