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Russia’s nuclear workers in long lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic

Russia’s longest quarantine How ‘Rosatom’ is keeping its key nuclear power plant workers in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2020/06/29/russia-s-longest-quarantine,, Summary by Olga Korelina, Translation by Eilish Hart , June 30, 2020  

Russia’s government-owned atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, has been keeping key employees from its nuclear power plants in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, reports the investigative news outlet ProektIn particular, employees in charge of the control panel blocks and all technological aspects of these power stations have been isolated. Rosatom declared these people “critically important” workers, since the power units of these stations can’t function without them, and because replacing them is very difficult: in order to work in a nuclear control room you need to obtain a license and pass an exam. Russia has 11 nuclear power plants, which, according to Proekt’s calculationsemploy a little more than 1,000 control room operators. Presumably all of them were sent into quarantine: Rosatom announced the decision to isolate “all workers who ensure the continuity of production processes and work in nuclear facilities” in the spring.


Control panel operators were sent to a Rosatom sanatoriums — then they were banned from leaving, under threat of losing their jobs. 
The company began taking the nuclear engineers who spoke with Proekt to various sanatoriums at the beginning of April. According to the publication’s source from the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant, they were given rooms in pairs and fed “reasonably well,” but the internet at the sanatorium wasn’t working (the employees could only contact their families by phone). They were banned from going for walks more than 100 meters from the building, and were taken to work by bus. Proekt’s source from the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant said that once his colleagues left the sanatorium for a walk: they were quickly returned and threatened with dismissal. Other control room employees also said that disgruntled workers were threatened with either dismissal or penalties, such as lower salaries or potential problems with recertification.

Isolation was supposed to protect control room workers from the coronavirus, but they got sick anyway. A source from the Kursk Nuclear Power Plant told Proekt that six of his colleagues contracted the coronavirus, as well as five staff members at the sanatorium. “The percentage of patients here is higher than among the free workers at the power plant,” he said. Proekt’s source at the Leningrad Power Plant came down with the virus himself. Management asked him to leave the sanatorium quickly, despite the fact that when they were convincing him to go into isolation, they told him that this was also to prevent the spread of the infection to his family. The head of Rosatom’s communications department, Andrey Cheremisinov, stated that there are no coronavirus patients among control room staff members at the moment.

The quarantine for Rosatom employees is illegal, according to labor law expert Nikolai Zboroshenko. Upon arrival at the sanatorium, nuclear engineers signed a consent for isolation, but Zboroshenko maintains that such documents are legally void, and even with these consent forms in place, an employer has no right to restrict its personnel’s freedom. In turn, the head of Rosatom’s communications department, Andrey Cheremisinov, maintained that both the employees and their families are understanding of the situation: “Do you think that we are keeping them [in sanatoriums] in chains? They are going to these sanatoriums aware of their responsibilities.”

The nuclear engineers said that their isolation is set to continue for two to three more weeks. Some of them are heading into their third month of lockdown. When Russia began lifting restrictions at the beginning of May, some of the nuclear power plants’ managers allowed their control room employees to take turns going home. Rosatom also paid each isolated worker 30,000 rubles ($427.50). At the end of June, some of the nuclear engineers were released from the sanatoriums, but control room employees from the Leningrad, Smolensk, and Kursk nuclear power plants remained in isolation. Proekt calls this Russia’s longest quarantine. “Everyone is fed up with this ‘comfortable’ imprisonment. And most importantly, the prospect of release is nowhere in sight,” one of the employees at the Leningrad Power Plant told Proekt. 

The nuclear engineers said that their isolation is set to continue for two to three more weeks. Some of them are heading into their third month of lockdown. When Russia began lifting restrictions at the beginning of May, some of the nuclear power plants’ managers allowed their control room employees to take turns going home. Rosatom also paid each isolated worker 30,000 rubles ($427.50). At the end of June, some of the nuclear engineers were released from the sanatoriums, but control room employees from the Leningrad, Smolensk, and Kursk nuclear power plants remained in isolation. Proekt calls this Russia’s longest quarantine. “Everyone is fed up with this ‘comfortable’ imprisonment. And most importantly, the prospect of release is nowhere in sight,” one of the employees at the Leningrad Power Plant told Proekt. 

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Russia’s environmental groups protest nuclear waste imports

Russia is not a dump!

Stories of solidarity under coronavirus  http://www.foeeurope.org/covidsolidarity-russia

25 June 20    Coronavirus hasn’t affected everyone equally. We’re sharing stories from across our European and global network of what lockdown and life under coronavirus look like around the world. Hearing from those who are among the worst affected, and how they are taking action.

I’m with Russia

Russia and Germany have taken advantage of the coronavirus crisis to resume shipping radioactive waste to dump in the Urals and Siberia in northern Russia.

When Russian environmental groups discovered, in autumn 2019, that Germany was exporting radioactive waste from it’s nuclear power stations to Russia, via the harbor of Amsterdam, they directly organized protests in the three countries.

Those protests had success, and the transport by rail and sea of uranium – a waste product of nuclear fuel production by Urenco Germany – was put on hold. That was before the coronavirus crisis hit.

But in March 2020, when Covid-19 lockdowns restricted people’s right to protest in Russia even further, the shipments of radioactive waste were set to resume.

BBC news reports that twelve rail cars carrying 600 tonnes of depleted uranium left Germany bound for Russia earlier this week.

Vitaly Servetnik from Russian Social–Ecological Union/Friends of the Earth Russia said:

“This radioactive waste is being sent to the Urals and Siberia. There it will be stored in containers above ground posing a direct danger to the environment and people living in the area. Disguised as a commercial transaction between Rosatom and Urenco, Germany exports its radioactive waste problem.”

Olaf Bandt, chair of BUND / Friends of the Earth Germany said:

“The federal government stands by while part of the unresolved nuclear waste problem moves quietly and secretly to Russia. German nuclear waste should not be disposed of in other countries, putting lives of people in danger. Germany must finally complete the nuclear phase-out.”

In response, the Russian Social–Ecological Union/Friends of the Earth Russia and other environmental and human rights groups organised a digital action. Images of activists holding signs reading “No uranium tails!” and “Russia is not a dump!” flooded social media.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

The Arctic’s climate disaster-Verkhoyansk goes from record cold to record heat

A Disastrous Summer in the Arctic, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-a-warming-planet/a-disastrous-summer-in-the-arctic?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=tny&utm_mailing=TNY_Daily_062720&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bea00ac3f92a404693b7a69&cndid=46508601&hasha=c25c4ad8a3e4cbc8faed20a1376eed39&hashb=637cacb29baeeb67e63d66fee2c449133fb8087a&hashc=4df42b687b9cea804c58e24a5a8eb39e5e143c4b6f747bc38a3be837d323c31f&esrc=home&utm_term=TNY_Daily

The Record, 28 June 20,The remote Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, three thousand miles east of Moscow and six miles north of the Arctic Circle, has long held the record, with another Siberian town, for the coldest inhabited place in the world. The record was set in 1892, when the temperature dropped to ninety below zero Fahrenheit, although these days winter temperatures are noticeably milder, hovering around fifty below. Last Saturday, Verkhoyansk claimed a new record: the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic, with an observation of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit—the same temperature was recorded that day in Las Vegas. Miami has only hit a hundred degrees once since 1896. “This has been an unusually hot spring in Siberia,”  Randy Cerveny, the World Meteorological Organization’s rapporteur of weather and climate extremes, said. “The coinciding lack of underlying snow in the region, combined with over-all global temperature increases, undoubtedly helped play a critical role in causing this extreme.” Siberia, in other words, is in the midst of an astonishing and historic heat wave.

Anthropogenic climate change is causing the Arctic to heat up twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Climate models had predicted this phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, but they did not predict how fast the warming would occur. Although Verkhoyansk has seen hot temperatures in the past, Saturday’s 100.4-degree record follows a wildly warm year across the region. Since December, temperatures in western Siberia have been eighteen degrees above normal. Since January, the mean temperature across Siberia has been at least 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average. As the meteorologist Jeff Berardelli reported for CBS, the heat that has fallen on Russia in 2020 “is so remarkable that it matches what’s projected to be normal by the year 2100, if current trends in heat-trapping carbon emissions continue.”  By April, owing to the heat, wildfires across the region were larger and more numerous than they were at the same time last year, when the Russian government eventually had to send military aircrafts to battle vast blazes. The scale of the current wildfires—with towering plumes of smoke visible for thousands of miles on satellite images—suggest that this summer could be worse. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, they will also be more complicated to fight.

Toward the end of May, as the sun stopped dropping below the horizon, the heat continued. In the town of Khatanga, far north of the Arctic Circle, the temperature hit seventy-eight degrees Fahrenheit, or forty-six degrees above normal, topping the previous record by twenty-four degrees. The heat and fires are also hastening the dissolution of Siberian permafrost, perennially frozen ground that, when thawed, unleashes more greenhouse gases and dramatically destabilizes the land, with grave consequences. On May 29th, outside Norilsk, the northernmost city in the world, the thawing ground buckled, causing an oil-storage tank to collapse and spew more than a hundred and fifty thousand barrels, or twenty-one thousand tons, of diesel fuel into the Ambarnaya River.   The spill was the largest to ever occur in the Russian Arctic.

Norilsk, which was constructed in the nineteen-thirties by prisoners of a nearby Gulag camp, Norillag, was already one of the most polluted places in the world. Most of its hundred and seventy-seven thousand residents work for Norilsk Nickel, the company that owns the collapsed oil tank. Its massive mining and metallurgy complex alone is worth two per cent of Russia’s G.D.P. The city contributes a fifth of the global nickel supply and nearly half of the world’s palladium, a metal used to make catalytic converters. Factories billow clouds of sulfur dioxide incessantly, and the resulting acid rain has turned the city and its surroundings into an industrial wasteland, with no green space or parks, just dirt and dead trees. Life expectancy in Norilsk is twenty years shorter than it is in the United States. The last time the town made the news, before the oil spill, was exactly a year ago, when an emaciated polar bear, a refugee from its melting home, was photographed rummaging through the city dump.

Norilsk Nickel’s executives have tried to skirt responsibility for the oil spill by blaming the thawing permafrost—or, as a press release stated, “a sudden sinking of the storage tank’s pillars, which served accident-free for more than thirty years.”

But the thaw did not happen unexpectedly, out of nowhere. Buildings in Norilsk have collapsed because of the sagging ground. Russian and international experts have been aware of the risks that rapidly thawing permafrost represents for more than a decade. A 2017 report from an Arctic Council working group said that “communities and infrastructure built on frozen soils are significantly affected by thawing permafrost, one of the most economically costly impacts of climate change in the Arctic.” They found that thawing permafrost could contaminate freshwater, when previously frozen industrial and municipal waste is released, and that the bearing capacity of building foundations has declined by forty to fifty per cent in some Siberian settlements since the nineteen-sixties. They also noted that “the vast Bovanenkovo gas field in western Siberia has seen a recent increase in landslides related to thawing permafrost.” The authors of a 2018 paper, published in Nature Communications, found that “45% of the hydrocarbon extraction fields in the Russian Arctic are in regions where thaw-related ground instability can cause severe damage to the built environment.” The paper continued, “Alarmingly, these figures are not reduced substantially even if the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement are reached.”

In early June, President Vladimir Putin declared a national emergency, and scolded local authorities for their slow response to the spill. The Kremlin allegedly found out about the spill two days after the fact, from pictures of a crimson river posted on social media. Although the Russian prosecutor general’s office agreed, in a preliminary finding, that the thawing permafrost was a contributing factor to the spill, investigators also said that the fuel-storage tank had needed repairs since 2018. They arrested four employees of the power plant on charges of violating environmental regulations. Norilsk Nickel denied the accusations but said that the company is coöperating with law-enforcement agencies and has launched “a full and thorough investigation.” “We fully accept our responsibility for the event,” the company said in a statement provided to the Guardian. Vladimir Potanin, the president of Norilsk Nickel and the richest man in Russia, said that the company will pay for the full cost of the disaster, which he estimated at ten billion rubles, or a hundred and forty-six million dollars. (A Russian environmental watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, put the cost at around one and a half billion dollars.) Putin, meanwhile, publicly lambasted Potanin for the disaster, emphasizing that it was his company’s negligence that led to the spill. “If you replaced them in time,” Putin said, in a video call in early June, referring to the aging oil-storage tank, “there wouldn’t have been the damage to the environment and your company wouldn’t have to carry such costs.”

The company’s initial response efforts—floating booms to contain the spill—largely failed. By June 9th, the oil had entered the forty-three-mile-long Lake Pyasino, which borders a nature preserve and flows into the Pyasino River. “Once it enters that river system, it can’t be stopped,” Rob Huebert, an Arctic expert at the University of Calgary, said. “The oil could then make its way to the Arctic Ocean.” On June 11th, Russia’s investigative committee charged Norilsk’s mayor with criminal negligence, for his botched response to the disaster. Last Friday, in another video call, Putin’s emergencies minister reported that response teams had collected 3.6 million cubic feet of polluted soil and 1.1 million cubic feet of contaminated water. The company will construct a pipeline to pump the contaminated muck to unspecified disposal sites. But the region will remain toxic. Diesel oil seeps into river banks. Even if the oil is contained to the lake, the contamination can never be fully removed. Some of it will make its way through the food chain. Wildlife—fish, birds, reindeer—could suffer for decades. “You can’t ever really clean a spill up,” Huebert said. Putin, in the call, emphasized that work must continue until the damage is remedied. “Obviously, the disaster has brought dire consequences for the environment and severely impacted biodiversity in water bodies,” he said. “It will take a lot of time to reclaim and restore the environment.”

Putin, however, is not known for his environmentalism. His anger and concern about the Norilsk oil spill might have more to do with how much it exposed his government, making visible the overwhelming economic and environmental risks facing oil, gas, and mineral development in Siberia if temperatures there continue to rise. “The Russians’ continued development of oil and gas in the central Arctic region is their economic future,” Huebert said. “The Russians’ interest in all this is to keep the oil flowing, whatever it takes.” But sixty per cent of Russia is permafrost. Although much of the newest oil and gas infrastructure in the Far North has been engineered with climate change in mind, temperatures are currently on track to far exceed projections. Perhaps that is why the Kremlin did, finally, officially ratify the Paris accord last October. And yet the Kremlin continues to incentivize increased oil and gas development in eastern Siberia and the Arctic, which will lead to more greenhouse-gas emissions, which will continue speeding up the permafrost thaw.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

It’s time to get emotional about climate change

Rebecca Huntley on why it’s time to get emotional about climate change, SMH, By Caitlin Fitzsimmons, June 28, 2020 —Rebecca Huntley had to submit her manuscript for her new book on climate change just as the country was entering lockdown for coronavirus.

The book, How to Talk about Climate Change in a Way that Makes a Difference, to be published this Thursday July 2, is based on social science rather than science. What scientists know about climate change is the jumping off point for Huntley’s exploration of the psychology behind activism, disengagement and denial.

“I nearly called it How to Talk about Climate Change with Your Drunk Uncle,” says Huntley, a social researcher and author. “It’s a bit derogatory but it’s about the idea that everybody who is concerned about climate change has somebody in their life who wants to pick a fight with them about it. Do we fight them or not?”

If the book is about the human factor in the climate change equation and society has just been through major disruption in the form of the pandemic and lockdown, it begs the question whether anything has changed since April, when she submitted her final edits.

The short answer is yes. Huntley says the way the pandemic has played out, at least in Australia, has given her unexpected hope.

She knew greenhouse emissions would go down if people stayed at home, industry was closed and flights were grounded and she knew there would be stories, some of them apocryphal, about wildlife reclaiming human spaces.

stories about low emissions and environmental rejuvenation would mean that people associated climate action with personal deprivation, that we’ve all got to be locked in our homes, losing our jobs, not being able to hug our aunt and uncle and not being able to go on holidays … or out to dinner and the movies,” Huntley says. “I thought if people thought that was the sacrifice we have to make in order to do something about climate change, it would be hugely detrimental.”

The book’s thesis is that the climate change argument won’t be won by reason alone: it’s time to get emotional. Huntley writes about her own emotional transformation from a citizen who believed in the science of climate change and tried to act accordingly to a citizen who believed in the science of climate change and organised her entire personal and professional life accordingly. Her belief in the scientific consensus did not shift, her world-view did……. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/rebecca-huntley-on-why-it-s-time-to-get-emotional-about-climate-change-20200625-p5561z.html

June 30, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, psychology - mental health | Leave a comment

Is South Korea’s nuclear industry a model for others to follow?

Jim Green, Nuclear Monitor #844, 25 May 2017, https://www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/844/south-koreas-nuclear-industry-model-others-follow

As the nuclear power crisis has unfolded in recent months ‒ engulfing major nuclear companies and utilities in the US, Japan and France ‒ South Korea’s nuclear industry has been held up as a model for others to follow. US nuclear lobbyist Michael Shellenberger, for example, explains ‘why Korea won’: “Korea is winning the global competition to build new nuclear plants against China and Russia despite being a fraction of the size, at just 50 million people, and energy-poor. It has done so through focus: standard design, standard construction of plants, standard operation and standard regulation.”1

But South Korea’s nuclear industry is scandal-plagued, it hasn’t won any bids to build reactors overseas since 2009, and it is more than a stretch to describe it as “world class” as nuclear advocate Rod Adams would have you believe.2 Public and political support has been in freefall over the past five years because of the Fukushima disaster and a domestic nuclear corruption scandal (see the following article in this issue of the Nuclear Monitor). In the coming years, nuclear power’s contribution to domestic electricity supply is likely to decline and there is little likelihood that an export industry will flourish. Moreover, with public support for the nuclear industry in freefall, the government has little hope of achieving its aim of securing a site for a high-level nuclear waste repository by 2028.

Korea Times noted on April 21 that every major candidate in South Korea’s presidential election promised to stop building new nuclear reactors and to close down older ones.3 The winner of the May 9 presidential election, Moon Jae-in, who stood as the candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, is a former human rights lawyer. World Nuclear News reported that Moon was one of seven presidential candidates who signed an agreement in March for a “common policy” to phase out nuclear power.4 During the election campaign, Moon said he would scrap plans for new reactors ‒ including Shin Kori units 5 and 6 ‒ while immediately closing the Wolsong-1 reactor.4 (In February 2017, the Seoul Administrative Court ordered the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission to cancel its decision to extend the lifespan of Wolsong-1 because legal procedures had not been followed in the decision-making process.) Moon also said he would block lifespan extensions for the older reactors at the Kori plant5 ‒ the four Kori reactors were grid-connected between 1977 and 1985. Continue reading

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Reference, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Korea | Leave a comment

South Pole warming at triple the global average

‘Nowhere to hide’: South Pole warms up with climate change a factor, https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/nowhere-to-hide-south-pole-warms-up-with-climate-change-a-factor-20200629-p55797.html, by Peter Hannam, June 30, 2020  The South Pole, the most remote part of the planet, has been warming at triple the global average, as natural variability joins with climate change to produce an abrupt shift in temperature trends.The findings, published Tuesday in the Nature Climate Change journal, show surface temperatures at the South Pole were stable in the first couple of decades of instrument records into the 1980s.

A record-breaking cold for a spell then made way for even warmer temperature anomalies from the early 2000s. For the 1989-2018 period, the mercury rose an average of 0.6 degrees per decade, or three times the global warming rate, the researchers found.

The report on the flipping of temperature trends at the most southerly point comes as abnormal warmth continues to bake the planet’s other polar extreme. The Russian town of Verkhoyansk last week reported 38 degrees, the warmest reading ever recorded within the Arctic Circle.

For Antarctica, the recent accelerated warming is estimated to be about two-thirds the result of natural variability with the role of rising greenhouse gases contributing about one-third, said Kyle Clem, a post-doctoral research fellow at New Zealand’s Victoria University.

The rapid warming “lies within the upper bounds of natural variability”, Dr Clem said. “It’s extremely rare and it appears very likely that humans played a role.”

The research shows “there’s no place on earth that’s immune to global warming”, he said. “There’s nowhere to hide – not even up on the Antarctic Plateau.”

Sitting at 2835 metres above sea level – or 600 metres higher than Mt Kosciuszko – on a rocky continent, the South Pole is exposed to different weather processes than its polar opposite. By contrast, the North Pole rests on shifting sea ice with the seabed more than four kilometres below.

Dr Clem, along with other researchers from the US and the UK, found changing circulation patterns in the Pacific and Southern Ocean determine which parts of Antarctica warm or cool.

For instance, the western tropical Pacific has periods when is warmer or cooler than usual.

The warmer period – known as the negative phase of the so-called Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation – set in about 2000. During this phase, there is more storm activity in the tropics which in turn spawns more high- and low-pressure systems that send heat far into the high latitudes.

The circumpolar westerly winds, which have been strengthening and contracting polewards under climate change – also play a role in amplifying the transfer of warmth into Antarctica.

When those two patterns align, as they have in recent decades, the South Pole warms but some parts, such as western Antarctica warm at a slow pace or even cool, as the frigid air shifts around.

Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, said the study provided “a very detailed and useful analysis” of the forces at play in the far south.

If anything, though, the researchers’ use of model simulations to reach conclusions about regional trends probably understates the role of human-caused climate change.

“In short, what the authors attribute to natural internal cycles might just be a shift in atmospheric circulation that is actually due to human-caused climate change but isn’t accurately captured in the average over models,” Professor Mann said, in an email that included those italics.

The recent polar extremes – including eastern Siberian temperatures above 40 degrees – were important because “what happens in the poles doesn’t stay in the poles”, the prominent climate scientist said.

Changes at the South Pole itself were not as critical as the warming of the Southern Ocean, which is leading to the collapse of the West Antarctic ice shelves and the destabilisation of the interior ice sheet.

“This was not well predicted by climate models, meaning we are further along when it comes to the destabilisation of ice sheets and the commitment to rising sea levels than we expected to be at this point,” Professor Mann said.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

France’s EDF in a financial pickle over huge costs of UK’s Hinkley C nuclear project

Dave Toke’s Blog 27th June 2020, The chickens are coming home to roost for EDF for their questionable decision to go ahead with building Hinkley C -a decision they took despite the lack of certainty over whether they would get enough backing from the British Government.

Originally EDF was publicised as being offered UK Treasury loan guarantees that had been widely touted as a vital basis for building Hinkley C. But now the French Financial Markets Regulator has
sanctioned EDF for not flagging up how conditional such loan guarantees were. These loan guarantees have never materialised.

Essentially, EDF is now continuing to build Hinkley C using money borrowed on its own balance
sheets – borrowings which are much more costly than UK Government backed guarantees and which reduce its own (EDF) profitability.

The Finance Officer of EDF actually resigned at the time EDF decided to go ahead with building Hinkley C. Of course all this is happening at the same time when we are being asked to believe that the next EPR (at Sizewell C) is going to be delivered at low cost to the consumer if the risk of building the plant is transferred from EDF to the British taxpayer and consumer!

This is the so-called RAB mechanism, something that could well just turn out to be an
almost unlimited cash facility for EDF to park their financial black hole in the centre of British finances (as well as those of the French).

https://realfeed-intariffs.blogspot.com/2020/06/edf-sanctioned-by-french-regulators-for.html

June 30, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, France, politics, politics international, UK | Leave a comment

Misinformation about Energy Economics, from nuclear companies and their propagandists

It is generally accepted in the energy industry that the cost of new nuclear is several times that of wind and solar, even when the latter are backed up by storage.

The nuclear lobby, however, has been insisting to the parliamentary inquiry that wind and solar are four to seven times the cost of nuclear, and to try and prove the point the lobby has been making such extraordinary and outrageous claims that it makes you wonder if anything else they say about nuclear – its costs and safety – can be taken seriously.

Supplementary Submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Environment and Planning
Inquiry into Nuclear Prohibition Friends of the Earth Australia www.nuclear.foe.org.au
 June 2020  – Extract 

“……..MISINFORMATION REGARDING ENERGY ECONOMICS BY NUCLEAR COMPANIES AND ENTHUSIASTS

 Highly questionable economic claims made by nuclear companies and enthusiasts are addressed in:

  • submission #40 by Friends of the Earth Australia to the NSW nuclear inquiry[1]
  • submission #64 to the NSW nuclear inquiry (see esp. sections 3.5 and 3.6)[2]

 An important article by Giles Parkinson ‒ an energy expert and former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review ‒ is particularly helpful in this regard.  An excerpt is reproduced below but we encourage members of the Committee to read the full, referenced article. The article is focused on submissions to the federal nuclear inquiry[3] but many of the same claims have been presented to the NSW and Victorian inquiries.

Why the nuclear lobby makes stuff up about the cost of wind and solar

[1] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/submissions/66217/0040%20Friends%20of%20the%20Earth.pdf

[2] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/submissions/66348/0064%20Australian%20Conservation%20Foundation,%20Nature%20Conservation%20Council%20and%20%20Friends%20of%20the%20Earth%20Australia.pdf

[3] https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Environment_and_Energy/Nuclearenergy

Giles Parkinson, 23 Oct 2019, ‘Why the nuclear lobby makes stuff up about the cost of wind and solar’, https://reneweconomy.com.au/why-the-nuclear-lobby-makes-stuff-up-about-cost-of-wind-and-solar-46538/

 It is generally accepted in the energy industry that the cost of new nuclear is several times that of wind and solar, even when the latter are backed up by storage. The GenCost 2018 report from the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) puts the cost of nuclear at two to three times the cost of “firmed renewables”.

 The nuclear lobby, however, has been insisting to the parliamentary inquiry that wind and solar are four to seven times the cost of nuclear, and to try and prove the point the lobby has been making such extraordinary and outrageous claims that it makes you wonder if anything else they say about nuclear – its costs and safety – can be taken seriously.

 RenewEconomy has been going through the 290-something submissions and reading the public hearing transcripts, and has been struck by one consistent theme from the pro-nuclear organisations and ginger groups: When it comes to wind, solar and batteries, they just make stuff up.

 A typical example is the company SMR Nuclear Technology – backed by the coal baron Trevor St Baker – which borrows some highly questionable analysis to justify its claim that going 100 per cent renewables would cost “four times” that of replacing coal with nuclear.

It bases this on modelling by a consultancy called EPC, based on the south coast of NSW, apparently a husband and wife team, Robert and Linda Barr, who are also co-authors of “The essential veterinarian’s phone book”, a guide to vets on how to set up telephone systems. of wind at A$157/MWh (before transmission costs), which is about three times the current cost in Australia, and A$117/MWh for solar, which is more than double.

 The costs of wind and solar are not hard to verify. They are included in the GenCost report, in numerous pieces of analysis, and even in public announcements from companies involved, both buyers and sellers. St Baker could have helped out, as his company has signed two big solar contracts (for the Darlington and Vales Point solar farms) and we can bet he won’t be paying A$117/MWh.

 Apart from costs, the EPC scenarios for 100 per cent renewables are also, at best, imaginative. For some reason they think there will only be 10GW of solar in a 100% renewables grid and just 100MW of battery storage. Big hint: There is already 12GW of solar in the system and about 300MW of battery storage. But we discovered that assuming wind and solar do not or won’t exist, and completely ignoring distributed energy, are common themes of the nuclear playbook.

 The delivered cost of energy from wind and solar in the EPC modelling of a 100 per cent renewables grid? A hilariously outrageous sum of A$477/MWh (US$330/MWh).

Contrast this with SMR Nuclear Technology’s claims about the cost of a modern small modular reactor – US$65/MWh – even though it admits the technology “has not been constructed”, and which leading nuclear expert Ziggy Switkowski points out won’t likely be seen for at least another decade. …

 Moltex, which says it is “developing” some sort of fission technology (it says it has a design but hasn’t actually built anything) uses the same trick as EPC to paint a daunting picture of renewable and storage costs, in this case by multiplying the cost of batteries by the total amount of electricity consumed in a single day. “Australia consumes 627 Gigawatt hours of electricity per day, and so the battery storage required to cover just one 24 hour period would cost A$138 billion,” it proclaims. It is such an incredibly stupid and misleading claim that it simply takes the breath away. …

 But that’s what the nuclear industry feels it needs to do to make its yet-to-be invented technology sound feasible and competitive.

Let’s go to StarCore, a Canadian company that says it, too, wants to manufacture small modular reactors, and claims renewables are “seven times” the cost of nuclear, and which also has a fascination with the Nyngan solar farm. It uses the cost of Nyngan to make the bizarre claim that to build 405 of them would cost A$68 billion, and then compares this to what it claimed to be the “zero upfront capital costs” of one of StarCore’s plants.

 Say what? Does the nuclear plant appear just like that? Solar and wind farms also usually have long-term power purchase agreements, but they still have to be built and someone has to provide the capital to do so. Nuclear with a zero capital cost? Really, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

 Down Under Nuclear Energy, headed by a former oil and gas guy and a former professor at the University of Western Australia who specialises in mathematical social science and economics, also bases its solar costs on the Nyngan solar farm and makes this bizarre claim about battery storage: “The precipitous decline in solar technology is highly unlikely to be replicated in batteries, a technology already approaching 150 yrs of maturity,” it says.

Hey, here’s some breaking news. Costs of battery storage have already mirrored solar’s fall, down 80 per cent in last decade and utilities like Transgrid predict another 60 per cent fall over next 10-15 years.

 And most large-scale storage batteries use lithium, an abundant resource, and this is battery technology that was actually invented just over 40 years ago by the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry. As the Nobel citation says: “(Co-winner Stanley) Wittingham developed the first fully functional lithium battery in the 1970s.” Not 1870.

 Women in Nuclear and the Australian Workers Union both quote the Industry Super report on nuclear, which we debunked a while back, which puts the cost estimates of wind and solar plants at 10 times their actual cost.

The “capital cost” of the Dundonnel wind farm in Victoria, for instance, is put at A$4.2 billion (try A$400 million) according to their bizarre calculations, while the Darlington solar farm is put at $5.8 billion (try A$350 million). It’s pure garbage and the fact that it is being quoted really does beggar belief. …

 But all the nuclear submissions have one common trait. They assume that the deployment of renewables is stopped in its tracks, either now or sometime soon. It’s more wish than analysis, but in that they will have found a willing fellow traveller in federal energy minister, Angus Taylor “there is already too much wind and solar on the grid” Taylor, who thought it a good idea to have the inquiry.

 But the reality is that the rest of the energy industry wants to move on. They know that the grid can be largely decarbonised within the next two decades from a combination of renewables and storage. That’s a simple truth that the nuclear lobby cannot accept, and they’ve passed up the opportunity to have an open and honest debate by promoting utter garbage about renewables, to the point where it would be difficult to believe much of anything else they say.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Groups in 5 other States challenge Holtec’s plan to transport nuclear waste to New Mexico

Holtec project challenged by out-of-state groups alleging dangers in transporting nuclear wastes   https://www.abqjournal.com/1470900/holtec-project-challenged-by-out-of-state-groups-alleging-dangers-in-transporting-nuclear-w.html     BY ADRIAN HEDDEN / CARLSBAD CURRENT-ARGUS, N.M. (TNS), Monday, June 29th, 2020
A group of organizations from around the country filed an appeal in federal court calling for a review of federal regulators’ denial of multiple contentions made against a temporary nuclear waste storage facility proposed to be built near Carlsbad and Hobbs.
The appeal was filed on Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit against a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) order in April that denied the standing and relevance of contentions against the facility’s license application submitted to the NRC by Holtec International.
Holtec proposed building and operating a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) to hold high-level spent nuclear fuel rods at the surface in a remote location near the Eddy-Lea county line on a temporary basis while a permanent repository was developed.
In total, the proposed facility could hold up to 173,00 metric tons of waste.
A permanent repository does not exist nor is one in development as a proposal for such a facility in Yucca Mountain, Nevada was de-funded in 2011 under the administration of former-President Barrack Obama.
Opponents of the Holtec facility warned that the repository could become permanent and posed a risk to public safety not only near the site but along the rail transport routes that would bring the waste to New Mexico from generator sites throughout the nation.
The shipments, up to 10,000 carrying the waste, could travel through up to 45 states before being placed into storage at Holtec, records show.
Supporters, mostly in the local communities closest to the proposed site, touted the economic benefits Holtec could bring to the area in diversifying its economy away from its sole reliance on the oil and gas industry.
Led by non-profit Don’t Waste Michigan, the coalition of groups appealing the NRC’s order spanned seven states including New Mexico which was represented by the Nuclear Issues Studies Group based in Albuquerque.
The group appealed seven contentions previously made in federal court but denied by the NRC including an alleged lack of consideration for historic and cultural properties near the proposed site, an insufficient assurance of financing by Holtec for the project including bonding in case of an emergency and the application’s “underestimation” of the volume of waste that would be stored.
It also called for the NRC to hold at least 24 meetings on the project in states across the country that could be impacted by the project.
Other contentions accused the NRC of an inadequate review of the transportation routes, a lack of a “significant risk assessment” as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and charged that the proposal does not include adequate safety oversight during development and operations of the CISF.
Molly Johnson, board member of San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace of California said the proposal would send nuclear waste unfairly to a low-income and minority community.
She advocated for storing the waste at or nearby generator sites until a permanent repository was made available.
“The proposal to transport high-level radioactive waste to a poor community of color in southeast New Mexico as a ‘temporary’ storage solution is dangerous and irrational,” Johnson said. “San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace advocates for storing waste at or as close as possible to the site of generation until a science-based permanent solution can be determined.”
Barbara Warren, executive director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition of New York said the NRC had not adequately studied the safety issues she alleged would arise during the waste’s transportation.
“Multiple New York activists share serious concerns with our friends in New Mexico about the deficient environmental review for the long-term storage of nuclear waste that will be hazardous for millions of years,” Warren said. “NRC has not required controls adequate to handle both short-term and long-term hazards for this dangerously radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel.”
New Mexico activists also voiced their concerns as Leona Morgan with the Nuclear Issues Study Group said the proposal could lead to her state unduly taking on the burden of the nation’s nuclear waste.
She said the issue was of national concern beyond the opinions of local government in the proposed area of the site.
“The proposal to make New Mexico a national sacrifice zone includes tens of thousands of rail shipments of irradiated nuclear fuel and may be one of the most dramatic long-term transport efforts in the history of the United States,” Morgan said.
“We’re joining six other organizations in a total of five states to challenge the federal government demanding that the 200 million people living within 50 miles of rail corridors have a say in this decision to allow deadly radioactive waste to come through their communities.”
John Heaton, chairman of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a consortium including the local governments of the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs and Eddy and Lea counties that worked on developing the project and supporting the licensing project, pointed the NRC’s recent environmental impact statement (EIS) that found the project would have minimal environmental impact.
“They didn’t see any rational reason to not go forward and license the project,” he said. “If there is something significant, we’d like to hear it.”
He said the project was safe and could help protect southeast New Mexico from the economic volatility created by its reliance on extraction.
“We’ve always seen the ups and downs in the oil and gas industry,” Heaton said. “That is one of the main reasons we were looking at a safe nuclear project. This is about as benign a project as you could think of.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Hitachi- no plans to sell Wylfa nuclear site to China

Hitachi has said it has no plans to sell a Welsh nuclear power site to a
Chinese corporation after comments by Donald Trump. The US president was
quoted by the Sunday Times warning it not to sell Wylfa, on Anglesey, “to
China”.
Work on the £13bn project was put on hold last year because of
rising costs after Hitachi failed to reach a funding agreement with the UK
government. A Horizon Energy spokesman said: “We don’t comment on
speculation. “Our focus remains on securing the conditions necessary to
restart this crucial project, which would bring transformative economic
benefits to the region and play a huge role in helping deliver the UK’s
climate change commitments.”
Horizon is owned by Hitachi and was set to
lead the project to build the site. “We are not aware of any plans to sell
the project to China,” Hitachi told the Reuters news agency.https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-53212790

June 30, 2020 Posted by | politics international, UK | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Radiation Spike Has Been Detected Over Europe

An Unexpected Radiation Spike Has Been Detected Over Europe https://www.sciencealert.com/unexpected-radiation-spike-detected-over-europe-authorities-say, PETER DOCKRILL, 29 JUNE 2020

A mysterious increase in radiation levels over northern Europe was detected this month by authorities from several countries, although no nation has yet come forward to claim responsibility for the anomaly.  The subtle radiation spike – at levels that are considered harmless to humans, but significant enough to be picked up by radiation monitoring stations – began to make headlines last week, with European authorities announcing new readings of human-made radionuclide particles in the atmosphere.

“Very low levels of the radioactive substances cesium-134, cesium-137, cobalt-60 and ruthenium-103 were measured,” the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority tweeted on Tuesday.

“The levels measured are so low that they pose no danger to people or the environment.”

Similar observations were also made by radiation protection authorities in Norway and Finland.

Later in the week, Lassina Zerbo, the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation, tweeted a map outlining the possible source region of the anomaly, most of which was territory inside Russia, but also parts of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

“These isotopes are most likely from a civil source,” Zerbo tweeted, suggesting a source related to nuclear power production, not nuclear weapons.

“We are able to indicate the likely region of the source, but it’s outside the CTBTO’s [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization] mandate to identify the exact origin.”

On Friday, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced that, based on an analysis of the available data, the “combination of radionuclides may be explained by an anomaly in the fuel elements of a nuclear power plant”.

On the available evidence, the organisation suggested that the radioactive particles detected had come from the direction of western Russia, but clarified that this did not mean they were definitively linked with Russian power plants.

“Some recent media reports claimed, possibly based on a mistranslation of our original report (in Dutch), that the radionuclides originated from western Russia,” RIVM said in a statement.

“The claim RIVM makes is that the radionuclides travelled from the direction of western Russia to Scandinavia, but that no specific country of origin can be pointed out at this moment.”

In response to online speculation that Russia was behind the radiation spike, a spokesperson for Rosenergoatom, part of Rosatom state nuclear energy corporation, said the nation’s two nuclear power plants in the region were operating normally, with normal radiation levels being reported.

“Both stations are working in normal regime. There have been no complaints about the equipment’s work,” Rosenergoatom told Russian news agency TASS.

“Aggregated emissions of all specified isotopes in the above-mentioned period did not exceed the reference numbers. No incidents related to release of radionuclide outside containment structures have been reported.”

As it stands, it’s hard to say whether additional evidence will be able to confirm where this slight radiation surge originated, but the incident recalls a similar situation that took place in 2017, in which another radioactive cloud was detected over Europe.

During that episode – which was also detected at levels harmless to people – many suggested Russian power plants were responsible – a hypothesis that was later supported by scientific findings, although disputed by Rosatom.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Donald Trump intervenes in Wylfa nuclear project discussions

North Wales Live 28th June 2020, Donald Trump is understood to have intervened in discussions about the next generation of nuclear power on Anglesey. According to reports, the US
president’s administration has warned Hitachi, the company behind the site,
not to sell it on to the Chinese government. The intervention is a sign of
escalating tensions between the Americans and the Chinese, according to the
Times. It reports today that the White House is heaping pressure on Hitachi
– which is a Japanese-owned company – not to sell on its interest into the
site to Beijing.
https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/donald-trump-intervenes-anglesey-nuclear-18502362

 

June 30, 2020 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

New nuclear disaster plans sent to thousands of homes in Plymouth

June 30, 2020 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment

Hungary to apply for nuclear plant expansion licence

Hungary to apply for nuclear plant expansion licence on Tuesday, BUDAPEST, June 29 (Reuters) – Hungary will on Tuesday submit licensing paperwork to the state atomic agency to expand its sole nuclear power plant and fast-track the first phase of its construction, the earth works at the reactor site, the government said on Monday.

Hungary is planning to double the capacity of its 2-gigawatt Paks nuclear power plant with two Russian-made VVER reactors.

The project, awarded in 2014 without a tender to Russian state nuclear giant Rosatom, is often cited as a sign of the exceptionally warm ties between Hungarian premier Viktor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a connection that has unnerved Western allies.

Budapest has requested and received European Union approval for the fast-track process which will allow it to start construction at the site in January 2021, Minister Janos Suli, who is in charge of the expansion, told parliament.

In response to a question from an opposition lawmaker, he denied sweetening the process for Russia. ……..

Experts have warned that approval for the reactor hole, a massive project to remove 8 million cubic metres of earth and build a 2,500 metre (8,200 ft) concrete wall more than a metre thick, could make the project much more difficult to abandon……https://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N2E62VR

June 30, 2020 Posted by | EUROPE, politics | Leave a comment

Nuclear, climate, pandemic news for last week in June

Image from Together Against Sizewell C Painted by Lee Norton

We are going to need to learn to live with the virus. Scientists just beginning to grasp how bad this Coronavirus is.

Will the pandemic open up global action to halt global heating? 16th Century colonisation, slavery began the planet’s damage, 21st Century pandemic response could repair it.    Coronavirus is an SOS: Mend our broken relationship with nature, says UN and WHO.

Need for action on global heating –  It’s 38°C in Siberia.  One climate writer thinks that “it’s time to get emotional about climate”.

On the nuclear scene – same same – propagandists touting nuclear as a “cure” for climate change, and minimising the issue of costs. A European worry –  about a cloud with tiny levels of radioactivity detected, over Scandinavia and European Ar

US, Russia nuclear arms talks end with plans for second round.

How we can manage the intermittency of renewables and attain 100% renewables.

Julian Assange faces new indictment in USA.

UK.   Costing the Earth – New Nuclear is Beyond Expensive Beyond Dangerous and often Beyond Operational- so why is it touted as “Clean Energy”?  UK’s expensive problem of nuclear power’s inflexibility.

EUROPE. European Union countries agree to exclude nuclear, fossil gas from green transition fund

RUSSIA.  Russia denies its nuclear plants are source of radiation leak .  Radiation level increase in northern Europe may ‘indicate damage’ to nuclear power plant in Russia.  Russia’s priority is to involve UK, France in future nuclear arms control talks — diplomat. 2,000 Covid-19 Cases in Severodvinsk, city that builds Russia’s nuclear submarines.

USA.

JAPAN. Radioactive hotspots near Fukushima Olympic facilities: will Japan be ready for 2012 Games?  Testing for radiation in Fukushima – the continued anxiety.

UKRAINE.  Ukraine declassifies Chernobyl nuclear disaster documents.

CANADA. Ontario Power Generation pulls the plug on nuclear waste project.  Opposition by Saugeen-Ojibway nation brings end to plan for nuclear waste near Lake Huron.    Coalition for Responsible Energy Development wants a stop to nuclear expansion in Canada.    Small modular nuclear reactors fraught with problems.

BOSNIA. Unacceptable to build a radioactive waste repository on the BiH border, Bosnia forming an expert team to plan Croatian nuclear waste disposal .

FRANCE.  France’s old Fessenheim nuclear reactor to finally shut down- the first of many.

GERMANY. Nuclear waste from Germany to Russia.

NEW ZEALAND.  New Zealand stood up to the nuclear bullies- the Rainbow Warrior story.

POLAND. Marketing man Donald Trump trying to sell U.S. nuclear reactors to Poland.

NORTH KOREA. North Korea to ‘counter nuclear with nuclear’ against US.

IRAN. Board of IAEA issues mild rebuke to Iran.

AUSTRALIA. Labor reaches for bipartisanship on energy policy, but a DEFINITE NO TO NUCLEAR.    Julian Assange’s fiancée calls on the Australian government to secure his freedom.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Christina's notes | Leave a comment