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U.N Climate Conference – but the climate future is grim

Portrait of a planet on the verge of climate catastrophe  As the UN sits down for its annual climate conference this week, many experts believe we have passed the point of no return, Guardian, by Robin McKie, 2 Dec 18

On Sunday morning hundreds of politicians, government officials and scientists will gather in the grandeur of the International Congress Centre in Katowice, Poland. It will be a familiar experience for many. For 24 years the annual UN climate conference has served up a reliable diet of rhetoric, backroom talks and dramatic last-minute deals aimed at halting global warming.

But this year’s will be a grimmer affair – by far. As recent reports have made clear, the world may no longer be hovering at the edge of destruction but has probably staggered beyond a crucial point of no return. Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable. We have simply left it too late to hold rising global temperatures to under 1.5C and so prevent a future of drowned coasts, ruined coral reefs, spreading deserts and melted glaciers.

One example was provided last week by a UN report that revealed attempts to ensure fossil fuel emissions peak by 2020 will fail. Indeed the target will not even be reached by 2030. Another, by the World Meteorological Organization, said the past four years had been the warmest on record and warned that global temperatures could easily rise by 3-5C by 2100, well above that sought-after goal of 1.5C. The UK will not be exempt either. The Met Office said summer temperatures could now be 5.4C hotter by 2070.

At the same time, prospects of reaching global deals to halt emissions have been weakened by the spread of rightwing populism. Not much to smile about in Katowice.

Nor will the planet’s woes end in 2100. Although most discussions use the year as a convenient cut-off point for describing Earth’s likely fate, the changes we have already triggered will last well beyond that date, Continue reading

December 3, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | 1 Comment

Why nuclear power is a hindrance, not a help, to climate change action

nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar PV and six times as much as onshore wind.

Beyond Nuclear, 2 Dec 18 Nuclear power has no constructive role to play in climate change solutions. In fact, it is a hindrance.

Nuclear power does have a carbon footprint When nuclear power is said to have “zero emissions,” this refers only to the electricity generation phase and only to greenhouse gas emissions. There are emissions at this stage, especially heat and radioactivity. Certain emissions during reactor operations, such as carbon-14 in CO2 form and methane, are greenhouse gases.

However, there are plenty of carbon emissions involved in making a nuclear power plant a reality. Therefore, when discussing the carbon footprint of nuclear energy compared to other energy forms, the entire uranium fuel chain needs to be taken into account. In doing so, nuclear energy compares poorly to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Lifecycle emissions along the nuclear fuel chain occur through uranium mining and milling, transportation, plant construction, operation, reactor site decommissioning, and nuclear waste management.1

Life-cycle carbon emissions of a nuclear power plant When taking into account planning, permitting, construction, operation, refurbishing and decommissioning, a nuclear power plant emits at least 6-24 times more carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions than wind per unit energy produced over the same 100-year period.2

 Life-cycle carbon emissions from the entire nuclear fuel chain How do we calculate this? Evaluating the total carbon output of the nuclear industry involves calculating emissions from every carbon-emitting phase of the uranium fuel chain, then dividing them by the electricity produced over the entire lifetime of the plant.3 Some of the most reliable analysis on this has been done by Dr. Benjamin Sovacool whose data we use here (see footnote 1).

Let’s take a look at the mean carbon emissions of each phase:

The entire uranium fuel chain. This includes every phase from uranium mining to decommissioning and waste management. 66 gCO2e/kWh. (StormSmith has 80-130 gram CO2/kWh.)4

» Uranium mining, milling, processing, refining and fuel fabrication. Calculations can vary depending on factors such as grade of uranium ore, energy source used to mine etc. 25.09g/kWh

» Construction of a nuclear power plant. This includes fabrication, transportation and use of materials. 8.20 g/kWh » Reactor operation and maintenance. 11.58g/kWh

» Radioactive Waste Management and storage. 9.20 g/KWh » Decommissioning. 12.01 g/KWh

Carbon emissions broken down by percentage Percentage of total carbon emissions released by each stage of the uranium fuel chain.

Uranium mining, milling, and enrichment: 38%

Construction: 13%

 Operation (inc. backup diesel generators): 17%

Fuel processing and waste management: 14% Decommissioning: 18%

Life-cycle carbon emissions of the nuclear fuel chain compared to other resources

Scrubbed coal-fired plants: 960 gCO2e/kWh

 Natural gas-fired plants: 443 gCO2e/kWh

Nuclear power plants: 66 gCO2e/kWh

Solar photovoltaic: 32 gCO2e/kWh

 Onshore wind farms: 10 gCO2e/kWh

So nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar PV and six times as much as onshore wind.

Here’s one way Sovacool sums it up:

“Every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms.”

“Every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms.”


December 3, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Why France must shut down many nuclear reactors

Backstory: Macron To Close Multiple Nuclear Reactors, But Why Now? November 30th, 2018 by Michael Barnard 

President Emmanuel Macron of France depressed nuclear executives globally in late November 2018, announcing the planned retirement of 14 of 58 reactors by 2035. This was still less than was promised in his election campaign, but represents a major internal political battle, as well as a major change of France’s circumstances.

This has been an emerging story for several years.

France did a better job than most of building nuclear plants. They picked a single design and built a bunch of them over a relatively concentrated 20 years from about 1978 onward. It was a massive, state-funded, state-managed energy infrastructure initiative at a scale rarely seen. They dodged a bunch of the mistakes of other geographies somewhat by accident. They aren’t subject to earthquakes or tsunamis. They kept the technology highly standard. They developed a skilled workforce for building them and rewarded them well.

But the last nuclear reactor went live almost 20 years ago, the oldest ones are at end-of-life, and the skilled workforce only knows how to maintain and operate existing reactors now, not build new ones. The current President of France, Macron, used to be the Minister of Industry. He’s stated publicly that even he couldn’t find out how much the build-out actually cost, with the clear assertion that a bunch of actual costs were hidden.

“Nobody knows the total cost for nuclear energy,” he said. “I was minister for industry and I could not tell you.”

And France had to build nuclear to be load-following due to its over-reliance on a more usually inflexible form of generation. Nuclear is good for baseload up to 30–40%, but when it has to be turned on and off it gets a lot more expensive very quickly. France has the good fortune to have been able to export a lot of electricity to the rest of the EU for several years, but the energy mix on the continent is strongly favoring more flexible forms of generation.

And now, a few things have changed in the decades since France made its huge bet on nuclear generation in the Messmer Plan in 1974.

Renewables are dirt cheap, with Lazard’s latest figures bringing them in at 3–6 times cheaper than new nuclear. (Amusingly, Lazard still labels wind and solar as ‘alternative energy‘.) Europe is a leading geography for wind and solar, so skilled trades and supply chains all exist. Europe’s grid has strengthened and expanded over the past 30 years, so the need for a country to go it alone has diminished substantially.

The EU was founded in 1993 and France is an integral part of it, and that has two impacts. The first is that France’s energy independence policy that was part of the impetus for a massive nuclear fleet looks archaic in context of modern politics and economics. The second is that EU regulations forbid destabilizingly large governmental subsidies for energy, something which the Hinkley plant in the EU had to fight through. As Macron’s experience shows, it’s actually impossible for anyone to figure out how much any nuclear plant actually cost due to budget fudging. This last is true globally, by the way.

French attempts to build next-generation reactors are failing in multiple locations in France and elsewhere. The cost and budget overruns and construction failures are staggering.

And Chernobyl and Fukushima both happened since the French nuclear build-out began. Public support diminished substantially after those events, one on the same continent and one a world away.

France receives a greater percentage of its electricity from nuclear than any country in the world, at 72% close to 50% more than its nearest ‘competitor’, Slovakia. And it will diminish over the coming decades. Its last-built reactor will reach end-of-life in 2040 or so. It’s unlikely that it will be replaced. And it’s unlikely that more than a fraction of the aging reactors will be refurbished at all.

Wind, solar, a continent-scale grid, and open economic borders all contributed to the death of the French nuclear dream. It’s time for France to wake up and join the future, and it has. It voted in Macron, a politician who promised to reduce France’s nuclear fleet. He fought the entrenched bureaucracy and EDF, and while the new plans are slower than the promised ones, they are the right plans on a pragmatic timeline.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | France, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Will 1000s of Small Nuclear Reactors, built super-fast, save the world from climate change?

Tom Burke 28th Nov 2018 , For nuclear power to play a significant role globally in dealing with climate change we would have to build enough of it, quickly enough, to replace coal first and then gas in a very short space of time. You do not have to know very much about the engineering requirements of a nuclear power station, or our actual experience in constructing them, to think that this is akin to believing in unicorns.

A relatively simple piece of arithmetic on the specialised resource requirements and the equally specialised engineering and project management skills of a nuclear programme, let alone required scale of public investment is enough to make
it clear that a massive policy commitment to new nuclear power will not help the world stay below 2°C.

What is the British Government up to? My guess it is looking for a lot more long grass as it seeks a way to get itself off the nuclear hook onto which it has impaled itself by listening to the lobbies and caring more about the headlines than the climate.

As it does so, it will big up the importance of SMRs as a future option. Oddly enough, its concept of an SMR will bear a striking resemblance to a submarine propulsion reactor and we will build one somewhere on an existing nuclear site. Electricity consumers will indeed end up subsidising the defence budget and nuclear power will go on having a locally negative impact on the environment that outweighs any of its marginal environmental benefits.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | spinbuster, UK | Leave a comment

“Marking your own homework” – Britain’s plan for inspecting its own nuclear safeguards – Brexatom !

David Lowry’s Blog 1st Dec 2018 Imagine the British Foreign Office response if North Korea and Iran said they would comply with their nuclear safeguards and verification inspection obligations, but would conduct the inspections themselves!

But this week, this is just what the British Government has said to the world about its own new ‘mark-its-own-homework’ safeguards arrangements it has developed as part of Brexatom, the UK exit from the EU’s nuclear watchdog
body, Euratom.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Massive problem of USA’s high level nuclear waste – scientists struggling for a solution

US nuclear waste dump capacity a challenge

If the plan were to be approved, the US Energy Department has estimated that it would take 31 years to dilute and dispose of the of weapons-grade plutonium.

The lack of space at the US government’s only underground nuclear waste repository is among several challenges identified by a group of scientists and other experts who are looking at the viability of disposing of weapons-grade plutonium at the desert location.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a preliminary report on the US government’s plan, which calls for diluting 34 metric tons of plutonium and shipping it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.

The purpose of the work would be to satisfy a nonproliferation agreement with Russia.

Another challenge, the scientists say, would be getting officials in that country to approve of the dilution of the materials.

The pact between the two countries was initially based on a proposal for turning the surplus plutonium into fuel that could be used for commercial nuclear reactors. That project, beset by years of delays and cost overruns, was cancelled earlier this year.

The review of the plan that calls for shipping the plutonium to New Mexico was requested by Congress. A final report from the National Academies is expected mid 2019.

The US Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management has demonstrated that diluting the plutonium is possible by working with a separate batch of material. However, citing a lack of information, the scientists did not study the agency’s ability to scale up that process to handle the 34 metric tons that are part of the nonproliferation agreement.

If the plan were to be approved, the Energy Department has estimated that it would take 31 years to dilute and dispose of all 34 metric tons.

The work would involve four sites around the US – the Pantex Plant in West Texas, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The panel of scientists found that the agency doesn’t have a well-developed plan for reaching out to those host sites and stressed that public trust would have to be developed and maintained over the life of the project.


December 3, 2018 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The other big Trump-Putin story: Nuclear weapons treaty hangs in the balance as Russia-US tensions rise

  • Last month, Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons from U.S. and Russian arsenals.
  • The 1987 treaty, signed by Russia and the U.S., prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of approximately 300 to 3,400 miles.
  • The treaty has kept nuclear-tipped missiles off the European continent for the last 30 years.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | general | Leave a comment


NUCLEAR LAB EMPLOYEES WITH RADIATION-LINKED CANCERS HAVE BEEN FORCED TO WAIT YEARS FOR POTENTIAL BENEFITS  At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, workers are still waiting for answers about who is liable for sicknesses they say were caused by radiation from the lab. REBECCA MOSS PACIFIC STANDARD, Nov 30, 2018 

Ten years ago, a security guard at Los Alamos National Laboratory submitted a petition to the federal government seeking compensation and benefits for his fellow lab workers who were sick with cancer and believed that radiation at the lab was to blame.

Andrew Evaskovich’s petition took advantage of a process put in place by Congress in 2000 that allowed groups of workers to secure benefits if they could show that they worked at a nuclear facility, that they had a cancer linked to radiation, and that lab managers failed to accurately keep track of their exposures over time.

Under the law, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency that makes recommendations on work-related injuries and illnesses, had six months to review Evaskovich’s petition and recommend whether it should be approved or denied.

A decade later, Evaskovich and his colleagues are still waiting for a final answer. Continue reading

December 3, 2018 Posted by | employment, USA | Leave a comment

Australia: Bushfires, Climate Change, and Nuclear Sites

Bushfires in Queensland have ushered in the “new normal”  of superfires in Australia. California has already experienced this new normal. It means that these fires are now catastrophic. They encroach on human habitation. Fire behaviour has changed.  Their intensity is greater. Their severity is greater: their flames are higher. Fires last longer, and come with increasing frequency. They spread at higher rates, and jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks. .

These fires now do long -term damage to the ecosystem. The earth underneath is affected, habitat destroyed, killing all the normal bacteria and inhabitants of the soil. Many are fires that are impossible to put out.

The background to these new superfires is climate change. Climate change has brought higher temperatures and  drought – resulting in drier trees and other vegetation – meaning that tinder-dry fuel is ready for ignition.

Australia is uniquely vulnerable, as the driest continent, with its prevailing eucalypt forests.

In California, the authorities are trying hard to cover up the reality that the wildfires started at an abandoned and still radioactively contaminated, nuclear facility . The fire would undoubtedly have caused radioactive ash to be blown about. (The fact that it’s not measured doesn’t mean that it is non existent) 

Australia is vulnerable to a similar radioactive threat. Last year, bushfires went uncomfortably close to the  Lucas Heights nuclear reactor. Plans to transport Lucas Height nuclear waste 1700 km across Australia to Flinders Ranges area mean that this radioactive trash would be at risk of accident, and one of the worst risks would be bushfires.

Australia must face up to the climate change threats – floods (as more water vapour, due to heat, will come down as flooding) , sea level rise, and super bushfires. Lucas Heights nuclear reactor should be closed, and ANSTO’s nuclear dream prevented from becoming Australia’s climate-nuclear nightmare.

The Age of Super Fires

December 3, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

Thyroid cancer impact on children and teens following Fukushima nuclear accident

More than 3,600 people died from causes such as illness and suicide linked to the aftermath of the tragedy. OVER 180 TEENAGERS and children have been found to have thyroid cancer or suspected cancer following the Fukushima nuclear accident, new research has found. 

A magnitude 9.0 quake – which struck under the Pacific Ocean on 11 March 2011 – and the resulting tsunami caused widespread damage in Japan and took the lives of thousands of people……..

Cancer concerns 

The accident at the nuclear power station in 2011 has also raised grave concerns about radioactive material released into the environment, including concerns over radiation-induced thyroid cancer.

Ultrasound screenings for thyroid cancer were subsequently conducted at the Fukushima Health Management Survey.

The observational study group included about 324,000 people aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident. It reports on two rounds of ultrasound screening during the first five years after the accident.

Thyroid cancer or suspected cancer was identified in 187 individuals within five years – 116 people in the first round among nearly 300,000 people screened and 71 in the second round among 271,000 screened.

The overwhelming common diagnosis in surgical cases was papillary thyroid cancer – 149 of 152 cases.

Worker death

In May, Japan announced for the first time that a worker at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant has died after being exposed to radiation, Japanese media reported.

The man aged in his 50s developed lung cancer after he was involved in emergency work at the plant between March and December 2011, following the devastating tsunami.

The Japanese government has paid out compensation in four previous cases where workers developed cancer following the disaster, according to Jiji news agency.

However, this was the first time the government has acknowledged a death related to radiation exposure at the plant, the Mainichi daily reported.

The paper added the man had worked mainly at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and other atomic power stations nationwide between 1980 and 2015.

Following the disaster, he was in charge of measuring radiation at the plant, and he is said to have worn a full-face mask and protective suit.

He developed lung cancer in February 2016.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, health | 1 Comment

2020 Olympics being used to put a nice gloss on nuclear industry, and Fukushima nuclear catastrophe

Bach: Olympics will show Fukushima’s recovery  NHK World The president of the International Olympic Committee says the Tokyo Games will be a chance to show the world how far people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami have recovered.

Thomas Bach spoke to reporters in Tokyo after being briefed about preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

He said he cannot remember seeing a host city as prepared as Tokyo in all respects.

He also referred to his first trip to Fukushima City, where the baseball and softball events will be held. He met with local high school students during the trip………..

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Japan, spinbuster | Leave a comment

UK’s Defence Safety Authority (DSA) suppresses reports on safety of nuclear weapons

NIS 28th Nov 2018 In response to a parliamentary question in July this year the Ministry of Defence said that publishing the nuclear safety rating given by its internal regulator would endanger national security.

Until 2015 the MoD published an annual report by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), which is responsible for the safety of nuclear weapons, submarine reactors and defence nuclear transport.

All the annual reports from April 2015 onwards have been censored. The MoD began releasing DNSR’s annual reports
in 2007, when it began doing so in order to avoid a freedom of information (FOI) tribunal hearing brought by the journalist Rob Edwards.

In 2015 the DNSR was brought together with several other internal MoD safety bodies to form the Defence Safety Authority (DSA). From that time the DNSR annual report was summarised alongside assessments of the safety record in other ‘domains’ of MoD activity. Each domain is given a Safety Assurance statement, where the level of safety assurance is rated either ‘substantial’, ‘limited’ or ‘none’. These cover both the safety standards in that domain and the capacity of the MoD’s internal regulator to provide that assurance. In the 2016/17 DSA report a separate assessment is made for each of these two aspects.

The Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, asked the MoD to release the Safety Assurance
rating for the years when the DNSR reports were not being released. In response the MoD once again claimed that releasing the information would endanger national security, and confirmed that the 2017/18 report would also not be released, but said that “[t]his does not prevent the effective management and independent assessment of the Defence Nuclear Programme, nor prevent its duty holders being held to account”

December 3, 2018 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) failure to deal with its high level nuclear waste – now sending it to Sellafield

NIS 28th Nov 2018 The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) plan to send up to 5,000 barrels of Higher Activity Waste to Sellafield for treatment and storage. Since the year 2000 AWE has been under pressure from its regulators to take action to reduce its holdings of radioactive waste, some of which dates back to the 1983 moratorium on waste being dumped at sea.

This culminated in an improvement notice in 2015 from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) which required AWE to produce a plan for dealing with its waste holdings.

Earlier efforts to deal with the waste floundered when a plan to procure a super-compactor and build a waste treatment centre at AWE Aldermaston. The building originally intended to house the super-compactor was unable to meet modern seismic resilience standards and the plan was abandoned when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) refused to spend the £78m required to build a new facility. The plan produced by AWE to satisfy the 2015 improvement notice concluded that sending the waste to be treated and stored at Sellafield would be preferable to building an on-site waste facility.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | UK, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Saskatchewan sues federal government over cost to clean up abandoned uranium mine 

Cleanup cost more than 10 times initial estimate, Adam Hunter – CBC News, November 28, 2018 The Saskatchewan government is suing Ottawa over costs associated with the cleanup of the Gunnar mine site, an abandoned uranium mine.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, calls on the federal government to honour a 2006 memorandum of agreement (MOA) that saw both sides committing to sharing the cost of cleaning up the northern Saskatchewan site.

When the MOA was signed, the estimated cost was $24.6 million over 17 years. The two sides agreed to split the cost.

The cost has now ballooned to an estimated $280 million. To date, the province has paid $125 million cleaning up the mine and its associated satellite sites. The province said the federal government has contributed $1.13 million.

“The federal government agreed to cost-share this project equally, but has since refused to uphold its end of the agreement,” said Minister of Energy and Resources Bronwyn Eyre.

She said after years of back and forth the province was left with “no choice” because it has an obligation to fully remediate the site.

In an emailed statement to CBC, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Natural Resources said, “as the owner of the site, the Government of Saskatchewan is responsible for the Gunnar Mine Remediation Project.”

It goes on to say the federal government has provided funding for the first phase of the project and it will commit to funding the remaining two phases “after Saskatchewan obtains all the necessary approvals required to proceed with remediation.”

Mine’s history…...

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Canada, Legal | Leave a comment

Why the UK Labour Party — and everyone — should reject nuclear power — Beyond Nuclear International

Too unreliable, too late, and with better renewable alternatives

via Why the UK Labour Party — and everyone — should reject nuclear power — Beyond Nuclear International

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment