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State of the Climate Report documents shattering of environmental records

“Looking at a range of climate measurements, 2015 was yet another highly significant year,” she said. “Not only was 2015 the warmest year on record by a large margin, it was also another year when the levels of dominant greenhouse gases reached new peaks.” 

The state of the climate report is now in its 26th year. The peer-reviewed series is published annually by the American Meteorological Society.

Environmental records shattered as climate change ‘plays out before us’ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/02/environment-climate-change-records-broken-international-report

Record Global Heat April

Temperatures, sea levels and carbon dioxide all hit milestones amid extreme weather in 2015, major international ‘state of the climate’ report finds,   , 3 Aug 16, The world is careening towards an environment never experienced before by humans, with the temperature of the air and oceans breaking records, sea levels reaching historic highs and carbon dioxide surpassing a key milestone, a major international report has found.

The “state of the climate” report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) with input from hundreds of scientists from 62 countries, confirmed there was a “toppling of several symbolic mileposts” in heat, sea level rise and extreme weather in 2015.

“The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle,” Michael Mann, a leading climatologist at Penn State, told the Guardian. “They are playing out before us, in real time. The 2015 numbers drive that home.”

Last year was the warmest on record, with the annual surface temperature beating the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.1C. This means that the world is now 1C warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, largely due to a huge escalation in the production of greenhouse gases. The UN has already said that 2016 is highly likely to break the annual record again, after 14 straight months of extreme heat aided by a hefty El Niño climatic event, a weather event that typically raises temperatures around the world.

The oceans, which absorb more than 90% of the extra CO2 pumped into the atmosphere, also reached a new record temperature, with sharp spikes in the El Niño-dominated eastern Pacific, which was 2C warmer than the long-term average, and the Arctic, where the temperature in August hit a dizzying 8C above average.

The thermal expansion of the oceans, compounded by melting glaciers, resulted in the highest global sea level on record in 2015. The oceans are around 70mm higher than the 1993 average, which is when comprehensive satellite measurements of sea levels began. The seas are rising at an average rate of 3.3mm a year, with the western Pacific and Indian Oceans experiencing the fastest increases.

These changes are being driven by a CO2 concentration that surpassed the symbolic 400 parts per million mark at the Mauna Loa research station in Hawaii last year. The Noaa report states that the global CO2 level was a touch under this, at 399.4ppm, an increase of 2.2ppm compared to 2014.

Noaa said other “remarkable” changes in 2015 include the Arctic’s lowest maximum sea ice extent in the 37-year satellite record, recorded in February 2015. The world’s alpine glaciers recorded a net annual loss of ice for the 36th consecutive year and the Greenland ice sheet, which would balloon sea levels by around 7m should it disintegrate, experienced melting over more than 50% of its surface.

The rapid changes in the climate may have profound consequences for humans and other species. In June last year, a severe heatwave claimed over 1,000 lives in Karachi, Pakistan. Severe drought caused food shortages for millions of people in Ethiopia, with a lack of rainfall resulting in “intense and widespread” forest fires in Indonesia that belched out a vast quantity of greenhouse gas.

Diminishing sea ice is causing major walrus herds to haul themselves out on to land. Arctic marine species, such as snailfish and polar cod, are being pushed out of the region by species coming from further south, attracted to the warming waters. A huge algal bloom off the west coast of North America harmed marine life and fisheries.

Scientists have said there were underlying climate change trends at play but last year was also influenced by the strong El Niño event, which is when equatorial Pacific waters warm, leading to an array of weather effects around the world. El Niño has also helped spur searing heat in 2016 but has now petered out.

Thomas Karl, director of Noaa national centers for environmental information, said that last year’s climate “was shaped both by long-term change and an El Niño event. When we think about being climate resilient, both of these time scales are important to consider.

“Last year’s El Niño was a clear reminder of how short-term events can amplify the relative influence and impacts stemming from longer-term warming trends.”

Kate Willett, a senior scientist at Britain’s Met Office, said that there was a 75% annual increase in the amount of land that experienced severe drought last year.

“Looking at a range of climate measurements, 2015 was yet another highly significant year,” she said. “Not only was 2015 the warmest year on record by a large margin, it was also another year when the levels of dominant greenhouse gases reached new peaks.”

The state of the climate report is now in its 26th year. The peer-reviewed series is published annually by the American Meteorological Society.

August 5, 2016 Posted by | climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Trump’s loose talk about nuclear weapons – not that far from USA’s official position

Republican hawk (Trump)Trump’s nuclear nightmare His loose talk on the ultimate weapon isn’t so different from official doctrine, but it plays into Clinton’s attacks on his temperament, nonetheless, Politico, By  08/03/16  “…………Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons, which many experts call dangerously glib and uninformed, and which play into the Democratic strategy of portraying him as unfit to handle the nuclear codes.

That seemed clear from a new Fox News poll released Wednesday showing that 56 percent of voters believe that Clinton would make better decisions about nuclear weapons, with just 34 trusting Trump more.

Trump has repeatedly declined to rule out the use of nuclear weapons, saying he reserves the option to use them in Europe and the Middle East. Trump has also said he might welcome seeing certain U.S. allies, including Japan, acquire atomic arms to better defend themselves without U.S. assistance………

“He talks about nuclear weapons very loosely, casually—as if they’re just another tool in the toolbox,” said Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a nonprofit that advocates nuclear arms reductions.

While Trump’s comments have drawn widespread condemnation, they do not defy America’s nuclear doctrine, which reserves the right to use nuclear weapons—even as a “first strike” against an adversary fighting with only conventional weapons.

There are some exceptions: The Obama administration has said it will “not use or threaten to use” nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that have signed and are in compliance with the nuclear nonproliferation treaty……….

he does not discuss the issue with the nuance of foreign policy experts and insiders, who choose their words with extreme care, and, when possible, avoid discussing nuclear strikes entirely.

Trump has also unnerved observers with his apparent unfamiliarity with U.S. nuclear doctrine. When asked during a December primary debate whether he would eliminate any part of the so-called nuclear triad — which consists of land, air and sea-based weapons — Trump seemed unaware of the concept……..

Trump’s defense of the right to use nuclear weapons also comes at a time when President Barack Obama is considering issuing an executive order that would change U.S. policy to rule out the first use of a nuclear weapon.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign squarely targeted the concept of a nuclear-armed Trump during last week’s Democratic National Convention. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Clinton said in her nomination acceptance speech, echoing several other speakers.

And since mid-June the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities Action USA has been airing an advertisement that features audio of Trump saying, “I love war, in a certain way,” immediately followed by a different clip in which Trump says, “including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.”

Clinton advisers say they believe the prospect of Trump commanding America’s arsenal of 7,200 atomic weapons is a highly effective way of crystallizing voter anxieties about the New York mogul’s temperament……….http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-nuclear-weapons-226639

August 5, 2016 Posted by | USA elections 2016 | Leave a comment

Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) NOT the nuclear solution that its fans claim it to be

IFR-lemonNuClear News August 16  Integral Fast Reactors (IFRs) George Monbiot told the Radio 4’s Today Programme on the 29th July that the “humungous waste problem at Sellafield could be turned into a humungous asset by using a technology such as Integral Fast Reactors (IFR) to turn it into an energy source.” He said “it gets rid of the waste, and according to one estimate could provide all the UK’s energy needs for 500 years.” He said that instead of wasting our money on Hinkley Point C Government should invest in the development of IFRs to “see if we can use it to crack two problems at once – our nuclear waste mountain [and] create a massive source of low carbon energy”. The only problem is, as Professor Catherine Mitchell just had time to point out, it wouldn’t work. To claim that they are proliferation resistant and help “use up waste” is just plain wrong.

 

The IFR would be a liquid-sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactor. The use of liquid sodium as a coolant has proved to be a huge problem in the past – it catches fire on contact with air. Over the years the world’s leading nuclear technologists have built about three dozen sodium-cooled fast reactors. Of the 22 whose histories are mostly reported, over half had sodium leaks, four suffered fuel damage (including two partial meltdowns), several others had serious accidents, most were prematurely closed, and only six succeeded. As Dr. Tom Cochran of NRDC notes, fast reactor programs were tried in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USSR, and the US and Soviet Navies. All failed. After a half-century and tens of billions of dollars, the world has one operational commercial-sized fast reactor (Russia’s BN600) out of 438 commercial power reactors, and it’s not fuelled with plutonium.

 

 

IFRs would require an ambitious new nuclear fuel cycle because they would be fuelled with a metallic alloy of uranium and plutonium. In theory they would operate in conjunction with onsite ‘pyroprocessing’ to separate plutonium and other long-lived radioisotopes. Unlike the reprocessing plants currently at Sellafield they wouldn’t separate pure plutonium, but would keep the plutonium mixed with other long-lived radioisotopes.

 

Its novel technology, replacing solvents and aqueous chemistry of current reprocessing with high-temperature pyrometallurgy and electrorefining, would incur different but major challenges, greater technical risks and repair problems, and speculative but probably worse economics. Reprocessing of any kind makes waste management more difficult and complex, increases the volume and diversity of waste streams, increases by several- to many-fold the cost of nuclear fuelling, and separates bomb-usable material that can’t be adequately measured or protected. In the UK the Government would be unlikely to want to see more plutonium separated so any IFR built here – at least to begin with – would probably just be used to use up our huge stockpile of plutonium. The problem is that the plutonium is stored as plutonium oxide which would have to be converted to plutonium metal probably involving the fluorination of plutonium dioxide, normally with highly corrosive hydrogen fluoride, to produce plutonium fluoride, which is subsequently reduced using high purity calcium metal to produce metallic plutonium and a calcium fluoride slag.

 

 

IFRs are often claimed to “burn up nuclear waste” and make its “time of concern … less than 500 years” rather than 10,000-100,000 years or more. That’s wrong: most of the radioactivity comes from fission products, including very long lived isotopes like iodine-129 and technicium-99, and their mix is broadly similar in any nuclear fuel cycle.

