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Attempts to stop New York State’s $8 billion bailout of Exelon’s upstate nuclear power stations

Groups Make Last Ditch Effort To Stop NY Nuclear Plant Bailout, WAMC 1 Apr 17  Midnight Friday is not just the deadline for the New York state budget to be finished. It’s also the date for an $8 billion state bailout of some upstate nuclear power plants to begin. More than 80 local government leaders are making a last ditch effort to stop a plan that they say will cost electric utility ratepayers billions of dollars.

In the summer of 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Public Service Commission announced that they’d reached a deal to provide nearly $8 billion to help Exelon, which owns two upstate nuclear power plants, buy a third one and keep them all running for another twelve years.

Cuomo announced the deal to cheering plant workers in Oswego, who would all be able to keep their relatively high-paying jobs for another dozen years.

“And keep it producing nuclear power for years and years to come,” Cuomo said, in August of 2016…….

The downside of the deal, say opponents, is that electric rates will go up for many rate payers in vast regions of New York.

More than 80 local government leaders, mainly from municipalities who would also have to pay the higher electric rates, came to the Capitol to ask for a moratorium on the deal, until there’s more time to study the consequences. Carl Chipman, supervisor of the town of Rochester, in Ulster County in the Hudson Valley, says the plan was enacted in a hasty and secretive manner, with no chance for the public to weigh in.

“We urge Governor Cuomo to halt the planned Public Service Commission mandate,” said Chipman, “Until a comprehensive and transparent evaluation of the available alternatives is conducted and made available for public comment.”

Jean Kessner, Syracuse City Councilor At-Large, says her city will be paying part of the estimated $2 billion in additional electric fees to help finance the bail out.

“It is not fair,” Kessner said. “If somebody sent you a bill for something you didn’t buy, you wouldn’t pay it.”

The plan has also angered some environmentalists. The New York Public Interest Research Group is one of the organizations opposed to the bailout. NYPIRG’s Blair Horner says nuclear power is not the best bridge fuel to use in achieving greener energy sources.

“It’s multi billions of dollars the state is going to spend to give to one company to keep Vietnam War-era power plants open for twelve years, and then close them down,” Horner said.  “We think the money is better invested in 21st century, renewable and safe technology.”

Governor Cuomo has a different policy for nuclear power plants located downstate.  In January, he announced a deal to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant along the Hudson River in Westchester County by 2021……

April 1, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

EDF starts pouring concrete at £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear power plant

Hinkley Point construction gets under way, EDF starts pouring concrete at £18bn nuclear power plant, by: Andrew Ward, Energy Editor , 31 Mar 17, Construction has begun of the first permanent structures at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset, marking an important step towards Britain’s first new nuclear plant since the 1990s. EDF, the French utility leading the £18bn project, said it had started pouring concrete after receiving its first go-ahead for construction work from Britain’s nuclear regulator………

Construction at Hinkley will last eight years if a target is met to be producing electricity from its two reactors by 2025. Similar projects involving EDF’s European Pressurised Reactor in France and Finland have been beset by delays and cost overruns. About 1,600 people are already working at the site and 3 million cubic metres of earth has been moved in preparation for what will be one of Europe’s biggest construction projects. Work is also under way on a jetty to which much of the construction material will be delivered by ship, a seawall to protect the site from the sea and on-site accommodation blocks for hundreds of workers………
The government promised EDF a price of £92.50 per megawatt hour of electricity generated by Hinkley, based on 2012 prices and rising with inflation for the 35-year duration of the contract. This is more than double current wholesale prices, although EDF points out that other new forms of power generation such as offshore wind also receive hefty subsidies. Another proposed nuclear plant, at Moorside in Cumbria, took a step forward on Thursday when UK regulators gave approval to the AP1000 reactors planned for the project. However, this came a day after Westinghouse, the Toshiba subsidiary which makes the AP1000, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, increasing doubts over the viability of the Cumbrian project.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Tiny New Guinea frogs endangered by climate change

Tiny frogs face a troubled future in New Guinea’s tropical mountains, ABC News, The Conversation, 30 Mar 17, By Paul Oliver and Michael Lee At night, the mountain forests of New Guinea come alive with weird buzzing and beeping calls made by tiny frogs, some no bigger than your little fingernail.

These little amphibians — in the genus Choerophryne — would shrivel and dry up in mere minutes in the hot sun, so they are most common in the rainy, cooler mountains.

Yet many isolated peaks, especially along northern New Guinea, have their own local species of these frogs.

So how did localised and distinctive species of these tiny frogs come to be on these isolated peaks, separated from each other by hotter, drier and rather inhospitable lowlands?

Our new study of their DNA, published this week in the open access journal PeerJ, reveals how they achieved this feat. It reveals a dynamic past, and more worryingly it highlights the future vulnerability of tropical mountain forests and their rich biodiversity………

During past phases of global cooling (glacial periods), the colder, wetter, mountainous habitats of New Guinea expanded downhill, a process termed elevational depression.

If depression was extensive enough, the frogs on one mountain might have been able to travel across tracts of cool, wet lowlands to colonise other mountains.

Later, a warming climate would wipe out the lowland populations, leaving two isolated mountain populations, which might eventually become new species………

The little frogs and the future

Why does it matter how the tiny frogs moved to their mountain habitats? Because it could be a warning to their future survival……..

As we’ve shown, the global cooling in past glacial periods allowed the mountain-dwelling frogs to move down across the lowlands to find new mountain peaks.

But today, as global temperatures soar to levels not seen for millions of years, their habitable cool zones are heading in the other direction: shrinking uphill.

We have no idea how quickly these frogs will respond to these changes, but recent research elsewhere in New Guinea has found birds are already shifting upslope rapidly.

We don’t yet know what could happen to these cute little amphibians should temperatures continue to climb, and they in turn run out of mountainside to climb………

April 1, 2017 Posted by | environment, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Greenland’s coastal ice slowly melting away

Some of Greenland’s coastal ice will be permanently lost by 2100, Glaciers and ice caps can no longer capture meltwater, Science Daily ,March 31, 2017

Ohio State University
The glaciers and ice caps that dot the edges of the Greenland coast are not likely to recover from the melting they are experiencing now, a study has found.

The glaciers and ice caps that dot the edges of the Greenland coast are not likely to recover from the melting they are experiencing now, a study has found.

Researchers report in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications that melting on the island passed a tipping point 20 years ago. The smallest glaciers and ice caps on the coast are no longer able to regrow lost ice.

The current study suggests that the melting of Greenland’s coastal ice will raise global sea level by about 1.5 inches by 2100.

The find is important because it reveals exactly why the most vulnerable parts of Greenland ice are melting so quickly: the deep snow layer that normally captures coastal meltwater was filled to capacity in 1997. That layer of snow and meltwater has since frozen solid, so that all new meltwater flows over it and out to sea.

It’s bad news, but not immediate cause for panic, said Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat, part of the international research team that made the discovery.

The findings apply to the comparatively small amount of ice along the coast only, he explained — not the Greenland Ice Sheet, which is the second largest ice cache in the world………

The Greenland Ice Sheet is subject to the same danger, Howat said, but to a much lesser degree than the isolated bits of ice on its edges.

The real value of the study is that provides “more evidence of rapid change and how it happens,” he added.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

The Republicans who now accept the need for action on climate change

Climate Converts: The Conservatives Who Are Switching Sides on Warming
It’s hardly being noticed, given the current political atmosphere in Washington. But a small yet growing number of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians are starting to push for action on climate. Yale Environment 360   
  MARCH 30, 2017 As liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans pull farther apart in the long-running, increasingly polarized debate over climate change, Jerry Taylor is a rare bird — an advocate who has switched sides.

For two decades, as an energy and environment expert with the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and the libertarian Cato Institute, Taylor challenged the scientific consensus on climate change and argued that decarbonizing the energy sector would impose intolerable costs on the U.S. economy. “I was an enthusiastic and convinced champion of the idea that climate change is an overblown problem,” he says.

Today, as the founder and president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, Taylor embraces the scientific consensus on climate change and argues that a carbon tax is “the most efficient and least costly means of achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and hedging against climate risk.” He makes the conservative case for carbon pricing in footnoted position papers, on Capitol Hill, and to the media, with unbridled passion. “If you believe in free markets, how are those ends advanced by burning the planet?” he asks.

Taylor has joined a small but growing cohort of Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians who are bucking Republican Party orthodoxy on climate — even as President Trump has moved briskly to roll back the Obama administration’s major climate initiatives. Loosely organized and sometimes called the eco-right, they include GOP stalwarts James Baker and George Shultz and the former treasury secretary Hank Paulson; Ted Halstead of the Climate Leadership Council, a newly formed research and advocacy group that supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax; Eli Lehrer of the R Street Institute, a right-leaning Washington think tank that supports carbon taxes; and Lynn Scarlett, a former Bush administration official and director of the libertarian Reason Foundation who now directs global public policy at The Nature Conservancy. ……..

April 1, 2017 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Despite renewable energy growth, and lowered demand, Eskom still touting new nuclear power for South Africa

Eskom on nuclear charm offensive, za.31 March 2017, Siseko Njobeni Johannesburg – Eskom, the designated procurer for South Africa’s new nuclear build programme, has gone on a charm offensive and recently commissioned a study that has shown the multibillion-rand benefits of its Koeberg nuclear power station.

Eskom yesterday released the results of a KPMG study that looked at Koeberg’s socio-economic impact in the Western Cape and South Africa in the period between 2012 and 2025.

Although Koeberg, which is Africa’s only nuclear plant, has been producing power into the national electricity grid since the mid-1980s, nuclear still battles with social acceptability in certain quarters in South Africa and internationally.

The government’s plans to go ahead with the nuclear build programme has consistently run into opposition on environmental and affordability grounds.

“Economic impact assessment of Koeberg does not provide answers to all the questions. But it adds context to the journey we are on and helps us to alter their philosophical views on nuclear power. It is meant to inform. For me what is important is not proving whether nuclear is preferable to coal or renewables to gas,” said Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown at the release of the report in Cape Town yesterday……..

Ironically, Eskom has recently been in the spotlight for its decision to decommission five of its power stations from 2020 because of, among others, lethargic economic growth and the addition of renewable energy from independent power producers (IPPs).

April 1, 2017 Posted by | South Africa, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Japan’s ambitions to export nuclear technology have been dimmed by Toshiba’s U.S. unit bankruptcy

Toshiba’s U.S. unit bankruptcy dims Japan’s nuclear ambitions, Japan Times, BY KYODO , 31 Mar 17The bankruptcy filing by Toshiba Corp.’s U.S. nuclear unit highlights the tough business climate in the sector and the scale of the challenge Japan faces in seeking to sell its nuclear technology abroad.

Westinghouse Electric Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday as its Japanese parent rushed to plug huge losses related to the nuclear business and pull out of the sector overseas.

Toshiba bought the U.S. nuclear energy company in 2006 for about ¥600 billion ($5.4 billion), aiming to expand its nuclear power business abroad as one of its core operations.

Such efforts by Japanese nuclear businesses to push exports have been taken up by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of a growth strategy to revitalize the deflation-hit domestic economy…..

However,  the nuclear business environment has changed dramatically since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. Stricter safety regulations introduced after the disaster have raised costs to construct plants and some countries have become more cautious about new reactors……

“It’s a high-risk business. It always has been,” Tadahiro Katsuta, a professor specializing in atomic mechanics at Meiji University in Tokyo, said. “Even before the Fukushima crisis, the nuclear business had been struggling. It’s not something one company can do on its own or can easily export like cars in terms of safety concerns.”

Toshiba said Wednesday it could post a group net loss of ¥1.01 trillion ($9.13 billion) for the fiscal year ending March 31, with massive costs related to the Chapter 11 filing. Westinghouse has $9.8 billion in total liabilities, much of which must be shouldered by Toshiba under a debt guarantee for the U.S. unit.

With the do-or-die decision on the filing, Toshiba will make all-out efforts to move out of its financial woes, Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa told a news conference in Tokyo Wednesday evening.

“We are almost risk-free as we are pulling out of overseas nuclear operations, the biggest problem,” he said…….

The nuclear climbdown is not a problem specific to Toshiba.

Hitachi Ltd., another major nuclear company, said last week it will book an estimated ¥65 billion write-down for fiscal 2016 related to a laser uranium enrichment joint venture with General Electric in the United States. The company said demand for nuclear fuel in the country was unlikely to grow as strongly as it had expected…….

The nuclear climbdown is not a problem specific to Toshiba.

Hitachi Ltd., another major nuclear company, said last week it will book an estimated ¥65 billion write-down for fiscal 2016 related to a laser uranium enrichment joint venture with General Electric in the United States. The company said demand for nuclear fuel in the country was unlikely to grow as strongly as it had expected……

Mitsubishi Heavy and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. said in February they will invest in Areva, which is a partner of Mitsubishi in a joint venture to develop nuclear plants.

Still, the dynamics in the energy sector have been changing drastically……..

April 1, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

Colorado’s secret nuclear history

Nuclear secrets you probably didn’t know about Colorado Garrison Mar 31, 2017 DENVER – You might not know it, but Colorado played a major role in the nuclear arms race during the Cold War.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | history, USA | Leave a comment

With New York subsidy to FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, Exelon has now bought this struggling station

Sold! FitzPatrick acquisiton complete, WRVO, 1 Apr 17,  The transfer of the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant to its new owner is officially complete. Exelon, which owns and operates the nearby Nine Mile Point Nuclear Facility Exelon, announced Friday that its negotiations with Entergy are done. The company bought the Oswego County plant last summer for $110 million.

FitzPatrick had been hemorrhaging money because of competition from natural gas. Entergy said the plant was losing the company about $60 million annually, so they moved to decommission it. But New York regulators stepped in to prevent its closure, passing a comprehensive clean energy plan that will  the state’s financially struggling nuclear plants, including FitzPatrick, with subsidies that are scheduled to kick in tomorrow. …….

the subsidy program supporting the deal may be in jeopardy. The New York State Assembly has proposed a one-house budget that would halt the program until they can hold a hearing with state officials. And several pending lawsuits also threaten the plan.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment