Japan warns citizens they might have only 10 minutes to prepare for a North Korean missile (25 April 2017). Image Source: AFP/Getty via Washington Post.
The blog returns on 1 May 2017 after a break, with a series of posts which will explain fake news, cyber-memes, techno-cultural disinformation, virtual politics, and the perception of truth. Today's post is a prologue. The nuclear issue triggers all of these uncertainties. When it comes to nuclear matters, you never really know what is happening, and the stakes are high. On Sunday, 23 April 2017, a truck carrying Iridium-192 was stolen in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, Mexico. This radioactive material can be used to make a dirty bomb, and it has not yet been recovered.
#Comunicado @PcSegob emite alertamiento en 9 estados, por robo de fuente radiactiva en #Jalisco, lee más en: https://t.co/n67ezO2vLI pic.twitter.com/0fCnJRSurV— Luis Felipe Puente (@LUISFELIPE_P) April 24, 2017
Meanwhile, the world nervously eyes the Korean peninsula. It is curious that there have been a recent changes in and around leadership in both Koreas. These might indicate (or lead to) an incredibly delicate and dangerous effort to reconcile the two countries. In South Korea, Park Geun-hye was impeached in December 2016, charged in April 2017 with corruption, and publicly condemned for witchcraft. Liberal human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in is projected to win a May 2017 South Korean election, and he may soften the tone on North Korea.
Image Source: Reuters/The Economist.
British tabloids and the American media are openly speculating on whether Trump's administration should assassinate Kim Jong-un to stop a nuclear war. But Jong-un has been careful to eliminate successors, with few remaining close family members. The fact that he may have had his half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, assassinated on 13 February 2017 raised eyebrows. The use of the rare VX poison in the killing was even more disturbing. Developed by the British in the mid-1950s, it is the world's most toxic nerve agent and classed as a weapon of mass destruction. To use it in a public place on a direct descendant of North Korea's Baekdu Bloodline was a sign of extreme ruthlessness. Even more than all the other atrocities and executions, the murder of Jong-nam really scared people; it merited research and reconsideration of what is happening in Pyongyang.
#northkorea - Amid North Korea tensions, US moves anti-missile defence system to site in South -… https://t.co/l53t37Gmhi - - -#korea - pic.twitter.com/xtGabOpCUU— North Korea News (@NorthKorea247) April 25, 2017
I have previously blogged about the Kim family and possible successors here. A favourite possibility among western leaders is Kim Jong-un's nephew and Jong-nam's son, Kim Han-sol, who is now 21 years old. Han-sol turned down an offer to study at Oxford University in February 2017, due to fears that he would be assassinated there.
Doan Thi Huong, who helped assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, told authorities she thought she was participating in a Reality TV prank. (February 2017) Image Source: Taiwan News.
North Korea is planning another nuclear test and rapidly developing its nuclear weapons program and ballistic missiles. It is hard to tell whether the tensions on the peninsula are a deadly game of bluff, or if Trump's unpredictable administration is planning preemptive action to contain North Korea's capabilities, or if this is a game of 4-D chess, marked by psychological warfare and sabre-rattling.
"A jet with blocked details landed at Wellington Airport[, New Zealand] on Monday evening [24 April 2017]." Image Source: Flight Radar 24 via stuff.co.nz.
There are reports on rehearsals for ex-pat civilian evacuations from South Korea. Officials from the Five Eyes intelligence network (USA, UK, NZ, Australia and Canada) met in Queenstown, New Zealand over the weekend of the 21-23 April. On 26 April, Kim Jong-un watched a giant live-fire drill (see it here) to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Army. The US Senate has been summoned for a White House briefing regarding North Korea, also on 26 April 2017.
#northkorea - (LEAD) N.K. leader watches live-fire drill on military anniversary https://t.co/Cd2JqQ9RFq pic.twitter.com/O41K7ZgKow— North Korea News (@NorthKorea247) April 26, 2017
US nuclear sub docks in #SouthKorea amid reports of Pyongyang's massive artillery drills https://t.co/8Fw8XBW98N#Korea pic.twitter.com/voOwP4Dzth— RT (@RT_com) April 25, 2017
Cruise #missile and special-ops #submarine #MICHIGAN SSGN727 reported headed to #Korea too, may arrive tomorrow https://t.co/MRt1JpPTjC pic.twitter.com/RR2l8HINhu— Chris Cavas (@CavasShips) April 24, 2017
#NorthKorea - SitRep: White House Talks North Korea; New USS Carl Vinson … - Foreign Policy (blog) https://t.co/Pf4qZ1YI9o - - - #Korea pic.twitter.com/7IuEvcIpYm— North Korea News (@NorthKorea247) April 26, 2017
The U.S. will conduct an ICBM test on Wednesday amid North Korea tensions https://t.co/bwF2LIovPh— TIME (@TIME) April 26, 2017
At the same time, there are drills in New York City to prepare for a simulated direct nuclear bomb strike over Manhattan on 24-26 April 2017, which may have already involved power outages in San Francisco; New York; Frankfort, Kentucky; and Los Angeles. Operation Gotham Shield uses a 10 kiloton yield, or a bomb a bit larger than a 'suitcase nuke,' as its hypothetical weapon. The FEMA overview manual for Gotham Shield is here. A November 2016 simulated nuclear attack (the Northern Lights Nuclear Power Plants Exercise) checked the readiness of the electrical grid at the Monticello plant and Camp Ripley, Minnesota on the US-Canadian border.
I have previously argued on this blog that the US had already nuked itself through numerous bomb tests over the past 70 years and lives in denial of this fact. In February 2017, there was an explosion at a French nuclear plant, Flamanville, but there was "no nuclear risk." Even more incredible denial is evident in Japan, where three China Syndromes have likely occurred at Fukushima. Yet on the sixth anniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, the government has invited families to reinhabit the exclusion zone. Fish are declared safe to eat. Deeper denial: the summer 2020 Olympic games are partly set there!
Worse, workers were told they no longer needed protective suits at 95 per cent of the site. The rumour ran that this was because the huge quantity of hazmat suits became too expensive; the workers were considered likely to die anyway from exposure; therefore, the suits could be dispensed with to cut costs. There are unconfirmed stories and muted reports (often ending in dead links) of a TEPCO cover-up of thousands of dead Fukushima workers, whose employment is run by the Japanese mob, the Yakuza.
Image Source: Reuters via The Mirror.
This is an insane 'war without a war,' a nightmare in which Japanese aquifers are irretrievably poisoned. In February 2017, there was unconfirmed talk that underground explosions occurred, likely due to the molten coria hitting the water table. These explosions were heard and felt miles away from the plant. Also in February, a robot measured a staggering 530 sieverts per hour inside Reactor #2 - far higher than any reading ever recorded at Chernobyl. That reading could be ten times higher close to the elusive core. Due to the unwillingness to face the devastation of atomic realities, it is worth remembering the aftermath in an uninhabited nuclear wasteland.
The date 26 April 2017 shifts attention to another nuclear theatre. Today's post commemorates the 31st anniversary of the second-worst nuclear disaster in history at the Chernobyl plant and Pripyat, Ukraine. The blog follows American Millennial urbex Youtuber Josh, who said Pripyat was "legit" during his visit in March 2016. Actually, that is true. To understand the magnitudes of radiation which Josh's MKS-05 Terra-P dosimeter displayed (in microsieverts (uSv) per hour), go here and here. One sievert (1,000,000 microsieverts) if absorbed all at once is enough to make you ill; 6 to 10 sieverts will cause death.
According to what his dosimeter displayed, the radiation survival cheat sheet and the exposure calculator, and depending how many hours they spent there, Josh and his guide were exposed to cumulative radiation somewhere between "standard background radiation levels," "no danger but the highest possible safety level," and "no short term danger but long term cancer risk," which might manifest three to four decades from now. It might have been worse; it depends on whether they inhaled or ingested radioactive particles, and on their combined exposure to alpha, beta, and gamma rays.
This tour is so sad, a rotting monument to the errors of the 20th century. The 21st century fad of exploring the city with new technology adds another layer to the way this history has been recorded, understood or misunderstood, and made briefly contemporary. Nuclear tourism reveals how memory and history give way to confused or incorrect oral history, folklore, and deliberate misinformation.
But virtual tourists and even historians can thank Josh for poking through the city's nooks and crannies so thoroughly, and wonder about the long term effects on the urban explorer, who was doing his best for his Youtube channel. The buildings are degenerating due to weather exposure and radiation. Josh remarked in ten or fifteen years, they will be too unsafe to enter and nuclear tourism inside the buildings will halt. Thus, tourists' videos from the 2010s are valuable records of this nuclear ruin from our current period and they document a fleeting moment in Millennial culture.
You can compare this extensive tour, with one or two days in the exclusion zone, to the tour conducted by VICE news in 2016. After that short visit, the VICE reporter, Simon Ostrovsky, visited the National Research Center for Radiation Medicine in Kiev to have his body and clothing screened for radiation exposure. He took that precaution after he had entered only one or two buildings in Pripyat and stayed on less-radioactive pavements at all times. Josh's videos are valuable: he took risks other explorers and journalists would not take and recorded many details which soon will be lost.
40 pages into Alexievich's "Chernobyl Prayer" and it's one of the most luminous, devastating things I've read.— hugo reinert (@metaleptic) September 5, 2016
Read: Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future (2016) by Svetlana Alexievich, monologue-structured interviews with survivors.
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