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02.11.2020 – GERMAN-FOREIGN-POLICY.com

This post is also available in: German

Lithium and the Putsch

Berlin is again seeking access to the world’s largest lithium deposits located in Bolivia – after having supported the putschists.

Following the presidential elections in Bolivia, the German government and business circles hope to have direct access to what are presumably  the world’s largest lithium reserves. Already at the end of 2018, the German company, ACI Systems had concluded a joint venture with the state-owned  Bolivian YLB to extract lithium in the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt lake, situated in Bolivia’s highlands. Lithium is indispensable  for the production of batteries, such as those used in electric cars and is of particular importance for Germany’s automotive industry. However, during the major upheavals, in early November of last year, the German-Bolivian joint venture was put on ice.  It has not been revived since the November 10, 2019 putsch in La Paz, despite the German government’s support for the putschist regime.  Following the putschists’ unambiguous electoral defeat, Berlin is hoping to obtain concessions from Luis Arce, the winner of the elections –  even though the German government had approved of the violent overthrow of his fellow party member Evo Morales in 2019.

A German-Bolivian Joint Venture

In mid-December 2018, the German medium-sized enterprise ACI Systems, located in Zimmern ob Rottweil (Baden-Württemberg) was able to obtain access to the enormous lithium deposits in the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt lake,[1] through a joint venture between the ACISA subsidiary (ACI Systems Alemania) and Bolivia’s state-owned YLB (“Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos”- “Bolivian Lithium Deposits”) in which YLB held a narrow majority shares of 51 percent. ACI Systems had benefited from political support. The German government is seeking to obtain direct access to Lithium, because it is indispensable for the production of E-car batteries and thus also for the German automotive industry. At the time, the La Paz government under President Evo Morales, had firmly insisted that ACISA not export the unprocessed raw material, but that the lithium be processed in Bolivia and the German company should help to establish a battery production chain within the country. The objective was to have Bolivia generate the greatest portion possible of added value and thus promote economic development and effectively combat the country’s poverty.[2]

Put on Ice

In the fall of 2019, the problems began. Local citizens’ committees protested against the lithium mining in the Potosi Department in Bolivia’s highlands, where the Salar de Uyuni is located. They feared significant ecological damage for example to the ground water. They were also worried that they were being cheated financially by the ACISA/YLB-Joint Venture. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[3]) The protests coincided with the election campaign for the presidential elections on October 20, 2019. Under the pretext of massive electoral fraud, the defeated opposition organized widespread uprisings against President Morales. Having come under heavy pressure, Morales put the project on ice for the time being. “To solve the problem,” he reportedly planned to “establish an autonomous region in Uyuni by the end of that year.”[4] The plan failed because the right-wing opposition – led by wealthy whites, particularly large landowners from Bolivia’s lowlands – escalated the unrest with violence which ultimately ended in a coup d’état that drove Morales, the political representative of the impoverished indigenous population, particularly those in the highlands, out of office.[5] This also stalled the German lithium project.

The Legitimation for the Putsch

From the very beginning, justifiable skepsis was being voiced about the putschists’ allegations that Morales had committed massive election fraud.[6] This is all the more serious, given the fact that the allegations had been confirmed by the Organization of American States (OAS), which is clearly under US influence. The OAS had furnished observers for the elections. This served as legitimation for the western countries’ approbation of Morales’ overthrow. In the meantime, these allegations have been proven false. Already last June, a scholarly study was published that proves that statistical peculiarities, erroneously used by the OAS to back up election fraud claims, were, in fact, explicable, due to completely normal electoral procedures in remote rural regions.[7] Last week, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which had compared this year’s election results with the incriminating results of the previous year, also concluded that the accusations of fraud had been pure fiction. The CEPR points out that Arce had won more than 90 percent of the votes in some of the indigenous electoral circumscriptions in the highlands. There was, in fact, nothing surprising. Last year Morales had also achieved this score, however the OAS claimed this was irrefutable evidence of electoral fraud.[8] Morales is now considering taking OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.[9]

“The Right Decision by the Military”

The German government, along with sectors of the opposition, had also taken the side of Bolivia’s putschists. Immediately following Morales’ overthrow, the government spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, claimed that this is an “important step in the direction of a peaceful solution.” Omid Nouripour, foreign policy spokesperson for the Green parliamentary caucus declared, “the military” had “taken the right decision, to take sides with the demonstrators.”[10] When asked by the Left parliamentary caucus, if the government would recognize the incumbent putsch president in La Paz, Jeanine Añez “as the legitimate interim president of Bolivia,” the government responded in January 2020, that it “welcomes the fact that the power vacuum” in that country “has been terminated through the appointment of Jeanine Añez as transitional president.”[11] This view of the situation was not affected by the fact that the Police and military were using brute force against the Morales supporters and that at the demonstrations in the localities of Sacaba (Cochabamba) and Senkata (El Alto) at least 19 people had been killed by the forces of repression. In August, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, had declared, she was “deeply worried” that the cases had still not been solved and that the forces of the repressive apparatus enjoy impunity under Añez.[12] Berlin, which jumps at every opportunity to pose as the vanguard of the human rights struggle anywhere in the world, remains mute.

Before Resuming

Since the October 18, landslide victory in Bolivia’s presidential elections by Luis Arce, the candidate of Morales’ Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party, German media sees again an opportunity to obtain direct access to Bolivia’s lithium. (Arce had already won in the first round of voting with 55.1 percent, far ahead of his main rival Carlos Mesa with 28.8 percent.) Germany’s Ministry of Economics as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had supported “at the working level,” the ACI Systems’ raw materials project last year as was confirmed by the German government. Already before his electoral victory, Arce had indicated that he would like to resume the project with the German company, if possible. Now he has announced that “the local organizations” in the Potosi Department, want “a larger share” of the yields “and a shorter term of the contract.” “If the German company adapts to these conditions, we can continue the cooperation.” However, if ACI Systems refuses them, “there are other partners, with whom we can proceed with the processing of Lithium.”[13] Bolivia’s lithium production is “not dependent on one company.”

[1] Deutschland soll weltgrößtes Lithium-Vorkommen in Bolivien ausbeuten. handelsblatt.com 12.12.2018.

[2] Karl-Ludolf Hübener: Was wird aus der Lithium-Verarbeitung? npla.de 03.06.2020.

[3] See also Protesting Germany’s Securing of Resources in Bolivia.

[4] Evo Morales: Lithium-Projekt mit ACI Systems war nicht vom Tisch. handelsblatt.com 19.11.2020.

[5] See also Berlin and the Coup.

[6] Vilma Guzman, Jonatan Pfeifenberger: Bolivien: Kuba zieht Personal ab, unabhängige Berichte sehen keinen Wahlbetrug. amerika21.de 16.11.2019. See also Berlin und der Putsch (II).

[7] Anatoly Kurmanaev, María Silvia Trigo: A Bitter Election. Accusations of Fraud. And Now Second Thoughts. nytimes.com 07.06.2020. Nicolás Idrobo, Dorothy Kronick, Francisco Rodríguez: Do Shifts in Late-Counted Votes Signal Fraud? Evidence From Bolivia. papers.ssrn.com 30.09.2020.

[8] Jake Johnston: Data from Bolivia’s Election Add More Evidence That OAS Fabricated Last Year’s Fraud Claims. cepr.net 21.10.2020.

[9] Marta Andujo: Kann Luis Almagro am Amt des OAS-Generalsekretärs weiter festhalten? amerika21.de 26.10.2020.

[10] See also Berlin and the Coup.

[11] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Andrej Hunko, Heike Hänsel, Michel Brandt, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion Die Linke. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/16877. Berlin, 29.01.2020.

[12] Bolivia: Bachelet insta a realizar cambios estructurales ante crisis. ohchr.org 24.08.2020. Jonatan Pfeifenberger: Tote und Folter nach Putsch in Bolivien: UNO fordert Aufklärung. amerika21.de 26.08.2020.

[13] “Ich werde regieren, nicht Evo”. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 23.10.2020.

02.11.2020 – Los Angeles, USA – Robert Hunziker

Dumping Fukushima’s Water into the Ocean… Seriously?
Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. Still frame taken from aerial video of the Tepco 2F nuclear generating station showing its artificial harbor, turbine and reactor buildings.

For nearly a decade the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has been streaming radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. As it happens, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) struggles to control it. Yet, the bulk of the radioactive water is stored in more than 1,000 water tanks.

Assuredly, Japan’s government has made an informal decision to dump Fukushima Daiichi’s radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. A formal announcement could come as early as this year. Currently, 1.2 million tonnes of radioactive water is stored.

The problem: TEPCO is running out of storage space.

Government of Japan’s solution: Dump it into the Pacific Ocean.

Third-party expert solutions: Build more storage tanks.

Environmental groups insist there is no reason why additional storage tanks cannot be constructed outside the perimeter of the plant. They accuse the government of seeking the cheapest and quickest solution to the problem. All along, authorities have promised the site will be safe in 40 years. Really, only 40 years!

According to IAEA’s Director General Grossi, who visited Fukushima in February 2020, dumping radioactive water that is mainly contaminated with tritium meets global standards of practice. (Source: Michael Jacob in Tokyo, What! Is Japan Really Planning to Dump Radioactive Water From Fukushima Into the Ocean? Sweden-Science-Innovation, June 10, 2020)

In that regard, advocates of nuclear power utilize a subtle storyline that convinces and deceives, the public into accepting nuclear power, however reluctantly. It goes something like this: “There’s nothing to worry about. Nuclear power plants routinely release tritium into the air and water. There is no economically feasible way to remove it. It’s normal, a standard operating procedure.” Nevertheless, as shall be explained in more detail forthwith, there is nothing positive about that posture, absolutely nothing!

According to TEPCO, all radioactive isotopes will be removed, except tritium, which is hard to separate. Still, similar to all radioactive substances, tritium is a carcinogen (causes cancer), a mutagen (causes genetic mutation), and a teratogen (causes malformation of an embryo).

The good news: Tritium is relatively weak beta radiation and does not have enough energy to penetrate human skin. The principal health risks are ingesting or breathing the tritium.

TEPCO has deployed an Advanced Liquid Processing System that purportedly removes 62 isotopes from the water, all except tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and cannot easily be filtered out of water.

However, the filtration system has been plagued by malfunctions. According to Greenpeace International, within the past two years, TEPCO admitted to failures to reduce radioactivity to levels below regulatory limits in more than 80% of the storage tanks. Reported levels of Strontium-90 (a deadly isotope) were more than 100 times regulatory standards with some tanks at 20,000 times.

“They have deliberately held back for years detailed information on the radioactive material in the contaminated water. They have failed to explain to the citizens of Fukushima, wider Japan and to neighboring countries such as S. Korea and China that the contaminated water to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean contains dangerous levels of carbon-14. These, together with other radionuclides in the water will remain hazardous for thousands of years with the potential to cause genetic damage. It’s one more reason why these plans have to be abandoned.” (Source: Fukushima Reactor Water Could Damage Human DNA if Released, Says Greenpeace, The Guardian, October 23, 2020)

Cancer is the main risk to humans ingesting tritium. When tritium decays it emits a low-energy electron (roughly 18,000 electron volts) that escapes and slams into DNA, a ribosome or some other biologically important molecule. And, unlike other radionuclides, tritium is usually part of water, so it ends up in all parts of the body and therefore, in theory, can promote any kind of cancer. But that also helps reduce the risk because tritiated water is typically excreted in less than a month. (Source: Is Radioactive Hydrogen in Drinking Water a Cancer Threat, Scientific American, Feb. 7, 2014)

Some evidence suggests beta particles emitted by tritium are more effective at causing cancer than high-energy radiation such as gamma rays. Low-energy electrons produce a greater impact because it doesn’t have the energy to spread its impact. At the end of its atomic-scale trip it delivers most of its ionizing energy in one relatively confined track rather than shedding energy all along its path like a higher-energy particle. This is known as “density of ionization.” As such, scientists say any amount of radiation poses a health risk.

According to Ian Fairlie, Ph.D. (Imperial College/London and Princeton University), a radiation biologist and former member of the 3-person secretariat to Britain’s Committee Examining the Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters: “At the present time, over a million tonnes of tritium-contaminated water are being held in about a thousand tanks at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan.  This is being added to at the rate of ~300 tonnes a day from the water being pumped to keep cool the melted nuclear fuels from the three destroyed reactors at Fukushima. Therefore new tanks are having to be built each week to cope with the influx.” (Source: Ian Fairlie, The Hazards of Tritium, March 13, 2020)

Furthermore, radioactive contaminants in the tanks, such as nuclides like caesium-137 (an extremely deadly isotope) and strontium-90 (which is equally deadly) in reduced concentrations still exist in unacceptably high levels. According to Fairlie: “These problems constitute a sharp reminder to the world’s media that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima did not end in 2011 and is continuing with no end in sight.”

“There are no easy answers here. Barring a miraculous technical discovery which is unlikely, I think TEPCO/Japanese Gov’t will have to buy more land and keep on building more holding tanks to allow for tritium decay to take place. Ten half-lives for tritium is 123 years: that’s how long these tanks will have to last – at least. This will allow time not only for tritium to decay, but also for politicians to reflect on the wisdom of their support for nuclear power.” (Fairlie)

Meanwhile, over the course of seemingly endless years, Fukushima Daiichi remains “the world’s most dangerous active time bomb” for several reasons, and spent fuel rods are at the top of the list.

In addition to the 800 tons of lava-like molten fuel, aka: corium, (the big meltdown) in the three reactor containment vessels, the crippled reactor buildings contain more than 1,500 units of used nuclear fuel rods in open pools of water and must be kept cool at all times or all hell breaks loose. Loss of water from structural damage or another major earthquake (the structures are already seriously compromised) could expose the fuel rods, resulting in uncontrolled massive release of sizzling radiation that could be worse than the original meltdown, possibly exposing Tokyo to an emergency mass evacuation event with people running and screaming.

Tokyo Electric Power has plans for complete removal of the dangerous fuel rods by 2031. That work is being carried out remotely from a control room about 500 metres distance due to extraordinarily high radiation levels inside the reactor buildings.

Dismally, a perverse endlessness overhangs Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima Daiichi (2011), earmarking these nuclear power meltdowns as the worst industrial accidents in human history.

Yet, with 440 operating nuclear plants worldwide, and 50 new plants under construction, there are plans to build a few hundred more.

Good luck!

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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