 

IFRs’ wastes may contain less transuranics, but at prohibitive cost and with worse occupational exposures, routine releases, accident and terrorism risks, proliferation, and disposal needs for intermediate- and low-level wastes. It’s simply a dishonest fantasy to claim, that such hypothetical and uneconomic proposals can deal with the humungous waste problem at Sellafield.

 

 

It is claimed that IFRs could produce lots of greenhouse-friendly energy and while they’re at it they can ‘eat’ nuclear waste and convert fissile materials, which might otherwise find their way into nuclear weapons, into useful energy. Too good to be true? Sadly, yes. Nuclear engineer Dave Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists writes: “The IFR looks good on paper. So good, in fact, that we should leave it on paper. For it only gets ugly in moving from blueprint to backyard.”http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo87.pdf

 

August 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

Most outgoing NRC Commissioners move into plum nuclear industry jobs

revolving-door1Flag-USAUS Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ‘enforcement’ is as fierce as the comfy chair, Ecologist  Linda Pentz Gunter 2nd August 2016 “…….

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Firefighters work to Keep Buffer Between Wildfire and Hanford nuclear site

wildfire-nukeWashington Fire Crews Fight To Keep Buffer Between Wildfire, Nuclear Reactor, nw News Network, By  • AUG 2, 2016 Officials from the Hanford nuclear reservation and Energy Northwest have been meeting with fire managers in southeast Washington state Tuesday. The nearby Range 12 Fire has grown to more than 177,000 acres and high winds are predicted this evening.

Fire managers are very serious about keeping the Range 12 Fire off the central portion of the Hanford nuclear site and away from the Northwest’s only nuclear reactor.

“We have firefighters and engines stationed around the entire perimeter of the fire and the entire flank of the eastern side where the Hanford site is,” Bureau of Land Management spokesman Randall Rishe said Tuesday. “So if there is a slop over, if there is a spot, they can get it immediately.”…….

The Range 12 Fire is currently the largest wildfire on a list of active wildfires across the U.S. being managed by government agencies. http://nwnewsnetwork.org/post/washington-fire-crews-fight-keep-buffer-between-wildfire-nuclear-reactor

August 5, 2016 Posted by | climate change, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Strong support for renewables in UK public

renewable-energy-pictureflag-UKWhat does the public really think of renewables? http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/blog/articles/2016/07/29/what-does-the-public-really-think-of-renewables Did you know that 76% of the UK public support renewables, while just 21% support fracking?

This week the newly named Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) released its latest public attitudes tracker, asking UK residents their opinion on various energy topics ranging from bills to fracking.

The surveys, which first began in March 2012, time and again reveal overwhelming public support for renewable energy.

Strong support for renewables

In the past 18 surveys, support for renewables has never dropped below 75%, and the proportion backing solar has always been 80% or higher.

Seven in 10 of us agree that renewable energy provides economic benefits to the country, something we’re dedicated to delivering through our Renewables Development Charter.

In comparison, support for nuclear and fracking is consistently overshadowed by renewables, with the latest stats revealing that 36% and 21% of the UK public support these technologies respectively.

Good Energy founder and CEO Juliet Davenport was thrilled with the news. She said: “Clean energy has always had the public’s support because it offers good value – it’s local, it’s sustainable and it offers a solution to climate change.”

“The gulf between what the public wants for our energy future and what our Government is imposing is growing.

“The newly formed BEIS department needs to listen to public support, take the lead in seizing new opportunities and keep us on the path to decarbonisation.”

Record breaking clean power These figures are a huge boost to renewables, and come at a time when clean sources of generation are breaking records.

25% of our power needs now comes from green energy, and it was recently announced that one million UK homes are generating electricity and heat using the power of British sunshine.

With 2016 a year of political change and uncertainty for the renewable energy industry, it is good news like this which demonstrates the progress we are making towards a truly low carbon future.

Join the clean energy revolution by switching to our 100% renewable electricity and Green Gas

August 5, 2016 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Chemical and radioactive waste could be exposed as ice thaws over abandoned military site in Greenland

Melting ice sheet could expose frozen Cold War-era hazardous waste, Eureka Alert, YORK UNIVERSITY TORONTO, AUG. 4, 2016Climate change is threatening to expose hazardous waste at an abandoned camp thought to be buried forever in the Greenland Ice Sheet, new research out of York University has found.Camp Century, a United States military base built within the Greenland ice sheet in 1959, doubled as a top-secret site for testing the feasibility of deploying nuclear missiles from the Arctic during the Cold War. When the camp was decommissioned in 1967, its infrastructure and waste were abandoned under the assumption they would be entombed forever by perpetual snowfall.

“Two generations ago, people were interring waste in different areas of the world, and now climate change is modifying those sites,” said William Colgan, a climate and glacier scientist at York U and lead author of the new study. “It’s a new breed of climate change challenge we have to think about.”

The study was published today in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Climate change has warmed the Arctic more than any other region on Earth and the new research has found that the portion of the ice sheet covering Camp Century could start to melt by the end of the century. If the ice melts, the camp’s infrastructure, as well as any remaining biological, chemical and radioactive waste, could re-enter the environment and potentially disrupt nearby ecosystems, say the study’s authors. The wastes would not remain encased in ice forever, as was assumed by both the US and Denmark when the camp was abandoned. Determining who is responsible for cleaning up the waste could also lead to political disputes not considered before, said Colgan.

The study’s team took an inventory of the wastes at Camp Century and ran climate model simulations. The researchers also analyzed historical US army engineering documents to determine where and how deep the wastes were buried and how much that part of the ice cap had moved since the 1960s. They found the waste at Camp Century covers 55 hectares, roughly the size of 100 football fields…….

International law is clear about responsibility for preventing future hazardous waste, but ambiguous about who is liable for waste already discarded, said Jessica Green, a political scientist specializing in international environmental law at New York University who was not connected to the study. Although Camp Century was a US base, it is on Danish soil, and although Greenland is a Danish territory, it is now self-governing, she said…….

Although the camp was built with Denmark’s approval, the missile launch program, known as Project Iceworm, was kept secret from the Danish government. Several years after the camp became operational, Project Iceworm was rejected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the camp was decommissioned. The Army Corps of Engineers removed the nuclear reaction chamber but left the camp’s infrastructure and all other waste behind, assuming the ice sheet would secure them forever. In the decades since, falling snow has buried the camp roughly 35 meters further underneath the ice. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/yu-mis080416.php

August 5, 2016 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission – wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry

in-bedUS Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ‘enforcement’ is as fierce as the comfy chair, Ecologist  Linda Pentz Gunter 2nd August 2016 

The NRC routinely fails to enforce its own safety codes at nuclear power plants, writes Linda Pentz Gunter – putting all of us at risk from accidents. It’s the US’s most extreme example of regulatory capture, rivalling Japan’s ‘nuclear village’ of crony agencies and feeble regulation that led to the Fukushima disaster. How long can it be before the US experiences another nuclear catastrophe?

Fetch the comfy chair! The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in town to enforce its own safety regulations at your local nuclear power plant. Reactor owners have been duly warned. Comply or else …

Or else what? Three more last chances? No, unlike Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, the NRC isn’t bothering to read the charges. It’s handing out immunity.

The US still has 30 operating reactors of the same General Electric design that exploded at Fukushima. Yet the NRC has decided not to require a significant safety retrofit that it had ordered in 2013, and that would have reduced the radioactive consequences of a major accident at one of these dangerously flawed reactors.

Or rather, the NRC will require it, but only after the reactor closes. The Oyster Creek nuclear generating station in New Jersey, which happens also to be the world’s prototype for the Fukushima reactors, is scheduled to close on December 31, 2019.

The NRC agreed to owner Exelon’s request for an extension to comply with the installation of a reliable severe accident-capable hardened vent. Exelon’s new deadline? January 2020, just after the reactor will be permanently shuttered.

Similarly, the Entergy-owned Pilgrim nuclear plant near Plymouth, MA, also a GE Fukushima design, and which has announced a June 1, 2019 shutdown date, hasrequested and extension to comply with the vent order until December 31, 2019.

It’s tempting be cynical and assume that by agreeing to extend such deadlines, the NRC is hoping owners will change their minds and keep their reactors open. After all, shutdowns are bad for business, and the NRC is very much in league with the interests of its industry friends.

Nothing illustrated this better than the NRC’s decision to provide a 20-year license extension to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant – another Fukushima clone – ten days into the 11th March 2011 Japan nuclear disaster. Luckily, the owners closed the financially hemorrhaging plant at the end of 2014.

The consistent pattern: industry cost cuts before public safety

Beleaguered by an economic nosedive, the nuclear industry has consistently challenged the NRC’s safety compliance orders to avoid the expense, putting profit well ahead of safety. The NRC has consistently and obligingly capitulated, even when the risk itself is identified as a top priority……..

Genius – let the nuclear industry self-report its own violations!

The list goes on. At the Exelon-owned Braidwood, IL nuclear power plant, starting in 1996, millions of gallons of water contaminated with tritium (radioactive hydrogen) leaked from the plant for 10 years while Exelon covered it up.

The tritiated water spilled onto roadways and into ditches, contaminating nearby agricultural fields, ponds and the drinking water wells of surrounding homeowners. Two on-site NRC inspectors supposedly failed to notice the lake of radioactive water flooding on and off the site.

The NRC’s solution was to allow the industry to self-report future leaks through an unenforceable voluntary honor system; a guarantee for further cover-ups. This despite revelations including in a report by my organization Beyond Nuclear – Leak First, Fix Later, and by the Associated Press that radioactive leaks were likely occurring at almost every nuclear plant in the country……….

Who is watching? Certainly not Congress, to whom the NRC is supposed to answer but which has rarely asked the agency to explain its negligence. Instead, there have been scores of close calls at US nuclear plants -166 in the last decade alone according to Greenpeace. The NRC has issued dozens of license extensions to old, decrepit reactors and denied none.

‘The agency is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry’

All this should have changed in 1974 when the Energy Reorganization Act divided the then Atomic Energy Commission into two new agencies – the NRC and what would become the Department of Energy. This was done to create a dividing line between nuclear regulation and promotion, with the NRC assuming the former role.

But the umbilical cord never got cut. The NRC didn’t just climb straight back into bed with the nuclear industry. It crawled back into the womb, as former NRC commissioner and now critic, Peter Bradford, told the New York Times“The NRC inherited the regulatory staff and adopted the rules and regulations of the AEC intact.”

Meanwhile, since the agency’s inception, many outgoing NRC Commissioners have sailed away in golden parachutes straight into plum nuclear industry jobs…….

A few former commissioners, including Bradford (1977-82) and Victor Gilinsky (1974-84) became stern critics of the agency after their tenures. “The agency is a wholly owned subsidiary of the nuclear power industry”, Gilinsky said.

“It’s common knowledge in Washington that anyone nominated to be a commissioner to the NRC has to be pre-approved by the nuclear industry”, Union of Concerned Scientists senior scientist, Edwin Lyman told Forbes“In order to get a more independent mindset, you’ve got to break that stranglehold.”

Just like Japan’s ‘nuclear village’

The Japanese parliament found that out after it commissioned a causal study on the Fukushima disaster in 2012. When the independent investigators delivered their verdict, they described the calamity as “man-made” and attributed it to collusion between government, regulator and TEPCO.

The NRC seems bent on repeating those mistakes while Members of Congress continue to do the bidding of the nuclear industry lobby and little to represent the safety and wellbeing of their real employers: all of us.

Do those nice fat checks from lobbyists buy their silence? Do they just not care? Or are they in fact worse than the NRC itself? The industry is once again pitching for a reduction in what it sees as burdensome regulatory oversight. Will Congress agree and slash the NRC budget to streamline what is already a rubber stamp system on safety?

Meanwhile, the NRC continues to look the other way on violations of its own safety regulations. It is happy to ignore potentially deadly defects and age-related degradation at the country’s nuclear plants in order to save the beleaguered industry any additional expense.

It will choose to risk potentially tens of thousands of lives to keep that revolving door spinning and the pathway clear to cushy jobs in the nuclear industry. That’s worse than collusion and negligence. It’s criminal. Are we outraged yet? http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987972/us_nuclear_regulatory_commissions_enforcement_is_as_fierce_as_the_comfy_chair.html

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | 1 Comment

California abandons nuclear power, New York does the opposite

Flag-USAThese two huge states are both going green. But only one is sticking with nuclear, WP 

 By Chris Mooney August 1 In June, the state of California — which has led the U.S. in putting electric cars on the road and switching to so-called clean electricity — took a decisive turn in its quest to move away from carbonemitting fuels. An agreement between the large utility Pacific Gas and Electric and environmental and labor groups set a path for retiring the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, and thus, for a state in which “carbon free” will not include energy generated through the splitting of atoms.

On Monday, though, New York — also a leader when it comes to greening power supplies — announced a very different route. The state’s Public Service Commission approved a Clean Energy Standard backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s backed Clean Energy Standard. It seeks to get New York to 50 percent renewable electricity by the year 2030 — while also retaining the six nuclear reactors that currently provide more 30 percent of the state’s electricity. (These reactors would not count as part of the renewable 50 percent.)……….

many critics of nuclear energy persist, in the environmental community and elsewhere, and not all observers think New York necessarily made the right move.

“By not making them compete for a place in the low carbon portfolio, the state is almost assuring that the customers are going to pay more than they have to, and that some desirable alternative sources won’t get developed, because nuclear’s place in the picture is locked in,” said Peter Bradford, a former chair of the New York Public Service Commission and an adjunct professor at the Vermont Law School………

All sides will now watch how these two experiments — in New York, and California — play out. Nuclear provides a major stream of what is often termed “baseload” electricity, which is continuous and thus very different from wind and solar, which are much stronger at key times (solar, for instance, in the afternoon) and less available at others. Thus, integrating more wind and solar with less baseload, as California aims to do, presumably puts a greater emphasis on the use of energy efficiency measures (less electricity use over all), or energy storage (using electricity at a different time from when it is generated), to deal with these sources’ intermittency………https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/08/01/why-new-york-state-just-delivered-extremely-good-news-to-the-nuclear-industry/?utm_term=.20097475af56

August 5, 2016 Posted by | climate change, ENERGY, politics, USA | Leave a comment

UK-Australian and French uranium companies polluting the “unpolluted” African States

uranium-oreUranium from Russia, with love, Ecologist, Nick Meynen 4th August, 2016

“………..the bigger issue should be that uranium mining is just a very dirty business that we didn’t clean up but source out. France used to have 200+ uranium mines but thanks to better care for environment and workers the last one closed in 2001. Instead, new ones were opened in places like NigerNamibia and Malawi. In short: places where we can shift the real costs from uranium mining to the people and environment. As a matter of fact, CEOs in the business are quite frank about that. The former CEO of Paladin, John Borshoff, an Australian uranium producer who opened mines in Namibia, said that Canadian and Australian environmental norms are “over-sophisticated“. What he actually means is that in African countries you don’t need to pay much or anything at all to “protect” either your workers or the people living in the vicinity from dying from cancer due to exposure to uranium.

He’s just implementing the Lawrence Summers Principle. This ‘principle’ originates from a 1991 memo written or dictated by Summers whilst he was the World Bank’s chief economist. In this memo, he promoted dumping toxic waste in the Third World for economic reasons: “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]? […] A given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

The uranium sector squared up to that. But for how much longer will it get away with that?

Last time rebels in Mali came too close to the AREVA mines in Niger for comfort, France suddenly sent in their army. Under some humanitarian pretext. And if rebels don’t succeed in capturing these remote mines, the global environmental justice movement might just succeed in closing a couple of them down.

The legacy from uranium mining

Being part of that movement, I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of making a toxic tour around a now closed uranium mine in Bulgaria. Massive amounts of toxic sludge were stored behind a weak dam that showed signs of distress after heavy rains caused a spill in 2009. Old EU money was still keeping the dam up but as we’re talking about radioactive waste, money will need to keep flowing to dam repairs for millennia to come.

Since 1992, when the mines closed, and for time immemorial, that will be public money. And that’s how it goes with uranium mines in places with weak or no legislation: short-term private profits followed by perpetual public losses. In Bulgaria the people are still lucky enough to be in the EU with at least some environmental regulations and EU money for environmental protections. The same goes for other EU countries like France, which has dozens of zombie mines: dead but still active. The US also has plenty more zombie mines. The lands of the Navajo Nation include over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Despite the fact that they stopped operating in 1986, new and related lung cancers, bone cancers and impaired kidney functions keep appearing.

But while EU and US now have enough safeguards to keep their own uranium safe under the ground, there’s nothing of that in Namibia or Niger. These two countries are rising players on the uranium market, both exporting their uranium to the EU. Niger has now produced more uranium than France ever did in it’s whole history. It’s here that UK-Australian and French companies are doing the dirty digging that destroys local environment and populace.

Three reports from the EU-funded EJOLT project deal with the environmental and social issues related to uranium mining. One deals with the impacts, one concentrates on a mine in Malawi and the third dwells on the examples of successful resistance to big mining in general.

Bruno Chareyron, a French nuclear engineer who authored most of these reports, has been carrying out toxic tours along uranium mines for the last two decades. That’s not always an easy job, with for example the police confiscating most of your measuring equipment upon arrival in Niger. Nevertheless, Bruno was able to measure that radioactive scrap metal from the mines and mills is sold on the market. Waste rocks from the mines were used to pave roads, build homes and even at the local hospital where the radiation was 100 times above normal. Piles of radioactive waste were left in open air, unprotected, next to two cities with a total population of 120.000.

The missing piece of the puzzle

Where is uranium in the whole debate about nuclear energy? It’s usually only mentioned when the industry says: uranium is only a tiny part of the total cost of our energy model, unlike the situation in the gas and oil industry.

Well, there’s a reason why it’s only a tiny part of the total cost and it’s called cost shifting.

Ecological economists have given names to processes witnessed in the uranium sector:accumulation by contaminationecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt. More and more, people all over the world are coming together to resist against environmental justice.

Our EU and US based nuclear power is currently coming at the cost of poisoning people in Africa. But it begs the question: are we ready to face that reality?

This Author:

Nick Meynen is one of The Ecologist New Voices contributors. He writes blogs and bookshttp://www.epo.be/uitgeverij/boekinfo_auteur.php?isbn=9789064455803 on topics like environmental justice, globalization and human-nature relationships.

When not wandering in the activist universe or his Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/nick.meynen
is dead, he’s probably walking in nature.   

@nickmeynen   http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2987988/uranium_from_russia_with_love.html

August 5, 2016 Posted by | environment, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, politics international, Reference, Uranium | Leave a comment

Hinkley nuclear fiasco is a threat to French company EDF

AREVA EDF crumblingNu Clear News No 87 5 Aug 16 EDF’s future threatened.  Perhaps of more immediate concern is that a go-ahead for Hinkley could threaten the future of the company itself. EDF is a company in a very precarious financial situation. The ratings agency, S&P, postponed a decision to downgrade its credit rating when the UK Government announced the review. (7) EDF has €37 billion of debt. The collapse in energy prices has pushed earnings down 68% in 2015. The Company needs to spend €50 billion upgrading its network of 58 ageing reactors by 2025. It is scrambling to sell €4 billion of new shares and €10 billion of assets to strengthen its balance sheet. EDF is also expected to participate in the €5 billion bailout of Areva, the bankrupt developer of EPR technology, by taking a 75 per cent stake. (8) About the last thing it needs is a new €15 billion millstone around its neck.

 

 

Roy Pumfrey said “The EDF Board should take the opportunity presented by this pause to see that its Nuclear SatNav has taken the Company down a dead end; it’s only a matter of time before we hear that voice saying “At the next opportunity, turn round!”‘

 

 

He continues: “Perhaps most disappointing if not unexpected has been the reaction of the big UK Union leaders. Whilst confessing themselves ‘baffled’ by the government’s ‘bonkers’ decision, they should ask why the French union leaders representing EDF’s own workers were (and are) solidly and vocally opposed to HPC. This project involves a reactor which many of EDF’s own staff regard as unconstructable, selling off the family silver to fund it and putting EDF and therefore their own livelihoods at risk. UK unions do not seem to appreciate that the fantasy 25,000 jobs on HPC are a conjurer’s trick. Only 30% will be ‘local’, which means 90 minutes drive time from HPC, and with only 5,600 on site on any one day, a job with a particular skill set will only be good for two years at most. That’s assuming that

HPC can be built in an optimistic ten years, even that too long to keep the lights on.”

 

 

Over recent months several different alternative to building Hinkley Point C have been detailed (10) Most recently consultancy firm Utilitywise has described the proposed nuclear station as an “unnecessary expense” Energy efficiency measures could save the equivalent amount of electricity along with £12bn

 

Roy Pumfrey said: “This Government review of Hinkley Point C provides us with a wonderful opportunity to turn Somerset into a sustainable energy hub for England. The alternatives would be better for jobs, better for consumers, would reduce the mountain of dangerous waste we don’t know how to deal with and save Somerset from a decade of disruption caused by one of the biggest construction projects in the world The sooner EDF and the UK Government come to their senses the better. http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo87.pdf

 

August 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, UK | Leave a comment

With rapid advances in renewables, nuclear power gets less and less economic

Money down holeFlag-USANuclear Power Is Losing Money At An Astonishing Rate, Think Progress [excellent graphs] BY JOE ROMM AUG 4, 2016 Half of existing nuclear power plants are no longer profitable. The New York Times and others have tried to blame renewable energy for this, but the admittedly astounding price drops of renewables aren’t the primary cause of the industry’s woes — cheap fracked gas is.

The point of blaming renewables, which currently receive significant government subsidies, is apparently to argue that existing nukes deserve some sort of additional subsidy to keep running — beyond the staggering $100+ billion in subsidies the nuclear industry has received over the decades. But a major reason solar and wind energy receive federal subsidies — which are being phased out over the next few years — is because they are emerging technologies whose prices are still rapidly coming down the learning curve, whereas nuclear is an incumbent technology with a negative learning curve.

As you can imagine, if existing nuclear power plants have become unprofitable, then new nuclear power plants make no economic sense whatsoever. Perhaps no surprise, then, that a Reuters headline blared last month, “New Nuclear Reactor Builds Fall To Zero In First Half Of 2016 — Report.”

The utility consultancy Brattle Group came to a similar view on existing nukes in a 2014 analysis, concluding that 51 percent of the merchant (deregulated) nuclear fleet, some 23 Gigawatts, could be unprofitable by 2015. In researching this post, I spoke at length with economist Peter Fox-Penner, one of the country’s leading experts on both the electric grid and decarbonization, the author of Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities. Fox-Penner is the former chair of the Brattle Group…………..

the rapidly dropping price of solar and wind power has started to create problems for inflexible and costly power sources like nuclear power. While their market penetration is vastly lower than nuclear power, there are times during the day when there is an excess of very-low-cost renewables — since they don’t have the high fueling and operations and maintenance (O&M) costs nuclear has.

Nuclear advocates want you to believe that this problem with renewables is long-term and unsolvable — whereas it is in fact short-term and straightforward to solve (see “Why The Renewables Revolution Is Now Unstoppable“). It’s not a surprise the usually slow-to-change utility system was unprepared for the astonishingly rapid growth of low-cost solar and wind power. But with electricity storage prices collapsing and literally hundreds of businesses now starting to emerge to find uses for cheap, over-abundant carbon-free power during the day, this is really a short-term problem……….

it seems as if the NYPSC is severely overpaying their nukes. That seems especially likely given that the nukes in New York State already get a RGGI benefit — whose baseline level the PSC calculates at $10.41 per ton (that number is then later adjusted to reflect the actual RGGI price, which fluctuates, and is currently closer to $5).

I also have serious doubts that this subsidy needs to last until 2029. Within a decade, we are likely to find that existing nukes are even less valuable than we thought. As I’ve said, the rapid advances in renewables, batteries and other storage, demand response, efficiency, and electric vehicles mean that integrating low-cost renewables into the grid will almost certainly be far easier and cheaper and faster than people realize. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/08/04/3803499/nuclear-power-bail-out/

August 5, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s upsetting statements about nuclear weapons

Trump9 Terrifying Things Donald Trump Has Publicly Said About Nuclear Weapons, THINK PROGRESS

BY JUDD LEGUM AUG 4, 2016 On Wednesday, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough passed on an intriguing piece of gossip: Donald Trump, speaking with a “foreign policy expert,” repeatedly asked “why can’t we use nuclear weapons.”

Scarborough’s claim was thinly sourced. He didn’t reveal the identity of the expert advising Trump or even where he learned the information. Information attributed to anonymous sources is inherently suspect.

But one need not rely on anonymous sources to glean Trump’s views on nuclear weapons. He has broached the subject repeatedly on the campaign trail. Several of his public comments are similar to Scarborough’s account while others are terrifying in their own way.

Trump said he might use nuclear weapons and questioned why we would make them if we wouldn’t use them  [VIDEO]….

Trump said he was open to nuking Europe because it’s a “big place” [VIDEO]……

Trump said that “you want to be unpredictable” with nuclear weapons [VIDEO] ,……

[nore videos]…….
 

Trump had no idea what the “nuclear triad” was [VIDEO]…….

Trump started talking about nuclear weapons in Pakistan and made no sense at all [VIDEO]…….

Trump said he’d be OK with a nuclear arms race in Asia [VIDEO]…..

The time he said it didn’t matter if Saudi Arabia acquired nuclear weapons because “it’s going to happen anyway” [VIDEO] …. http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2016/08/04/3804985/7-terrifying-things-donald-trump-publicly-said-nuclear-weapons/

August 5, 2016 Posted by | USA elections 2016 | Leave a comment

UK: Conservatives against Hinkley nuclear power project

scrutiny-on-costsflag-UKNu Clear News No 87 5 Aug 16  Anti-Hinkley Tories Perhaps most interesting amongst recent events has been the emergence of Conservative figures calling on the government to call time on the Hinkley proposals. The think-tank Bright Blue, whose advisory board includes Francis Maude, Nicky Morgan and former DECC minister Greg Barker, has said the government needs a new “plan A”. The group stresses that its position is not necessarily endorsed by all members of the organisation, which includes more than 100 parliamentarians. “The Government should abandon Hinkley C – pursuing it in light of all the evidence of cost reductions in other technologies would be deeply irresponsible,” said Ben Caldecott, associate fellow, Bright Blue. “We need a new ‘Plan A’. This must be focused on bringing forward sufficient renewables, electricity storage, and energy efficiency to more than close any gap left in the late 2020s by Hinkley not proceeding. This would be sensible, achievable, and cheap.” Zac Goldsmith, also a Bright Blue member, has welcomed the government’s rethink.
 Ben Caldecott said “we seem to be re-entering reality, there is an opportunity to develop a new ‘Plan A’ … A range of technologies can easily fill the envisioned capacity that Hinkley would have provided in the late 2020s had it been successfully delivered on the current (and already significantly delayed) construction schedule. They can also do this much more cheaply. Cancelling Hinkley would provide greater certainty for investors in other technologies thereby encouraging investment in new capacity today.” .
He said the price of onshore wind is already much cheaper than nuclear (£85/MWh today and expected to fall to £60/MWh by 2020), with large-scale PV (expected to fall to £80/MWh by 2020) and offshore wind (expected to fall to £80/MWh by 2025) set to do the same – all well before Hinkley would start to receive its staggeringly high guaranteed and index-linked £92.50/MWh.
He goes on to say that Bright Blue will be publishing specific recommendations on energy efficiency soon, and that small modular nuclear reactors are very unlikely to be commercially available at all, let alone before the 2030s in any scalable, cost-competitive or politically acceptable way. They are too uncertain in terms of likelihood and cost for us to place too much faith in them yet, apart from perhaps investing in more R&D. “Blind faith in new nuclear and shale gas have yielded precisely zero for UK security of supply, despite constant rhetoric to the contrary, and yet more punts in high risk areas would not be prudent.” http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo87.pdf

August 5, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

With UK and USA government help, NuScale hopes to go ahead with “mini” nuclear reactors

NuClear News No 87, 5 Aug 16 Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) Britain’s ambition to build small modular nuclear plants took a step forward as the nation’s last independent steelmaker said it will work with Fluor Corp.’s NuScale Power to make components. Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd. will forge a large civil nuclear reactor vessel head by the end of 2017. It is part of a £4m programme funded by the government-backed Innovate U.K. agency. NuScale is providing an undisclosed sum of additional funding.
In the USA, NuScale says it is “at an advanced stage” of development compared to its nearest competitors. NuScale is the only SMR developer to be currently receiving US Department of Energy match funding ($217 million over five years), the only SMR developer to be close to submitting a Design Certification Application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission – which NuScale says will happen later this year – and it has “multiple active customer deployment projects under way”. The first NuScale facility is planned to be in operation in 2024 in the state of Idaho. (2)
New “mini” nuclear reactor technology should be built at Trawsfynydd – the site of a closed Magnox station – according to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee. The nuclear plant in Snowdonia National Park has been shut down since 1991 and is undergoing the lengthy process of decommissioning. The Welsh Affairs select committee said the site would make an “ideal” location to build small modular reactors, and urged the Government to designate it as a site for their construction. Trawsfynydd was not included on the list of approved sites for new nuclear construction drawn up by the Government in 2009, due to its inland, national park location and small size. But there is growing support in Wales for the idea that it could be suitable for small module reactor (SMR) technology, which is by definition smaller and proponents say will be much easier to construct.
NuScale Power has become a supporting partner of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) in Sheffield. The two bodies said the move, which follows several years of informal collaboration, will further enable the two organisations to support each other’s ambitions to bring SMR technology to the UK. The announcement was made on the same day that Nuclear AMRC hosted NuScale Power’s first UK Supplier Day at its facility at the University of Sheffield.
For further information on SMRs see the NFLA Briefing: http://nuclearpolicy.info/docs/nuclearmonitor/NFLA_New_Nuclear_Monitor_No37.pdf   http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo87.pdf

August 5, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology | 1 Comment