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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Osaka governor says Japan should debate need for nuclear weapons

OSAKA – Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, the head of Osaka Ishin no Kai, has voiced support for a national debate on whether or not Japan should possess nuclear weapons.

“With the perfect right to collective self-defense, we should debate whether our troops can completely cover the needs of our own country,” Matsui said during an informal meeting with reporters Tuesday at Osaka’s prefectural office. “If we possess weapons, the ultimate weapon will become necessary.”

The call for a national debate follows comments made by U.S. Republican presidential candidate and front-runner Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times where he said he would be open to both Japan and South Korea possessing nuclear weapons and the U.S. withdrawing its forces from the two Asian countries.

Touching on Trump’s statement, Matsui said he thought it would be best if Japan did not possess a nuclear arsenal, as it had been bombed by such weapons.

But, in calling for debate on the issue, he added: “What do we do if America’s military strength (in Japan) disappears? Wishful thinking doesn’t get us anywhere.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government’s top spokesman, has said in the past that Japan will maintain the three nonnuclear principles that prohibit it from owning, developing and transporting nuclear weapons.

Matsui’s comments also came the same day the nation’s new security laws — which are expected to bind the U.S. and Japanese militaries even closer together — came into effect. It was also just a few days after the party released its basic plan for constitutional revisions.

Osaka Ishin leaders are close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Suga, who see Matsui and his party as potential allies on a number of issues, including amending the Constitution.

The Osaka governor’s comments are believed to reflect the sentiments of other right-leaning politicians as well.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/30/national/politics-diplomacy/osaka-governor-says-japan-debate-need-nuclear-weapons/#.VvvKo8fH87Q

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

NRA approves TEPCO’s plan to freeze underground walls of soil at Fukushima plant

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NRA approves TEPCO’s plan to freeze underground walls of soil at Fukushima plant

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) decided on March 30 to approve Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s plan to gradually freeze underground walls of soil around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, starting with shields on the ocean side.

With the NRA’s approval, TEPCO, the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex, is to begin work as early as March 31 to freeze the walls built around the buildings of reactors Nos. 1 through 4 at the plant. The walls are designed to prevent underground water from flowing into the reactor buildings. But such a large-scale “wall of ice” has not been introduced anywhere in the world and it is unclear how much underground water the frozen shields will be able to prevent from flowing into the crippled nuclear complex.

Under the project to build the frozen soil walls, coolant chilled to a temperature of minus 30 degrees Celsius is to circulate through 1,568 pipes that are driven into the ground to a depth of around 30 meters, to create a “wall of ice.” The project is aimed at preventing underground water from entering the reactor buildings and reducing the amount of contaminated water being generated. If the project goes as planned, work to freeze the walls is expected to be completed in about eight months. TEPCO estimates that the walls will help the utility reduce the inflow of underground water to several dozen tons per day from the current 150 to 200 tons.

TEPCO is to gradually freeze the walls, starting with the one (about 690 meters) on the ocean side first, while leaving seven sections (a total of about 45 meters) on the mountain side unfrozen. TEPCO had initially planned to freeze all of the walls at once. But if the levels of underground water around the reactor buildings drop drastically, contaminated water remaining in the reactor buildings could flow out. So the NRA called for the gradual freezing of the walls. TEPCO then accepted the NRA’s suggestion.

The frozen-soil wall project is considered to be a key measure to deal with contaminated water along with the so-called “subdrain” project designed to reduce the amount of water being contaminated by removing underground water from wells around the reactor buildings. TEPCO started inserting pipes into the ground in June 2014 and completed its preparations to begin freezing the walls in February this year.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160330/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

TEPCO given OK on freezing soil at Fukushima plant

The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave the go-ahead to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to freeze the soil around the reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from the seaside on March 30.

The aim of the frozen soil wall is to block the flow of groundwater into the reactor buildings to prevent it from becoming contaminated with radioactive substances.

The utility has already inserted 1,568 pipes to a depth of 30 meters in the ground around the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings. The plan is to circulate liquid with a temperature of minus 30 degrees through the pipes to freeze the surrounding soil.

TEPCO’s plan is to first freeze the entire wall on the seaside and about half of the wall on the mountain side.

The effects of completing the frozen wall on the seaside are expected to show after about six weeks with water being prevented from flowing through. Then, the frozen portions on the mountain side will be gradually increased. When 95 percent of the wall is frozen, TEPCO will suspend the freeze, leaving cracks in seven places to allow some water through.

The utility predicts that with 95 percent of the entire soil wall frozen, about half of the groundwater will be blocked.

To freeze the entire wall on the mountain side, TEPCO will have to gain further approval from the NRA.

Initially, the electric power company planned to freeze soil only on the mountain side. However, the NRA pointed out that if groundwater is totally blocked from the mountain side, the level of water within the frozen soil near the reactors could become too low and with nothing outside to stop it, highly contaminated water inside the reactor buildings could more rapidly flow out.

Because of that, TEPCO decided in February that it will freeze the soil mainly from the seaside and collect data on the level of groundwater and, after that, it will freeze the entire wall.

“It is important to collect sufficient data in a continuous manner and implement the freezing while keeping watch,” said NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka.

The plan to create the frozen soil wall was developed by an economy ministry committee in May 2013 as an important part of measures to decrease the volume of contaminated water. The work to insert pipes into the ground was completed in February.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201603300074

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Public-private council launched to turn Fukushima into green energy hub

JIJI MAR 28, 2016  FUKUSHIMA – A public-private council tasked with devising measures to turn Fukushima Prefecture into a renewable energy hub has been set up in the city of Fukushima. …. (subscribers onlyhttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/28/national/social-issues/public-private-council-launched-make-fukushima-renewable-energy-hub/#.Vvtazpx97Gh

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan, renewable | Leave a comment

Prosecutors innocent TEPCO over radioactive water leakage into the ocean

The court said there is no evidence that proves that radioactive water flew out of the Fukushima nuclear power plant to the ocean. I hope this would finally convince those who haven’t been convinced that the state of Japan denies truth and violates peoples lives. Its time to get rid of Abe et al.

Prosecutors drop TEPCO case over radioactive water leakage

FUKUSHIMA–The Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced on March 29 that it will not prosecute Tokyo Electric Power Co. or its executives for violating an environmental pollution law.

The decision came two and a half years after a group of plaintiffs, including residents of Fukushima Prefecture, filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and its 32 current and former executives.

The group sought to bring charges against the utility and its executives for allowing radioactive contaminated water to be discharged into the sea.

In its decision, the prosecutors said there was “insufficient” evidence to press charges against TEPCO and some of its executives, including Naomi Hirose, company president. The remaining executives, the prosecutors said, “had no authority or responsibility to set measures to avoid the leakage in the first place,” therefore, the accusation has “no grounds.”

“The Fukushima police investigated the case for almost two years. It is extremely disappointing,” said Ruiko Muto, 62, the head of the plaintiff’s group, at a news conference in Tokyo on March 29. “We wanted them to look into the case further. We can’t accept this decision.”

The group is planning to appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. The group will meet with its lawyers on March 30 and decide on whether it will pursue further action.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201603300068

Charges ruled out for Tepco figures over Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water spillage into sea

FUKUSHIMA – Public prosecutors decided on Tuesday not to indict Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Naomi Hirose and other current and former executives of the utility over radioactive water leaks from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

Sufficient evidence was not found, the Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office said.

In September 2013, a civic group filed a criminal complaint against 32 current and former Tepco executives, including Hirose and Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of the operator of the northeastern nuclear power plant, saying tainted water leaked from storage tanks into the ocean due to their failure to take preventive measures.

Through its investigation, the Fukushima Prefectural Police concluded that some 300 tons of stored radioactive water had flowed into the sea as of July 2013 because Tepco executives neglected to monitor the tanks or take leak-prevention measures, and sent the case to the prosecutors last October.

The prosecutors said there was no evidence supporting the allegation that the leaked tainted water was carried into the sea by groundwater at the plant, which suffered meltdowns following the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The group said it will ask for a prosecution inquest panel’s investigation.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/03/30/national/crime-legal/charges-ruled-tepco-figures-fukushima-no-1-radioactive-water-spillage-sea/#.VvtU1-IrLIU

 

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Look At The Millions Of Bags Of Radioactive Dirt That Japan Has No Plan For

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Five years after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan still faces another four decades or more of cleanup. One of many problems is what to do with the massive amount of contaminated soil from the site—which is now in a growing pile of bags stacked on former farms in Fukushima.

A new photo series from Japan-based photographer James Whitlow Delano documents the sprawl of nuclear waste.

 

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As of 2015, the government reported that there were more than 9 million bags in the prefecture. Some of it will be moved inside the no-entry zone next to the nuclear plant, which is so radioactive that the government has given up on decontamination for the moment. But Japan is also sending radioactive waste to other parts of the country.

 

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“The Japanese government decided early on in the decontamination process that all prefectures in Japan should share the burden of storing radioactive waste with Fukushima Prefecture,” says Delano, who has been photographing the disaster since it happened in 2011. “This resulted in firm pushback by communities in other prefectures that are adjacent to sites that were selected.”

They have reason to be concerned: In September of 2015, when there were floods in Nikko, Japan, hundreds of bags of radioactive soil were washed into the local river.

Even in Fukushima itself, in villages where many residents may not be able to return for a decade or more, no one wants a radioactive dump next to their former homes. The dumps are supposed to be temporary and moved in 30 years, but people are skeptical that will happen. “They feel like the presence of the site will be like the last nail in the coffin for their communities,” he says. “So, no one wants this contaminated soil.”

 

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In some areas, a few people have started moving back. “When I used to sneak inside the old 20-kilometer-radius nuclear no-entry zone, I would enter a neighborhood in Minami Soma that was half inside the zone and half outside and hop the barrier to document the absence of humanity,” says Delano. “About one and a half years after the earthquake and tsunami, the no-entry zone was readjusted to reflect the actual radiation levels, instead of being an arbitrary 20-kilometer radius. That meant that the whole neighborhood would be decontaminated and prepared for families to return, if they wanted to do so.”

Some resident returned, but now the fields next to the neighborhood are being cleared for a dump filled with bags of contaminated soil. “People fear the presence of this soil and the dust that every breeze will carry into their neighbor,” he says. “It creates fear and doubt. Many families, especially those with young children, are not returning to this region of Fukushima Prefecture.”

 

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Delano was reluctant to spend much time in the area himself, and carried a Geiger counter and wore a mask while he worked. “I always do my work and get out,” he says. “For example, one hot spot I found in 2012 would expose you to the equivalent of an additional year of natural radiation exposure within 24 hours, if you were to sit there. For obvious reasons, I did not linger there.”

For him, the disaster was personal—he’s lived in Japan for two decades and has Japanese family. Even in Tokyo, the food supply has been affected, and foods are now labeled with the prefecture where they were grown. “You can be careful, but once you go to a restaurant or buy a bento box lunch, all bets are off,” he says.

He also wanted to show how much the area—which was once a peaceful, Vermont-like region of farms—has changed. “It is some of the most beautiful country in Japan,” he says. “This natural beauty only reinforces the sense of loss.”

 

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http://www.fastcoexist.com/3058303/look-at-the-millions-of-bags-of-radioactive-dirt-that-japan-has-no-plan-for/4

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear power proponents still scoffing at public safety concerns

An Otsu District Court injunction has suspended operations of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, one of which was online.

Again, the significance of that development should be taken to heart. Proponents of nuclear power, in particular, should squarely face up to the public anxiety that lies in the backdrop of the court decision. But instead they are boiling with disgruntlement.

safety scoffing“Why is a single district court judge allowed to trip up the government’s energy policy?” Kazuo Sumi, a vice chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation, said resentfully.

“We could demand damages (from the residents who requested the injunction) if we were to win the case at a higher court,” Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said, although he prefaced his remark with a proviso that he is arguing only in general terms.

The government is maintaining a wait-and-see attitude.

The decision called into question the appropriateness of the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s new regulation standards and government-approved plans for evacuations in case of an emergency.

But NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka argued, “Our standards are nearing the world’s top level.”

And the government has no plans to review its emergency evacuation plans. It has only reiterated that it will “proceed with restarts of nuclear reactors in paying respect to NRA decisions.”

The Otsu decision is the third court order issued against the operation of nuclear reactors since the meltdowns five years ago at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

There has, in fact, been no fixed trend in court decisions. Another court rejected residents’ request last year for an injunction against reactor restarts at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture.

But courts appear to be playing a more active role now than before the Fukushima disaster.

The nuclear proponents’ reactions reveal an underlying thinking: “The use of nuclear power is indispensable for Japan, which does not abound in energy resources. The government set up the NRA following the Fukushima disaster to increase expert control. Regional utilities have also taken safety enhancement measures. Courts are therefore asked not to meddle.”

But they should have a deeper understanding that this argument is no longer convincing to the public and court judges.

Some critics say the latest decision deviated from the 1992 Supreme Court ruling saying that decisions on the safety of nuclear plants should be made by administrative organs on the basis of expert opinions. But that argument is also off the mark.

The ruling, given in a case over Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata nuclear plant, certainly presented that point of view. But it also stated that the objective of safety regulations based on the Law on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors is to “make sure that no serious disaster will happen by any chance.”

A safety net, left in the hands of experts, collapsed all too easily during the Fukushima disaster, turning the phrase “by any chance” into reality.

Courts, which are the guardians of law, should rather be commended for trying to find out independently, to the extent that they can, if there is enough preparedness when a nuclear reactor will be restarted.

The latest alarm bell sounded by the judiciary sector provides an opportunity to ask once again why all the safety measures taken after the Fukushima nuclear disaster are still struggling to win the trust of the public.

The Fukushima disaster changed the awareness of the public. The judiciary sector was also affected.

It is high time for a change among nuclear proponents.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/views/editorial/AJ201603280014

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Radiation in seafood. Is that why California bans commercial crab fishing?

text ionisingFlag-USACalifornia bans commercial crab fishing due to excessive radiation in seafood, March 27, 2016 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer NaturalNews In November of last year, California state officials placed an indefinite hold on the commercial crab season, in order to protect public health. The reason given by the state was dangerously high levels of algal toxins in the bodies of the crabs.

But according to New York radio station 95.1 FM (SuperStation 95), insiders from the California Fish and Game Commission have revealed that the real reason for the ban was dangerously high levels of radioactivity resulting from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Radioactive crab are so dangerous to eat that state officials felt the need to protect the public, Superstation 95 reports. But officials were unwilling to publicly admit the true reason for the ban, which contradicts official claims that the Fukushima disaster poses no threat to the U.S. West coast………..

SuperStation 95 says it was contacted by workers from the California Fish and Game Commission, who chose to remain anonymous in order to avoid retribution. The station reports that these workers said that crab, especially Rock crab, contained levels of radiation so high that state officials were concerned they could cause immediate sickness in anyone who ate them.

“If people started connecting the dots proving radiation in seafood was making them sick, it would utterly destroy California’s seafood industry in days,” SuperStation 95 quotes the sources as saying………

The crab are not the first West Coast seafood to be reported radioactive. A recent study found that 100 percent of Pacific bluefin tuna tested off the coast of California contained radioactive materials from the Fukushima disaster.

Among the radioactive isotopes already detected off the U.S. west coast is strontium-90, which mimics calcium in the human body and therefore accumulates in the bones. There it can cause cancers of the bone and blood.

Sources for this article include: 

SuperStation95.com

SFChronicle.com        http://www.naturalnews.com/053440_California_crab_season_radioactive_ocean.html#ixzz44MERWbgz.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | environment, USA | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Where mountains and forests cannot be decontaminated

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In the background, workers in Iitate village go about their daily routine of removing the layer of irradiated topsoil, which are then placed in stacks of black bags

FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN  – Up to 20,000 workers have been toiling to decontaminate towns and villages to clear the way for evacuated residents to return following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

In head-to-toe protective gear, their primary task is removing by shovel and machinery topsoil contaminated with radioactive caesium, which leaked from the crippled power station when a tsunami swamped it five years ago.

The soil is put into plastic flexible container bags and transported by truck to isolated temporary storage sites, where they are surrounded with bags of clean soil to “seal” off emitted radiation. The interim facilities will receive some 22 million cubic m of soil from 43 cities, towns and villages across Fukushima prefecture. It will be put there for 30 years.

Soil under trees, in roadside ditches and places such as drain spouts get particular attention. This is where the radioactive pollutants tend to concentrate after being washed off roofs and pavements by rain and snow.

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Once considered among the most beautiful villages in Japan, the farmlands of Iitate are now dotted with black bags – called ‘flexible container bags’ – holding contaminated soil.

The cleanup process also includes brushing and wiping rust or stains from roofs, removing sediment, washing roadside ditches and removing leaves from under trees.

But there remains a sizeable area where decontamination was suspended due to high radiation levels, including Futaba district, where the power plant is located.

The disaster also contaminated vast amounts of paddy straw and grass with radioactive material. This has led to plans for facilities for “designated waste”, which from Fukushima alone accounts for around 140,000 tonnes. It is now temporarily stored on farmland and at waste incineration plants.

The radiation reality will last for years to come.

“While it is possible to decontaminate residential areas, the same cannot be done with mountains and forests. You can’t remove all the trees. But radioactive matter has contaminated trunks and leaves, and when rain falls, these particles return to the ground,” said Ms Emiko Fujioka, secretary-general of non-profit group Fukushima Beacon.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/fukushima-special-report-where-mountains-and-forests-cannot-be-decontaminated?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

 

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Climate action must be fast tracked

 poster-climate-Francehttps://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/focus-on-reducing-short-lived-climate-pollutants-by-achim-steiner-and-christiana-figueres-2016-03  Achim Steiner is United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). CHRISTIANA FIGUERES Christiana Figueres is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). BONN –

Last December in Paris, world leaders came together to agree on a set of goals and pathways for decarbonizing the global economy and increasing our capacity to adapt to climate change. It was a landmark achievement, but it was just the beginning. Every country – with the support of cities, the private sector, and citizens – must now move swiftly to fulfill its promises and bring climate change under control.

The need for urgent, concerted action cannot be emphasized enough. Any delay will cause negative consequences to continue to accumulate. This will not only cause tremendous suffering, especially to the world’s most vulnerable people; it will reverberate for decades to come, making the key goal of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2º Celsius (relative to pre-industrial levels) increasingly costly.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | general | 1 Comment

South Africa and the madnessof its nuclear build programme

scrutiny-on-costsflag-S.AfricaThe madness of the nuclear build programme http://www.rdm.co.za/politics/2016/03/29/the-madness-of-the-nuclear-build-programme

Nuclear vendors are loathe to submit to a competitive tendering process based on a long-term, fixed-priced contract ANTON EBERHARD 29 MARCH 2016 IT IS time for the gloves to come off. The onus is on those who support the procurement of nuclear power stations to demonstrate that this initiative is not corrupt and will not be ruinous for the economy.

We face a possible credit rating downgrade to junk, which will make us all poorer: it will cost a lot more to service our debt, there will be less money for social programmes, the rand will fall even further, and inflation will rise.

Yet some still promote a huge nuclear programme that is not needed, that is more expensive and risky than alternative energy sources, that is hard to finance, and that will create contingent liabilities for the Treasury when we can least afford them.

SA does not need to procure large chunks of new power now. Electricity demand is not growing: it’s falling, and is lower than it was a decade ago. Depressed economic activity is partly the reason, but it’s not the most important one.

Electricity and economic growth data no longer track each other. The size of SA’s economy has continued to increase, albeit slowly, but electricity consumption has headed in the opposite direction. Countries such as Australia have seen a similar decoupling of energy and economic growth.

Could electricity demand in SA rebound if economic growth revives? Do we need to cater for depressed electricity demand as a result of Eskom supply constraints? Possibly. But we also need to recognise that there are profound changes to the energy-intensity of our economy, as smelters and mines close. The structure of our economy is changing. A fourfold increase in electricity prices in the past decade has accelerated energy-efficiency investments and energy conservation.

Official electricity demand forecasts and plans are obsolete. If demand for electricity were to reignite, it would fire off a lower base, and the rate of growth would be lower. When we project demand forward to 2030 or beyond, it’s obvious that we need a lot less power than was forecast in the Integrated Resource Plan of 2010 (the basis for the 9600MW nuclear commitment).

But we also need to replace old coal power plants, and compensate for the decline in the performance of Eskom’s existing power stations. I’ve taken all these arguments into account, and calculate that we need about 17GW of new electricity generating capacity by 2030. Some may calculate a slightly different number, but the required capacity will be close to this.

We have already ordered more power than we need by 2030. The new Eskom Medupi and Kusile coal power stations will add 9.6GW; its Ingula pumped storage scheme, 1.3GW. Two peaking power stations — Desisa and Avon, ordered by the Department of Energy — will add 1GW.

Contracted industrial co-generation and the department’s coal independent power producers (IPPs) will each add 1GW, with plans for more. In addition, 92 projects, totalling 6,347MW, have been contracted in the first four rounds of the department’s renewable energy IPP programme. Granted, this is intermittent power and will need to be complemented by gas power plants that the department plans to procure this year. More than 3GW are in the pipeline.

In the meantime, SA has negotiated 2.5GW of hydro power from the Inga 3 development in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is considering further hydro imports from the region.

Together, these power procurements exceed what we need in the next 15 years.

Our cheapest sources of power are now wind and solar energy. The Department of Energy has awarded long-term, fixed-price contracts for wind energy as low as 57c/kWh, far below Eskom’s average cost of supply. Renewable energy combined with gas power can offer reliable base load supply at less than R1/kWh. Imported hydro and coal IPPs will also beat this.

I challenge any nuclear power vendor to sign a long-term power contract at less than R1/kWh. Whenever I ask them what nuclear power will cost in the country, they say “it depends”, and “it will need to be negotiated”.

This is the point: nuclear vendors are loathe to submit to a competitive tendering process based on a long-term, fixed-priced contract in which they take the risks of construction time and cost overruns. But all the other energy technology providers are prepared to do so. This has been the basis of the success of the IPP programme that has delivered such spectacular investment outcomes and price certainty for consumers. So why would we opt for a nuclear procurement programme that aims only to select a strategic partner, with subsequent price negotiations that have uncertain outcomes?

Nuclear power plants are also hard to finance. A couple of years ago in Davos, President Jacob Zuma was asked how 9,600MW of nuclear power would be financed. His answer, remarkably, was: “I’ll speak to my finance minister.”

He would have had that conversation by now and it will be clear that there is no fiscal space to finance a programme that will cost more than a half-a-trillion rand, when we raise just more than a trillion rand annually in taxes to fund all SA’s needs. Debt financing is now the fastest-growing component of the national budget and interest payments are more than twice the spend on higher education.

Our traditional mechanisms for funding power investments are also constrained. Eskom’s balance sheet is stressed, and it is struggling to raise sufficient debt on private capital markets to complete Medupi and Kusile. It has no possibility of raising finance for even one nuclear power station.

The private sector will not finance a nuclear plant in SA. The only possibility is funding from nuclear vendor countries. France will struggle: its nuclear company, Areva, is technically bankrupt and its latest UK nuclear contract — at £92.50/MWh (R2/kWh) — would be unaffordable for us.

Russia will not be able to finance all of its nuclear ambitions. China is a possibility, but financing will need to be backed by a long-term contract with an agreed electricity tariff, and the government will have to provide a sovereign guarantee and insurance cover, which will add contingent liabilities to the Treasury that will hasten a credit rating downgrade.

Eskom’s management recently expressed interest in further investments in large coal and nuclear projects. Its big coal, big nuclear, and big networks strategy is Neanderthal. Why would SA want to go down this route? It’s irrational. SA’s economic situation is precarious. The government now needs to act in concert and remove uncertainty about this nuclear folly. We don’t need it, it is too expensive, and we cannot afford it.

• Eberhard is a professor at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business

This article first appeared in Business Day

March 30, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Solar power – on its way to taking over the world energy scene

sun-powerIs solar set to take over the world? https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/is-solar-set-to-take-over-the-world Keith Breene, Senior Writer It’s the largest power plant of its kind. Built in the Moroccan desert, the $765 million Noor-Ouarzazate complex is set to power over a million homes.

Even a few years ago, a project of this scale in the North African desert would almost certainly have been an oil or gas power station. But the Noor-Ouarzazate complex runs on the power of the sun.

It is a sign of how far solar power has come that such large infrastructure projects are now being built. That the scheme was partly funded through a loan from theWord Bank also shows how solar is becoming mainstream.

What’s behind the growth in solar?

Of course, concern over the use of fossil fuels and global warming is a large part of solar’s current success. But the reason it is doing quite so well, quite so quickly really comes down to price.

The cost of power generated by solar has plummeted to the point where, in many parts of the world, it is now close to coal or gas generated electricity.

graph solar prices Earth Policy Institute

Source: Earth Policy Institute/Bloomberg

The more solar grows, the cheaper it becomes to manufacture solar panels, and the virtuous cycle continues.

But it’s not just that solar is becoming cheaper – it’s also that fossil fuel generation is becoming more expensive. That’s because once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is almost nothing, whereas coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. Power companies will choose the free power whenever they can, which means less is required from the fossil fuel power stations and the marginal cost of their power rises.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. As more renewables are installed, coal and natural gas plants are used less. As coal and gas are used less, the cost of using them to generate electricity goes up. As the cost of coal and gas power rises, more renewables will be installed.

BNEF reports that in every major region of the world, the lifetime cost of new coal and gas projects rose considerably in the second half of 2015, while the cost of renewables continued to fall.

How can we solve the problem of storing solar energy?

One of the problems with solar power is, of course, that it’s only there during the daytime. This has been used as an argument for keeping fossil fuel generation for the “base load” generation needed 24 hours a day.

But even this is changing. The Noor-Ouarzazate complex is not a photovoltaic power plant. Instead it uses concentrated solar power (CSP), which holds vast potential due to its ability to provide reliable power even when the sun is not shining.

Hundreds of mirrors focus the sun’s energy to heat a fluid that is used to produce steam that drives turbines to generate electricity. The fluid can also be used to heat molten salts stored in large storage tanks on site. The salt stays hot enough to generate steam even after the sun has gone down.

It is such a promising technology that the International Energy Agency estimatesthat up to 11% of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP.

What about batteries?

Another major change is rapidly improving battery technology. Alreadyhouseholds can buy battery packs for their solar panels, and the cost of these is expected to reduce significantly over the next few years.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk reckons that the entire world’s electricity demands could be met with around 2 billion large batteries.

What if it’s not very sunny?

It is easy to see why Morocco might look to solar to meet its energy needs. The same goes for many other hot and sunny parts of the world. But is solar really workable elsewhere?

For the answer to that, take a look at Germany. Hardly famous for its year-round sun, the northern European nation has nevertheless led the world in solar generation.

Germany has the capacity to generate over a third of its electricity from solar and in the summer of 2014 even managed to briefly generate over half of its power this way. Germany shows us that solar is not just a technology for the sun-drenched parts of the world.

Solar isn’t the only answer to the world’s energy needs, but it has much to offer. As the cost falls and the energy market is further disrupted, solar energy is set to play a huge part in meeting our global energy needs.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | Leave a comment

Nuclear power plants: all ready to be used by enemies, as weapons of war

Nuclear Power Plants: Pre-Deployed WMDs, CounterPunch 28 Mar 16, by KARL GROSSMAN Pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction.

That’s what nuclear power plants are. And that’s another very big reason—demonstrated again in recent days with the disclosure that two of the Brussels terrorists were planning attacks on Belgian nuclear plants—why they must be eliminated.

Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorists. With most positioned along bays and rivers because of their need for massive amounts of coolant water, they provide a clear shot. They are fully exposed for aerial strikes.

The consequences of such an attack could far outweigh the impacts of 9/11 and, according to the U.S. 9/11 Commission, also originally considered in that attack was the use of hijacked planes to attack “unidentified nuclear power plants.” The Indian Point nuclear plants 26 miles north of New York City were believed to be candidates…….

bombed city

a main mission of the IAEA, ever since it was established by the UN in 1957 has been to promote nuclear power. It has dramatically minimized the consequences of the catastrophic accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima and routinely understated all problems with atomic technology.

The “Nuclear Security Summit,” with the IAEA playing a central role, is part of a series of gatherings following a speech made by President Barack Obama in Prague in 2009 in which he said “I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world.”……..

Like the IAEA—formed as a result of a speech by U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower promoting “Atoms for Peace” at the UN—officials involved with nuclear power in the U.S. government and the nation’s nuclear industry have long pushed atomic energy and downplayed problems about nuclear power and terrorism.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says in its “Nuclear Security” statement, “The adequacy of a security system depends on what we think we are protecting against. If we have underestimated the threat, we may overestimate our readiness to meet it. The NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] has sometimes used unrealistically modest assumptions about potential attackers. The design basis threat (DBT) is the official definition of the security threats power plant management is required to protect against….After 9/11, UCS criticized the DBT for nuclear plants on these grounds, among others.”

UCS says the NRC “ignored the possibility of air-and water-based attacks…it did not address the possibility of large attacking groups using multiple entry points, or of an attack involving multiple insiders…it concentrated on threats to the reactor core, failing to address the vulnerability of spent fuel storage facilities.” Since 2011, says the UCS, the NRC “finally revised its rules to address the threat of aircraft attack for new reactor designs—but at the same time has rejected proposed design changes to protect against water- and land-based attacks.”

There is “also concern about the testing standard used,” notes UCS. “In July 2012, the NRC adopted the new process. However, as a result of industry pressure, the standards were watered down..”

Further, says UCS, testing is “currently required only for operating reactors, leaving questions about the adequacy of protection against attacks on reactors that have shut down, but still contain radioactive materials that could harm the public if damaged.”

Book Nuclear power Plants as WeaponsA pioneer in addressing how nuclear power plants are pre-deployed weapons of mass destruction has been Dr. Bennett Ramberg. As he wrote in his 1980 landmark book, Nuclear Power Plants as Weapons for the Enemy: An Unrecognized Military Perildespite the “multiplication of nuclear power plants, little public consideration has been given to their vulnerability in time of war.”

As he writes in a piece in the current Foreign Affairs“Nuclear Power to the People: The Middle East’s New Gold Rush,” spotlighting the push now by many nations in the Middle East to build nuclear power plants, “Whatever the energy promise of the peaceful atom, evidently lost in the boom are the security risks inherent in setting up reactors in the Middle East—and not just the commonly voiced fear that reactors are harbingers of weapons. The real risk is the possibility that the plants themselves will become targets or hostages of nihilist Middle East militants, which could result in Chernobyl and Fukushima-like meltdowns.”

“Given the mayhem that Islamic State (also called ISIS) and kindred groups have sown in the region and their end-of-days philosophy, the plausibility of an attempted attack on an operating nuclear power plant cannot be denied,” writes Ramberg.

In fact, the plausibility of an attempted attack cannot be denied in the Middle East—or anywhere in world…..http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/03/28/nuclear-power-plants-pre-deployed-wmds/

March 30, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Donald Trump’s terrifyingly dangerous policies on nuclear weapons proliferation

USA election 2016Trump’s nuclear views are terrifying , USA Today, Mira Rapp-Hooper March 29, 2016 

He’d ditch ‘predictable’ U.S. policies that have kept nuclear arms races in check for decades. The contours of Donald Trump’s foreign policy are becoming disturbingly clear. Newspapers have labeled his thinking on international affairs “isolationist” and “unabashedly non-interventionist,” yet those terms fail to capture the more alarming elements of his philosophy. Trump apparently is prepared to abandon the United States’ most important alliances, even at the risk of those countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In other words, he is prepared to end the decades-long U.S. policy of extended deterrence — protecting close partners against nuclear attack and thereby limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. Moreover, the presidential candidate gives little indication that he understands the implications of these radical policies for global security and stability.

One theme running through Trump’s foreign policy is his disdain for U.S. alliances and allies. In recent news media interviews, he has called U.S. treaties “one-sided,” labeled NATO “obsolete” and repeatedly called on South Korea and Japan to contribute more to U.S. basing costs overseas. Trump appeared surprised in a New York Times interview to learn that allies do pay a substantial portion of U.S. overseas basing costs, with none more supportive than Japan. Yet he also seemed unmoved by this information, insisting that allies should pay no less than a full 100% of U.S. overseas costs. A refusal to do so would force a President Trump to begin withdrawing troops, he told The Times. When told this might cause South Korea and Japan to acquire their own nuclear weapons, Trump demonstrated a flippant comfort, stating that the U.S. “may very well be better off.”

It hardly bears noting that abandoning U.S. treaty commitments and acquiescing to nuclear proliferation are completely at odds with decades of U.S. foreign policy……..

To understand why Trump’s views on extended deterrence are terrifying, one must examine his other positions on nuclear policy and strategy. In a December GOP debate, the candidate appeared to be unfamiliar with the nuclear triad, made up of the intercontinental ballistic missile, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and bombers that can deliver nuclear weapons to their targets. Just days ago, he refused to rule out the use of a nuclear weapons against the Islamic State terrorist group. ……….

Perhaps most unsettling, Trump repeatedly insists that the United States must be more “unpredictable” in its national security policy — a chilling assertion, particularly when uttered in such close proximity to such irresponsible nuclear policies. Trump’s naiveté about the world’s most dangerous weapons leads one to infer that he might not have considered the fact that a nuclear Japan and South Korea could lead to dangerous arms racing with China and North Korea, proliferation by other states in East Asia and regional instability that invites major crises……..

 this prospective commander in chief’s views are not just irresponsible: They are cataclysmically dangerous.

Mira Rapp-Hooper is a senior fellow with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at theCenter for a New American Security. Her Ph.D. dissertation, “Absolute Alliances,” was on the role of extended deterrence in international politics.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/29/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-treaties-nato-terrifying-column/82341964/

March 30, 2016 Posted by | USA elections 2016 | Leave a comment

China’s move towards renewable energy power on the grid: new high voltage transmission lines

text-relevantflag-ChinaChina pushes for mandatory integration of renewable power, Reuters, 28 Mar 16, BEIJING China has ordered power transmission companies to provide grid connectivity for all renewable power generation sources and end a bottleneck that has left a large amount of clean power idle, the country’s energy regulator said on Monday.

The grid companies have been ordered to plug in all renewable power sources that comply with their technical standards, the National Energy Administration (NEA) said.

China’s power is primarily delivered by the State Grid Corp of China [STGRD.UL] and the China Southern Power Grid Co [CNPOW.UL], with the latter responsible for delivering electricity in five southern provinces and regions.

China has become the world’s biggest wind and solar power user, but a large amount of renewable power has not been able to reach the grid because transmission capabilities are lagging generating capacity by around three to five years.

The State Grid is banking on building new ultra-high voltage (UHV) long-distance transmission lines to fill the gap. “The construction of UHV lines are to help with cross-regional power delivery,” said Wang Yanfang, a State Grid spokeswoman, referring to the need to deliver power from remoter regions to energy-hungry eastern China…….http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-power-renewables-idUSKCN0WU0RF

March 30, 2016 Posted by | China, renewable | Leave a comment

All about the terrorists’ plan to attack Belgium’s nuclear power station

dirty bombReuters: Bombers “switched target from nuke plant at last minute” — Report: Terror cell plotted to blow up nuclear plant… Threat of “most devastating terror attack in history” — Murder of nuclear worker increasing fear of more attacks — Police worry other cells “poised to unleash further terror” (VIDEOS) http://enenews.com/reuters-terrorists-switched-target-nuke-plant-last-minute-tv-bombers-planned-nuclear-power-plant-attack-murder-nuclear-security-guard-increases-fear-attacks-cbs-chilling-development-sparked-w?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29

The Independent, Mar 25, 2016 (emphasis added): Brussels bombings: Terror group ‘were planning to attack nuclear power station’, surveillance suggests — The Brussels bombers were allegedly planning to attack a nuclear power plant and had recorded 10 hours of surveillance footage of Belgium’s nuclear power chief, it has been reported… It is believed they may have been spying on the director as part of a possible kidnap plan to make him help them get into a plant, Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure reports.

The Australian, Mar 26, 2016: Brussels: jihadists ‘planned attack’ on nuclear plant — Suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Brussels were reportedly originally considering an attack on a Belgian nuclear site, but arrests last week may have forced them to switch to targets in the nation’s capital… Police fear that at least two people directly linked to the Brussels bombings are at large and that other cells of terrorists are poised to unleash further terror.

Reuters, Mar 25, 2016: Attackers switched target from nuke plant at last minute, says paper

Reuters, Mar 24, 2016: Suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Brussels were originally considering an attack on a nuclear site in Belgium, but arrests started last week may have forced them to switch to targets… “Even if one couldn’t prevent these (Brussels) attacks, one can say that their magnitude could have been much bigger if the terrorists had been able to implement their original plan and not opted for easier targets,” said the police source.

Time, Mar 25, 2016: ISIS Attackers May Have Targeted Nuclear Power Station… A Belgiannuclear power plant may have been the target of an aborted plot by the ISIS cell that carried out this week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels… [There are] fears that an “insider” might offer access to terrorists ISIS actually had a follower inside the Doel plant

FOX 5 NY, Mar 24 2016: Report: Brussels bombers planned nuclear power plant attack… The newspaper Derniere Heure report that the ISIS cell was spying on the head of the Belgian nuclear program to possibly kidnap him to force their way into an atomic facility

New Zealand Herald, Mar 26, 2016: 11 nuclear power plant workers have had their site access revoked amid fears of “insider help”

CBS News, Mar 24, 2016: Brussels suspects linked to nuclear facility plot… It also emerged Thursday that the brothers were part of a plan uncovered earlier this year to try and target a Belgian nuclear facility… In light of that ISIS surveillance earlier this year, CBS News senior national security analyst Juan Zarate called the evacuation order for Belgium’s Tihange nuclear power plant, immediately following the Tuesday bombings, a “chilling development.”

CBS News, Mar 25, 2016: The terror attacks in Brussels are raising new questions about the security of nuclear plants… “If terrorists were able to successfully attack a nuclear facility, there could be a serious loss of life,” said Dr. Page Stoutland of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

CBS News, Mar 25, 2016: Brussels attacks raise safety concerns of nuclear plants — The terror attacks in Brussels are raising new questions about the security of nuclear plants. An American official says two of the suspected terrorists may have been targeting a facility in Belgium. This revelation has sparked worldwide concern.

Sky News, Mar 25, 2016: [Investigators] conclude the terrorists “could have put national security in danger like never before”, according to Belgian media…

Sputnik, Mar 25, 2016: Brussels Terror Cell Was Plotting to Blow Up a Nuclear Plant… [with] sights set on a high-casualty strike against a nuclear power plant in Flanders, Belgium. When Belgian police apprehended Salah Abdeslam on Friday, March 18, theyprevented what could have been the single most devastating terror attack in history

Sputnik, Mar 24, 2016: It is clear that Belgium’s secuity services were aware of plans to attack… Immediately after… security was tightened at Belgium’s nuclear power plants.

Telegraph, Mar 27, 2016: A security guard who worked at a Belgian nuclear medical research facility was murdered two days after the Brussels bombings… deepening fears that Islamist terror cells are plotting attacks against nuclear installations… He was found dead in his bathroom by his three children… A source from [his employer] told The Telegraph: “He was killed at gunpoint at his home [and] can’t rule out” [it] was to do with the terrorist attacks

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March 30, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment