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This week’s nuclear news in brief

The most headline-grabbing nuclear story of the week was the collapse of  a tunnel at America’s Hanford nuclear site. While authorities stressed that no-one was injured, and no radiation was released, this accident highlighted the unsafe storage of America’s nuclear weapons waste.

In international politics, the elections of Emmanuel Macron, in France, and of Moon Jae-in, in South Korea, are unwanted blows to the global nuclear industry. Moon Jae-in also signals a trend away from alliance with USA, and a willingness to work with China.

Record-Thin Sea Ice Faces Big Predicted Arctic Warm-up This Week.

NORTH KOREA. North Korea could conduct nuclear test in May – Chinese expert.


CLIMATE.  Montana’s glaciers disappearing – shrinking, like many glaciers world-wide. Arctic Council meeting: USA might be confronted by Arctic Nations concerned about climate change. Environmental Protection Agency dismisses at least five members of a major scientific review board.

SOUTH KOREACatholics lead in South Korean movement against nuclear power. THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense (MD) system a major environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.

JAPAN. The urgent danger of wildfires in the radioactive Fukushima area. Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui calls on U.N. chief to attend nuclear disarmament conference in August.

RUSSIA. Russia selling debt and dependence to its overseas customers.

INDIAWater and steam leakage causes shutdown of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Reactor.

CANADA. Cities of Marysville and St. Clair oppose Lake Huron nuclear waste dump. Uranium company Cameco in trouble: the industry is just not viable.

GERMANY. German energy groups turn to lucrative business of decommissioning nuclear power stations,

AUSTRALIA. Today, the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia  on Australia joining the Framework Agreement for International Generation IV Nuclear Reactor Development published the submissions that it received. As this Inquiry has been kept quite secret from the media and the public, it is not surprising that nearly all of the submissions have come from companies and individuals with either a very clear, or a vested, interest in the nuclear industry.

BULGARIA. Bulgaria trying to get private investors for its nuclear project.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

The unsafe storage of America’s nuclear weapons waste

Nuclear Waste From the Cold War Is Being Stored in Unsafe Conditions. Time to Fix the Problem is Running Out, TIME, Nicholas K. Geranios and Manuel Valdes / AP, May 11, 2017 (RICHLAND, Wash.) — The collapse of a tunnel containing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex underscored what critics have long been saying: The toxic remnants of the Cold War are being stored in haphazard and unsafe conditions, and time is running out to deal with the problem.

“Unfortunately, the crisis at Hanford is far from an isolated incident,” said Kevin Kamps of the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear.

 For instance, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which opened in the 1950s and produced plutonium and tritium, the government is laboring to clean up groundwater contamination along with 40 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste stored in tanks that are decades past their projected lifespan. The job is likely to take decades.

In addition to the tunnel collapse discovered Tuesday, dozens of underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — some dating to World War II — are leaking highly radioactive materials.

The problem is that the U.S. government rushed to build nuclear weapons during the Cold War with little thought given to how to permanently dispose of the resulting waste.

Safely removing it now is proving enormously expensive, slow-going, extraordinarily dangerous and so complex that much of the technology required simply does not exist. The cleanup has also been plagued with political and technical setbacks.

For example, the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository, in New Mexico, closed to new shipments in 2014 after an improperly packed drum of waste ruptured. The site just recently reopened.

The U.S. Department of Energy spends about $6 billion a year on managing waste left from the production of nuclear weapons. “The temporary solutions DOE has used for decades to contain radioactive waste at Hanford have limited lifespans,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and frequent Hanford critic. “The longer it takes to clean up Hanford, the higher the risk will be to workers, the public and the environment.”

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledged the problem with nuclear waste, saying the nation can no longer delay fixing the problem because lives are at stake.

During a tour Wednesday of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Perry said the federal government has failed to remove the waste in a timely manner and he pledged to make progress.

A recently approved bipartisan federal budget deal for this fiscal year includes $2.3 billion for the ongoing Hanford cleanup, which matches the amount that Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, worked to include last year. President Donald Trump is expected to release his 2018 proposal later this month.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state plans to issue an order making sure the federal government determines the cause of the tunnel collapse. The order will also require the Energy Department to assess if there’s an immediate risk of failures in any other tunnels and take actions to safely store waste in the tunnels until a decision is made about how to permanently handle the material.

Thousands of workers at Hanford were told to stay home as efforts began to plug the 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) sinkhole in the earth over the unoccupied storage tunnel…….

May 12, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Russia selling debt and dependence to its overseas customers

Is Rosatom selling debt and dependence to its overseas customers? When a court in South Africa torpedoed a $76 billion deal to build 10 nuclear reactors with Russia’s Rosatom because the arrangement reeked of corruption, it seemed like the project was kaput.  May 10, 2017 by Charles, When a court in South Africa torpedoed a $76 billion deal to build 10 nuclear reactors with Russia’s Rosatom because the arrangement reeked of corruption, it seemed like the project was kaput.

At issue to the court was the fact that Rosatom was given the lucrative contract behind closed doors without any competing tenders, and that the company had been granted “special favors.” South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, even sacked his finance minister for opposing the deal.

The high court demanded that a contract of such breathtaking magnitude – representing a quarter of South Africa’s gross domestic product and $24 billion more than its state utility, Eskom, has in the bank – be approved by parliament.

Hanging over the deal, and numerous others like it, is the degree to which Rosatom seems to be pursing not just energy dominance in a world trying to wean itself coal, but political influence as well by putting its customers in long-term hock to Moscow.

The South Africa deal may yet come off, but it’s also surprising that it got so far in the first place.

It began as one of Rosatom’s handshake “memorandums of understanding” that the company is using to blanket the nuclear construction market and squeeze out competition. The company says it has 27 of these MOUs and other arrangements, amounting to $135 billion in incoming business, a claim that invites skepticism.

Many of the counties Rosatom counts among that number – like Jordan, Algeria, Nigeria and Bolivia – won’t be ready for nuclear for decades. Others where Rosatom builds are already underway – like India’ Kudankulam, Iran’s Bushehr, China’s Tianwan and Belarus’s Ostrovets – are already familiar with Rosatom’s typical cost overruns and delays.

Rosatom’s approach to marketing its VVER-1000 and VVER-1200 reactors is unique because it offers to finance, build and operate its plants. These generous terms come thanks to the enormous state subsidies it receives, and which it can then funnel into loans that boost its profits on paper. With government subsides set to decrease or dry up in 2020, however, Rosatom seems desperate to announce ever more MOUs.

While the terms of the financing for the South Africa deal never got spelled out, it’s clear from Rosatom deals in other countries that the terms are often steep.

To build Hungary’s controversial Paks-2 plant, Rosatom gave Budapest an $11 billion loan spread out over 30 years. Hungary has to start paying that back even if the plant is not completed on time. The interest Moscow could collect from Hungary is unclear, but a similar 30-year, $11.4 billion agreement with Bangladesh inked last year could result in $8 billion in interest. A $25 billion deal Rosatom signed with Egypt could, over 35-year term of the loan, swell to $71 billion.

And that’s if everyone behaves. The plant Rosatom is building in Turkey offers an indication of what happens when they don’t. To build Hungary’s controversial Paks-2 plant, Rosatom gave Budapest an $11 billion loan spread out over 30 years. Hungary has to start paying that back even if the plant is not completed on time. The interest Moscow could collect from Hungary is unclear, but a similar 30-year, $11.4 billion agreement with Bangladesh inked last year could result in $8 billion in interest. A $25 billion deal Rosatom signed with Egypt could, over 35-year term of the loan, swell to $71 billion.

And that’s if everyone behaves. The plant Rosatom is building in Turkey offers an indication of what happens when they don’t.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | 1 Comment

North Korea could conduct nuclear test in May – Chinese expert

Chinese expert says North Korea could conduct nuclear test in May, Tass, May 10, 2017 In April, North Korea carried out several missile tests the latest of which took place on April 28, only a few hours after the UN SC held a meeting to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula. SHANGHAI, May 10. /TASS/. There is a strong possibility that North Korea will conduct a new nuclear test in May, Executive Director of the Institute of International Relations at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Liu Ming said in an interview with TASS.

“In April, North Korea launched several missiles but they all failed,” he said. “There was no nuclear test in April but it does not mean that North Korea will not conduct one in May. I believe there is a strong possibility that the country will hold the next nuclear test this month,” the Chinese expert noted saying that these plans were the main reason for the current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“According to my estimates, tensions on the Korean Peninsula will remain in May and June for Pyongyang is highly likely to conduct another nuclear test during this period,” Professor Liu Ming pointed out. He added that “North Korea is playing for time choosing the right moment, because all the preparations for the sixth nuclear test have been completed.”

The Chinese expert also expressed his opinion on the possible consequences of a new nuclear test. “I think, after the sixth nuclear test, the window of possibilities to solve the North Korea issue will almost completely close. Only a few chances will remain to solve the issue using diplomatic methods,” Professor Liu Ming said. He noted that “if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test, then China will have to reduce its economic aid to North Korea.”

…….“The US and South Korea are not ready to discuss arms controls within the framework of six-nation negotiations, unless their aim is to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons. And this is the barrier that now impedes the revival of the talks,” the expert stated.

He said one of the main obstacles was because of the US and the DPRK. “Pyongyang is firmly committed to continuing its military nuclear program. The US comes out against it and intends to take concrete measures. The Trump administration is in a serious mood for concrete action. That is why the main contradictions at the moment are those between the US and the DPRK,” Liu Ming said.

“Everything now is revolving around the nuclear issue and the contradictions existing between the US and the DPRK. Restarting the six-party negotiations makes no particular sense under the current conditions,” he resumed. “First of all, direct negotiations are needed between the US and the DPRK,” the Chinese expert noted, adding that only progress at such talks could make the restoration of the six-nation format talks worthwhile.


May 12, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China and South Korea co-operating to reduce nuclear tensions

Xi, new South Korean leader talk nuclear, THE AUSTRALIAN, 11 May 17  Chinese President Xi Jinping and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in have discussed nuclear tensions, with the latter addressing the raft of problems posed by the North’s defiance.

Xi told Moon China had always upheld the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and that the nuclear issue should be resolved through talks, which were in everyone’s interests, according to a state television report.

China was willing to keep working hard with all parties, including South Korea, for the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula, he said.

Despite its anger at North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, China remains the isolated state’s most important economic and diplomatic backer even with Beijing signing up for tough UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

Beijing also has its own issues with Seoul. China has vigorously opposed the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it threatens Chinese security and will do nothing to resolve tensions with North Korea……..

Moon said in his first speech as president on Wednesday he would immediately begin efforts to defuse security fears on the Korean peninsula and would negotiate with Washington and Beijing to ease tensions over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in the South…..

May 12, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

North Korea ‘Not Afraid’ to Continue Nuclear Tests

North Korean Diplomat: Pyongyang ‘Not Afraid’ to Continue Nuclear Tests, Sputnik News,  11.05.2017 North Korea’s ambassador to the UK has said his country is “not afraid” to continue its missile and nuclear weapons activity, and that Pyongyang intends to conduct its sixth nuclear test as soon as the leadership deems it necessary.

Choe Il said that United Nations sanctions, international calls for denuclearization and the US’ aggressive posturing won’t deter the North from persisting with its nuclear and ballistic missile program, telling Sky News, “In regards to the sixth nuclear test, I do not know the scheduled time for it, as I am here in the UK, not in my home country … However, I can say that the nuclear test will be conducted at the place and time as decided by our supreme leader, Kim Jong-un.”

In his first televised interview as ambassador, Choe said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was unmoved by US President Trump’s threats of military action, stating that, “If we were afraid of it, we probably would not have started conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles.”

“We are developing our nuclear strength to respond to that kind of attack by the US. If the US attacks us, our military and people are fully ready to respond to any kind of attack.” …….

May 12, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Workers at Hanford nuclear site have sealed off a large sinkhole

Collapsed tunnel sealed at U.S. nuclear site after accident, Chicago Tribune, Nicholas K. GeraniosAssociated Press, 11 May 17,  Workers at a Washington state nuclear site where a tunnel filled with nuclear waste in railroad cars partially collapsed have safely sealed off a large sinkhole that emerged as a result of the collapse, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Thursday.

Authorities also revealed that the 400-square foot (37-square meter) sinkhole they filled with soil could have been there since last weekend before it was discovered Tuesday. That’s because the area around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste-filled tunnels is not observed every day by workers who patrol the site’s sprawling grounds………

Washington state officials on Wednesday demanded that the federal Energy Department immediately assess the integrity of all the Hanford tunnels.

“The infrastructure built to temporarily store radioactive waste is now more than a half-century old,” said Maia Bellon, director of the state Department of Ecology, which oversees and regulates the federal government’s Hanford cleanup.

The 360-foot long (110-meter) rail tunnel that collapsed was built in 1956 from timber, concrete and steel and covered with 8 feet (2.4 meters) of dirt. Eight flatbed railroad cars loaded with radioactive material were parked there in 1965.

A much larger nearby tunnel built in 1964 has 28 railroad cars with radioactive waste.

The Energy Department was warned in a 2015 report it commissioned that both tunnels were vulnerable to a collapse from an earthquake or deterioration of tunnel building materials caused by intense radiation, the report said.

The nearby Yakama Nation said it has warned about the safety of the tunnels for several years.

“No preventative action was taken,” the tribe said in a statement.

The tribe also said the tunnels should be cleaned of radioactive waste and radiation long before a deadline of 2042 set by a cleanup agreement between the federal and state governments.

The cleanup of Hanford’s waste is expected to last until 2060 and cost an additional $100 billion over the $19 billion already spent.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

France’s Emmanuel Macron to lead the nation to renewable energy, and away from nuclear

New Energy Update, French President-elect set to boost sluggish solar growth Emmanuel Macron’s victory in France’s presidential election on May 7 is set to usher in a new wave of renewable energy development, according to his campaign pledges.

Macron pledged to double solar and wind capacity and close all of France’s coal-fired power stations by the end of his five-year term in 2022. He has also pledged to retain laws introduced in 2015 which aim to cut the share of nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. This could equate to the closure of 25 GW of nuclear power capacity and shutdown dates will depend on growth in solar and wind capacity.

French solar capacity currently stands at 7 GW while wind capacity is around 12 GW. Solar and wind development has been hampered by regulatory and administrative hurdles and Macron plans to simplify the authorization process.

The closure of 25 GW of nuclear power capacity would require around 75 GW of new renewable energy capacity, Jefferies analysts Ahmed Farman and Oliver Salvesen said in a research note April 24.

“That looks quite challenging given that in the last 10 years only 18 GW of wind and solar was installed in France,” the analysts said in their note.

Market analysts have highlighted the challenge of shutting down an estimated 25 GW of nuclear power capacity over such a short timeframe while maintaining grid stability. While Macron supports the 2025 nuclear phase-out law, he has not set out a firm position on the phase-out date.

“The lack of a firm position on this issue may be because Mr Macron is well aware that the 2025 target is highly ambitious,” Farman and Salvesen said in their research note.

The 50% nuclear target may instead be reached between 2030 and 2033, a Macron adviser told Bloomberg in a report published April 26. The 50% objective could be reached sooner if ASN, the French nuclear safety authority, imposes tough conditions to extend reactor lifespans from 40 to 50 years, the adviser told Bloomberg.

Some 34 of EDF’s 58 reactors will soon reach 40 years of operations and the ASN will publish its safety report on the proposed lifespan extensions in around 2018.

Macron has said he would decide on the future of these reactors following the ASN’s report.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | France, renewable | Leave a comment

Background to the collapse of the Hanford nuclear waste rail tunnel

Nuclear Waste From the Cold War Is Being Stored in Unsafe Conditions. Time to Fix the Problem is Running Out, TIME, Nicholas K. Geranios and Manuel Valdes / AP, May 11, 2017 (RICHLAND, Wash.) “………Officials said they detected no release of radiation and no one was injured in the collapse, though thousands of workers were forced to take shelter for several hours as a precaution. The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.

A gravel road was built to the collapse site, and workers wearing protective suits and breathing masks planned to fill the hole with 50 truckloads of dirt, the Energy Department said.

The rail tunnel was built in 1956 out of timber, concrete and steel, topped by 8 feet of dirt. It was 360 feet long (110 meters). Radioactive materials were brought into the tunnel by railcars. The tunnel was sealed in 1965 with eight loaded flatbed cars inside.

Gerry Pollet, a Washington state legislator and longtime Hanford critic, said the collapse of a waste storage tunnel at Hanford had been feared for years.

“This disaster was predicted and shows the federal Energy Department’s utter recklessness in seeking decades of delay for Hanford cleanup,” he said.

He noted the Energy Department last year received permission to delay removing waste from the tunnels until 2042. The waste was supposed to be gone by 2024, Pollet said.

The radiation levels of the waste in the tunnel that collapsed would be lethal within an hour, Pollet said.

Hanford, a 500-square-mile expanse in remote interior Washington about 200 miles from Seattle, was created during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.

Hanford made most of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during the war. It now contains the nation’s greatest volume of radioactive waste left over from the production of weapons plutonium.

The cleanup there has cost $19 billion to date and is not expected to be finished until 2060, at an additional cost of $100 billion.

The most dangerous waste at Hanford is 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground tanks, some of which have leaked.

Plans to embed the toxic stew in glass logs for burial have floundered. Construction of a $17 billion glassification factory has stopped because of design and safety issues.

The plan is to bury the glass logs at a nuclear waste dump carved inside Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, a project that has been on the drawing board for three decades but has run into resistance from Nevada politicians, including former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.

President Donald Trump has proposed $120 million to restart the licensing process for the dump.

Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this story.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | safety, wastes | Leave a comment

Korea Mission Centre set up by CIA to address “the nuclear and ballistic missile threat”

CIA sets up Korea Mission Centre to address nuclear and ballistic missile threat, May 17, Washington: The CIA has established a Korea Mission Centre to address “the nuclear and ballistic missile threat posed by” North Korea and its “unpredictable” leader Kim Jong-un, the US agency revealed in a statement.

The creation of the centre focusing on specific threats, will allow the Central Intelligence Agency to “harness the full resources, capabilities, and authorities” to deal with North Korea, CNN quoted the statement as saying late Wednesday.

The centre will put together CIA analysts and officers side by side in one location to tackle the threat from Pyongyang.

“The new Mission Centre draws on experienced officers from across the Agency and integrates them in one entity to bring their expertise and creativity to bear against the North Korea target,” the statement said.

Former CIA senior analyst John Nixon told CNN he expected the centre to issue “sitreps” — situation reports — for the intelligence community and President Donald Trump’s administration, possibly twice daily, indicating a round-the-clock watch by an office of significant size.

In the statement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said the creation of the centre focuses the CIA’s efforts against the “serious threats” emerging from North Korea, which has ramped up both nuclear and missile tests in an effort to enhance its military capabilities.

There are 10 such existing centres in the CIA, and the new addition will be the most focused in terms of geographical area and remit — the Korean Peninsula currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Mission Centre for East Asia and Pacific.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Catholics lead in South Korean movement against nuclear power

South Korean Catholics take the lead in protesting against nuclear power, PRI, May 11, 2017, By Matthew Bell Standing up to his own government is nothing new for Moon Kyu-hyun. The 70-year-old Jesuit priest from South Korea made international news back in 1989, when he crossed the border into North Korea illegally.

The Catholic priest’s unsanctioned trip was a political act of defiance against South Korea’s strict National Security Law, which prohibited people in the South from almost any contact with North Korea.

The Rev. Moon was promptly arrested when he returned to the South. And he ended up spending three and a half years in prison.

“Peace and hope is what life is all about,” Moon says, reflecting on lessons learned during his time in jail.

In that same spirit, Moon — whose Christian name is Paul — is part of a group of Catholic clergy taking the lead in a growing anti-nuclear movement in South Korea.  Moon says he is opposed to nuclear weapons, including the North Korean nuclear program that’s been a big part of rising tensions in northeast Asia. But he’s also against recent US actions on the Korean peninsula.

“THAAD is a weapon of war. You can’t be for peace if you’re preparing for war,” Moon says, referring to the anti-missile system recently deployed by the US military in South Korea.

Beyond the nuclear security issue though, Moon and other Catholic leaders are pressuring the South Korean government to rethink the country’s dependence on nuclear power. That is no small order, as this is a country that relies on more than two dozen nuclear power plants for about a third of its electricity.

“Getting rid of nuclear power is the only way to survive, to save ourselves, and save the world,” Moon says during a recent anti-nuclear demonstration in downtown Seoul, where Catholic priests and nuns announced an effort to collect a million signatures in support of their campaign…….

“It’s directly against God’s intention,” Cho says. All Christians, he adds, “believe that God created the universe, and there is the divine order.” Cho says the threat posed by nuclear energy goes against that divine order……..

Catholics here have also forged a somewhat surprising alliance. Japan and Korea have a long and troubled history, to put it mildly. But every year since 2012, Kim Hyun-joo has been part of a group of Korean Catholics who meet up with Japanese Catholics to work together on anti-nuclear protest activities. Kim is an anti-nuclear activist with the Society of Jesus in Seoul……..

Catholic leaders in Korea are following the example of Pope Francis. They say the environment is now a top priority, although they acknowledge the campaign against nuclear power is a going to be a long, uphill struggle……..

the best news for Catholic anti-nuclear activists came when Moon, during the campaign, pledged to cut back drastically on the government’s plans to expand the nuclear power industry.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Religion and ethics, South Korea | Leave a comment

Presidents of China and South Korea team up to influence North Korea against nuclear aggression

China, South Korea seek to steer North from nuclear path, DW 11 May 17 The presidents of China and South Korea have agreed they want North Korea to move away from its agenda of atomic antagonism. A US missile-defense system deployed on the peninsula was also a topic of conversation. In his first talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping since being sworn in as South Korea’s president, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in  sought common ground with China on North Korea’s nuclear program.

“The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations,” Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said the president had told Xi. “Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to the negotiating table.”

The presidents also discussed the contentious Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system the United States installed in South Korea to Beijing’s chagrin…….

May 12, 2017 Posted by | China, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear subsidies distort markets and damage business

Nuclear subsidies distort markets, hurt business, say FirstEnergy opponents By John Funk, The Plain Dealer Follow on Twitter on May 10, 2017  CLEVELAND, Ohio — Business and consumer groups joined forces Tuesday to oppose FirstEnergy’s plan to change Ohio law to create new subsidies for the power company’s nuclear power plants.

On the opposite side, supporting FirstEnergy, were unions, a contractor’s group, and the Perry local school district, which benefits from taxes from the Perry nuclear power plant.

The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Lordstown Energy Center, Dynegy, now the state’s largest owner of coal-fired power plants, the American Petroleum Institute and the Electric Power Supply Association were among more than a dozen groups testifying against enabling legislation before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee.

House Bill 178 or the Zero Emission Nuclear credit bill would provide an enormous subsidy to one nuclear operator for units that they contend are no longer economic to operate,” said Robert Flexon, CEO of Houston-based Dynegy Inc.

“Our economy will not grow and prosper by artificially keeping alive business that can no longer compete in the marketplace through expensive subsidies,” he told lawmakers. “That has been the case throughout American history. Were that not so, we’d still have buggy whip and icebox manufacturers and teletype and elevators operators.”

Later in an interview, Flexon said the zero emissions argument, meaning the plants deserve higher rates because they don’t produce carbon dioxide, is a “red herring.”

“The nuclear plants are deeply out of the money. You [the state] would be throwing billions of dollars down a nuclear waste hole. These plants can’t live without subsidies. Why do you want to put more bills on your citizens? It’s beyond me.”

Flexon was joined by William Siderewicz, president of Boston-based Clean Energy Future, which is building four gas turbine power plants at two northern Ohio locations, including Lordstown.

You would be throwing billions of dollars down a nuclear waste hole. These plants can’t live without subsidies.”

Calling for the House to “summarily reject” any form of the legislation, Siderewicz charged that FirstEnergy’s objective was not to save Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants, but to prepare for selling the plants or closing them and paying for the decommissioning.

Former Republican lawmaker Jeff Jadobson, now a lobbyist, appeared before the committee on behalf of  the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, which oppose the bill.

He said Ohio consumers are stuck with the 18th highest electric rate in the nation despite being “awash in shale oil and natural gas that have given us historically low gas prices” — which is leading to a building boom in new gas plants.

“But there is a problem that is preventing Ohio families and businesses from realizing the full benefits of lower prices in the market,” he said. “That problem is the continuing requests by Oho electric utilities — now years since the 1999 deregulation law’s transition period ended — for consumers to pay subsidies above the market price of electricity.”

He said FirstEnergy received $9.8 billion in subsidies between 2001 and 2010 to help it transition from the old regulated markets to competitive deregulated markets. And as of Jan. 1, the company has been permitted to collect an additional $204 million a year for up to five years in additional subsidies.

“FirstEnergy is back. Respectively, you should stop this cycle of subsidies and give consumers more of the benefit of competition intended under the 1999 law,” he told the lawmakers.

Earlier in the day, Chris Zeigler, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Ohio division, and Erica Bowman, API chief economist, told reporters that FirstEnergy’s proposed subsidies could stall the development of the 10 or more gas turbine power plants proposed or already being built in Ohio. And in turn, that could stall further development of Ohio’s rich shale gas deposits.

Bowman also testified, concluding that API is strongly opposed to House Bill 178. It would skew markets by propping up uncompetitive nuclear generation, increase costs for ratepayers and job-creating industries, and discourage investment in natural gas production and gas-fired power plants. ”

Other opponents included the Ohio Environmental Council, AARP Ohio, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Ohio Citizen Action the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

FirstEnergy initially asked that lawmakers vote on the bill by June 30, but at this point that is not expected to happen.

All of the testimony is posted on the committee’s website.

May 12, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

South Carolina nuclear project in doubt, as Toshiba bankruptcy looms

Reports of impending Toshiba bankruptcy raise new doubts about S.C. nuclear project, The Post and Courier, By David Wren, May 11, 2017 

The utilities building new reactors at a Midlands nuclear plant aren’t saying what impact a potential Toshiba Corp. bankruptcy filing could have on the troubled construction project, even as more questions are being raised about the Japanese conglomerate’s financial health……..Toshiba’s business partners told The Wall Street Journal that they are bracing for a bankruptcy filing that could wipe out many of the Tokyo firm’s commitments, including a guarantee to pay up to $1.7 billion in cost overruns at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville…….
The utilities must make a decision by June 26 whether to build one or both of the reactors or scrap the plan entirely. Santee Cooper’s board of directors met in a private session Wednesday to get legal advice on the project but took no action…….
The utilities also are counting on an extension of federal tax credits for new nuclear projects to keep V.C. Summer alive. Those credits expire at the end of 2020, and it’s not certain the two reactors — which are only about one-third complete, according to a filing with the S.C. Public Service Commission — will be online by then. An effort to extend the tax credit deadline has gotten little traction in Congress.

“It is very, very important to the viability,” Jimmy Addison, SCANA’s chief financial officer, said of the tax credits during a conference call with analysts last month.

Meanwhile, Georgia Power, the nation’s only other utility adding new nuclear generation, could make a decision as early as Friday whether to finish two reactors under construction at its Plant Vogtle near Augusta. Westinghouse is the contractor on that project, where Toshiba has guaranteed $3.7 billion in payments. An interim agreement to keep work on track at Vogtle expires Friday but could be extended.

Georgia Power spokesman John Kraft told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the utility “will take every action available to hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their financial responsibilities” even if the parent company files for bankruptcy protection.

Like V.C. Summer, the Vogtle project is behind schedule and over budget to the tune of about $3 billion……..

The nearly decade-long V.C. Summer project has been beset by financial and construction problems. The current cost estimate for the reactors is 21.6 percent higher than an original $11.4 billion price tag, and analysts say the eventual cost could balloon to $19 billion if both reactors are built…….

May 12, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Montana’s glaciers disappearing – shrinking, like many glaciers world-wide

Glaciers rapidly shrinking and disappearing: 50 years of glacier change in Montana  May 10, 2017 The warming climate has dramatically reduced the size of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966, some by as much as 85 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Geological Survey and Portland State University. On average, the glaciers have reduced by 39 percent and only 26 glaciers are now larger than 25 acres, which is used as a guideline for deciding if bodies of ice are large enough to be considered glaciers.

The data include scientific information for the 37 named glaciers in Glacier National Park and two glaciers on U.S. Forest Service land. The retreat of glaciers is significant in Montana because of the impact shrinking glaciers can have on tourism, as well as being a visual indicator of mountain ecosystem change in the northern Rocky Mountains.

“The park-wide loss of ice can have ecological effects on aquatic species by changing stream water volume, water temperature and run-off timing in the higher elevations of the park,” said lead USGS scientist Dr. Daniel Fagre.

Portland State geologist Andrew G. Fountain partnered with USGS on the project. He said glaciers in mountain ranges throughout the United States and the world have been shrinking for decades.

“While the shrinkage in Montana is more severe than some other places in the U.S., it is in line with trends that have been happening on a global scale,” Fountain said.

Scientists used digital maps from aerial photography and satellites to measure the perimeters of the glaciers in late summer when seasonal snow has melted to reveal the extent of the glacial ice. The areas measured are from 1966, 1998, 2005 and 2015/2016, marking approximately 50 years of change in glacier area.

Site visits to glaciers were also made over several years to investigate portions that were covered by rock debris that are difficult to see with digital imagery. The mapped measurements of glaciers complement ground surveys of glaciers using GPS along with repeat photography that involves re-photographing historic photos of glaciers taken early last century when there were an estimated 150 glaciers larger than 25 acres in Glacier National Park.

“Tracking these small alpine glaciers has been instrumental in describing climate change effects on Glacier National Park to park management and the public,” said Lisa McKeon, USGS scientist who has been documenting glacier change since 1997.

This information is part of a larger, ongoing USGS glacier study of glaciers in Montana, Alaska and Washington to document mass balance measurements that estimate whether the total amount of ice is increasing or decreasing at a particular glacier. This information helps scientists understand the impact of large scale climate patterns on glaciers in distinctly different mountain environments.

The data for Glacier National Park’s named glaciers are available at the USGS ScienceBase website. Additional information about the glacier research can be found at the USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center website and the USGS Benchmark Glacier program website.


May 12, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment