News Article | April 17, 2017
It was a nuclear disaster four times worse than Chernobyl in terms of the number of cases of acute radiation sickness, but Moscow’s complicity in covering up its effects on people’s health has remained secret until now. We knew that in August 1956, fallout from a Soviet nuclear weapons test at Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan engulfed the Kazakh industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk and put more than 600 people in hospital with radiation sickness, but the details have been sketchy. After seeing a newly uncovered report, New Scientist can now reveal that a scientific expedition from Moscow in the aftermath of the hushed-up disaster uncovered widespread radioactive contamination and radiation sickness across the Kazakh steppes. The scientists then tracked the consequences as nuclear bomb tests continued — without telling the people affected or the outside world. The report by scientists from the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow was found in the archive of the Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME) in Semey, Kazakhstan. “For many years, this has been a secret,” says the institute’s director Kazbek Apsalikov, who found the report and passed it on to New Scientist. More nuclear bomb tests were conducted at Semipalatinsk than anywhere else in the world during the 1950s and early 1960s. Western journalists have reported since the breakup of the Soviet Union on the apparent health effects on villagers downwind of the tests. And some recent studies have estimated radiation doses using proxies such as radioactivity in tooth enamel. The newly revealed report, which outlines “the results of a radiological study of Semipalatinsk region” and is marked “top secret”, shows for the first time just how much Soviet scientists knew at the time about the human-health disaster and the extent of the cover-up. It details how Moscow researchers on three expeditions to Ust-Kamenogorsk found widespread and persistent radioactive contamination of soil and food both there and across the towns and villages of eastern Kazakhstan. In mid-September 1956, a month after the fallout cloud hit, dose rates in Ust-Kamenogorsk were still up to 1.6 millirems per hour, a hundred times what the report deems the “permissible rate”, and what is recommended as safe by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The following month, the expedition moved on to a number of villages. “Near Znamenka, radioactive substances that affected the people and the environment fell out repeatedly for years,” the report says. The fallout there was “hazardous to health” and “more serious and dangerous than [in] the district of Ust-Kamenogorsk”. Military medical officers visiting the village after the August test had found three people with acute radiation sickness. The findings tally with previous reports of the path of the fallout clouds. In 2002, Konstantin Gordeev at the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow published a map showing that on 24 August 1956 a cloud travelled directly over both Znamenka and Ust-Kamenogorsk. Earlier, a test on 12 August 1953 had sent a cloud across Karaul, which the 1956 expedition reported had consequences that were still “hazardous to health” three years later. One outcome of the scientific expeditions was the establishment of a special clinic known as a dispensary, under the control of Moscow, tasked with tracking radiation and its health effects. It eventually had a register of some 100,000 people exposed to the tests and their children. The facility was known for a long time as the Anti-Brucellosis Dispensary No. 4. The name was chosen, says Apsalikov, “in order not to draw attention to its real activity”, which was “classified as top secret until 1991”. When the Soviet Union collapsed that year, the dispensary became the IRME. But according to its current chief scientist, Boris Gusev, who first worked at Dispensary No. 4 in 1962, many reports in its archives were either taken to Moscow or destroyed before the handover. One report, he says, recorded that 638 people were “hospitalised with radiation poisoning” in the city after the 1956 test. This was more than four times the 134 radiation cases diagnosed after the Chernobyl accident. Nobody knows how many died. The newly exposed report of the expeditions in 1956 and 1957 was one of the few to escape the Soviet censors that destroyed or moved other reports from the country. It found “considerable radioactive contamination of soils, vegetable cover and food” in eastern Kazakhstan. Faecal samples taken from people on a collective farm just south of Ust-Kamenogorsk contained high levels of radioactivity, which were no longer detectable between two and five days after they stopped eating local food and switched to imported food. The expedition called for a halt to eating local grain, and suggested that it was “inexpedient to conduct atomic tests (especially ground explosions) before the full harvest from fields” so the food was sheltered from the fallout. But this recommendation was evidently not acted on. Gordeev mapped the fallout trajectories of subsequent major tests in August 1957 and August 1962. The report also downplayed the dangers, saying that various changes in people’s nervous system and blood recorded by doctors, “could not be considered as the changes which arose only due to impact of ionizing radiation”. Instead, it goes on to blame poor sanitation, a “dreary diet” and various diseases such as brucellosis and tuberculosis. Atmospheric bomb tests at Semipalatinsk stopped in 1963. Although much of the area downwind is now safe to live in, “some areas will never return to nature”, says Apsalikov. “The situation in others is uncertain and potentially dangerous.” Roman Vakulchuk of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs welcomes the new openness from Kazakhstan about the issue. The report is the first contemporary record of research into the effects of the tests on local populations, he says. “Until 1956, the [Soviet] government conducted no studies.” But there is still uncertainty about the extent of continuing contamination and health impacts, he says. “Much of the area presents no danger, but some parts need to be safeguarded indefinitely.” Read more: Exclusive: First visit to Russia’s secret nuclear disaster site
News Article | December 13, 2016
Britain is naive to expect a “free lunch” in trade negotiations with the EU, according to a scathing House of Lords report that calls for a transition phase to ease the pain. “The notion that a country can have complete regulatory sovereignty while engaging in comprehensive free trade with partners is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of free trade,” said the cross-party group of peers. The report, the second of six parliamentary studies on the mechanics of Brexit out this week, also accuses the government of underestimating the consequences of its limited negotiating position. “We recognise that the government is engaging with industry stakeholders but are not convinced that the level of engagement and expertise within government are commensurate with the scale of this unprecedented task, particularly given the government’s commitment to trigger article 50 by the end of March 2017,” wrote the Lords’ EU internal market and EU external affairs sub-committees. Peers took evidence on four main options facing the government: remaining in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) like Switzerland or Norway, a more limited Turkish-style position inside the customs union, a free trade agreement (FTA) similar to that negotiated by Canada or falling back on the system of international tariffs agreed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). But expert witnesses warned that all the options involved weighing up the economic benefits of trade against lost political independence, leaving no foreseeable scenario where Britain was in a stronger position outside the single market. “There is no free lunch,” said Dr Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Far from escaping the protectionism of “Fortress Europe”, as some Brexit supporters have promised, walking away entirely and relying on the WTO tariff regime could both push up food prices and introduce huge uncertainty for UK farmers who would have to fight to inherit quotas agreed under opaque WTO “schedules”. “There will be much more severe restrictions in certain sectors, primarily agriculture, than we face at the moment as a member of the single market,” said Richard Eglin, a senior trade advisor with the law firm White and Case. “While the UK could unilaterally decide to lower its tariffs on agricultural goods, this could complicate the process of agreement to its schedules and reduce its leverage in future FTA negotiations, as the UK would be less able to offer preferential terms to other countries,” explained the report. Other British companies, such as airlines, faced a devastating loss of competitive advantage if the UK moves abruptly from the single market without some form of negotiated trade agreement to replace it. Aviation “is hardly touched upon by WTO commitments”, said Piet Eeckhout, a professor of EU law at University College London, while in the single market “you have a full single market in aviation”, where “any EU airline … can perform freely any flights across the European internal market”. Government witnesses said they were keeping an open mind about different approaches to the problem and were confident of a strong negotiating position. George Bridges, under-secretary of state at the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU), told the committee that the government was looking at all the options, though favoured a bespoke UK agreement, because “we perceive ourselves as being in a unique position as regards the EU”. Lord Bridges said he wanted an agreement that would allow the UK to control its borders and laws and provide “the freest possible relationship as regards trade for our businesses”. This was met with scepticism by peers, who pointed to the fledgling Department for International Trade as a sign the government was already committed to leaving the single market, even if it had little idea what to replace it with. Sandip Verma, chair of the EU external affairs sub-committee which led the study, said: “It is unlikely that a bespoke EU trade agreement can be agreed within article 50’s two-year period, so a transitional deal is vital for protecting UK trade, and jobs that rely on trade. The government should focus on trade with the EU and its WTO schedules. Deals with non-EU countries are contingent on the outcome of these negotiations, and need to be sequenced accordingly.” Mark Price, minister of state for trade policy, told the committee that a trade policy team of 40 people just after the referendum had grown to about 110 people, and was likely to number about 150 by the end of the year, though there were no plans to hire trade negotiators for future FTAs for the next three or four months. The report responded: “The government appears to be underestimating the resources required to negotiate a bespoke deal with the EU, to adopt its WTO schedules, and to agree future trading relationships with third countries.” It fears these practical concerns pale in comparison with the fundamental misunderstanding about Britain’s ability to negotiate both market access and political freedoms. “The level of market access the UK is able to negotiate with the EU would depend in part on the extent to which it was willing to accept and adopt EU law or demonstrate equivalence with EU rules,” concluded the peers. “In the medium to long term the UK may have to continue to update its domestic law to be consistent with EU law.” “Trade-offs will need to be made in whatever trading framework we eventually agree,” added the chairman of the EU internal market sub-committee, Larry Whitty. “While an FTA would provide the greatest flexibility, and no commitment to freedom of movement, there is no evidence that it could provide trade on terms equivalent to membership of the single market.”
Overland I.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Energy Research and Social Science | Year: 2016
Energy resources are transported long distances and create powerful interlinkages between countries. Energy thus contributes to the globalization of the world, but has received little attention in the globalization literature. This article hypothesizes that energy globalization is growing and accelerating. The hypothesis is tested by developing an index to measure changes in the extent of energy globalization during the 20-year period from 1992 to 2011. The following sub-indicators are included in the index: number of energy trade relationships, average distance of energy trade relationships, and energy dependency of the countries in the world. The development of the index encounters a number of conceptual and methodological challenges related to globalization, which, it turns out, have not been addressed properly in the broader literature. Clarification of these issues can help improve the analysis of globalization. © 2016 The Authors.
Godzimirski J.M.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Energy Research and Social Science | Year: 2016
The article is based on a throughout analysis of Polish and Western debate on shale gas as well as on interviews with key Polish experts and policymakers, and aims at reconstructing the recent history of development of shale gas in Poland and at mapping how various factors and actors have interacted in this process. Although the country's membership in the EU makes the understanding of the EU regulatory framework important in this context, the main focus of the article is on how the issues have been addressed in Poland, the country that was believed to be best suited to become European shale gas success story. The article sheds light on how four factors - the national energy governance, social acceptance and geological conditions, combined with the Polish approach to energy security - have contributed to the process of shaping of the Polish policy on development of shale gas in a period between 2005 and 2015. By examining the question of development of unconventional energy resources in the Polish and European context this article seeks to address following questions to be covered in the special issue of the journal:. •perceptions of risk and socially constructed debate on unconventional gas;•developments in individual countries (Poland) and in the EU;•national concerns about externalities;•the adequacy of current EU regulation and its reception in member states. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
Rich K.M.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs |
Wanyoike F.,Kenya International Livestock Research Institute
American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene | Year: 2010
Although Rift Valley fever (RVF) has significant impacts on human health and livestock production, it can also induce significant (and often overlooked) economic losses among various stakeholders in the marketing chain. This work assesses and quantifies the multi-dimensional socio-economic impacts of the 2007 RVF outbreak in Kenya based on a rapid assessment of livestock value chains in the northeast part of the country and a national macroeconomic analysis. Although study results show negative impacts among producers in terms of food insecurity and reductions in income, we also found significant losses among other downstream actors in the value chain, including livestock traders, slaughter houses, casual laborers, and butchers, as well as other, non-agricultural sectors. The study highlights the need for greater sensitivity and analyses that address the multitude of economic losses resulting from an animal disease to better inform policy and decision making during animal health emergencies. Copyright © 2010 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Wilson Rowe E.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Polar Record | Year: 2014
This article focuses on one potential motivation for a state's behaviour in international affairs, namely status-seeking, in order to shed light on Norway's Arctic politics and to discuss the role of hierarchies in Arctic politics more generally. The idea that a state's political elite seek national security and economic gain is well established in international relations (IR) literature. However, another key motivation of human behaviour - seeking status and respect - is frequently overlooked as a potential factor shaping states' behaviour. The argument begins with a brief review of post-cold war Arctic politics followed by a discussion of the status-related literature in IR. Norway's position in the Arctic Council (AC) and in bilateral relations with Russia is then examined, with particular attention paid to the extent to which other Arctic states acknowledge and confirm Norway's status claims. Norway's status as an information provider, a convener and a bridge to Russia gives the country a degree of influence in Arctic multilateral settings. Given the Arctic region's relatively peaceful nature and the emphasis on circumpolar cooperation, space has been made for creative approaches to status. Size and military or economic greatness are not always decisive factors for taking a lead in today's Arctic politics. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013.
Rowe E.W.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space | Year: 2012
After Russia's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in 2004 the domestic debate over climate science cooled and the official discourse on the causes of climate change came somewhat closer to international consensus. This paper seeks to examine how these changes in Russian policy makers' publicly communicated understandings of climate science have been brought about by analyzing the reception of international scientific assessments of climate change in Russian domestic debate. The paper takes as its analytical point of departure the literature on epistemic communities, which suggests that scientists involved in assessment processes may act as agents of diffusion of international expert consensus in their 'home' states. The analytical heart of the paper is a case-study analysis based on interviews with Russian scientists who have participated in international climate assessment exercises. Findings indicate that Russian participants in the International Panel on Climate Change and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment did not play a role as 'informational entrepreneurs' in deliberative processes leading to key decision-making moments, although they fulfilled other important functions at the national level. The paper concludes by arguing that stronger Russian adherence to international expert consensus was part of a 'package deal' of already well-established international-level political and ideational positions that Russia adopted after deciding to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Consequently, conceptualizations of expert knowledge diffusion need to account for a temporal dimension, as the mechanisms of diffusion and the nature of reception of international expert knowledge may vary according to whether the country in question has been at the vanguard of a policy issue ('policy leader') or somewhat more of a laggard ('policy follower'). © 2012 Pion and its Licensors.
Wilson Rowe E.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Polar Geography | Year: 2013
"Race for the Arctic" and the "New Cold War" are common newspaper headlines when it comes to coverage of Arctic affairs. In popular media, the Arctic is often portrayed as a zone of potential conflict - with unresolved boundary issues, rapidly changing sea ice cover and tempting natural resources forming a potentially explosive political cocktail. On the other hand, the region possesses a strong track record of post-Cold War peace and cooperation and political leaders and civil servants representing Arctic states have, in recent years, become a coordinated chorus extolling the peacefulness of the region. This article illustrates how the Arctic is represented as a zone of potential conflict in the media through a sampling of international media and an in-depth case study of how the potential for Arctic conflict is discussed in a mainstream Russian newspaper. I argue that these different 'framings' or representations of Arctic politics have significance for the kind of politics that can be pursued in the region and discuss how a certain kind of geopolitical reasoning contributes to seeing the Arctic as a latent space of danger and conflict. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
Wilson Rowe E.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change | Year: 2013
Historical studies have shown how Soviet scientists figured in politics in unexpected ways. However, little research has been done on the interplay between scientific expert knowledge and contemporary Russian policymaking. This article reviews existing research on a question central to understanding Russia's positions on climate change: What is the relationship between expert knowledge and politics in Russia today? We first address the narratives and practices that have emerged around environmental problems and the science-policy interface in Russia and the Soviet Union more generally and then provide a brief overview of Russia's international and domestic climate politics. How climate change has been framed in the Russian media and the role that scientists have played in these framings and in the Russian policymaking process more generally is then examined. Conceptually, this review draws upon scholarly work in Science and Technology Studies and international relations on the politics of scientific reception. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Peter M.,Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
Global Governance | Year: 2015
Mandates of recent peacekeeping operations across Africa have shown substantial innovation in the thinking of the UN Security Council. Offensive use of force, use of unmanned aerial vehicles, strategic intelligence and communication, and state-building mandates in the midst of conflicts have all expanded the scope of activities beyond what the UN peacekeepers are accustomed to. The UN is entering a new era of enforcement peacekeeping. Enforcement peacekeeping manifests itself both in enforcement of political solutions through support of a government’s statebuilding ambitions and its attempts to extend state authority in the midst of conflict and in enforcement of military victories through the offensive use of force. These developments further unsettle the basic principles of UN peacekeeping—consent, impartiality, and nonuse of force—resulting in a schism between the doctrine and practice. This contribution argues that such fundamental challenges, when not properly acknowledged, create a wall between operational activities and strategic considerations. They preclude a proper debate on the problematic externalities, in particular on political processes and peacebuilding. © 2015 Lynne Rienner Publishers. All rights reserved.