A bunch of American billionaires is trying to save the astronomically expensive nuclear industry – by getting taxpayers to pay for even more astronomically costly “little new nukes”.
Meanwhile in China, France UK, South Korea – and even in America, governments are desperately propping up the super costly “big old nukes’ .
In a world where charlatan Donald Trump can become USA President – the nuclear salesmen might well think that any fraud can be perpetrated on the public.
But not for long.
The genuinely clean energy transition is under way world-wide, and becoming ever cheaper.
The “peaceful” nuclear industry is intrinsically linked to the multi $billion nuclear weapons industry. Yet even the nuclear weapons industry is under threat, with the coming UN nuclear disarmament conference.
Even if concern for the public good does not stop the toxic nuclear industry – the unaffordable economic costs eventually will
OKUMA, Fukushima — In an attempt to minimize the risk to humans during the search for melted nuclear fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, robots have also been deployed to help out with the task.
However, the robots have also encountered some problems. For instance, a Toshiba Corp. robot that was sent in to clear away deposited material inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor failed to clear away much material, and within approximately two hours, its camera had broken.
According to Takahiro Kimoto of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), “The radiation inside the containment vessel was so intense that the images transmitted back from a camera attached to the robot were pitch black.” This was somewhat disappointing for the team working at the No. 2 reactor because by losing their robotic “eye” inside the containment vessel, they were unable to make the progress they were hoping for.
On Feb. 16, a “scorpion robot” was sent into the containment vessel. The intention of the mission was to locate melted nuclear fuel. However, deposited materials inside the vessel meant that the robot became stuck and was unable to move any further.
In the end, images from directly underneath the nuclear reactor were obtained not from the robot, but by “human means,” on Jan. 30. By using a pipe and a camera, the team was able to confirm the presence of holes in the platform. They also discovered brown and black deposited material, which appeared to be melted nuclear fuel. Therefore, some might say that “human methods” are more effective than robots in a mission of this nature.
According to TEPCO, “This was the first probe of its kind in the world. We were able to collect sufficient data.” However, critics would argue that six years have passed since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, and yet the exact situation regarding melted nuclear fuel at the site is still unclear.
Looking ahead, further difficulties are anticipated at both the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, where in the past, there have been hydrogen explosions. This is mainly because there are several meters of contaminated water underneath the containment vessels, and the radiation levels are stronger than at the No. 2 reactor.
There are plans to insert a robot inside the No. 1 reactor in March, but a date has not yet been set for the No. 3 reactor. Satoshi Okada of the nuclear power plant maker Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, which oversees the search at the No. 1 reactor, states, “In order to deal with the problem of melted nuclear fuel, we must first ascertain exactly how and where the melted fuel has been scattered inside the reactors.”
In summer 2017, TEPCO and the government will look into ways of withdrawing the melted nuclear fuel from the site, with the aim of commencing extraction work in 2021 — exactly 10 years after the initial disaster.
The Three Mile Island Disaster in the U.S. in 1979 will provide some kind of reference for TEPCO and the government, because in that particular case, the removal of melted nuclear fuel started 11 years after the initial accident. However, the situation at Fukushima appears to be more complicated than at Three Mile Island, because in the case of the latter accident, melted nuclear fuel was retained within pressure containers. Conversely, in the case of Fukushima, some of the material has seeped through the pressure containers.
With regard to the government and TEPCO’s decommissioning work, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka states, “It is still early to talk in such an optimistic way. At the moment, we are still feeling around in the dark.”
Time will tell as to whether the current plan for removing melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 power plant is a realistic possibility or just a pipe dream.
Japan lies at the middle of 4 tectonic plates. The pressure of the plates has produced 113 active fault lines in Japan’s crust. It has also 118 active volcanoes. 10% of the world earthquakes occur in Japan.
To talk about nuclear safety there is like taking bets with people lives, is like talking about a death wish.
The government has submitted to the Diet a bill to revise the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors. The bill includes the introduction of surprise inspections at nuclear plants by inspectors from the Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which would allow them to enter any part of a nuclear plant at any time, as well as a system where the state gives an overall evaluation to each plant based on the results of the inspections and other factors and release the data. These new systems are expected to come into operation in fiscal 2020.
With surprise inspections, it will be difficult for power companies to hide problems at their nuclear plants. And since evaluation results will be published and comparison among nuclear plants will be possible, the principle of competition comes into play, which is expected to encourage utilities to voluntarily develop safety measures at their own plants.
In the meantime, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) should work on boosting the number of nuclear plant inspectors and training such officials so that the revisions will lead to the improvement of nuclear plant safety.
The NRA was established in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant and new safety standards subsequently came into effect. Restarts of idled nuclear reactors based on the new standards are underway. At the same time, reviews on nuclear plant inspection systems had been put on the back burner.
The pillars of nuclear plant inspections conducted by the government and power companies are regular checkups, which are carried out about once every 13 months, and security examinations done four times a year. With regular inspections, facilities with higher levels of importance are screened, while security examinations mainly judge whether a nuclear plant is operated safely.
The dates and contents of these checks are set prior to the actual inspections, however, and the system lacks flexibility, preventing the government from acting on a case-by-case basis to check problems at each plant.
NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has said that there is corporate culture within power companies where they think their nuclear plants are fine as long as they pass safety checks by government regulators. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also pointed out that this way of thinking is problematic and the agency recommended Japanese authorities improve nuclear plant inspection systems in the pre-disaster year of 2007 and again in January 2016.
Under the proposed bill, the division of roles shared by the government and power companies will be clarified. Utilities would be solely responsible for making sure that facilities at their nuclear plants meet safety standards, while the government would take the role of a watchdog, monitoring power companies’ safety measures and how inspections are being carried out to give an overall evaluation for each plant. The results of surprise inspections will be included in a nuclear plant’s overall grade, which will be reflected in the next inspection.
The new inspection system was inspired by those employed in the United States and other countries with nuclear power. While Japan will catch up with those countries in terms of the system after the law is revised, that alone is not enough.
In the United States, where around 100 nuclear reactors are in operation, there are some 1,000 inspectors at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and they undergo a two-year training program. In Japan, on the other hand, there are only around 100 inspectors for more than 40 reactors, and they receive a mere two weeks of training.
Unless the quality and quantity of the nuclear plant inspectors are secured, the effectiveness of the new system would become questionable.
Furthermore, the overall grades for each nuclear plant should be released in a way to make it easier for the public to understand. The government should also consider ways to make good use of the system such as changing the premiums of liability insurance policies for potential nuclear accidents depending on the nuclear plants’ safety grades.
Although nearly six years have passed since the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in 2011, the search for the melted nuclear fuel inside the plant continues.
The operators of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), deployed over 800 workers inside the No. 2 reactor at the No. 1 plant between December 2016 and February 2017 — but so far, they have been unable to identify the location of the melted nuclear fuel.
TEPCO also plans to conduct studies inside the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, but they are surely headed for a rough road as the search for the melted nuclear fuel continues to be extremely difficult. It is likely that struggles in that search will have a negative effect on the government and TEPCO’s target of completing the Fukushima decommissioning work between 2041 and 2051.
Apart from humans, robots have also been involved in the search. In the case of the No. 2 reactor for example, robots have been used in the following way.
The mission to get a good look inside the No. 2 reactor containment vessel had four steps; first, workers would drill a hole measuring 11.5 centimeters in diameter into the containment vessel wall, allowing robots to enter the vessel; then workers would insert a pipe with a camera into the hole so that the situation inside the vessel could be observed; a cleaning robot would then be sent inside the vessel to clear away any sediment in the way for the next robot; and finally a self-propelled, scorpion-shaped robot would travel to the area directly below the nuclear reactor, in search of the melted fuel. However, a number of unexpected problems emerged along the way.
Heavy machinery giant IHI Corp.’s Keizo Imahori, 38, who oversaw the mechanical boring of the containment vessel in December 2016, explains that, “A number of unexpected dents were found on the floor of the nuclear reactor building.” This was a surprising discovery for Imahori and his team. The presence of the dents meant that it would be difficult for machines to get sufficiently close to the necessary areas to drill a hole, which in turn has a detrimental effect on the entire search for melted nuclear fuel.
As an emergency measure, 1-meter by 1-meter iron sheets were used to cover the dents, but workers involved in laying the sheets were exposed to extra radiation because of this additional work.
In addition to the dents, the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors at the Fukushima plant, which first started operating in the 1970s, had many parts that have undergone repair work not reflected in their original construction plans. It was impossible to check such changes in the structure beforehand due to high levels of radiation.
There was another problem — the machines could not be attached to the side of the containment vessel, which meant workers were unable to carry out drilling work. This was caused by the containment vessel’s paint peeling away. The problem was solved after workers peeled off the paint by hand, but this also caused them to be exposed to more radiation.
The hole-boring process at the No. 2 reactor took approximately 20 days to complete — during which, workers involved in the project were exposed to approximately 4.5 millisieverts of radiation on average. Based on national guidelines, many companies involved in decommissioning work set the annual upper radiation dose at 20 millisieverts for their workers. Therefore, workers can only be involved in this project up to five times before their level of radiation exposure exceeds the limit. However, as Imahori points out, “We have no way of knowing the situation unless we actually go in there.”
Nevertheless, in order to ensure that highly-skilled professionals with expert knowledge in nuclear power plants continue to be involved in the search for the melted nuclear fuel, it is necessary to use robots as much as possible to reduce the amount of radiation to which humans are exposed.
At the same time, with the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant being somewhat like a “burning house,” manpower is also required to make effective progress with the search. Yasuo Hirose, of IHI Corp., states, “If we completely rely on robots for the decommissioning work, they will not be able to deal with any unexpected problems. The decommissioning process is likely to be a very long task.”
Workers examine the inside of the No. 2 reactor containment vessel at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on Jan. 30, 2017.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has failed to grasp the entire picture of melted fuel possibly accumulating inside the container vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The radiation levels inside the vessel are extremely high, to the extent a human could be killed in less than a minute, and even a robot designed to conduct a probe inside went down quckly.
The Mainichi Shimbun visited the disaster-stricken plant late last year ahead of the sixth anniversary of the nuclear meltdowns at the facility in March.
On the early morning of Dec. 24, 2016, a group of 26 workers assembled at a building housing the No. 2 reactor when it was still dark outside. The workers were from heavy machinery giant IHI Corp. and other companies engaged in disaster recovery work. On top of their protective Tyvek suits, they were wearing special protective ponchos. They also had four-layer gloves on, with plastic tape wrapped around their wrists. The outfit made them sweat though it was the middle of winter.
In order for TEPCO to move ahead with decommissioning work on the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors at the plant, the utility needs to find out how much melted nuclear fuel lies inside the facilities, and where, in the aftermath of the meltdown of 1,496 fuel rods. The 26 workers were tasked with drilling a hole measuring 11.5 centimeters in diameter in the No. 2 reactor’s container vessel to open the way for the probe robot, using a remotely controlled machine.
Ryosuke Ishida, 28, an employee of a related company in Hokkaido, was in charge of removing the machinery that was used in the drilling work. In order to ward off the severely high radiation, he was wearing a lead jacket weighing 10 kilograms on top of his already tightly sealed protective gear. Each worker was allowed only five minutes for their task to keep their radiation exposure doses to no more than 3 millisieverts a day. The dosimeters they were carrying with them were set to beep when the radiation level reached 1.5 to 2 millisieverts, with an additional alarm set to go off when radiation doses hit every one-fifth of those levels.
Ishida’s dosimeter beeped just under a minute after he stepped inside the No. 2 reactor building. “Is it beeping already?” he thought to himself. The radiation levels vary greatly depending on where one stands inside the facility. Although Ishida had got a firm grasp on where the hot spots were during pre-training, he found himself “inadvertently standing on highly radioactive spots as I was focused on work.”
While trying to calm himself down, Ishida sped up his manual work. Alas, a machine component for turning a bolt fell off and rolled on the floor. “Damn, I’m running out of time,” he thought. His full face mask went all white as he sweated physically and emotionally, blocking his view. By the time he finished picking up the fallen component and wrapped up his work, he was sweating all over his body.
“It’s a battle against radiation at the site,” Ishida recalled. He added, though, “Because nobody else wants to do the job, I find it all the more worthwhile and take pride in it.”
Is Nuclear Experimentation Fascism? Wake Up World, 22nd January 2014 By Ethan Indigo Smith Contributing Writer for Wake Up World Definition of Fascism: “Any program for setting up a centralized autocratic national regime with severely nationalistic policies, exercising regimentation of industry, commerce, and finance, rigid censorship and forcible suppression of opposition.” ~ New Collegiate Dictionary based on Webster’s New International Dictionary second edition, copyright 1956.
….The United States was formerly one of the few anti-institutional, anti-oligarchical nations in the world, but we have succumbed to the oligarchical corporaculture that has been pushed for the last couple of hundred years, whether fused by labels like the divine rite of kings or by corporate personhood. The United States used to push for individual rights, but now we yield to violent fascism just like the rest of the intolerant world. Hell, we were once so anti-fascist and anti-oligarchy that it used to be illegal to do business in more than one American state, now the police and political system seems to only serve and protect business interests. But at what cost?
Imagine if this culture of anti-fascism were still the case, perhaps none of us would ever question our water supply, hijacked for a nuke plant or polluted by a petroleum conglomerate.
Learning from History
Recent events at Fukushima have highlighted the uncontainable dangers of nuclear experimentation. If one examines trends, there are bound to be more accidents, spills and ‘unprecedented events’ within the nuclear industry.
The first nuclear power generation experiment began at Oak Ridge in 1948, and first massive one began in the Soviet city of Obninsk in 1954. In the 65 years that followed, there have been numerous known meltdowns at nuclear facilities around the world, as well as environmental, human and political destruction at other sites that did not (by luck only) experience full meltdown.
Hanford, USA, 1943 – 1987……. Bikini Atoll, Northern Pacific Ocean, 1946……Windscale Fire, UK, 1957……. Santa Susana, USA, 1959…. Three Mile Island, USA, 1979……. Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986…….Rocky Flats Plant, USA 1987…… Fukushima Daiichi, Japan 2011….
Who is next?
The list goes on. And while this is a short summary of some of the nuclear industry’s worst failings – both environmental and political – what it does not take into account that there are now over four hundred nuclear power generation experiments in operation worldwide, and more being built, each one representing another potential disaster. Now factor in the endless radioactive pollution and dumped material (buried and sunken near you) involved in the process even when things go ‘right’ (by nuclear industry standards) and you get a clearer view of the impact of nuclear experimentation.
Under the terms of current policy, the US Federal Government simply incurs the financial costs and burden of dealing with nuclear ‘events’…. and by the ‘Federal Government’ I mean the U.S. taxpayer.
Regimentation of IndustryToday, the United States of America is fascist. So is China, Japan, Russia, France, England, Japan and every single nuclear nation. Australia is de facto fascist, being a major extractor of uranium for the nuclear fuel chain. The United States of America is fascist by way of one single act: The Price Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act. There are many more acts and laws that strengthen nuclear fascism in the United States, but The Price Anderson Act seals the deal. Its main purpose is to indemnify the nuclear industry against liability claims arising from nuclear incidents. And other countries have their own nuclear deals which also guarantee that those who profit from the nuclear industry are not held accountable for their work.
The Price Anderson Act illustrates the U.S.A.’s fascist trail, and that nuclear experiment cleared the way for it in the first place. The Act makes it so that nuclear power generation experiments can operate at all, otherwise no insurance corporation would insure them. The insurance companies that deal with nuclear experimentation only do so because the Act limits their responsibility in the event of an accident, such as the Fukushima meltdown. If there is an accident that costs more than the capped amount, insurance companies pay out up to and including their cap, and communities and governments foot the bill for the remaining clean up costs. Put simply…. they profit, you pay. Not to mention the non-financial costs of human and planetary health.
The Price Anderson Act endorses fascism in the United States, and in the bigger picture, nuclear experimentation guarantees fascism no matter what nation is doing the experimenting – whether Israel, China, Iran or the U.S. or Japan. The nuclear power industry could not survive without placing all the risk on the shoulders of taxpayers. And by doing so, the Price Anderson Act enables nuclear oligarchical fascists to make a fortune by endangering everyone and everything on the planet.
Even if nuclear facilities operated to their original design specifications rather than running components on extended operation (by years) and over-crammed fuel pools, as is the case today, the industry is still unworkable. But today, most if not all nuclear power generation experiments in the U.S.A. have fuel pools loaded with waste material beyond original design specifications, but the nuclear industry and its regulators seem content continuing down this path — and waiting for our grandchildren to figure out what to do with the mess they leave behind.
Censorship and Suppression of Opposition
Further fascism is evident through nuclear experimentation in the sense that it is a militaristic invention, put to use by engineering corporations that are linked with government entities, which also own news and information corporations. The GE/NBC corporation is the starkest, but not the only, example of this in the U.S.A. Being both the subject and reporter of news on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the GE/NBC corporation has placed itself in a clear conflict of interest. As the subsidiary of the failed nuclear reactor’s parent company, can you trust NBC News not to ‘spin’ glossy tales or omit details relating to the situation at Fukushima? Particularly details that might implicate GE in the chain of failings that caused the meltdown?
But news corporations are not the only parties able to censor or suppress information; government institutions have also closed ranks following the Fukushima disaster. As a prime example, the United States EPA (the supposed Environmental Protection Agency) went as far as disabling public access to radiation monitors in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown. Do they really believe what we can’t see won’t hurt us? Or is the EPA, as part of the US government, trying to avoid adverse political fallout?
Furthermore, the Fukushima disaster has led to a practical elimination of free speech and free reporting of information from within Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Designated Secrets Bill was arguably written for and because of the Fukushima disaster after authorities failed to manage the radioactive leaks and news spread around the globe. Since it could not contain the nuclear contamination, the Japanese government instead decided to contain information about it, creating laws that enable punishment of individuals for leaking or reporting information about their disastrous failure. Despite drawing criticism and protest at home and around the world, the Japanese parliament has since passed the law under which people convicted of leaking classified information will face 5 to 10 years in prison.
Clearly nuclear experimentation does not co-exist alongside freedom of speech or transparent access to information. It can only exist in a fascist state, which suppresses information and opposition.
Severely Nationalistic Policies
The only part of the definition of fascism that nuclear experimentation does not technically fit is that nuclear experimentation operates on an international level, not just a nationalistic one. However it seems even nuclear disaster rings opportunity bells for nationalistic governments.
As reported by Bloomberg in 2013, “Japan will receive international help with the cleanup at the Fukushima atomic station once it joins an existing treaty that defines liability for accidents at nuclear plants, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.” This means that the United States’ “offer” of assistance is conditional upon Japan signing onto an international convention known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, designed only to protect US nuclear interests from liability in the event of an accident. The U.S. Government has lobbied for the international adoption of the convention for many years, and now it seems it has Japan over a barrell. Surely this political opportunism qualifies as ‘severely nationalistic’ behaviour. Yet it in the United States, it seems we can barely distinguish this kind of fascism from the actions of true democratic government.
We are so confused in the United States that we call our country ‘America’, ignoring the unity of our ‘United States’. We are so confused that we equate freedom with liberty, but in actuality, freedom allows fascism. It allows people to punch you in the face without consequence or destroy ecosystems via oligarchical energy systems requiring destructive, extraction, refinement and use. We are so confused we think we can declare wars on other countries in the name of peace. We are so confused we think that digging up nuclear resources is different than digging up petroleum resources, but both nuclear and petrol fuels destroy human life, destroy ecosystems…. and destroy liberty.
Liberty is the oppositional factor against fascism and its facsimiles. Liberty is the quality individuals have to control their own actions. Liberty promotes the rights of individuals, whereas freedom allows oligarchical energy institutions to punch you in the face through The Price Anderson Act and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage…. and all the other reinforcements that build up institutions at the expense of individuals, allowing them to make uncapped fortunes without liability for their actions. https://wakeup-world.com/2014/01/22/is-nuclear-experimentation-fascism/
Four global nuclear industry giants ‒ French utilities Électricité de France (EDF) and Areva, US-based Westinghouse and Japanese conglomerate Toshiba ‒ face crippling debts and possible bankruptcy because of their investments in nuclear power.
The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities. EDF plans to sell $13.8 billion of assets to rein in its $51.8 billion debt, and to sack up to 7,000 staff. Areva has accumulated losses of over $14 billion over the past five years.
French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget ‒ the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about $17.5 billion. Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are “in tatters“, and now Areva itself is in tatters.
A government-led rescue of the nuclear power industry may cost the French state as much as $14 billion, Reuters reported in January, and in addition to its “dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems”.
Meanwhile, Japanese industrial giant Toshiba would like to sell indebted, US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse, but there are no buyers so Toshiba must instead sell profitable assets to cover its nuclear debts and avoid bankruptcy.
One site where these problems come together is Moorside in Cumbria, UK. A Toshiba/Engie consortium was planning to build three AP1000 reactors, but Toshiba wants to sell its stake in the consortium in the wake of Westinghouse’s massive losses from AP1000 construction projects in the US.
Engie reportedly wants to sell its stake in the Moorside consortium, and the French government has already sold part of its stake in Engie… to help prop up EDF and Areva!
Deck-chairs are being shuffled. Cumbrians will be glad to see the back of corruption-plagued Toshiba ‒ but corruption-plagued South Korean utility KEPCO might take its place.
Another site where these problems come together is Hinkley Point in the UK, where EDF has a contract to build two EPR reactors at an estimated cost (including finance) of $40 billion ($20 billion for each reactor). Industry literature is replete with references to ‘learning-by-doing’, but all EDF and Areva have learnt over the past decade is how to fuck things up ‒ in which case Hinkley Point could be the fuck-up that kills nuclear power in the UK.
The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever“, former EDF director Gérard Magnin said last November. He said: “A lot of people in EDF have known for a long time the EPR has no future – too sophisticated, too expensive – but they assume their commitments and try to save the face of France… Renewable energies are becoming competitive with fossil fuels and new nuclear, such as Hinkley Point, where EDF will try to build the most expensive reactors in the world and provide electricity at an unprecedented cost.”
EDF Vice President Mark Boillot may be preparing to jump ship ‒ he recently wrote an article saying that the centralised model of power production is dying, to be replaced by local renewables supplemented by batteries and intelligent management of supply and demand.
The Carbon Commentary Newsletter said: “In most jurisdictions Mr Boillot would have been asked to clear his desk. What will EDF do about one of its most senior people openly forecasting the end of the large power station as it tries to raise the ten billion euros necessary to pay for its share of Hinkley?” ………..https://newmatilda.com/2017/02/26/nuclear-power-is-in-crisis-as-cost-overruns-cripple-industry-giants/
Wild boars roam Czech forests – and some of them are radioactive http://www.reuters.com/article/us-czech-boars-idUSKBN1611G0 Reporting by Robert Muller and Jiri Skacel, editing by Larry King Feb 22, 2017 The Czech Republic has an unusual problem this winter with its wild boar meat, a local delicacy. The boars are radioactive.
Actually, it’s not the boars themselves, but what they’re eating. A cold and snowy winter is forcing them to feed on false truffles, an underground mushroom common in the Sumava mountain region shared by Czechs, Austrians, Germans – and wild boars.
The mushrooms can absorb high levels of the radioactive isotope Caesium 137. And three decades ago the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl released a fair amount of Caesium 137 that eventually drifted down on the Sumava mountains.
Now the boars are eating the mushrooms, and ingesting the Caesium 137 along with them. That’s making their meat radioactive, Jiri Drapal at the State Veterinary Administration told Reuters.
“It is more or less a seasonal issue,” Drapal said.
But it’s a long season. The half life of Caesium 137 is 30 years – that is, it takes 30 years for the radioactivity of the isotope to fall to half its original value. Then another 30 to fall to half again, and so on. The boars could be glowing for quite a while.
“We can expect to find (affected) food for a number of years from now,” Drapal said.
And that could cause some problems with the supply of boar meat, which is popular in the Czech Republic. It often shows up on restaurant menus in goulash, a thick stew of meat, sauce and dumplings.
Any boar that ends up as goulash ought to be safe. Every wild animal hunted, not only boars, must be inspected before its meat can get to customers. Radioactive meat is banned from circulation, Drapal said.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that 614 animals were inspected from 2014 to 2016, and 47 percent were above the limit – almost half.
The semi-good news is that even meat from radioactive animals would be a health hazard only in large doses, Drapal said. You would have to eat it several times a week for couple of months, to get sick, he said.
Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda., By Jim Green on February 26, 2017 “……….Utilities in crisis everywhere
Toshiba’s demise would not greatly concern the nuclear industry if it was an isolated case, but it is symptomatic of industry-wide problems. Nick Butler from Kings College London wrote in a Financial Times online post: “Toshiba is just one company in the global nuclear industry, but its current problems are symptomatic of the difficulties facing all the private enterprises in the sector. Civil nuclear power involves huge up-front capital costs, very long pay-back periods and high risks that are compounded by a lack of experience, especially in managing nuclear construction projects after a long period with few new plants. For all those reasons, private investors avoid the sector and prefer to put their money where they see faster and safer returns.”
Nuclear utilities around the world are in deep trouble ‒ their problems were summarised in the July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report:
“Many of the traditional nuclear and fossil fuel based utilities are struggling with a dramatic plunge in wholesale power prices, a shrinking client base, declining power consumption, high debt loads, increasing production costs at ageing facilities, and stiff competition, especially from renewables.
- In Europe, energy giants EDF, Engie (France), E.ON, RWE (Germany) and Vattenfall (Sweden), as well as utilities TVO (Finland) and CEZ (Czech Republic), have all been downgraded by credit rating agencies over the past year. All of the utilities registered severe losses on the stock market.
- French utility AREVA has accumulated €10 billion (US$10.9 billion) in losses over the past five years. Share value 95% below 2007 peak value. Standard & Poor’s downgraded AREVA shares to BB+ (‘junk’) in November 2014 and again to BB- in March 2015. …
- The AREVA rescue scheme could turn out to be highly problematic for EDF as its risk profile expands. EDF struggles with US$41.5 billion debt, downgraded by S&P, shares lost over half of their value in less than a year and 87% compared to their peak value in 2007.
- RWE shares went down by 54% in 2015.
- In Asia, the share value of the largest Japanese utilities TEPCO and Kansai was wiped out in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and never recovered. Chinese utility CGN (EDF partner for Hinkley Point C), listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange since December 2014, has lost 60% of its share value since June 2015. The only exception to this trend is the Korean utility KEPCO that operates as a virtual monopoly in a regulated market.
- In the US, the largest nuclear operator Exelon has lost about 60% of its share value compared to its peak value in 2008.”…….. https://newmatilda.com/2017/02/26/nuclear-power-is-in-crisis-as-cost-overruns-cripple-industry-giants/
Trump’s US nuclear stance alarms Russia http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/nthamerica/2017/02/25/trump-s-us-nuclear-stance-alarms-russia.html
Published: 10:16 am, Saturday, 25 February 2017 Russian politicians close to the Kremlin say US President Donald Trump’s declared aim of putting the US nuclear arsenal ‘at the top of the pack’ risked triggering a new Cold War-style arms race between Washington and Moscow.
In an interview with Reuters, Trump said the US had fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity, a situation he said he would reverse, and he said a treaty limiting Russian and US nuclear arsenals was a bad deal for Washington.
Russian officials issued no reaction, with Friday a public holiday, but pro- Kremlin politicians expressed consternation about the comments from Trump, who Moscow had hoped would usher in new, friendlier relations between the two countries.
‘Trump’s campaign slogan ‘Make America great again’, if that means nuclear supremacy, will return the world to the worst times of the arms race in the ’50s and ’60s,’ said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament.
The president’s remarks in the interview with Reuters were, Kosachev said in a post on his Facebook page, ‘arguably Trump’s most alarming statement on the subject of relations with Russia’.
Over the course of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the US realised that achieving supremacy was dangerous, and accepted the doctrine of parity as the best way to ensure peace, Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page.
‘Are we entering a new era? In my view we need an answer to that question as soon as possible.’
During the US presidential race, Trump said he would try to end the enmity that broke out between the Kremlin and Washington during Barack Obama’s presidency.
But just over a month into the Trump presidency, that prospect has receded, especially with the sacking of Michael Flynn, a leading proponent of warmer ties with Moscow, from his job as national security adviser.
Another pro-Kremlin lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s comments on increasing US nuclear capacity ‘put in doubt the agreement on limiting strategic arms, returning the world to the 20th century’.
He said a Cold War arms treaty laid the foundation for nuclear stability between Moscow and Washington. ‘That needs to be preserved. And the United States cannot achieve decisive superiority.’
‘Instead of trying to achieve an illusory nuclear supremacy over Russia, the US administration should find a solution to the exceptionally complicated nuclear problem of North Korea,’ wrote Pushkov, a member of the defence and security committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament. – See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/nthamerica/2017/02/25/trump-s-us-nuclear-stance-alarms-russia.html#sthash.fwqZWCfw.dpuf
– See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/nthamerica/2017/02/25/trump-s-us-nuclear-stance-alarms-russia.html#sthash.fwqZWCfw.dpuf
– See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/nthamerica/2017/02/25/trump-s-us-nuclear-stance-alarms-russia.html#sthash.fwqZWCfw.dpuf– See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/nthamerica/2017/02/25/trump-s-us-nuclear-stance-alarms-russia.html#sthash.fwqZWCfw.dpuf
Brace for impact: it’s time to build the fight for climate adaptation, New Internationalist, Feb 25 17
Responding to climate change is not just about curbing emissions, but also adapting to what has already changed, says Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik The fight to tackle climate change has two core branches: mitigation (curbing excessive greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (addressing the effects of climate change that are already unfolding). But although both areas are needed, the public tends to focus on the former in discussions on climate change.
The pressing priority is always to pull down emissions. Climate change is portrayed a future threat and our responsibility to act is framed in reference to our children and grandchildren. If environmental ruin is already here, it is deemed marginal compared to the tempests amassing on the horizon.
But this uneven focus on the future understates the gravity of present impacts. Today, climate change accounts for 87 per cent of disasters worldwide. Some of the worst droughts in decades are continuing to unravel across southeastern Africa and Latin America. Cyclonic storms, floods, wildfires, and landslides are bearing on the world’s most vulnerable populations.
The sudden violence of disasters is paralleled by the brutality of gradual change. Coastlines are being shaved and eroded by rising tides. The encroachment of sea water is increasing the salinity of littoral lands, leaving them withered and infertile. Rain patterns are shifting, shattering the millions who rely on the sky for sustenance. Every second, one person is forced to flee their home due to extreme climactic conditions.
This context of daily displacement and desolation means that the fight to tackle climate change today is fundamentally a fight to determine the fatality of the future. Yet adaptation, the crucial tool in that fight, has been side-lined and neglected.
So what is adaptation?
Adaptation means preparing our society for the climatic threats it faces and will face, insofar as we can. It means weaving safety nets for the world’s most vulnerable populations. It means bolstering river embankments, introducing measures to prevent diseases, building water-resistant infrastructure, expanding storm sewers and water storage, extending insurance, implementing disaster early-warning systems, and introducing a range of measures to palliate damage.
Some adaptation initiatives are already underway. From the Cook Islands to Morocco, farmers are adjusting practices and diversifying crops, to create a more climate-resilient agriculture. Current agricultural models, where monocultures breed vulnerability, are being transformed into biodiverse agrosystems.
In flood-prone areas, like Delaware, urban planners and citizens are reengineering and redesigning neighbourhoods to reduce the risk of inundation and future sea level rise. In urban areas prone to intense heat, like the Indian city of Ahmedabad (which lost 1,300 citizens to a 2010 extreme heat wave), municipal officials are implementing heat action plans which train health workers, distribute cooling supplies, open public areas for shade, and raise public awareness.
In some areas, the only plausible form of adaptation is abandon. In Fiji, villages such as Vunidogola are already being relocated after Cyclone Winston and other disasters devastated a number of settlements – while rising sea levels provide an additional layer of risk. The Fijian state has listed relocation as a top priority for the government.
A decade ago, the Maldivian government also organized a ‘staged retreat’, concentrating populations away from secluded islands threatened by rising sea levels. In Alaska, the citizens of Newtok have applied for federal disaster relief to finance their own relocation, as thawing permafrost erodes the land under their feet, pulling the village towards the Ninglick River. In China, the government has relocated over a million people away from areas governed by environmental hazards.
But adaptation is not just a technical exercise; it is also a struggle to shape what kind of world will greet the intensifying weather patterns of tomorrow. Whose lives will matter when the storms arrive? Will the seawalls we build to hold back the swelling tides be accompanied by walls to hold out those fleeing?
The challenge of adaptation directly exposes the climate crisis as a crisis of social justice. All disasters break open the wounds of unequal societies. Storms do not discriminate, but they do make landfall on landscapes riven by disparities of wealth, power and safety.
The labels of ‘natural disaster’ and ‘extreme weather’ can mislead us into thinking that the principal dangers we face stem from the atmosphere’s furies. But as geographer Jesse Ribot writes, ‘vulnerability does not fall from the sky.’ The wreckage of climate change is the product of collision: between environmental conditions and human realities.
This collision explains why women are far more likely than men to die in natural disasters and endure the slow violence of environmental degradation. It lies at the root of why ethnic minorities, the disabled, the silenced, and the neglected, are all disproportionately susceptible to the rigours of a changing climate.
Deep adaptation means challenging these inequities……….. https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2017/02/22/brace-for-impact-time-to-build-fight-for-climate-adaptation/
Yeo: Treasury needs to pour billions into nuclear projects , Telegraph UK 25 FEBRUARY 2017 The Treasury is facing calls to pour billions of pounds into a string of troubled new nuclear projects which threaten the UK’s energy supplies.
Tim Yeo, a former environment minister and energy committee chairman, is warning that the only way the Government can avert a crisis for the country’s nuclear programme is to take a direct financial stake in the projects.
Ministers should also actively encourage investment from nuclear companies in China, South Korea and Russia where the the industry is relatively insulated from the challenges faced by European companies thanks to strong state backing, he said.
Ministers are wary of involving the foreign powers in its energy security plans and have steadfastly resisted taking on the financial risk involved in nuclear construction.
In a letter to Business Secretary Greg Clark, the Tory grandee says there is a real danger that the pipeline of nuclear projects will fail to come on stream before 2030 unless Government agrees to intervene. Mr Yeo said the existing support regime, which guarantees a fixed price for each megawatt of power produced, does not go far enough to help investors who face billions in construction costs before the nuclear plant begins producing power……
Energy Innovation utilized the Energy Policy Simulator
(EPS) to analyze the effects of repealing the CPP. The EPS is an open-source computer model developed to estimate the economic and emissions effects of various combinations of energy and environmental policies using non-partisan, published data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. EPA, Argonne National Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, among others. The EPS has been peer reviewed by experts at MIT, Stanford University, Argonne National Laboratory, Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It is freely available for public use
through a user-friendly web interface or by downloading the full model and input dataset.
Our analysis compared a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario (based on existing policies as of mid-to-late 2016, not including the Clean Power Plan) to a scenario that includes a set of policies that narrowly achieve the Clean Power Plan’s mass-based emissions targets. Three important notes:
- First, the EPS works at national scale, so policies are represented as nationwide averages; that is, without individually modeling U.S. states.
- Second, a variety of different policies might be used to achieve the CPP targets. We analyzed a mixed package representative of how the EPA expects states to achieve their targets.
- Third, the EPS calculates results through 2050, but the CPP targets only extend through 2030. The policy package we use to represent the CPP includes continued policy improvement through 2050 at the same rate as in earlier years (that is, policies strengthen by the same amount each year from 2017 to 2050), rather than CPP policies becoming frozen at their 2030 levels.
We find that repealing the CPP would result in an increase of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions of more than 500 million metric tons (MMT) in 2030 and 1200 MMT in 2050, contributing to global warming and severe weather events, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts.
Nearly $600 Billion in Economy-Wide Costs
Cumulative net costs to the U.S. economy (in increased capital, fuel, and operations and maintenance (O&M) expenditures) would exceed $100 billion by 2030 and would reach nearly $600 billion by 2050.
It may seem ironic that removing regulations can result in increased costs to the economy, but regulations can help to overcome market barriers and similar problems that prevent certain economically-ideal outcomes from being achieved in a free market (for instance, under-investment in energy efficiency technologies).
120,000 New Premature Deaths
Although the CPP’s focus is on reducing carbon emissions, the same policies also reduce particulate pollution, which is responsible for thousands of heart attacks and respiratory diseases each year. Repealing the CPP would increase particulate emissions, causing more than 40,000 premature deaths in 2030 and more than 120,000 premature deaths in 2050.
Far More New Coal Capacity, Far Less New Renewables Capacity
Without the CPP, the U.S. electric grid would feature a larger capacity of coal power plants, while the capacity of wind and solar on the system would be smaller, as shown in the following table. [on original]
This finding is echoed by a new forecast from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which predicts that without CPP implementation, coal will become America’s leading source of electricity generation by 2019.
This slow-down in the transition to clean energy would cost the U.S. technological leadership in the rapidly-growing solar and wind industries and would cost the U.S. many jobs. Even today, when wind makes up 6.6 percent and solar 1.8 percent of total U.S. installed capacity, the solar industry employs 374,000 people and wind industry 101,000 workers, roughly two and a half times the 187,000 combined workers in the coal, natural gas and oil industries.
The stellar contribution of renewables to the U.S. economy was recently highlighted as an “American success story”
by a group of 20 Republican and Democratic governors who urged Trump to support renewables.
Clean Power Plan Repeal A Terrible Mistake For America
Repealing the Clean Power Plan would be a terrible mistake. A repeal would increase costs to the U.S. economy by hundreds of billions of dollars, cut years off the lives of tens of thousands of Americans and sacrifice U.S. technological leadership and job creation. For the future prosperity and strength of the country, the CPP should be preserved, and its targets should continue to strengthen through 2050 and beyond.
Drastic cooling in North Atlantic beyond worst fears, scientists warn https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/24/drastic-cooling-north-atlantic-beyond-worst-fears-scientists-warn
Climatologists say Labrador Sea could cool within a decade before end of this century, leading to unprecedented disruption, reports Climate News Network, Guardian, Alex Kirby , 25 Feb 17, For thousands of years, parts of northwest Europe have enjoyed a climate about 5C warmer than many other regions on the same latitude. But new scientific analysis suggests that that could change much sooner and much faster than thought possible.
Climatologists who have looked again at the possibility of major climate change in and around the Atlantic Ocean, a persistent puzzle to researchers, now say there is an almost 50% chance that a key area of the North Atlantic could cool suddenly and rapidly, within the space of a decade, before the end of this century.
That is a much starker prospect than even the worst-case scientific scenario proposed so far, which does not see the Atlantic ocean current shutdown happening for several hundred years at least.
A scenario even more drastic (but fortunately fictional) was the subject of the 2004 US movie The Day After Tomorrow, which portrayed the disruption of the North Atlantic’s circulation leading to global cooling and a new Ice Age.
To evaluate the risk of extreme climate change, researchers from the Environnements et Paléoenvironnements Océaniques et Continentaux laboratory (CNRS/University of Bordeaux, France), and the University of Southamptondeveloped an algorithm to analyse the 40 climate models considered by the Fifth Assessment Report.
The findings by the British and French team, published in the Nature Communications journal, in sharp contrast to the IPCC, put the probability of rapid North Atlantic cooling during this century at almost an even chance – nearly 50%.
Current climate models foresee a slowing of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), sometimes known also as the thermohaline circulation, which is the phenomenon behind the more familiar Gulf Stream that carries warmth from Florida to European shores. If it did slow, that could lead to a dramatic, unprecedented disruption of the climate system.
In 2013, drawing on 40 climate change projections, the IPCC judged that this slowdown would occur gradually, over a long period. Its findings suggested that fast cooling of the North Atlantic during this century was unlikely.
But oceanographers from EU emBRACE had also re-examined the 40 projections by focusing on a critical spot in the northwest of the North Atlantic: the Labrador Sea.
The Labrador Sea is host to a convection system ultimately feeding into the ocean-wide MOC. The temperatures of its surface waters plummet in the winter, increasing their density and causing them to sink. This displaces deep waters, which bring their heat with them as they rise to the surface, preventing the formation of ice caps.
The algorithm developed by the Anglo-French researchers was able to detect quick sea surface temperature variations. With it they found that seven of the 40 climate models they were studying predicted a total shutdown of convection, leading to abrupt cooling of the Labrador Sea by 2C to 3C over less than 10 years. This in turn would drastically lower North Atlantic coastal temperatures.
But because only a handful of the models supported this projection, the researchers focused on the critical parameter triggering winter convection: ocean stratification. Five of the models that included stratification predicted a rapid drop in North Atlantic temperatures.
The researchers say these projections can one day be tested against real data from the international OSnap project, whose teams will be anchoring scientific instruments within the sub-polar gyre (a gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents).
If the predictions are borne out and the North Atlantic waters do cool rapidly over the coming years, the team says, with considerable understatement, climate change adaptation policies for regions bordering the North Atlantic will have to take account of this phenomenon.
OMG measurements of Greenland give us a glimpse of future sea rise https://www.skepticalscience.com/omg-greenland-sea-level-rise.html 24 February 2017 by John Abraham If you meet a group of climate scientists, and ask them how much sea levels will rise by say the year 2100, you will get a wide range of answers. But, those with most expertise in sea level rise will tell you perhaps 1 meter (a little over three feet). Then, they will immediately say, “but there is a lot of uncertainty on this estimate.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t certain there will be sea level rise – that is guaranteed as we add more heat in the oceans. Here, uncertainty means it could be a lot more or a little less.
Why are scientists not certain about how much the sea level will rise? Because there are processes that are occurring that have the potential for causing huge sea level rise, but we’re uncertain about how fast they will occur. Specifically, two very large sheets of ice sit atop Greenland and Antarctica. If those sheets melt, sea levels will rise hundreds of feet.
Parts of the ice sheets are melting, but how much will melt and how fast will the melting occur? Are we talking decades? Centuries? Millennia? Scientists really want to know the answer to this question. Not only is it interesting scientifically, but it has huge impacts on coastal planning.
One reason the answer to this question is illusive is that melting of ice sheets can occur from above (warm air and sunlight) or from below (warm ocean waters). In many instances, it’s the melting from below that is most significant – but this melting from below is really hard to measure.
With hope we will have a much clearer sense of ice sheet melting and sea level rise because of a new scientific endeavor that is part of a NASA project – Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG). This project has brought together some of the best oceanographers and ice experts in the world. The preliminary results are encouraging and are discussed in two recent publications here and here.
In the papers, the authors note that Greenland ice loss has increased substantially in recent decades. It now contributes approximately 1/3 to total sea level rise. The authors want to know whether this contribution will change over time and they recognize that underwater processes may be the most important to study. In fact, they note in their paper:
Specifically, our goal is improved understanding of how ocean hydrographic variability around the ice sheet impacts glacial melt rates, thinning and retreat.
In plain English, they want to know how water flow around Greenland affects the ice melt.
Their experiments are measuring a number of key attributes. First, yearly changes in the temperature of ocean water near Greenland. Second, the yearly changes to the glaciers on Greenland that extend into the ocean waters. Third, they are observing marine topography (the shape of the land underneath the ocean surface).
The sea floor shape is quite complicated, particularly near Greenland. Past glaciers carved deep troughs in the sea floor in some areas, allowing warm salty water to reach huge glaciers that are draining the ice sheet. As lead OMG investigator Josh Willis said:
What’s interesting about the waters around Greenland is that they are upside down. Warm, salty water, which is heavy, sits below a layer of cold, fresh water from the Arctic Ocean. That means the warm water is down deep, and glaciers sitting in deep water could be in trouble.
As the warm water attacks marine glaciers (glaciers that extend into the ocean), the ice tends to break and calve, retreating toward land. In some cases, the glaciers retreat until their grounding line coincides with the shore. But in other cases the undulating surface allows warm water to wear the glacier underside for long distances and thereby increase the risk of large calving events.
Oftentimes, when glaciers near the coast break off they uncork other ice that can then more easily flow into the oceans.
Click here to read the rest
Nuclear Power Is In Crisis As Cost Overruns Cripple Industry Giants, New Matilda., By Jim Green on February 26, 2017 “………‘Rapidly accelerating crisis’
Shellenberger has recently written cataclysmic assessments of nuclear power’s “rapidly accelerating crisis” and a “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.
Likewise, Dan Yurman says that a “sense of panic is emerging globally” as Toshiba exits the reactor construction industry. He adds: “After nine years of writing about the global nuclear industry, these developments make for an unusually grim outlook. It’s a very big rock hitting the pond. Toshiba’s self-inflicted wounds will result in long lasting challenges to the future of the global nuclear energy industry. Worse, it comes on top of the French government having to restructure and recapitalize Areva, its state-owned nuclear power corporation, so that it can complete two 1650 MW EPR reactors that are under construction in Europe and to begin work on the Hinkley project the UK.”
Ironically, Westinghouse, the villain in Toshiba’s demise, may have made the best strategic decision of all the nuclear utilities. In 2014, Westinghouse announced plans to expand and hopefully triple its nuclear decommissioning business. Decommissioning is undoubtedly a growth area.
The average age of the global reactor fleet now stands at 30 years. The World Nuclear Association anticipates 132 reactor shut-downs by 2035. The International Energy Agency anticipates a “wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors” and an “unprecedented rate of decommissioning” ‒ almost 200 shut-downs between 2014 and 2040. Up to 200 reactors are set to go offline in the next two decades according to a recent Nuclear Energy Insider article……… https://newmatilda.com/2017/02/26/nuclear-power-is-in-crisis-as-cost-overruns-cripple-industry-giants/