nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Out of site, out of mind – America’s foul military waste pollution in Louisiana

The U.S. military burns millions of pounds of munitions in a tiny, African-American corner of Louisiana. The town’s residents say they’re forgotten in the plume, by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica, Photography by Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo, special to ProPublica July 21, 2017 COLFAX, LOUISIANA Two years ago, the U.S. military had an embarrassment on its hands: A stockpile of aging explosives blew up at a former Army ammunition plant in Minden, Louisiana, sending a cloud of debris 7,000 feet into the sky

Local residents, alarmed by toxic contaminants from the accident, were nothing short of furious when they learned what the military intended to do with the 18 million of pounds of old explosives still remaining at the depot. The Army was set to dispose of the explosives through what are known as “open burns,” processes that would result in still more releases of pollutants.

Facing an uproar, the Army turned to a familiar partner to help placate the residents of Minden: A private facility in Colfax, 95 miles south, operated by Clean Harbors, a longtime Defense Department contractor and one of the largest hazardous waste handlers in North America.

The Colfax plant is the only commercial facility in the nation allowed to burn explosives and munitions waste with no environmental emissions controls, and it has been doing so for the military for decades. And so while the Army ultimately commissioned a special incinerator to dispose of most of the Minden explosives, more than 350,000 pounds of them were shipped here. Over the ensuing months, the munitions were burned on the grounds of the plant, fueling raging fires that spewed smoke into the air just hundreds of yards from a poor, largely black community.

Beyond the story of the Minden explosives, the Clean Harbors facility here has become an important clearinghouse for military-related waste as the Department of Defense and its contractors struggle to deal with hazardous byproducts from weapons manufacturing and huge stockpiles of aging munitions. For years, defense-related firms have burned this waste at their own facilities, stubbornly clinging to the practice even as it has been outlawed in parts of Europe and Canada. But the permits to do so have become harder to get, the terms less flexible, and, increasingly, the pollution unacceptable to surrounding communities. Clean Harbors offers a legal way to get rid of dangerous materials from a wide range of sites that can’t or don’t want to handle them on their own.

In 2015 alone, 700,000 pounds of military-related munitions and explosives were trucked to Colfax, where both Clean Harbors and the military have so far been able to outmaneuver a community with abundant concerns but little money, and even less political influence, to fight back.

The Department of Defense did not respond to questions regarding its use of the Clean Harbors burn facility in Colfax, or environmental concerns related to it.

That such material is being shipped anywhere appears to contradict the military’s longstanding claim that these wastes are too dangerous to move, so they must be burned in the open where they were made or used. Yet every year, military bases and defense contractors send munitions or other explosive material to Colfax, packing explosives into cardboard boxes, shuffling them onto 18-wheelers and driving them sometimes thousands of miles across the country. Delivery manifests filed with Louisiana regulators detail the variety of materials: rocket fuel from a missile factory near Los Angeles; hand grenades from a munitions factory in Arkansas; detonating fuses from Cincinnati; solid propellant from an Aerojet Rocketdyne factory in Virginia; explosive lead from a North Carolina military aircraft factory; warhead rockets from a Lockheed Martin facility in Alabama.

Once received, they are burned on a set of 20 metal-lined pans on a parking-lot-like patch of concrete with “no risk to human health or the environment,” according to Clean Harbor’s senior vice president for compliance and regulatory affairs, Phillip Retallick.

The burns take place several times each day, and when they do, they turn parts of Colfax into a virtual war zone.

“It’s like a bomb, shaking this trailer,” said Elouise Manatad, who lives in one of the dozen or so mobile homes speckling the hillside just a few hundred yards from the facility’s perimeter. The rat-tat-tat of bullets and fireworks crackles through the woods and blasts rattle windows 12 miles away. Thick, black smoke towers hundreds of feet into the air, dulling the bright slices of sky that show through the forest cover. Manatad’s nephew Frankie McCray — who served two tours at Camp Victory in Iraq — runs inside and locks the door, huddling in the dark behind windows covered in tinfoil.

Like most of the people who live there, Manatad and McCray find it difficult to believe the booms and clouds aren’t also exacting some sort of toxic price.

Colfax is a rough-hewn, mostly black town of 1,532 people that hugs a levee separating it from the surging mud and wild alligators of the Red River. Fleeing former slaves once camped under thatched tents in the bayou, and a historic marker serves as a reminder that more than 150 “negroes” were once massacred here. Another monument, in the graveyard a few steps away, praises the three white men who also died, as “heroes … fighting for white supremacy.”……

Last November, state environment officials parked an air monitoring van on Bush road a few doors down from Elouise Manatad’s trailer. Manatad says they never told her what they were doing or what they’d found, but lab samples obtained from the state show environmental regulators detected notable levels of acrolein, a highly toxic vapor commonly associated with open burns of munitions. A division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes acrolein as having a “suffocating odor” and causing severe respiratory problems and heart attacks — even at low doses and for as long as 18 months after exposure.

The lab reports also showed low levels of other volatile organic compounds, including benzene, known to cause cancer, and which the World Health Organization warns has “no safe level of exposure.”

Soil, groundwater and stream beds sampled on the Clean Harbors site over the past few months have also been found to contain an array of extremely harmful substances likely connected with the burning of munitions waste. Underground water supplies sampled this spring show perchlorate, a type of rocket fuel, at more than 18 times Louisiana’s trigger levels for additional screening and eight times greater than what California, which sets stringent regulatory limits on perchlorate in groundwater, permits. RDX and HMX, both military explosive compounds, were also detected. Soil tested near the fence line of the facility contained dioxin — a chemical that builds up in fish and affects the human immune, reproductive and nervous systems — at three times the limits that trigger a state safety review. Silt scraped from a stream bed that runs toward the plant’s fence line and a nearby farm contained lead at nearly four times the level that triggers additional state screening.

State inspections also found Clean Harbors in violation of a number of regulations, including handling hazardous waste in unpermitted ways, failing to make repairs to its burn pads, and discharging unauthorized pollutants in violation of its state water permit………

Neither the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance nor representatives from Southern Strategies, the lobbying firm hired by Clean Harbors, responded to requests for comment for this story.

In Colfax, the fight endures. The state is pressing for more water and air samples. It is threatening Clean Harbors with sanctions for some of its violations. Its health department has promised to continue watching the issue. But almost nobody — especially Manatad and others living pressed up against the Clean Harbors fence line — expects officials to force Clean Harbors to stop burning altogether.

“I’m pretty sure if they was living in an environment like this they wouldn’t be pleased either, because it’s not safe,” said Annie Tolbert, 80, resting from the heavy heat in her fenced-in porch. Tolbert takes a puff of steroids from an inhaler, prescribed for her severe asthma. “They are not going to listen to us because we are black.”

“But we are citizens, too.”


Abrahm Lustgarten is a senior environmental reporter, with a focus at the intersection of business, climate and energy.

Nina Hedevang, Razi Syed, Clare Victoria Church, students in the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute graduate studies program, contributed reporting for this story. Other students in the program who also contributed were Alex Gonzalez, Lauren Gurley, Alessandra Freitas and Eli Kurland.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | environment, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Serious doubts about UK’s Trident nuclear plan – problems not “manageable or resolvable.”

Times 23rd July 2017,New questions are being raised about the UK’s £41bn programme to replace
its Trident nuclear deterrent after the cost of building the reactors that
will power the submarine fleet soared.

An extra £235m of taxpayers’ money is needed for the £1.465bn scheme to make and maintain the reactor cores
for the navy’s existing nuclear submarines and the four Dreadnought-class
ballistic missile submarines, the first of which is expected to enter
service in 2028.

Last week a government watchdog gave the project a damning “red” warning. The rating – the severest possible – by officials at the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), which reports to the Cabinet
Office and Treasury, means a successful delivery of the project “appe ars
to be unachievable” under the original budget and that “there are major
issues on project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits
delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or
resolvable.” https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/red-alert-over-trident-reactorcosts-6np7vsr6b

July 26, 2017 Posted by | UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

3 big errors in UK’s debate about Euratom

Mark Johnson’s Blog 23rd July 2017, In the current UK debate about Euratom, there are three common errors.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

New Documentary Film on St. Louis Nuclear Waste Site and Landfill Fire

Fall Film Festival includes Documentary on St. Louis Nuclear Waste Site and Landfill Fire, Huntington NewsBY TONY RUTHERFORD , HNN ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR “……….The Fall International Film Festival includes a not yet shown HBO documentary, “Atomic Homefront,” which details the anguish of confronting state and federal agencies over nuclear waste dumping in St. Louis. The film is by Sarah Spurlock,  wife of Morgan Spurlock.

HBO documentary, “Atomic Homefront” at St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

Left unsaid, both the NY Times , Wall Street  Journal, and HNN have revealed that Huntington , too, had a uranium and nickel carbonyl plant that processed and recycled fuels for three gaseous diffusion plants. When the process was found to not be cost effective, the structure — owned by the Atomic Energy Commission — was dismantled and the most contaminated portions buried in Piketon,Ohio. Workers from the Huntington Pilot Plant have received compensation from the Dept. of Labor for working in a facility covered under the Atomic Energy Commission definition that includes the St. Louis site, Oak Ridge, Paducah, and Piketon, Ohio.

According to IMDB, “Atomic Homefront” reveals :

“… St. Louis, Missouri’s atomic past as a uranium processing center for the Atomic bomb and the governmental and corporate negligence that lead to the illegal dumping of Manhattan Project radioactive waste throughout North County neighborhoods. Our film is a case study of how citizens are confronting state and federal agencies for the truth about the extent of the contamination and are fighting to keep their families safe. ”

Film International published the following review of Oscar winning director’s Rebecca Cammisa reviewed at the AFI film festival:

f you’re not screaming mad by the end of Atomic Homefront, you obviously believe the systemworks. As a study in government failure and corporate greed, this HBO-supported documentary from director Rebecca Cammisa shows that your trust is grievously and tragically misplaced if you expect the Environmental Protection Agency to serve a desperate public. Likewise, if you believe a large waste service company would provide honest guidance and responsibility in serving its customers, think again.

This passionate film, having its world premiere as one of the 11 Spotlight Screenings at AFI DOCS in Washington DC, is a heart breaker. Cammisa, an Oscar nominee for her 2009 documentary feature Which Way Home (dealing with child migrants) and her 2012 short God Is the Bigger Elvis (a lovely look at Dolores Hart, a Hollywood actress turned nun), spent several years following the problems of two St. Louis neighborhoods that have seen their residents ravaged by cancer and death. http://www.huntingtonnews.net/150485

http://filmint.nu/?p=21313

or more about the waste in St. Louis see:

http://www.waste360.com/nuisances/bridgeton-landfill-fire-explained-updated

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

New York’s nuclear power subsidies upheld by judge

U.S. judge refuses to halt New York nuclear power plant subsidies, Reuters, JULY 26, 2017  Jonathan Stempel, NEW YORK   – A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by energy companies and trade groups to stop New York Governor Andrew Cuomo from providing billions of dollars in subsidies to prop up struggling nuclear power plants in the state.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan rejected claims that federal law preempted New York and its Public Service Commission from offering credits to promote clean energy and reduce reliance on fossil-fueled or gas plants.

The plaintiffs said the credits could boost electric bills for New York’s “captive ratepayers” by $7.6 billion over 12 years, and violate the “dormant” Commerce Clause by impeding Congress’ power to regulate commerce among states.

But the judge said New York’s “zero-emissions credits” program was “plainly related to a matter of legitimate state concern”: the production of clean energy, and reduction of emissions from other energy that could add to global warming……..

Audrey Zibelman, in her role as PSC chair, was the lead defendant. Nuclear generators receiving the credits and their owners, including Exelon Corp, also sided with the governor.

Cuomo endorsed the subsidies in connection with his “Clean Energy Standard” announced last August, which required that half of New York’s electricity come from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2030.

The case is Coalition for Competitive Electricity et al v. Zibelman et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 16-08164.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool  https://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-nuclearpower-idUSKBN1AA2VF

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear power’s too expensive – and Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) won’t save the industry

Not surprisingly, with costs so high, few reactors are being built. The hope offered by the nuclear industry is that going back to building smaller reactors might allow more utilities to invest in them.

The main priority preventing safe deployment [of small nuclear reactors] is economics. Most commercial proposals for SMRs involve cost-cutting measures, such as siting multiple reactors in close proximity. This increases the risk of accidents, or the impact of potential accidents on people nearby.

Cost overruns aside, smaller reactors might be cheaper but they also produce much less electricity and revenue. As a result, generating each unit of electricity will be more expensive.

 

Small nuclear power reactors: Future or folly? https://theconversation.com/small-nuclear-power-reactors-future-or-folly-81252, M V Ramana, July 25, 2017 Nuclear energy companies are proposing small nuclear reactors as a safer and cheaper source of electricity.

In June, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories put out a “call for a discussion around Small Modular Reactor (SMRs) in Canada,” and the role the organization “can play in bringing this technology to market.”

The news release asserts that SMRs are “a potential alternative to large-scale nuclear reactors,” would be effective at “decreasing up-front capital costs through simpler, less complex plants” and are “inherently safe” designs. All of this warrants examination.

As a physicist who has researched and written about various policy issues related to nuclear energy and different nuclear reactor designs for nearly two decades, I believe that one should be skeptical of these claims. Continue reading

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Canada, technology | Leave a comment

Israel STILL punishing Mordechai Vanunu

The Ferret 18th July 2017, On 10 July 2017, Mordechai Vanunu was given a two-month suspended jail
sentence by Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. Vanunu is a former nuclear
technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Centre in Dimona, Israel, who
served an 18-year prison sentence for revealing information about
Israel’s atomic program in 1986.

He was sentenced earlier this month for
violating the conditions of his release from prison, having met with
foreigners in recent years. After his release from jail in 2004, Israel
banned Vanunu from travelling abroad or speaking with foreigners without
approval, alleging he has more details to divulge on the Dimona atomic
reactor.

Billy Briggs has been to Jerusalem twice to interview Vanunu. In
2005, Vanunu was arrested three days after they met and charged with
speaking to foreigners and violating the conditions of his parole. https://theferret.scot/mordechai-vanunu-nuclear-israel/

July 26, 2017 Posted by | Israel, politics | 1 Comment

USA’s Land-Based Nuclear Missiles simply not financially or politically sustainable

Why The U.S. Must Get Rid Of Its Land-Based Nuclear Missiles, Foxtrot Alpha, Terrell Jermaine Starr, 7/18/17 The Cold War is over. And so is the need for America’s land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Not only are the costs of maintaining 450 Minuteman-III missiles unsustainable, keeping them in the nuclear arsenal is hardly practical. Maintaining hundreds of outdated, budget-draining Minuteman-IIIs when the Pentagon has the more accurate, multi-dimensional Trident II that can be shot from Ohio-class submarines that are virtually undetectable makes little sense.

It’s already estimated that modernizing America’s nuclear stockpile will cost taxpayers more than $1 trillion over 30 years. The U.S. Air Force wants to replace the current land-based ICBM force with newer missiles that are estimated to cost more than $100 billion, which is 60 percent greater than the figure the Defense Department set last summer.

 But scrapping the Minuteman-III will not only save money, it will show Russia, and other emerging nuclear powers like India and Pakistan that America is serious about non-proliferation. From both a financial, tactical and leadership standpoint, America and the rest of the world will be better off if Washington puts aside its political posturing and kill the land-based leg of its nuclear triad—the land, air and sea-based platforms America uses to launch its nuclear weapons……..

Funding Land-based ICBMs Is Financially And Politically Unsustainable

The Congressional Budget Office wrote in 2015 that it will cost $26 billion to maintain the Minuteman-III stockpile over a 10-year period, which is $3 billion more than the 2013 estimate. The U.S. Navy is calling for the entire land-based ICBM force to be replaced with new Minuteman-IIIs.

 The service, which is fielding vendors, says the new generation of ICBMs will last well beyond 2070— at a cost of at least $100 billion. In 2014, RANDpublished a report stating that new Minuteman-IIIs will cost “almost two times—and perhaps even three times—more than incremental modernization of the current Minuteman III system.”

All of this for a leg of the triad that is tactically obsolete……. http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/why-the-u-s-must-get-rid-of-its-land-based-nuclear-mis-1796677582

July 26, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Remarkable success of Scotland’s wind power in 2017

Independent 24th July 2017, In the first six months of 2017 enough power was generated to supply more
than all of Scotland’s national demand for six days. Wind power output in
Scotland has helped set a new record for the first half of the year,
according to an independent conservation group.

Analysis by WWF Scotland of data provided by WeatherEnergy found wind turbines provided around
1,039,001MWh of electricity to the National Grid during June. Renewable
energy figures show the power generated last month was enough to supply the
electrical needs equivalent to 118 per cent of Scottish households or
nearly three million homes.

In the first six months of 2017 enough power was generated to supply more than all of Scotland’s national demand for six
days. Turbines provided 6,634,585MWh of electricity to the National Grid,
which analysts say could on average supply the electrical needs of 124 per
cent of Scottish households, or more than three million homes.

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “The first six months of
2017 have certainly been incredible for renewables, with wind turbines
alone helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon
emissions were avoided. “Scotland is continuing to break records on
renewable electricity, attracting investment, creating jobs and tackling
climate change. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/scotland-renewable-wind-energy-power-electricity-three-million-homes-118-per-cent-of-households-a7855846.html

July 26, 2017 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s attack on science and public health

Science and Public Health Under Siege, UCA,KATHLEEN REST, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | JULY 24, 2017, My colleagues at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have released a report on how science—and public health—have been sidelined during the first six months of the Trump administration. The report documents a deliberate and familiar set of strategies that undermines the role of science, facts, and evidence in public policy and decision-making.

 

From a public health perspective, the short- and long-term impacts are truly frightening. The Trump administration—aided and abetted by a willing Congress—is actively pushing an ideological, anti-science agenda that will profoundly affect the health, safety, and security of children, families, and communities today, tomorrow, and for decades to come.

They claim their approach is pro-business, but on closer look, that isn’t true. It harms the many good business people who want to play by the rules and make a profit without harming the public or their workers. How? By giving an unfair advantage to unscrupulous businesses that will put profit ahead of public and worker safety and health.

Control, Alt, Delay: Public health protections on the chopping blockMercury, lead, arsenic, ozone, beryllium, silica, chlorpyrifos. These substances all have several things in common:

  1. They have all been found to contaminate our air, water, soil, and/or food, as well as some of our workplaces and community environments.
  2. Robust and often long-standing science has proven that exposure to them can cause serious health effects, including death.
  3. Government agencies charged with protecting our health and safety have established rules and standards to prevent or minimize our exposure to them. (Note: these and other public health safeguards are increasingly denigrated as unnecessary regulations by the Trump administration and some in Congress.)
  4. Exposure standards established years ago have been found to be insufficiently protective.
  5. The Trump administration has taken steps to weaken, delay, and subvert recent science-based safeguards that enhance public protection from these toxic substances.

Make no mistake. There is an all-out assault on the agencies charged with using independent, unconflicted science to protect our nation’s public health—and on the critical resources and infrastructure they need to do just that.

The proposed draconian cuts to budgets, staffing levels, and programs at agencies like the EPACDCFEMA,  NOAAUSDA, and OSHA speak for themselves. (And don’t even get me started on how current congressional efforts to reform health care will impact the health of our most vulnerable populations.)

But the real issue isn’t about protecting agency budgets or staff levels, essential as they are. It’s about protecting all of us from known (and emerging and future) threats to our health, safety, and well-being. What follows is just a snapshot of this administration’s siege on public health…….http://blog.ucsusa.org/kathleen-rest/six-months-into-the-trump-administration-science-and-public-health-under-siege

July 26, 2017 Posted by | health, USA | Leave a comment

European Commission wants Czech Republic to deal with its nuclear waste backlog

BRUSSELS CALLS FOR CZECH STRATEGY FOR RADIOACTIVE WASTE, Radio Prague, Chris Johnstone 24-07-2017  Czech measures to deal with its nuclear waste backlog are again under scrutiny as the country faces possible European Commission sanctions for failing to pass on its domestic plans for dealing with nuclear waste from power plants and other civil activities and an update of the existing strategy taking place.

Czech plans for dealing with nuclear waste have been put under the spotlight once again thanks to a European Commission warning calling for the country to outline its plans for deal with nuclear waste. The Czech Republic was last week one of five states which the Commission said had failed to pass on their long-term nuclear waste plans by the original deadline of August 2015. The other countries include, somewhat ironically, largely non-nuclear Austria, Italy, Portugal, and Croatia.

The Czech Republic has around 10,000 tonnes of high radioactive nuclear waste, mostly stemming from the spent fuel of its nuclear power plants which begin operating in the mid-1980s, but also from other civil activities. The spent fuel is stored on site at nuclear power plants but the barrels containing it will wear out long before the contents become safe…….http://www.radio.cz/en/section/business/brussels-calls-for-czech-strategy-for-radioactive-waste

July 26, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, wastes | Leave a comment

South Korea’s process on the Suspension of 2 Nuclear Reactors

Gov’t Begins Process to Decide on Suspension of 2 Nuclear Reactors http://world.kbs.co.kr/english/news/news_Po_detail.htm?No=128915 2017-07-24 Former Supreme Court justice Kim Ji-hyung has been appointed as the head of a state committee tasked with gauging public sentiment on the permanent suspension of construction of two nuclear reactors.

The Office for Government Policy Coordination on Monday announced the list of the nine-member committee, consisting of Kim, now a lawyer, and eight experts of humanities and social sciences, science and technology, polling and statistics, and conflict management.

After receiving the certificates of appointment from Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, the committee members held their first meeting.

The committee will form a civil jury, who will decide on whether or not to permanently suspend the construction of the Shin-Kori 5 and 6 reactors in Ulsan.

Late last month, the government decided to temporarily suspend the construction of the two reactors, saying it will let the public decide on whether to move forward with the reactors’ construction through an up to three-month-long public discussion.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | politics, South Korea | Leave a comment

General Atomics looks to get out of the radioactive mess that it has made in Colorado

Someone else can clean it up https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/jul/24/ticker-someone-else-can-clean-it/# General Atomics looks to offload uranium Superfund site in Colorado By Dave RiceJuly 24, 2017 After more than a decade in mothballs, a subsidiary of San Diego’s General Atomics has indicated that it intends to offload the cleanup work at a uranium mine it owns in central Colorado. The Cañon City facility, owned by the Cotter Corporation, has sat dormant since 2006, and was declared a Superfund site in 1984.

Plans to reopen the mine stalled when state politicians demanded the company first address its existing violations. Last month it was discovered that waste from the Manhattan Project was dumped at the site — it’s unclear whether there was a intention to harvest uranium from the material or just create a convenient place to stash it.

 Last week, Cotter announced that it would petition state health officials to transfer its radioactive materials license to Colorado Legacy Land, a limited liability company established specifically to handle the cleanup effort. That wouldn’t entirely eliminate General Atomics’ liability, however — since their mining operations caused the contamination any failed cleanup burden would fall back to Cotter, which has allegedly been working on a cleanup plan since 2014.

If the transfer, expected to be completed sometime this fall, is successful, it’ll reduce, but not eliminate General Atomics’ portfolio of contaminated uranium mines that have fallen into disuse. Through another subsidiary, the company controls a New Mexico operationthat hasn’t been used in 25 years. In 2015, the firm fought efforts to begin cleanup efforts at that site, indicating that the intention was to reopen the mine once worldwide uranium prices return to profitable levels.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | environment, USA | Leave a comment

Continuing loss of Arctic sea ice

Here’s how much Arctic sea ice has melted since the ‘80s, REneweconomy, By Andrea Thompson on 24 July 2017  Climate Central

Arctic sea ice has been melting at a steady clip this summer as it heads toward its annual low point. But a new chart shows that with nearly two months still left in the melt season, sea ice area is already below what would have been a yearly low in the 1980s.

The comparison shows the clear long-term decline of Arctic sea ice fueled by the global rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The dramatic shrinkage of sea ice over the past few decades is driving major changes, from the loss of crucial Arctic habitat to the potential influence of weather patterns around the world……http://reneweconomy.com.au/heres-much-arctic-sea-ice-melted-since-80s-55828/

July 26, 2017 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Hinkley Point C nuclear power plan – a Titanic folly

Why Hinkley Point is a nuclear folly of Titanic proportions https://www.newscientist.com/article/2099287-why-hinkley-point-is-a-nuclear-folly-of-titanic-proportions/ The French firm EDF has approved plans for a massive nuclear reactor in the UK, but the UK government is hesitating. Let’s hope it scuppers the project, says Michael Le Page, 26 July 17, It feels like watching Titanic. Despite numerous warnings of enormous icebergs ahead, French company EDF yesterday signalled full steam ahead for the plan to build a huge nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in the UK. No sooner had it done so than the ship hit an iceberg.

The UK was expected to sign the contract for Hinkley within days of EDF giving the go-ahead. The champagne was already on ice. But the new government surprised everyone by instead saying it will review the project by September. What’s not yet clear is whether this is a minor dent in the hull of RMS Hinkley, or a gaping hole that could sink it.

The Hinkley plant is important for many reasons. For starters, it’s a key part of the UK’s plans to cut greenhouse emissions, meant to supply a whopping 7 per cent of the country’s electricity. If completed, it will be the UK’s first new nuclear plant for decades, the most expensive built anywhere and the biggest construction project in Europe, creating tens of thousands of jobs.

 It’s also crucial for France, which largely owns EDF, the company that will build Hinkley. France needs the project to help cover the huge cost of revamping its ageing collection of nuclear plants, which currently supply three-quarters of the country’s electricity. And Hinkley matters to China, too, as one of its state-owned companies will be stumping up a third of the cost.

It is not clear why the UK government is hesitating. Is Hinkley now seen as a trump card in the Brexit negotiations with France? Many analysts, however, say things have changed since Hinkley was first planned. The UK had to agree to pay a very high price for Hinkley’s electricity. Since then, the price of renewables has plummeted, making it look like a very bad deal for the UK.

Even if the UK signs the contract in September after the review is complete, the megaproject’s future looks doubtful. There are huge financial, legal, technical and safety-related icebergs lurking in the seas ahead.

 Rather than borrow the £20 billion – or more – needed to build Hinkley, the UK government asked EDF to pay for it in exchange for paying a guaranteed price for electricity for 35 years. But EDF is in financial difficulties, and even within the company many think that taking on the project is too great a risk.

Behind schedule

One reason why is that the two reactors planned for Hinkley are based on a new design. The EPR design is supposed to be safer and more efficient, but it has proved so difficult to construct that not one has yet been completed.

EDF started building the first EPR, at Olkiluoto in Finland, in 2005. It was supposed to start up in 2009. Work on the second, at Flamanville in France, began in 2007 and was due to be finished in 2012. Another two EPRs are being built in Taishan, China. All four projects are years behind schedule and have cost billions more than expected.

Worse still, weak spots have been found in the steel reactor core at Flamanville. If it has to be replaced, the still incomplete plant would have to be largely dismantled to replace it, at immense cost to EDF. And that’s not all. Earlier this year, it was reported that one of the companies supplying components to EDF had falsified safety certificates.

There are also worries about the fact that a state-owned Chinese company will be supplying some of the parts and workers for the project. The UK’s intelligence agencies are said to be concerned that a “back door” could be built into the control systems, allowing China to shut down the plant if it wanted to.

Last but not least, there are various legal challenges pending. The Austrian government, for instance, is appealing against the European Commission’s decision to approve state aid for the project, saying it breaches European laws. Meanwhile, French authorities are investigating possible financial misreporting by EDF.

So should the new UK government let RMS Hinkley sail on towards disaster, or scupper it now? The choice seems clear.

July 26, 2017 Posted by | general | Leave a comment