nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Good news for a change this week – on nuclear and climate

Well, of course, it’s hard to find good news. I see that a “good news” media has just started up . I don’t like their chances – but that’s only because good news isn’t really news.  News is about something unusual happening. The vast majority of human beings are going about their lives, trying to care for their family and friends, trying to live  a decent life. That’s just not news. Particularly at this time of year, people are mostly making an extra effort to be kindly to others, – with Christmas, Hanukka, and at least 12 other religious celebrations.  So – it’s the much rarer bad incidents that are news.

On climate, so many millions of people, and so many organisations are trying to save this planet’s quite fragile environment. Intergovernmental efforts continue, with the recent Paris Summit. Renewable energy is taking off across the globe, especially in China, but also in America, despite Trump.

The global nuclear-free movement continues to have successes, exposing the nuclear industry, working for nuclear clean-ups, and for dismantling nuclear power, and for preventing new nuclear development

The much maligned United Nations continues its work, with a huge number of positive agencies, including many humanitarian ones. Non government agencies join in this work

The Nobel Peace Prize Award to ICAN might appear to be ineffective.  But to have 122 of the UN member states adopting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a great symbolic start – in universal recognition  that having nuclear weapons , planning to use them, and using them – are crimes against humanity.

Nuclear power began in America in the 1940s, with the Manhattan project to develop nuclear bombs.  Of course it is till aligned with nuclear weapons, but now, “peaceful” nuclear power is dying in USA. France is moving away from nuclear power. In China, and India, as renewable energy booms,  nuclear power slows.

The global movement for  a nuclear free world is active everywhere, but faces huge challenges, especially where the industry is tax-payer funded, and exceptionally secretive – as in Russia and China.

One nice little news item – the early release from prison of brave anti nuclear activist Sister Megan Rice.

I suppose that next week – I will resume the dreary recitation of all the bad stuff  – because that’s what news is.  In the meantime, many millions of people are being kind to each other, and wishing for peace –  not news, but true all the same.

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December 22, 2017 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

Russia: no nuclear transparency, and still using Soviet style tactics against anti nuclear activists

CRACKDOWN IN RUSSIA: CRITICS ACCUSE NUCLEAR AUTHORITIES OF SOVIET-STYLE COVER-UPS AND HEAVY-HANDED TACTICS,  Newsweek, BY MARC BENNETTS When Russia’s FSB security service raided Fyodor Maryasov’s apartment in Siberia last year, the authorities seized his computer and a scathing report he had compiled about Rosatom, the Kremlin-owned nuclear corporation. Among other things, the authorities accused him of inciting hatred against nuclear industry employees, an unusual charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years behind bars. “They accused me of revealing state secrets in my report,” the 49-year-old environmental activist says. “But every single thing in it was taken from open sources.”

The raid came as activists are increasingly criticizing Rosatom over a range of issues, including the way it handles nuclear waste. This fall, for instance, critics alleged that one of its facilities was the source of a mysterious cloud of radioactive pollution that drifted across Europe.

Russian authorities have responded to these critics with tough tactics—including raids and smear campaigns—and in recent years, they’ve employed similar measures against other environmental groups.  Rosatom says it was in no way trying to stifle dissent. “We strongly believe that every voice should be heard,” a spokesman for the nuclear agency tells Newsweek, “and we welcome open dialogue with civil society, including with those who are opposed to nuclear power.”

Maryasov says the crackdown is a continuation of the routine cover-ups of nuclear accidents and atomic pollution during the Soviet era and beyond—from the 1957 Kyshtym disaster to the meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986. “Trust in Rosatom and the authorities,” he says, “is at an absolute minimum.”

The activist’s recent troubles began after he spoke out against Rosatom’s plans for a permanent underground nuclear waste repository in his hometown of Zheleznogorsk, in eastern Siberia. If the project goes ahead, Russian authorities would likely begin storing hundreds of thousands of tons of radioactive waste at the site. Zheleznogorsk was built in 1950, under the supervision of Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria, for the production of weapons-grade plutonium. Until 1992, plant employees regularly disposed of nuclear waste in the nearby Yenisey River, causing health problems for tens of thousands of people in the area. Russian authorities stopped the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons at the Zheleznogorsk plant in 2010.

But critics say the shadow of nuclear catastrophe still hangs over the region. In the event of a massive natural disaster or terrorist attack, the nuclear waste repository plan poses what Maryasov says is a threat to “every living thing” in the region. Zheleznogorsk is a mere 40 miles downstream from Krasnoyarsk, the regional capital, with a population of just over 1 million. And people in the area are concerned. More than 85,000 so far have signed a petition Maryasov drafted calling for Rosatom to scrap its plans for the repository.

The nuclear agency says it is building an underground lab at the Zheleznogorsk site to study the feasibility of its plans. It says those plans are open to public debate, and it points to similar storage sites currently operated in Finland, Sweden and the United States.

Critics, however, say it’s hard to access reliable information about Rosatom’s plans because many of its nuclear facilities are in so-called closed cities, like Zheleznogorsk. There are around 40 of these towns across Russia, the majority of which are sealed off from the outside world by barbed wire, fences and armed guards. Access is forbidden to foreigners, and even Russians who don’t live there have to receive special permission from the authorities to visit.

Those restrictions mean it’s easier for the authorities to ramp up the pressure against critics. Maryasov says he was the victim of a “vicious psychological campaign,” and he accuses the authorities of distributing fake news claiming he had advocated violence against atomic energy workers. The unrelenting pressure, he says, led to the breakup of his marriage of almost two decades.

“The constitution stipulates freedom of information and forbids censorship, as well as guaranteeing the right to everyone to information about the state of the environment,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “In order to realize those rights, someone has to seek out and make public this information, which is what Maryasov was engaged in doing.”

In recent months, critics have hammered Russia’s nuclear industry over allegations that Mayak, a notorious nuclear plant in Ozyorsk, a closed city in central Russia, was the source of radioactive pollution observed over Western Europe in late September. Mayak, which was built in 1948, produces components for nuclear weapons and stores and converts spent nuclear fuel. France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety said the cloud that passed over Austria, France and other European countries was harmless, but it warned that the estimated level of radiation at the site of the suspected nuclear accident posed a serious threat to human health.

In November, Russian state meteorologists reported that high atmospheric concentrations of the radioactive isotope Ruthenium-106 had been detected around Mayak, triggering accusations that the secretive facility in Ozyorsk was the source of the pollution. However, Rosatom denied an accident had taken place there, said the levels detected by meteorologists were far below the admissible norm and insisted it had not carried out any operations that could have led to the isotope’s release into the atmosphere “for many years.”

Yet on December 13, Yuri Morkov, a senior executive at Mayak, admitted that Ruthenium-106 is routinely released as part of the plant’s processing of spent nuclear fuel. He insisted, however, that levels are so insignificant that there is no cause for concern.

Russian environmentalists are skeptical of his denials, in part because of Mayak’s history. Between 1949 and 1951, the factory dumped radioactive waste from the nuclear facility into the local river, polluting water supplies for tens of thousands of locals. In 1957, a storage tank containing highly radioactive nuclear weapons waste exploded at Mayak, exposing at least 272,000 people to dangerous levels of radiation. The accident was the third most serious nuclear disaster of all time, after far more famous accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Eco-activists say the Soviets sent thousands of people, including some 2,000 pregnant women and hundreds of children, to clean up the disaster site with nothing more than rags and mops.

The atomic catastrophe was shrouded in secrecy: It wasn’t until 1989 that the USSR admitted it had taken place. Cancer rates in the worst affected areas around Mayak are between 2.5 and 3.5 times the national average, according to Greenpeace. In 2007, Russia’s constitutional court ruled that the unborn children exposed to radiation during the clean-up were not entitled to government benefits as adults, as they were not officially employed by the state.

This fall’s reports of the alleged nuclear leak at Mayak rekindled memories of the 1957 disaster. But Rosatom denies there have been any major incidents at its plants in recent years…….

There is no evidence suggesting Rosatom is directly responsible for the harassment of regional activists. A source close to the Russian nuclear industry tells Newsweekthat the “appalling and totally unacceptable” pressure is more likely coming from regional FSB officials trying to please their superiors in Moscow in the lead-up to Russia’s presidential election, a time when there’s increasingly less tolerance for dissent. Another possibility: lower-level officials who stand to benefit financially from Rosatom’s activities. “Russia is Russia,” the source says, asking for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “They play their own game as always.”

As for Maryasov, the Siberian activist faces an uncertain future as he continues his campaign against the nuclear waste repository. Finding a job has been hard because of his legal troubles, but he has no intention of moving.

“Too many people have put their trust in me,” he says, “I can’t let them down.” http://www.newsweek.com/crackdown-russia-critics-accuse-nuclear-authorities-soviet-style-cover-ups-and-755389

December 22, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, environment, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Hinkley point Nuclear Power – a bad deal in every way – obsolete before it ever starts working?

Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant, The Guardian, 21 Dec 17  Building Britain’s first new nuclear reactor since 1995 will cost twice as much as the 2012 Olympics – and by the time it is finished, nuclear power could be a thing of the past. How could the government strike such a bad deal? By Holly Watt Hinkley Point, on the Somerset coast, is the biggest building site in Europe. Here, on 430 acres of muddy fields scattered with towering cranes and bright yellow diggers, the first new nuclear power station in the UK since 1995 is slowly taking shape. When it is finally completed, Hinkley Point C will be the most expensive power station in the world. But to reach that stage, it will need to overcome an extraordinary tangle of financial, political and technical difficulties. The project was first proposed almost four decades ago, and its progress has been glacial, having faced relentless opposition from politicians, academics and economists every step of the way.

Some critics of the project have questioned whether Hinkley Point C’s nuclear reactor will even work. It is a new and controversial design, which has been dogged by construction problems and has yet to start functioning anywhere in the world. Some experts believe it could actually prove impossible to build. “It’s three times over cost and three times over time where it’s been built in Finland and France,” says Paul Dorfman, from the UCL Energy Institute. “This is a failed and failing reactor.”

Others have pointed to the cost. At present, the estimated total bill for Hinkley Point C is £20.3bn, more than twice the London Olympics. To pay for it, the British government has entered into a complex financial agreement with Électricité de France (EDF), the energy giant that is 83% owned by the French government, and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), a state-run Chinese energy company. Under this contract, British electricity consumers will pay billions over a 35-year period. According to Gérard Magnin, a former EDF director, the French company sees Hinkley as “a way to make the British fund the renaissance of nuclear in France”. He added: “We cannot be sure that in 2060 or 2065, British pensioners, who are currently at school, will not still be paying for the advancement of the nuclear industry in France.”

Many British observers agree that the deal is ludicrously favourable to EDF – “a dreadful deal, laughable” says Prof Steve Thomas, who works on energy policy at the University of Greenwich. But even insiders at EDF aren’t entirely happy with it. In the months before the EDF board finally signed off the deal in autumn 2016, the finance director resigned, along with Magnin. “The Hinkley Point project remains very risky,” Magnin told me. He is particularly concerned about EDF’s ability to complete the project before the current deadline of 2025. “Why have we reached this point?” asked Magnin. “It is the construction of a house of cards.”

Not everyone has lost faith in the project. When John Hutton was business secretary in 2008, he announced that the government would encourage the “safe and affordable” development of nuclear reactors. Back then, he insisted the plants would be completed “well before 2020”, and wouldn’t receive a penny in subsidies from the British government. Today, despite those earlier promises having been broken, Hutton still lobbies for nuclear: “We’re not just creating power stations,” he told me. “We are making history.”

 But the irony of Hinkley Point C is that by the time it eventually starts working, it may have become obsolete. Nuclear power is facing existential problems around the world, as the cost of renewable energies fall and their popularity grows. “The maths doesn’t work,” says Tom Burke, former environmental policy adviser to BP and visiting professor at both Imperial and University Colleges. “Nuclear simply doesn’t make sense any more.”

The story of Hinkley Point C is that of a chain of decisions, taken by dozens of people over almost four decades, which might have made sense in isolation, but today result in an almost unfathomable scramble of policies and ambitions. Promises have been made and broken, policies have been adopted then dropped then adopted again. The one thing that has been consistent is the projected cost, which has rocketed ever upwards. But if so many people have come to believe that Hinkley Point C is fundamentally flawed, the question remains: how did we get to this point, where billions of pounds have been sunk into a project that seems less and less appealing with every year that passes?…..https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/21/hinkley-point-c-dreadful-deal-behind-worlds-most-expensive-power-plant?CMP=twt_gu

December 22, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

With climate change, higher temperatures impede forest recovery after wildfires

Forests destroyed in wildfires not recovering due to climate change, scientists reveal http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/forests-wildfires-climate-change-california-australia-not-recover-global-warming-regeneration-a8122501.html

Study suggests higher temperatures in the Rocky Mountains are preventing trees from growing back following wildfires  Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent 21 Dec 17 A new study suggests hotter climates resulting from global warming may prevent forests from regenerating after wildfires.

Recent wildfires in California were the most destructive on record, with governor Jerry Brown warning climate change could make such fierce events “the new normal”.

In hot, dry climates like those found in the western US, wildfires are often a natural part of the environment, contributing to the cycling of nutrients and growth of new plants.

However, a new study published in the journal Ecology Letterssuggests increasing global temperatures may be preventing this natural cycling from taking place.The result could be long-term damage to areas of forest destroyed by wildfires.

Led by Dr Camille Stevens‐Rumann, an ecologist at Colorado State University, the study involved testing fire-struck areas of forest for signs of regeneration.

The scientists examined 1485 sites in the Rocky Mountains, all of which had been affected by fires between 1985 and 2015.

They looked for seedlings growing in the examined sites, comparing growth with nearby unburned forests to determine how well forests in each area were able to regenerate.

The team found the proportion of sites in which no post-fire tree regrowth had taken place increased from 19 to 32 per cent when comparing earlier years of the analysis to the more recent years.“Significantly less tree regeneration is occurring after wildfires in the start of the 21st century compared to the end of the 20th century,” the scientists wrote in their paper.

Comparing these findings with information on the region’s changing climate suggested increases in global temperatures were influencing forest regeneration, particularly in the driest regions.

“Dry forests that already occur at the edge of their climatic tolerance are most prone to conversion to non-forests after wildfires,” the scientists wrote. Natural disasters are increasingly being linked to climate change, and according to Todd Gartner, a senior associate at environmental think tank World Resources Institute, climate change is a “contributing factor” to the recent events in California.

Scientists have linked changes in temperature, levels of rain and soil moisture – all of which are influenced by global warming – to increased risk of wildfires.

This new study suggests the impact of climate change on wildfires may have longer term consequences as well.

“As scientists, managers and the public aim to understand and plan for increasing fire activity, our results suggest a high likelihood that future wildfires will facilitate shifts to lower density forest or non-forested states under a warming climate,” the scientists concluded.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Investigation finds that USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission downplays safety warnings

Nuclear Regulatory Commission downplays safety warnings, investigation finds, CBS News, 20 Dec 17,   The federal agency responsible for safety at the nation’s 61 nuclear power plants routinely downplays warnings from plant workers and its own experts about problems, including some with potential for disaster, a Better Government Association investigation found.

Employees from U.S. nuclear power plants filed nearly 700 complaints with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in recent years, claiming retaliation for raising safety concerns, records show. The agency found no wrongdoing.

NRC officials also overruled recommendations from their own technical experts on how to protect plants from potential catastrophe spurred by floods, equipment failures, power outages and other problems.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the nonprofit news outlet Better Government Association.

Interviews with more than 20 current and former NRC and nuclear plant employees reveal a pattern of top officials dismissing safety warnings rather than impose costly fixes on plant operators. Some said careers suffered as potential threats were never fully addressed.

“It’s the NRC’s longstanding practice to consistently declare the plants are safe and to avoid directly answering any questions that might suggest otherwise,” said Lawrence Criscione, an NRC risk analyst.

NRC officials would not consent to an interview. But NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng responded in writing to BGA questions……..

The nuclear industry, through its trade group and individual companies, often downplays the seriousness of problems highlighted by NRC experts. Exelon and others in the industry bat down potential rules and regulations by pleading to NRC’s top managers……….

The problem, say people who conduct government reviews, is that the NRC’s final rulings often don’t reflect warnings from its experts.

“Management tells you where they want the answer to go. If you push, you’re not going to get promoted again – there are other people who are willing to say it’s not a serious issue,” said Richard Perkins, one of Criscione’s NRC colleagues involved in exposing flooding concerns.

One case in point is the emergency safety valve issue at Exelon’s Byron and Braidwood plants……..

Underscoring that frustration is the NRC’s record of handling whistleblower complaints lodged by plant employees. From 2010 through 2016, workers filed 687 complaints. The NRC investigated just 235 and upheld none.

The largest number of complaints, 84, were filed by employees at the two nuclear plants operated in Georgia by Southern Nuclear, records show. Next were the 70 complaints lodged by nuclear workers in South Carolina, 58 by workers in Tennessee and 50 in California. Illinois ranked 12th, with 21 whistleblower cases filed. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nuclear-regulatory-commission-downplays-safety-warnings-investigation-finds/

December 22, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, safety, USA | Leave a comment

Survey finds strong support in France for renewable energy, not nuclear

French people support energy transition, survey reveals, Energy Transition by Energiewende Team19 Dec 2017“……… It is often said that the French people strongly support nuclear energy as a jewel of the French industry. However, a survey commissioned by the French office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation and the French Think tank La Fabrique écologique, carried out by the research institute Harris Interactive, shows that the French people would rather like to pull up the anchor and set sail for a new model based on renewable energy.

Indeed, 91 % of interviewees consider the energy transition as “priority issue” (47%) or a “major issue” (44%). 63% see the energy transition as an opportunity rather than as a threat (11 %). But what should energy transition look like, according to them?

A clear preference for the development of renewable energy

The trend is very clear: 83 % of French people think France should prioritize investments in renewable energy. Only 12% of the interviewees prefer that investments go towards the modernization and life extension of nuclear power plants. 66 % of respondents come out against the construction of new nuclear power plants. It shows that the advertising and constantly repeated arguments that nuclear energy – often described as “clean energy” – is the only adequate solution when it comes to fighting climate change is not having the intended effect on French public opinion.

Also surprising is the fact that the actor in which the French people have the most confidence to lead the energy transition is neither the state (trusted by 49% of the interviewees) nor the energy producers and providers like the state owned EDF (trusted by only 46%). Rather, people trust citizen energy cooperatives (trusted by 78%), as well as NGOs and associations (trusted by 66 %).

A positive view of the Energiewende

Another salient point of the survey is the opinion of the French people about the German energy transition. Respondents perceived the German Energiewende much more positively than their economic and political elites……..

Over half of them see the Energiewende as “a good example for the energy transition.” Last but not least, the French people think France should work more closely with Europe (54%) and with Germany (51%) on energy issues……

The complete results of the survey (in French) are available here: Enquête “Le rapport des Francais à l’énergie” – Harris Interactive

In the press :

December 22, 2017 Posted by | France, public opinion, renewable | Leave a comment

Nuclear radiation: Russia has no transparent system for monitoring the state of its environment

Wake up and smell the ruthenium https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/violetta-ryabko/wake-up-and-smell-ruthenium VIOLETTA RYABKO Violetta Ryabko is head of Greenpeace Russia’s press service.  21 December 2017 Russia’s recent ruthenium scare, which went viral around the globe, brought a serious problem to light: the absence in Russia of proper and transparent monitoring of its environment.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | environment, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

USA nuclear tests – a hidden weapon against its own people – radioactive milk

Five men at atomic ground zero

RADIOACTIVE MILK US nuclear tests killed far more civilians than we knew, Quartz, https://qz.com/1163140/us-nuclear-tests-killed-american-civilians-on-a-scale-comparable-to-hiroshima-and-nagasaki/21 Dec 17 

Tim Fernholz When the US entered the nuclear age, it did so recklessly. New research suggests that the hidden cost of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates, with radioactive fallout responsible for 340,000 to 690,000 American deaths from 1951 to 1973.

The study, performed by University of Arizona economist Keith Meyersuses a novel method (pdf) to trace the deadly effects of this radiation, which was often consumed by Americans drinking milk far from the site of atomic tests.

From 1951 to 1963, the US tested nuclear weapons above ground in Nevada. Weapons researchers, not understanding the risks—or simply ignoring them—exposed thousands of workers to radioactive fallout. The emissions from nuclear reactions are deadly to humans in high doses, and can cause cancer even in low doses. At one point, researchers had volunteers stand underneath an airburst nuclear weapon to prove how safe it was:

The emissions, however, did not just stay at the test site, and drifted in the atmosphere. Cancer rates spiked in nearby communities, and the US government could no longer pretend that fallout was anything but a silent killer.

The cost in dollars and lives

Congress eventually paid more than $2 billion to residents of nearby areas that were particularly exposed to radiation, as well as uranium miners. But attempts to measure the full extent of the test fallout were very uncertain, since they relied on extrapolating effects from the hardest-hit communities to the national level. One national estimate found the testing caused 49,000 cancer deaths.

Those measurements, however, did not capture the full range of effects over time and geography. Meyers created a broader picture by way of a macabre insight: When cows consumed radioactive fallout spread by atmospheric winds, their milk became a key channel to transmit radiation sickness to humans. Most milk production during this time was local, with cows eating at pasture and their milk being delivered to nearby communities, giving Meyers a way to trace radioactivity across the country.

The National Cancer Institute has records of the amount of Iodine 131—a dangerous isotope released in the Nevada tests—in milk, as well as broader data about radiation exposure. By comparing this data with county-level mortality records, Meyers came across a significant finding: “Exposure to fallout through milk leads to immediate and sustained increases in the crude death rate.” What’s more, these results were sustained over time. US nuclear testing likely killed seven to 14 times more people than we had thought, mostly in the midwest and northeast.

A weapon against its own people

When the US used nuclear weapons during World War II, bombing the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, conservative estimates suggest 250,000 people died in immediate aftermath. Even those horrified by the bombing didn’t realize that the US would deploy similar weapons against its own people, accidentally, and on a comparable scale.

And the cessation of nuclear testing helped save US lives—”the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty might have saved between 11.7 and 24.0 million American lives,” Meyers estimates. There was also some blind luck involved in reducing the number of poisoned people: The Nevada Test Site, compared to other potential testing facilities the US government considered at the time, produced the lowest atmospheric dispersal.

The lingering affects of these tests remain, as silent and as troublesome as the isotopes themselves. Millions of Americans who were exposed to fallout likely suffer illnesses related to these tests even today, as they retire and rely on the US government to fund their health care.

“This paper reveals that there are more casualties of the Cold War than previously thought, but the extent to which society still bears the costs of the Cold War remains an open question,” Meyers concludes.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | radiation, Reference, USA, weapons and war | 3 Comments

December 21 Energy News

geoharvey

Opinion:

¶ “Hinkley Point: the ‘dreadful deal’ behind the world’s most expensive power plant” • Many British observers agree that the deal to build the Hinkley Point nuclear plant is ludicrously favourable to EDF – “a dreadful deal, laughable,” said one expert. But the irony is that by the time it eventually starts working, it may have become obsolete. [The Guardian]

A view toward the Hinkley Point site in Somerset
(Photo: Deeplyvibed | Alamy Stock Photo)

¶ “Tesla’s big Powerpack battery just propped up a coal power station in another state” • Tesla’s giant battery is already proving its worth, bailing out a 560-MW coal power station nearly 620 miles (1,000 kilometres) away. The battery is powered by a wind farm. Ironic, isn’t it, that wind power bailed out a coal-burning plant? [Mashable]

World:

¶ Germany’s renewable electricity production is set to reach a record 36%…

View original post 769 more words

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s Hot Ocean Blob Fuels Record Heat, Extreme Weather, Risk to Coral Reefs — robertscribbler

Between Australia and New Zealand there’s a kind of climate change fed thing on the prowl in the off-shore waters. It takes the form of an angry layer of far warmer than normal surface water. And it’s been lurking around since late November. (A hot, angry blob of much warmer than normal ocean temperatures has […]

via Australia’s Hot Ocean Blob Fuels Record Heat, Extreme Weather, Risk to Coral Reefs — robertscribbler

December 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

USA’s nuclear boondoggle Plant Vogtle costing $25 billion-plus – still gets regulators’ go ahead !

 Troubled $25 Billion Nuclear Project Gets OK to Continue  US News, By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr., Associated Press ATLANTA (AP) 21 Dec 17 — Georgia‘s utility regulators are allowing construction to continue on two new nuclear reactors, despite massive cost overruns for the multibillion-dollar project.

Thursday’s unanimous decision by the state’s Public Service Commission will shape the future of the nation’s nuclear industry, partly because the reactors at Plant Vogtle were the first new ones to be licensed and to begin construction in the U.S. since 1978.

The project, co-owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities, has been plagued by delays and spiraling costs, compounded when the main contractor filed for bankruptcy. Westinghouse Electric Co., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp., filed for bankruptcy in March.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal praised the PSC’s decision……

The Sierra Club, meanwhile, slammed the vote, calling the project a disaster. Ted Terry, director of the group’s Georgia chapter, said the project should have been halted……

 

Officials say the PSC vote means Georgia consumers will pay more for power, starting in 2021……

David Schlissel, a utility consultant and analyst who has previously testified against Vogtle, criticized Thursday’s vote, saying regulators were letting Georgia Power and its parent, the Southern Company, off the hook.

“The commission’s own monitors have identified that Southern mismanaged the project,” he said. “Now the commission is giving them unanimous approval to spend even more money.”

He added, “In Georgia, you apparently have commissioners who are fine having ratepayers shovel money into a bottomless pit.”…….

 

By May 2015, regulators said there was a “high probability” that construction would be delayed even longer than the three years already announced by the owners, according to an analysis obtained by The Associated Press. Estimates from regulators at that time put the utility company’s costs at $8.2 billion.

The rising construction costs hit an industry already under financial pressure, after 2011 a tsunami in Japan triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Meanwhile, the price of natural gas dropped, lessening the incentive to build new nuclear power.

In South Carolina, Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. abandoned the construction of a similar nuclear project in July, blaming the decision primarily on the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse.

Under state law, Georgia Power’s customers will ultimately reimburse the state-regulated monopoly for the flagship plant as they pay their monthly electricity bills. That law allows Georgia Power to charge its customers now for the interest it pays on the borrowed money needed for the project. Under an older law, the utility had to wait until the plant was operating to collect those interest charges from its customers, a practice that meant the interest owed grew during the construction period.

Cost overruns were also an issue with the original reactors at Vogtle. The cost of building the existing reactors at the site jumped from $660 million to nearly $9 billion by the time they started producing power in the late 1980s.

Associated Press video journalist Robert Ray in Atlanta and reporter Jeff Amy in Jackson, Mississippi, contributed to this story.  https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2017-12-21/georgia-board-to-decide-fate-of-25-billion-nuclear-plant

 

December 22, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Worse wildfires – the new climate normal

WILDFIRES MARK THE NEW REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN 2017
As fire conditions intensify around the globe, scientists are helping countries prepare for a fiery new normal. 
Pacific Standard, BOB BERWYN, DEC 20, 2017

Sometimes the effects of climate change seem to creep up, as when sea levels rise an inch every few years, or when temperatures break records by a tenth of a degree. But when your backyard is on fire, you feel global warming breathing down your neck.

In the last three years, as global temperatures spiked to new records, it sometimes felt like the whole world was ablaze, as a series of “worst-ever” fires damaged and destroyed ecosystems and human communities on nearly every continent, under new climate conditions that will be the norm by 2050.

Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, fire conditions will become even more persistent in areas already at risk, and will spread to new regions as warming drives vegetation patterns and land-use changes. Without rethinking our relationship with nature, landscapes, and wildfire, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, with the same catastrophic results.

The past few years have shown how bad things can get, fire experts say. In the super-heated El Niño years of 2015 and 2016, there were late-summer tundra fires in Greenland, peat fires in Indonesia, and hardwood forests in the southeast United States that burned on an unprecedented scale.

By early 2017, El Niño had faded, but parts of the Southern Hemisphere were scorched by record heat and fires, including Australia, where fire experts made statements similar to the bulletins coming out of Southern California right now: “This is the worst day we have seen in the history of New South Wales when it comes to fire danger ratings and fire conditions,” Shane Fitzsimmons, the state’s rural fire chief, told the BBC in February, with almost 100 bushfires burning………..

Scientists have been warning for 20 years that climate change would increase the risk of damaging fires, and that many of these fires can’t be stopped. Communities in less developed countries are most at risk right now. They need more resources to manage landscapes to prevent fires, and they need better weather and climate forecasting services—and the ability to put people and tools on the ground.

At times, the growing risk already seems to be outpacing society’s capacity to adapt. In 2016, the GFMC sent a team of experts to South America to warn of fire risks and help communities prepare. Six months later, before any measures were taken, deadly fires burned across parts of Chile and Argentina following a record heat wave.

Alexander Held, a resilience expert at the European Forest Institute, says that hubris is the biggest problem in the face of a growing fire threat. “It’s all coming down to failed land management and that our societies have forgotten how to live with fire,” Held tells Pacific Standard via email.

Held advocates shifting resources from fire suppression to fire prevention, including managed fires, which are scientifically proven to be the best way to minimize catastrophic effects on communities and natural resources.

“Look at Western Australia. They had a large-scale prescribed burning program, and for decades there was nothing like a disaster fire. Only when they reduced the area that was supposed to be burned by prescription did disaster fires start to happen,” he says. “The biggest challenge is how to influence policymakers and political decision making,” Held says. https://psmag.com/environment/2017-the-year-in-wildfires

December 22, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Nadezhda Kutepova and the growing danger for anti nuclear activists in Russia

CRACKDOWN IN RUSSIA: CRITICS ACCUSE NUCLEAR AUTHORITIES OF SOVIET-STYLE COVER-UPS AND HEAVY-HANDED TACTICS, Newsweek, BY MARC BENNETTS One thing that’s clear: The risks are growing for environmental and human rights activists who take on the powerful nuclear agency. Just ask Nadezhda Kutepova, 45, the head of a human rights organization that helped the victims of radiation pollution in and around Ozyorsk. “At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the reports about the radioactive pollution, but as soon as I heard that Rosatom had said everything was OK and that Mayak officials were denying an accident had taken place, I started to monitor the situation,” she tells Newsweek. “These are very cynical people.”

Kutepova was born in Ozyorsk in 1974. Her father worked at Mayak for 35 years and took part in the 1957 clean-up. He died of cancer in 1985, but the Soviet authorities never officially admitted that the illness was linked to his job. In 2007, after a long legal battle, Kutepova forced the government to recognize her father as a victim of occupational radiation sickness. Neither Kutepova nor her mother, however, received compensation.

Kutepova didn’t fight only for her family. She also tried to force Rosatom to pay for medical treatment for locals affected by illnesses related to decades of atomic pollution. In 2013, Kutepova discovered the first known case of third-generation radiation sickness in the region. The case involved a 6-year-old girl named Regina Khasanova who died of cancer. Medical experts said her death was caused by genetic mutations that resulted from the radiation her grandmother was exposed to during the 1957 clean-up at Mayak.

Two years later, Kutepova was forced to flee Russia after state TV accused her of trying to exploit the nuclear issue to foment revolution. Another report said she was attempting to destroy Russia’s nuclear deterrent on behalf of the United States. The purported evidence? Her human rights group received financing from the U.S. government–funded National Endowment for Democracy, which Russian officials have accused of seeking to topple Putin. (The NED says its aim is to promote worldwide democracy.) “We never covered up this funding,” Kutepova says. “We also received funds from organizations in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.”

One of the televised reports even showed the door to Kutepova’s apartment, which caused her to fear for her safety. Kutepova and her four children now live in France, where she has political asylum…….http://www.newsweek.com/crackdown-russia-critics-accuse-nuclear-authorities-soviet-style-cover-ups-and-755389

December 22, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, PERSONAL STORIES, Russia | Leave a comment

Oppose development of Vogtle nuclear power station – and you get smacked down

Kempner: Georgia underdogs confront power, get smacked  By Matt Kempner – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 21 Dec 17,   “……..the Georgia Public Service Commission was holding days of hearings recently, but there was no question where it ultimately would end up: keeping the troubled nuclear expansion of Plant Vogtle alive and giving the monopoly Georgia Power approval to squeeze captive customers for billions of dollars more in cost overruns and extra company profits.

The PSC made it official in a unanimous vote Thursday.

It approved all of Georgia Power’s newly projected spending on the unfinished project, decided in advance that it is all reasonable (though not yet prudent) and set the stage for the company to pocket billions in additional profits because of the delays. ……..

Georgia Power and its contractors busted budgets in every conceivable way. Yet, the company has cautioned that its latest cost projections could still be off. And the PSC’s own staff highlighted Georgia Power’s “mismanagement” of the project and said the expansion is “uneconomic” for ratepayers under cost and risk parameters the company proposed this year……….

In a recent hearing, Prenovitz [opposing the nuclear development] asked company witnesses about Vogtle-related costs that they said they weren’t sure of. Then he started punching numbers into a calculator to help the witnesses along with other figures.

Wise, the PSC’s chairman, wasn’t happy.

“I don’t know if it is your style or your personality or your obstinance or some other adjective or just basically your lack of understanding or that you just don’t even care about the process ….”

“I care very much, sir…” Prenovitz said………..

It became clear the PSC had missed crucial chances to protect ratepayers and that Georgia Power’s problems were in sharp contradiction to its earlier assurances. It turned into a front-page story and a growing concern about the company’s level of transparency.

Prenovitz told me he doesn’t know if he’ll continue to ask tough questions about Vogtle. Preparing filings can take days. Hearings last for hours. “It’s grueling.”

If he does stick with it, he said, “it’s not to be argumentative. It is to do what you are supposed to do, which is to get to the essence or get to the truth.” http://www.myajc.com/business/kempner-georgia-underdogs-confront-power-then-get-smacked-back/R4qJIiqhVVstAB56I70d8K/

December 22, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, opposition to nuclear, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Uranium tailings pollution in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, Colorado

And so, the billions of tons of silt that has accumulated in Lake Mead and Lake Powell serve as archives of sorts. They hold the sedimental records of an era during which people, health, land, and water were all sacrificed in order to obtain the raw material for weapons that are capable of destroying all of humanity.
The 26,000 tons of radioactive waste under Lake Powell http://www.hcn.org/articles/pollution-a-26-000-ton-pile-of-radioactive-waste-lies-under-the-waters-and-silt-of-lake-powellThe West’s uranium boom brought dozens of mills to the banks of the Colorado River — where toxic waste was dumped irresponsibly.

In 1949, the Vanadium Corporation of America built a small mill at the confluence of White Canyon and the Colorado River to process uranium ore from the nearby Happy Jack Mine, located upstream in the White Canyon drainage (and just within the Obama-drawn Bears Ears National Monument boundaries). For the next four years, the mill went through about 20 tons of ore per day, crushing and grinding it up, then treating it with sulfuric acid, tributyl phosphate and other nastiness. One ton of ore yielded about five or six pounds of uranium, meaning that each day some 39,900 pounds of tailings were piled up outside the mill on the banks of the river.

In 1953 the mill was closed, and the tailings were left where they sat, uncovered, as was the practice of the day. Ten years later, water began backing up behind the newly built Glen Canyon Dam; federal officials decided to let the reservoir’s waters inundate the tailings. There they remain today.

If you’re one of the millions of people downstream from Lake Powell who rely on Colorado River water and this worries you, consider this: Those 26,000 tons of tailings likely make up just a fraction of the radioactive material contained in the silt of Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

 During the uranium days of the West, more than a dozen mills — all with processing capacities at least ten times larger than the one at White Canyon — sat on the banks of the Colorado River and its tributaries. Mill locations included Shiprock, New Mexico, and Mexican Hat, Utah, on the San Juan River; Rifle and Grand Junction, Colorado, and Moab on the Colorado; and in Uravan, Colorado, along the San Miguel River, just above its confluence with the Dolores. They did not exactly dispose of their tailings in a responsible way.

At the Durango mill the tailings were piled into a hill-sized mound just a stone’s throw from the Animas River. They weren’t covered or otherwise contained, so when it rained tailings simply washed into the river. Worse, the mill’s liquid waste stream poured directly into the river at a rate of some 340 gallons per minute, or half-a-million gallons per day. It was laced not only with highly toxic chemicals used to leach uranium from the ore and iron-aluminum sludge (a milling byproduct), but also radium-tainted ore solids.

 Radium is a highly radioactive “bone-seeker.” That means that when it’s ingested it makes its way to the skeleton, where it decays into other radioactive daughter elements, including radon, and bombards the surrounding tissue with alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. According to the Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, exposure leads to “anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death.”

It wasn’t any better at any of the other mills. In the early 1950s, researchers from the U.S. Public Health Service sampled Western rivers and found that “the dissolved radium content of river water below uranium mills was increased considerably by waste discharges from the milling operations” and that “radium content of river muds below the uranium mills was 1,000 to 2,000 times natural background concentrations.”

 That was just from daily operations. In 1960, one of the evaporation ponds at the Shiprock mill broke, sending at least 250,000 gallons of highly acidic raffinate, containing high levels of radium and thorium, into the river. None of the relevant officials were notified and individual users continued to drink the water, put it on their crops, and give it to their sheep and cattle. It wasn’t until five days later, after hundreds of dead fish had washed up on the river’s shores for sixty miles downstream, that the public was alerted to the disaster.

Of course, what’s dumped into the river at Shiprock doesn’t stay in Shiprock. It slowly makes its way downstream. In the early 1960s, while Glen Canyon Dam was still being constructed, the Public Health Service folks did extensive sediment sampling in the Colorado River Basin, with a special focus on Lake Mead’s growing bed of silt, which had been piling up at a rate of 175 million tons per year since Hoover Dam started impounding water in 1935. The Lake Mead samples had higher-than-background levels of radium-226. The report concludes:

 “The data have shown, among other things, that Lake Mead has been essentially the final resting place for the radium contaminated sediments of the Basin. With the closure of Glen Canyon Dam upstream, Lake Powell will then become the final resting place for future radium contaminated sediments. The data also show that a small fraction of the contaminated sediment has passed through Lake Mead to be trapped by Lakes Mohave and Havasu.”

And so, the billions of tons of silt that has accumulated in Lake Mead and Lake Powell serve as archives of sorts. They hold the sedimental records of an era during which people, health, land, and water were all sacrificed in order to obtain the raw material for weapons that are capable of destroying all of humanity.

December 22, 2017 Posted by | environment, Reference, Uranium, USA, water | 1 Comment