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We don’t need nuclear power to tackle climate change .

(I had great difficulty trying to get this excellent article. Below are just a few extracts from it – C.M. )

I’ve always kept an open mind about nuclear power, but after four decades working on this issue, I’m still waiting for someone to prove me wrong. Jonathon Porritt, Greenpeace, 1 June 2021

I’ve been ‘anti-nuclear’ since 1974, and my basic position hasn’t changed much during that time. Not because I decided back then that nuclear power was an inherently ‘wicked’ technology that must be avoided at all costs. I’ve simply concluded that it’s the wrong technology at the wrong time for sorting out all the challenges that we face. I can genuinely claim that I’ve been waiting more than 45 years for someone to prove me wrong.

……..  the alternatives to nuclear power have performed better than almost anyone expected.

……. there is no longer any doubt about the viability of the renewables alternative. In 2020, Stanford University issued a collection of 56 peer-reviewed journal articles, from 18 independent research groups, supporting the idea that all the energy required for electricity, transport, heating and cooling, and all industrial purposes, can be supplied reliably with 100% (or near 100%) renewable energy. The solutions involve transitioning ASAP to 100% renewable wind – water – solar (WWS), energy efficiency and energy storage

The transition is already happening. To date, 11 countries have reached or exceeded 100% renewable electricity. And a further 12 countries are intent on reaching that threshold by 2030. In the UK, the Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology says we can reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032. Last year, we crossed the 40% threshold.“The only impediment to change is political. At the current 15% to 20% growth rates for solar and wind, fossil fuels will be pushed out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s, and out of total energy supply by 2050. Poor countries will be greatest beneficiaries. They have the largest ratio of solar and wind potential to energy demand, and stand to unlock huge domestic benefits.”

Nuclear plays no part in any of these projections, whether we’re talking big reactors or small reactors, fission or fusion. The simple truth is this: we should see nuclear as another 20th century technology, with an ever-diminishing role through into the 21st century.

The work of Andy Stirling and Phil Johnston at Sussex University has shown the strength of these connections, demonstrating how the UK’s military industrial base would become unaffordable in the absence of a nuclear energy programme.

June 10, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy – The solution to climate change?

Nuclear energy – The solution to climate change?

Science Direct, NikolausMuellnerNikolausArnoldKlausGuflerWolfgangKrompWolfgangRennebergWolfgangLiebertI Institute of Safety- and Risk Sciences, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria

Received 24 August 2020, Revised 7 April 2021, Accepted 4 May 2021, Available online 16 May 2021. 


With increased awareness of climate change in recent years nuclear energy has received renewed attention. Positions that attribute nuclear energy an important role in climate change mitigation emerge.

We estimate an upper bound of the CO2 saving potential of various nuclear energy growth scenarios, starting from our projection of nuclear generating capacity based on current national energy plans to scenarios that introduce nuclear energy as substantial instrument for climate protection. We then look at needed uranium resources.

The most important result of the present work is that the contribution of nuclear power to mitigate climate change is, and will be, very limited. At present nuclear power avoids annually 2–3% of total global GHG emissions. Looking at announced plans for new nuclear builds and lifetime extensions this value would decrease even further until 2040. Furthermore, a substantial expansion of nuclear power will not be possible because of technical obstacles and limited resources. Limited uranium-235 supply inhibits substantial expansion scenarios with the current nuclear technology. New nuclear technologies, making use of uranium-238, will not be available in time. Even if such expansion scenarios were possible, their climate change mitigation potential would not be sufficient as single action.

1. Introduction……………

1.2. CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants

The direct CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants during operation are low. However, looking at indirect emissions as well and considering the whole life cycle of nuclear power (uranium mining, milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, construction and dismantling of the nuclear power plant, spent fuel processing and storage), nuclear power is certainly not emission-free…………..

6. Conclusions and policy implications

Anthropogenic climate change requires a rapid shift towards a CO2 neutral economy, if the global average temperature increase is to be kept below 2∘C, or, preferably, below 1.5∘C compared to pre-industrial levels. By 2050 the economy should be CO2 neutral, therefore climate change mitigation measures are needed in the near term to medium term future. Such a shift would strongly influence the energy (and electricity) supply system, which is currently based to a larger part on fossil fuels.

The most important result of the present work is that the contribution of nuclear power to mitigate climate change is, and will be, very limited.   According to current planning nuclear power would avoid at most4 annually 2–3% of total global GHG emissions in the years 2020–2040. Moreover, nuclear power cannot be expanded to be the main source of future electricity generation. Expansion scenarios require an increase in uranium mining, which is met by two limitations: uranium production could hardly keep up during the expansion phase, and the overall amount of available uranium is limited. Such scenarios would leave new nuclear power plants without fuel during their planned life time. Fast breeder reactors promise a solution to the problem of limited uranium-235 resources, but will not be available for commercial deployment before 2040–2050. And given the considerable research effort and research times up to now, it is even doubtful if a commercially deployable fast breeder reactor will be available then. But even assuming such a scenario were feasile, even % of projected global GHG emissions from other sectors in 2040 and would still require drastic actions to reduce all emissions to zero. However, current nuclear reactors, no matter how safe they may be, always carry a residual risk for severe, catastrophic accidents (Sehgal, 2012) and large releases of radioactive materials (Seibert et al., 2012). New reactors attempt to reduce the residual risk, but even with the future technologies currently envisaged a nuclear catastrophe cannot be fully excluded. The main contribution to current nuclear electricity generation stems from reactors built 1970–1990, which were designed 1960–1980. New reactor technologies promise that the risk for severe accidents is reduced by a factor of ten. However, according to current plans, the major part of future nuclear generating capacity stems from lifetime extensions of existing plants and only a limited part will come from new builds (in 2040 ~30% new builds, ~70% current operating reactors life time extended and/or in long term operation according to ISR-projection).

Given the modest contribution of nuclear power to climate change mitigation another option is feasible, which is the phase-out of nuclear power. This finding is in agreement with substantial evidence of a comprehensive global energy study of the International Institute of Applied System Analysis (IIASA, 2012). In this study a normative approach was adopted, a scenario that by 2050 society is on a climate pathway to fulfilling the 2∘C target while still providing access to modern energy services to all humans. Starting from the goal of a sustainable, CO2 neutral economy, IIASA (2012) calculates back and investigates which energy pathways lead to such a future. One of the important results of the analysis shows that none of the evaluated boundary conditions make it necessary to use nuclear power. Even high energy demand assumptions without substantial change in the transport system allow other energy sources to substitute nuclear energy.

The current contribution of nuclear energy to climate change mitigation is small and, according to current planning, will stay at this level in the near-to mid term future. Nuclear expansion strategies are not feasible due to resource limitations. New nuclear technologies without those limitations will not be ready in the critical time frame 2020 to 2050 due to the long research, licensing, planning and construction times of the nuclear industry. Current plans would keep the nuclear capacity roughly at its current level mainly by life time extensions of existing reactors. But given the limited contribution to climate mitigation, complete phase out is a feasible option as well. Society must decide, given the drawbacks of the use of nuclear energy (risk of catastrophic accidents, proliferation, radioactive waste), whether the nuclear option should be pursued, or whether other climate change mitigation technologies should substitute the nuclear contribution……..

June 10, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Ice sheets melting, ocean currents, and the risk of climate tipping points

Ice sheets and ocean currents at risk of climate tipping points can
destabilise each other as the world heats up, leading to a domino effect
with severe consequences for humanity, according to a risk analysis.

Tipping points occur when global heating pushes temperatures beyond a
critical threshold, leading to accelerated and irreversible impacts. Some
large ice sheets in Antarctica are thought to already have passed their
tipping points, meaning large sea-level rises in coming centuries.

The new research examined the interactions between ice sheets in West Antarctica,
Greenland, the warm Atlantic Gulf Stream and the Amazon rainforest. The
scientists carried out 3m computer simulations and found domino effects in
a third of them, even when temperature rises were below 2C, the upper limit
of the Paris agreement.

Yhe study showed that the interactions between
these climate systems can lower the critical temperature thresholds at
which each tipping point is passed. It found that ice sheets are potential
starting points for tipping cascades, with the Atlantic currents acting as
a transmitter and eventually affecting the Amazon.

 Guardian 3rd June 2021

June 5, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry survives on its false claim that it helps the fight against climate change

Jonathon Porritt

April 28th, 2021, by Paul Brown,   The nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it rely on “dark arts”, ignoring much better ways to cut carbon emissions.

Nuclear industry’s unfounded claims let it survive,

 It is the global nuclear industry’s unfounded claims – not least that it is part of the solution to climate change because it is a low-carbon source of electricity – that allow it to survive, says a devastating demolition job by one of the world’s leading environmental experts, Jonathan Porritt.

In a report, Net Zero Without Nuclear, he says the industry is in fact hindering the fight against climate change. Its claim that new types of reactor are part of the solution is, he says, like its previous promises, over-hyped and illusionary.

Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth UK, who was appointed chairman of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission after years of campaigning on green issues, has written the report in a personal capacity, but it is endorsed by an impressive group of academics and environmental campaigners.

His analysis is timely, because the nuclear industry is currently sinking billions of dollars into supporting environmental think tanks and energy “experts” who bombard politicians and news outlets with pro-nuclear propaganda.

Porritt provides a figure of 46 front groups in 18 countries practising these “dark arts”, and says it is only this “army of lobbyists and PR specialists” that is keeping the industry alive.

First he discusses the so-called levelized cost of energy (LCOE), a measure of the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

“The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before”

n 2020, the LCOE of producing one megawatt of electricity in the UK showed huge variations:

  • large scale solar came out cheapest at £27 (US$38)
  • onshore wind was £30
  • the cheapest gas: £44
  • offshore wind: £63
  • coal was £83
  • nuclear – a massive £121 ($168).

Porritt argues that even if you dispute some of the methods of reaching these figures, it is important to look at trends. Over time wind and solar are constantly getting cheaper, while nuclear costs on the other hand are rising – by 26% in ten years.

His second issue is the time it takes to build a nuclear station. He concludes that the pace of building them is so slow that if western countries started building new ones now, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in manufacturing the concrete and steel needed to complete them would far outweigh any contribution the stations might make by 2050 to low carbon electricity production. New build nuclear power stations would in fact make existing net zero targets harder to reach.

“It is very misleading to make out that renewables and nuclear are equivalently low-carbon – and even more misleading to describe nuclear as zero-carbon, as a regrettably significant number of politicians and industry representatives continue to do – many of them in the full knowledge that they are lying”, he writes.

He says that the British government and all the main opposition political parties in England and Wales are pro-nuclear, effectively stifling public debate, and that the government neglects the most important way of reducing carbon emissions: energy efficiency.

Also, with the UK particularly well-endowed with wind, solar and tidal resources, it would be far quicker and cheaper to reach 100% renewable energy without harbouring any new nuclear ambitions.

The report discusses as well issues the industry would rather not examine – the unresolved problem of nuclear waste, and the immense time it takes to decommission nuclear stations. This leads on to the issue of safety, not just the difficult question of potential terrorist and cyber attacks, but also the dangers of sea level rise and other effects of climate change.

Failed expectations

These include the possibility of sea water, particularly in the Middle East, becoming too warm to cool the reactors and so rendering them difficult to operate, and rivers running low during droughts, for example in France and the US, forcing the stations to close when power is most needed.

Porritt insists he has kept an open mind on nuclear power since the 1970s and still does so, but that they have never lived up to their promises. He makes the point that he does not want existing nuclear stations to close early if they are safe, since they are producing low carbon electricity. However, he is baffled by the continuing enthusiasm among politicians for nuclear power: “The case against nuclear power is stronger than it has ever been before.”

But it is not just the politicians and industry chiefs that come in for criticism. Trade unions which advocate new nuclear power because it is a heavily unionised industry when there are far more jobs in the renewable sector are “especially repugnant.”

He also rehearses the fact that without a healthy civil nuclear industry countries would struggle to afford nuclear weapons, as it is electricity consumers that provide support for the weapons programme.

The newest argument employed by nuclear enthusiasts, the idea that green hydrogen could be produced in large quantities, is one he also debunks. It would simply be too expensive and inefficient, he says, except perhaps for the steel and concrete industries.

Porritt’s report is principally directed at the UK’s nuclear programme, where he says the government very much stands alone in Europe in its “unbridled enthusiasm for new nuclear power stations.”

This is despite the fact that the nuclear case has continued to fade for 15 years. Instead, he argues, British governments should go for what the report concentrates on: Net Zero Without Nuclear. – Climate News Network

May 13, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | 1 Comment

Bitcoin’s dirty little secret – its danger to the environment and the climate

Bitcoin’s dirty little secret: It’s not easy being green, The Age,

By Nick O’Malley and Chris Zappone, May 8, 2021 Depending on who you ask bitcoin, the digital currency at the heart of the crypto craze is either a currency or a commodity, a speculative bubble or a safe tool for storing and building wealth.

One thing everyone agrees on is that it has become a staggering consumer of energy and producer of climate wrecking carbon dioxide. Debate between its champions and detractors grows with its price and value, intensified by accelerating global efforts to tackle climate change.

Bitcoin supporters must now grapple with the reality that built into the cryptocurrency’s design is a seemingly endless demand for energy in the form of computing power.

……. “One of the biggest risks to the climate today is that people keep demanding more bitcoin,” says Macquarie University associate professor Sean Foley.

To understand why bitcoin requires so much energy, you have to understand how it is verified – in ever-growing banks of computer “mines”.

……… As each computer is in effect competing with the entire pool of computers engaged in proof of work, there is an incentive for miners to keep growing their banks of computers, especially when the value surges.

……. As the money has flowed, the enterprises engaged in mining are growing larger and moving into energy-rich but regulation-light environments like China, Russia and Iran in a race to confirm more calculations and “mine” more bitcoin.

In April 2020, about 65 per cent of all bitcoin mining in the world happened in China, according to figures from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, with a third of it in Xinjiang.

…………..The network of computers mining bitcoin across the world currently emits about 60mn tons of CO2, the same as the nation of Greece

………..Bank of America analysts say the rising complexity of transactions that underpin bitcoin is “the biggest flaw of the entire system” because this demands ever more power to function……….

May 8, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, ENERGY | Leave a comment

Hypocrisy, climate bullshit, and the push for hydrogen+fossil fuels.

Guardian 6th May 2021, So it’s goodbye climate deniers, hello – and you’ll pardon me for
being blunt here – climate bullshitters. The impacts of the climate
emergency are now so obvious, only the truly deluded still deny them.

Instead, we are at the point where everyone agrees something must be done,
but many are making only vague, distant promises of ineffective action. As
a result, we are currently on track for a 0.5% cut in global emissions from
2010 levels by 2030, when a 45% drop is needed to avoid climate
catastrophe. So how to spot this greenwash.

A good rule of thumb is whether
the proposal actually cuts emissions, by a significant amount, and soon,
and whether the proposer is in fact making the climate emergency worse
elsewhere. Let’s start at the top, with the world’s governments, which
have been setting out more targets than an archery competition. 

The global leader is the UK, which recently pledged a world-beating emissions cut of
78% by 2035. Targets are a necessary first step, but need action to be me
and the instant, universal response: “Show me the policies!” The
problem is some actual UK policies are pushing emissions up, not down:
massive road building, a scrapped home energy efficiency programme and
slashed electric car incentives, new oil and gas exploration, a failure to
halt airport expansions and block a new coalmine (instead, the government
belatedly ordered a public inquiry).

But it is not just Boris Johnson’s
government that says one thing while doing another. All are talking tough
on climate, but China is building one large coal-fired power station a
week, Japan remains one of the biggest Companies are, if anything, even
better bullshitters than governments, and the fossil fuel giants are

Many are still exploring for new reserves, when we already have
more than can ever be safely burned. Chevron touts capturing CO2 emissions
and storing them underground as a solution – one that of course enables
the continued burning of its products. But its plans for carbon capture and
storage cover less than 1% of its 2019 carbon emissions. ExxonMobil wants
public money to help with its carbon capture project to store 50m tonnes of
CO2 by 2030. That’s just 8% of the 2020 emissions its products resulted
in. Another technological fix promoted is hydrogen, , in theory a clean fuel
when generated using renewable energy.

But its most enthusiastic backers
are incumbent fossil fuel companies. Members of the global Hydrogen Council
include Saudi Aramco, BP and Total, while the UK parliament’s hydrogen
group is funded by Shell and gas network and boiler-making firms. Why?
Because hydrogen is a way for oil companies to move towards green energy
without giving up fossil fuels. Pierre-Etienne Franc, co-secretary of the
Hydrogen Council until 2020, explained: “It’s a way to avoid having
stranded assets from the current fossil fuel-based system.” financiers of
overseas coal plants and Norway is developing giant new oil and gas fields.

May 8, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Faster glacier melting raises hunger threat

Climate News Network 5th May 2021, Glacial retreat − the rate at which mountain ice is turning to running
water − has accelerated. In the last two decades, the world’s 220,000
glaciers have lost ice at the rate of 267 billion tonnes a year on average,
and this faster glacier melting could soon imperil downstream food and
water supplies.

To make sense of this almost unimaginable volume, think of
a country the size of Switzerland. And then submerge it six metres deep in
water. And then go on doing that every year for 20 years.

European scientists report in the journal Nature that, on the basis of satellite
data, they assembled a global snapshot of the entire world’s stock of
land-borne ice, excluding Antarctica and Greenland. And then they began to
measure the impact of global heating driven by profligate fossil fuel use
on the lofty, frozen beauty of the Alps, the Hindu Kush, the Andes, the
Himalayas and the mountains of Alaska.

They found not just loss, but a loss
that was accelerating sharply. Between 2000 and 2004, the glaciers together
surrendered 227 billion tons of ice a year on average. By 2015 to 2019, the
annual loss had risen to 298 billion tonnes. The run-off from the
retreating glaciers alone caused more than one-fifth of observed sea level
rise this century.

May 6, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons have triggered a new geological era


Nuclear weapons have triggered a new geological era, but what does that really mean ?  Inkstick Media: Peter Waring, 3 May 21, There were a few possible contenders when a working group established by the International Commission on Stratigraphy began searching for a “golden spike” — a geological inflection point marking the end of one era and the beginning of another. ………  

  from a geological perspective, no marker better captures humanity’s impact on the physical environment than the fallout from decades of atmospheric nuclear testing.

In 2019, the Working Group voted overwhelmingly to recommend establishing a new era — the Anthropocene — to record the beginning of the period where humans have drastically altered the planet. The proposed start day was July 16, 1945, the day of the Trinity Test.

The beginning of the nuclear age marks a new stratigraphic boundary in Earth’s history. The “bomb spike,” as it came to be known, represents the level of carbon 14 and plutonium 239 in the atmosphere, both of which peaked in the mid-1960s at the height of the Cold War. And though levels have subsequently reduced — as states limited and finally halted atmospheric testing  — evidence of the spike is now a matter of geological record. In other words, it will exist for as long as the Earth does. But what does this really mean for our security and our environment?


Humanity and the environment are now “mutually transformative — and potentially mutually destructive,” a fact which forces us to confront the possibility that the era of climate stability, known as the Holocene, has ended and that our own collective and individual actions are to blame. Apart from its prominent geological signature, the “bomb spike” is also emblematic of the so-called Great Acceleration, the exponential growth in various metrics of human activity since the mid-twentieth century, which include: population, technology, economic development, industrial output, energy consumption, carbon emissions, and international tourism. These measures have been thrust ever upwards by the spread of extractive capitalism, endless technological innovation, and an underlying assumption that somehow the realm of human activity exists outside and separate from nature. Today, we are not witnessing the failure of this world view. Rather, we are witnessing the consequences of its success.

Nuclear arsenals are regularly justified as a bulwark against threats to the postwar, liberal international order. But it is precisely this global system that has served as the launching pad for the Great Acceleration. And as such, it is difficult to separate our conceptions of wealth, progress, and liberty — the very things nuclear weapons are meant to secure — from the causes of human-induced climate change. We have been led to believe that this skyward trajectory is a good thing, that all of our problems will disappear if only there were more progress, more technology, more freedom. But like Icarus, have we flown too close to the sun?


The Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic weapons, has been described as a “full stop on modernity” — or in other words, the natural terminus of a worldview that separated humankind from our environment. It is the belief that we can do whatever we want to nature and that the Earth exists to support humanity. The Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic weapons, has been described as a “full stop on modernity” — or in other words, the natural terminus of a worldview that separated humankind from our environment. It is the belief that we can do whatever we want to nature and that the Earth exists to support humanity. 

Modernity in this sense is not merely technology or our institutions but rather a mode of thought premised on a belief in human supremacy. Nuclear weapons are the apotheosis of modernity. We can take whatever we want from the Earth and we can destroy it too. Here is the intersection some nuclear threat experts have been looking for,  between the environmental movement and the nuclear movement. Between a cause with seemingly endless cultural cachet and one that appears like a mid-century relic.

The nuclear weapons industry is undoubtedly the source of much environmental damage: There are uranium minesplutonium production facilities, and former test sites. But the true impact exists on a different register altogether. It is more than just the material effects, more even than the devastating ecological impact of a nuclear blast. 

 Atomic weapons are the most extreme example of our world-possessing pretensions. Their existence and central role in our security apparatus is representative of a mode of thought that portrays humanity as the chief protagonist in the story of Earth. The Anthropocene is the point at which the plot changes.

It is also clear that on a planet increasingly defined by human activity the old dichotomies of friend and foe — of good and evil — are no longer relevant. But constructing enemies is at the core of nuclear thinking as only the most extreme adversaries can justify the most extreme weapons.  During the Cold War this was a relatively simple task, albeit one pursued with a kind of cartoonish zeal by politicians on both sides. And while there is a worrisome element of deja vu about the rising discord between Russia and NATO, talk of a new Cold War seems oddly out of place in a world of pandemics and catastrophic climate change. Yet it remains an inescapable feature of the Atomic Age that enemies must be suitably evil and suitably different from us. They must “hate freedom” and they must reject the so-called “rules-based” global order. More significantly, the enemies themselves are largely inconsequential: When they crumble or retreat into the background, we create new ones. As long as the weapons exist there will be myths to justify them. Arundhati Roy perhaps said it best:

“Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behavior. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meat hooks deep in the base of our brains. They are purveyors of madness.”

The Anthropocene forces us to grapple with this madness and to reconsider our need for enemies. It demands that we confront unsettling truths and come to terms with the prospect that the greatest threat to our security and way of life is our way of life.


The long half-life of the Atomic Age is as much the product of outdated thinking as it is bureaucratic inertia or military strategy. The scholarship surrounding nuclear weapons is held back — stuck — by a kind of thinking that belongs to a different epoch. International Relations (IR) and its dominant paradigms of realism and liberalism have lost whatever explanatory power they once had. They are no longer fit for purpose as either an academic discipline or a collection of governing institutions. They have become a trap of our own making. In fact, IR fails even to acknowledge the threat posed by the Anthropocene or the consequences of inaction.  The global apparatus constructed to manage twentieth-century challenges, such as genocide, nuclear conflict, and world wars has proved disastrously ill-suited to our new era.

This has been particularly true with regards to the supposed preeminence of the nation-state, which serves as the very basis of world governance. But it is precisely this belief — the privileging of the national above the international, of the human above the planetary — that has drawn attention away from the devastation occurring all around us. 

 Viewed from the perspective of deep geological time, the pantomime of global politics and state rivalry has been little more than a distraction. What good are states if their future consists of flooded cities, devastated ecosystems, and uninhabitable wastelands? And can states defend the interests of future generations, both human and non-human?

If indeed the domain of the human and the natural are now indistinguishable, then it follows that our notions of international security and geopolitics must change. What is needed is not more realism or liberalism or business-as-usual diplomacy but rather an altogether new way of organizing the world — a theory of IR based on the belief that the Earth itself matters. …….

May 4, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, environment, weapons and war | 3 Comments

The huge carbon footprint and massive energy use of online activities and of Bitcoin

Graphic courtesy of Alice Eaves on Rehabilitating Earth website

This is a most timely article.    Why is  the world not noticing this?   Elon Musk and other billionaire Bitcoin fans are also fans of space travel –   another energy-gobbling thing.   They are fans of nuclear energy.  The thing that nuclear energy fans have in common with space travel fans and Bitcoin fans is their religious fervour for endless growth and endless energy use.

Unfortunately our entire culture, the Western consumer culture, has swept the world  with a mindless belief in ever more stuff, ever more digital use, with no awareness of the  energy used.   So we tink that our billions of trivial tweets are up ”in the cloud”, – not even realising that they are in dirty great steel data buildings that use massive amounts of energy just to keep cool, This ever- expanding energy and resource gobbling is going to kill us, – and Bitcoin is just one glaring, sorry example of this.

Truth or fiction: Is mining bitcoin a ticking time bomb for the climate?  Rehabilitating Earth   By Jennifer Sizeland 2 May 21

While many of us may consider the carbon footprint of buying a physical item like a jumper or a toaster, it is truly mind boggling to think about the environmental impact of time spent online. This may be why the huge carbon footprints of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going largely under the radar for many of us, including investors and climate activists.

Yet the real-world cost of bitcoin cannot be underestimated. A University of Cambridge study found that the network burns through 121 terawatt-hours per year, putting it into a category of a top-30 country in terms of electricity usage. In fact, the carbon cost was largely ignored altogether until 2017 when prices surged and the general population started to take more notice. Aside from the significant carbon footprint of bitcoin, it’s important to understand what bitcoin is and why it’s so popular.

Decoding Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is created by mining a 64-digit hexadecimal number (known as a ‘hash’) that is less than or equal to the target hash that the miner is looking for. The miner gets paid in crypto tokens for all the currency they make. The act of solving these computational equations on the bitcoin network makes the payment network trustworthy. It proves the worth of the bitcoin and verifies it at the same time so that it can’t be spent twice. Essentially, an online log makes records of the transactions made and once approved, they’re added to a block on the chain, hence the phrase ‘blockchain’.

What makes it all the more confusing is that not only is cryptocurrency fairly new to the general population, but the way it is created is shrouded in secrecy due to its niche status. This makes it much harder for miners to be held accountable for their intensive carbon usage, in a time when every company needs to consider their impact on the planet.

The secrecy is also what excites investors about bitcoin since it isn’t tied to a certain location or institution and it’s completely decentralised – unlike a bank. Investors trust bitcoin as inflation is controlled algorithmically by cutting the reward rate periodically, rendering the rate of new bitcoin supplies as unalterable by design. The issue remains that there is no government or organisation to hold them to account for their carbon footprint. A footprint which is intrinsically tied to its value as the demand for it increases, using more and more energy. With every market jump, the cost to the planet is greater.

The price of one bitcoin is $57,383 at the time of writing, which takes the market cap value above that of Facebook and Tesla. The wider cryptocurrency market that includes dogecoin, ethereum and litecoin has reached an estimated $1.4 trillion and counting.

From a financial perspective, miners want cheap servers to increase their profit margins which is why much of the bitcoin activity is done in China. As the industry is unregulated there is no reason why activity wouldn’t surge in the place where it costs the least to do it. Currently, China does not have a cost-effective renewable energy supply so two thirds of the grid is fuelled by dirty coal power stations.

Another problematic caveat to the bitcoin story is the amount of so-called green companies and investors that are buying into it. Some of them are not disclosing this element of their portfolio due to the immense carbon footprint but those that are publicly traded have no choice. Perhaps one of the most high-profile companies to reap the rewards from bitcoin is Elon Musk’s Tesla, who have made $1 billion in 10 weeks from their investment. It remains to be seen whether these businesses are doing their due diligence regarding the origins of their bitcoin and if it is mined from a sustainable source. While this may give Tesla more money to invest in green infrastructure, it’s hard to say whether this is the more ethical way to do so……….

One important lesson we can take from this is that it demonstrates how the digital world has a very real impact on planet Earth. Whether we’re buying cryptocurrency or simply scrolling the internet, we are impacting the planet in one way or another

May 3, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, climate change, ENERGY, Reference | Leave a comment

Poor prospects for small nuclear reactors (SMRs) as a cure for climate change

The nuclear industry and the U. S. Department of Energy are promoting the development of SMRs, supposedly to head off the most severe impacts of climate change. But are SMRs a practical and realistic technology for this purpose?

To answer, two factors are paramount to consider – time and cost. These factors can be used to divide SMRs into two broad categories:
Light water reactors based on the same general technical and design principles as present-day power reactors in the U.S., which in theory could be certified and licensed with less complexity and difficulty.

Designs that use a range of different fuel designs, such as solid balls moving through the reactor core like sand, or molten materials flowing through the core; moderators such as graphite; and coolants such as helium, liquid sodium or molten salts.

On both counts, the prospects for SMRs are poor.

EWG 25th March 2021

May 3, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

France and Russia portray nuclear hydrogen as ”green”- arousing anger of several European nations.

Atomic giants EDF and Rosatom push plan to sell nuclear-powered hydrogen as ‘green’Labelling nuclear hydrogen as green is likely to cause irritation among countries without atomic power or exiting it,  28 April 2021 By Bernd Radowitz , Recharge 

French and Russian state-owned nuclear energy giants EDF and Rosatom have teamed up to develop low carbon hydrogen projects in Russia and Europe in order to decarbonise mobility and industrial sectors – but their labelling of H2 produced from nuclear power as ‘green’ is likely to cause irritation elsewhere in Europe.

As part of a strategic cooperation agreement signed last month, the hydrogen is slated to be produced both from nuclear power and from methane conversion linked to carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies……..

Any massive use of nuclear hydrogen on an EU level is strongly opposed by countries without atomic power, or exiting it, such as Germany and Austria. Andreas Feicht, secretary of state in Germany’s economics and energy ministry, at a late-2020 virtual conference on hydrogen organised by his ministry stressed nuclear is not an option for Germany’s energy system or for the production of hydrogen.

The French government (backed by some Eastern European countries), by contrast, is trying to push nuclear hydrogen and wants it to be entitled for state support, which would be a way to use French or EU funds to help its highly-indebted nuclear utility EDF and give new life to its ageing nuclear fleet.

……  Béatrice Buffon, group executive vice-president in charge of EDF’s International Division.

“The agreement with the Rosatom Group, our historical partner in Russia and one of the country’s key players in the field of decarbonised hydrogen, illustrates EDF’s desire to develop a new energy model with lower CO2 emissions wherever we operate.”

The two nuclear companies didn’t provide more detail on specific projects being studied.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | climate change, EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Earth has shifted on its axis due to melting of ice, study says

Earth has shifted on its axis due to melting of ice, study says

By Damian Carrington | April 24, 2021Editor’s note: This story was originally published by The Guardian. It appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said.

The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move.

In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tons of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions.

The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.

Since 1980, the position of the poles has moved about 4 meters in distance. “The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” concluded the team, led by Shanshan Deng, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Gravity data from the Grace satellite, launched in 2002, had been used to link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses. But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed glacial losses accounted for most of the shift, but it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also contributed to the movements. Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world. In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18 trillion tons of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced.

Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and not involved in the new research said it showed how human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet: “It tells you how strong this mass change is—it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.” However, the movement of the Earth’s axis is not large enough to affect daily life, he said: It could change the length of a day, but only by milliseconds.

Jonathan Overpeck, a professor at the University of Arizona, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”.

Some scientists argue that the scale of this impact means a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene—needs to be declared. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a marked acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the destruction of wildlife and the transformation of land by farming, deforestation, and development.

April 27, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Is the US nuclear community prepared for the extreme weather climate change is bringing? 

Is the US nuclear community prepared for the extreme weather climate change is bringing? By Susan D’Agostino | April 20, 2021 

In May 2000, a planned burn to remove dead, dried underbrush on New Mexico’s drought-stricken Cerro Grande peak in the Bandelier National Monument grew out of control. As the sky darkened with smoke, a wall of flames fueled by high winds burned through tens of thousands of acres of land where people, elk, and bald eagles made their homes. The monstrous blaze escaped the monument’s containment line and headed to the forested birthplace of the atomic bomb—Los Alamos National Laboratory. There, it raced over soil, rocks, and trees contaminated from decades-old nuclear weapons testing, releasing radioactive particles into the air and setting 47 buildings ablaze. As the devastation unfolded, the wildfire inched close to, but stopped short of, a facility containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

In May 2000, a planned burn to remove dead, dried underbrush on New Mexico’s drought-stricken Cerro Grande peak in the Bandelier National Monument grew out of control. As the sky darkened with smoke, a wall of flames fueled by high winds burned through tens of thousands of acres of land where people, elk, and bald eagles made their homes. The monstrous blaze escaped the monument’s containment line and headed to the forested birthplace of the atomic bomb—Los Alamos National Laboratory. There, it raced over soil, rocks, and trees contaminated from decades-old nuclear weapons testing, releasing radioactive particles into the air and setting 47 buildings ablaze. As the devastation unfolded, the wildfire inched close to, but stopped short of, a facility containing tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.

The US response to potential climate impacts on the country’s various nuclear activities has, in the eyes of many experts, fallen far short of what it needs to be.

“All of these [nuclear] structures were built on the presumption of a stable planet. And our climate is changing very rapidly and presenting new extremes,” Hill said. “There’s harm that stems from that.”

Drought and spent nuclear waste. When forests are drier for long periods of time, they act as kindling for wildfires. Extreme drought exacerbated by climate change is a key driver of wildfires in the Western United States, which are increasing both in frequency and in size. For nuclear infrastructure in the heart of wildfire territory, this trend spells trouble.

Continue reading

April 24, 2021 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

USA: Small nuclear reactors cannot meet the critical climate need – now, or ever

The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.

Advanced Nuclear Dreaming in Washington State, CounterPunch, PATRICK MAZZA  19 Apr 21, It was once known by one of the most inadvertently appropriate acronyms ever, WPPSS, the Washington Public Power Supply System.  “Whoops!,” as they called it, in the early 1980s brought on what was then the worst municipal bond default in U.S. history trying to build five nuclear reactors in Washington state at once, completing only one.

But faith in the nuclear future lives on at “Whoops!,” today rebranded as Energy Northwest. On April 1, the day perhaps also inadvertently fitting, the consortium of Washington state public utilities announced a move aimed at the first advanced nuclear reactor deployment in the U.S. Energy Northwest will partner with Grant County Public Utility District, a member utility serving a desert county in the center of the state, and X-energy, a leading developer of the nuclear industry’s bright shining hope, the small modular reactor (SMR)…………….

The WPPSS default was part of the first wave of nuclear failures in the U.S. In the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, approximately 100 proposed nuclear plants were cancelled. Recent years have seen a second round of failures. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 put $25 billion in nuclear subsidies on the table. That jumpstarted all of four nuclear reactors, two each in Georgia and South Carolina.  The only way Wall Street would touch the projects was to make ratepayers carry the risk by paying for “work in progress” before the first watt is delivered. South Carolina ratepayers won’t even see that. Cost overruns killed the project there in 2017 after $9 billion was thrown away, setting up a political and court fight over whether ratepayers will continue to be soaked.  The last two standing, Georgia’s Vogtle plants, were to have cost $14 billion and come on line in 2016-17. Now costs have doubled to $28 billion and scheduled completion this year and next is considered unlikely.


SMRs are the nuclear industry’s answer to avoid such failures in the future. Instead of being custom-built and individually licensed, SMRs are intended to cut costs by licensing a single design manufactured at a plant and sent for final assembly to their operating site.  Smaller than the 1,000-megawatt-plus plants with which we’re familiar, SMRs are 100 MW or less, and designed with safety features to prevent meltdowns such as experienced at Japan’s Fukushima plant in 2011. Though there are questions about that, as covered below…………..


For now, the question is whether SMRs such as X-energy’s can really revive the nuclear industry, and most importantly, provide a climate solution with low-carbon electrical power in a meaningful timeframe. The answer, by simple logic, is no

…………Though deep carbon cuts must start quickly, the Washington state partnership gives a completion date for its SMR pilot project as 2027-28. Considering the nuclear industry’s track record, delays and cost overruns are likely. And that would only be the beginning of a long-process to create the entire manufacturing supply chain needed to make SMRs an economical alternative. If they can be. The key issue is economies of scale.

“Power generation scales on volume of the reactor vessels,” notes Arjun Makhijani, who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, with a specialization in nuclear fusion, from the University of California at Berkeley. “The materials and labor scale more slowly.  That’s a basic reason that there are economies of scale and big reactors were built.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) cites a study which shows that a reactor with 1,100 MW capacity would cost three times as much to build as a 180 MW plant, but produce six times the electricity, “so the capital cost per kilowatt would be twice as great for the smaller plant.”

SMRs lose those economies of scale, but proponents hope to make that up with mass manufacturing and licensing, avoiding costs of custom-built plants.


“The road to such mass manufacturing will be rocky,” Makhijani and M.V. Ramana write in a recent article, “Why Small Modular Reactors Won’t Help Counter the Climate Crisis.” “Even with optimistic assumptions about how quickly manufacturers could learn to improve production efficiency and lower cost, thousands of SMRs, which will all be higher priced in comparison to large reactors, would have to be manufactured for the price per kilowatt for an SMR to be comparable to that of a large reactor.”

That sets up “a chicken-and-egg economic problem,” they write. “Without the factories, SMRs can never hope to achieve the theoretical cost reductions that are at the heart of the strategy to compensate for the lack of economies of scale. But without the cost reductions, there will not be the large number of orders to stimulate the investments needed to set up the supply chain in the first place.”………….


The world is running out of time to address all the concerns facing SMRs and advanced reactor designs in general.

“If you look at the cold facts from a climate point of view we have a shortage of time and money. New reactors cannot help materially,” Makhijani told The Raven. “How are we going to have a carbon-free electricity system by 2035 in which SMRs will play a significant role when the first one isn’t even supposed to come on line till the late 2020s? Those who are advocating new nuclear reactors should address the time constraint, and whether we can do it without nuclear. If we could not do it without, that would be another question. But we can. So there should be no question.”

Many studies document the capacity of wind and solar to replace fossil fuel electricity. The challenge of varying sunlight and wind speeds is met with a smart grid that can adjust energy demand to available supply and link diverse geographies. So when the wind is blowing on the Great Plains, it can supply juice while clouds block sunlight in Chicago. For times when none of that is sufficient, storage in many forms can be used, from batteries to pumped storage reservoirs. Even household water heaters. If all else fails, backup generators fueled with stored hydrogen can be brought into play.  Hydrogen can be electrolyzed from water through solar and wind energy that would otherwise go unused because generation exceeds the demands of the grid.

Mark Jacobson
 of Stanford has done many studies documenting the capacity of wind, water and solar to meet all energy needs. A NOAA study showed carbon pollution from electricity could be cut up to 80% from 1990 levels by 2030, largely with wind and solar, needing no new nuclear and energy storage, while actually cutting electricity costs. That would require building a continental grid with efficient high-voltage DC lines to link diverse geographies. A study done by Makhijani for the Institute for Environmental and Energy Research, of which he is president, lays out a path to zero carbon electricity in Maryland.


Despite towering obstacles facing SMRs, from economic chicken-and-egg problems of ramping up production, to unsolved waste and proliferation issues, to remaining safety questions, the nuclear faithful at Energy Northwest soldier on. Yes, they now have operated a nuclear plant successfully since the 1980s, though questions have been raised about earthquake hazards in light of emerging seismic knowledge. Washington state has enacted a goal of 100% clean electricity by 2045, and nuclear advocates see it filling a role.  In any event, new nuclear power from SMRs will be incapable of supplying a significant portion of low-carbon energy until well into the 2030s, even if economic and other issues are resolved.

All that time, any new nuclear reactors will be facing continuing cost declines in wind, solar and storage, as well as increasing deployment of smart grid technologies and advanced long-distance power transmission. If the Washington state partnership’s SMR installation actually is built and operated, with the 2027-8 timeline likely to be stretched out and the projected $2.4 billion cost figure likely to be exceeded, it could well be a costly white elephant, a relic of faith in a technology whose time has passed. The critical need for deep carbon pollution reductions this decade calls on us to focus on the low-carbon technologies we have now. And those are wind and solar. SMRs will be a dollar short and a day too late. They cannot meet critical climate deadlines, not by 2030 or 2035, and likely never.

April 24, 2021 Posted by | climate change, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

Global Warming, Environmental Variability, and Infectious Disease — GarryRogers Nature Conservation

COVID-19 battle allowing spread of other infectious diseases in India.

Global Warming, Environmental Variability, and Infectious Disease — GarryRogers Nature Conservation

April 22, 2021 Posted by | climate change, health | Leave a comment