nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

The week to 1st October, in nuclear and climate news

For a change, I digress from the usual themes.  While the media fixes on Trump’s and Kim’s nuclear threats, a lot of other things go on quietly. For example, the Trump attack on workers’ rights, –on worker safety, – on public health and environmental protection.  – on refugees,  Much as I dislike joining in the media fervor for watching Trump, it becomes almost a necessity, because we are witnessing the most extraordinary dismantling of all government policy for the public  good.  It is as if it’s all happening under the cover of our angst about North Korea.

The rise of Germany’s right wing party, adopting the Trump tactics, has brought a fascist element into the German Bundestag, and signifies the new importance of populist politics in Europe.

1461 scientists speak up for saving Australia’ oceans

NUCLEAR    International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons comes at a historic moment of brinkmanship.    Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea – the meaning of Trump’s threats.    There is a diplomatic way to resolve the North Korea nuclear crisis.  Leaders of USA and North Korea continue to trade threats and insults. North Korean threats – very good for the underground nuclear bomb shelter sales

Six international academics refute the attack on renewable energy by Ben Heard and others.

Leukemia risk increased by radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer.

CLIMATE.  Half-way to Catastrophe — Global Hothouse Extinction to be Triggered by or Before 2100 Without Rapid Emissions Cuts.    Christian leaders make the moral case for climate action. Global carbon emissions remained static in 2016 – (one bit of welcome news). Hundreds of $billions a year – the hidden costs of climate change.

USA.

NORTH KOREA.  North Korea claims “the Right to Shoot Down U.S. Warplanes“.   A worse fear? A nuclear accident in North Korea, – and it could trigger a nuclear war.

EUROPE. European Commission to invest €222 to promote Europe’s transition to clean energy.

UK.

IRAN. Iran’s foreign minister calls on Europe to support nuclear deal, and defy USA ‘s plan to sink the deal. Iran nuclear deal is best option, says Israeli general.

JAPAN. A Further Delay in the Cleanup At Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant. Fukushima Decontamination Work Racket Yakuza Arrested.  Chiba court recognizes nuke disaster evacuees’ ‘loss of hometown’ for first time.    Dozens of Japanese towns choosing decentralised solar energy, with microgrids.

INDIA. India-USA civil nuclear cooperation agreement is really just a weapons marketing deal.

IRAQ. Iraq wants nuclear reactors: (does that fill you with confidence?)

UKRAINE. Holtec planning to build small nuclear reactors in Ukraine.

GERMANY. New find points to Hitler’s project towards a nuclear bomb.

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September 30, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea – the meaning of Trump’s threats

Trump Threatens Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/42101-trump-threatens-genocide-crimes-against-humanity-in-north-korea, September 29, 2017, By Marjorie Cohn, Truthout | News Analysis Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19. That threat violates the UN Charter, and indicates an intent to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, the war crime of collective punishment and international humanitarian law. Moreover, a first-strike use of nuclear weapons would violate international law.

By threatening to attack North Korea, Trump is endangering the lives of countless people. In the past, he has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons and Kim Jong-un has threatened to retaliate. The rapidly escalating rhetoric and provocative maneuvers on both sides has taken us to the brink of war.

Trump’s threat prompted North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho to state, “Given the fact that this [threat] came from someone who holds the seat of the US presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war.”

Ri added, “Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make counter-measures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”

Such a move by North Korea would violate international law. But that does not justify US law-breaking. Two wrongs do not make a right. Moreover, the use of military force by either country would prove disastrous.

The UN Charter Requires Peaceful Dispute Resolution

After two world wars claimed millions of lives, the UN Charter was adopted in 1945 “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

The Charter mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes and forbids the use of force except in self-defense or with Security Council authorization.

Article 2 requires that UN members “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” Peaceful means are spelled out in Article 33: Parties to a dispute likely to endanger international peace and security must “first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

In 1953, after one-third of North Korea’s population was decimated, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice agreement.  But the US never allowed a peace treaty to be adopted. North Korea has repeatedly advocated the signing of a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. To this day, 30,000 US troops continue to occupy South Korea.

The US has also refused to pursue the “freeze-for-freeze” strategy suggested by China and Russia. Under this plan, North Korea would freeze its nuclear and missile testing, and the US and South Korea would end their annual, provocative joint military exercises. Vassily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, said this path would offer “a way out” of the current situation.

Instead, the US has engineered punitive sanctions against North Korea, which have only strengthened the latter’s resolve to develop usable nuclear weapons. Since 1953, North Koreans have lived in fear of annihilation by the United States.

In his speech to the General Assembly, on top of his threats toward North Korea, Trump also issued a veiled threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. That sends a dangerous message to North Korea that the US cannot be trusted to abide by its agreements.

The UN Charter Prohibits Threats and Preemptive Use of Force

Article 2 of the Charter states that all members “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Trump’s threat to totally destroy North Korea violates that mandate. In addition, the preemptive use of force violates the Charter.

The only exceptions to the Charter’s prohibition of the use of force are self-defense or approval by the Security Council.

Self-defense, under Article 51 of the Charter, is a narrow exception to the Charter’s prohibition of the use of force. Countries may engage in individual or collective self-defense only in the face of an armed attack. In order to act in lawful self-defense, there must exist “a necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation,” under the well-established Caroline Case.

North Korea has not attacked the United States or another UN member country, nor is such an attack imminent.

Moreover, the Security Council has not authorized any country to use military force against North Korea The council resolutions that establish sanctions against North Korea end by stating the Council “decides to remain seized of the matter.” That means that the Council, and only the Council, has the authority to approve military action.

Both Trump’s threat to use military force against North Korea and the mounting of a preemptive strike would violate the Charter.

The Crime of Genocide

By stating the intention to totally destroy North Korea, Trump has threatened genocide.

The crime of “genocide,” as defined in the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, is committed when, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, any of the following acts are committed: killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.

Trump’s threat to totally destroy North Korea, if carried out, would destroy, in whole, the national group of North Koreans. That would amount to genocide.

Crimes Against Humanity

Under the Rome Statute, “crimes against humanity” include: the commission of murder as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population; or persecution against a group or collectivity based on its political, racial, national, ethnic or religious character, as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population.

Trump’s threat to totally destroy North Korea, if realized, would constitute a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of North Korea, which would amount to a crime against humanity.

The War Crime of Collective Punishment

The crime of “collective punishment” is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is considered a war crime. Collective punishment means punishing a civilian for an offense he or she has not personally committed.

If Trump were to make good on his threat to totally destroy North Korea, he would be punishing the civilian population for offenses committed by the North Korean government. This would constitute the war crime of collective punishment.

Destroying North Korea Would Violate Distinction and Proportionality

The United States has a legal obligation to comply with the requirements of proportionality and distinction, two bedrock principles of international humanitarian law, as delineated in the First Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions.

“Proportionality” means an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage sought. “Distinction” requires that the attack be directed only at a legitimate military target.

The total destruction of North Korea would violate the principles of proportionality and distinction.

First-Strike Use of Nuclear Weapons Violates International Law

In its 1996 advisory opinion, “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons,” the International Court of Justice (ICJ) determined that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law.”

The ICJ went on to say, “However … the Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake.” That means that while the use of nuclear weapons might be lawful when used in self-defense if the survival of the nation were at stake, a first-strike use would not be.

Donald Trump’s apocalyptic threat against North Korea violates international law. It also imperils the lives of untold numbers of people. We must urge Congress to prevent Trump from launching a catastrophic war.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and AbuseCowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Visit her website: MarjorieCohn.com. Follow her on Twitter: @MarjorieCohn.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, politics international, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

America’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should reject Rick Perry’s outrageous plan to bail out coal and nuclear industries

DOE Proposes Outrageous, Massive Coal and Nuclear Bailout https://www.nrdc.org/experts/miles-farmer/doe-proposes-outrageous-massive-coal-and-nuclear-bailout

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry just proposed a massive bailout for coal and nuclear power plants. The radical and unprecedented move is couched under a false premise that power plants with fuel located on site are needed to guarantee the reliability of the electricity system. The proposal relies on a mischaracterization of DOE’s own recent study of electricity markets and reliability (discussed here), which if anything demonstrated that this kind of proposed action is not justified.

If adopted, the proposal would essentially ensure that coal and nuclear plants in regions encompassing most of the country continue to run even where they are too expensive to compete in the energy market. It would saddle utility customers with higher costs, while posing obstacles to the electricity system integration of cleaner and less risky energy sources such as solar and wind.

NRDC is still carefully analyzing the proposal, but below is a very preliminary take:

The proposal would bail out expensive and uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants

The proposal asks the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take action within 60 days that would financially prop up “fuel-secure resources,” which must have “a 90-day fuel supply on site enabling [them] to operate during an emergency, extreme weather conditions, or a natural man-made disaster.” This requirement is aimed squarely at coal and nuclear power plants, which would generally be able to satisfy these criteria.

Many coal and nuclear units are very expensive and are having trouble competing in the wholesale electricity market (as discussed here). So the proposal asks FERC to bail out these power plants by essentially guaranteeing them profits and insulating them from competitive market forces. The proposal amounts to a massive subsidy that would ensure the plants continue to operate, rather than being economically retired when they are more expensive than other units (including wind and solar) that sell electricity at lower cost.

The proposal would radically reshape electricity regulation for most of the country

The rule would have a massive scope, covering regional wholesale markets where electricity is bought and sold to serve most of the nation’s customers. It would apply to areas where the electricity system is operated by regional entities known as Regional Transmission Operators (RTOs) or Independent System Operators (ISOs), which administer competitive markets for electricity. The RTOs tell the more expensive plants not to operate when there’s cheaper electricity available from other plants.

As shown in the map, [on original] RTOs cover most of California, the Midwest and southern states in the middle of the country, as well as the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is not subject to FERC jurisdiction and would not be covered by the proposed rule, if adopted.

Secretary Perry’s proposal would be a radical departure from the way FERC currently regulates electricity prices in these regions. Under FERC’s system, electricity prices in RTOs are governed by competitive market forces. A power plant is only insulated from this system by FERC under extremely limited circumstances, where a detailed examination of the grid reveals that the plant is needed for reliability purposes. The plant is then guaranteed its costs of operating, but only on a temporary basis, until a replacement can be constructed.

The proposal would lead to higher energy bills and more pollution

Customers across the country would ultimately foot the bill for supporting these more expensive plants. While no credible analysis has been conducted of the costs (which can’t even be done given the vagueness of the proposed rule), it is safe to assume that the toll would be many billions of dollars.

The proposal also would favor more expensive and risker power plants over cleaner and safer energy sources such as wind and solar power. Coal power plants emit a massive amount of pollution. They are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases causing climate change. Coal plants also cause an array of other problems, such as acid rain and asthma. And while low-carbon, nuclear energy poses myriad health and safety risks (discussed here).

The proposal is unjustified

The purported basis for the proposal is that “[t]he resiliency of the nation’s electric grid is threatened by the premature retirements of power plants that can withstand major fuel supply disruptions caused by natural or man-made disasters.”

But DOE’s own reliability report found that all regions of the country have excess supply of energy resources needed to meet demand. Furthermore, while it included a brief discussion of the potential benefits of on-site fuel supply, it also highlighted examples of power plants with on-site fuel supply failing, such as coal plants that could not operate during the 2014 Polar Vortex when their fuel supplies froze in the extreme cold.

The lesson that no type of power plant is immune to weather-related disruptions was clear during the recent hurricanes. Nuclear power plants had to be taken off-line in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Natural gas plants and pipelines suffered disruptions during Hurricane Harvey, and the onsite coal pile at a W.A. Parish plant in Texas became so saturated with rainwater that the coal could not be delivered into storage silos, forcing the plant to switch to natural gas for the first time in eight years.

Ultimately, the proposal’s justification is as flimsy as Secretary Perry’s initial suggested basis for subsidizing coal and nuclear—that “baseload” is necessary for the system, a myth that has been thoroughly debunked (as discussed here and here).

DOE is asking FERC to rush to judgment

FERC has already adopted detailed regulations to ensure the reliability of the grid, and follows established processes to consider any necessary tweaks. As DOE’s own report explained, these systems have worked to meet the industry’s high reliability standards even as the mix of generation serving customers’ needs has changed dramatically.

DOE is asking FERC to sidestep that normal process by adopting its radical proposal in a mere 60 days, a timeline that would make it impossible to conduct any of the rigorous analysis that would surely be necessary before making such extreme changes. DOE’s proposal is so vague that FERC could not possibly adopt it as is, making it hard to see how FERC could possibly advance it in a manner that complies the procedural requirements for a formal rulemaking proposal.

FERC should reject Secretary Perry’s proposal

Perhaps the only silver lining in Secretary Perry’s proposal is that DOE has no independent authority to adopt this proposed rule, which is already eliciting pushback from leaders like NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. As discussed here, FERC, not DOE, is the agency primarily responsible for regulating electricity markets. FERC should reject Secretary Perry’s outrageous and poorly thought out request.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Prediction of collapse in roof at nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

Expected WIPP roof collapse raises anxiety, http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/expected-wipp-roof-collapse-raises-anxiety/article_65046e20-42f8-50ee-80e3-5322957484f9.html, By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, Sep 28, 2017 

In the coming weeks, deep inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, large blocks of salt rock are expected to collapse inside a room containing six irradiated vehicles, each holding gasoline. The room is packed with radioactive waste, and the entrance has been sealed to prevent workers from entering.

It is expected to be the fifth rock fall event in the last year in an area of the underground storage facility, Panel 7, where maintenance has been neglected since a waste drum breached on Valentine’s Day 2014. The accident released radiation into parts of the waste facility and closed the site for nearly three years.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday they are closely monitoring increasing movement in the walls and ceiling and keeping employees who work in the area informed about developments.

 The collapse is predicted in four to six weeks.

The salt mine is expected to “creep” over time and slowly encase radioactive waste inside. Rock falls are not uncommon. But unlike previous anticipated collapses — one of which was measured at half the length of a football field and 8 feet wide — this one threatens to occur as waste shipments have resumed in the area, increasing the number of workers present and the amount of waste being handled.

“Right now we are evaluating our work processes to get a better understanding of when the roof potentially could fall and take appropriate action for our workforce,” said Todd Shrader, manager of the Department of Energy’s Carlsbad Field Office, during a WIPP town hall meeting Thursday evening.

“It is not an exact science,” he said.

All workers in Panel 7 are wearing protective clothing and respirators because of existing contamination.

But Don Hancock, with the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, said WIPP should be taking more measures to protect workers.

“They can’t prevent the ceiling from collapsing,” he said. “That is going to happen. But they should be keeping workers out around the time they expect it to happen, and until after it happens.”

WIPP is composed of a maze of carved salt tunnels, each with an offshoot of rooms used to permanently place transuranic waste. This includes materials like soil, gloves, tools and other equipment that have been contaminated by radioactive materials heavier than uranium at the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons sites.

Since WIPP opened in 1999, Panel 7 has been one of the most problematic regions of the facility. It was there, inside Room 7 of Panel 7, that an improperly packed drum of transuranic waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory burst in 2014.

The radiation compromised the facility’s ventilation system, hampering workers’ maintenance efforts. As a result, regular repairs to the large bolts and steel mesh cage used to hold the salt mine in place have not been completed, making collapses more likely and frequent.

Hancock said there is a risk of further radiation exposure when Room 6 collapses, as well as the potential for fuel inside the vehicles to cause a small fire.

 There are six vehicles in Room 6 that were irradiated when the drum burst next door, and they hold a collective 527 gallons of fuel.

WIPP officials initially planned to drain the fuel, Shrader told the New Mexico Environment Department, but the plan was abandoned when officials decided the risk of collapse was too great to re-enter the room.

Bruce Covert, president of Nuclear Waste Partnership, which manages WIPP, said during Thursday’s town hall that cloth and metal in the room should contain most of the radiation after the collapse, but officials anticipate some contamination to spread.

Meanwhile, officials said they planned to move forward with waste storage work in the area and hoped to begin mining a new panel by late October, with the assistance of a temporary ventilation system.

Since waste acceptance restarted in April, WIPP has received 68 shipments, and it anticipated taking 258 more shipments between August 2017 and August 2018.

WIPP has reached about 52 percent of its capacity and is expected to be full by 2026, according to a September report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. But the Department of Energy is considering a plan to expand the type of waste WIPP can take, as well as a physical expansion of the plant.

Given past events, Hancock said, “I expect more problems. You have a dangerous situation and you have a contractor who has demonstrated that are not capable of operating this facility safely.”

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Christian leaders make the moral case for climate action

We stand committed to protecting migrant families, all of whom deserve our help. But we’re also committed to limiting the cause of needless future suffering.

The scientific consensus on climate change is clear.

For believers in Jesus Christ, the divine command to love one’s neighbour requires us to understand how our actions – or inaction – affect others. Christians must reduce the causes of climate change. The call to love our neighbours requires no less.

The Christian case for tackling climate change https://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.christian.case.for.tackling.climate.change/114897.htm Bishop John Arnold and Bishop Martin Lind This autumn marks the 500th anniversary of the great schism that divided the Christian Church. Today, Christian brothers and sisters on both sides of this historical divide work together in pursuit of the moral vision that is laid out in the Gospels. We house the homeless together, feed the hungry together, and pacify conflicts together.

Droughts have happened in the Near East and around the world for millennia. Climate change is different. Climate change is deeply and drastically altering long-established patterns of rainfall. Small-scale farmers’ and herders’ livelihoods depend on predicting the weather, and for them, the drastic and ongoing alteration of weather patterns means disaster.

Syria provides a real-world example of the consequences of a climate-forced drought, with analysis provided by, among others, former leaders of the United States military. The Syrian drought drove newly impoverished people out of the countryside, creating enormous pressure in urban areas. In Damascus, Aleppo, and other cities, a dramatically expanded presence of desperately poor people fed into to a wider sense of unrest.

Climate change did not cause the refugee crisis. But climate change very probably contributed to the social crisis that prompted it. Events such as the drought are more likely to occur with greater frequency and severity due to climate change.

Unfortunately, the migration of the past several years is only a precursor of what’s to come. Drought is one consequence of climate change and one that will have long-lasting repercussions. Another is sea level rise.

Over the coming decades, the highly exposed, highly populated coast of Bangladesh will probably see sea level rise that will flood the homes of tens of millions of people, driving human migration on a scale the Earth has never seen. Caring for these migrants will challenge all of us.

We stand committed to protecting migrant families, all of whom deserve our help. But we’re also committed to limiting the cause of needless future suffering.

The scientific consensus on climate change is clear. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. In the atmosphere, these added gases function like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun and holding it close to the Earth.

The consequences of a warmer Earth are profound – and they are already here. From the countryside of Syria to our backyards in London, climate change is disrupting how we live.

Because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, the United Kingdom has already seen increases in average rainfall. Heavier rains mean more flooded homes and businesses, more stresses on expensive infrastructure, and days of missed school or work. Coastal areas are also vulnerable to increased flooding from sea-level rise and storm surge.

For believers in Jesus Christ, the divine command to love one’s neighbour requires us to understand how our actions – or inaction – affect others. Christians must reduce the causes of climate change. The call to love our neighbours requires no less.

Worldwide, Christians are now observing the ecumenical Season of Creation, the period from September 1to October 4 when we pray and act together to protect the good gift of Creation. As was witnessed by the joint statement for World Day of Prayer for Creation, jointly issued by Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew, environmental protection is being met with a unified Christian response.

Here in the United Kingdom, the Catholic Church of Wales and England is supporting the livesimply Award. The Catholic communities that have received the award have made real progress in caring for Creation. In Stowmarket, Our Lady’s Parish created reusable shopping bags for parishioners. In Leamington, the Parish of St Peter Apostle encouraged parishioners to walk or cycle to church to shrink their carbon footprint. These parishes join 25 others who have achieved the rigorous standards of the award.

The Lutheran Church in Great Britain has taken steps to make its practices more sustainable and to incorporate care for creation into worship and education services. The church has diverted trash from landfills by instituting the use of reusable cups and service materials and installing recycling bins. It has highlighted climate change and environment issues in weekly intercessions and educated congregants about the need to reduce, re-use and recycle as part of Lenten Disciplines. The church has undertaken a significant education campaign, discussing the importance of caring for our environment with children during children’s addresses and children’s church, planning a ‘litter-picking’ event with the children in the near future.

Now it’s up to all Christians to continue and expand this collective response.

Catholic or Lutheran, ordained or lay, we’re all called by our Creator to love and protect the human family and our common home. We are standing together to answer God’s call.

John Arnold is Bishop of the Salford Diocese of the Catholic Church and chairperson of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Dr Martin Lind is Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Russia’s Mayak, where “People have become a sort of radioactive waste.” 

Those words were spoken to me by the Russian human rights lawyer, Nadezhda Kutepova. For years she, with her NGO, Planet of Hopes, defended people who suffer in one of the most radioactively polluted places on this planet: the area surrounding the nuclear waste and reprocessing complex, Mayak, in Russia’s Southern Urals. Kutepova continues to stand up for her people from Paris where she has been exiled to because she was no longer safe in her home town. She made the comment when we were discussing the latest radiation measurement findings that Greenpeace published this week.

The people around Mayak are suffering from the third biggest nuclear catastrophe in history: The Kyshtym disaster that happened 60 years ago today. The radioactive pollution from Mayak continues to this day.

The Kyshtym Disaster is named after the nearest known town on the map. In 1957 a mistake in the reprocessing plant led to an explosion that contaminated 20,000 square kilometres – an area that did not appear on any map. Nor did the nearby town of Chelyabinsk, which was a so-called “secret” or “closed town” for Mayak nuclear complex workers. It is also Kutepova’s birth place. Around 270,000 people were directly affected by the disaster.

Only in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, did the true impact of the accident become apparent. Only then did the Russian nuclear industry, now known as Rosatom, take some responsibility. Only after Kutepova started supporting local victims and photographer, Robert Knoth, who recorded the the lives of those affected, did Rosatom concede to evacuating those who suffered most.

Well, kind of.

First of all, not everyone in the village was moved. Some of the people’s documents were not in order. They had to stay in a ghost town without services. And five other villages were not evacuated at all.

The pollution from Mayak never really stopped, either. Radioactive waste-water continues to be dumped in ponds around and connected to the Techa river. In all the local villages Greenpeace Russia found highly elevated strontium-90 levels. The same levels as found in the evacuated village of Muslyumovo.

Rosatom already acknowledged several times that water is seeping out of the ponds into the Techa river system. And the people of Muslyumovo and it’s surroundings are still depending on that water for their gardens. Still, Rosatom continues to dump its waste into the ponds. But, they are not called “ponds” anymore. They are now called “special industrial ponds”, “objects of nuclear energy use”, and the dumping is called “inserting liquid radioactive waste for storage”.

Mayak is everywhere. Rosatom may be polluting a Mayak near you: by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from your nearby nuclear power station, by building a nuclear power station that will later send its spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing, or by loading your neighbouring nuclear plant with reprocessed uranium fuel from Mayak.

Rosatom’s operation in Mayak illustrates that the nuclear industry is not interested in people. After all, 60 years since the disaster the people around Mayak are “a sort of radioactive waste”.

Jan Haverkamp is an expert consultant nuclear energy and energy policy for GreenpeaceCentral and Eastern Europe and part of Greenpeace’s Radiation Protection Advisors team.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | environment, Russia, social effects | Leave a comment

Rick Perry’s push to promote America’s coal and nuclear inudustries

Rick Perry proposes sweeping new steps to support coal and nuclear plants, WP,  September 29 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry took sweeping steps on Friday to buttress a pair of financially-strapped nuclear plants under construction and redefine how coal and nuclear plants are compensated for the electricity they provide — a move that, if agreed to by independent federal energy regulators, could tilt some of the nation’s complex power markets away from renewables and natural gas.

Perry announced the Energy Department would provide $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to three Georgia utilities struggling to complete a pair of nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle generating plant. These loan guarantees come on top of $8.3 billion in loans the department has already given to the project, but they still might fall short of what will be required to complete the costly reactors.

The nuclear project has been running far over-budget and behind schedule, and the utilities have been scrambling to come up with financing after the main engineering company, Westinghouse, declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

The nuclear industry has urged the federal government to help, saying the AP1000 reactors are part of a new generation of nuclear plants. “I believe the future of nuclear energy in the United States is bright and look forward to expanding American leadership in innovative nuclear technologies,” Perry said……… https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/09/29/rick-perry-proposes-sweeping-new-moves-to-support-coal-and-nuclear-plants/?utm_term=.030c3d11ad8a

September 30, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Natural Resources Defense Council’s analysis of USA’s nuclear energy and climate future

NRDC Analysis: Nuclear Energy and a Safer Climate Future Natural Resources Defense Council ·

This is part of a series of blogs on NRDC’s new report, “America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to a Safer Climate Future”

NRDC’s report America’s Clean Energy Frontier: The Pathway to A Safer Climate Future lays out a clean energy pathway for cutting U.S. greenhouse gas pollution 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. These emissions cuts are necessary to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. Our analysis shows that the U.S. can reach its 2050 carbon goals even with a steep decline in U.S. nuclear power as American reactors age and the economics of new nuclear reactors remain extremely challenging.

NRDC’s plan relies on existing technologies to cost-effectively achieve a clean, low-carbon future. Energy use is cut by 50 percent through efficiency and electric investments, with our cars achieving an average of 100 mpg. Wind and solar energy grow 13-fold from today’s levels, with renewables providing at least 80 percent of our power, allowing us to electrify buildings and cars to run with renewable energy. And a stronger, smarter and more resilient electricity grid supports the integration of these clean energy resources. By 2050, nuclear power provides just 3% of U.S. electricity, down from about 20% today, as aging U.S. nuclear power plants reach the end of their operating licenses.

Modeling a Potential for U.S. Nuclear Decline

The reduced role of nuclear power in NRDC’s pathway model primarily stems from the economic challenges facing the nuclear industry and the aging of the existing U.S. nuclear fleet. Our core scenario has only 20 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear power plant capacity operating in 2050: an 80 percent decline from today. Due to the high cost of constructing new nuclear power plants and the current wave of nuclear retirements before the expiration of their Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-issued licenses, NRDC’s modeling assumed that only four nuclear reactors would be built between now and 2050 (and that may be optimistic).

The United State has 99 operating nuclear power reactors, but early retirement plans have been announced for seven reactors because of economic pressures. In addition, most U.S. nuclear power plants were built in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. These reactors have 60-year extended operating licenses, most of which will have ended by 2050—the target date for reaching an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Some may be able to get and to use an additional 20-year extension—but we assumed that only about one in five existing plants would operate beyond 60 years due to economic and safety challenges. Our plan shows increased renewable energy deployment more than makes up for the lost low-carbon benefit of nuclear generation.We are also skeptical of the role of what is called “advanced nuclear” for generating the electricity to run our homes and businesses in the time frame to mid-century—acknowledging that other researchers have projected a significant contribution from advanced nuclear in their modeling of 80% carbon reduction by 2050. We believe that a crucial challenge for advanced nuclear is that no working prototypes of such reactor designs exist or are firmly planned, and thus deployment at scale is generally uncertain but highly unlikely in the first half of this century.

This isn’t ideological hostility to nuclear power; it is pragmatic skepticism. NRDC is not opposed in principle to nuclear power, and acknowledges its beneficial low-carbon attributes in a warming world. However, we take seriously the significant safety, global security, environmental, and economic risks that use of this technology imposes on society. They include: environmental harms from uranium mining; safety and security of nuclear plant operations; nuclear weapons proliferation impacts; and spent fuel disposal. This demands more stringent, improved policy and regulation of the complete nuclear fuel cycle, beginning with the mining and milling of uranium and ending with the final disposal of radioactive wastes. Until these risks are properly mitigated, expanding nuclear power should not be a leading strategy for diversifying America’s energy portfolio and reducing carbon pollution.

Reinforcing this perspective, nuclear power is uneconomical compared to alternate forms of low-carbon electricity generation—even without considering those risks. Faced today with the seemingly irreversible decline of nuclear energy in the United States, and the enormous potential to scale up energy efficiency and renewable energy on a stronger electric grid, NRDC’s analysis concludes we can meet our U.S. climate goals even with a much-reduced nuclear fleet…..

Conclusion

NRDC’s analysis and recommendations focus on the time period from today to 2050. Between now and 2050, it is likely that the majority of today’s nuclear power plants will retire based on economics and license expiration alone. NRDC’s modeling and analysis shows that, if such is the case, we can replace nuclear generation with clean, renewable energy instead. Nevertheless, deep geologic storage of spent fuel and nuclear weapons proliferation will remain important problems for the United States along a pathway to a safer climate future in 2050. Whether new forms of nuclear power emerge and play a role after 2050 remains to be seen. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/matthew-mckinzie/nrdc-analysis-nuclear-energy-and-safer-climate-future

September 30, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Iran’s foreign minister calls on Europe to support nuclear deal, and defy USA ‘s plan to sink the deal

Iran’s foreign minister urges Europe to defy US if Trump sinks nuclear deal https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/29/iran-foreign-minister-zarif-europe-trump-nuclear Mohammad Javad Zarif tells Guardian ‘Europe should lead’ to keep deal intact
Zarif warns US abrogation of nuclear agreement would backfire on Washington,
Guardian, Julian Borger, 30 Sept 17, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has called on Europe to defy US sanctions if the Trump administration torpedoes the international nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Zarif warned that if Europe followed Washington’s lead, the deal would collapse and Iran would emerge with more advanced nuclear technology than before the agreement was reached in Vienna in 2015. However, he insisted that technology would not be used to make weapons, in line with Tehran’s obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Speaking to the Guardian and the Financial Times, Zarif said the only way Iran would be persuaded to continue to observe the limits on its civil nuclear programme would be if the other signatories – the UK, France Germany, Russia, China – all remained committed to its terms and defy any subsequent US sanctions.

“Europe should lead,” Zarif said in an interview in the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence in New York.

The Iranian foreign minister said he expected Trump to carry through his threat not certify Iranian compliance in a state department report to Congress on 15 October. If he does not, Congress will have 60 days to reimpose sanctions suspended under the deal.

“I think he has made a policy of being unpredictable, and now he’s turning that into being unreliable as well,” Zarif said. “My assumption and guess is that he will not certify and then will allow Congress to take the decision.”

Trump has said he has already made his decision but has not told anyone outside his immediate circle. He refused to tell Theresa May when she asked him at a bilateral meeting at the UN last week, despite the fact that the UK is a close ally and a fellow signatory to the agreement.

Zarif warned that US abrogation of the deal would backfire on Washington, saying that Iran would resume uranium enrichment and other elements of its nuclear programme at a more advanced level than before.

“The deal allowed Iran to continue its research and development. So we have improved our technological base,” he said. “If we decide to walk away from the deal we would be walking away with better technology. It will always be peaceful, because membership of the NPT is not dependent on this deal. But we will not observe the limitations that were agreed on as part of the bargain in this deal.”

He added that “walking away” from the deal was just one option under consideration in Tehran.

“There are other options and those options will depend on how the rest of the international community deal with the United States,” he said. “If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the United States, then I think that will be the end of the deal.”

However, Zarif pointed out that in a previous era of high tensions between Washington and Tehran – when the US adopted sanctions legislation aimed at punishing European companies for doing business in Iran – Europe had resisted and sought to insulate its firms from US sanctions.

“In the 1990s they didn’t just ignore it,” Zarif said. “Europe, the EU, has legislation on the books that would protect EU businesses and adopt counter-measures against the US if the US went ahead with imposing restrictions. And it has been suggested by many that might be the course of action that Europe wants to take.”

1996 regulation adopted by the EU gave Europeans protection against the application of US sanctions at the time, including the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act passed in the same year. The law could be revived and expanded to cover any new US sanctions.

Following a ministerial meeting on the deal at the UN last week, the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stressed that all the signatories, including the US, had agreed that Iran was in compliance with its obligations under the terms of the agreement, and stressed that Europe would do everything possible to keep the deal alive, even in the event of US withdrawal.

In the wake of the Vienna agreement, however, Europe would have to go further than defying US sanctions. It would have to ignore UN measures as well. Under “snap-back” provisions in the agreement, the US alone could trigger the resumption of UN sanctions, as the provisions allow any participant in the deal to call a security council vote on a resolution on whether to continue with sanctions relief – a vote the US can veto.

The clause was designed to stop any country from shielding Iran if it broke the agreement. The negotiators did not anticipate it being used by a government to break the deal even while all other parties were in compliance.

Such an extraordinary situation would put enormous strain on transatlantic ties, argued Jarrett Blanc, the former US state department coordinator for implementation of the Vienna agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Europe would thus be faced with a choice between a crime under international law and what it considers to be a policy mistake,” Blanc wrote in a commentary published by Reuters. “In either case, Europe would be justifiably furious about being forced to choose between two important, deeply held policies – adherence to Security Council resolutions and implementation of the JCPOA.”

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has confirmed that Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement, as have the other signatories to the deal, and the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford, who warned that US abrogation would damage its long-termcredibility.

“It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there’s a material breach, would have an impact on others’ willingness to sign agreements,” Dunford told Congress this week.

Trump and his top officials have claimed that Iran is in violation of a line in the preface of the agreement that says the signatories anticipate the deal would contribute to regional peace and security. In his interview, Zarif rejected that reasoning.

“Even without being fully implemented, it has contributed because the region has one less issue to deal with. So it was already contributing to regional stability,” he said. “If anything, it has been the reaction of US allies in the region – who from the beginning didn’t like the deal and since the deal have done everything to undermine the deal – that have exacerbated tensions in the region.”

September 30, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

USA Energy Secretary Perry out to force Americans to buy costly nuclear and coal power, not renewables

Perry is trying “to essentially end competition in U.S. power markets in order to force customers to pay billions of dollars for uneconomic coal and nuclear plants they don’t want or need,” Mark Kresowick, an expert on FERC rules, told ThinkProgress. Kersowick called the move “unprecedented.”
Perry wants to stop cheaper, cleaner renewables like solar and wind from shutting down more dirtier and more expensive plants like coal (and nuclear).
Significantly, Germany has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, with 10 times fewer minutes of grid outages a year than the United States. In the morning of May 8, 2016, a whopping 95 percent of Germany’s electricity was provided by renewables.
Rick Perry proposes law to force Americans to buy dirtier, costlier power
Energy Secretary ignores his own grid study to make good on his threats to punish renewables https://thinkprogress.org/perry-ferc-proposal-reliability-ecbd1e54409c/

September 30, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Natural Resources Defense Council Recommendations on Nuclear Energy

NRDC Analysis: Nuclear Energy and a Safer Climate Future Natural Resources Defense Council · NRDC Recommendations on Nuclear Energy

Our report puts forward three nuclear-related recommendations that logically follow from NRDC’s climate and energy policy analysis and projections:

Regulators should explore approaches for replacing retiring nuclear units with zero-carbon resources and protecting the livelihoods of workers and host communities. As U.S. nuclear plants reach the end of their operating licenses or becomes uneconomical to run, growing numbers of reactors are likely to be retired. Regulators and other stakeholders will need to avoid abrupt closures, which could result in carbon emission increases from replacement generation. They should instead plan for shutdowns with sufficient time to ensure the lost power is reliably replaced with clean energy, and the livelihoods of workers and nearby communities are protected. The Joint Proposal to replace California’s only remaining nuclear power plant, the two Diablo Canyon reactors in San Luis Obispo, provides a model of an appropriate transition plan.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NRC, and states should address existing nuclear safety and fuel issues. The EPA and NRC should adopt stronger regulations to address the environmental impacts of uranium mining as well as the safety and security risks associated with nuclear plant operations. The federal regulations governing the decommissioning of nuclear power reactors need to be fundamentally overhauled. Rather than relitigate unworkable ideas like the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, the federal government should develop a scientifically defensible and publicly accepted consent-based siting process for geologic disposal of spent nuclear fuel. Accordingly, Congress should amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to remove its express exemptions of radioactive material from environmental laws, thus creating a regulatory role for the EPA and the states in nuclear waste disposal.

The federal government should continue to fund research into nuclear energy. Long-term federal investment in energy technologies is a key aspect of federal energy policy, including DOE programs that support R&D for nuclear fuel cycle and reactor designs. Government spending on advanced nuclear R&D must prioritize the analysis of severe accident scenarios and security vulnerabilities. While cost estimates for advanced nuclear designs should be rigorously examined early in their R&D cycle, the cost and reliability assessments can only be realistically understood based on the performance of an advanced nuclear prototype and a first-of-a-kind commercial reactor. Highly expensive projects should be evaluated as public-private partnerships to judge market viability for a given advanced nuclear design. Nuclear weapons proliferation impacts should also be addressed early in the R&D cycle; advanced nuclear designs that require a closed nuclear fuel cycle to reprocess spent nuclear fuel should be rejected outright given the associated proliferation risk, high cost and production of secondary nuclear wastes…………https://www.nrdc.org/experts/matthew-mckinzie/nrdc-analysis-nuclear-energy-and-safer-climate-future

September 30, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

A radioactive ‘Plutocene’ – more dangerous than the Anthropocene?

We may survive the Anthropocene, but need to avoid a radioactive ‘Plutocene’ The Conversation, On January 27, 2017, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the arms of its doomsday clock to 2.5 minutes to midnight – the closest it has been since 1953. Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels now hover above 400 parts per million.

Why are these two facts related? Because they illustrate the two factors that could transport us beyond the Anthropocene – the geological epoch marked by humankind’s fingerprint on the planet – and into yet another new, even more hostile era of our own making.

My new book, titled The Plutocene: Blueprints for a post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth, describes the future world we are on course to inhabit, now that it has become clear that we are still busy building nuclear weapons rather than working together to defend our planet.

I have coined the term Plutocene to describe a post-Anthropocene period marked by a plutonium-rich sedimentary layer in the oceans. The Anthropocene is very short, having begun (depending on your definition) either with the Industrial Revolution in about 1750, or with the onset of nuclear weapons and sharply rising greenhouse emissions in the mid-20th century. The future length of the Plutocene would depend on two factors: the half-life of radioactive plutonium-239 of 24,100 years, and how long our CO₂ will stay in the atmosphere – potentially up to 20,000 years.

During the Plutocene, temperatures would be much higher than today. Perhaps they would be similar to those during the Pliocene (2.6 million to 5.3 million years ago), when average temperatures were about 2℃ above those of pre-industrial times, or the Miocene (roughly 5.3 million to 23 million years ago), when average temperatures were another 2℃ warmer than that, and sea levels were 20–40m higher than today.

Under these conditions, population and farming centres in low coastal zones and river valleys would be inundated, and humans would be forced to seek higher latitudes and altitudes to survive – as well as potentially having to contend with the fallout of nuclear conflict. The most extreme scenario is that evolution takes a new turn – one that favours animals best equipped to withstand heat and radiation……….

If global warming were to reach 4℃, as suggested by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate advisor to the German government, the resulting amplification effects on the climate would pose an existential threat both to nature and human civilisation.

Barring effective sequestration of carbon gases, and given amplifying feedback effects from the melting of ice sheets, warming of oceans, and drying out of land surfaces, Earth is bound to reach an average of 4℃ above pre-industrial levels within a time frame to which numerous species, including humans, may hardly be able to adapt. The increase in evaporation from the oceans and thereby water vapour contents of the atmosphere leads to mega-cyclones, mega-floods and super-tropical terrestrial environments. Arid and semi-arid regions would become overheated, severely affecting flora and fauna habitats.

The transition to such conditions is unlikely to be smooth and gradual, but may instead feature sharp transient cool intervals called “stadials”. Increasingly, signs of a possible stadial are being seen south of Greenland………..

Mounting our defence

Defending ourselves from global warming and nuclear disaster requires us to do two things: stop fighting destructive wars, and start fighting to save our planet. There is a range of tactics we can use to help achieve the second goal, including large-scale seagrass cultivationextensive biochar development, and restoring huge swathes of the world’s forests.

Space exploration is wonderful, but we still only know of one planet that supports life (bacteria possibly excepted). This is our home, and there is currently little prospect of realising science fiction’s visions of an escape from a scorched Earth to some other world.

Yet still we waver. Many media outlets operate in apparent denial of the connection between global warming and extreme weather. Meanwhile, despite diplomatic progress on nuclear weapons, the Sword of Damoclescontinues to hang over our heads, as 14,900 nuclear warheads sit aimed at one another, waiting for accidental or deliberate release.

If the clock does strike nuclear midnight, and if we don’t take urgent action to defend our planet, life as we know it will not be able to continue. Humans will survive in relatively cold high latitudes and altitudes. A new cycle would begin. https://theconversation.com/we-may-survive-the-anthropocene-but-need-to-avoid-a-radioactive-plutocene-84763

September 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Global carbon emissions remained static in 2016 – (one bit of welcome news)

Global carbon emissions stood still in 2016, offering climate hope, The new data is a welcome sign of progress in the battle against global warming but many challenges remain, including methane from cattle, Guardian, Damian Carrington, 28 Sept 17, Global emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide remained static in 2016, a welcome sign that the world is making at least some progress in the battle against global warming by halting the long-term rising trend.

All of the world’s biggest emitting nations, except India, saw falling or static carbon emissions due to less coal burning and increasing renewable energy, according to data published on Thursday by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (NEAA). However other mainly developing nations, including Indonesia, still have rising rates of CO2 emissions.

Stalled global emissions still means huge amounts of CO2 are being added to the atmosphere every year – more than 35bn tonnes in 2016 – driving up global temperatures and increasing the risk of damaging, extreme weather. Furthermore, other heat-trapping greenhouse gases, mainly methane from cattle and leaks from oil and gas exploration, are still rising and went up by 1% in 2016.

“These results are a welcome indication that we are nearing the peak in global annual emissions of greenhouse gases,” said climate economist Prof Lord Nicholas Stern at the London School of Economics and president of the British Academy.

“To realise the goals of the Paris agreement and hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C, we must reach peak emissions as soon as possible and then achieve a rapid decline soon afterwards,” Stern said. “These results from the Dutch government show that there is a real opportunity to get on track.”………

Stern said many of the big emitting nations had achieved significant reductions in 2016: “However, all countries have to accelerate their emissions reductions if the Paris goals are to be met.” He said this could also drive development in poorer nations: “We can now see clearly that the transition to a low-carbon economy is at the heart of the story of poverty reduction and of the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The new Dutch report shows CO2 emissions from China, the world’s biggest emitter, fell 0.3% in 2016. US CO2 emissions fell 2.0% and Russia’s by 2.1%, with the EU flat, although UK emissions tumbled by 6.4%, as coal burning plunged.

Of the top five emitters, only India’s CO2 emissions rose, by 4.7%. Significant increases were also seen in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Turkey and Ukraine. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/28/global-carbon-emissions-stood-still-in-2016-offering-climate-hope

September 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Now time for a clean power rebuild in Puerto Rico

Dirty energy is not only dirty, it is very expensive for an island. Nuclear power is expensive everywhere. Neither are resilient to extreme disaster.

Renewables are fast, clean, resilient, cheap — and getting cheaper every year. They are exactly what Puerto Rico’s grid needs.

Trump officials have no clue how to rebuild Puerto Rico’s grid. But we do.http://reneweconomy.com.au/trump-officials-no-clue-rebuild-puerto-ricos-grid-66781/, By Joe Romm on 29 September 2017 Think Progress With Puerto Rico’s dirty, costly electric grid wiped out by Hurricane Maria, now is the time for a clean power rebuild.

Microgrids built around cheap renewable power and battery storage are now the fastest and cheapest way to restore power — while at the same time building resilience into the grid against the next disaster.

That’s been proven by Florida after Hurricane Irma, Japan after the tsunami that caused the Fukushima meltdown, and India after recent monsoons.

Unfortunately, the anti-renewable Trump administration appears unlikely to pursue this winning strategy. Indeed, Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that small nuclear power plants being researched at national labs are the kind of “innovation” he’d like to “expedite” for Puerto Rico’s rebuild.

“Wouldn’t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of C-17 [military cargo] aircraft, transport it to an area like Puerto Rico, and push it out the back end, crank it up, and plug it in?” he said at an event in Washington, D.C. for National Clean Energy Week. “Hopefully, we can expedite that.”

It would be quite an effort of expedition. Such small nuclear power plants are not expected to be commercialized until the mid-2020s, and even if they are, they are projected to be wildly expensive — just like current reactors — and not that small (650 tons). Nobody’s going to be “literally” putting one in a C-17 and pushing it out the back end on a small island ready to go.

The U.S. territory doesn’t have time for such political pipe dreams.

Right now, Puerto Rico’s desperate lack of power — for hospitals, water and sewage facilities, and air-conditioning in the sweltering heat — is at the center of the ongoing humanitarian crisis for the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria destroyed 55 percent of the transmission towers that support high-voltage power lines and wrecked 90 percent of the distribution network, according to utility experts who have assessed the damage, Reuters reported.

Reuters put together this remarkable graphic on “power restoration after major U.S. hurricanes.”

But this tragedy does open an opportunity. The old grid was an antiquated, expensive, polluting disaster. Mired in debt, the local utility declared bankruptcy in July. (For a useful history, see the Huffington Post’s “Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy Doomed It To Dirty Electricity — And Now Darkness.”)

Only 2 percent of the sunny and windy Caribbean island’s electricity comes from renewables, while all the rest comes from fossil fuels. In 2016, an astounding 47 percent of electricity came from petroleum, especially from dirty, inefficient diesel generators. By comparison, the U.S. as a whole generates under 1 percent of its power from petroleum and 15 percent from renewables.

Bringing fuel to an island is expensive. The commercial price of electricity on Puerto Rico is an astounding 21.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 11 ¢/kwh for the mainland. The industrial price of electricity on the island is an unheard of 18 ¢/kwh, compared to 7 ¢/kwh for the mainland.

No wonder the utility is bankrupt, and the island is economically uncompetitive.

In terms of speed of recovery, nothing beats solar with storage. As Inside Climate News reported, Florida homes with solar panels and batteries that lost power from Irma in the early hours of Monday, September 11 were able to restore power in a few hours when the sun came up. Long before others, they could use lights, refrigerators, and wifi.

Coral Springs Florida used solar plus batteries to quickly restore 13 major traffic lights. Although it’s worth noting that solar homes without storage are out of luck in Florida. The utility, FPL, does not allow grid-connected systems without batteries to be used during an outage. And the state coderequires you to be connected to the grid even if you could be grid free.

Case studies from Japan, India, and Hawaii also make clear the only technologies that can simultaneously deliver the fastest, cheapest, cleanest, and most disaster-resilient rebuild possible are micro-grids built around renewables and storage.

When northeast India was ravaged by an unprecedented deluge this summer, causing widespread blackouts, buildings with solar roofs were able to keep the lights on, even after the sun set. DESI Power has been installing the solar across the region. Panels are mounted either on the roof or a few feet off the ground so they can survive flooding. The battery box is typically portable, so it can be can be moved in case of flood. “Despite the heavy flooding, we were pleasantly surprised to find that nearly 75 percent of our power systems remained functional,” DESI’s chief operating officer told NexusMedia. 

In less than a decade, more than half a million people in India who had lacked electricity now have off-grid solar. As one expert on distributed solar in the region said, “Solar power has changed people’s lives, improved their health and enhanced their livelihood opportunities while benefiting the environment.”

Japan has gone even further following the 2011 tsunami that caused the Fukushima meltdown. In what Reuters described last week as a “quiet energy revolution,” dozens of cities have gone off grid or built renewable micro-grids with the help of Japan’s “National Resilience Program,” which had $33 billion in funding this year.

Higashi Matsushima, a city of 40,000 that lost 75 percent of its homes and 1,100 people in the 2011 catastrophe, built microgrids and decentralized its power generation “to create a self-sustaining system” that can meet a quarter of its electricity demand.

Such a micro-grid can allow basic needs to be met even if the region suffers a cascading grid failure. The city “built its own independent transmission grid and solar generating panels as well as batteries to store power that can keep the city running for at least three days.”

As for cost, the Hawaiian island of Kauai now produces some 90 percent of its midday peak power from only solar and batteries. Tesla has a 20-year contractwith the island’s utility to provide power at 13.9 ¢/kwh. That compares with the utility’s electricity cost for diesel power of 15.5 ¢/kwh — and it’s nearly half the 27.7 ¢/kwh that Hawaiians paid last December for electricity.

Dirty energy is not only dirty, it is very expensive for an island. Nuclear power is expensive everywhere. Neither are resilient to extreme disaster.

Renewables are fast, clean, resilient, cheap — and getting cheaper every year. They are exactly what Puerto Rico’s grid needs.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

A Further Delay in the Cleanup At Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant

The Cleanup At Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant Has Been Delayed Yet Again https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/09/the-cleanup-at-japans-fukushima-nuclear-plant-has-been-delayed-yet-again/ George Dvorsky, With the backing of Japan’s government, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) has decided to revise its plan to remove highly radioactive spent fuel from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. It’s the fourth re-think made by the utility since the plant suffered a meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami — and yet another delay to a plan that’s expected to take anywhere from 30 to 40 years.

TEPCO, the company responsible for cleaning up the beleaguered Fukushima plant, has sketched out a revised roadmap for the decommissioning process, which was approved by Japan’s government yesterday, reports The Japan Times. The new plan calls for the extraction of the highly radioactive spent fuel from the cooling pools of reactors one and two starting in 2023 instead of 2020. Work on reactor three will go ahead as planned next year, having already been delayed earlier this year. All three reactors experienced core meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The decision to delay the decommissioning process was informed by recent robotic surveys and the identification of new technical and safety issues. In February of this year, soaring radiation levels fried a robot that was sent in to inspect and clean reactor two. Then in July, an aquatic robot managed to send back photos of what appeared to be melted nuclear fuelat the bottom of reactor three. The precise location of the melted fuel still needs to be confirmed, however, and more work needs to be done to create robots that can withstand the intense levels of radiation near the core. The new delays announced by TEPCO today were prompted by these realities, along with the discovery of previously unknown damage in the storage pool areas and the need for further radioactive decontamination.

Naohiro Masuda, head of TEPCO’s decommissioning efforts, said the three to four decade plan “may not sound convincing because of all the unknowns and [because] we haven’t found most of the melted fuel” within the reactor cores. But what’s needed, he said, is a target for developing the technologies required to accomplish this goal.

Under the revised plan, the cleanup process will require the removal of the fuel rod assemblies from the spent fuel pools before any of the melted fuel debris can be removed. An extraction plan for the removal of the radioactive debris won’t even be considered until 2019. At this point, the best case scenario sees the extraction of the melted nuclear fuel starting in 2021.

But TEPCO has also delayed choosing the specific method for the debris extraction, which is considered the most challenging phase of the decommissioning process. The favoured method at this point would involve removing the debris from the sides of the reactors after partially filling them up with water. That said, TEPCO still needs to produce an estimate showing how long it will take to remove the melted fuel, and a plan showing how and where the radioactive waste will be stored. It also has to decide what to do with the Fukushima plant itself.

If all this isn’t enough, there’s all that contaminated water to consider as well. TEPCO’s updated roadmap establishes new goals to reduce the amount of underground water at the plant. Currently, clean water underneath the plant is getting mixed together with water that’s being used to cool the damaged reactors, which subsequently becomes contaminated with radiation. TEPCO has made some progress in this regard, but it would now like to cut the amount of water used to 150 tonnes per day from the current 200 tonnes.

As this unfortunate episode makes painfully clear, when nuclear power goes wrong, it really goes wrong. Should all go according to plan, the plant won’t be fully decommissioned until the mid 2050s, and possibly even later given the many technical challenges that await.

September 30, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment