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Nuclear power always has been, always will be, an economic failure

Having failed miserably a second time, the industry is demanding another round of massive subsidies, relaxed oversight, and pampered treatment for a third bite at the apple.

The biggest mistake policy makers could make is to allow the search for yet another nuclear holy grail to delay the transition to a 21st century electricity grid. 

Why The Economics Don’t Favor Nuclear Power In America Forbes Staff, Contributor  by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. 20 Feb 14From 2011 through 2013, as the overwhelming majority of the new reactors that had been proposed as part of the “Nuclear Renaissance” were abandoned or delayed, the industry blamed low natural gas prices. In 2013, when five old reactors were retired early, and today with many old reactors being considered for early retirement, the industry blames low wholesale prices that result from a market that is distorted by the entry of subsidized wind power.

The irony in these complaints is that for fifty years the selection of generating capacity has been rigged in favor of nuclear power with socialized accident insurance and waste management costs, forced purchase of overpriced power, and advanced recovery of construction costs. Nuclear advocates complaining about policies that balance things out a bit to give other generation resources a decent chance of delivering electricity would be laughably hypocritical, if it weren’t so important. In fact, if the playing field were actually level, nuclear would be in even more trouble than it is.


The nuclear hypocrisy does not stop with complaints about subsidies. The nuclear utilities continue to complain about the challenges of the safety and licensing requirements imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, even after they convinced Congress to streamline and reform the process in the 2005. Yet, these challenges are matched by the obstacles utilities put in the path of alternatives at the public utility commissions, with hostile interconnection requirements, unfair contract conditions and uneconomic tariffs

The fifty year failure of nuclear power to be economically competitive compels nuclear advocates to label every pro-consumer analysis as anti-nuclear. The anti-nuclear label is used to avoid the inconvenient truth about nuclear: it is and has been unable to compete economically with the alternatives available. More importantly, it is not likely to be able to compete for the foreseeable future.

The economic reality is that efficiency and natural gas can keep the lights on and computers running at a fraction of the cost of nuclear power and the cost of wind and solar have been declining dramatically. Utility scale solar with storage is entering the market, as is utility scale battery storage. The decision to give them a boost, is paying off. These alternatives have exhibited the one characteristic that has always eluded nuclear, declining costs driven by innovation, learning, and economies of scale.

In contrast to the success of the alternatives, the projected cost of nuclear power has increased five-fold since technology vendors and academic boosters declared the “Nuclear Renaissance” in the mid-2000s. If the industry had been able to deliver on the hype of a decade ago, it would not be in such dire straits.  Continue reading


February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

100-tonne radioactive water leak at Fukushima nuclear plant

water-radiationTEPCO discovers 100-tonne radioactive water leak at Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan ABC Radio Australia, 20 February 2014, A new leak of 100 tonnes of highly radioactive water has been discovered at Fukushima after TEPCO revealed only one of nine thermometers in a crippled reactor was still working. A new leak of 100 tonnes of highly radioactive water has been discovered at Fukushima, the plant’s operator said after it revealed only one of nine thermometers in a crippled reactor was still working.

The tank, one of hundreds at the site that are used to store water contaminated during the process of cooling broken reactors, sits about 700 metres from the shore. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power says the toxic water is no longer escaping from a storage tank and is likely contained, but the news is a further blow to the company’s already-battered reputation for safety…….

The tank holds water filtered to remove caesium but which still contains strontium, a substance that accumulates in bones and can cause cancer if consumed.

The accident came a day after TEPCO announced that one of the two thermometers in the lower part of the No.2 reactor pressure vessel was out of order.

There were originally nine thermometers in the vessel, Kyodo News reported, but eight have now stopped working.

TEPCO said it can still monitor the temperature of the area with the remaining thermometer, Kyodo News and the Asahi Shimbun reported……..

TEPCO poured thousands of tonnes of water onto runaway reactors to keep them cool, and continues to douse them, but has to store and clean that water in a growing number of temporary tanks at the site.

In August, TEPCO said about 300 tonnes of radioactive liquid was believed to have escaped, an incident regulators said represented a level-three “serious incident” on the UN’s seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.

Two months later, the Fukushima plant had another leak of radioactive water containing a cancer-causing isotope, possibly into the sea.

At that time, TEPCO said a barrier intended to contain radioactive overflow was breached in one spot by water contaminated with strontium-90 at 70 times the legal limit for safe disposal.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

USA nuclear loan guarantee the last gift to a dying industry?

Loan Program for Reactors Is Fizzling, NYT, By MATTHEW L. WALDFEB. 18, 2014 WASHINGTON Moniz,-Ernest— Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is set to announce on Wednesday that he will finish a $6.5 billion loan guarantee this week and another soon for $1.8 billion to help three Georgia electric companies build the first new nuclear reactors in the United States in three decades.
But the announcements are coming far later than anticipated and may effectively end a program that Congress established in 2005 to jump-start a new generation of nuclear plants. At one point, the program was expected to support more than $50 billion in loans for nuclear projects.

The guarantees are to go to Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, which owns 45.7 percent ofthe Vogtle nuclear project, near Augusta, and theOglethorpe Power Corporation, a nonprofit consortium of smaller companies, which owns 30 percent. A third company, MEAG, a consortium of municipals, which owns 22.7 percent, will get a guarantee of $1.8 billion soon, according to government officials.

Little in the nuclear loan guarantees program has gone as planned. Congress authorized $17.5 billion in lending authority in 2005, on the theory that a nuclear renaissance was about to begin but that it would require credit help from Washington. In 2011, the administration, with bipartisan support, called for adding $36 billion.

But the construction boom never happened. The Energy Department offered a $2 billion guarantee toAreva, a European nuclear company, to build an enrichment plant in Eagle Rock, Idaho, but Areva later dropped the construction plans. Another company, USEC, is seeking a $2 billion loan guarantee for the same purpose, to commercialize a new enrichment technology it is demonstrating in Piketon, Ohio, but it is having a hard time convincing the department that it is a good investment……..

Antinuclear groups have predicted that Vogtle would never be finished or be profitable and that the government would never recover its investment. But Southern has a strong balance sheet and captive customers, whom the Georgia Public Service Commission can force to pay for the investment.
The Vogtle loan guarantees may be the only ones under the program. ……

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) doomed to failure

Why The Economics Don’t Favor Nuclear Power In America Forbes Staff, Contributor  by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. 20 Feb 14, “………..The buzz surrounding small modular reactors among nuclear advocates over the past couple of years is another example of the nuclear hype cycle. The industry is demanding massive subsidies and further relaxation of licensing and safety requirements.


Independent analysts think the cost per kilowatt hour will not be less than the cost for the current crop of large reactors and is likely to be more for a significant period. The economic traits that are supposed to make small reactors attractive—small size, short construction periods, flexible deployment—are exhibited by many of the other alternatives. Westinghouse, one of the leading U.S. vendors, has recently nixed further investment in small reactors, even though its partner in Missouri, Ameren , had extracted $40 million in support from the state. The reason Westinghouse gave – “no customers” – was a quintessential real world market answer……

The ultimate irony is that small modular reactors and large scale carbon capture and storage are both hypothetical resources that are a decade or more away. In the meantime, the other alternatives are advancing like a freight train. By the time the new base load technologies reach their cost floor, it is very likely they too will be unable to compete……

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Americium and plutonium the highest ever at New Mexico nuclear waste site

Record radiation detected at New Mexico waste site after nuclear alert, February 20, 2014 The highest ever levels of radiation have been detected at a New Mexico nuclear waste repository. The latest readings come hot on the heels of a radiation leak that triggered a lockdown of the entire facility at the beginning of the week.

Scientists monitoring the area around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, picked up trace elements of radioactive materials in the air. Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center said quoted by AP the readings of americium and plutonium were the highest ever detected at the disposal site. …..

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Uranium mining has devastated Navajo land

Amid Toxic Waste, a Navajo Village Could Lose Its Land NYT, By DAN FROSCH,FEB. 19, 2014 CHURCH ROCK, N.M. — In this dusty corner of the Navajo reservation, where seven generations of families have been raised among the arroyos and mesas, Bertha Nez is facing the prospect of having to leave her land forever.

The uranium pollution is so bad that it is unsafe for people to live here long term, environmental officials say. Although the uranium mines that once pocked the hillsides were shut down decades ago, mounds of toxic waste are still piled atop the dirt, raising concerns about radioactive dust and runoff.

And as cleanup efforts continue, Ms. Nez and dozens of other residents of the Red Water Pond Road community, who have already had to leave their homes at least twice since 2007 because of the contamination, are now facing a more permanent relocation. Although their village represents only a small sliver of the larger Navajo nation, home to nearly 300,000 people, they are bearing the brunt of the environmental problems………

These days, this sprawling reservation, about the size of West Virginia, is considered one of the largest uranium-contaminated areas in United States history, according to officials at the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency has been in the throes of an expansive effort to remove waste from around this tiny and remote Navajo village, and clean up more than 500 abandoned mine areas that dot the reservation……..

Between 2008 and 2012, federal agencies spent $100 million on the cleanup, according to the E.P.A.; an additional $17 million has been spent by energy companies determined to be responsible for some of the waste.

But the scope of the problem is worse than anyone had thought. The E.P.A. has said that it could take at least eight years to dispose of a huge pile of uranium mine waste that has sat near Red Water Pond Road since the 1980s — waste that must be removed before the area can finally be free of contamination.

But before the latest round of cleanup can begin, an application to remove the waste pile must be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which will then conduct environmental and safety reviews. That process will probably take two years, and there is the possibility that public hearings on the plan could extend the process several more years, said Drew Persinko, a deputy director for the commission.

That time frame seems unreasonably long for tribal members, who said that spending so long living away from the reservation has been difficult. So far, the E.P.A. has spent $1 million on temporary housing for residents of Red Water Pond Road;……

Today, the site near Red Water Pond Road holds one million cubic yards of waste from the Northeast Church Rock Mine, making it the largest and most daunting area of contamination on the reservation……..

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

US sailors copped extremely high levels of radiation near Fukushima

text ionisingStudy claims USS Reagan crew exposed to extremely high levels of radiation near Fukushima RT.comFebruary 20, 2014  A new report on the nuclear crisis that started to unfold in Fukushima, Japan almost three years ago suggests that American troops who assisted with disaster relief efforts were exposed to unheard of radiation levels while on assignment.

Kyle Cleveland, a sociology professor at Temple University Japan, makes a case for that argument in an academic paper published in the Asia-Pacific Journal this week titled Mobilizing Nuclear Bias: The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Politics of Uncertainty.

According to Cleveland, transcripts from a March 2011 conference call obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that United States servicemen on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier experienced radiation levels 30-times above normal during relief operations that week……..

The latest report, NextGov’s Bob Brewin wrote, comes only days after the attorneys representing 79 USS Reagan crewmember filed an amended lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO., which has been accused of negligent with regards to maintain the Fukushima nuclear facility ahead of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that started the emergency.Attorneys for those servicemen are asking TEPCO for $1 billion in damages, and say that the infant child born of one of the crewmembers since the incident has a rare genetic disorder likely brought on by radiation exposure.

Attorneys in that suit say that “up to 70,000 US citizens [were] potentially affected by the radiation,” and might be able to join in their suit.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The last of the loan guarantees?

nukes-hungryThe First – And Last – Nuclear Loan Guarantees? Power Engineering, By Sharryn Dotson, 19 Feb 1Many in the nuclear industry finally exhaled their bated breath as the U.S. Department of Energy finalized $6.5 billion loan guEnergy Secretary Ernest Moniz made the announcement at the National Press Club during a speech about the nation’s “all of the above” energy strategy. Moniz finally said what the industry had been waiting for: that nuclear is, in fact, a part of that strategy. Finalizing at least two of the loan guarantees solidified that point. Co-owners Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power finalized their loan guarantees, while co-owner Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) is scheduled to finalize a $1.8 billion loan guarantee by July 31, 2014.

With a $15.5 billion price tag attached to the new builds in Georgia, the loans cover half of the projected costs, which still have a chance to increase before construction is completed in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Friends of the Earth said a credit subsidy fee of between 0.8 percent and 1.5 percent is supposed to insulate against default on the loan, but barely covers risks in major nuclear construction.

In the four years that talks have gone on, five nuclear plants announced they would be permanently shut down and plans for at least two new builds were canceled due to low natural gas prices and low wholesale market prices. Dropping costs of natural gas, wind and solar will not help make new nuclear look more attractive financially in the short-term, and plant operators will not be too keen to jump through the hoops to receive government incentives. ……

I have a feeling that these will probably be the last loan guarantees used to fund new nuclear power projects for a while. Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning reiterated the issues surrounding talks with the DOE in a June 2013 article with our media partner GenerationHub. Fanning said that the DOE was treating the loans as “project financing” instead of “corporate financing,” and the backlash from the Solyndra bankruptcy in 2011 helped stoked the flames of fear that surrounded any future loan guarantees…..

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Japanese govt keen to restart nuclear reactors

Abe,-Shinzo-nukeJapan to fast-track some nuclear restarts; may break logjam Feb 19 (Reuters) – Japan will fast-track the restart of some nuclear reactors, the regulator said on Wednesday, potentially breaking a logjam that has kept the country without nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Making a priority list for a few nuclear plants will move them forward in an approval process that has become bogged down in laborious safety checks and paperwork.

It remains unclear when any of Japan’s 48 reactors could come back on-line, but fast-tracking the process is good news for the nuclear industry, which had been hoping to begin the restarts by the middle of this year.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), an independent body created in 2012, said it will craft a priority list of plants that meet its earthquake and tsunami criteria as early as next month, selecting a few to expedite from six pressurised water reactors run by Kansai Electric Power Co, Kyushu Electric Power, Hokkaido Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power………..The regulator began vetting restart applications from eight utilities last July under new, tougher guidelines. The process has already run over the initially expected six months, with no end in sight. The NRA has come under fire from utilities and Japan’s biggest corporations for the slow pace in approving restarts.

Regulatory officials will compile reports on a handful of prioritised plants, which will then be handed off for public comment for an additional four weeks. The NRA will also hold townhall meetings in local communities where plants are based to field any scientific and technical questions…….

NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said comments byTrade and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi  or pressure from utilities did not affect decisions by the regulator. “This has absolutely no impact on our review,” he said. “There is no chance we will be swayed.” (Reporting by Mari Saito and Kentaro Hamada; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Groundwater at Fukushima nuclear plant has record level of radioactive Cobalt-60

Record level of Cobalt-60 detected in groundwater at Fukushima — Hundreds of times above any measurement ever published for underground water (MAP)

Monitoring at the East Side of Unit 1-4 Turbine Buildings, Feb. 18, 2014:

Feb. 13, 2014:  Co-60 @ 770 Bq/L
Feb. 17, 2014:  Co-60 @ 750 Bq/L

See also: Update from NHK: “Record cesium level” in groundwater at Fukushima — 30,000 times higher than nearby well sampled last week — 50 meters from ocean (VIDEO)

And: Radioactive cesium levels “never seen before” at Fukushima — New record as amount in groundwater nearly doubles in 24 hours — Officials admit ‘may be new leak’ — IAEA urges ‘resumption’ of dumping contaminated water in ocean; ‘All options’ need to be on table (

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

, nuclear power – even with federal subsidies – has been priced out of the market.”

New nuclear plant gets $6.5 billion federal loan. Nuclear comeback? Christian Science Monitor,By , Staff writer / February 19, 2014 One of the first new US nuclear projects to be built in decades is getting a multibillion dollar boost from the federal government……”There have been bumps in the road in the short term,” says Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group that advocates for nuclear technology. “Overall, we feel optimistic about the potential for nuclear energy’s growth in this country.” …….


 The $6.5 billion approved for the Vogtle plant and an additional $1.8 billion still under negotiation may be the last of the federal dollars going to nuclear power in the near term.

“Meanwhile, the cost of natural gas, solar and wind power has dropped dramatically,” Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement. “Put simply, nuclear power – even with all of the federal subsidies it enjoys – has been priced out of the market.”

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Issues of time and cost rule out nuclear power as a solution to climate change

globalnukeNONuclear power running out of juice  By Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Thursday, February 20, 2014  Recently a friend asked me about the role of nuclear power in addressing climate change, an issue that divides the environmental movement, and one worth examining……….

Since splitting atoms doesn’t release fossil carbon, nuclear is described by some as a ‘clean’ or ‘green’ energy source, even though there are some carbon emissions in the mining and processing of nuclear isotopes, and in the construction of nuclear plants, as well as other toxic or radiation issues………

The question then really comes down to cost and time. Climate change is a slow but inexorable process; we don’t have to change overnight (which is good, because we can’t) but we must start moving in the right direction now and build momentum. We can’t afford to wait to start later, and we have only so much money to accomplish what needs be done.

That’s where the red flags go up. A nuclear renaissance is slow; if we dive in today, it will be a decade before the new plants come on line. In contrast, new renewable energy can be installed steadily in the meantime, and be producing more energy each year, starting from year-one. So a switch to renewables is a better fit for the time pressure we face.

Then there is the money issue: the costs of existing nuclear technology are huge, many hidden behind government subsidies or relaxed insurance rules. By putting all our eggs into a nuclear basket, we would run short of funds to implement existing and new technologies of efficiency and conservation to reduce energy demand, or improve and expand renewable generation. Quite simply, we can’t afford to do both.

These time and cost issues remain a problem whether considering existing nuclear technologies, prospective next generation ones or the switch to thorium that some propose as an alternative. Thorium, a somewhat cleaner or less risky fuel than uranium, is still unproven at the commercial scale, still presents weapons proliferation risks, and still would take years or decades and cost huge sums to establish. Too little, too late, for too much……..
 looking forward, nuclear seems too slow and costly a path to redemption, while renewable energy is already established, becoming steadily cheaper and ready to go right now.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plutonium detected in highest ever radiation around US nuclear facility

Airborne plutonium detected outside troubled U.S. nuclear facility — Expert: ‘Radiation event’ appears to have occurred, leading to a release; “Levels are highest ever detected” around site

Carlsbad Current-Argus,, Feb. 19, 2014: Traces of radiation have been found approximately half a mile northwest of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant […] Tests by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center […] showed evidence of trace amounts of americium and plutonium on an air filter Wednesday afternoon […] [CEMRC director Russell] Hardy said even though trace amounts of radiation were detected between Tuesday and Sunday, it’s important to note that radiation levels have been “very low and are well below any level of public and environmental hazard.”
Press release from Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center Feb. 19, 2014: “The levels detected during this time period are higher than the normal background levels of radioactivity from transuranic elements commonly found at this sampling station, thus their presence during this specific time frame appears to indicate a small release of radioactive particles from the WIPP underground exhaust shaft in the brief moments following when the radiation event occurred and when the WIPP ventilation system shifted to the filtration mode.”

AP, Feb. 19, 2014: […] radiation [is] in the air a half-mile from the site […] radioactive isotopes americium and plutonium […] [Hardy] says the levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site but are far below those deemed unsafe by the Environmental Protection Agency. The readings came after a radiation alert over the weekend from an underground sensor at the site. Hardy says readings will be completed next week on filters collected from that underground sensor and an air monitor closer to the plant.
Initial ENE report from SundayAlarm after ‘unusually high’ radiation levels at U.S. nuclear site — Gov’t: “We’ve never seen a level like we are seeing… I can’t tell you the amount” — Could be Plutonium — ‘Unclear’ how much radiation released — Unprecedented event (VIDEO)

See also: LA Times: Expert says ‘radiological process’ may have forced material out of container at US nuclear site, “Could be a mess”; Officials saying little about extent of problem — Levels remain too high to let in non-essential personnel — Air monitors not allowed to collect filters

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Female astronauts have double the cancer risk of men, due to radiation in space

EU scientists set out to tackle radiation-related gender issues in space, Cordis, [Date: 2014-02-19] Why are there more men than women in space? The answer might not be as straightforward as you first think. According to physiological models used by NASA, female astronauts have a lower threshold for space radiation than their male counterparts, meaning opportunities for space exploration are more limited for them.

Radiation exposure from a long time spent in deep space or on the surface of certain planets is thought to cause an increase in the probability of developing cancer. According to NASA, the added risk of a male developing cancer on a 1 000-day Mars mission lies somewhere between 1 percent and 19 percent. The odds are worse for women. In fact, because of breasts and ovaries, the risk to female astronauts is nearly double the risk to males. This means that while all astronauts are somewhat are limited in the missions they can fly, the limitations on female astronauts are far harsher. …….

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thorium fuelled nuclear reactors aere simply not economically viable

Thorium fuel not viable, Prof Glen Lawrence, Gelugor, 20 Feb 14,…….Thorium does not undergo fission like uranium or plutonium, but would have to be used in combination with fissionable materials such as uranium and plutonium to produce a fissionable form of uranium that could then be used as a fuel.

Although thorium is abundant in the earth, the technology for using thorium to produce nuclear fuel has not been developed because it is not economically viable.
n addition, the nuclear waste generated would also have to be disposed, just like all nuclear waste should be, but countries like the United States have been putting off disposal since the beginning of nuclear power generation and now have thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste sitting at each reactor site.

Nuclear power has never been cost effective and would not exist anywhere without huge government subsidies.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment