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The week in climate and nuclear news

Yes, I know, it’s bad form to be writing about anything but the virus. But here goes, anyway.  As to climate change,  the current dread of the coronavirus feels awfully like a familiar version of the anxiety that many of us have felt about the climate crisis. There’s a bit of a silver lining, in that global greenhouse has emissions have dropped.

The pandemic, and its consequence – social isolation, have  stalled industry, and are expected to wipe out global growth in renewables deployment in 2020.

The nuclear industry has put a bold face on it, claiming that construction of huge new reactor stations are essential, so that workers at UK’s Hinkley Point C build, and USA’s giant Vogtle nuclear build  can count as “essential” so the building programmes can stay on track.  But, even more remarkable, the USA nuclear industry uses coronavirus to gouge $billions of tax-payer money.

Anyway, what should we do about this truly awful global situation?  I can think only of Voltaire’s famous advice – given by his fictional character Candide – “we must go and work our garden.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcTsMirQoG0&t=8s

A bit of good news – Chinese Company Ships Crates of Masks to Italy , Covered in Italian Poetry: We Are ‘Leaves of the Same Tree’

AUSTRALIA

A major scorecard gives the health of Australia’s environment less than 1 out of 10.  With the pandemic, and the bushfires, we now must strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).  Webinar: Yeelirrie – A Case for Environmental Law Reform .

Action on Covid19 gives a lesson for action on climate change.

Pandemic brings a danger that is unique to the nuclear industryNuclear security must not be forgotten, even in times of pandemic.

With all eyes on pandemic, Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty still needs attention.

Nuclear waste disposal: Why the case for deep boreholes is … full of holes.

How will the IAEA spin the mind-boggling costs of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)?

JAPAN.

UK. Call to suspend all contractor work at Hinkley new nuclear site, because of Covid19.  EDF, French company building Hinkley Point power station, shifts workers’ costs to UK govt.  Government under pressure to suspend non-essential construction work (such as building nuclear plants) Hinkley nuclear construction work continues, while rest of UK is in lockdown. UK and Fench govts consider nuclear construction as “essential”, so can remain open.

RUSSIA. Entire crew of nuclear submarine in coronavirus quarantine.  Moscow preparing highway though nuclear waste site, despite protests.

USA.

BELARUS. Belarus to swap gas dependence on Moscow for nuclear dependence on Moscow .

TURKEY. British small nuclear reactors to help Turkey to get nuclear weapons?

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment

USA nuclear industry uses coronavirus to gouge $billions of tax-payer money

March 30, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

2020 Olympics – Abe’s plan to help the nuclear industry has fallen through

Abe’s decision to host the Olympics in the first place, and to plan to start the torch relay in Fukushima, as mere pretense that all is well in the prefecture, despite widespread contamination that continues since 2011.

The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off in Japan.

the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and instead promoting nuclear power.

Efforts by Prime Minister Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that control nuclear and energy policy. The actions of the nuclear village is one of the factors responsible for the Fukushima accident.

Nuclear flame fizzles in Japan,  But leaders still cling to failing nuclear power

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the “nuclear village” hoped the Olympics would normalize Japan’s radiological aftermath. But the Fukushima effect has meant zero nuclear exports, leading the government to shore up the nuclear industry at home at the expense of renewables. Beyond Nuclear, By Cassandra Jeffery and M.V. Ramana   29 Mar 20, Last week, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to delay the 2020 Summer Olympic Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they will keep the Olympic flame burning in Fukushima Prefecture. The torch relay route was to have begun there, a poor decision, given the meltdown of multiple reactors in Fukushima nine years ago in March 2011.  While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hotspots in the prefecture, including at the sports complex where the torch relay would have begun and along the relay route.

The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power. Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future….

opposition is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming lack of support for the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down after the Fukushima accidents.

One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to resuming nuclear operations; only 32 percent in favour of resumption. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of the Miyagi Prefecture, where some local residents have filed an injunction to ban the Miyagi governor from approving a utility plan to restart a nearby reactor.

Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent of survey respondents prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind, and hydro power.

The costs of dealing with such accidents are immense. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. Estimates for the costs imposed by the Chernobyl accident amount to nearly $700 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt hour of nuclear electricity, more than thrice the corresponding estimates of around $40 per megawatt hour each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years.

In the face of the high costs of nuclear power—economic, environmental, and public health—and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the Japanese government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off in Japan.

Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and instead promoting nuclear power. The government has also increased the financial assistance retainer for Tokyo Electric Power Company, the company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi plant from ¥9 trillion to ¥13.5 trillion. This amount is borrowed from banks and the interest costs on this retainer will be paid by Japanese taxpayers.

Efforts by Prime Minister Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that control nuclear and energy policy. The actions of the nuclear village is one of the factors responsible for the Fukushima accident.

Indeed, the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation’s Independent Investigation Commission, traced the accident to, among other things, the presence of “sweetheart relationships and revolving doors that connected the regulatory bodies and electric companies, academics, and other stakeholders in the nuclear community.” Such relationships also exist between institutions involved in energy planning and the nuclear community, which accounts for some of the reluctance on the part of Japan’s energy policy makers to let go of the nuclear dream.

Nuclear sweethearts aside, Prime Minister Abe has another problem; his economic agenda, dubbed “Abenomics” by many, involves exports “of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms” as an important component. So far, despite many trips to various countries by Prime Minister Abe, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs. Because Prime Minister Abe and the nuclear village sees the lack of sales as a problem, they seem to want to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and “prove” that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But, are the financial costs and the effort worth the risk?

It is not a stretch of the imagination to regard Abe’s decision to host the Olympics in the first place, and to plan to start the torch relay in Fukushima, as mere pretense that all is well in the prefecture, despite widespread contamination that continues since 2011. Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. This is especially irrational when alternative, less risky, sources of electricity have become far cheaper than nuclear energy……..https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/2643325783

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

EDF, French company building Hinkley Point power station, shifts workers’ costs to UK govt

Coronavirus: EDF to furlough Hinkley Point workers after reducing site numbers, Edward Thicknesse CITY A.M. 29 Mar 20,  Hundreds of workers at EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant are being furloughed after the firm decided to cut the number of workers on site by more than half.

In an attempt to cut costs, the Telegraph reported that many of the site’s workers are being moved onto the government’s employee retention scheme, which guarantees them 80 per cent of their wages.

In an attempt to cut costs, the Telegraph reported that many of the site’s workers are being moved onto the government’s employee retention scheme, which guarantees them 80 per cent of their wages.

Although some of the 2,000 or so workers moved off the nuclear site in Somerset will continue to work in back office roles, the requirement to pay the majority will now shift to the government.

Those initially set to be moved onto the Treasury scheme are contractors working on the site, not EDF employees.

The French firm said: “Hinkley Point C has reduced the number of workers on its site to enable safe working. The project has not asked for any additional Government support and the majority of workers will remain in employment”.

It is understood that contractors are furloughing 500 or so employees, with the intention to bring them back onto payroll as soon as possible.

EDF has not issued a statement on whether it expects the coronavirus pandemic to impact the project’s timeline. …..

EDF’s decision to reduce its workforce came after the government came under pressure to suspend all non-essential construction work over safety concerns.

Politicians of all stripes, from London mayor Sadiq Khan to Tory ex-minister Iain Duncan Smith hit out against the government’s decision not to pause all such work for the duration of the crisis. https://www.cityam.com/coronavirus-edf-to-furlough-hinkley-point-workers-after-reducing-site-numbers/

March 30, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, France, UK | Leave a comment

Vogtle nuclear power plant construction – “Essential workers”, as the company wants to build in a hurry

Coronavirus could disrupt normal refueling practices for nuclear facilities as staffing concerns grow, Utility Dive, By Iulia Gheorghiu , March 26, 2020  

“………Nuclear construction

Various states have included construction work in the categories of essential work when issuing directives to keep people at home.

With pandemic plans in place, Southern Company construction is continuing on the Vogtle units in Georgia. Vogtle construction has not encountered major changes from the novel coronavirus, CEO Tom Fanning told Bloomberg.

Southern announced a non-manual worker for the construction of Vogtle units 3 and 4 was being tested for coronavirus two weeks ago.

“I completely understand that [Southern] wants to finish as soon as possible,” Buongiorno said, given the delays and cost overruns of the construction. (Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems.)…https://www.utilitydive.com/news/coronavirus-could-disrupt-normal-refueling-practices-for-nuclear-facilities/574920/

March 30, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Coronavirus Shows Us What Our Future Could Look Like During Climate Crisis

Coronavirus Shows Us What Our Future Could Look Like During Climate Crisis, BY Sharon Zhang, Truthout, March 29, 2020  The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly been absorbed into our collective consciousness, remaking the fabric of our lives. Suddenly, millions are sheltering in place, strangers have started wishing each other well when exiting grocery stores, people have stopped touching their faces and shelves that are normally stocked with bleach and hand sanitizer are barren.

For many, the looming sense of dread is a new sensation….

But for those of us who have lived in acute awareness of the reality of the climate crisis, the current state of pandemic dread feels awfully familiar — just a more imminent version of the dread about the climate that we have been feeling for years.

It’s a psychological phenomenon known informally in the climate community as climate anxiety, climate grief or eco-anxiety…….

Though the pandemic-panic that Mull and others have written on has been ongoing for the past few weeks, climate writers started opening up about their climate grief years ago. …….

But it’s not just psychological trauma that these two crises share — if you take the time to look, the similarities run wide and deep. These are twin worldwide crises that require global cooperation to defeat; they will ravage the way of life as we know it; they will affect, in one way or another, nearly every single person on Earth.

The economy as we know it — rather, as we knew it three months ago — will be a thing of the past if we let the climate crisis continue unmitigated…….

Economists are currently struggling to model all of the short-term effects of the pandemic, so many of those remain unknown. Climate researchers, however, have had much more time to model the future economic impacts of the climate crisis. By 2090, in the U.S. alone and under the same high emissions scenario, NCA researchers predict that costs from mortality due to extreme temperatures will total $141 billion a year, losses of coastal property will total $118 billion a year, and labor losses will cost $155 billion a year. That’s equivalent to a Hurricane Katrina every single year, just from lost labor.

The health care system, too, will be overwhelmed by the climate crisis, just as hospital beds are rapidly being filled by COVID-19 patients. In some places, the climate crisis has already given a preview of this: In 2018, record heat waves caused U.K. hospitals to utilize emergency procedures, when people were being sent to the hospital in such an overwhelming volume that ambulances had to line up outside.

Though COVID-19 is causing hospitals to fill up simultaneously nationwide, “climate-related events will be more limited in their spatial scale, but will be increasingly frequent over time,” says Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. A heat wave in San Francisco won’t set the whole country ablaze, but it could overwhelm the local health care system.

The key difference between illness caused by a pandemic and the climate crisis, Dahl points out, is that it’s much easier to trace the illness caused by the former. “Things like hurricanes and heat waves and wildfires have always occurred,” she says, but, “to some extent, we know that we are amping them up by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.”

This is likely, in part, why the federal government has quickly pivoted to action on COVID-19, while greenhouse gases have remained largely untouched by Congress for decades. While right-wing media and politicians denied the consequences of inaction on the virus just weeks ago, they have quickly had to change their tune as the spread of the virus has become undeniable. Whereas with long-term, gradual change, it’s easy for deniers to blame such things as the severity of the bushfires in Australia on anything but increasingly hot and arid conditions caused by climate change.

The ruling class has also had less motivation to address the climate crisis because the people suffering the most are, disproportionately, already marginalized. Poor, Black and health-compromised people are and will be the hardest hit by both crises — and some are already being affected by both at once. Air pollution is continually one of the most pronounced issues of environmental justice, and physicians have said those with continual exposure to air pollution are likely to be more vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus……..

“Coronavirus has made so clear that global issues can’t be easily categorized as just a health issue or just an environmental issue,” says says Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “They really encompass our broader economy and encompass or entire social systems and ways of life.”  ….. https://truthout.org/articles/coronavirus-shows-us-what-our-future-could-look-like-during-climate-crisis/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=5e383daa-77a3-48e3-a6f5-f82b689f50fc

March 30, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, health | Leave a comment

Kansai Electric Power Co’s history of nuclear corruption

While the depth of the scandal has surprised many, stories of collusion and bribery in Fukui towns hosting Kepco’s plants are quite common and date back to the 1970s when the first power plants opened.

Naito, who died in 2018, claimed to have directed illicit cash payments to prime ministers and key politicians in the ruling and opposition parties between 1972 and 1990 in exchange for favorable legislation regarding nuclear power and electricity policies.

A closer look at Kansai Electric and its gift-giving scandal  https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/29/business/kansai-electric-gift-giving-scandal/#.XoEN-YgzbIU  BY ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER  OSAKA – Earlier this month, Kansai Electric Power Co. concluded that scores of its employees had received cash and gifts worth hundreds of millions of yen from an influential politician in a Fukui Prefecture town where the utility operates a nuclear power plant. The revelations by Kepco’s investigative panel once again showed the dark side of Japan’s nuclear industry.

What is Kepco?

Kepco is the major utility providing electric power to the Kansai region, including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga and Wakayama prefectures. With over 20,000 direct employees and 77 affiliated companies, it is one of Kansai’s largest and most influential corporations economically, but also politically. Kepco executives have long held high leadership positions in local business lobby groups such as the Kansai Economic Federation, which played a leading role in convincing local and national politicians, as well as the appropriate ministries in Tokyo, to approve and fund projects ranging from Kansai Airport to the 2025 Expo. Kepco’s largest shareholder is the city of Osaka, which owned about 7.3 percent of Kepco’s stock as of September 2019.

What’s the role of the Takahama plant?

Fukui Prefecture is home to 11 Kepco nuclear reactors at three plants. One of these is the Takahama plant, which hosts some of Japan’s oldest reactors. The No. 1 and 2 reactors are now over 40 years old but scheduled to be restarted later this year. The No. 3 and 4 reactors, which are 35 and 34 years old, are offline and currently being upgraded to better protect against terrorism threats. But construction is running behind schedule and the exact date of their restart is unclear.

In 2010, just before the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting nuclear disaster in Fukushima, nuclear power at Kepco’s three Fukui plants accounted for 51 percent of its electricity sources. That figure sat at 29 percent as of the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

What was the scandal all about? Continue reading

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Nuclear stations having difficulties with staffing; one station has workers positive for Covid19

Coronavirus could disrupt normal refueling practices for nuclear facilities as staffing concerns grow, Utility Dive, By Iulia Gheorghiu March 26, 2020, The nuclear sector has sprung into action to screen employees for signs of the novel coronavirus and prepare for potential disruptions to their typical refueling practices in light of pandemic-related travel restrictions……..

……https://www.utilitydive.com/news/coronavirus-could-disrupt-normal-refueling-practices-for-nuclear-facilities/574920/

March 30, 2020 Posted by | employment, health, USA | 1 Comment

Entire crew of nuclear submarine in coronavirus quarantine 

Entire crew of nuclear submarine in coronavirus quarantine https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2020/03/nuclear-submarine-crew-coronavirus-quarantine

A civilian who went on board the cruise-missile carrier “Orel” had met with a man who tested positive to the coronavirus.
By Thomas Nilsen  March 28, 2020

Orel” (K-266) is an Oscar-II class nuclear-powered submarine sailing for the Northern Fleet. Normally, the submarine has a crew of about 110 sailors.

The civilian that had met with a man infected with the coronavirus was on board “Orel” in a “business matter”, Murmansk-based news-online B-port reports.

Also, the crew of a nearby submarine and the personnel on a floating workshop are placed in quarantine.

The submarine is based in Zapadnaya Litsa, the westernmost bases of the Northern Fleet on the Kola Peninsula.

No reports have been published about any coronavirus cases in Zaozersk, the navy town where the crew and their families live.

By March 28th, Russia’s official number of coronavirus infections raised to 1,264.

The “Murmansk group” on social media channel Vkontakte says there are 12 people who have given pre-positive tests of coronavirus in the Murmansk region.

March 30, 2020 Posted by | health, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Government under pressure to suspend non-essential construction work (such as building nuclear plants)

Government under pressure to suspend non-essential construction work, CITY A.M. 29 Mar 20,The government is facing growing pressure to halt non-essential construction work as it tries to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak.In a Downing Street briefing on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said construction workers could and should continue to work so long as they are two metres apart.

“The judgment we have made is that in work, in many instances, the 2m rule can be applied,” he said.

However critics say public health should be prioritised over the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.

Former Tory cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith joined those calling for a temporary suspension of work. He told the BBC: “I think the balance is where we should delete some of those construction workers from going to work and focus only on the emergency requirements.”

The confusion over who is able to work came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announced a nationwide lockdown in a televised address on Monday night.

The PM said people should only leave their homes to shop for basic goods, fulfil medical needs, to exercise and to travel to work when “absolutely necessary”. However the types of work considered necessary has not yet been made clear….. https://www.cityam.com/government-under-pressure-to-suspend-non-essential-construction-work/

March 30, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment