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The G7 has just released its “G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament”, a joint statement which falls far short of providing any meaningful outcomes for nuclear disarmament. After months of preparation and amid high expectations, the leaders are missing the moment to make the world safer from nuclear weapons, instead of confronting nuclear threats with a concrete, credible plan for nuclear disarmament - like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons- they are barely even paying lip service to the horrors of Hiroshima, the first city attacked by nuclear weapons.
The statement recalls the unprecedented devastation and extreme and inhumane suffering experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where the atomic bombs were dropped and reconfirms the G7 leaders’ determination to realise a "world without nuclear weapons." Yet it fails to commit to concrete measures towards that goal and even emphasises the importance of reserving the right to use nuclear weapons. The G7 are trying to sell decades-old and insufficient initiatives as a new “vision”, when at the same time they themselves are complicit in the rising nuclear risks and promoting mass murder of civilians as a legitimate form of national security policy.
ICAN’s Executive Director Daniel Hogsta responded to the statement “This is more than a missed opportunity. With the world facing the acute risk that nuclear weapons could be used for the first time since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, this is a gross failure of global leadership. Simply pointing fingers at Russia and China is insufficient. We need the G7 countries, which all either possess, host or endorse the use of nuclear weapons, to step up and engage the other nuclear powers in disarmament talks if we are to reach their professed goal of a world without nuclear weapons”
In light of Russia’s unacceptable threats nuclear threats, the G7 leaders failed to offer a progressive and credible response, effectively walking back earlier language by the G20 that clearly condemned all nuclear threats, with equivocations meant to give the nuclear armed states in the group some cover: “ In this context, we reiterate our position that threats by Russia of nuclear weapon use, let alone any use of nuclear weapons by Russia, in the context of its aggression against Ukraine are inadmissible.” This is a step back from acknowledging that all nuclear threats are inadmissible, no matter who they come from.
The statement also refers to the importance of transparency. Again, this is something where some of the G7 states must look at the example they are setting- the UK, for example, decided in 2021 to be less transparent about their arsenal.
The statement fails to meaningfully acknowledge the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and above all, it fails to meet the hibakusha's demands for real action to eliminate nuclear weapons. Instead of rising to meet the urgency and weight of this moment, the G7’s inaction is an insult to the hibakusha, and the memory of those who died in Hiroshima.
Earlier in the day, the G7 leaders reportedly spent less than 30 min inside the Peace Memorial Museum before placing a wreath at the cenotaph. They also met briefly with atomic bomb survivors, but this statement shows they did not actually listen to what the Hibakusha are asking for. They intend to ignore the risks and the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and to continue to be complicit in the risks they pose.
Satoshi Tanaka, Secretary General of the Liaison Conference of Hiroshima Hibakusha Organisations said: “This is not the genuine nuclear disarmament that Hibakusha are calling for. This is an evasion of their responsibility. Prime Minister Kishida has said that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the final passage for a nuclear weapon-free world. No, it is not a final passage. It is the entry point. PM Kishida and other G7 leaders should accept the TPNW and start the real process of eliminating nuclear weapons.”
The next opportunity for the G7 to show that they are serious about addressing the nuclear threat is to participate in the next meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That's where the responsible states meet to implement a plan for global disarmament.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a coalition of more than 400 non-governmental organisations in 95 countries. We are calling on governments to launch negotiations on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons, which would place them on the same legal footing as chemical and biological weapons and help pave the way to their complete elimination.
"We shouldn't compromise on protecting our most vulnerable and disproportionately impacted communities," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva.
The number of Democratic lawmakers who said they plan to oppose legislation to raise the debt ceiling steadily grew on Wednesday, due to provisions that would slash food assistance, require approval of a gas pipeline that would cause the equivalent of more than 89 million metric tons of carbon emissions, and end the federal moratorium on student loan payments—all while maintaining hundreds of billions of dollars in Pentagon spending and low taxes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Ahead of a vote in the U.S. House that's expected Wednesday evening, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), told reporters that she plans to vote no on the so-called Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, and that the caucus at-large may also actively oppose the legislation.
An internal count on Wednesday showed that "the majority of our members" oppose the bill, she said.
Jayapal said that progressives in the House object both to the Republican Party's tactic of threatening a default on the United States' debt—which could send the U.S. and global economies into turmoil—in order to secure concessions from Democrats, and the policies that were included in the bill as a result of that approach, such as new work requirements for programs that serve low-income households.
"We should have raised the debt ceiling long ago with no strings attached," said Jayapal.
\u201cLet\u2019s remember that this is a crisis manufactured by extreme MAGA Republicans. We should have raised the debt ceiling long ago with no strings attached, but they insisted on cutting assistance for hungry people to keep cash flowing to the wealthiest.\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1685549762
Jayapal was among the progressives stating their opposition in the hours before lawmakers voted 241-187 in favor of the rule governing debate on the bill, with more than 50 Democrats joining Republicans to clear the procedural hurdle.
The CPC chair's comments followed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) statement of opposition last week, when she told The Hill, "My red line has already been surpassed."
"I mean, where do we start? [No] clean debt ceiling. Work requirements. Cuts to programs. I would never—I would never—vote for that," said Ocasio-Cortez.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said Congress has until June 5 to raise to nation's arbitrary debt limit. While lawmakers have increased or suspended the debt ceiling 78 times before, mostly under Republican presidents, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has refused to do so without major spending cuts.
"House Republicans raised the debt ceiling with no preconditions three times under the Trump administration, and yet, [House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)], at the urging of his extremist members, manufactured an economic crisis and threatened default to impose a partisan agenda," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "The hypocrisy reeks."
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) also confirmed Wednesday afternoon that she will vote no on the debt ceiling legislation, noting that she filed an amendment that would have eliminated from the bill the expansion of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—but the Republican House leadership refused to allow a vote on the proposal.
\u201cMy amendment would\u2019ve kept the exemptions for veterans, the unhoused, and foster youth, AND would've removed new work requirements that will force others into hunger.\n\nThe GOP refused to allow a vote on it.\n\nThey want to take food from the mouths of vulnerable communities.\u201d— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush) 1685553780
"We need to break away from the vicious, nonsensical cycle where Republicans get to hold our economy hostage every few years," said Bush.
Confirming his plan to vote no, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) cited the bill's provisions for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a $6.6 billion project that's been held up in legal battles over its threats to drinking water and public health. The bill requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to approve all remaining permits for the pipeline, which would carry gas from West Virginia across nearly 1,000 streams and wetlands to Virginia.
"Of everything in the debt ceiling agreement, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is the hardest to justify to future generations," said Khanna. "We are facing a climate crisis; locking us into fossil fuel dependency is a big step in the wrong direction."
Grijalva said he would not support Republicans' "reckless hostage-taking" and rejected the party's demand that Democrats "choose between economic catastrophe or a healthy planet."
"We shouldn't compromise on protecting our most vulnerable and disproportionately impacted communities," said Grijalva, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee. "I'm drawing a red line in the sand against devastating cuts that impact the health and well-being of my constituents and the communities I represent. It's time House Republicans stopped the gamesmanship. The American people deserve better."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was the first senator to say that if the legislation comes up for a vote in the upper chamber, he will vote against it.
"The best thing to be said about the current deal on the debt ceiling is that it could have been much worse. Instead of making massive cuts to healthcare, education, childcare, nutrition assistance, and other vital programs over the next decade, this bill proposes to make modest cuts to these programs over a two-year period," said Sanders. "Having said that, I cannot vote for this bill."
"At a time of massive wealth and income inequality I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that takes vital nutrition assistance away from women, infants, children, and seniors, while refusing to ask billionaires who have never had it so good to pay a penny more in taxes," he continued. "At a time when climate change is, by far, the most existential threat facing our country and the entire world I cannot, in good conscience, vote for a bill that makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to pollute and destroy the planet by fast-tracking the disastrous Mountain Valley Pipeline."
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he is supporting the legislation "without hesitation or reservation or trepidation," but the message to Democrats in a closed-door caucus meeting was, "Do what you think is right," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Axios.
Republicans including Reps. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Chip Roy (R-Texas) have indicated they will vote against the bill.
A senior House Democrat toldAxios that McCarthy will likely need to "solicit [Democrats'] support and offer a sweetener to get them" in order to pass the bill.
"Piping water into the sea is an outrage," said one Japanese fisher angered by the plan to release radioactive wastewater into the ocean. "The sea is not a garbage dump."
Critics of a Japanese plan to release filtered radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the Pacific Ocean intensified their opposition to the proposal on Wednesday after the United Nations agency responsible for promoting nuclear energy said the company that operated the plant has adequately demonstrated its ability to measure the water's radioactivity.
The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week released a report that found the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)—the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that was catastrophically damaged during a 2011 meltdown in three reactors caused by an earthquake and tsunami—"has demonstrated its capabilities for accurate and precise measurements of the radionuclides present in the treated water stored on site."
While proponents of the Japanese government's 2021 proposal to gradually release more than 1 million metric tons of filtered Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific view the IAEA's latest findings as a milestone on the road toward realizing the plan, opponents renewed their calls to keep the radioactive water out of the ocean.
"It's applying a 19th-century 'dilution is the solution to pollution' approach to a problem that really should be dealt with in a much more modern way."
"Piping water into the sea is an outrage. The sea is not a garbage dump," 71-year-old Haruo Ono, who has been fishing off the coast of Fukushima his entire life, toldCBS News. "The company says it's safe, but the consequences could catch up with us 50 years down the road."
Kinzaburo Shiga, a 77-year-old, third-generation fisher from Fukushima, toldCNN the government's plan makes his "blood boil."
"I know that the government has decided to go ahead with the policy of releasing treated wastewater into the sea, but for us fishers, it really feels like they made this decision without our full consent," he said.
\u201c12 years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is set to gradually release tons of filtered wastewater from the nuclear plant.\n\n@MarcReporting speaks to fishermen who fear that the move will undermine consumer confidence in their catches.\n\nRead more: https://t.co/07TCL0lmMs\u201d— CNN International PR (@CNN International PR) 1681912354
Fears of radioactive contamination from the planned wastewater release have prompted protests from the governments of China, South Korea, some Pacific island nations, and international environmental groups like Greenpeace, which argues the proposal violates international law.
"Continuing with ocean discharge plans at this time is simply inconceivable," Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum intergovernmental group, wrote earlier this year. "I fear that, if left unchecked, the region will once again be headed towards a major nuclear contamination disaster at the hands of others."
Lee Jae-myung, a South Korean opposition lawmaker from the centrist Democratic Party, said earlier this month that "Japan is putting forward claims that the contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, if treated, is safe enough to drink."
"If it is safe enough to drink, they should use it as drinking water," he added.
Last week, a team of 21 South Korean nuclear experts visited the Fukushima site to inspect equipment and facilities that would be used during the proposed wastewater release.
\u201cS. Korea's Fukushima inspection team says "further analysis" needed to verify wastewater's safety\n\nhttps://t.co/kfnhWunNhG \n\n#Fukushima_inspection #Fukushima_nuclear_power_plant #YooGukhee #radioactive_water #\uc720\uad6d\ud76c #\ud6c4\ucfe0\uc2dc\ub9c8_\uc6d0\uc790\ub825\ubc1c\uc804\uc18c #\uc624\uc5fc\uc218\uc2dc\ucc30\ub2e8 #Arirang_News #\uc544\ub9ac\ub791\ub274\uc2a4\u201d— Arirang News (@Arirang News) 1685510269
"This visit has made significant progress in the process of scientific and technological review through direct on-site confirmation and more detailed data acquisition, but additional analysis and confirmation work is planned for more precise judgment," said Yoo Gook-hee, head of the inspection team, according to World Nuclear News. "Based on this, we plan to comprehensively evaluate Japan's plans for Fukushima-related water pollution and disclose the results."
The Korea Heraldreported Wednesday that the team of experts would conduct an additional review.
The wastewater release plan has also sparked popular protests in South Korea, where 85% of people oppose the proposal, according to a survey released last week by the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements.
\u201cA new study by @kfem found that 8 out of 10 Koreans oppose the Japanese government\u2019s plan to discharge contaminated water from the #Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. https://t.co/fUYRLzTnN9\u201d— FoE Asia Pacific (@FoE Asia Pacific) 1685464829
"The Pacific Ocean is not some dump where contaminated water from Fukushima can be deposited. Japan must comply with [United Nations] conventions and the U.N.'s vision of protecting the oceans," a coalition of South Korean activists said in a statement ahead of a May 22 demonstration in Seoul's Gwanghwamun Plaza, according toThe Hankyoreh.
"Since the Pacific is the largest ocean in the world, pollution in the Pacific would soon spread to every ocean in the world," the activists added.
Common Dreamsreported in 2012 that fish contaminated with radioactive cesium from Fukushima were found off the California coast months after the disaster.
Nuclear and public health experts have also weighed in against dumping radioactive wastewater into the ocean, even as others argued the plan poses "zero risk to human life."
\u201cWhat will happen when a million tons of Fukushima's nuclear wastewater is released into the ocean? \n\nJapan's government says there's no risk, but local fishermen and environmentalists are concerned.\u201d— DW News (@DW News) 1678507609
Tilman Ruff, an Australian infectious diseases and public health physician who co-founded of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said during a Friday Australian Broadcasting Corporationinterviewthat dumping Fukushima water into the Pacific would be "a really unfortunate regressive step."
"It's applying a 19th-century 'dilution is the solution to pollution' approach to a problem that really should be dealt with in a much more modern way," he continued. "They haven't really considered adequate alternatives to store this water to use it in ways that don't have long-term transboundary and transgenerational impacts across the Pacific."
Ruff said the best course of action would be to "clean the water as best you can, then use it in concrete for structural applications like building foundations, bridges, under roads, where it's not gonna have a lot of contact with people, and where some of the important radioactive releases… will be trapped in the concrete, where it's much safer."
"There are also options of long-term storage, because radioactive materials decay over time," he added.
\u201c'Tilman Ruff says the danger is that dumping the contaminated water could settle on the sea floor or concentrate up the food chain.'\n\n#Fukushima #nuclear #nuclearenergy\nhttps://t.co/4inM9q5LU2\u201d— Dr Paul Dorfman (@Dr Paul Dorfman) 1685265051
Marcos Orellana, the United Nations special rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, toldAl Jazeera earlier this month that he does not believe the IAEA is the neutral body it claims to be.
"The IAEA has a mandate to accelerate and enlarge peaceful atomic energy," he said. "Why would the IAEA, on the same day that Japan announced its decision to discharge the contaminated water... come out publicly in support of Japan?"
"How this impacts the food chain, how this impacts human health, this is not at all clear," Orellana added. "Alternatives are expensive, but even more expensive is the cost of contaminating the Pacific Ocean for hundreds of years with radioactive substances."
"Over a five-year period, defendants engaged in over 130 violations of federal law, thereby posing health and safety risks to the public and the environment," said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday sued Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's family coal empire in federal court for millions of dollars in unpaid penalties, fees, and interest for dozens of legal violations.
The two-term governor—who is seeking U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) seat in next year's election—is not named in the civil suit but his son, James "Jay" Justice III, is, as the owner or operator of the 13 defendant companies.
Politiconoted that "although the suit doesn't name the elder Justice, he's faced scrutiny before for the unpaid fines as well as reports that he's still maintained a firm grip on the family business."
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement that "our environmental laws serve to protect communities against adverse effects of industrial activities including surface coal mining operations."
"Through this suit, the Justice Department seeks to deliver accountability for defendants' repeated violations of the law and to recover the penalties they owe as a result of those violations," Kim added.
"The filing of this complaint continues the process of holding defendants accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the public and our environment."
The department's complaint accuses the 13 coal companies of violating their legal obligations under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), or permits issued under the law, and failing "to pay uncontested penalties assessed for their uncontested violations."
"Defendants have been cited for over 130 violations and have failed to pay over $5 million in civil penalties assessed by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE)," the filing states. "In addition, certain defendants also collectively owe, and have not paid, over $190,000 in abandoned mine land (AML) reclamation fee debts."
When interest, late payment penalties, and administrative expenses are included, the defendants owe approximately $7.6 million, according to the Justice Department—which took legal action on behalf of the OSMRE, a branch of the Interior Department.
"Over a five-year period, defendants engaged in over 130 violations of federal law, thereby posing health and safety risks to the public and the environment," said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh for the Western District of Virginia.
“After given notice, they then failed to remedy those violations and were ordered over 50 times to cease mining activities until their violations were abated," Kavanaugh explained. "Today, the filing of this complaint continues the process of holding defendants accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the public and our environment."
Justice took office as a Democrat in January 2017 and later that year, at a rally with Republican then-President Donald Trump, announced he was returning to the GOP. His online biography boasts about various business ventures, stating that after his father's death, "Jim launched a massive expansion of multiple businesses which included significant coal reserve expansion, Christmas tree farms, cotton gins, turfgrass operations, golf courses, timber enhancement, and land projects."
The 72-year-old "has dozens of business holdings listed on his annual state ethics disclosures," West Virginia's MetroNewsreported Wednesday. "The governor has not placed most of his family's holdings in a blind trust but has repeatedly said the responsibility of running the businesses has been passed on to Jay and adult daughter Jill Justice."
During a Wednesday briefing, the governor reportedly reiterated that he does not control the coal companies' day-to-day operations and said that "the Biden administration is aware of the fact that with a win for the U.S. Senate, and everything, we could very well flip the Senate. You know, government agencies can sometimes surely react, and this could be something in regard to that."
"But with all that being said—as I've said over and over, and you've seen it a thousand, million times—when something comes up and someone rears an ugly head, do we run and jump in a hole and die? We don’t do that," Justice added. "You know, my son and my daughter and our companies will always fulfill obligations, every single one, and absolutely at the end of the day have we not done it and done it and done it?"
MetroNewspointed out that in 2019, under Trump, federal prosecutors filed a similar $4.7 million lawsuit against several Justice coal companies stemming from nearly 2,300 citations—which resulted in a 2020 settlement. Earlier this month, prosecutors filed a motion over those companies' failure to make four consecutive payments since February.
The new suit comes after the East Carolina University Center for Survey Research on Tuesday released polling results which show that in a hypothetical 2024 U.S. Senate race between Justice and Manchin, the governor has a 22-point lead, securing support from 54% of registered West Virginia voters compared with the 32% who said they would support the incumbent.
The 75-year-old Democratic senator—who has come under fire nationally for serving fossil fuel interests and thwarting his own party's agenda—has not yet said whether he plans to seek reelection. However, there has been speculation that he may instead run for president next year. Manchin
said in a statement last month, "Make no mistake, I will win any race I enter."