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In UK “big” nuclear power versus “small” (both unaffordable) at Wylfa

The global nuclear lobby might look like a unified force –  it’s anything but!.  The nuclear nations fight each other in desperately trying to flog off their unaffordable white elephant nuclear reactors to ‘developing’ countries, or to any sucker, really. .

The nuclear industry itself is divided –  the ‘conventional’ big nuclear reactors versus the (not yet existing) Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

No plans’ for Wylfa mini nuclear power station according to developer, https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/no-plans-wylfa-mini-nuclear-17599188, By Owen Hughes, Business correspondent, 20 JAN 2020

Horizon Nuclear Power said its full focus is on delivering a full scale nuke plant.

Wylfa Newydd developer Horizon Nuclear Power says there are “no plans” to build mini reactors at its Anglesey site.

Rolls Royce is currently leading a consortium developing the technology for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) – supported by the UK Government. Trawsfynydd in Gwynedd has been tipped at a prime spot for one of the reactors and over the weekend Wylfa was also reported as a target location.

But Horizon has released a statement making clear the Wylfa site is not being put forward for this technology as they press on with the current plan for a full scale nuclear site.

A spokesman said: “There are no plans to deploy a Rolls Royce Small Modular Reactor at the Wylfa Newydd site.”

He added: “Activity on the Horizon project is currently suspended, but we’re working hard to establish the conditions for a restart using our tried and tested reactor design, which has already cleared the UK regulators’ assessment process.

Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom wants additional information before deciding whether to give planning permission for Wylfa Newydd.

She deferred the decision on the site in October.

If permission is granted then the next step will be securing funding to make the project happen.

When it comes to SMRs, Alan Woods, strategy and business development director for Rolls-Royce, said they were focusing on sites in Wales and the north of England. Modular reactors are smaller and, once the first is approved and built, manufacturers hope mass-production will lead to shorter construction times and lower costs for each unit.

The consortium will need to establish factories to produce the small modular reactors with the pre-fabricated modules transported to sites for construction.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | 1 Comment

India – a case study in regulatory capture by the nuclear industry

In a Season of Impetuous Lawmaking, whither Nuclear Safety? The Leaflet SONALI HURIA, January 22,2020
In this piece, the author while discussing the issues around nuclear safety, debates on why it is important to re-examine the proposed Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill for better regulation, transparency, and liability. SINCE returning to power last year with an overwhelming majority in the 2019 general elections, the Modi-led government has passed a series of legislations in rapid succession without any credible dialogue both within and outside Parliament – …………even as there has been exceptional eagerness to push these amendments and pass new legislation, including notifying the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 despite intense country-wide protests and a raging debate on its underlying intent, there are urgent issues, such as, nuclear safety, which remain in indefinite suspension.

The UPA-II government, under Dr Manmohan Singh, had introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) Bill in the Lok Sabha on 07 September 2011, aimed at replacing India’s existing nuclear regulator, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) with a purportedly improved and more autonomous Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) which would have the mandate to ‘regulate nuclear safety and activities related to nuclear material and facilities’.

The Bill, however, which had been referred to the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, did not come up for discussion before the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, and subsequently, lapsed. The Standing Committee had reportedly endorsed the Bill with only minor suggestions for changes, while two members of the Committee from the CPI(M), gave dissent notes, arguing that the Bill provided ‘no substantive autonomy’ to the proposed NSRA. According to available information, in April 2017, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh, in a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha had stated that a ‘fresh Bill’ similar to the earlier NSRA Bill, was ‘under examination’……….India’s nuclear regulatory framework has long been criticized for being so thoroughly enmeshed within the government structure so as to render its requisite independence, practically meaningless. Nuclear safety in India has been the remit of the AERB, which was set up in November of 1983 by an executive order of the Secretary of the DAE under Section 27 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, with modifications made in April 2000 to “exclude all BARC facilities from (its) oversight, (following) the declaration of BARC as a nuclear weapons laboratory”.

The AERB has had the dishonourable reputation of being subservient to India’s exclusively public sector operators, which it is required to monitor, and is also acknowledged as suffering from an acute lack of independence from industry and government.

As things stand, the AERB is responsible for monitoring the safety of the various nuclear facilities operated by agencies such as, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which fall under the purview of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). However, the Board is required to report to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), whose chairman is the Secretary of the DAE and one of whose members is the Chair of the NPCIL, and which overall, comes under the direct control of the Prime Minister of India. Thus, the regulatory board reports to the very agency it is required to assess and monitor in the interest of public safety.   

 Moreover, the AERB frequently draws upon the ‘expertise’ of scientists and engineers provided by the DAE – “almost 95% of the members in AERB’s review and advisory committees are drawn from among retired employees of the DAE, either from one of their research institutes like the Bhabha Atomic Research Center or a power generation company like the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.” –  thus, calling into question the AERB’s functional autonomy.

Dr A Gopalakrishnan, the former Chairman of the AERB has been at pains to explain how the present institutional setup makes nuclear safety regulation in India a ‘mere sham’ and that for the AERB to function effectively, the DAE’s hold on the Board needs to be urgently done away with. In 1995, during Dr Gopalakrishnan’s tenure as the nuclear regulator, the AERB had prepared a comprehensive ‘Document on Safety Issues in DAE Installations’ – a report detailing nearly 130 safety issues across India’s nuclear installations with 95 of them having been designated ‘top priority’, to which the first reactions from the NPCIL and BARC according to Dr Gopalakrishnan, were of denial and questioning AERB’s own technical expertise to review safety matters.

A 2012 Performance Audit Report on the AERB prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and submitted to the Indian Parliament labelled the AERB a ‘subordinate office, exercising delegated functions of Central government and not that of the regulator’.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) scrutinizing the CAG report in 2013 castigated the Regulatory Board for failing to prepare a ‘comprehensive nuclear radiation safety policy despite a specific mandate in its constitution order of 1983’. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Peer Review of India’s Nuclear Regulatory Framework in 2015 was also categorical in asserting that the AERB was in need of being separated from ‘other entities having responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision making’.

As has been pointed out by MV Ramana, physicist and author of The Power of Promise, there have been accidents of ‘varying severity’ at several of the nuclear facilities being operated by the DAE, yet the regulatory board has frequently been seen downplaying the seriousness of such incidents, “postponing essential repairs to suit the DAE’s time schedules, and allowing continued operation of installations when public safety considerations would warrant their immediate shutdown and repair”. The charade of the AERB’s professed independence is further underscored by its conspicuous silence on the recent cybersecurity breach at the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu in October 2019.

It is these glaring frailties of the nuclear regulatory framework coupled with the obdurate insistence of the Central government to massively expand its activities along the entire nuclear fuel cycle, despite unsettled safety concerns, a long-standing and vociferous people’s resistance against uranium mining and nuclear energy projects, and concerns surrounding the health, environmental, economic, and democratic costs of this expansion, that make imperative, the need for a fiercely independent and non-partisan nuclear regulator.

Does the proposed NSRA fit the bill?

The NSRA Bill, 2011 upon its introduction, had failed to invoke any enthusiasm among independent experts, nuclear sector watchers, and civil society actors, and instead, was met with grim scepticism given that among other things, it made light of the principle of ‘separation’ as required under Article 8 of the IAEA Convention on Nuclear Safety to which India is a State Party.

The NSRA Bill provides for the establishment of a ‘Council of Nuclear Safety’, headed by the Prime Minister and comprised of five or more Union Ministers, the Cabinet Secretary, Chairman of the AEC, and other ‘eminent experts’ nominated by the Central government, which in turn, will constitute ‘search committees’ to select the Chair and Members of the proposed Regulatory Authority. Moreover, under Article 14 of the Bill, the Chairperson and Members of the NSRA can be removed by an order of the Central government.

Dr Gopalakrishnan argues that the Bill makes only an ornamental show of granting independence to the NSRA by requiring the Authority to report to the Parliament instead of a government department, ministry or official. Concomitantly, however, the Bill also unambiguously provides for the supersession of and the assumption of ‘all the powers, functions and duties’ of the Authority by the Central Government, if in its ‘opinion’ the Authority fails to function in concert with the provisions of the proposed Act, and, requires the Authority to seek approval of the central government prior to initiating any interaction with nuclear regulators of other countries and/or international organizations ‘engaged in activities relevant to…nuclear/radiation safety, physical security of nuclear material and facilities, transportation of nuclear and radioactive materials and nuclear and radiation safety and regulation’.

Article 20 (q) of the Bill mandates the NSRA to ‘discharge its functions and powers in a manner consistent with the international obligations of India’. This provision, argues Dr Gopalakrishnan is deeply worrisome for it “could mean, that if the Prime Minister has promised the French President in 2008 that India would buy six European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs)…(this) unilateral and personal commitment…will now (be) labelled ‘India’s international obligation’, and the NSRA cannot question, even on strong safety grounds, the setting up of those six EPR units, since that will violate the said clause of the Bill” – this might prove disastrous for both, public and environmental safety in the long term.

Experts argue that far from separating the regulator from the government, these provisions contained in the NSRA Bill will only mean absolute government control over nuclear regulation, including over appointment and dismissal procedures, thus, opening the way for ‘pliant technocrats’ to occupy prominent positions within the Authority.

The proposed Bill is also fuzzy on the question of which nuclear facilities will fall under the purview of the NSRA – it empowers, for instance, the central government to exempt “any nuclear material, radioactive material, facilities, premises and activities” from the jurisdiction of the Authority, on grounds of ‘national defence and security’. ……….

These and other provisions of the Bill are a stark reminder that the DAE has no love lost for transparency and public oversight – take, for instance, Article 45 which requires the Chairperson, Members, and other employees of the Authority to sign a ‘declaration of fidelity and secrecy’ “to not communicate or allow to be communicated to any person not legally entitled to any information relating to the affairs of the Authority”. It is for these reasons that the former nuclear regulator, Dr Gopalakrishnan has described the proposed NSRA Bill as an exercise in ‘boxing in’ nuclear regulation “from all sides by government controls, diktats, and threats of retaliation”, thus making it even more emaciated than the existing nuclear regulator – the AERB. …..https://theleaflet.in/in-a-season-of-impetuous-lawmaking-whither-nuclear-safety/

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | India, politics, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

No clear explanation of USA’s rush to produce more plutonium cores for nuclear weapons

The U.S. is Boosting Production of Nuclear Bomb Cores (For More Nuclear Weapons) https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/us-boosting-production-nuclear-bomb-cores-more-nuclear-weapons-115826  Thanks, arms race. by Michael Peck, 22 Jan 2020,

In another sign that the nuclear arms race is heating up, the U.S. is ramping up production of nuclear bomb cores.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it plans to increase the production of plutonium pits to 80 per year. The grapefruit-sized pits contain the fissile material that give nuclear weapons such tremendous power.

Production will center on the Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at Savannah River site in North Carolina, which would be modified to manufacture at least 50 pits per year, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which would generate at least 30, by 2030.

America’s nuclear weapons cores are aging, with some pits dating back to the 1970s, leading to concerns about the reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

“The U.S. lost its ability to produce pits in large numbers in 1989, when the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, Colorado, was shut down after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Environmental Protection Agency investigated environmental violations at the site,” noted Physics Today magazine in 2018. Up to 1,200 pits per year had been manufactured there.

“Since then, only 30 pits for weapons have been fabricated—all at LANL [Los Alamos National Laboratory], the sole U.S. facility with production capability. Weapons-quality pit production ceased in 2012, when LANL began modernizing its 40-year-old facilities, although several practice pits have since been fabricated. The oldest pits in the stockpile—which now numbers 3,882, according to DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—date to 1978.”

In its 2018 Nuclear Policy Review, the Trump administration called for 80 new plutonium pits per year. Congress has also allocated large sums, with $4.7 billion alone allocated in FY 2019 for maintenance and life extension of the nuclear stockpile. The NNSA says it is legally mandated to ensure a capacity of at least 80 pits per year.

Though the production of nuclear cores has been an issue for years, a looming U.S.-Russia arms race makes the situation even more sensitive. Russia is fielding a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons, including a hypersonic nuclear-armed glider and an air-launched ballistic missile. The Trump administration has withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia, alleging Russian violations, leading to fears that a new competition will beget the return of nuclear-armed, medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles.

Anti-nuclear groups are furious. “Expanded pit production will cost at least $43 billion over the next 30 years,” argues the Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups.Yet the Defense Department and NNSA have never explained why expanded plutonium pit production is necessary. More than 15,000 plutonium pits are stored at NNSA’s Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. Independent experts have concluded that plutonium pits have reliable lifetimes of at least 100 years (the average pit age is less than 40 years). Crucially, there is no pit production scheduled to maintain the safety and reliability of the existing nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, proposed future pit production is for speculative new-design nuclear weapons, but those designs have been canceled.”

Introducing a new generation of nuclear weapons “could adversely impact national security because newly produced plutonium pits cannot be full-scale tested without violating the global nuclear weapons testing moratorium.”

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

”Plutonium pits” not only unnecessary, but also very dangerous for the environment

“They want as much dirty warhead manufacturing as possible for Los Alamos, and they don’t want anybody to know or discuss the predictable problems and impacts on our communities and environment,”

January 23, 2020 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | 3 Comments

Wildfires – drastic climate effects in Australia, but Europe is copping it, too

Wildfires show us how the climate emergency is already affecting Europe, Guardian, Imogen West-Knights We look at the devastation of Australia’s bushfires and don’t believe it could happen here. But it already is, 22 Jan 2020  “………  what we’re seeing in Australia. Since the fire season began there, in the middle of last year, 29 people have died, along with more than a billion animals, and an area comparable in size to the whole of England has been ablaze. It’s a vicious reminder that, for all the sophistication of the modern world, something as primitive as fire can still bring us to our knees. As shocking as the scale of the destruction has been, though, it’s easy to see it on our computer screens here on the other side of the world, in the middle of a British winter, and feel disconnected from it. We accept that the climate emergency is now truly upon us yet still feel that it’s mostly happening to other people, elsewhere.wildfires are increasingly a problem for everyone, including in the UK. Last August, there were almost five times as many of them around the world as there had been the previous August. In the EU, the number of wildfires in the first half of 2019 was three times the annual average for the previous decade. And while they used to be a serious problem only in hotter, southern European countries such as Portugal and Spain, now northern Europe is in trouble too.

The Swedish fires of 2018 were by far the most severe in the country’s history, burning an area almost twice as large as the worst previous wildfire, in 2014. In the UK, 2018 and 2019 were the worst two years on record for wildfires, particularly on moors in the north-west of England and parts of Scotland. One fire last year, at Marsden Moor in Yorkshire, destroyed almost three square miles of land. The damage is on a very different scale to the almost 30,000 square miles that have burned in Australia, of course, but this is still a development we can’t afford to ignore.

Aside from all the more immediate effects – the threat to humans, livestock and wildlife – the recent increase in wildfires has been linked to severe air quality problems. People living up to 62 miles (100km) downwind of fires in the Pennines in 2018 were exposed to toxic fumes. And as there is no sign of cooler weather in the years ahead, it is reasonable to expect more fires in 2020. The EU has now established a fleet of firefighting planes, and the European Forest Institute has warned that unless we take steps to protect the countryside – for instance, by planting less-flammable species and creating barriers to the spread of flames – emergency services won’t be able to prevent the rapid spread and firestorms that have characterised the Australian crisis.

This isn’t all because of the climate crisis – changes to land use and increased urbanisation over several decades are also factors. Weather patterns are noisy data, and it’s difficult to attribute any single wildfire to the climate crisis. The scientific consensus, however, is that it is increasing the intensity and frequency of fire-conducive weather across the world.

Even those fires that are eventually linked to human error, like a still-lit disposable barbecue, are increasingly likely due to warming temperatures. Hotter summers mean more barbecues lit in the first place. The climate crisis is going to change the way we behave in every aspect of our lives. And with the probability of another summer of extreme weather coming, we will need to adapt to new dangers that won’t just be on the other side of the planet but, quite literally, in our own backyards.

It’s not at all clear that we’re ready for what might be coming. There is still a cognitive jump yet to be made when those of us in Europe read about the fires in Australia, from mourning the destruction there to recognising that we face some version of the same threat. When we look at Australia, we’re not looking at the future that might await Europe. That future is already here.

• Imogen West-Knights is a writer and freelance journalist

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, EUROPE | Leave a comment

Vulnerability of nuclear facilities to climate extremes – Australian wildfires as a warning

the task of civil society is to organize more strongly in order to increase awareness regarding the link between the climate crisis and the vulnerability of nuclear facilities so that public opinion may begin to be altered and political powers may be pressured to begin an exit from the innately dangerous nuclear path.

What Australia type fire may tell us about the possibility of nuclear disasters,  https://www.dianuke.org/what-australia-type-fire-may-tell-us-about-the-possibility-of-nuclear-disasters/   JANUARY 22, 2020  Australia is one of the countries that have experienced extreme weather events, especially in the last decade due to the effect of global warming. According to experts, system interactions triggered global warming, and extinguishing fires has become impossible due to reduced water resources as a result of excessive evaporation and mismanagement of these resources in the last decade in the country. It is estimated that nearly 1.25 billion animal species and at least 27 people have lost their lives, in addition to annihilation of forests and vegetation due to the fires which could not be controlled for almost four months; other species are threatened with extinction and 1800 houses have reportedly burned down.

Unfortunately, the impact of the events is not limited to the period of their occurrence – while four months of carbon emissions, as much as the annual carbon emission amount to the atmosphere, there are scientific studies indicating that there may be an increase in various diseases, especially asthma, especially among children, with the air quality rising to nearly 21 times the dangerous level. Things could have been much worse if the fires had reached the region where uranium mines are located in Australia, which supplies 12% of the uranium fuel used in nuclear power plants operating worldwide; Australia however, has no nuclear power plant of its own.

Even though the extraction of uranium which is used for nuclear power generation, requires high security standards worldwide, danger to these facilities is possible under all conditions, since in order to obtain 30 tonnes of uranium that is used in a 1200 MW capacity reactor in a year, 440 thousand tons of uranium rock must be extracted from the ground. However, heavy metals such as thorium, radium, radon gas, and nickel which are released in the waste and waste pools following the extraction and other processes, causing heavy substances such as arsenic and mercury getting mixed in the environment and groundwater.

Actually such health-related concerns are not limited to Australia since there are also uranium mines in India, the United States, primarily in Niger and Kazakhistan. For Australia, Ranger Uranium Mine, Olympic Dam and Beverly uranium mines have long been on the radar of environmental organizations. According to Dave Sweeney, a renowned anti-nuclear campaigner at the Australian Protection Foundation (ACF), uranium mining and the processing of the extracted material pose enormous risks to the environment and health. However, Sweeney underlines that there are families working in the uranium mines, who inadvertently carry home radioactive dust from the job site.

‘If the fire reached the mines, it would be a nightmare for the world’

A relatively new scientific study published on January 8, 2019, on this subject also points out the danger in uranium mines, especially for those working in the extraction, grinding and production of nuclear fuel and uranium oxide production. Accordingly, due to the regular exposure of employees to radon gas even at low doses every day, it is possible to develop lung cancer due to the cumulative dose accumulated at the end of 10 years. Sweeney argues that the spread of the fires to the uranium mining areas would have been a “ nightmare for the world” since it would have meant the spread of radioactive particles into the air. This would have been in addition to the already existing dangers posed by the uranium mines, such as, in the case of the Ranger uranium mine, whose license, although it has not expired and rehabilitation has not begun yet, there are mineral wastes stacked in waste pools at the production site.

A warning for the rest of the world

Australian fires can even be considered as a warning in many respects for the rest of the world for the factors which triggered the fires, including the mismanagement of water resources that may occur in other continents within five to ten years and lead to the occurrence of large-scale and non-extinguishable fires. Undoubtedly, any explosion at gas facilities, gas plants, chemical factories, cyanide pools, silver, gold, and copper mines would also have multi-dimensional impacts on the overall pollution levels, but it would be infinitely worse if we were to take the nuclear chain into consideration.

What if similar mega-fires were to break out in the US?

When we look at the issue in terms of the location of nuclear power plants and uranium mines, health, and environment-related risks should be remembered. Considering a note by Dr. Helen Caldicott, author of ‘Nuclear Energy No Solution’ – according to her, an average 1000 megawatts reactor produces 225 kilograms of plutonium annually, and the spread of 500 kilograms of plutonium into the atmosphere is enough to have everyone in the world get exposed to cancer. In this respect, if mega-fires were to break out in the US, it would mean that according to the data of October 2019, 98 commercial reactors and 4000 uranium mines will be at unprecedented risk. At this point, I would like to point out that I do not mean that there will certainly be fires happening at nuclear facilities but, in the case of a fire, nuclear disasters may occur.

Similarly, when we evaluate the map of Australia, where the fire density is seen, over the continent of Europe, we see that 128 reactors pose a risk that according to the map, this number increases to 164 with the addition of 36 reactors from Russia. On the other hand, the possibilities for experiencing such multiple disasters are not limited to fires alone. As experienced in the USA with the Harvey and Irma hurricanes in 2017, there is a danger for the whole world in terms of both, the reactors and the wastes accumulated in the facilities due to extreme weather events such as storm and hurricanes, and the melting of glaciers and rising water levels. Therefore, these reactors should be shut down as soon as possible since there will be a need to wait for 10 years to have used reactor fuel rods transported from nuclear power plant area in case sea level rises become dangerous for nuclear power plants plus the amount of unsolvable waste problem should not be increased. The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the radioactive solid wastes stacked in the open area which have since found their way into the sea with each storm can be considered as an example of the susceptibility of nuclear facilities/sites to extreme weather events. The risk and danger posed by these nuclear reactors and their radioactive wastes can be understood more clearly when one considers the fact that the half-life of the plutonium is 24 thousand years and the cancer-causing effects last at least 240 thousand years.

Moreover, according to their half-life, other radioactive isotopes (strontium 90, cesium 137…) extending to tens of millions of years are also spread into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, there are nearly 400 nuclear reactors worldwide, thousands of uranium mines as well as waste facilities in operation, which have the potential of Chernobyl and Fukushima-like disasters.

These grim scenarios are meant to underscore the fact that the reality of the climate crisis often hides within its folds the very real possibility of a multiplicity of disasters. If scientists, who predict that the climate crisis will cause climate migration in the near future, could also take into account the fact that the conditions of the climate crisis may trigger nuclear disasters, and in turn, lead to massive waves of migration, steps can be taken to demand urgent changes in this regard, or at the very least the weak and often demonised voices of opposition to nuclear energy and weapons worldwide may be strengthened.

In this regard, the task of civil society is to organize more strongly in order to increase awareness regarding the link between the climate crisis and the vulnerability of nuclear facilities so that public opinion may begin to be altered and political powers may be pressured to begin an exit from the innately dangerous nuclear path. ‘Children for nuclear-free life’ and the involvement of more well-meaning youth such as Greta Thunberg will go a long way into promoting an appreciation of this little understood and/or acknowledged threat to our environment and health – there is an urgent need to phase out polluting industries including nuclear mines and promote worldwide usage of renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.

The author is a Turkish activist and researcher. Earlier, we published her interview on our website. 

 

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | Leave a comment

The human species is devouring its home -endless resource use

And don’t let’s forget – the nuclear industry is counting on this!

World’s consumption of materials hits record 100bn tonnes a year,  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/22/worlds-consumption-of-materials-hits-record-100bn-tonnes-a-year Unsustainable use of resources is wrecking the planet but recycling is falling, report finds, Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington, Wed 22 Jan 2020 . The amount of material consumed by humanity has passed 100bn tonnes every year, report has revealed, but the proportion being recycled is falling.

The climate and wildlife emergencies are driven by the unsustainable extraction of fossil fuels, metals, building materials and trees. The report’s authors warn that treating the world’s resources as limitless is leading towards global disaster.

The materials used by the global economy have quadrupled since 1970, far faster than the population, which has doubled. In the last two years, consumption has jumped by more than 8% but the reuse of resources has fallen from 9.1% to 8.6%.

The report, by the Circle Economy thinktank, was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Continue reading

January 23, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, ENERGY | Leave a comment

The global danger as insect species disappear

Call for action on decline of insects: ‘Without them we’d be in big trouble NZ Herald, By Karoline Tuckey for RNZ, 22 Jan 2020

Governments around the world are being warned more must be done to prevent declining insect numbers, or the consequences could be severe and wide-reaching.

More than 70 scientists from 21 countries have written an appeal for immediate steps to reduce threats to insect species, and a roadmap to recovery, which has been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

“There is now a strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects … and biodiversity as a whole, is a very real and serious threat that society must urgently address,” the group said.

Waikato University’s Dr Christina Painting contributed to the text, and said a decline in insects could mean “big trouble” for humans because they were crucial to agriculture and healthy ecosystems.

Insect pollinators were needed for growing crops, to keep our forests healthy, and insects were the main food source for many of our native fish and birds, she said.

The group have praised the German government for committing €100 million ($NZ168m) to the problem, which they say is a “clarion call to other nations”.

What do they say should be done?

Painting said there were smart and achievable steps that could be taken to make an immediate difference.

“They’re ideas we think scientists, policymakers, land managers and communities can all use together to help insect conservation.”

High on the list is for natural areas to be planned for within urban and “homogenous” environments, which could provide havens for insects, and support species diversity.

“I think in New Zealand we’re pretty good and very proactive about trying to come up with restoration areas in both urban and in our conservation estate. But perhaps we haven’t really been thinking about what’s good for insects while we’ve been designing those programmes,” she said.

The group have also called for “aggressive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reversing agricultural intensification, including reduced [use of] synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and pursuing their replacement with agroecological measures.”

Phasing out pesticides could be one of the trickiest challenges, but it was important to start, Painting said.

“There are problems because they’re generally not that specific in the species they target – so if you put a broad-spectrum pesticide out it’s going to knock off not just the pest species you’re worried about for your crop, but also anything else that might be there. ……

more support was needed from the public and for government to recognise just how important insects ewre.

“We fund things that people value, and to date there has been a much lower appreciation of insects than other species, so it makes sense that we’ve seen less money put into insect conservation.”

More public education could lead to more appreciation for insects and the roles they play – and then should translate to more justification for policy-makers to commit funding to protect them, she said.

“Some of us think insects are gorgeous and very cute, but it’s crucial to understand that without them we’d be in big trouble – they’re just so incredible because it’s such an intricate system of interactions between different species and within communities – and we’re just in our infancy of understanding just how those pieces together.

“Those questions and the mystery around that alone, I think, is something we should really be excited about.”………https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12302483

January 23, 2020 Posted by | climate change | Leave a comment

Climate change could unlock new microbes and increase heat-related deaths

Climate change could unlock new microbes and increase heat-related deaths, Science Daily, January 22, 2020, Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Summary:
Scientists warn that global climate change is likely to unlock dangerous new microbes, as well as threaten humans’ ability to regulate body temperature…..
Ahima, director of Johns Hopkins’ Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, wrote in the journal that “global warming threatens human thermoregulation and survival.”  ……
Casadevall’s article explores “the specter of new infectious diseases” as a result of the changing climate.

“Given that microbes can adapt to higher temperatures,” writes the professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and infectious diseases, at Johns Hopkins’ schools of medicine and public health, “there is concern that global warming will select for microbes with higher heat tolerance that can defeat our endothermy defenses and bring new infectious diseases.”

Endothermy allows humans and other warm-blooded mammals to maintain high temperatures that can protect against infectious diseases by inhibiting many types of microbes.

Casadevall cites a particular climate threat from the fungal kingdom.

“We have proposed that global warming will lead many fungal species to adapt to higher temperatures,” he writes, “and some with pathogenic potential for humans will break through the defensive barrier provided by endothermy.”….

In all four JCI “Viewpoint” articles, long-term strategies are urged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the trend of rising temperatures. ….https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200122122105.htm

January 23, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, health | Leave a comment

$123 billion the cost of safety measures for Japan’s nuclear stations

Costs for managing Japan’s nuclear plants to total 13 trillion yen,  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/01/8722fafaff9b-costs-for-managing-japans-nuclear-plants-to-total-13-trillion-yen.html
KYODO NEWS – Jan 15, 2020   The total costs to implement government-mandated safety measures, maintain facilities and decommission commercially operated nuclear power plants in Japan will reach around 13.46 trillion yen ($123 billion), a Kyodo News tally showed Wednesday.

The amount, which could balloon further and eventually lead to higher electricity fees, was calculated based on financial documents from 11 power companies that own 57 nuclear reactors at 19 plants, as well as interviews with the utilities.

Two years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Japanese government introduced new safety standards which made measures against natural disasters and major accidents mandatory for restarting reactors.

The power companies have been given the option of either maintaining their idled nuclear power plants and restarting them once they had implemented the required safety measures, or decommissioning their plants. But it has become clear either choice required massive costs.

Of the total costs, 5.4 trillion yen was for safety measures implemented as of last month at 15 power plants they are trying to restart.

Decommissioning costs for 17 reactors belonging to nine nuclear power plants, which were deemed too expensive to implement safety measures for, totaled around 849.2 billion yen.

As the estimated costs for decommissioning the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. differ, they were not included in the figure.

Maintenance costs, which will not only apply to restarted plants in operation but also to idled ones and those in the process of being decommissioned, are required for 54 reactors at 17 plants.

Those under construction were excluded. In the six years from fiscal 2013, when the new regulations were introduced, they totaled around 7.2 trillion yen.

The costs include labor, repairs and others considered nuclear power plant expenses as shown in each company’s annual securities report. But plant depreciation costs and a reserve for dismantling facilities were subtracted as they overlapped with some expenses for safety measures and decommissioning.

Maintenance fees will be required every year moving forward and are expected to continue to grow from the annual costs of around 1 trillion yen across the 11 utilities.

The total costs could further rise by several hundred billion yen as money needed to construct anti-terrorist facilities, also required under the new safety standards, was not included in the figures of some of the companies.

The majority of the 17 reactors at nine power plants slated for decommissioning are aging and they also include four at the Fukushima Daini complex, which local officials requested to be scrapped.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, safety | Leave a comment

North Korea abandoning talks with “hostile” USA

January 23, 2020 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Australia May Add Record Amount of Renewable Power in 2020,

Australia May Add Record Amount of Renewable Power in 2020, Bloomberg, By James Thornhill, January 21, 2020

  • Corporate demand for clean electricity driving growth: Rystad
  •  Policy uncertainty seen undermining longer term expansion

Australia is set to add a record amount of renewable power in 2020, driven by growing corporate demand for clean electricity and to fill generation gaps created by the retirement of aging coal-fired plants.

New markets are expected to unlock growth as pilot hydrogen projects start and oil, gas and mining projects invest in off-grid renewables generation, according to Rystad Energy. The positive outlook would be a rebound for Australia’s clean energy developers after a sharp drop in investment in 2019.

“We expect the industry to bounce back in the second half of 2020,” Rystad said in a media release, citing projects with corporate power purchase agreements and the winners of government auction schemes that are scheduled to start construction this year.

Nearly 2 gigawatts of large-scale solar projects and 1.6 gigawatts of wind power are due to complete commissioning in the year ahead, up nearly 40% on 2019 levels. Wind and solar developers are also lining up to replace the Liddell coal plant in New South Wales, which is due to close by April 2023.

Still, developers may face headwinds over the longer term. The industry has already met the government’s 2020 target for renewable generation and there is no new target to replace it. Meanwhile, the profitability of projects located a long way from major demand centers has been hit by marginal loss factors — the amount of power lost along transmission lines.

Losing Momentum

Australia renewables investment fell 38% last year   “While the outlook for the commissioning of new projects still looks solid in 2020, there is a risk that activity tails off in the years ahead as the impact of falling investment starts to feed through,” said BloombergNEF analyst Leonard Quong.   AT TOP https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-21/australia-may-add-record-amount-of-renewable-power-in-2020

January 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, renewable | Leave a comment

Accident in the Hinkley Point site area

Somerset Live 20th Jan 2020, There have been multiple reports this evening of severe delays around the Hinkley Point site after a serious crash in the area. Emergency services including an air ambulance are reported to have attended the scene this evening, Monday, January 20.

https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/reports-hundreds-trapped-hinkley-point-3760129

January 23, 2020 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Swedish Parliament Rejects Proposal to Halt Nuclear Shutdown

Swedish Parliament Rejects Proposal to Halt Nuclear Shutdown, Bloomberg,  By Niclas Rolander, January 23, 2020,

A majority in the Swedish parliament rejected a proposal from the nationalist Sweden Democrats to stop Vattenfall AB’s plans to close two nuclear reactors, in a victory for the Social Democrat-led government.

The Sweden Democrats had support from three parties but failed to secure a majority. Its proposal to give the state-owned utility instructions to reverse its plans to wind down the Ringhals 1 reactor and to restart another reactor that was shuttered Dec. 30 lost by a single vote on Wednesday afternoon.

Vattenfall has repeatedly said it isn’t economically viable to keep running the two reactors, which were commissioned in 1975 and 1976, respectively. The company also operates two newer reactors at the plant, which produces a sixth of Sweden’s electricity, and is owned jointly with Germany’s Uniper SE, which holds a 29.6% stake through a subsidiary. ……. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-22/swedish-parliament-rejects-proposal-to-halt-nuclear-shutdown

January 23, 2020 Posted by | politics, Sweden | Leave a comment

Iran will never seek nuclear weapons – P.M Rouhani

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Iran, weapons and war | Leave a comment