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Wrap up of the week’s nuclear news

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

Iran.  Fears of a USA/Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities escalate in the context of the USA’s Republican Party’s contest for presidential candidacy. Fears that Iran will cut off oil routes and plunge USA (?and the world) into an economic recession.

Climate change. USA’s National Center for Science Education starts a timely new campaign to defend climate education in schools.  Report on the world’s warming atmosphere. The chance that Europe will experience colder weather, due to huge pool of fresh  water in Arctic ocean.
Japan’s nuclear crisis is far from over. Revelations that the government kept vital information from the public, on radioactive plumes, while informing the USA military. Inadequate monitoring of radiation fallout, especially regarding the Pacific Ocean. Much debate, and Japanese media subservient to nuclear industry and government. TEPCO to be effectively nationalised to save it from bankruptcy.
UK government panic as Scotland moves for independence. That would mean a super-expensive move of Trident nuclear base from Scotland to England.
Lots of issues in USA’s nuclear industry. Federal court rules in favour of nuclear company against State of Vermont – but it’s early days in this legal battle. Public opposition hardening against uranium mining in Virginia.
France’s government debating a Bill to return two Pacific atomic bomb test island to the indigenous people.

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Canada’s government kept mum about Fukushima radiation fallout

 he’s asking questions about rain which fell on Calgary shortly after the nuclear disaster last March, containing radioactive iodine well above the Health Canada guidelines for drinking water.

“There are certain people who might be concerned — for instance, a pregnant woman,” 

Fukushima fallout hit home   Nuclear critic says Health Canada should have issued warning on radioactive raindrops  BY MICHAEL PLATT ,CALGARY SUN, 22 Jan 12,  There’s no need to panic — probably.

But not knowing whether to shrug or cower over radioactive iodine falling on Calgary as a result of a meltdown in Japan last year has Canada’s top nuclear critic wondering why.

“There’s no need to be concerned, but what you should be concerned about is why the authorities are so quick to dismiss it,” says Dr. Gordon Edwards. Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Canada, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

The long road to safety- not bombing Iran

How About Not Bombing Iran? NYT, Bill Keller, January 22, 2012,  If you need more convincing of the grave risks of a preemptive bombing attack on Iran, I recommend these freshly published arguments from Colin H. Kahl, who was until recently Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East in the Obama administration; R. Nicholas Burns, who was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the George W. Bush administration; and my Times colleague Roger Cohen, who sums it up this way:

Here’s the bottom line: an Israeli attack unites Iran in fury, locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation, cements the Syrian regime, radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition, ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border, boosts Hamas, endangers U.S. troops in the region, sparks terrorism, propels oil skyward, triggers a
possible regional war, offers a lifeline to Iran just as Europe is about to stop buying its oil, adds a Persian to the Arab vendetta against Israel, and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years.

But if not bombing, then what?……

January 24, 2012 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Netherlands nuclear plan shelved

 Utilty Shelves Nuclear Plans In The Netherlands –...– Move highlights tough climate for nuclear energy programs… WSJ, By Maarten van Tartwijk, JANUARY 23, 2012  AMSTERDAM (Dow Jones)–In the latest example of waning appetite for atomic power in Europe, Dutch utility Delta NV said Monday it has shelved its plan to build a second nuclear plant in the

.. The move comes against a backdrop of waning appetite for new nuclear power programs. Last year’s disaster at the Fukushima plant in Japan has prompted many European governments to review their atomic power policies on renewed safety concerns. Germany even decided to fully exit nuclear power, and offset the lost electricity with a
massive buildup of renewable energy….

January 24, 2012 Posted by | business and costs, EUROPE | Leave a comment

The nuclear boondoggle – plans for consumers to pay upfront for nuclear power build

Regulators: Nuclear plan could cost Iowa residents  By MIKE GLOVER, Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2012, DES MOINES, Iowa   A proposal to shift the expense of building a nuclear power plant from the utility to consumers by billing them in advance for construction costs isn’t in the public interest, Iowa regulators said.

The proposal, which didn’t clear the Legislature last year but could be considered again this session, would let MidAmerican Energy begin billing customers for the plant’s $1 billion or more construction long before it begins providing power.

An analysis by the Iowa Utilities Board summarized in a Dec. 23 internal memo and provided Monday to The Associated Press warned that the plan placed all the risk on consumers, who would pay to research the project before MidAmerican even committed to construction.

“The company would be guaranteed a profit on all spending up to this point,” it said. “This could create a stronger incentive to walk away form a plant than complete it.” ….

The analysis warns the plan would turn traditional utility regulation on its ear.  “This provision would exempt proposed nuclear plants from the existing requirement that a public utility that proposes a new plant must show that it has considered feasible sources of long-term supply and the proposed plant is reasonable when compared to those alternatives,” it said.

It also says the proposed changes could affect more than just nuclear power in Iowa.

“While the current bill restricts those changes to nuclear power, staff believes some provisions may go beyond leveling the playing field and could give a nuclear power plant unintended advantages over alternative sources of electric power,” it said.

Sonia Ashe, of the Iowa Public Interest Research Group, said the analysis merely underscores worries that consumers have had all along.

“The notion that Iowa ratepayers should foot the bill and shoulder the risk for new nuclear plants is pure folly,” Ashe said. “Let’s hope the Iowa Utilities Board staff analysis opens lawmakers eyes to the real risks they’d be passing on to their constituents and puts the final nail in the coffin of this nuclear boondoggle.” ….,0,5049950.story

January 24, 2012 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Paradoxical effect of climate change – a cooler Europe?

Huge Pool Of Arctic Water Could Cool Europe: Study, Planet Ark,: 23-Jan-12,  UK,  Nina Chestney ,A huge pool of fresh water in the Arctic Ocean is expanding and could lower the temperature of Europe by causing an ocean current to slow down, British scientists said Sunday.

Using satellites to measure sea surface height from 1995 to 2010, scientists from University College London and Britain’s National Oceanography Center found that the western Arctic’s sea surface has risen by about 15 cms since 2002.

The volume of fresh water has increased by at least 8,000 cubic km, or about 10 percent of all the fresh water in the Arctic Ocean. The fresh water comes from melting ice and river run-off.

The rise could be due to strong Arctic winds increasing an ocean current called the Beaufort Gyre, making the sea surface bulge upwards.

The Beaufort Gyre is one of the least understood bodies of water on the planet. It is a slowly swirling body of ice and water north of Alaska, about 10 times bigger than Lake Michigan in the United States.

Some scientists believe the natural rhythms of the gyre could be affected by global warming which could have serious implications for the ocean’s circulation and rising sea levels.

Climate models have suggested that wind blowing on the surface of the sea has formed a raised dome in the middle of the Beaufort Gyre, but there have been few in-depth studies to confirm this.

If the wind changes direction, which happened between the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, the pool of fresh water could spill out into the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even into the north Atlantic Ocean, the study said.

This could cool Europe by slowing down an ocean current coming from the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe relatively mild compared with countries at similar latitudes.

“Our findings suggest that a reversal of the wind could result in the release of this fresh water to the rest of the Arctic Ocean and even beyond,” said Katharine Giles at UCL’s Center for Polar Observation and Modelling and lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The team plans to investigate further the relationship between sea-ice cover and wind changes

January 24, 2012 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Double standards of the West in sanctions against Iran

Like sanctions, war will not work either. A war could not deter Iran from pursuing its nuclear program and seeking nuclear weapons. 

The flaw in the arguments used by the United States, Israel and the European Union against Iran’s nuclear program is the apparent double standard. How can the US expect to persuade Iran to relinquish its nuclear program when America has acquiesced to India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons? The US has even signed a nuclear partnership pact with India…….

Accepting the inevitable: A nuclear IranDAILY NEWS EGYPT, By   Mamdouh G. Salameh      January 22, 2012, The only sanctions able to hurt Iran are those that ban its crude oil exports, but getting the international community to agree on such sanctions is virtually impossible.

The international political and economic repercussions of these sanctions would be so huge that they are not worth pondering. Even if, by the very unlikely chance, such sanctions were agreed upon by the United Nations Security Council, Iran’s retaliation would be immediate and destructive.

Iran could easily mine the Strait of Hormuz in the face of the 17 million barrels of oil a day (mbd) exported by the Arab Gulf oil producers. This would push the price of oil to more than $150-$200 a barrel (it is currently about $100 a barrel). The biggest loser, of course, would be the biggest oil consumer — namely the United States, which imports 12-14 million barrels of oil every day. This would spell an economic catastrophe for the United States in particular and the world-at-large. Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

Nuclear power and water rights in Utah

“the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is notorious for cozying up to the nuclear industry and basically never says no,” 

“approval of the application doesn’t actually guarantee there will be enough water to operate the plant.”

Water Rights Approved for Nuclear Plant 01.22.2012 by Whittney Evans, (KCPW News) Utah State Engineer Kent Jones has approved water rights from the Green River for Blue Castle Holdings’ proposed nuclear power plant in Emery County, much to the dismay of environmental groups.
Matt Pacenza, Policy Director of the anti-nuclear group HEAL Utah, says the decision was the only opportunity for a Utah official to reject the plan. He says the company now faces two hurdles, the easier of which will be getting permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“Although the process will take several years and will cost them quite a bit of money, the NRC is notorious for cozying up to the nuclear industry and basically never says no,” he says. “So one imagines that they will fairly easily convince Washington bureaucrats that it’s okay to put a nuclear reactor in Utah.”

Pacenza says the bigger hurdle is finding investors and customers for the power. Rob Mrowka with the Center for Biological Diversity says taking almost 54,000 acre-feet of water a year from the Green River would impact rare fish, among other problems. “…to the point of perhaps driving those already listed for protection to the point of extinction and necessitating the addition of the other three to the endangered species act list of protected species,” says Mrowka.

A call to the state engineer’s office was not returned. In a news release, he said concerns raised about the water rights application were considered, adding that an application must be approved by law if the water is available, it won’t interfere with existing water rights, and it would not be detrimental to the public welfare. And approval of the application doesn’t actually guarantee there will be enough wate rto operate the plant.

January 24, 2012 Posted by | USA, water | Leave a comment

World’s groundwater being depleted

since the year 1900 up to the year 2008, something in the order of 4,500 cubic kilometres of depletion; most of that occurring in the last 50 years. That’s how much less water is in the ground today than 108 years ago.

Audio   Is the world facing a groundwater crisis? ABC Rural radio Dubravka Voloder reported this story on   January 23, 2012 MARK COLVIN: Water is not just a sensitive subject in Australia. In a crowded world of seven billion people, water is an increasing source of friction and the lack of it could have damaging results.

International water researchers say that water shortages could affect world food production in the next few decades unless something’s done about it. The scientists are meeting in Sydney to discuss whether there’ll be a groundwater crisis.

Dubravka Voloder reports. Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Resources -audiovicual, water | Leave a comment

Oyster Creek nuclear plant will close, despite pro nuclear court ruling about Vermont

jurisdictional issues over safety and water quality mean the Vermont Yankee ruling has little impact on the agreement to close Oyster Creek. 

Every day Oyster Creek strains 1.4 billion gallons of bay water through its cooling system, he said. The bay only has 60 billion gallons of water. The strain Oyster Creek puts on the bay is equivalent to 2.4 percent of the bay’s water each day and 800 percent each year.

“It’s just a gargantuan death machine as far as fish eggs and plant larva,” 

Oyster Creek Stands By Closure Plan Despite Federal Court Ruling ‘No similarities’ between Vermont ruling and Lacey nuclear plant’s planned shutdown, DEP says Lacey Patch, By Elaine Piniat, 23 Jan 12,  Oyster Creek will stick to the plan to close in 2019 after a federal judge ruled that the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant could remain open beyond its scheduled shutdown date, plant spokesperson Suzanne D’Ambrosio said.

“We made a commitment to our regulators and to the public,” she said. “Our commitment and our plan is to retire Oyster Creek in 2019. That’s the plan.”
A U.S. district judge in Brattelboro, Vt., ruled Thursday that the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant could remain open beyond its scheduled shutdown date this year, the Washington Post reported. The state had originally ruled against Vermont Yankee’s federal operating license, which gives the plant 20 more years to operate.

Advocates opposed to Oyster Creek have showed concerns that this federal decision could impact the Forked River-based nuclear plant’s closure date. Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | USA, water | Leave a comment

Vermont has a good case to appeal federal court’s pro nuclear decision

 Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pronounced the decision “ripe for appeal.’’ “I believe the law is very clear, and that states have the right to reject nuclear power for economic and other non-safety reasons,’’ he said.

 First Round: Entergy 1, Vermont 0 NYT By MATTHEW L. WALD  January 20, 2012As I wrote in Friday’s New York Times, the first round in federal court has gone to Entergy, the electrical power production company that does not want to shut down its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The state of Vermont has been seeking to close the plant when its initial 40-year federal operating license expires on March 21.

Had the court decision gone the other way and the state had prevailed, it conceivably could have ended there. That’s because the cost of maintaining a reactor and paying the plant’s staff are roughly the same whether it is running or not. If the judge, J. Garvan Murtha in Brattleboro, had sided with the state, Entergy would have faced a painful decision on whether to keep the plant on standby after March 21 while waiting for the issue to work its way through the courts.

Entergy had already rolled the dice by buying fuel in anticipation of a favorable decision.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted a 20-year extension, but Vermont lawmakers had passed a law that effectively gave themselves veto power over renewal of the license. Judge Murtha ruled that federal law trumps the state’s action because “radiological safety” is solely the province of the federal government.

Entergy could still lose on appeal. Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Vermont Public Service Board to consider Vermont Yankee nuclear plant

Vermont Yankee foes ponder next moves, Boston Globe, MONTPELIER, January 21, 2012 Lawmakers supporting the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant appear to be pinning their hopes on the state Public Service Board.

But lawmakers say they are uncertain of their own strategy now that US District Judge J. Garvan Murtha has ruled against the state’s efforts to close the plant. Vermont had a law saying the plant must get legislative approval to operate for another 20 years, but the judge
rejected that.

He also said the state cannot shut down Vermont Yankee based on a lack of legislative approval for storage of high-level radioactive waste. The judge sent the case back to the Public Service Board, and the three-member panel is expected to reopen its review on
whether to grant the certificate. (AP)

January 24, 2012 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

France’s General Assembly likely to block the return of Pacific atolls to indigenous people

FRANCE EXPECTED TO BLOCK RETURN OF NUCLEAR ATOLLS , Pacific Islands Report Test veterans concerned about condition of sites WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan.20, 2012) – French Polynesia’s nuclear test veterans organisation says it expects France’s centre-right majority in the National Assembly to block a bill seeking the return of the nuclear weapons tests sites to French Polynesia.

The leftist majority in the French senate approved the bill by Richard Tuheiava who wants Paris to return Moruroa and Fangataufa in 2014 in line with an undertaking that France would only keep the atolls for the duration of the tests.

However, the French government claims confidential defence issues remain.

The head of Moruroa e tatou veterans group, Roland Oldham, says this prevents an independent assessment of the atolls which are feared to collapse with the release of radioactive plutonium.

“For Moruroa e tatou it is very important. In fact right now Moruroa and Fangataufa are forbidden places for the public; it is a military place. And because it is a military place we don’t have much information about the situation of Moruroa.”

[PIR editor’s note: Veterans groups are also concerned that France does not allow independent inspectors to visit the atolls.]

Roland Oldham says he expects the ruling UMP to block the bill once it gets to the French National Assembly. Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

January 24, 2012 Posted by | France, politics | Leave a comment

Virginia citizens want permanent ban on uranium mining

Virginia Conservation Network works on a broad range of environmental issues all across the state, but never have I seen such an issue galvanize people like the prospect of uranium mining,” said director Nathan Lott. ”Black and white, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat – Virginians agree that mining is just too risky.”

Citizens expressed deep concerns about the potential contamination of water sources in the Roanoke River watershed

Citizens pack General Assembly offices to voice opposition to uranium mining,Star Tribune,  January 23, 2012   RICHMOND – Citizens from across the state converged in the Capitol Monday to call on their elected representatives in the General Assembly to keep Virginia’s 30-year ban on uranium mining.

Following significant warnings from the National Academy of Sciences, the ban will now remain in place for 2012. Citizens are seeking to make that victory permanent.

To highlight their message, they offered legislators “yellowcake” cupcakes with the message: “These yellow cakes are not harmful – but making uranium yellowcake and leaving behind radioactive waste in Virginia is. Protect our health, our
heritage and our future. Keep the Ban on Uranium Mining in Virginia.” Also, the Keep the Ban Coalition announced that over the last year, more than 10,000 citizens have signed an online petition or sent emails to Virginia legislators urging them to keep the ban, and 102 organizations and government entities – from the cities of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Roanoke to the state chapter of the NAACP and Halifax County Chamber of Commerce – have either passed a resolution or taken other action expressing deep concerns about impacts that would result from lifting the ban.
“Virginia Conservation Network works on a broad range of environmental issues all across the state, but never have I seen such an issue galvanize people like the prospect of uranium mining,” said director
Nathan Lott. ”Black and white, urban and rural, Republican and Democrat – Virginians agree that mining is just too risky.”
Citizens expressed deep concerns about the potential contamination of water sources in the Roanoke River watershed Continue reading

January 24, 2012 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

French nuclear company warns on safety of Scottish nuclear reactor

New safety fears for Ayrshire nuclear power station, Herald Scotland, 22 Jan 12 By Rob Edwards, The company that runs the nuclear reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire is warning that their safety could be jeopardised by plans to build a huge coal-fired power station next door. EDF Energy says that the construction and operation of the controversial new plant could block the evacuation routes of staff and deprive its site of electricity and vital cooling water in an emergency.

It is also worried that discharges from the coal plant could compromise reactor cooling systems.

The French nuclear company has lodged a formal objection to an application by Ayrshire Power to build a £3 billion coal station at Hunterston. Following rejection of the application, which attracted more than 20,000 objections, by North Ayrshire Council in November,
the Scottish Government has now confirmed that it will go to a public inquiry later this year……

January 24, 2012 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment