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Vested interests and corruption in South Africa’s nuclear procurement

corruptionNuclear deals could be ‘captured’  JAN-JAN JOUBERT | 07 November, 2016 
Environmentalists have warned that proposed nuclear building programmes could be “captured” if Eskom continues to be the procurement agency for the project, which is expected to cost more than R1-trillion.    Environmental action group Greenpeace said former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report on state capture released last week confirmed that vested interests and corruption in the energy sector were central to the energy choices made in South Africa.

“It is no coincidence that Brian Molefe is a key figure in the State of Capture report, and that he and the Eskom board have been running an anti-renewable energy campaign, focused instead on pushing for expensive and unnecessary nuclear energy,” said Greenpeace spokesman Helen Dena.

“This undermines the prioritisation of renewable energy, which would enhance South Africa’s energy future, strengthen the economy and deliver affordable, safe, clean electricity,” said Dena.

DA MP Gordon Mackay said: : “In light of the government’s own policy documents, preference for nuclear is irrational in law.”


November 6, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment


South Africa’s power utility wants to finance nuclear. This is a bad idea. , enca, Seán Mfundza Muller, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Johannesburg Sunday 6 November 2016 JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s cabinet is to consider a proposal that a mooted nuclear power deal for the country be financed through the state-owned power utility Eskom. This is the latest twist in South Africa’s controversial efforts to expand its nuclear power capability by commissioning up to 9.6GW of energy from six nuclear power stations. The decision has been mired in controversy and still hangs in the balance and the offer by Eskom to foot the bill raises more questions than it provides answers.

Recent claims by Eskom’s management fail to adequately address any of the fundamental criticisms of the proposed nuclear programme.

Statements that Eskom can “finance nuclear on its own”, or absorb the risks from an incorrect decision, don’t add up economically or financially, and are misleading.

Furthermore, changes in Eskom’s rationale for justifying nuclear procurement over the last two years call into question the merits and motives of these arguments. Its claims about financing also raise serious questions about the arguments it presented to Parliament last year to justify a R23 billion cash injection and writing off a R60 billion loan.

The right decision would be for cabinet to defer further consideration of the programme for at least two years. In addition Eskom should account to Parliament on discrepancies in its statements about its financial situation.


The three main problems with the case for nuclear procurement are well-established.

The actual power probably will not be needed. Recent trends in economic growth and electricity demand are much lower than the original forecasts on which the supposed need for nuclear power were based.

The programme is also likely to be very costly although there are still no credible, government cost estimates in the public domain. Many energy experts have argued that even if additional capacity was needed, other energy sources may be cheaper or more appropriate.

Finally, the combination of insufficient demand and costly supply means that nuclear poses a serious threat to the future stability of the country’s public finances and economic growth.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, South Africa | Leave a comment

Vietnam getting cold feet about the cost of nuclear power development

Vietnam looks to delay Japan-, Russia-backed nuclear plants amid funds crunch, Japan Times, 6 Nov 16 KYODO  Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party in October instructed government authorities to revise plans to build nuclear power plants with Russian and Japanese assistance with a view to delaying them due to the government’s tight finances, it was learned Sunday from party and government sources.

The government is now working on a comprehensive revision of the plan and intends to submit a report to the National Assembly, according to the sources.

According to one of the sources, a considerable investment at the present time is “extremely difficult” given the financial situation of the government…….

some members of the Communist Party’s new leadership selected at a party congress in January have expressed concern over nuclear power plant construction while public debt remains high as well as over the safety of nuclear power.

At the fourth plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee in October, agreement was reached to reconsider the plan with a view to its postponement……

November 6, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Nuclear plant operators pay high costs to keep their expert employees

Nuclear plant operators find that money talks in turbulent times. By Cole Epley / World-Herald staff writer , 6 Nov 16 

Even though a shuttered nuclear plant is no longer producing electricity, it remains highly regulated to maintain safety for employees and nearby communities. When employees start heading for the exits, plant owners risk seeing institutional knowledge leave with them.

That’s what happened earlier this year at the financially squeezed James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in central New York, after Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. announced plans in November 2015 to shut down the plant for good.

By the time jockeying by New York lawmakers and deal-making with nuclear juggernaut Exelon Corp. removed the plant from a list of doomed facilities in early August, more than 10 percent of FitzPatrick’s 615 workers had jumped ship.

 A similar portion of Fort Calhoun’s workforce has followed suit, according to Mart Sedky, Omaha Public Power District’s division manager of human resources. Employees there began leaving as soon as word got out in May that the plant, the nation’s smallest, was on the chopping block, she said.

David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group, said retention bonuses are a “guard against” such rushes for the exits.

“If people start bailing out because they see the writing on the wall and they want to protect themselves and their families, that poses a challenge to the plant owner,” he said.

Early estimates call for about $45 million worth of retention bonuses and separation packages to Fort Calhoun employees. That number doesn’t include salaries at the plant, which had a $71.2 million payroll in 2015.

A spokeswoman at Entergy would not comment on retention agreements at the FitzPatrick plant in New York. But the company committed approximately $55 million to $60 million in severance and employee retention payments to employees at its now-closed Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in southern Vermont, according to a statement from Entergy announcing the plant’s closing in August 2013.

Nuclear operators elsewhere have also found that money talks in turbulent times. Retention agreements kept nuclear professionals in place at the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin when that plant’s owner announced its closing in late 2012. A spokesman for Dominion Resources, which closed Kewaunee for good in May 2013, said financial details around retention agreements with the plant’s employees were proprietary.

Today there are fewer than 200 employees on-site, down from more than 600 when the plant was running at full-power status.

In testimony supporting a rate hike to the North Dakota Public Service Commission in August 2013, Xcel Energy’s Timothy O’Connor said the Minnesota company was thwarted in its attempts to attract employees from Kewaunee to its own struggling nuclear plant because of retention incentives.

“Employees without retention agreements are extremely vulnerable to other nuclear competitors and this is one reason why (Xcel) has lost a large experience base,” O’Connor, Xcel’s chief nuclear officer, said at the time.

Closer to home, such incentives helped Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station in Brownville turn the corner when that plant’s fate was uncertain……

November 6, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Cost of global warming ‘is worse than I feared’ – Nicholas Stern

Nicholas Stern: cost of global warming ‘is worse than I feared’, Guardian, , 6 Nov 16, 

Ten years ago the leading economist warned about climate change in a landmark report – he says while there is cause for optimism, the picture is still grim. lot has happened since Nicholas Stern, then a permanent secretary at the Treasury, produced his landmark review of the impact of climate change 10 years ago. His work was quickly recognised as the definitive account of the economic dangers posed to the planet by global warming.

Since then, global temperatures have risen to record levels. Arctic summer sea ice has continued to shrink, as have many major land-based ice sheets. Carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere in ever-increasing amounts. At the same time, low-lying coastal areas, such as south Florida and parts of Bangladesh, are experiencing more and more flooding as sea levels have risen. Scientists have begun to link extreme weather events to the planet’s changing climate, while animal and plant species are gradualling moving towards the poles. So, a decade on, is Stern plunged in despair over our prospects? Not quite. While the picture is certainly grim, the world’s top climate economist still believes there are grounds for modest optimism.

“We have been too slow in acting on climate change,” he told the Observer. “In particular, we have delayed the curbing of greenhouse gas emissions for far too long. When we published our review, emissions were equivalent to the pumping of 40-41bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year. Today there are around 50bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. At the same time, science is telling us that impacts of global warming – like ice sheet and glacier melting – are now happening much more quickly than we anticipated.”

In his report, published in October 2006, Stern warned that the cost of inaction would be far greater for future generations than the costs of actions taken today. “With hindsight, I now realise that I underestimated the risks. I should have been much stronger in what I said in the report about the costs of inaction. I underplayed the dangers.”

These are stark remarks. Yet the dramatic success of the Paris climate talks last year, and their subsequent rapid ratification by more than 90 countries, has provided the 70-year-old economist with a sense of hope: “It has taken only 11 months to get the Paris agreement ratified. It took eight years to get its predecessor, the Kyoto protocol, into force. So in a sense, the last 12 months have been encouraging.”

In his review, Stern made a cogent case for the need to make drastic reductions in fossil fuel burning to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, which are heating our atmosphere dangerously. The costs involved – in investing in the development of alternative energy sources, for example – would be far outweighed by the costs of coping with an overheated world afflicted by flooding, soaring temperatures, ruined crops and farmland, lack of food and displaced people, he argued. Most experts responded positively to the review…….

As a counterbalance, Stern points to the fact that in recent years there has been an encouraging increase in the use of sustainable technologies that should help us to wean us of our fossil fuel dependency. Cities like Barcelona and Bogotá have made themselves cleaner and healthier. Coal burning has peaked in China. Hybrid cars and electric vehicles are being sold in increasing numbers and the cost of making solar panels has been reduced by a factor of 20. “We have reached the point where we can now see that the alternative route is not really something that should be regarded as a cost. It is actually a much better way of doing things, even if you had never heard of climate change,” says Stern.

But the message has taken too long to sink in, and as result we are approaching a crunch point, he argues. In the next 20 years, as economies across the globe expand, the planet is likely to build infrastructure – roads, buildings, ports and airports – that will more than double what already exists.

The crucial issue is the nature of that infrastructure. “If it is dirty and high carbon, it will lock us into that technology for a long time. We will be sentenced to live in cities where we cannot breath or move or be productive. If we do it using sustainable technology, however, we could have an extremely attractive future where you have strong growth, poverty is reduced, cities are cleaner and forests are saved. People have not sufficiently understood the importance of the next 20 years. They are going to be the most decisive two decades in human history.”

Last year’s Paris climate deal suggests there is a will to avoid the worst and there is a prospect of further strong agreements being reached at this month’s talks in Marrakech. India, China and the US have all made positive noises. Hillary Clinton is a firm supporter of climate change initiatives ……..

The Paris agreement remains central to Stern’s sense of cautious optimism. “It was the honesty of the delegates’ awareness of the nature of the problem and the speed of the agreement’s ratification that has given me most hope. We have a lot to do to limit carbon emissions to an effective level. I am confident that it is possible to achieve that, though I cannot say that I am confident it will happen.”

November 6, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

When a nuclear bomb was tested in Mississippi

October 1964 Nuclear testing in Mississippi [many photographs]  Waiting on the big bang
by Alex Q. Arbuckle, 6 Nov 16  
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, 1964, a five-kiloton nuclear device was detonated in Lamar County, Mississippi.

The previous year, as a response to rising public anxiety over the potential fallout of bigger and bigger test explosions, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union had signed the Partial Test Ban Treaty, which prohibited all nuclear testing in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space. Underground detonations were not banned in the treaty because it was still technically unclear how they could be detected to ensure compliance.

After signing the treaty, the United States government created Project Dribble, an effort to study how underground nuclear tests could be detected — or hidden.

The site of Project Dribble’s first detonation was 28 miles southwest of Hattiesburg in the Tatum Salt Dome, a massive Mesozoic salt deposit 1,000 feet below the ground.

The plan called for two detonations. The first, code-named Project Salmon, would be an explosion 2,700 feet down in solid salt. The second detonation, Project Sterling, would use a smaller bomb in the cavity left behind by the first blast.

Scientists hypothesized that the shockwaves of the second detonation would be muffled by the cavity, effectively concealing it from seismographic detection. The first blast was scheduled for Sept. 22, but was postponed repeatedly because the wind direction was not ideal.

Finally, on Oct. 22, the conditions were right.

Four-hundred residents were evacuated from the area around and downwind of the blast site. For their trouble, adults were paid $10 and children $5.

At 10 a.m., the Project Salmon device detonated with approximately one-third of the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

The earth rose and roiled in waves, pecans fell from trees, dogs howled in fear, creeks ran black with disturbed sediment, and buildings thirty miles away swayed for minutes on end.

Within a week, hundreds of residents had filed damage claims with the government, citing burst pipes, cracked masonry and suddenly dry wells. The test was a success, however. The blast vaporized a spherical void in the salt 110 feet in diameter. When sensors were lowered into the cavity more than three months later, temperatures still measured over 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Two years after Project Salmon, the second part of the test, Project Sterling, was carried out. A much smaller bomb — equal to 350 tons of TNT versus the first bomb’s 5,000 tons — was detonated in the cavity.

As the scientists hypothesized, the cavity absorbed nearly all of the blast’s seismic force. People on the surface barely felt a bump.

The blasts, which gave the government plenty of data on how underground nuclear tests could be hidden and detected, were declared a success — the only nuclear detonations to ever occur in the eastern United States.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | history, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Fukushima : A Symbol of Hope and Resilience in the Face of Adversity

This photo can be a symbol of hope and resilience in the face of adversity: it’s a Morning Glory, growing along the base of prefab house in a temporary evacuation centre in Miharu, Fukushima.


Special credit & thanks to Lis Fields

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Car Wash Septic Tanks Contain Highly Radioactive Sludge


Highly radioactive sludge is turning up in septic tanks at car washes in Fukushima Prefecture, and the readings are as much as seven times higher than the government’s limit, auto industry officials say.

While the government-set limit is 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, some of the sludge is giving off 57,400 becquerels per kg, a document obtained by Kyodo News says.

The source of the radioactivity is believed to be ash and soot that stuck to vehicles shortly after the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, the officials said Saturday.

Fukushima Prefecture has some 1,700 auto maintenance facilities where a growing number of septic tanks are reaching capacity, they said, adding that the amount of tainted sludge accumulated from washing cars likely weighs several thousands of tons.

To the prevent the septic tanks from overflowing, some of the maintenance facilities are manually scooping up the mud, which has prompted industry groups to warn authorities about the health hazards workers face, the officials said.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association, Japan Automobile Service Promotion Association and Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association have been urging the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which manages the defunct Fukushima No. 1 plant, to address the issue.

But their calls for action have not been heeded, the Environment Ministry and the utility admitted.

The issue has failed to gain attention until now in part because the decontamination law only requires that companies report on radiation levels in sewage sludge and incinerated ash, not other waste products.

Although the companies that install the septic tanks know about the radiation problem, they couldn’t go public about it for fear of losing customers.

Kunikazu Noguchi, associate professor of radiation protection studies at Nihon University in Tokyo, said all tainted sludge should have been designated as radioactive waste and disposed of by the central government, instead of being kept in septic tanks.

The fact that the government failed to act on this problem for 5½ years shows its negligence,” Noguchi said. “To remove sludge that contains nearly 60,000 becquerels of radioactive material per kilogram, you need to do so with extra caution, in line with guidelines set by the Environment Ministry.”


November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Taiwan Minister Says Import Ban not a Bargaining Chip


Minister of Health and Welfare Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) yesterday told lawmakers that the ministry would not risk the health of Taiwanese by lifting a ban on food imports from five Japanese prefectures near the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Lin made the remarks at a meeting of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee yesterday morning, which was to review the ministry’s general budget for next year.

Amid reports that Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) last week asked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus about the possibility of lifting the ban on agricultural products from the five prefectures — just days before the first round of the Taiwan-Japan Maritime Affairs Cooperation Dialogue Mechanism in Tokyo on Monday — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked the minister if it was true the government planned to lift the ban as part of a trade-off.

Food and Drug Administration Director-General Chiang Yu-mei (姜郁美) said that the council report to the DPP caucus was only to explain risks and that it has implemented strict food import controls at borders to help ensure food safety.

She said all food imports from Japan not from the five prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — must have a certificate of origin and a certificate proving they are free of radioactive contamination, adding that the agency would publish a products company name, if radiation readings were above legal tolerances.

At present, we have no plans to lift the ban,” Lin said. “The ministry takes protecting the people’s health as its most important duty.”

After Chiang twice asked Lin to confirm that the government would not use lifting the ban as a negotiation tool in its talks with Japan on maritime affairs, Lin said that it would not.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s New Utilities Object to Footing Part of Fukushima Bill



TOKYO — Japanese independent power providers are up in arms over a government proposal to have them shoulder some costs related to the fallout of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, including compensating victims and decommissioning old reactors.

“Why should we have to pick up compensation costs for Tepco’s accident?” fumed a top official at a company selling electricity in the Tokyo area, referring to Fukushima Daiichi operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings.

Given the narrow profit margins involved in power retailing, new suppliers will likely pass these costs on to customers. More than half a year on from the full liberalization of Japan’s electricity retail market, just 3% or so of households have switched to independent power providers from big regional utilities that had monopolized the market. Some observers worry that forcing newcomers to take on some of the nuclear costs could further slow the glacial pace of the market expansion by taking away their price advantage.

The charges will likely be collected by adding them onto fees for using the regional utilities’ transmission infrastructure. “We won’t have any choice but to raise rates,” sighed an executive at a major independent power supplier.

Many people chose to make the jump from regional utilities as a protest against nuclear power. “It’d be tough to get customers to accept” covering nuclear-related costs, Tokyo Gas President Michiaki Hirose told reporters in October. Tokyo Gas is the largest of the new players with more than 500,000 service contracts.

Sure enough, Tokyo-area suppliers have heard complaints from such customers arguing that having independent providers cover decommissioning expenses would render their decision to switch pointless. “We’ve gotten questions from customers about whether we’re going to pay” these costs, said the head of an independent power company that focuses on renewable energy.

The government aims to scrap aging nuclear reactors while bringing newer facilities back online. One of the major new power providers acknowledges that it would be impossible to maintain nuclear power generation without support from the whole country.

But the new suppliers are demanding to know the details of Tepco’s compensation costs before they pay up. Many also argue that regional utilities should be forced to provide some cheap nuclear power to the electricity wholesale market so they will also feel pain if newcomers are forced to contribute funds.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Destroyed N°1 Nuclear Reactor Building Exposed at Fukushima Daiichi


Video shot from a Kyodo News airplane on Nov. 4, 2016, shows the destroyed No. 1 reactor building at the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, after the removal of 16 of 18 panels covering the building. Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to dismantle the remaining two panels the following week to complete the panel removal work that started in July 2015 as part of decommissioning the plant.

November 6, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

November 6 Energy News



¶ “Climate change: What does it mean for Canada and how can we respond?” • Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century, the World Health Organization says. Canada has already seen health impacts from increased air pollution from wildfires, the spread of Lyme disease, and other health issues. [Canada News]

Climate change in the North Climate change in the North

Science and Technology:

¶ For every tonne of C02 a person produces (the amount of CO2 from burning 100 gallons of gasoline), three square meters of Arctic sea ice melts, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado, and the University College London in the UK. [DailyQuint]

¶ Burning fossil fuels and emissions of other greenhouse gases mean more of the earth’s heat that would have been radiated back to space is trapped at…

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November 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

While the world is transfixed by the US election, real action is happening on climate change


By Christopher Groskopf

When the dust settles from the US election, haggard voters may be surprised to learn that other important things have been happening in the world.

On October 4th, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change came into force—years sooner than expected. The international scramble to ratify the agreement quickly reflected a widespread desire to have it done before Americans could vote in a new president.

The Paris Agreement is the single largest piece of climate change legislation ever enacted.

Over 200 countries signed the treaty at last year’s COP21 meeting.

The agreement puts caps on global emissions and establishes guidelines for international collaboration.

It was designed to automatically come into force once at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global emissions had ratified it.

That threshold was reached last month when the European Union signed off.

Having the climate agreement ratified early clears the way…

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November 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Donald Trump is the best thing to happen to global warming (seriously) #auspol


By Andrew Freedman

The Paris Climate Agreement was enacted Friday, and in doing so, became the fastest global U.N. agreement to go from negotiation to international law in modern history.

In an ironic twist, that quick turn of events owes a great deal to someone who actually wants to dismantle the treaty: Donald Trump.
The threat of a Trump presidency helped move world leaders to fast-track the Paris agreement, bringing it into force early enough to give the planet a better chance of staving off the worst consequences of global warming.

Most accords like this take years, sometimes decades, before they become international law—if they’re even approved to begin with. So why’d this one move so quickly?
One of the most significant reasons was a substantial fear that a Trump presidency would unravel global climate action like the Paris Agreement, particularly if it was still in the fragile phase of…

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November 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment