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The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment

The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 3 March 03, 2017 NRDC Nearly halfway through his first 100 days, President Donald Trump is on track to set a record for putting Americans’ health and our environment at risk.

In recent days, we’ve seen Trump issue an order to keep streams and rivers flowing with toxic chemicals, add a trio of polluters’ allies to his cabinet, hint of eviscerating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and telegraph he’ll soon start to try to unravel our country’s best chance to curb dangerous climate change: the popular Clean Power Plan.

Cabinet nominees

The GOP-led Senate staffed up Trump’s cabinet of polluters by confirming Ryan Zinke at the U.S. Department of the Interior, threatening public lands; Rick Perry at Energy, jeopardizing clean energy; and Scott Pruitt, the polluters’ lawyer, at the EPA.

After Pruitt was sworn in, his old office in Oklahoma released—on court orders—thousands of e-mails confirming his critics’ worst fears. They showed he worked hand in glove as attorney general with fossil fuel lobbyists and dirty energy companies to try to block the EPA’s clean air and clean water rules as well as other health protections. Pruitt also used private e-mail to communicate with his AG staff, even though he told the Senate he did not.

The newly minted administrator, speaking before the Conservative Political Action Committee on February 25, promised to roll back environmental protections in an “aggressive way” and told his appreciative audience that calls to completely eliminate the EPA are “justified.

NRDC is fighting back

A few days before, NRDC filed a Freedom of Information Act request for materials and communications related to a press release the EPA issued announcing Pruitt as the new agency administrator. In the press release, the EPA endorsed statements calling itself “tone deaf,” “rogue,” and “one of the most vilified agencies in the ‘swamp’ of overreaching government.” Such statements are “unheard of and extremely alarming,” says Aaron Colangelo, codirector of litigation at NRDC. “We want to know who and what is motivating the agency’s new leader to undermine the EPA’s mission before he even gets started.”

On February 28, Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time as president, where he outline an agenda that purportedly would create jobs and lift the economy. In response, NRDC President Rhea Suh penned a blog on the website The Hill, noting that the speech left unsaid “his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.”

Slashing the EPA budget

Words and deeds don’t always match up. In his address to Congress, Trump promised to “promote clean air and clean water.” But he declined to mention this: Behind the scenes, he’s cooking up a budget plan that, according to news reports, includes a 24 percent cut to the EPA, the guardian of our air and water and environment. If approved, his plan would cripple the agency founded by Richard Nixon in 1970. NRDC President Rhea Suh warned: “Slashing the EPA’s budget will be dangerous to our health and the well-being of our children.”

Love that dirty water

Trump loves that dirty water. He has signed away safeguards that protected streams and downstream communities from coal-mining pollution. And he recently signed an executive order dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule” because it begins the rollback of the Obama-approved Clean Water Rule to protect wetlands and drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans. Suh declared: “We will stand up to this reckless assault. We’ll stand up for clean water and a healthy future for all Americans.”

Moving ahead with pipelines

In that same address to Congress, Trump boasted about clearing the way for construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would threaten drinking water and our climate, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, disregarding concerns from indigenous people about its impact on their communities. Trump also touted a directive he issued that new American pipelines be made with American steel—except a few days later he exempted KXL from his “buy American” requirements.

Pruitt steps away from limiting methane emissions

Just days into his job, Pruitt yanked an Obama administration directive from last November requiring thousands of oil and gas companies to report a broad range of information about their operations’ emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Pruitt acted just one day after 11 state attorneys general asked the EPA to suspend the requirement, which had been part of a long-term plan to limit wasteful and climate-harming methane emissions.

Drilling on public lands

Even before Zinke took office, the Department of the Interior abruptly stopped enforcing a rule that closed a loophole the fossil fuel industry has used to lower the royalties for extracting oil on public lands (by artificially depressing the market value of that oil). Taxpayers, according to estimates, have lost as much as $30 billion with this scheme.

Orders coming to derail climate action

Trump could, as early as next week, issue an executive order undermining or eliminating the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate action agenda. The plan sets the first national emissions limits on the nation’s power plants, the largest source of the dangerous carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

Reopening public lands to coal mining

Trump also is expected to sign an order lifting an Obama administration moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands. This ignores poll findings of strong support for conservation rather than development among residents of the Rocky Mountain states, home to large tracts of public lands.

NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats posed by the new administration. And we will be vigilantly monitoring and reporting on its assault on the environment through Trump Watch.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, environment, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Americans are confused on climate, but support cutting carbon pollution

 Skeptical Science 6 March 2017 by dana1981 The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication published the findings of its 2016 survey on American public opinion about climate change. The results are interesting – in some ways confusing – and yet they reveal surprisingly broad support for action to address climate change. The Yale team created a tool with which the results can be broken down by state, congressional district, or county to drill down into the geographic differences in Americans’ climate beliefs.

Acceptance of science despite confusion about expert consensus

The first survey questions asked about participants’ beliefs about whether climate changeis happening, what’s causing it, what scientists think, and whether they trust climatescientists. Overall, 70% of Americans realize that global warming is happening, while just 12% said it’s not. A majority of Americans in every state answered the question correctly, ranging from 60% in West Virginia to 77% in New York and 84% in Washington DC. Drilling down to a more local level, majorities in every congressional district and nearly every county in America were aware of the reality of global warming.

But when asked whether most scientists think global warming is happening, Americans got a failing grade. Just 49% correctly answered ‘yes,’ while 28% believed there’s a lot of disagreement among scientists. In reality, even 95% of weathercasters – who are among the most doubtful groups of scientists about human-caused global warming – realize that climate change is happening. This shows that the campaign to cast doubt on the expert consensus on global warming has been remarkably successful in the US.

However, Americans trust climate scientists on the subject of global warming. Overall, 71% trust the scientific experts, while 26% distrust them. Majorities of Americans in every state, county, and congressional district trust climate scientists.

Regarding the cause of that global warming, only 53% of Americans correctly answered that it’s caused mostly by human activities, while 32% incorrectly said it’s mostly natural. By state, correct responses varied from 42% in Wyoming to 59% in California and 67% in Washington DC……..

March 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Paul Ehrlich impressed by the Vatican’s commitment to saving the global environment

Vatican Visit, MAHB, Ehrlich, Paul R. | March 7, 2017 I was somewhat apprehensive about taking my invited place at the workshop on biological extinction of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences at the end of February.  Right wing Catholic websites were loaded with outrage and lies about my invitation, and that of John Bongaarts from the Population Council, and more than 10,000 people had signed petitions to get me (or us) excluded.

My apprehension was unnecessary.  The view of the Academies, backed by the Vatican, was that “all voices should be heard.”  The workshop, arranged by my old friends and colleagues Peter Raven and Partha Dasgupta, was one of the most productive and informative I have ever attended.  It was an assembly of stars, and everyone was treated with dignity, respect, and fine hospitality.  The presidents of the two Academies, Werner Arber and Margaret Archer, and their Chancellor Msgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sarondo were open and friendly.  The papers (which will be published commercially), were (with a single exception) excellent, as was most of the discussion.  Everyone emphasized the grave danger extinctions pose both to human life-support systems and the ethical duties of humanity to preserve “the creation” –the only life-forms we know of in the universe.  There was essentially complete agreement that the drivers of the now-underway sixth mass extinction were human overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, and inequity (poverty)…….

The Catholic Church is the only one with scholarly academies charged with providing unbiased information.  As a result, for example, it has led the way in the battle against climate denial and long ago accepted the overwhelming evidence for evolution.  In a civilization facing existential risks, it should be praised and supported for this attitude toward science.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Italy’s thorium contamination resulting from military operations

Subject:  Alarming levels of thorium-232 at the military firing range lying between Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda, in the province of Pordenone

The Italian Army operates a military firing range lying between the districts of Cordenons, San Quirino, Vivaro and San Giorgio della Richinvelda in the province of Pordenone, in the vicinity of the River Cellina and the River Meduna, and the drills carried out at this firing range have led to the area becoming radioactively contaminated.

As has been reported by the press, in late December 2013 the Commander of the 132nd Ariete Armoured Division in Cordenons, the Commander-in-Chief of the Italian Army, the offices of the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the province of Pordenone and the affected districts, the prefect of Pordenone, and lastly Local Health Authority (ASS) No 6, were all sent the results of tests that had been carried out by the Friuli-Venezia Giulia provincial department of the Italian Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPA), which showed alarming levels of thorium-232 in the area.

Thorium-232 is a notoriously radioactive metal, which emits particles that are six times more hazardous to human health than those released by depleted uranium. It is at its most toxic between around 20 and 25 years after use. More specifically, out of the eight targets (the shells of armoured tanks used for firing practice) tested by the ARPA, four were found to contain thorium-232 at markedly higher levels than those that generally occur naturally; these levels were therefore unnatural, and presumably attributable to military firing operations.

In all likelihood, such levels are the legacy left behind by the drills carried out at the site in the 1980s and 1990s: between 1986 and 2003, the Italian Army’s units were equipped with ‘Milan’ shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, which emitted thorium-232(1). The ARPA has indicated that it will shortly carry out more extensive tests in the area. It is recalled that, as a result of the area’s geological make-up, materials tend to trickle down to the lowest layers, which makes their future recovery appear rather difficult.

Consequently, there is an acute risk that the ‘Magredi’ region, and the rocky terrain that makes it so distinctive, will be devastated; what is more, the area is protected as both a site of Community importance and a Special Protection Area within the meaning of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), due to the wide variety of flora and fauna present there(2).

1. Is the Commission aware of this contamination?

2. Can it report whether any similar cases have occurred in the EU, how they were tackled and whether the areas affected were restored to their original state?

3. What initiatives does it intend to implement in order to prevent similar episodes from occurring in the EU, and in particular to prevent the contamination of aquifers?

(1) The same missiles were also used at the inter-force firing range in Quirra (Sardinia), which is sadly famous for the effects resulting from thorium-232 contamination.
(2) SCI IT3310009 ‘Magredi del Cellina’, SPA IT3311001 ‘Magredi di Pordenone’.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | environment, Italy, Reference, thorium, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s war profiteers

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis “………The Role of Weapons Contractors

We have previously argued that it is the guaranteed profits from nuclear weapons manufacture that leads contractors to resist nuclear disarmament and promote the concept of danger from abroad.

The profitability derives from three distinct aspects of such weapons contracts:

  • First, they cannot be outsourced to lower cost suppliers, such as in China or Mexico, by congressional edict.
  • Second, the contracts are cost-plus. That is, no matter what the companies spend on the manufacture, they are guaranteed a healthy profit on top. And, of course, the more they run up the costs, the more they make.
  • And third, the contracts are screened from oversight, such as proper audits, by national security considerations.

The current 2017 congressional military authorization calls for spending of some $350 billion over the next decade for upgrades of our nuclear weapons ($35 billion a year) — land-based missiles in silos, long-range bombers and their bombs, new Trident submarines and upgraded Trident missiles and new nuclear-capable cruise missiles. The so-called “modernization” program that Trump supports will spend more than $1 trillion — a thousand billion — income tax dollars over the next 30 years.

Given that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that China has become a capitalist economy and that the major difficulties faced abroad are ISIS (also known as Daesh) and related groups, it is deeply questionable why the congressional budget still devotes tens of billions of dollars to Cold War-era nuclear weapons. Yet the Trump administration is proposing to spend a trillion dollars or more over the next three decades upgrading the US nuclear weapons triad.

Where does the pressure for these wasteful and provocative programs — which almost certainly decrease national security — come from? While military high command and the intelligence agencies also press for nuclear weapons upgrades, corporate profits derived from nuclear weapons contracts may be the most powerful driving force, supported by members of Congress with military research and development (R&D) and production facilities in their districts.

A closer look at Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons contractor in the world, reveals how this coupling between corporate profits and the continuation of nuclear weapons delivery programs operates……….

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear company NuGen promoting Moorside nuke plan to local authorities

THE New Nuclear Local Authorities Group (NNLAG) Conference starts in Whitehaven tomorrow. 7 March 2017 

This is being held at Summergrove Halls and runs until Friday.

It includes 15 local authorities from across the UK who are likely to be affected by and benefit from proposals for new nuclear power stations.

Its aim is to share knowledge, information and best practice on the process of developing new nuclear power stations from a local authority perspective.

Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie said: “I am very pleased to welcome this important group to Copeland.

“The work of the NNLAG ensures local authorities with a vested interest in matters new nuclear meet to share their knowledge and expertise and moreover provide an interface with Government.”

 Items up for discussion include housing, transport, skills and tourism impacts of nuclear new build.

NuGen will give a presentation on the Moorside project in Copeland on Thursday.

Chair of NNLAG, Geoff Holdcroft, the deputy leader of Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “Hosting a major national infrastructure project, such as a new nuclear power station, has a massive impact on any area.

“Whilst we support the need for these projects in principle, it is important that we local authorities work together to maximise the benefits for our communities, while minimising the negative impacts. Conferences such as this have an essential role to play in us sharing best practice and presenting a united front to the Government and the major multinational companies proposing these new power stations.”

March 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

South Korea is trying to develop nuclear reprocessing technology other countries have failed at

US expert: uranium price falling, why is S. Korea seeking expensive spent fuel processing facilities? The Hankyoreh, 7 Mar 17

Frank von Hippel says South Korea is trying to develop two kinds of technology other countries have failed at

“The price of uranium is gradually falling, and it costs twice as much to acquire spent fuel processing facilities for running a fast reactor. I don’t understand why [South Korea] is trying to acquire such expensive facilities,” said Frank von Hippel, 80, a professor at Princeton University, during a lecture at a seminar called “Truth and Lies about Pyroprocessing” that was held at the Daejeon Youth We Can Center on Feb. 28. Von Hippel is the American nuclear expert who first proposed the term “proliferation resistance.”

“The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is trying to develop the two technologies that all other advanced countries have failed to develop, which is to say reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and liquid sodium-cooled fast reactors. While they claim to be pursuing nuclear fuel reprocessing as a way to manage nuclear waste, this doesn’t improve the problem but only makes it worse while incurring tremendous costs,” von Hippel warned.

“I don’t think the Trump administration and the Republicans are going to change the Obama administration’s nuclear policy [of non-proliferation],” he said. …..

“The Idaho National Laboratory promised to process 25 tons of spent nuclear fuel using pyroprocessing in five years, but they only processed five tons in 16 years, which cost a huge amount of money,” he went on to say.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and to build fast reactors derives from false predictions about the future, von Hippel explains. In the 1950s, Americans expected that energy demand would double every decade, but the current energy demand is only twice what it was in the 1960s. The American nuclear energy establishment projected in the 1960s that nuclear energy would cover 100% of future energy demand, but at present nuclear power only provides 20% of energy in the US and just 10% of energy worldwide.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel for use also derived from concerns about the depletion of uranium reserves and rising prices. But the dreaded rise in prices never materialized because predictions about the rate of increase of nuclear plants were way off and because the output of uranium mines has not decreased. “Currently, the cost of uranium only accounts for 1% of the cost that goes into producing electricity at nuclear plants. Even if spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed and used at fast reactors, it will only be about 2%. Not only is this a small percentage of the total cost, but it will only make the cost of generation more expensive. I don‘t know if it’s necessary to acquire high-cost facilities,” van Hippel said.

Along with the high cost, there are high risks, which means that hardly any countries are interested in building fast reactors, von Hippel contends. France’s fast reactor Superphenix cost 100 trillion won to develop but only operated at 8% before being decommissioned, and Japan’s Monju nuclear plant operated at just 1% for 20 years before it was decided last year to shut it down. The UK is also planning to end operations in 2018. China operated a pilot fast reactor in 2011, but after producing 20kg of plutonium, a small amount, it concluded that the benefits were marginal and suspended the program. Russia continues to operate these reactors, but there have reportedly been 15 fires at sodium fast reactors……

In von Hippel’s view, the most affordable policy for managing spent nuclear fuel is first storing nuclear waste in dry casks and then burying those casks deep underground in disposal sites that have been prudently designed with engineered barriers.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | reprocessing, South Korea | Leave a comment

Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Remains One of the Worst in the Nation – NRC says

NRC Says Pilgrim Plant Remains One of the Worst in the Nation, By BRIAN MERCHANT, NewsCenter March 7, 2017 PLYMOUTH – The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth remains one of the three worst performing reactors in the country, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Annual Assessment Letter.

The NRC letter indicates the plant’s performance remains under Column 4 and no further regulatory action is required……..The plant was downgraded from Column 3 in 2015 and was placed under increased oversight for safety violations and unplanned shutdowns.

If further regulatory action is needed, the plant could be placed under Column 5, the unacceptable performance level, and a shutdown order could be issued…….

Diane Turco with the Cape Downwinders, an organization calling for the immediate closure of the plant, said the Annual Assessment Letter shows that the NRC is just a cheerleader for the nuclear power industry.

“When they sent out this annual report that the performance at Pilgrim is acceptable and additional regulatory action is not required after the initial inspections, this just shows that the NRC is in support of this industry and they don’t provide for public safety,” Turco said.

“When we see systemic mismanagement, when we see equipment failing over and over and not being repaired the public is at risk.”…..

A second public meeting will be March 21 at Plymouth Memorial Hall to discuss the recent inspection findings.

The NRC said the plant would most likely face 10 to 15 more safety violations during the first public meeting in January…..

In the leaked December e-mail, Don Jackson, the lead inspector of the special inspection, raised concerns about the station’s safety culture, writing “we are observing current indications of a safety culture problem that a bunch of talking probably won’t fix.”

Pilgrim is only one of three stations in the country to be under Column 4 oversight by the NRC. The other two reactors are in Arkansas and are both operated by Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy.

Complete findings from the December and January inspection are expected in April or May.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Dangers of Nuclear Weapons “Modernization”

Trump Is Bankrupting Our Nation to Enrich the War Profiteers March 06, 2017 By Jonathan King and Richard KrushnicTruthout | News Analysis  

“……..Perhaps the most dangerous effect of Trump’s plan is the further modernization of the nuclear weapons triad. Great damage can be done with conventional weapons to people and their communities. But the increased investment in nuclear weapons increases the chances of inadvertent or intentional nuclear war. The resulting catastrophic damage to human society and to the planet will likely be irreversible. We share the concern with many defense experts, such as former Defense Secretary William Perry, that this modernization will increase the anxieties of Russia, China and other nations, and increase the chance of an accidental launch. The launching of the missiles from a single Trident class submarine would obliterate every major city in any adversary nation. If that nation were Russia, the retaliatory response, following in minutes to hours, would obliterate every city on the East Coast of the United States.

Rutgers Climate Scientist Alan Robock and his colleagues have shown that even a limited exchange — for example between India and Pakistan — would generate firestorms throwing enough soot and particles into the upper atmosphere to generate a nuclear winter, lowering the Earth’s temperature and creating worldwide famine for decades following………

March 8, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

New York lawmakers struggle with Gov. Cuomo’s costly nuclear bailout

Lawmakers tread murky details of nuclear bailout debate, Anna Gronewold, Associated Press
March 7, 2017 ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York lawmakers are searching for guidance as they wade through hazy details of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s multibillion-dollar decision to rescue three waning upstate nuclear power plants.

Senators and assembly members at a public hearing Monday denounced the absence of representatives from the Public Service Commission — which approved the landmark bailout in August — to walk them through how and why ratepayer money should be used to preserve the failing plants……

Opponents accused the governor-appointed commission of shrouding the entire decision process in secrecy and questioned whether it considered middle-ground proposals to meet Cuomo’s clean energy goals.

Nuclear watchdog group Alliance for a Green Economy says the program will cost ratepayers an estimated $7.6 billion.

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the organization is most concerned with the speed with which the project slid through the approval process in August.

“The most outrageous part of this from our point of view is that the public was shut out, but they’re going to pay for the tab,” Horner said. “And they’re not even going to know.”

Experts estimate electricity consumers will pay on average about $2 more per month to raise the money. Horner said already-struggling public agencies with enormous electricity costs, such as hospitals and schools and public transportation, could see increases up to $112 million in the first two years of the program……

March 8, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Lawmakers introduce pro nuclear legislation as GAO releases report on Nuclear Regulatory Commission fee collection methods

GAO releases report on Nuclear Regulatory Commission fee collection methods March 07, 2017 by Daily Energy Insider Report The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its review last week of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) budget development process and fee collection methods.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested the report in June 2015 as part of their oversight of NRC.

“NRC’s fee rule and supporting documents did not clearly present the information that stakeholders need in order to understand fee calculations and provide substantive comments to the agency,” GAO said. “Until NRC clearly defines and consistently uses key terms, provides complete calculations and explanations for
the fees, and ensure the accuracy of its fee and work papers, industry stakeholders’ understanding of the NRC’s fee calculations may remain limited.”

In response to GAO’s report, committee members Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), introduced the Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy (NUKE) Act. … Kinzinger said. “I’m excited to introduce this bipartisan legislation today as we take steps to make the regulatory process more efficient and transparent. Nuclear power is incredibly important for the district I represent, and for the country.”

March 8, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Famed anti-nuclear activist group The Cape Downwinders start ballot campaign about Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s wastes

Plymouth: Cape Downwinders Devise Ballot Campaign BY MIMI WALKER MARCH 6, 2017 Famed anti-nuclear activist group The Cape Downwinders have devised a ballot campaign to move spent fuel at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into dry cask storage.

Activist Becky Chin, who also co-chairs the Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee, explains the nuclear storage situation at Pilgrim:

“There is a swimming pool in the attic of the reactor that was designed for 880 assemblies and it now has over 3,000 in it so that they are racked much closer together, it is like a giant wine rack. On the site next to the reactor is a football field of concrete that has huge casks that they could put 60 or so assemblies in. We have no long term option that the federal government has provided for us, it is a better option than the swimming pool,” said Chin.

Every two years, spent fuel rods from the core of Pilgrim’s reactor are moved into the storage pool; however, it can take up to five years for the rods to cool down to a safe temperature for dry cask storage.

The Cape Downwinders ballot campaign is a plea to government officials; there is no official federal repository to store the spent fuel rods, so nuclear waste could remain on the site for several decades, even after the plant closes in 2019.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be back in Plymouth for another public meeting regarding Pilgrim on March 21.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

$110 million deal to keep FitzPatrick nuclear facility operating, NRC approves transfer from Entergy to Exelon

NRC approves transfer of Entergy’s Fitzpatrick nuclear plant to Exelon       Utility Dive      8 Mar 17Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission last week approved the transfer of the operating license belonging to Entergy’s FitzPatrick nuclear facility to Exelon as part of a $110 million deal to keep the plant operating.
  • The NRC’s approval is the last regulatory hurdle of the deal, reports, with Exelon officials anticipating to close out the deal later this month.
  • Entergy had planned to shutter the struggling FitzPatrick plant, but Exelon agreed to purchase it with the caveat that New York developing a Clean Energy Standard subsidy program to keep it profitable. But the Zero Emissions Credit plan is now being challenged by the Electric Power Supply Association, which argues the credits intrude on federal jurisdiction of wholesale markets.
  • Dive Insight:
  • New York’s plan to save the state’s nuclear fleet is tied up at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency has only two members, preventing any decisions on major cases until a third commissioner is seated for a quorum.

    While the deal moves ahead, federal regulators will still need to make broader decisions about how to credit the carbon-zero output from nuclear plants, which struggle against natural gas plants and renewables with lower fixed costs. While generators opposing the plan say the ZECs intrude into wholesale power markets, Exelon has argued they are within the state’s purview…..

March 8, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Energy efficiency programs able to replace the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant

Replacing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant with Energy Efficiency, Huffington Post

03/06/2017, Steven Cohen,   “…….According to Synapse Energy Economics:

“Under aggressive but cost-effective and potentially attainable increases in energy efficiency beyond the levels assumed in the Clean Energy Standard, all of the consumption otherwise met with IPEC (Indian Point Energy Center) station output could be met by more efficient energy use alone by 2023…”

The report estimates that aggressive energy efficiency programs could produce savings equal to twice the power generated by the Indian Point plant. A New York Times piece by Patrick McGeehan discusses the report’s analysis of energy efficiency programs in Connecticut and Rhode Island; these two states provide incentives for the adoption of energy efficiency measures and are able to produce energy savings of about 3% a year.

Ultimately, we will need renewable energy to power our entire energy system, but in the short run, we waste so much energy that efficiency can be used to meet our energy needs without using nuclear power. …..

Using energy efficiency to replace nuclear power, as proposed by NRDC and Riverkeeper, is an elegant solution to a difficult problem. New York’s Public Service Commission should work harder to incentivize energy efficiency. Utilities should make more profit when they deliver on efficiency goals. Con Ed should make more money when they sell less electricity. Homeowners should receive tax credits for demonstrating reductions in energy use. Energy audits and the capital costs of retrofits should be provided at a discount. Businesses should receive free consulting services from utilities and the state on how to incorporate energy efficiency practices into routine organizational management. The goal is to grow the economy without building new power plants—to maintain, and even improve, our standard of living while reducing our use of energy.

The idea to replace nuclear power with energy efficiency was not invented in New York. Typical of many new energy and environmental programs, it began in California. In June 2016, Pacific Gas and Electric announced an agreement it had reached with labor unions and environmental groups to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant by 2025 and replace it with energy efficiency and renewable energy. Writing in Scientific American, Debra Kahn reported that: “Environmentalists said other states could use the agreement as a template to replace other nuclear and fossil-fueled plants with renewables, especially distributed solar, in order to fight climate change.”

Renewables still require new technology to displace other sources of energy, but energy efficiency is here right now. Energy efficiency is an important source of energy because of the casual way we have treated the use of energy in the past. Energy is a central resource needed in nearly every aspect of modern life. Appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, heaters, vehicles, computers, smartphones, radios, cable boxes, televisions, stoves and coffee makers all require energy. In many cases these appliances have been built to ensure reliable performance, but until the past decade or two, efforts to deliver that performance did not focus on delivery with the least possible energy use. Once engineers turned their attention to energy efficiency they found they could produce new appliances that worked just as well as the old but required much less energy. Similarly, architects and real estate developers started to design structures and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems that used less energy. Old structures could be retrofitted with better insulated windows, timers, and motion-sensitive lighting, along with LED light bulbs.

Industrial energy use in data farms and other locations provide large, new targets for energy efficiency. One of the chief advantages of energy efficiency is that it is difficult to argue against it. What is the counter-argument? Let’s waste as much energy as we can and spend lots of money on energy instead of saving it for better uses?

There are, however, obstacles to energy efficiency: capital costs, habit, inconvenience, risk due to reduced redundancy (eg. in information technology facilities), outmoded regulations, and so on. But there is undeniable momentum behind efficiency as a “source” of energy. It enables reductions in pollution and in the costs of energy without trading off any benefits…..

The contrast between these two states and the Trump Administration could not be sharper. California and New York are trying to make the transition to a renewable energy future. The Trump folks are trying to piece together the pipelines, oil rigs, and coal mines of our energy present and past. I, for one, am betting on the future.

March 8, 2017 Posted by | ENERGY, USA | Leave a comment

Indonesia’s battle against climate change


United States President-elect Donald Trump may have labelled climate change a hoax, but that has not stalled the momentum behind last month’s United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco.

Less than one year after its adoption, the Paris climate agreement has entered into force, with some 175 countries already on board.

The next step will be to begin implementing the commitments each country has made.

In South-east Asia in particular, regional cooperation will be critical to address certain issues that transcend national boundaries.
One of the largest obstacles to climate change efforts in South-east Asia remains Indonesia’s forest and peatland fires. Though these fires are perhaps most notorious as the source of the annual haze that blankets our region, they should rightly be framed as a global concern about carbon emissions.
To put things into perspective, Indonesia’s 2015 fires produced the equivalent of 1,750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e), which is almost the same amount emitted by Indonesia’s entire economy in an average year (1,800 MtCO2e).
Hence, it is heartening that Indonesia has shown resolve in addressing the issue.

The reduction in fires this year must be credited to not only wetter weather, but also the political will and concerted efforts of the government of President Joko Widodo.
At the peak of the haze crisis last year, Mr Widodo visited South Sumatra to understand the fires first-hand and subsequently established the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) in January 2016.

The BRG has been charged with coordinating the restoration of 2.1 million hectares of degraded peatland across Indonesia by 2020.
Following orders by Mr Widodo to “get very tough” on errant companies, Indonesian police have arrested more than double the number of individuals in forest fire cases this year compared with last year.
The Indonesian government is also responding faster to fires, enabled by the early declaration of a state of emergency in six provinces. These efforts have been commended by regional leaders, including Singapore’s Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli.
Such measures were crucial in the immediate aftermath of the fires. But the true challenge comes in figuring out how to tackle this complex problem in the long term.
One pressing issue is the ongoing debate over the most appropriate way to restore degraded peatland. Comprised of partially decayed organic matter, peatland is often drained to grow oil palm, acacia trees for pulp and paper, and other agricultural crops. But drained peat is highly flammable during the dry season, resulting in fires that can take months to extinguish.
Some parties contend that the only sustainable way to restore degraded peatland is to rewet, reforest and protect the entire landscape. Otherwise, fires that start on agricultural lands may easily spread into protected areas, destroying intact forests…….

March 8, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Indonesia | Leave a comment