Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxBerlin

For more information on Michael Shellenberger, please visit www.tedxberlin.de. Michael Shellenberger is co-founder and Senior Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute, where he was president from 2003 to 2015, and a co-author of the Ecomodernist Manifesto.
Over the last decade, Michael and his colleagues have constructed a new paradigm that views prosperity, cheap energy and nuclear power as the keys to environmental progress. A book he co-wrote (with Ted Nordhaus) in 2007, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism
to the Politics of Possibility, was called by Wired magazine “the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” while Time Magazine called him a “hero of the environment.” In the 1990s, he helped protect the last signi cant groves of old-growth redwoods still in private hands and bring about labor improvements to Nike factories in Asia. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Nuclear energy is the only practical alternative that we have to destroying the environment with oil and coal.
-Ansel Adams, 1983 (14 min)

Former Trump Adviser Pushed Saudi Nuclear-Plant Plan, Report Says

Mike Flynn and others within the White House ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings, according to House report

Former national-security adviser Mike Flynn and others within the White House ignored repeated legal and ethical warnings as they pushed early in President Trump’s tenure a plan to build dozens of nuclear-power reactors in Saudi Arabia, according to a report released Tuesday by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The report describes how Mr. Flynn and Derek Harvey, whom Mr. Flynn brought to the National Security Council staff to oversee Middle East affairs, worked closely on the plan with a group of retired U.S. generals and admirals who had formed a private company to promote it.

Despite the warnings from career White House staff—and an order by the NSC’s top lawyer to stand down—the White House officials and their private-sector allies worked to place the idea on Mr. Trump’s agenda during a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, and to be discussed during the U.S. president’s May 2017 trip to Riyadh, his first overseas trip as president, the report says.

The Wall Street Journal first reported many of the details of the Saudi plan and Mr. Flynn’s efforts to advance it inside the White House in a series of articles in 2017.

The plan for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, part of an ambitious “Middle East Marshall Plan,” was billed by advocates as a way to revive the moribund U.S. nuclear industry, create jobs and reassert American influence in the region.

But one unnamed senior official quoted in the report derided the idea as “a scheme for these generals to make some money.

.. Another key player in the Saudi nuclear effort was Tom Barrack, a Trump ally who chaired his Inaugural Committee. according to the committee’s report.

“Tom Barrack has been thoroughly briefed on this strategy and wants to run it for you. He’s perfect for the job,” Robert “Bud” McFarlane, a one-time adviser to President Reagan who was an adviser to IP3 International, a private firm pitching the nuclear plan, wrote to Mr. Flynn on Jan. 28, 2017.

.. Mr. Flynn’s involvement in the project was controversial because he had worked as a paid adviser to an IP3 subsidiary, Iron Bridge Group Inc., from June to December 2016, while a senior adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign.

.. On Jan. 30, 2017, the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John Eisenberg, instructed the NSC staff “to cease all work on the plan” because of potential conflicts of interest and other legal concerns, the report says.

Despite that order, and Mr. Flynn’s firing, “officials inside the White House continued to move forward on the IP3 nuclear plan,” the report says. It says that more than five individuals recall Mr. Harvey saying during a meeting on March 2, 2017, that “I speak with Michael Flynn every night.” That was more than two weeks after Mr. Flynn was fired.

In Diplomacy, Trump Is the Anti-Reagan

another take is that it’s the Plaza Redux, meaning the 1988 real estate debacle in which Trump hastily purchased New York’s Plaza Hotel because it looked like an irresistible trophy, only to be forced to sell it at a loss a few years later as part of a brutal debt restructuring.

.. “Like Reagan, he seems to sense that the nuclear technicalities matter less than the political relationship.”

.. First, Trump isn’t Reagan.

  • Reagan generally acted in concert with allies. Trump brazenly acts against them.
  • Reagan’s negotiation method: “Trust but verify.” Trump’s self-declared method: “My touch, my feel.”
  • Reagan refused to give in to Soviet demands that he abandon the Strategic Defense Initiative. Trump surrendered immediately to Pyongyang’s long-held insistence that the U.S. suspend military exercises with South Korea while getting nothing in return.
  • Reagan’s aim was to topple Communist Party rule in Moscow. Trump’s is to preserve it in Pyongyang.

Second, Kim isn’t Gorbachev.

  • Gorbachev was born into a family that suffered acutely the horrors of Stalinism. Kim was born into a family that starved its own people.
  • Gorbachev rose through the ranks as a technocrat with no background in the regime’s security apparatus. Kim consolidated his rule by murdering his uncle, half brother and various ministers, among other unfortunates.
  • Gorbachev came to office intent on easing political repression at home and defusing tensions with the West. Kim spent his first six years doing precisely the opposite.

Stop Giving Trump the Benefit of the Doubt

Five months later, everything liberals said about the tax bill turned out to be true. Contrary to Republican claims, wage growth has been anemic. Instead of sharing the wealth with employees, companies have spent record amounts of money buying back their own stock. The tax cuts are creating larger deficits than Republicans predicted, and those deficits are now being cited as a pretext for cutting spending on the poor.

.. has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much,” David Sanger reported in The New York Times. The U.S. government has even issued a commemorative coin about the summit featuring Trump and “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un face-to-face, signaling to the world that it’s now the American president who craves legitimation from the North Korean dictator.

.. Even a casual newspaper reader — which, of course, Trump is not — knows that when North Korea talks about “denuclearization,” it doesn’t mean unilaterally giving up all its nuclear weapons. A hastily arranged meeting between two bellicose egomaniacs, premised on a basic misunderstanding, is unlikely to resolve one of the world’s most intractable geopolitical conflicts; a flimsy agreement that roughly preserves the status quo seems like a best-case scenario.

.. We all want to be open-minded, but con men should never be given the benefit of the doubt.

Trump’s Iran Threat May Wreck Talks With North Korea

As he prepares for possible talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about controlling the North’s nuclear weapons program, President Trump is facing his most complicated national security challenge so far. He has made the task far harder by threatening to blow up the only other recent deal to control a nuclear program, with Iran.

.. Now consider North Korea, with 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, and facilities for producing plutonium and enriching uranium, many of which are hidden.

Mr. Trump has insisted on the North’s complete and verifiable denuclearization. And, by all indications, he wants it done immediately. Yet by threatening to abrogate the Iran deal and reimpose sanctions Mr. Trump has added to the challenge of making that happen.

.. He has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Iran is out of compliance

.. and has complained that Iran is still building ballistic missiles, arming Hezbollah and supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. None of these concerns were supposed to be prevented by the deal.

.. He has demanded that Britain, France and Germany fix what he calls “flaws” in the pact by May 12, presumably so he will have someone else to blame when it falls apart.

.. The president, and his new hard-line team of national security advisers, may think that walking away from the Iran deal will persuade Mr. Kim of his toughness and his determination to secure terms that go far beyond those reached with Iran. More likely, Mr. Kim will see it as proof that the United States cannot be trusted to stick to its commitments and will be reluctant to reach any agreement.

.. A serious negotiation with North Korea would include Mr. Trump pressing Mr. Kim to freeze nuclear and missile testing, halt the production of nuclear weapons fuel and the deployment of nuclear weapons and put an Iran-like verification system in place.

.. But why would Mr. Kim agree to any of that if the Americans walk away from the Iran deal? Why would Mr. Kim, or any future adversary for that matter, assume Mr. Trump is negotiating in good faith?

..  Mr. Trump could contribute in an unprecedented way to international peace and security by engaging with Mr. Kim. That possibility will be squandered, though, if the American president escalates a manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran at the very time he is trying to defuse one with North Korea.

John Bolton Isn’t Dangerous. The World Is.

Miscalculate in favor of war, and you risk an unnecessary bloodbath — one that America would win, but at immense cost in blood and treasure. Miscalculate in favor of peace, and you risk — God forbid — American cities in flames, a genocidal nuclear exchange in the Middle East, or (perhaps most likely) future military confrontations with aggressive and hostile foreign powers that we can’t truly win because of their own nuclear shield. Remember the words of Krishnaswamy Sundarji, former chief of staff of the Indian army: “One principal lesson of the Gulf War is that, if a state intends to fight the United States, it should avoid doing so until and unless it possesses nuclear weapons.”

.. World history is littered with both kinds of mistakes, and our recent histories with both Iran and North Korea indicate that bipartisan policies of engagement, negotiation, and forbearance have not, in fact, moderated either regime. Iran continues to export jihad, work to kill Americans, and ally with our Russian rival to engineer a bloodbath in Syria — even as the Iran “deal” fails to deliver on Obama’s dream of somehow bringing Iran into the community of nations. North Korea is well on its way to developing a nuclear first-strike capability that threatens the mainland United States.

.. To be a hawk isn’t to see war as a first resort. It’s to see war as a realistic option — an option that ideally makes diplomatic overtures more urgent and effective. As the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, we should not conduct our diplomacy as if we fear war more than our potential foes do.
.. A nuclear-armed Iran is far more dangerous than John Bolton. A North Korea capable of incinerating American cities is far more dangerous than John Bolton.
.. It’s time to give a hawk a chance.