February 2003





INES Appeal

to the International Academic Community

Paris, 1 February 2003

We oppose a US-led war against Iraq and support all non-violent opposition to the planned war. We appeal to scientists, engineers and academics throughout the world to work in solidarity to prevent this war in both their personal and professional capacities.

We call for teach-ins, hearings and other meetings to take place at all universities. These should consider the consequences of the planned war on the people of Iraq; the stability of the Middle East; the future of the United Nations and international law; international relations and the dialogue among cultures; the global economy and the environment; and the development, proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.

We call upon universities throughout the world to engage in all forms of peaceful protest. We call upon universities in those countries supporting the war to go on strike should a war begin and to announce their intention to do so in advance.






INES has moved its office to Berlin

The old mail address is still valid:

Gutenbergstraße 31, 44139 Dortmund, Germany

but there are new telephone, fax and e-mail addresses:

Also the bank account has been changed to:




Elsewhere in this issue:

OO The Energy Efficiency of Nuclear Power Philip Smith

OO Problems of chemical safety in Russia Valery Petrosyan

OO Water crisis Vladimir Zolotarev

OO Cracks are appearing in the foundation stones of our civilisation Ken Coates

OO Conference announcement, Global Ecological Integrity, Human Rights, and Human Responsibilities



The INES Special Projects Fund

In 1998 the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation established the "INES Special Projects Fund." We want to remind you of the existence of this fund. Members of INES and of INES member organizations may apply for a remittance of up to $500 from this fund, in order to get projects - which are in accord with the intentions of INES - through a difficult time (complementary critical edge funding). The money may be spent for publication of articles or books, for travelling etc.

Applications should contain a short explanation and may be sent to: Armin Tenner, E-mail: ;
or to the INES office: Nicola Hellmich, E-mail:





The INES Newsletter is edited by

Armin Tenner
Buziaustraat 18, 1068 KN Amsterdam,The Netherlands
Tel: , E-mail:

It is printed by
Petra Lindemann, Berlin.

The Newsletter can be found on both websites:,
A pure ASCII version can be obtained from the editor on request.





The Energy Efficiency of Nuclear Power

Philip Smith

Philip Smith is emeritus Professor at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

This article summarizes a study which can be found on the internet at the URL

 This study adds a dimension to the nuclear energy polemic that has been largely ignored by both the advocates and the opponents of nuclear power. Many of the issues which have played an important role in this discussion have arrived at a "brick-wall" stage of discussion, i.e. old arguments are simply repeated endlessly. Probably this is because most of the arguments cannot be made quantitative, and they therefore become emotional. The principal points of disagreement are:



(i) Danger of explosions, or runaway criticality

The advocates say that, leaving Chernobyl and Three Mile Island apart, the safety record of nuclear energy had been good. The opponents say that these examples, plus thousands of near-accidents, are proof that safety is an essential problem - nuclear safety is dependent upon perfect engineering and no human failure, neither of which can be counted upon indefinitely. A terrible disaster may not come soon but is, in the long term, inevitable.

(ii) There is an intrinsic "sibling" relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

The advocates say that this problem can be solved by adequate control mechanisms, whereas the opponents say that nations, or even non-governmental groups, will inevitably find a way to make weapons from the plutonium which is produced in any nuclear reactor.

(iii) No truly adequate and 100% safe (also for future generations) disposal method has ever been applied to high-level nuclear waste

The opponents say that after fifty years of trying to solve the problem, it is about time that the industry admit that it is intrinsically unsolvable. The advocates point to several carefully worked out schemes which they claim would work fine if it "were not for the irrational opposition of an uninformed public."

These discussions have been going on for some forty years, and have not led to consensus. My colleague, Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, and I have studied two other linked facets of the problem: the energy efficiency and the CO2-emission caused by the use of nuclear power. These are concrete, physical calculations that do not have the element that makes the issues mentioned above so intractable, i.e. small (in general, unknown) probabilities of disastrous occurrences. They do have some pitfalls, however, as will become clear below.


Formulation of the problem

The first question we ask is: what is the energy efficiency of a nuclear power plant? To answer this, one must calculate the "energy costs of energy." This sounds easy, but it turns out that there are some items of energy costs that have to be arrived at quite indirectly. To make our conclusions as sound as possible we have not ventured into the realm of the unknown or (in our judgement) insufficiently proven technology, such as breeder reactors. We have simply concentrated on the very well-known light water reactor (LWR). Our energy calculations refer to the pressurized version (PWR) and are based on the scheme shown in Fig. 1, representing the nuclear fuel chain of a PWR with an electrical output of 1 GW. We have not taken reprocessing into account because we have not encountered a reliable energy analysis of this possibility.

Our choice fell on this type of reactor because of the tremendous amount of data available. Our energy calculations refer to the pressurized version (PWR), but in order to use as much of the available data as possible we also include the performance records of the boiling water type (BWR).

In Figure 1 the different costs are shown in the rectangular, unshaded, boxes, divided over the three periods, "front of the chain", operation of the reactor, and "back end of the chain." The energy costs and energy production in these three periods are represented graphically in Figure 2.

There are several energy costs in these two figures on which there is considerable difference of opinion. We hold that any ethically justifiable analysis must assume benign environmental impact. In particular we have assumed that the mining area be restored to "green-field" conditions after mining has ceased and that the depleted uranium be treated as a poison which is reconverted to uranium oxide and carefully sealed off underground. Neither of these assumptions bears any relation to present practice. Nature is being poisoned and plant and animal life destroyed by the mining of uranium. The prevalent use of depleted uranium is to kill people, while (perhaps) making many more ill.


CO2 - emission caused by nuclear power

It is a small, but not easy, step from the energy analysis to the calculation of the CO2 - emission caused by the operation of a reactor. The reactor itself, of course, emits no CO2. But all of the other processes involved do. The calculation of this is not simple, since almost all industrial processes have two energy inputs, thermal and electric. The electric fraction can simply be subtracted from the electrical energy production of the reactor, even though it usually comes from another source. It could come from the reactor itself and thus in the total balance can be subtracted from the electricity produced by the reactor. The thermal component is assumed to come from the burning of fossil fuels. This is unambiguous in the energy balance, but for the calculation of the CO2-emission an assumption must be made as to whether one is burning coal, oil, or gas. In the short space of this article we cannot go into all of the consequences of this complication.


The energy debt

Of great importance in the total energy cost is the construction and dismantling of the reactor (and mantle). We treat this as an energy debt incurred during the period before operation begins and further increased in the long period after decommissioning. The difficulty with the calculation of this energy is that one has to transform monetary costs to energy costs. There are several approaches to this conversion, but the serious problem is that the reactors have become immensely more expensive since 1970. Not only that, but the monetary costs of reactors show a large spread. There is a difference of opinion between ourselves and the representatives of the nuclear industry as to whether this is a reflection of real energy cost increases, or (simply/mostly ?) due to monetary cost increases brought about, at least partially, by public resistance to nuclear energy.

Detailed input/output analyses of energy use in different sectors of the economy indicate that to get the correct conversion between money and energy in the construction sector one should multiply the overall ratio {total energy production/GNP} of a country by 1.16. We have also used two other methods, and the agreement is well within the spread in monetary cost. Of the three methods used we have taken the cheapest, and arrive at a construction cost of ~80 PJ (petajoules; 1 petajoule = 1015 joules). After the reactor has been decommissioned a long period must pass (we estimate fifty years) before dismantling can begin. During this period a certain level of maintenance must be maintained. We have assumed that this maintenance followed by the dismantling and sequestration of the radioactive parts will take some 200% of the construction energy costs. We arrive therefore at an "energy debt" of ~240 PJ which must be paid off by the production of electrical energy during the productive phase of the reactor's life. To get an idea of what this means one should bear in mind that 1 GW electrical production during 300 days (the nominal period between reloads of LWRs) amounts to a total energy of 26 PJ. It takes about ten years to pay off the debt. The nuclear energy industry estimates a few months.


Dollars versus Joules

One should note that an energy debt can be treated in a much simpler way than a monetary debt. Because of the custom of discounting, the moment of incurring a monetary debt is of great importance. Not so for an energy debt; we learned in school that energy is a conserved quantity!

arbitrarily capitalized the energy debt In our calculations we have arbitrarily capitalized the energy debt of a nuclear reactor at the moment of commissioning, but for the overall picture it does not matter when that is done.


The crucial importance of ore grade

In the treatment of the energy balance of nuclear power the industry always assumes that the energy production of a kilo of uranium is independent of the ore grade, i.e. the cost of mining and milling is not taken into account, not to mention the energy costs required for returning the mining area to "green field" status. At present rich ore is available and the costs of mining and milling are indeed negligible compared to the energy that is released by fission. But if the use of nuclear power were to become prevalent one would have to ask how long it would be before poor ores would have to be used, and what the effect would be on the energy efficiency of nuclear power. In our conclusions, below, we answer this question. A complication is that the mining and milling costs depend on the type of ore; most ore is sandstone ("soft" ore), which is easily mined and milled, but much uranium is in granitic rock ("hard" ore), which costs much more energy to mine and mill.


The energy calculations

In Figure 3 we show a very small part of the data that you can find on the website. The enrichment and percent of the core that is replaced in a reload determine a parameter called "burnup," describing how efficiently uranium is "burned" in a reactor. We will not go into this here. From the figure it is clear that for ore grades above 0.1% U3O8, the total energy production is only slightly dependent on the ore grade. But below an ore grade of ~0.02% the reactor becomes a complicated and inefficient way to burn fossil fuels.

The choice of a maximum full-load lifetime of 24 years is based on the actual data on 399 LWRs, worldwide. The data on the performance of nuclear power plants is collected and published in the industry's official journal, Nuclear Engineering International. Of the 399 reactors listed in the update for 2001, only four had ever surpassed a full-load life of 24 years. Figure 3 shows that the longer a reactor is productive, the higher its integral performance. By choosing 24 years as the standard full-load life we give a too favourable picture of the performance of nuclear energy.


The CO2 calculations

The industry claims that using nuclear power would solve the CO2 - emission problem. Our calculations indicate that, as long as rich ores are available, the use of nuclear power cuts the emission of CO2 by a factor of ~3. This is shown in Figure 4, where the total CO2 emission over the full-load lifetime of 24 years as a function of ore grade is given as a percentage of the emission of a gas-fired plant with the same electrical power production.



It is clear that the question of ore grade is crucial. For this reason we have calculated the total (electrical) energy which all known uranium ores could produce if "burned" in PWR reactors operating on a once-through regime. There are immense quantities of uranium in granitic rocks, but they are useless as an energy source because the ore grade is much less than 0.01%. In Chapter II of the documents on the website the available electrical energy from useable ores (i.e. ores that could deliver more energy in nuclear power plants than is necessary to exploit them) is calculated. The result is that if the total known reserves, 2.8 Tg (teragram; 1 teragram = 1012 gram), of "burnable" uranium were to be converted to electricity, a total energy production of 160 EJ (exajoules; 1 exajoule = 1018 joules) would result.

The present world electrical energy production, from all sources, is estimated to be ~ 55 EJ per year. If this were to be produced by nuclear energy alone, the known uranium reserves would be used up in three years. Even if we suppose that our estimates of energy efficiency and/ or uranium reserves were to be wrong by a factor of ten, would it be sensible to base the future of our energy supply on a source that could only possibly last a few decades?

Our study indicates that if our industrial societies are to survive, they must increase the energy efficiency of all processes enormously, as well as eliminate energy wastage. There is no "magic bullet" that will solve the problem and permit us to go on wasting our limited energy sources.


OO Back to title OO Back to contents





Valery S. Petrosyan

Department of Chemistry, M.V. Lomonosov University, Moscow 119 992, Russia

Valery Petrosyan is Professor in the Deopartment of Chemistry of the M.V. Lomonosov University, Moscow 119 992, Russia.
He presented the present paper at the INES symposium "
Environmental Chemistry and Ecological Safety" in March 2002 in Moscow.



When in the following we speak about chemical safety, we have in mind the chemical stresses, which negatively affect people, animals and plants. These negative toxicological (humans) and eco-toxicological (biota) effects of many organic, inorganic and organo-metallic toxic compounds, contaminating air, water, sediments, soil, plants, animals and humans, have been established unambiguously and became (at least, in some of the developed countries) an important focus point in the national strategies for safety. For example in Japan, since 1974 the Ministry of Environment, activated by environmental contamination problems, carried out a systematic survey in order to determine the actual state of pollution caused by toxic chemicals, in particular by persistent organic pollutants (POPs)1. The substantial efforts to prevent further contamination of the environment with persistent toxic substances (PTS), including POPs (and more recently with the priority toxic organo-metallic compounds, mostly organic derivatives of mercury, tin and lead), have been undertaken for the last thirty years in the European Union and in North America (Canada and USA).

The specific challenge has been proclaimed from the viewpoint of human health. Particularly, in the USA the concept of disease as the manifestation of an imbalance between the environment and the individual has received serious scientific attention since 1990, when the US Public Health Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) commissioned the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences to explore this challenge in a way that would be understandable to scientists, regulators, legislators, and the public. By that time, a special workshop2 discussed three major topics attempting to answer the following questions: "How do people become exposed?" "How can we tell that people have been exposed?" and "What happens after exposure?"

Following the Recommendations 3 of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) together with the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) initiated the special project "Regionally Based Assessment of PTS," aimed to protect environmental and human health by means of measures reducing emissions and discharges of priority PTS. They started with an initial set of twelve POPs (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dibenzodioxins (PCDDs) and dibenzofurans (PCDFs)), which have been included in the Stockholm Convention, signed by most countries since 23rd May 2001 during the year. In this project the globe is divided into twelve regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, North and South America.

The Russian Federation, due to the large territory, is attributed to three regions: Europe, Asia and the Arctic. The author of this paper is the Deputy Chairman of the Regional Team for Europe and has been involved in collecting data on the contamination of the environment in the Russian Federation and on the toxicological and eco-toxicological effects of POPs in Europ.

In this paper the data for different regions of Russia will be discussed, obtained within several international projects, which were performed in our Laboratory of Physical Organic Chemistry, and by other colleagues from the Russian Federation and other countries.


Bio-accumulation of POPs in the Lake Baikal trophic chains

The aim of this project, which was supported by the European Union and accomplished in our Laboratory, was to try to understand, why, in spite of very low concentrations of POPs in the Lake Baikal water, negative effects occur on the aquatic biota.

Baikal is the deepest lake on Earth and contains about 20% of the world fresh water resources. The lake has been known for the very rich aquatic biota: fishes (including endemic omul and golomyanka), many endemic birds (particularly, ducks and geese), the endemic nerpa (Lake Baikal seal), etc.). In the past time the main worry of the local hydrobiologists was the decrease of biodiversity in the lake.

First of all, we have shown that the priority POPs, which were found in the Lake Baikal biota are polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the widely known insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane (DDT) and its metabolites dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylene (DDE) and dichlordiphenyldichlorethane (DDD), together with PCBs. Analyzing the possible sources of these POPs in the area under investigation, we proposed that PAHs and PCBs are deposited into the lake from the air due to transboundary atmospheric transfer, while DDT and its metabolites are transferred by the river Selenga from Mongolia, where DDT is still used in substantial amounts.

The data presented in Table 14 show that these priority POPs are bio-accumulating in the Lake Baikal trophic chains, most substantially in the first steps of the food web (water - phytoplankton - zooplankton) where the bioaccumulation is due to the low rates of metabolism of the toxicants.

On the other hand, the levels of bio-accumulation in most fishes (carp, perch, pike, etc.) are much lower (besides golomyanka, Comephorus baikalensis), because the metabolism rates in fishes are quite high. Trying to explain the difference in the level of bio-accumulation of hydrophobic POPs in fishes, the only explanation, which we could propose, was based on the difference in fat content in golomyanka (very high!) and in the rest of fishes under investigation (very low!). As to the Lake Baikal seals (nerpas), it is evident, that in comparison with young nerpas (with a relatively low content of fat) the elder species (with a substantially bigger content of fat) bio-accumulate much higher amounts of POPs, which once again proves the model of preferential bio-accumulation of hydrophobic toxicants in fat tissues.

It was very interesting to compare these data with the results of American and Canadian authors, who were studying the content of organochlorine toxicants in the North American sea otter.5 The obtained data are shown in Table 2; the comparison with our results lead to the conclusion, that the contents of PCBs and DDT in the adult species of the Baikal nerpa are 300-400 times higher than in the North American sea otter.

We have continued our investigation of the bio-accumulation of POPs in the Lake Baikal trophic chains, measuring the content of the same toxicants in the eggs of various types of birds, eating fish from the lake. The results obtained are presented in Table 3.6

The analysis of these results shows that the bio-accumulation levels of PAHs are substantially higher for such species of birds as Anas platyrhynchos, Podiceps auritus and Tringa stagnatilis. The levels of bioaccumulation for organo-chlorine compounds are maximal for Anas clypeata, Tringa stagnatilis and Aythia fuligula. At the same time the highest levels of bio-accumulation were observed for Podiceps auritus and Anas clypeata. The maximal levels of nitrobenzenes have been observed in the eggs of Aythia fuligula, Tringa stagnatilis, Anser anser and Anas platyrhynchos. And, finally, dibenzofuran was bioaccumulating in the eggs of Aythia fuligula and Gallus gallus.

It is evident from the obtained data, that at least five species of birds under investigation (Anas clypeata, Podiceps auritus, Tringa stagnatilis, Aythia fuligula, Anas platyrhynchos) are strongly bio-accumulating POPs. We think that these particular species get the strongest negative effects of POPs and do need protection.

To conclude, one can say that even if the content of the bio-accumulating toxicants in the water of the particular aquatic ecosystem does not exceed the so-called "allowable level," in reality it does not mean that the biota in this aquatic ecosystem is not under serious danger. Consequently, to save the biodiversity one has to reach the situation, in which the highly toxic xenobiotics would not enter ecosystems in any detectable concentrations.


Effects of organo-metallic ecotoxicants on Russian sturgeons in the Caspian Sea

The toxic organic derivatives of heavy metals (mercury, tin, lead, etc.) occuring in the environment are of both natural and anthropogenic origin.7 For example, the most toxic organo-mercury contaminants, methyl-mercury compounds, are formed in natural waters due to the chemical and biochemical methylation of inorganic (Hg2+) and organo-metallic (CH3Hg+) cations.8 The contamination of the sea waters with mercury containing compounds is at the level of 0.03 m g/l, while the contamination of the ground waters is substantially higher - 1-3 m g/l.9 On the other hand, the most toxic organo-tin compounds (butyl and phenyl derivatives, Bu3SnX and Ph3SnX) and the organo-lead contaminants (ethyl and methyl derivatives, Et3PbX and Me3PbX) are introduced into the aquatic environment by people, who use them for their pragmatic needs (antifouling additives to paints, antinocking additives to gasoline, etc.). In the surface waters the concentrations of tin and lead containing compounds are at the level of several mg/l.10

In the project, which is supported by the European Union and is under accomplishment in our laboratory, it has been shown that organo-mercury and organo-tin contaminants (we have not been working so far with organo-lead compounds) substantially affect the physiological properties of the Russian sturgeons (Asipenser gueldenstaedti B.) in the Caspian Sea.

We believe that these effects can be explained by considering two alternative mechanisms of participation of organo-metallic toxicants RnMXm in the biochemical processes. One of the mechanisms (without carbon-metal bond rupture) is based on the generally accepted consideration of the electron accepting properties of metals and their interactions with the electron donating atoms in the bio-chemical targets, which lead to the formation of molecular complexes (if there is no rupture of metal-inorganic ligand bonds) or ionic complexes (if the dissociation of metal-inorganic ligand bond is taking place). In both cases the complexes formed are the substantially modified receptors, which are not functioning any more like the free receptors and this is why the physiological properties of the sturgeons are changed.

The alternative mechanism includes the homolytic rupture of metal-carbon bonds in organo-metallic toxicants, participating in the redox (or pure reduction) processes with the formation of free organic radicals. Important examples of these processes are the oxidation of unsaturated fatty acids by the peroxide oxidation of lipids (POL) and the electron transport processes through molecular oxygen reduction.

As a model for organo-metallic compounds we have used the methyl derivatives of tin, CH3SnCl3 and (CH3)3SnCl, well known in literature for their oxidative activity in the reaction of oxidation of lactic acid in the presence of LDH. It has been shown in our kinetic studies that trimethyltin chloride, inhibiting the action of the enzyme, is 25 times more effective than methyltin trichloride.11

To elucidate the mechanism of inhibition we have determined the initial rate of the enzymatic reaction in the presence of CH3SnCl3 (V0i) and without organo-tin toxicant (V0), as well as the inhibition coefficients (V0i / V0). The data obtained are given in Table 4.

The analysis of the data in Table 4 leads to the conclusion, that various organo-tin compounds, inhibiting the enzyme reactions, can not only bind the SH-groups in proteins, but are also able to act like oxidants, and thus change the mechanism of inhibition.

In this project we also studied the effects of organo-mercury RHgX and organo-tin R3SnX toxicants (R= CH3, n-C3H7, i-C3H7, n-C4H9, C6H5; X=Cl, Br, I) on the oxidation of cytochrom C (Cyt C) with the participation of the membrane bound enzyme cytochrom C oxidase in vitro in non-phosphorylating mitochondrial particles, isolated from the liver and muscles of the Russian sturgeon.


Cyt C (Fe2+) + 1/2 O2 -- cytochrom C oxidase -- Cyt C (Fe3+) + H2O

The data obtained have shown that the rate constants in the presence of most organo-metallic compounds were almost equivalent to the rates of auto-oxidation of Cyt C in the absence of additives (a small increase of the rate was observed only in the case of CH3HgI).12 These experimental observations lead us to the conclusion, that one may neglect the contribution of the organo-metallic toxicant effects on the oxidation of the enzyme. That gave us the possibility to propose, that participation of organo-metallic toxicants in the enzyme transport of electrons proceeds with the rupture of the carbon-metal bonds and leads to the formation of the free organic radicals R..

We have shown13 that the physiological and morphological parameters of Russian sturgeons can be improved by using antioxidants, added to their feed. The data, given in Table 5, were obtained experimentally under the condition of permanent introduction to the young Russian sturgeons of CH3HgI additives.

These data show unambiguously the advantage of the antioxidant effects on the diminishing of the organometallic toxicant's action in the processes of peroxide oxidation and electron transport. In contrast to the well known effect of the heavy metal binding by means of SH-group containing reagents, the approach proposed in this project by using a-tocopherol (vitamin E) looks much more efficient.

Besides using the natural antioxidants (like a -tocopherol) we have shown the possibility of using synthetic reagents (like 2,6-di-tert-butylphenol and 2,4,6-tri-tert-butylphenol). These synthetic antioxidants have been proved14 to be efficient in the experiments of studying their additives both to the sturgeons and their feed which contained various organo-metallic toxicants (organic and inorganic derivatives of mercury).


Effects of POPs on humans

Many environmental epidemiological studies show that a correlation exists between chemical contamination and observed human health effects. To evaluate critically the adverse effects of individual toxicants it is necessary to compare data derived from experiments with laboratory animals, and the results of epidemiological studies of accidental or occupational exposure, with the effects observed for the „average" population.

It is very difficult to elucidate cause and effect relationships between human exposure to low levels of toxic compounds in the environment and the particular adverse health effects, not in the last place because of the broad range of chemicals to which humans are exposed at any time. The measurable residues of PCBs, dioxins and various organo-chlorine pesticides are present in human tissues around the world15 and the contamination of food, including breast milk, is also a worldwide phenomenon.16

There were several reports on the contamination of the environment in the Russian Federation with priority toxic substances. For example, it has been indicated, that the highest levels (5-15 ng/m3) of atmospheric air contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been found in the cities, where the world's largest aluminium and steel plants are located: Bratsk, Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Magnitogorsk, Nizhny Tagil, Novokusnetsk and Shelekhov. The total emissions of the most carcinogenic PAH, benzo[a]pyrene, have been estimated in 1991 to be at the level of 174.863 ton/year and in 1992 - 89.408 ton/year. As far as PCBs are concerned, the most saddening example is the town of Serpukhov, 100 km to the south of Moscow, where a big transformer plant is located. In 1988 the concentration of PCBs in the soil 2 km to the north of the plant was up to 35.7 ppm, while 0.3 km to the south - up to 11,000 ppm was measured. The milk of feeding mothers, who used to live in the vicinity of the plant, contained from 1,093 to 2,392 m g/l of PCBs.

In the Russian Federation there were at least two „hot-spots," Chapayevsk (Samarskaya oblast') and Ufa (Bashkortostan Republic), in which big plants, producing organo-chlorine products (primarily, PCBs and pesticides) have been releasing big amounts of dioxins into the environment 17-21. In Chapayevsk in 1990, at the plant producing pentachlorophenol, the soil contained 18.7 ppb of 2,3,7,8-TCDD. In Ufa in 1987 the concentration of TCDDs in the soil near the plant, producing 2,4,5-trichlorophenol, reached 9.6 ppb. A 4 ppb level of TCDD pollution has been found in the silt of the river Belaya, 150 meters below the sewer. The measurements of dioxins and furans in main natural sources for drinking water preparation (the Rivers Belaya, Chapayevka, etc.) have shown the following concentrations of TCDDs - 80 pg/l, HxCDDs - 88 ng/l, HpCDDs - 120 ng/l and OCDD - 760 ng/l.

The epidemiological studies performed in Chapayevsk from 1969 till 1998 17,18,19 have shown that the workers of the plant were having chloracne, endocrine deseases, hepatitis, suppressed quantities of spermatazoids, reduction of immunological tolerance, 17.5% death rate due to malignant neoplasms. The typical cancers are of lung and larynx for men, and breast cancer for women. The city population suffered from: the increased frequency of spontaneous abortion, late histozes, increased concentrations of dioxins in human milk, high frequency of the birth of light-in-weight children, delay of boy's genital development, children's congenital malformations, high content of hormons in boy's blood.

The epidemiological studies performed in Ufa in 1966-67 18,19,20 have shown that the impact on humans was very high. Particularly, the workers of the plant were having chloracne and other diseases, including increased frequency of spontaneous abortion and genital disproportion of newborns with an excess of girls over boys.

It has been also shown21 that the content of dioxins in the sperm of men, living in the industrial regions of Bashkortostan was within 42.1-182.5 pg/g of lipids and 67-181 pg/g of blood. These values are substantially higher in comparison with the appropriate data for the American veterans of war in Vietnam and much higher than the levels of dioxins in breast milk (8-74 pg/g).

The study in Russia of the dynamics (over 1.5 years and 3 years) of latent pathological effects to the nervous system, caused by small doses of organo-mercury compounds (25 persons were fed with meat and diary foodstuffs containing 1-10 ng/g of EtHgX for 2-3 months), showed an increase in complaints indicating pathology of hypothalamic structures in the brains, and a reduction of complaints concerning the pathology of the peripheral nervous system.22


Quality of air and population health in big cities

Another difficult problem of chemical safety is the contamination of air in big cities with automobile exhausts. For example, in Moscow the number of cars recently exceeded three millions, which is about 10% of all cars in Russian Federation. Mainly gasoline is used (70%), diesel - 29% and natural gas - 1%. The level of air contamination in big cities is very high, mostly because most cars do not use converters for toxic exhausts. The main reason for this is the shortage of high quality gasoline in the country, which explains why the lead containing additives (which destroy the converters) are still used extensively in many regions of the Russian Federation. The priority contaminants due to the automobile exhausts are nitrogen oxides, aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylenes) and PAHs (mostly benz[a]pyrene).23 The consequences of this have been shown by environmental epidemiological studies. For example, in Moscow the number of people, suffering from bronchitis, bronchial asthma and ischemic disease of the heart has been increasing in the last decade parallel to the 50% increase of the number of cars.


Contamination of drinking water with organo-chlorine compounds

Natural waters (both surface and ground) used for the preparation of the drinking water for citizens of the Russian cities are disinfected by means of chlorination, which contaminates the drinking water with the various organo-chlorine compounds, particularly with the short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs). These compounds have been shown to distribute preferentially to tissues of high metabolic activity and/or high rate of cell proliferation, following oral dosing.

It has been shown in our laboratory,24 that chlorination of natural waters, containing humic substances, is not giving any PCDDs and PCDFs in detectable quantities.

Although the EU risk assessment report25 concludes that man is not exposed to significant risk by the environment and that compared to other chlorinated organic pollutants SCCPs seem to have a lower acute and chronic toxicity, one has to remember that organo-chlorine toxicants tend to bio-accumulate in the human fat tissues, which at the end may stimulate the bio-magnification of the negative toxicological effects.


Problems of chemical warfare storage and destruction

Another difficult problem, which bothers population and specialists, is the big amount (forty thousands tons) of various chemical warfare agents, being still kept at seven storehouses around the country. The worries of the people have been increased in the specific situation, when international terrorism is becoming more and more active. A Federal Program of chemical warfare destruction has been developed in the recent years, particularly after the Paris Convention (1993) which has been signed by most of the countries, that have military chemical agents. The difficulties still do exist, first of all, because of shortage of money for the program and, secondly, because of the possible environmental problems that may appear during the process of destruction.

In the first place, the anxiety of the specialists concerns the technologies of high-temperature burning of the chemical agents by which formation of PCDDs and PCDFs may occur. On the other hand, for the low-temperature "wet" technologies that create products of lower toxicity, huge amounts of the outcoming products have to be buried in regions, where people and biota should not be affected by toxic wastes. It is evidently not easy, both to find such regions and to accomplish the safety. The third problem is the accomplishment of the monitoring of the toxic compounds, which can appear during the storage and the destruction. We recently discussed the peculiarities of this type of monitoring at the local level.26

These problems evidently are highly important not only for the Russian Federation, but for the whole world, because it has been calculated by the specialists that with this amount of chemical warfare the whole population of the Planet Earth can be killed several hundred thousands times. That means that the problem has to be solved with the extensive help of the United Nations and all countries around the world.




1. The Environmental Monitoring Report on the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Japan. Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan, Tokyo, 2002.

2. Frontiers in Assessing Human Exposure to Environmental Toxicants, Report of a Symposium, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1991.

3. POPs: Considerations for Global Action. Conclusions of the IFCS sponsored Experts Meeting on POPs and Report of the ad hoc working group on POPs, Manila, 17-22 June, 1996.

4. O.V. Poliakova, A.T. Lebedev, N.K. Karakhanova, V.A. Shmorgunov, A.V. Funtov, V.S. Petrosyan, Accumulation of the persistent organic pollutants in the food chain of the Lake Baikal, in "Water Pollution V: Modelling, Measuring and Prediction", Eds. P.Anagnostopoulos and C.A. Brebbia, WITpress, 1999, pp. 419 -425.

5. ?.?. ????n, J.?. Jarman, J.A. Estes, ?. Simon, ?.L. Norstrom, Environ. Chem. Toxicol., 452 (1999) 452-458.

6. A.T. Lebedev, O.V. Poliakova, N.K. Karakhanova, V.S. Petrosyan, A. Renzoni, The contamination of birds with organic pollutants in the Lake Baikal region, The Science of Total Environment, 212 (1998) 153-162.

7. T.R. Crompton, Occurrence and Analysis of Organometallic Compounds in the Environment, Wiley, New York, 1998.

8. The Biological Alkylation of Heavy Elements, Ed. by P. J. Craig, Roy.Soc.Chem., London, 1988.

9. The Biogeochemistry of Mercury in the Environment, Ed. By J.O. Nriagu, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1979.

10. P.S. Smith, V.G. Kumar Das, Main Group Elements and Their Compounds, Narosa Publ. House, New Delhi, 1996.

11. M.N. Kolyada, Yu.T. Pimenov, N.T. Berberova, E.R. Milaeva, E.V. Kharitonashvili, V.S. Petrosyan, Effect of methyltin trichloride on the activity of lactate dehydrogenase, Izv. Akad. Nauk, Ser. Khim., N8 (2001) 1412-1414.

12. V.P. Osipova, E.R. Milaeva, V.Yu. Tyurin, Yu.T. Pimenov, N.T. Berberova, E.V. Kharitonashvili, V.S. Petrosyan, Molecular pathways of organomercurials in mitochondrial electron transport chain, Abstr. 8th Annual Meeting of SETAC-Europe, Bordeaux, France, 1998, p.226.

13. E.R. Milaeva, Yu.T. Pimenov, N.T. Berberova, L.B. Kirillova, Yu.A. Gracheva, V.Yu. Tyurin, V.A. Kalyavin, V.S. Petrosyan, The ways of diminishing of oxidative stress, promoted by organomercury compounds, Dokl. Akad. Nauk, 379 (2001) 631-635.

14. V.Yu. Tyurin, L.B. Kirillova, Yu.T. Pimenov, N.T. Berberova,. Yu.A. Gracheva, E.R.Milaeva, V.S. Petrosyan, Protective effects of phenols in lipid peroxidation in the presence of organomercurials, Abstr. XXth International Conference on Polyphenols, Munich, Germany, 2000, p.278.

15. K.B. Thomas, T. Colborn, Organochlorine endocrine disrupters in human tissue, in "Chemically induced alterations in sexual and functional development: the wildlife/human connection", Ed. by T. Colborn and C. Clement, Princeton, New Jersey, 1992, pp.365-394.

16. WHO: Persistent organic pollutants, WHO, Geneva, 1996.

17. S. Korrick et al., Organohalogen Compounds, 38 (1998) 231-233.

18. N.A. Kluev, B.A. Kurlyandsky, B.A.Revich, B.N. Filatov, Dioxins in Russia, Moscow, 2001.

19. B.A. Revich, Contamination of the environment and population health, Moscow, 2001.

20. N.P. Goncharov. et al., Organohalogen compounds, 42 (1999) 61-65.

21. Sh.N.Galimov, F.Kh.Kamilov, Gonadotropic effects in fonoxyherbicides in man's organism, Ufa, 2001.

22. N.D. Mukhtarova, Gigiena Truda Prof. Zabol., 3 (1977) 4 -7.

23. V.S.Petrosyan, Nature (Russian), 12 (2001) 11-16.

24. N.Yu. Tretyakova, A.T. Lebedev, V.S. Petrosyan, Degradative pathways for aqueous chlorination of humic substances. Environ. Sci. Technol., 28 (1994) 606-610.

25. European Commission, Joint Research Center, 2000. European Union Risk Assessment Report. Vol.4: alkanes, C10-13, chloro. European Chemicals Bureau, Brussels, Belgium, 166 pp.

26. V.S. Petrosyan, Environmental monitoring in the regions of chemical warfare destruction, in "Chemical warfare destruction in Russia: political, legislative and technical aspects", Eds. J.Hart, S. Miller, A. Kalyadin, Moscow, 1997, pp.127-138.


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The Quest for International Collaboration of Engineers and Scientists

Vladimir Zolotarev

Institute of Biology of Inland Waters, Russian Academy of Sciences, Borok, Yaroslavl obl., Russia

Dr. Vladimir Zoltanev is INES member and founder of the NOOSPHERE Information Fund (Global Survival).
He can be reached at:

or at the homepage: which he opened for discussion with other INES members.



The readers of the INES Newsletter had the possibility to read about the water crisis in Africa: INES Newsletter 38, "Water and Sustainable Development, A viewpoint from a Ghanaian" by Marian Ewurama Addy.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the year 2003 as the International Year of Freshwater. Water is one of five central issues on the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Recent news related to the water issues, also from the World Summit 2002, sometimes are shocking.

"This year, water pollution, poor sanitation and water shortages will kill over 12 million people," said Klaus Töpfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. "Millions more are in bad health and trapped in poverty, much of their energy and time wasted in the quest for clean water." Quoting UNEP's recently released third Global Environment Outlook report (GEO-3), Mr. Töpfer said 1.1 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and 2.4 billion lack access to improved sanitation. "GEO-3 paints a worrying picture on many fronts... The bottom line, however, is that without adequate clean water, there can be no escape from poverty," he said. "The Planet is poised on a precipice, and time is running out for making tough, economic and political choices that can pull it back from disaster."

This report, made by contributions from more than 1,000 scientists associated with UNEP shows that within 30 years:

 55% of the global population will suffer severe water shortages,

 11,000 plant and animal species will be dead or dying,

 30% of the biodiversity will be erased by the middle of the century.

Freshwater biodiversity is increasingly threatened by unsustainable development worldwide. The freshwater species population index dropped 55% over the 30-year period (WWF Living Planet Report). The signs of a looming water crisis are evident. Since water is essential to every aspect of life, this crisis affects everything - from health to human rights, the environment to the economy, poverty to politics, culture to conflict. The need for integrated, co-operative solutions is particularly urgent in the river basins which are shared by two or more states, in which nearly half the territory and population of the world are located. Global security depends on solving the water crisis.

More facts from the World Water Assessment Programme, People and the Planet. Water-related diseases are a growing human tragedy, killing more than 5 million people each year - 10 times the number killed in wars. About 2.3 billion people suffer from diseases linked to dirty water. Some 60 per cent of all infant mortality worldwide is linked to infectious and parasitic diseases, most of them water-related. Water use is increasing everywhere. The world's six billion people are already appropriating 54% of all the accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. By 2025 humankind's share will be 70%. This estimate reflects the impact of population growth alone. If per capita consumption of water resources continues to rise at its current rate, humankind could be using over 90 per cent of all available freshwater within 25 years, leaving just 10 per cent for the rest of the world's species.

Almost 70 per cent of all available freshwater is used for agriculture. Overpumping of groundwater by the world's farmers exceeds natural replenishment by at least 160 billion cubic metres a year. Agriculture is responsible for most of the depletion of groundwater, along with up to 70% of the pollution. Both are accelerating. Many of the world's most important grainlands are consuming groundwater at unsustainable rates. Collectively, annual water depletion in India, China, the United States, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula adds up to a hefty 160 billion cubic metres year - an amount equal to the total annual flow of two Nile Rivers.

Water withdrawals for industry:

 World: 22% of total water use;

 High-income countries: 59% of total water use;

 Low-income countries: 8% of total water use.

The annual water volume used by industry will rise from 752 km3/year in 1995 to an estimated 1,170 km3/year in 2025. In 2025, the industrial component is expected to represent about 24% of the total freshwater withdrawal. Some 300-500 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other wastes accumulate each year from industry. Industries based on organic raw materials are the most significant contributors to the organic pollutant load with the food sector being the most important polluter.

Contribution of the food sector to the production of organic water pollutant:

 High income countries: 40%

 Low-income countries: 54%

More than 80% of the world's hazardous waste is produced in the United States and other industrial countries. Riverine ecosystems are endangered virtually everywhere by non-sustainable development and the over-use and misuse of limited freshwater resources. More than half of the world's major rivers are either heavily polluted and/or drying up in their lower reaches because of over-use, according to the World Commission on Water for the 21st Century. Of the world's 500 major rivers, 250 are seriously polluted and depleted from overuse. Contamination and overuse of river basins displaced some 25 million environmental refugees in 1998/99.

Half the world's wetlands have been lost, with most of the destruction taking place over the past 50 years. Since these fecund areas harbor a wealth of wildlife, their loss has contributed directly to the erosion of biodiversity and species loss. Lakes on every continent are affected. A recent review of 344 Ramsar sites - which include both wetlands and lake ecosystems - found that an alarming 84 per cent of them were suffering from ecological changes brought on by drainage for agriculture and urban development, pollution, introduced species and siltation. Furthermore, by 2025 some 3.5 billion people - 48% of the projected global population - will live in water stressed watersheds. The state of the world's freshwater lakes mirrors the problems afflicting the world's watersheds and rivers. Without integrated management plans, freshwater resources will continue to deteriorate. Life on Earth depends on healthy oceans - from coral reef communities teeming with life to mangrove swamps that provide a home for thousands of species. Our planet's oceans are in trouble and the plant and animal life they sustain are in jeopardy. As long as there is a reliance on oil in the world, there will be oil spills like the one off the coast of Spain, the one that threatened the Galapagos Islands, and the one in Alaska, where the effects are still being felt a decade after the fact.

In September 1969, 175,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from a barge near West Falmouth, Massachusetts. According to researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the residue from that spill, more than 30 years ago can still be found in salt marsh sediments. The finding demonstrates that oil persists in marine environments for a very long time - perhaps indefinitely - even though surface sediments recover quickly and appear healthy. The West Falmouth site has been studied extensively since the day of the spill and is considered a baseline for studies of the long-term impacts of petroleum hydrocarbons in marine sediments. "The long-term biological effects of oil contamination at this site is unknown since animals burrowing into these sediments can be exposed to high levels of some of these compounds," says Christopher Reddy, an assistant scientist at Woods Hole and lead author of the study. "It is clear from this study that oil spills can have a long-term impact on a coastal environment."

The link between economic growth and water degradation must be urgently broken (2002 Stockholm Statement, SIWI). A fundamental dilemma is that most of the processes that generate wealth also generate huge amounts of pollution. More attention to water pollution is imperative in order to avoid water pollution-driven convulsions that will otherwise threaten the world community in the coming decades.

"The theory of the Noosphere is today taking a new course. From being a theory of a primarily general scientific and philosophical nature, it is gradually becoming the theory of the development of the Noosphere - noo'genesis - which studies possible strategies for the transition of society to the age of the Noosphere. Its first stage is to define the permissible limits of economic activity. We know that there is some kind of 'forbidden limit' beyond which humankind may not cross in any circumstances. Beyond it begin irreversible processes that will convert the Biosphere to a new state wherein there may be no room for humankind. The risk of forfeiting the future is far too great to allow the human race to cross that boundary" (K.M.Stokes, 1992).

We invite INES members to join a new project "INES Water Action," and discuss trends of development on the website The concept of this project will be in accordance with main objectives of INES: ." encourage and facilitate international communication among engineers and scientists, * Promote collaborative and interdisciplinary research, * Publicise relevant research, contribute to education and scientific training and inform the public and professional colleagues. ...We are convinced that it is our continuous task to reflect on values and standards of behaviour which take into account basic human needs and our interrelationship with the biosphere... We hope that the synergy of different approaches will facilitate steps from vision toward action." Sustainable development is one of the INES main fields of activity and one of its aims is promoting environmentally sound technology. INES is affiliated with the United Nations and with the UNESCO, these organizations were concerned about the water as one of five central issues on the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

The INES Water Action concept also would be compatible with the Science and Environmental Health Network main principles: 27

"Human society in the twenty-first century bears a large responsibility to the Earth and its living systems. Our goal is to bring human activities into harmony with nature so that the Earth may continue to support all species with natural abundance and diversity. We acknowledge our kinship with nature and our dependence on robust, vibrant ecosystems. We acknowledge there are limits to our ability to understand or control the natural world of which we are part.

We acknowledge that for millennia, human activities have caused significant changes in our environment. However, the magnitude of changes in recent decades, especially the destruction of habitats, species, and ecosystem functioning, is unprecedented in human history and signals accelerating decline in many living systems. We recognize our obligation to protect and restore, where possible, the health and integrity of ecosystems.".. "Upholding the basic right of each individual (and future generations) to a healthy, life sustaining environment as called for in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights; Action on early warnings, when there is credible evidence that harm is occurring or likely to occur, even if the exact nature and magnitude of the harm are not fully understood."

The main principles of an "INES Water Action" could be: promoting technological innovations and information technologies for water quality monitoring, restoration and integrated management of aquatic ecosystems, promoting collaboration of engineers and scientists world-wide for global co-evolution of natural systems and human society, development and application of interdisciplinary approach, systems thinking and early warnings, conflict resolution. International information exchange is essential. "Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life" (Earth Charter).


Key Elements

 An emphasis on ecosystem health and biodiversity conservation, risk assessment (holistic approach).

 Design and implementation of information technologies for international monitoring networks ("ecological engineering"), hydro-informatics development.

 Establishing transboundary natural environmental standards on legal basis (international environmental law).

 Modelling aquatic ecosystems, interdisciplinary educational resource, environmental literacy and ethics development.

 Major part of the world's population live in basins shared by two or more countries.

 International cooperation on the basis of quality issues (pollution control and ecosystem protection) could prevent water conflicts.

As part of the project the development of the ABIN Consortium is suggested: "Automated Bio-monitoring International Network (ABIN) - strategic information system for benchmarking the health of aquatic ecosystems," exploring carrying capacity of lakes, rivers and wetlands, and coastal ecosystems. The aim of the ABIN Project - to establish the real cost of living waters, integrating scientific, technical and legal issues. Freshwater is the single most essential good for our well-being. Like a giant engine working day and night, the water cycle and inherent ecosystems are the life support of the planet.

The New York Times writes about the accounting standards (both financial and biological) to measure the success of conservation projects:28 "There's no industry standard, no Dow Jones," said M. A. Sanjayan, a scientist who is leading the conservancy effort. Some $120 billion is spent each year in the United States on protecting ecosystems, but until now, little work has been done to measure the returns. A recent report involving 150 leading scientists found that half the data needed to assess the health of ecosystems was not scientifically adequate. The Nature Conservancy is piloting a site-by-site auditing program that examines conservation plans, monitors threatened species, and determines whether managers have the resources to carry out their plans. "If this is done right, it will change the whole discussion about conservation," said Seth Neiman, a conservancy donor, "People will start asking, "What are your results?" We suggest international water pricing and pollution assessment on legal basis using natural criteria for the living (alive) water inhabited by the tiny organisms. Microscale testing methods and the earliest pollution prevention are the most cost effective. Applying information technologies we can develop universal "Dow Jones for water quality," relatively simple and inexpensive techniques for permanent global monitoring of water quality and sanitation. We use methods for water quality assessment based on the concept of model communities assessing biodiversity of microbial organisms having cosmopolitan distribution, so the outputs could be employed globally. Oil spills and chemical weapons contamination control based on automated buoy stations using new multisensing biosensors and image transmission via satellite networks could be a major part of the ABIN Project. Entering the information age requires integrative methodology that employs a holistic view of the multiple stresses and interactions in complex aquatic ecosystems.

The main features of the project are:

 rapid (early warning) biological monitoring systems development,

 global strategies (transnational standards) development,

 eco-realism of water quality assessment.

The ABIN Project was published recently at the Priorities For Russia's National Environmental Policy, Projects Portfolio (Project 17, Environmental Health).



Finally, the environmental crisis is the aftermath of the spiritual crisis in the human society, the wrong way of civilisation development. The human race has only one or perhaps two generations to rescue itself, according to the 2003 State of the World report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute. The longer that no remedial action is taken, the greater the degree of misery and biological impoverishment that humankind must be prepared to accept, the institute says in its 20th annual report. On the hopeful side, the report says that renewable energy technologies have now developed sufficiently to supply the world. They could significantly reduce the threat to the world from pollution - but currently there is a lack of political will to introduce them fast enough. "The belief in the unlimited power of the technological fix to solve all problems has blinded a large part of humankind, rich and poor, to the fact that the lifestyle of the rich industrialized nations is inherently unsustainable, whatever technological fix may be tried" (Philip Smith, 2002). The "business as usual" model is incompatible with both sustainable biosphere and social fairness - without spiritual component it leads to the catastrophe. As H.G. Wells (1921) remarked, "History becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe." In the 21st century the signs of oncoming crisis become evident. Ecological literacy must include not only technological issues, but also traditional spirituality of peoples, not included in the modern technocratic civilisation. It is the long, but necessary way to the disarmament, mutual understanding, global survival and co-evolution - we must change our lifestyles or die together with many species of the biosphere.



27. Icicle Creek Statement on the Precautionary Principle and Ecosystems, Lowell Statement on Science and the Precautionary Principle, see,

28. New York Times, Jon Christensen, 05 Nov 2002.


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Cracks are appearing in the foundation stones of our civilisation

Ken Coates

Prof. Ken Coates is Chair of the European Network for Peace and Human Rights. Both INES and INESAP are represented in the Liaison Committee of this network.

Long held taboos about national sovereignty have already fallen, outside the solitary bastion of the megapower. All other sovereignty is qualified if not abrogated. Now, the universal prohibition of torture is the latest victim of agnostic questions from new realists. On January 11th The Economist opened its first leader with the question: "Is torture ever justified?" With some diffidence, The Economist answered "No." But perhaps, it thought, sleep deprivation, lengthy interrogations, the use of the truth serum, might be defined as falling outside the domain of torture.

What provoked The Economist to think these thoughts? There has been a controversy in The Washington Post, triggered by an important article which appeared on December 26th 2002. "Deep inside the forbidden zone at the US-occupied Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, around the corner from the detention centre and beyond the segregated clandestine military units, sits a cluster of metal shipping containers protected by a triple-layer of concertina wire. The containers hold the most valuable prizes in the war on terrorism - captured Al Qaeda operatives and Taliban commanders."

This valuable cargo seems to have been made for ill-treatment. Non-cooperators are kept standing or kneeling for hours on end, hooded or clad in spray painted goggles. At times they are held in painful or awkward positions and deprived of sleep with a twenty-four hour bombardment of lights, under "stress and duress" techniques.

By contrast, co-operators are given modest creature comforts, friendly interrogators and, "in some cases, money." Some of the non-cooperators are given over to foreign intelligence services who are far less squeamish about torture than the Americans are supposed to be. This process of hand-over is called "rendering." Not all non-cooperative prisoners need to be "rendered" because the Americans maintain a number of detention centres where the due process which should rule in the rest of the United States does not hold sway. The off-limits ground in Bagram is one of these, and the island of Diego Garcia is another. American officials superintend most of the interrogations, we are told, especially those of senior captives. Smaller fry are handed over to less squeamish interrogators in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco, together with lists of the questions to which the CIA requires answers. These "extraordinary renditions" are subject to no legal controls, although the appointed torturers have frequently been the subject of angry denunciations by American human rights organisations. "According to US officials, nearly 3000 suspected Al Qaeda members and their supporters have been detained world-wide since September 11th 2001. About 625 are at the US military's confinement facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some officials estimated that fewer than 100 captives have been rendered to third countries. Thousands have been arrested and held with US assistance in countries known for brutal treatment of prisoners, the officials said." The head of the CIA's counter-terrorist centre is Cofer Black. "There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11" he said. "After 9/11 the gloves come off." Part of the glove stripping process is that of rendering. " We don't kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them." Mind-altering drugs are by no means the only devices employed in the administration of such kickings. Systematic deprivation of sleep, selective withholding of pain-killing drugs for wounded people, and other more or less "acceptable" cruelties are by no means the only standard treatment for rendered victims. Before they are rendered, says The Washington Post, captives are often softened up by MPs and US army special forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. Commonly they are blind-folded and thrown into walls, tied up in painful postures, exposed to loud noises, and an unremitting tone of intimidation. Prisoners taken for transport are "packaged," fitted with hoods and gags, and often tied to stretchers with duct tape. How does rendering proceed? The CIA has no standard formula for dealing with the cases it exports. Sometimes, for instance in Saudi Arabia, "we are able to observe through one-way mirrors the live investigations" said a senior US official. "In others, we usually get summaries. We will feed questions to the investigators." The Saudis have been very helpful to American enquiries, as was acknowledged by George Tenet in his speech of December 11th 2002. But, says The Post, Saudi Arabia is suspected of withholding certain information which might prove embarrassing to the Saudi royal family. This explains the increasing tendency for rendition to be moved from Riyadh to Egypt. Rendition to Jordan is comparatively popular because the Jordanians are considered to be very professional interrogators. "The most frequently alleged methods of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings on the soles of the feet, prolonged suspension with ropes in contorted positions and extended solitary confinement" said the 2001 report of the State Department on Human Rights in Jor-dan. Morocco is another popular centre for rendition, notwithstanding a recent official ban on torture, which human rights organisations believe to be more honoured in the breach than the observance. Another destination which provoked strong protests in Germany was Syria which accepted the rendition of a Syrian who also held German citizenship. Bob Woodward and his colleagues, who contributed to this report, gave rise to a considerable controversy. Prominent among the contributors was Professor Alan Dershowitz, who cal-led for the legalisation of torture to enable it to be controlled. Dershowitz is a civil libertarian, who wishes to put an end to the blind-fold culture of American interrogators, forcing them to apply for a torture order or warrant in each individual case where tortures are to be applied. The argument for such control is based on the presumption that illicit torture has been widespread and continuing. Since the CIA has beyond doubt been involved in training torturers in a variety of countries in Latin America and further afield, what Dershowitz says will ring true for many people. "If anyone has any doubt that our CIA, over time, has taught people to torture, has encouraged torture, has probably itself tortured in extreme cases, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn."

But the question is not whether we want to buy Professor Dershowitz's bridge. The legitimation of torture would undoubtedly mean an exponential increase in its use, given the present culture of rabid irrationalism. Of course, what is known to everyone who has worked in the field of rehabilitation of victims of torture is that the torture is not about the pursuit of information, but about the humiliation of its victims. It seeks to break their will to resist. It applies cruelty for the explicit purpose of de-humanising its victims. This purpose does not take account of or comprehend its unintended result which is the dehumanisation of the torturers themselves, and those who employ them.

It would be unwise to say that no truthful information is ever extracted by the administration of pain. But what is absolutely plain is that torture normally generates false confessions, because people will say anything to stop the pain, even if only intermittently.

After the war on Iraq there will be many more prisoners ready to be tortured, whether by "our own" specialists, or by suitable foreign volunteers from among the lackeys who are willing to assist in rendition. Cruelty will be in season. How will this conduce to the restoration of peace, or the development of human rights, or the growth of civilisation? We are about to establish new schools and universities of brutality, to which the only antidote known to us at this time is human sympathy and solidarity. This will be generated in the peace movement, or nowhere.

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Conference announcement

Global Ecological Integrity, Human Rights, and Human Responsibilities
Intersections Between International Law and Public Health

URBINO, ITALY, 27-06 - 02-07, 2003

with participation of:

The Integrity Group,
World Health Organization (WHO), European Centre for Environment and Health (ECEH), Rome, International Environmental
Law Foundation, Rome.

The Earth Charter Organization
is holding its annual meeting in Urbino, June 25-30, 2003 and
it will sponsor a one-day overlapping joint programme symposium with The Integrity Group. There will be three days
of intensive meetings involving both plenary papers and break-out discussion groups.

This conference will address issues of public policy. It will explore strategies to promote eco-justice under the umbrella
of human rights, considering the legal and political aspects of health and environmental sustainability. Scientific and ethical discussions of these themes will be essential to inform the discussion.

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