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Looks like the end of nuclear-promotional, climate change-denying “Ecomodernism”

The end of ecomodernism , John Quiggin, 9 July 20,“…..  The most important group of nuclear power advocates who have consistently promoted concerns about climate change as the main reason for their advocacy have been the self-described ‘eco-modernists’. The main organizational focus of ecomodernism is the Breakthrough Institute, established by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus in 2003.

Recently, Shellenberger has issued what he describes as ‘an apology on behalf of environmentalists everywhere’ in which he repudiates previous concerns about catastrophic climate change and indicates that he never sincerely shared these concerns. Other ecomodernists have demurred at some of his claims, but have not indicated fundamental disagreement. The result is that, as a movement combining a pro-nuclear position with a commitment to a serious response to climate change, ecomodernism has ceased to exist…..  


The tragic thing about “Ecomodernism” is that it sucked in a whole heap of very well -intentioned people. It’s prime focus was to promote the nuclear industry – “new’ nuclear in particular. (Fossil fuel promotion has become a secondary aim). But, if you read the 7 page Ecomodernist Manifesto, , nuclear power gets only ONE short paragraph, low down on page 4.   It is all touchy-feeling lovely, seemingly pro environment stuff.  It gently and subtly rubbishes any concept of energy conservation, and of renewable energy.
This is the genius of the nuclear propagandists. Like Dr Joseph Goebbels, they know how to pitch their sales talk to which audience. They’ll come up with important sounding technical and economic jargon, to put it over politicians and other “important people.  I do think that Australia’s Ben Heard deserves an acknowledgement for his sales pitching skills. He wouldn’t muck up his message, as Shellenberger has recently done, in revealing climate denialism

July 9, 2020 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | 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
 June 2020  – Extract 


 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




Giles Parkinson, 23 Oct 2019, ‘Why the nuclear lobby makes stuff up about the cost of wind and solar’,

 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

U.S. Dept of Energy entrenching the nuclear industry into universities, (at tax-payers’ expense)

Sad to see tax-payers” money going to the co-option of universities into promoting a dirty, dangerous and absurdly uneconomic nuclear industry.’ The claim about combatting climate change is laughable. These “new generation” nuclear reactors would never be in operation in time to have any effect on climate change – even if they dis work against global heating (which they don’t, anyway)
DOE investing more than $800,000 in Idaho to advance nuclear technology Rett Nelson,,  June 26, 2020   

DAHO FALLS – During a visit to the Idaho National Laboratory last week, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announced more than $65 million in nuclear energy research for projects across the country. ……. The funds are being awarded to 93 projects across 28 different states. More than $800,000 has been allocated for projects in eastern Idaho. …..An undetermined amount is being awarded to the INL for various research experiments.

Idaho State University in Pocatello will be awarded $59,262 to replace the control rod drive for its nuclear reactor. The project will focus on improving its design to make it more reliable and safe, as well as decrease its complexity.

Boise State University and the University of Idaho are also included on the list.   …….

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

FAIR exposes the false claims about China and COVID-19

Debunking Trump and Corporate Media’s WHO/China Coverup Conspiracy Theories FAIR

JOSHUA CHO  FAIR has criticized the plausibility of various origin theories regarding Covid-19 (4/17/20, 5/7/20), and of unfounded allegations of a Chinese cover-up laundered by corporate media (4/2/20, 4/9/20). Other persistent myths are allegations of Chinese manipulation of the World Health Organization (WHO), and blaming Chinese secrecy for the lack of early action on containing the coronavirus.

The Trump administration suspended funding to WHO in April—the UN’s primary infectious disease–fighting body—accusing it of “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” and of taking China’s allegedly deceptive claims about its handling of Covid-19 at “face value.” But corporate media had already been boosting these same talking points.

The Wall Street Journal’s “The World Health Organization Draws Flak for Coronavirus Response” (2/12/20) effectively accused WHO of being “too deferential to China in its handling of the new virus,” and criticized WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus for “bending to Beijing” after lauding China’s unquestionably effective swift quarantine of 60 million people, and for declaring that “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response” and identifying the virus in “record time.” The Journal further expounded the conspiracy theory of a seemingly omnipotent China having WHO under its thumb:

Over its decades of battling epidemics, the WHO has rarely had to deal with an entity as politically and economically powerful as China today. It can’t afford to alienate the country’s leadership, whose clout and financial largess it aims to attract to global health causes. It needs Beijing’s cooperation in preventing a full-blown pandemic—and this may not be the last time. China is the source of many emerging pathogens, which jump from animals to humans in its teeming live markets and can cause deadly epidemics.

According to the Journal’s logic, when WHO praises China for an effective response containing Covid-19 and giving the rest of the world ample time to take health precautions, it is “compromising its own epidemic response standards, eroding its global authority, and sending the wrong message to other countries that might face future epidemics.” When Dr. Bruce Aylward—a Canadian medical expert with 30 years of experience combating polio, Ebola and other global health emergencies—concluded that he “didn’t see anything that suggested manipulation of numbers,” after leading a team of experts visiting China for WHO, that can’t be an accurate observation. For corporate journalists, it can only be because he was duped by the devious Chinese government “underreporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease” (Bloomberg4/1/20).

The Journal flimsily explained that China wields such formidable control over the WHO because China is a “future source of funds and a partner with which to tackle the biggest global health problems,” and not as a “current donor.” That would be because a cursory examination of  WHO’s funding would reveal that the US donated more than 10 times more money to WHO ($893 million) than China ($86 million), despite the US having almost $200 million in arrears before suspending payments (Axios4/15/20).

Neither does the Journal explain how or why WHO could possibly withhold information from Western nations even if it wanted to, when its leadership is stacked with Americans and Europeans, and 15 US officials were embedded with the WHO in Geneva, given that the US is the most “politically and economically powerful” nation on Earth. This makes the Trump administration’s declaration of the US terminating its membership in WHO after threats to permanently cut funding especially egregious.

Nor can the Journal explain the source of China’s fearsome influence over independent and prestigious medical journals like Nature (5/4/20), Science (3/28/20) and the Lancet (3/7/20), which also credited the effectiveness and transparency of China’s response for saving thousands of lives (CGTN5/1/205/10/20). Does China’s mysterious and awe-inspiring influence extend over Western medical journals as well?

When Foreign Policy (5/12/20) reported on the exclusive scoop of a leaked dataset of coronavirus cases and deaths from the Chinese military’s National University of Defense Technology, it confirmed that the leaked information “matches” the publicly available numbers the Chinese government posts online—which poses an inconvenience to those spouting conspiracy theories of a Chinese government coverup. Corporate media accounts of Chinese deception and fake statistics also fail to explain how the Chinese government possesses the fantastical ability to deceive governments and independent medical experts around the world, even if it wanted to. As FAIR’s Jim Naureckas (4/2/20) pointed out earlier:

The reality is that it’s very hard to hide an epidemic. Stopping a virus requires identifying and isolating cases of infection, and if you pretend to have done so when you really haven’t, the uncaught cases will grow exponentially. Maintaining a hidden set of real statistics and another set for show would require the secret collusion of China’s 2 million doctors and 3 million nurses—the kind of improbable cooperation that gives conspiracy theories a bad name…. If China is merely pretending to have the coronavirus under control, the pathogen will rapidly surge as people resume interacting with their communities. Once international travel is restored, it will be quite obvious which countries do and don’t have effective management of Covid-19.

Countries revising their figures upon receiving new information is to be expected, and is not necessarily evidence of deceit, as plenty of nations besides China revise their data upwards. Yet only China is singled out as being exceptionally deceptive. For example, in the same week New York revised its death toll upwards by nearly 3,800, China’s adding almost 1,300 dead to its Wuhan data was presented as a possible coverup (Politico4/14/20Guardian4/17/20). The Moon of Alabama blog (4/1/20) explained some of the complexities in reporting numbers during a pandemic in real-time:

Does one include co-morbids or not in the count? What about casualties of a car accident that also test positive for Covid-19 when they die? What about those who died with Covid-19 symptoms but could not be tested for lack of test kits? Are the tests really working reliably?… What about asymptomatic cases that test positive. Are these false positives, or do these people really have the virus? One can only know that by testing them a month later for antibodies………

this manipulation of public opinion by the US government and corporate media appears to be working. According to a recent Ipsos survey, more than 30% of Americans have witnessed someone blaming Asian people for the coronavirus pandemic (even though new research indicates that travel from New York City was the primary source of the US outbreak, with New York’s outbreak originating in Europe). Pew Research (4/21/20) found that around two-thirds of Americans have an unfavorable view of China, which is the most negative rating for the country since Pew began asking the question in 2005. This suggests that public opinion has been turned against China, despite it being the first to detect the virus, alert the world and provide a model for containing it.

June 22, 2020 Posted by | China, secrets,lies and civil liberties, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

False fright: religious group advertisement claims “Islam” about to make nuclear strike

Horrific’ Ad Suggesting Nuclear Attack From ‘Islam’ Appears In Nashville Newspaper, Paper Apologies 
Nicholas Reimann
Forbes StaffBusinessI’m a news reporter for Forbes, primarily covering the U.S. South.

The Tennessean issued an apology Sunday after “a bizarre, pseudo-religious” full-page ad appeared in the newspaper’s Sunday edition claiming that “Islam” was planning a nuclear strike on the city of Nashville, Tennessee, on July 18, saying that the ad violated the paper’s standards forbidding hate speech and that it is investigating how the ad from a “fringe religious group” was able to be published in the Sunday paper.

The paper said Sunday that it immediately pulled the ad from future editions, which appeared in the “A” section—the front section—of Sunday’s newspaper. ……

June 21, 2020 Posted by | Religion and ethics, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear industry encroaching further into USA education, thanks to DOE funding

Department of Energy Invests $65 Million at National Laboratories and American Universities to Advance Nuclear Technologym

JUNE 18, 202   WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than $65 million in nuclear energy research, cross-cutting technology development, facility access, and infrastructure awards for 93 advanced nuclear technology projects in 28 states. The awards fall under DOE’s nuclear energy programs called the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies (NEET), and the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF)…….

Nuclear Energy University Program ($55M)

DOE is awarding more than $38.6 million through NEUP to support 57 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects in 24 states. NEUP seeks to maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering faculty and their students with opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities.

Additionally, 21 university-led projects will receive more than $5.7 million for research reactor and infrastructure improvements, …….

June 20, 2020 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

Time that journalists reported on the threat of global heating to the nuclear industry

In this article explaining China’s plans to develop nuclear power, the author states this about nuclear power expansion:
“it does bode well for the climate under any flag. “
China Plans To Dominate The Global Nuclear Energy Push, Oil Price, By Haley Zaremba – Jun 03, 2020,

Really?    Not a mention of the ill effects that climate change has on nuclear power, nor the fact that it, and the uranium mining that feeds it, are highly water guzzling.
Therefore most nuclear reactors are sited near the sea, or near rivers and estuaries.
They have to cut back or even shut down in very hot weather.  They are vulnerable to sea level rise, and extreme events – flooding, hurricanes, wildfires.
Far from nuclear power combatting climate change, it’ds the other way around.

As for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors working against climate change, you would need literally millions of them to be quickly operating around the world, to have any effect on global heating. Time that you journalists told the whole story, not just the nuclear lobby’s version

June 4, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Trump govt, desperate to save the failing nuclear industry, rushes to build geewhiz new nukes

May 21, 2020 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

Australian politician John Barilaro gets it so wrong about small nuclear reactors

Electrical Review 4 May 2020  I have to conclude that the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, John Barilaro, is a remarkable clairvoyant. He has announced unequivocally on Australian media that Rolls Royce is set to build up to 15 new small-size nuclear reactors in Britain over the next nine years.
Strange this. Just 18 months ago, according to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce was preparing to shut down altogether its R&D project to develop small modular nuclear reactors, unless the British government agreed to an outrageous set of demands and subsidies. Granted the Johnson government has bunged them a few million to keep the R&D going.

But there is as yet no sign of anything being oven-ready to come to the marketplace, let alone 15 up and running. But there remain some rather disturbing connections between small reactor projects and nuclear weapons proliferation. And Rolls-Royce does offer up one of the most glaring examples. Part of the company’s current sales pitch to the British government includes the argument that a civil small-reactor industry in the UK “would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” for its weapons programme. It may be true. But it is not really Atoms for Peace, , is it?

May 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

‘Small Modular Nuclear Reactor’ entrepreneurs trying to revive dangerous ‘plutonium economy’ dream

Proposed nuclear projects in New Brunswick would revive dangerous “plutonium economy”    by Gordon Edwards  The Government of New Brunswick is supporting proposals by two start-up multi-national companies with offices in Saint John to build a type of nuclear reactor judged to be dangerous by experts worldwide.Last year, the government handed $5 million each to ARC Nuclear, based in the US, and Moltex Energy, based in the UK, to develop proposals to build prototypes of so-called Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMNRs) in the province. The government is also supporting both companies in their proposal for millions more taxpayer dollars from the federal Strategic Innovation Fund.

It seems that these two SMNR entrepreneurs in New Brunswick, along with other nuclear “players” worldwide, are trying to revitalize the “plutonium economy” — a nuclear industry dream from the distant past that many believed had been laid to rest because of the failure of plutonium-fuelled breeder reactors almost everywhere, including the US, France, Britain and Japan.

The phrase “plutonium economy” refers to a world in which plutonium is the primary nuclear fuel in the future rather than natural or slightly enriched uranium. Plutonium, a derivative of uranium that does not exist in nature but is created inside every nuclear reactor fuelled with uranium, would thereby become an article of commerce.

The proposed SMNR prototype from ARC Nuclear in Saint John is the ARC-100 reactor (100 megawatts of electricity). It is a liquid sodium-cooled SMNR, based on the 1964 EBR-2 reactor – the Experimental Breeder Reactor #2 in Idaho. Its predecessor, the EBR-1 breeder reactor, had a partial meltdown in 1955, and the Fermi-1 breeder reactor near Detroit, also modelled on the EBR-2, had a partial meltdown in 1966.

Admiral Hyman Rickover, who created the US fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, tried a liquid-sodium-cooled reactor only once, in a submarine called the Sea Wolf. He vowed that he would never do it again. In 1956 he told the US Atomic Energy Commission that liquid sodium-cooled reactors are “expensive to build, complex to operate, susceptible to prolonged shutdown as a result of even minor malfunctions, and difficult and time-consuming to repair.”

The ARC-100 is designed with the capability and explicit intention of reusing or recycling irradiated CANDU fuel. In the prototype phase, the proposal is to use irradiated fuel from NB Power’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. Lepreau is a CANDU-6 nuclear reactor.

The other newly proposed NB SMNR prototype is the Moltex “Stable Salt Reactor” (SSR) — also a “fast reactor”, cooled by molten salt, that is likewise intended to re-use or recycle irradiated CANDU fuel, again from the Lepreau reactor in the prototype phase.

The “re-use” (or “recycling”) of “spent nuclear fuel”, also called “used nuclear fuel” or “irradiated nuclear fuel,” is industry code for plutonium extraction. The idea is to transition from uranium to plutonium as a nuclear fuel, because uranium supplies will not outlast dwindling oil supplies. Breeder reactors are designed to use plutonium as a fuel and create (“breed”) even more plutonium while doing so.

It is only possible to re-use or recycle existing used nuclear fuel by somehow accessing the unused “fissile material” in the used fuel. This material is mainly plutonium. Accessing this material involves a chemical procedure called “reprocessing” which was banned in the late 1970s by the Carter administration in the US and the first Pierre Elliot Trudeau administration in Canada. South Korea and Taiwan were likewise forbidden (with pressure from the US) to use this chemical extraction process.

Why did both the US and Canada ban this recycling scheme? Two reasons: 1) it is highly dangerous and polluting to “open up” the used nuclear fuel in order to extract the desired plutonium or U-233; and 2) extracting plutonium creates a civilian traffic in highly dangerous materials (plutonium and U-233) that can be used by governments or criminals or terrorists to make powerful nuclear weapons without the need for terribly sophisticated or readily detectable infrastructure.

Argonne Laboratories in the US, and the South Korean government, have been developing (for more than 10 years now) a new wrinkle on the reprocessing operation which they call “pyroprocessing.” This effort is an attempt to overcome the existing prohibitions on reprocessing and to restart the “plutonium economy.”

Both New Brunswick projects are claiming that their proposed nuclear reactor prototypes would be successful economically. To succeed, they must build and export the reactors by the hundreds in future.

On the contrary, however, the use of plutonium fuel is, and always has been, much more expensive than the use of uranium fuel. This is especially true now, when the price of uranium is exceedingly low and showing very little sign of recovering. In Saskatchewan, Cameco has shut down some of its richest uranium mines and has laid off more than a thousand workers, while reducing the pay of those still working by 25 percent. Under these conditions, it is impossible for plutonium-fuelled reactors to compete with uranium-fuelled reactors.

And to make matters worse for the industry, it is well known that even uranium-fuelled reactors cannot compete with the alternatives such as wind and solar or even natural-gas-fired generators. It is an open question why governments are using public funds to subsidize such uneconomical, dangerous and unsustainable nuclear technologies. It’s not their money after all – it’s ours!

Dr. Gordon Edwards, a scientist and nuclear consultant, is the President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility. He can be reached at:    Note from the NB Media Co-op editors: Dr. Edwards visited New Brunswick in March for a series of public talks on the development of so-called Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. The story of his talk in Saint John can be accessed here. The video of the webinar presentation scheduled for Fredericton can be accessed here.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, Canada, Reference, spinbuster, technology | Leave a comment

Michael Moore’s sham attack on renewable energy has had rigorous debunking

Rolling Stone 1st May 2020, Bill McKibben: ‘A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement’: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal. Basically, Moore and his colleagues
have made a film attacking renewable energy as a sham and arguing that the environmental movement is just a tool of corporations trying to make money off green energy.

“One of the most dangerous things right now is the illusion that alternative technologies, like wind and solar, are somehow different from fossil fuels,” Ozzie Zehner, one of the film’s producers, tells the camera. When visiting a solar facility, he insists: “You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning the fossil fuels.”

That’s not true, not in the least — the time it takes for a solar panel to pay back the energy used to build it is well under four years. Since it lasts three decades, it means 90 percent of the power it produces is pollution-free, compared with zero percent of the power from burning fossil fuels.

It turns out that pretty much everything else about the movie was wrong — there have been at least 24 debunkings, many of them painfully rigorous; as one scientist wrote in a particularly scathing takedown, “Planet of the Humans is deeply useless. Watch anything else.”

Moore’s fellow filmmaker Josh Fox, in an epic unraveling of the film’s endless lies, got in one of the best shots: “Releasing this on the eve of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary is like Bernie Sanders endorsing Donald Trump while chugging hydroxychloroquine.”

Here’s long-time solar activist (and, oh yeah, the guy who wrote “Heart of Gold“) Neil Young:
“The amount of damage this film tries to create (succeeding in the VERY short term) will ultimately bring light to the real facts, which are turning up everywhere in response to Michael Moore’s new erroneous and headline grabbing TV publicity tour of misinformation. A very damaging film to the human struggle for a better way of living, Moore’s film completely destroys whatever reputation he has earned so far.”

Inside Climate News 30th April 2020, 6 Things Michael Moore’s ‘Planet of the Humans’ Gets Wrong. The documentary’s “facts” are deceptive and misleading, not to mention way out
of date. Filmmaker Michael Moore’s new documentary purports to expose hypocrisy at the heart of the renewable energy movement. But the video, released on YouTube last week, is a mess of deceptive and outdated anecdotes, and a succession of ridiculous arguments. It will almost
certainly do far more harm than good in the struggle to reduce carbon emissions.

Observer 3rd May 2020, Planet of the Humans is an environmental documentary that has enraged
renewable energy experts and environmentalists, with some calling for its high-profile executive producer, Michael Moore, to apologise. It was released for free less than two weeks ago, and at the time of writing had had close to 5m views on YouTube. Across its 102 minutes, the film’s
producer and narrator, Jeff Gibbs, weaves a disjointed narrative that renewable energy is just as bad as fossil fuels, high-profile environmentalists are corrupted by capitalism and population growth is the great unspoken enemy. “It is truly demoralising how much damage this film has done at a moment when many are ready for deep change,” said the Canadian activist and journalist Naomi Klein.

May 3, 2020 Posted by | renewable, spinbuster | 2 Comments

“Pandemic denial” parallels Climate denial

April 26, 2020 Posted by | climate change, health, spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

COVID-19 Lessons from Three Mile Island #2 — the NRC

I happen to think it is worse for a government in crisis to fake it than to admit they aren’t sure of the correct problem, much less the correct answer. To say that COVID-19 is “no worse than the flu” or that “it will disappear in a few weeks” when you don’t really know what you are talking about is dangerous. It costs lives.

No executive ego is worth loss of life. 

COVID-19 Lessons from Three Mile Island #2 — the NRC    By Robert X. Cringely April 17th, 2020   My last column was about crisis management lessons I learned back in 1979 while investigating the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island (TMI). Let’s just say that FEMA wasn’t ready for a nuclear meltdown. Today we turn to the other federal agency I investigated at that same time — the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While FEMA was simply unprepared and incompetent, the NRC was unprepared and lied about it.

Like FEMA, the NRC had recently undergone a rebranding from its previous identity as the Atomic Energy Commission — a schizoid agency that had been charged with both regulating nuclear power and promoting it. It’s difficult to be the major booster of technology while at the same time making safety rules for it. Think of the Trump Administration’s approach to coal as an example of such a paradox.

When the NRC was created to regulate nuclear power, that PR function was sent over to the U.S. Department of Energy. So all the NRC had to do at Three Mile Island was to make sure the utility was following the rules and to help them keep the public safe. Not much of either actually happened during the accident, mainly because nobody really had any idea of the actual state of the reactor. This suggests that maybe a bit more regulation should have been done during the reactor design phase.

Since almost nobody but me remembers any of this let’s get out of the way the two most important lessons of Three Mile Island. The first lesson explains why the accident was so bad while the second explains why nobody died.

The primary technical failing of TMI came down to a poor operator training combined with a major user interface glitch. All of the TMI operators were originally trained by the U.S. Navy, where they operated nuclear reactors on submarines and aircraft carriers. This was a deliberate policy on the part of General Public Utilities (GPU), the electric company that owned the plant. And it wasn’t a bad policy. The Navy vets were proven operators who didn’t panic and had been well trained on their ships. Alas, they weren’t especially well trained on the actual reactor they operated at TMI. In fact, they weren’t really trained to operate the reactor at all: they were trained to pass the reactor operator test.

This distinction between being trained to operate the reactor versus being trained to pass the test is crucial. GPU assumed the Navy veterans already knew plenty about reactors, so they concentrated solely in their training on the actual operation of reactor systems. This may sound okay, but what was missing was any deep understanding of what was actually happening inside the reactor that might have been helpful for troubleshooting.

By streamlining their training, the reactor operators may have known which valve to open or close, but not necessarily why they were opening or closing it.

Look at the picture above [on original] of the control room at Three Mile Island Unit 2. There is a lot going on in this picture from 1979. There are hundreds of switches and valves matched by hundreds of meters and gauges. Video screens on the back wall mainly verified the state (open/closed, on/off) of these valves and switches. In this entire control room there was ONE warning light and ONE horn or buzzer. When something went wrong this one light would start to blink red and the buzzer would sound an alarm.

In theory, when the buzzer sounded an operator could scan all the gauges and figure out what was happening inside the reactor. In real terms, however, this was close to impossible to do. There were just too many variables and — remember — the operators weren’t trained to understand the innards of the reactor, just how to run it.

What actually ran the reactor was a minicomputer. So when the warning light started to blink (by this time they’d turned-off the buzzer) the operators could go to that IBM Selectric printer in the foreground of the picture above where the minicomputer would print out a trouble code and description of what had gone wrong. This printer-based user interface was a key failing at TMI because within two minutes of the first alarm sounding, that printer queue was already six hours behind in printing trouble codes.

While designing this printer-centric system they’d apparently never considered what would happen if there were 100 or 1000 trouble codes hitting at the same time. Worse still, every time the system updated (which as I recall was every minute), it sent to the printer another 100 or 1000 codes.

Certainly, there was an engineer somewhere who understood that printing subsystem and could have found a way into the queue, but nobody in Harrisburg knew who that engineer was. That engineer didn’t work for GPU. So the utility was never able to get past this UI problem which made the reactor operators essentially blind. They had to guess what was happening inside the reactor, and their guesses had to be correct, they thought, or people might die.

No pressure here.

The reactor operators were clueless. The GPU executives called-in to help were clueless. And the NRC “experts” were clueless, too. In fact, nobody at the NRC had been through operator training for this particular class of reactor.

will shortly look in some detail at the NRC’s response, but first let’s cover that other lesson of TMI — why nobody died. That nobody died at Three Mile Island was a total fluke. There was at least one over-pressure event that should have blown the containment dome over the reactor, releasing radiation into Middletown, Pennsylvania. The only reason the containment wasn’t breached was TMI had been built extra-strong because it was right next to the Harrisburg International Airport.

In this picture [on original] notice the airport in the background. The final approach goes right past Three Mile Island. There were a dozen Babcock & Wilcox reactors in the U.S. identical to the two units at Three Mile Island, but only those two TMI reactors were built next to what had been a US Air Force B-52 base. So only those two reactors got an extra foot of concrete added to their containment domes, taking them from three feet thick to four feet thick, just in case a B-52 happened to crash into one.

Had the TMI accident happened at the otherwise-identical Rancho Seco reactor near Sacramento, California, people probably would have died.

So TMI-2 melted-down, but it was overbuilt and nobody was actually in danger. However, back in 1979 nobody knew this.

Let’s take a moment here to contrast TMI and Chernobyl, the difference being that there was no containment at Chernobyl. The accidents were comparable, but with no containment, Chernobyl directly killed 31 people with an estimated 4000 additional deaths over the years since from radiation-caused cancer.

Reactor containments are good.

Not knowing what was actually happening inside the reactor, the men controlling Unit 2 made some bad decisions that made things worse. And after the first few hours, those decisions were all made with the agreement of the NRC, which also didn’t have a clue what was happening. For the most part, whatever was done was based on guesses and more of those guesses were wrong than were right. But since the containment was extra-thick, it probably didn’t matter.

Now to the part about lying. It is common for people in positions of authority to prefer that they are seen as acting correctly. Certainly, that was the case with the NRC, which never in the months I investigated them said anything like the truth — that they had no idea what the fuck was happening inside that reactor. They wanted to be seen as professional and calm, not clueless and panicked. So their official accounts projected this professionalism and tended to point fingers mainly at the utility — GPU. The NRC story was that they saved the day.

With the benefit of 41 years of hindsight, it’s pretty clear that nobody saved the day at TMI. Nor was the day especially at risk, though that, too, wasn’t known at the time.

My job in 1979 was to understand what happened and how it was presented to the outside world and when I did interviews at the NRC it just plain felt wrong. If the agency had done everything right, why did the accident seem so perilous?

That’s when I phoned-into the NRC Emergency Operations Center and learned something the agency had failed to disclose.

In one of the documents I retrieved from the NRC I found a telephone number for the NRC Emergency Operations Center. Purely on a hunch, I called it. This was in July 1979 and the accident began in March of that year. Like all government phones 41 years ago, this one was answered by a person. The EOC was still in operation, still supporting the accident recovery. As I spoke on the phone I heard a beeping sound.

“What’s that beep?” I asked.

“That’s the recorder — this call is being recorded,” the person on the phone explained.

“Are all incoming lines recorded?” I asked.

“Yup, all 40 of them,” was the answer.

We were already a month into investigating the NRC and nobody at the agency had mentioned that all incoming lines to the Emergency Operations Center were recorded (this was very unusual at the time). Rather than listen to the NRC explain what had happened back in March, I could presumably listen to the recordings myself.

The NRC said, “no.”

Remember those FEMA guys tapping their West Point rings on the conference table? Ring tapping was common at the NRC as well, where the agency had a huge investment in looking infallible. Giving me access to those recordings could have blown their cover, so they rejected my request.

The NRC, which was part of the Executive Branch, rejected a request effectively from the President of the United States.

At this point, some writers might mention the Deep State. But that implies a conspiracy. What I think was going on here was more like hubris.

We subpoenaed the tapes. The NRC said they couldn’t give us the tapes (no reason was given, by the way — they just “couldn’t” do it). Nor could they copy the tapes for us. So we went to court and eventually the NRC offered to transcribe the tapes for us — a process they estimated would take six weeks. They wanted to wait until all the transcriptions were finished before providing any, so we went back to court for quicker access.

Does any of this make sense to you? If your state governor calls up the highway department and asks for some files, do you think they ever say “no?”

As the transcripts began to trickle out it was clear that something was wrong. Some of the transcriptions simply didn’t make sense. And key sections were missing entirely, with the transcription saying only that they were unintelligible. So it was back to court to get the original tapes, which the NRC still refused to give up. Instead, they set up a listening room at NRC headquarters where only one investigator at a time could go for a few hours per day to listen to the original tapes. We had to know which tapes to ask for based on the bad transcriptions that still weren’t all complete.

The NRC, so intent on maintaining security, had hired an outside transcription service. That service had no special knowledge of nuclear reactor operations, so when technical terms were used they often got them wrong or just said they were unintelligible. Things were unintelligible, too, when more than two people were on the line or when people were urgently speaking over one another. In other words, the most urgent moments were those moments least likely to be correctly transcribed.

Sitting in that NRC listening room, listening to the tapes after a month of fighting to get them, they were actually quite clear. By this time I was an expert, I knew the terms and I knew what the speakers were discussing and the context. When they said things like “Shit, I think it’s going to blow!” that wasn’t unintelligible to me.

The lesson of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at Three Mile Island was that they were incompetent and unhelpful. Part of this was a difficult relationship with GPU, part was that crazy printer-based user interface to the reactor computer, but a lot of it came down to the NRC having a huge investment in looking infallible. And that’s the lesson for COVID-19.

I happen to think it is worse for a government in crisis to fake it than to admit they aren’t sure of the correct problem, much less the correct answer. To say that COVID-19 is “no worse than the flu” or that “it will disappear in a few weeks” when you don’t really know what you are talking about is dangerous. It costs lives.

No executive ego is worth loss of life.

April 20, 2020 Posted by | spinbuster, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. Energy Dept awards for nuclear students (not for renewable energy ones)

U.S. Department of Energy Announces Education Awards for the Next Generation of Nuclear Scientists and Engineers, APRIL 14, 2020  WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced more than $5 million in awards through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Integrated University Program. The program offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to students pursuing nuclear engineering degrees and other nuclear science and engineering programs relevant to nuclear energy. The awards include 42 scholarships and 34 fellowships for students at 32 U.S. colleges and universities.

“The Integrated University Program is focused on attracting the best and the brightest to nuclear energy professions,” ….

April 16, 2020 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

NuScam and other nuclear companies weasel their way into University of Tennessee

TVA signs nuclear research MOU with University of Tennessee on advanced SMR technologies, Power Engineering Rod Walton, 4.7.20  In its latest move toward potentially embracing next-gen nuclear energy technology, the Tennessee Valley Authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with the state’s largest university to study it together.

The University of Tennessee and TVA signed the MOU to evaluate development of advanced nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors. The project, if developed, would be at TVA’s 935-acre Clinch River Nuclear Site in Roane County.

TVA has not made a decision to build it and would still require U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval for a specific design. Late last year, however, the NRC approved the federal utility’s early site permit at Clinch River.

Earlier this year, TVA announced it had signed an MOU with the Oak Ridge National Lab, part of the Energy Department system……. This announcement joins previously announced partnerships and design advancements involving companies such as NuScale Power, Lightbridge, Framatome and South Korea’s SMART SMR……

Knoxville is the flagship campus for the UT system. The university has more than 29,000 students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 other nations.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and

April 9, 2020 Posted by | Education, USA | Leave a comment

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