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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

New sanctions on North Korea, agreed on by China and USA. Russia delays

China, U.S. agree on new sanctions to punish North Korea for nuclear test, but Russia ‘trying to hold it up’, National Post Michelle Nichols, Reuters | November 24, 2016 UNITED NATIONS — The United States and China have agreed on new U.N. sanctions to impose on North Korea over the nuclear test it conducted in September, but Russia is delaying action on a draft resolution, a senior Security Council diplomat said on Wednesday.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believed China could persuade Russia to agree to the new sanctions and that the 15-member Security Council could vote on the draft resolution as early as next week.

Since North Korea’s fifth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 9, the United States and China, a close ally of North Korea, have been negotiating a new draft Security Council resolution to punish Pyongyang.

That draft text was recently given to the remaining three permanent council veto powers, Britain, France and Russia.

“The (permanent five members) are getting very close to agreement on a draft resolution,” the diplomat said. “The key thing is that China and the U.S., who have led this, have got to a position that they agree on. So the issue now is Russia…….http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/china-u-s-agree-on-new-sanctions-to-punish-north-korea-for-nuclear-test-but-russia-trying-to-hold-it-up

November 26, 2016 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international, Russia, UK | Leave a comment

China’s ambitious plan, lifting poor communities by means of solar rooftops

Unlike many other developing countries, around 99% of all Chinese households already have access to the grid.

community-solar

Solar PV can help China’s poorest, China Dialogue     23.11.2016 中文版本  In Anhui villages are hooking up to the grid to generate income and power, writes Suzanne Fisher-Murray The residents of Yuexi county, a mountainous area in eastern China, must have thought it was their lucky day when they heard they had been selected for China’s new solar poverty alleviation project.

The 382,000 residents are some of the poorest in the country, living below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan (about US$1 per day). This was the key criteria for their selection in the project, which is part of China’s 13th Five-Year-Plan, the roadmap for the nation’s development from 2016 to 2020.

In 2015, President Xi Jinping announced the Chinese government would eradicate poverty in China by 2020, which requires targeting the country’s 70 million people living below the poverty line. In April, 2015, China’s National Energy Administration released a plan to use solar photovoltaics (PV) to increase the income of 200 million Chinese households within 16 provinces and 271 counties.

The project is being piloted in Yuexi county, Anhui province before being rolled out across the country. Villagers identified as living below the poverty line will have rooftop solar panels rated at 3-5 kilowatts installed on their roofs and become shareholders in village solar power stations with a generating capacity of around 60-100 kilowatts. The aim is for the solar panels to earn each family 3,000 yuan (around US$430) in extra income each year. Local farmers could also earn additional income by leasing out non-arable lands or maintaining the solar farms.

So far, 182 villages (with 30,000 residents) in the county have been identified as eligible for the project. Construction has begun at a staggering pace: 57 solar parks were built in 2015, with the remaining 125 expected to be finished this year.

Unlike many other developing countries, around 99% of all Chinese households already have access to the grid.

Each household will use the solar electricity generated for their own purposes. This will reduce energy bills and any surplus electricity will be sold back to the grid. Families will also have shared ownership of the solar parks, splitting 40% of the profits between them, with the remaining 60% going to pay back loans and park construction fees. This means that once the solar panels are installed, households and villagers could begin to see the benefits quickly.“It will take more time before we know the impact of the project,” warned Yixiong Kang from China Carbon Futures Asset Management Company, which is overseeing the financial and technical aspects of the project.

“But it could have a huge impact. We are talking about the poorest families. They basically have nothing in their houses that use electricity [because they can’t afford to pay the bills].” The extra income they’ll earn could change that. “If you want to change the living standards of people, sometimes it’s not enough to just give them electricity. Electricity – that’s just a power supply. They need greater help,” he added.

Aside from the direct profits, the villagers would also likely benefit from subsidies paid to solar generation projects in China. The rates are set to go down in 2017 due to a solar power generation surplus, but, if paid, will also help increase the villagers’ profits. The village level solar stations will also be part of a Chinese emissions trading programme which is currently being established. The village solar stations that have certified emissions reductions certificates could trade 1000 kWh of their clean energy to replace one tonne of carbon dioxide emissions on the carbon trading scheme.

When China’s national cap-and-trade programme officially launches in 2017 its carbon trading market will be the largest in the world. The sums set to be generated are substantial. By the end of October 2015, China had seven pilot carbon trading markets in seven cities and provinces. The total emissions ‘allowances’ distributed during 2015, said Kang, was the equivalent of 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, with a projected turnover of 1.3 billion yuan (around US$188 million)….https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9420-Solar-PV-can-help-China-s-poorest

November 24, 2016 Posted by | China, decentralised | Leave a comment

State-controlled China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) building floating nuclear reactor

China starts to build its first floating nuclear power reactor for deployment off coast, Times of India, Reuters | Updated: Nov 7, 2016, BEIJING: China has started to build its first floating nuclear power reactor, which it plans to deploy off its coast by the end of the decade.

State-controlled China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has begun construction of the ACPR50S reactor, and will acquire the reactor pressure vessel that encloses the reactor core from Dongfang Electric, CGN said in a statement on Friday.

The 200-megawatt reactor will help power offshore facilities in China’s open sea and island reefs, CGN said, adding that offshore energy supply is an issue that China has to overcome in order to become a naval power…….http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/China-starts-to-build-its-first-floating-nuclear-power-reactor-for-deployment-off-coast/articleshow/55298242.cms

November 11, 2016 Posted by | China, politics, technology | Leave a comment

China now marketing its nukes to Ukraine

Buy-China-nukes-1Energoatom expands cooperation with CNNP, NASA and IDOM Nuclear Services, WNN 08 November 2016 Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator Energoatom has agreed to enhance its cooperation with Chinese, Argentinian and Spanish companies – respectively, China National Nuclear Power (CNNP), Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NASA) and IDOM Nuclear Services………

Energoatom, which is also state-owned, operates four nuclear power plants – Zaporozhe, Rovno, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky – which comprise 15 nuclear reactors, including 13 VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s with a total capacity of 13,835 MWe. In July last year, the Ukrainian government approved a pilot project, named the “energy bridge”, to transfer electricity from unit 2 of the Khmelnitsky plant to the European Union.

Representatives from CNNP, which is a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation, presented its strategy to upgrade units at the Tianwan nuclear power plant. Beijing-based CNNP operates 12 nuclear power plants with an installed capacity of 9773 MWe……..http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Energoatom-expands-cooperation-with-CNNP-NASA-and-IDOM-Nuclear-Services-08111601.html

November 11, 2016 Posted by | China, marketing, Ukraine | 1 Comment

Warning that a USA strike on North Korea would spark war with China

Atomic-Bomb-SmUS strike on North Korea would spark world war with China, think-tank warns https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2090813/crushing-crazy-kims-nuke-bid-will-spark-war-with-china/
U.S. warned against nuking nutty North Korea because it risked war with neighbouring China
 BY PATRICK KNOX 1st November 2016, 

November 4, 2016 Posted by | China, North Korea, USA, weapons and war | 1 Comment

China determined to export nuclear expertise: it all hangs on UK Hinkley project

Buy-China-nukes-1Xi says UK nuclear success is crucial, Shanghai Daily, Source: Agencies | November 1, 2016, PRESIDENT Xi Jinping said yesterday China and France should properly implement the Hinkley Point C nuclear project in Britain, the first new UK nuclear power plant for two decades.

Xi made the remarks when meeting with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Chinese and French companies signed the agreement to build an 18 billion pound (US$21.9 billion) nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C during Xi’s state visit to Britain in October last year. The CGN-led Chinese consortium and French company EDF respectively take 33.5 percent and 66.5 percent stakes.

The Hinkley Point project finally got the go-ahead after Britain’s new prime minister Theresa May delayed the deal because of national security concerns.

As part of the agreement, EDF will help CGN to gain a license to build its own nuclear reactor, Hualong, in Britain, whose nuclear regulatory regime is seen as one of the most stringent in the world.

China is keen to establish itself as an exporter of nuclear expertise so successfully building a plant in the UK would open the door to other markets……..

France and China would set up a fund for joint investment in overseas projects, he said yesterday. “Hinkley Point is a very good example of what we’re going to do together, to win contracts in third markets and in all sectors.”

The project to build the UK nuclear power plant station was “a model that we support everywhere, including in Africa and Asia,” he said.

The new joint fund would be set up soon, he said, without giving further details……….

China and France also signed a social insurance agreement yesterday that will exempt company employees assigned to work in each other’s countries from the mandatory social insurance contributions. http://www.shanghaidaily.com/nation/Xi-says-UK-nuclear-success-is-crucial/shdaily.shtml

November 4, 2016 Posted by | China, marketing | Leave a comment

Meltdown in China’s Nuclear Power Plans

The challenge for the Chinese nuclear industry is to do what no other nuclear industry worldwide has been able to do; to bring the cost of nuclear generation down to levels at which it can compete with other forms of generation, particularly renewables.

If it is unable to do this, China cannot afford to carry on ordering nuclear plants and nuclear will retain a small proportion of the electricity mix. This leaves China’s nuclear export drive in a precarious position.   If it is unable to do this, China cannot afford to carry on ordering nuclear plants.

China has had little export success so far

radiation-sign-sadflag-ChinaChina’s Nuclear Power Plans Melting Down http://thediplomat.com/2016/10/chinas-nuclear-power-plans-melting-down/ China may scale down plans for nuclear power because of slowing demand for electricity and construction setbacks. By Steve Thomas October 29, 2016   For China’s nuclear industry, 2016 has been a frustrating year. So far, construction has started on only one new plant, and its target of bringing 58 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in service by 2020 seems impossible to meet.

At present, China has 19.3 gigawatts of nuclear supply under construction and a further 31.4 gigawatts already in service. Given that new plants take five years or more to build, the country faces a shortfall of more than seven gigawatts on its target.

All the plants started between 2008 and 2010 are online except for six imported reactors. These include four AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse, based in the United States but owned by Toshiba of Japan, and two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs), developed by Areva, a French multinational group specializing in nuclear power.

The plants are not expected to be completed before 2017 and all will be at least three years late, an unprecedented delay in China’s nuclear history. It would be surprising if China was not disillusioned with its suppliers and their technologies.

Technology Problems

The EPR and AP1000 reactors have been problematic to build. The two EPRs are three to four years late although there is little available information detailing why. Meanwhile, EPR plants in Finland and France, which should have been completed in 2009 and 2012, respectively, will not be online before 2018.

There are no obvious problems that account for the majority of the delays at any of the sites, just a series of quality and planning issues that suggest the complexity of the design makes it difficult to build.

The four AP1000s are also running three to four years late. They are being built by China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC), which has not built reactors before. There is some publicly available information about the problems suffered in China with the AP1000s, including continual design changes by Westinghouse. The reactor coolant pumps and the squib valves, which are essential to prevent accidents, have been particularly problematic, for example.

Still, China is expected to be the first country to complete construction of AP1000 and EPR designs, a scenario it did not expect or want. The government is required to develop and demonstrate test procedures for bringing the plants into service, which could take up to a year. These test procedures are developed by vendors and generally standardized, although national safety regulators must approve them and can add specific requirements.

In 2014, a senior official at China’s nuclear safety regulator, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), complained that only a small number of test procedures had been developed for the AP1000, and no acceptance criteria had been submitted for review. He said the same issues affect the EPR.

China will likely be reluctant to commit to further AP1000s (and the CAP1400, a Chinese design modified from the AP1000) until the first of the Westinghouse designs is in service, passes its acceptance tests, and demonstrates safe, reliable operation. There are no plans to build additional EPR reactors.

In fact, state-owned China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) opted instead to develop medium-sized reactors (1000 megawatts), the ACP1000 and the ACPR1000, respectively, based on Areva’s much older M310 design rather than the EPR.

Challenging Circumstances  The slowdown in electricity demand growth at home has left China with surplus power-generating capacity. Nuclear is now competing against coal plants supplied with cheap fuel. Furthermore, nuclear has a lower priority for dispatch in winter than combined heat and power plants, which warm homes and factories and typically burn coal and gas.

In 2015, nuclear power accounted for only 3 percent of China’s electricity and at any plausible rate of building nuclear plants, it is unlikely that nuclear would achieve more than 10 percent of China’s electricity supply.

This year, one reactor (Hongyanhe 3) in Liaoning, operated for only 987 hours in the first quarter of 2016, just 45 percent of its availability, while reactors in Fujian (Fuqing) and Hainan (Changjiang) were shut down temporarily.

Another challenge is the strain placed on China’s nuclear regulators in the face of such an ambitious target. The NNSA is under particular pressure to oversee the operation of 36 plants and the construction of 20 plants, as well as being the first regulatory authority to review six new designs. Not even the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which monitored standards during the huge build-out of the industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has faced such a workload.

Safety authorities are usually reluctant to appear critical of their international peers but in 2014, a senior French safety regulator described NNSA as “overwhelmed,” and claimed that the storage of components was “not at an adequate level.” A senior official from SNPTC said in 2015: “Our fatal weakness is our management standards are not high enough.” To build up the capabilities to support such a large construction program, a pause in ordering new plants and equipment may be necessary.

Uncertain Future The target of having 58 GW nuclear capacity in service by 2020 is not achievable and, like nuclear capacity targets in the past in China and elsewhere, it will be quietly revised down. The challenge for the Chinese nuclear industry is to do what no other nuclear industry worldwide has been able to do; to bring the cost of nuclear generation down to levels at which it can compete with other forms of generation, particularly renewables.

If it is unable to do this, China cannot afford to carry on ordering nuclear plants and nuclear will retain a small proportion of the electricity mix. This leaves China’s nuclear export drive in a precarious position. Since 2013, China has turned its attention to nuclear export markets, offering apparently strong advantages over its competitors. The Chinese government can call on all the resources of China to offer a package of equipment, construction expertise, finance, and training that none of its rivals, even Russia, can match.

Unlike its competitors, it also has a huge amount of recent construction experience allowing it to supply cheap, good quality equipment. Its attempt to build reactors in the U.K. is an important element to this strategy; convincing an experienced user of nuclear power that a Chinese plant is worth investing in is a strong endorsement of their technology.

Despite these advantages, China has had little export success so far. In part, this is because there are fewer markets open to new nuclear. Such markets are typically found in developing countries where the financial risks are greater, and where governments have tried and failed to launch nuclear power programs themselves.

It seems clear there is a political element to the Chinese nuclear export strategy, which is to gain influence and leverage in the importing countries. However, if the world nuclear market does not pick up soon, the Chinese government may decide to put its formidable resources behind other technologies that would develop influence with less economic risk. If China’s nuclear home market is not flourishing, this decision will be much easier.

Steve Thomas is professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, in London.

This post was originally published by chinadialogue 

October 31, 2016 Posted by | China, politics | Leave a comment

China’s plan for small floating nuclear reactors carries potentially devastating risks

Could China build the world’s smallest nuclear power plant and send it to the South China Sea?
Nuclear plant under development could fit into a shipping container and make a small island economically viable, CNBC, Stephen Chen, 11 Oct 16  SCMP A top mainland research institute is developing the world’s smallest ­nuclear power plant, which could fit inside a shipping container and might be installed on an island in the disputed South China Sea within five years.

 Researchers are carrying out intensive work on the unit – dubbed the hedianbao, or “portable nuclear battery pack”.

Although the small, lead-cooled reactor could be placed ­inside a shipping container ­measuring about 6.1 metres long and 2.6 metres high, it would be able to generate 10 megawatts of heat, which, if converted into ­electricity, would be enough to power some 50,000 households……The research is partially funded by the People’s Liberation Army.

reactors-floating

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology, a national research institute in Hefei, Anhui province, say they hope to be able to ship the first unit within five years.

“Part of our funding came from the military, but we hope – and it’s our ultimate goal – that the technology will eventually benefit civilian users,” Professor Huang Qunying,a nuclear scientist ­involved in the research, said.

The Chinese researchers admit their technology is similar to a compact lead-cooled thermal reactor that was used by the navy of the former Soviet Union in its nuclear submarines in the 1970s.

However, China would probably be the first nation to use such military technology on land.

While these “baby” reactors would able to generate large quantities of electricity and desalinate huge supplies of seawater for use as fresh water, they have also attracted serious environmental concerns.

If any one of them were to ­suffer a catastrophic problem, the ­radioactive waste would affect not only the countries nearby, but also spread around the world via the region’s strong sea currents…….

The lead-cooled reactor is part of China’s efforts to develop new-generation reactors for its rapidly expanding nuclear energy sector. Other technological approaches, such as molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, are also under rapid development thanks to generous government funding.

China also has been considering building small floating nuclear power plants using conventional technology to generate electricity for the South China Sea islands.

A marine environment ­researcher at the Ocean University of China, in Qingdao, Shandong province, has warned that the inevitable ­discharge of hot, radioactive water from a nuclear plant into the ocean might alter the ecological system of an entire region around an island.

“Many fish and marine creatures will not be able to deal with the dramatic change of environment caused by massive desalination and the rise of sea temperatures caused by a nuclear reactor,” said the researcher, who declined to be named.

“If a nuclear disaster happened in the South China Sea, it would not have an immediate effect on people living on the mainland owing to it being a great distance away,” the researcher said.

“But the radioactive waste would enter the bodies of fish and other marine creatures and likely end up on our dining tables. Sea currents could also carry the waste to distant shores,” she said.

Before putting any nuclear power plant on a remote South China Sea island, the Chinese government should consider not only its political, military or economic benefits, but also carry out comprehensive scientific evaluations on its potential environmental impact, the researcher said. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/11/could-china-build-the-worlds-smallest-nuclear-power-plant-and-send-it-to-the-south-china-sea.html

October 12, 2016 Posted by | China, oceans, technology | Leave a comment

China going allout to market nuclear reactors to Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East

Buy-China-nukes-1China’s nuclear plant makers seek new markets along the ancient Silk Road into Asia, Europe, Africa and Middle East SCMP, 04 April, 2016

‘One belt, one road’ policy for financing and support for infrastructure projects is helping nuclear plant constructors expand into overseas markets………The policy was first proposed in 2013 to promote infrastructure construction deals overseas along with goods and services trade along the ancient Silk Road from China to Europe and along the ancient maritime trade route linking China to southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The state is offering financing at a time when China’s economy grew at the slowest rate in 25 years and its industry faces severe overcapacity problems.

Beijing has encouraged local firms to become involved in infrastructure projects in southeast Asia, Europe and Africa. Chinese nuclear reactor builders are a growing force in the global nuclear industry.

“The export of nuclear reactors will become one of the key pillars for executing China’s one belt, one road strategy,” Zheshang Securities analyst Zheng Dandan said………

Three Chinese state-backed firms are actively pursuing opportunities to export their reactor construction expertise, especially in developing nations that do not have their own construction capabilities.

Beijing-based projects developer China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) chairman Sun Qin was quoted by state media China News Service last month as saying that 80 per cent of the up to 300 new reactors projected to be built by 2030 globally could be in ‘one belt, one road’ nations.

CNNC wants to build 30 reactors in such nations, and will use Argentina as a base to develop the South American market, Algeria for reaching out to the greater African market and Pakistan where it is building a project to develop the Asian market, Sun was reported as saying.

State Power Investment, formed via the merger of one of the nation’s “big five” power generators China Power Investment and general contractor State Nuclear Power Technology last year, is also pursuing overseas projects.

It has partnered with the US nuclear technology powerhouse Westinghouse to negotiate a potential deal to build a nuclear power project in Turkey. It has also pursued opportunities in South Africa.

Shenzhen-based projects developer China General Nuclear Power is working towards winning potential projects in Britain, Kenya and southeast Asia. It won one bid to build a plant in Romania.

The mainland leadership has made the globalisation of Chinese firms a key part of its economic reform plans, looking to establish the nation as a major provider of value-added and high-end goods and services. In a series of articles this week, the South China Morning Post examines the key industries targeting overseas expansion, beginning with the nuclear power industry.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | China, marketing | Leave a comment

China’s huge top secret nuclear base now finally declassified

Top secret Chinese nuclear base opens to foreigners [good photos] , news.com.au , 6 Oct 15 IT’S A maze built to manufacture plutonium and house thousands of tonnes of explosives.

The 826 Nuclear Military Plant, a former top-secret Chinese base, is almost 20km wide, with 178 caves and more than 130 roads and tunnels.

The largest man-made cave in the world was commissioned in the 1960s, when Beijing feared an imminent nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.

More than 60,000 engineering soldiers participated in the construction, and at least 100 of them were reportedly killed during the process.

It’s hidden deep in the mountains of Fuling, in the Chongqing municipality of central China, and can reportedly withstand a magnitude 8.0 earthquake.

The largest cave is nearly 80m high, or roughly the height of a 20-storey building, and the tunnels are wide enough to drive through……..The huge undertaking took 17 years to build, and was nearly completed when it was abruptly cancelled due to changes in Cold War politics in 1984.

 After lying dormant for many years, it was officially declassified in 2002.

It’s just undergone an extensive renovation, and is now open to foreign visitors for the first time…….http://www.news.com.au/travel/world-travel/asia/top-secret-chinese-nuclear-base-opens-to-foreigners/news-story/2ab679cdfd44e04a7fdf01b1b3a1a61d

October 6, 2016 Posted by | China, history, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China’s graphite mining communities pay heavy health toll, to supply modern technological devices

Inhaling particulate matter can cause an array of health troubles, according to health experts, including heart attacks and respiratory ailments.

But it’s not just the air. The graphite plant discharges pollutants into local waters…

graphite-miner-china-16

IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere.Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey   Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez  Videos by Jorge Ribas   October 2, 2016 At night, the pollution around the village has an otherworldly, almost fairy-tale quality.

“The air sparkles,” said Zhang Tuling, a farmer in a village in far northeastern China. “When any bit of light hits the particles, they shine.”

By daylight, the particles are visible as a lustrous gray dust that settles on everything. It stunts the crops it blankets, begrimes laundry hung outside to dry and leaves grit on food. The village’s well water has become undrinkable, too.

Beside the family home is a plot that once grew saplings, but the trees died once the factory began operating, said Zhang’s husband, Yu Yuan.

“This is what we live with,” Zhang said, slowly waving an arm at the stumps.

Zhang and Yu live near a factory that produces graphite, a glittery substance that, while best known for filling pencils, has become an indispensable resource in the new millennium. It is an ingredient in lithium-ion batteries.

Smaller and more powerful than their predecessors, lithium batteries power smartphones and laptop computers and appear destined to become even more essential as companies make much larger ones to power electric cars.

The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the “clean” technology. But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution.

At five towns in two provinces of China, Washington Post journalists heard the same story from villagers living near graphite companies: sparkling night air, damaged crops, homes and belongings covered in soot, polluted drinking water — and government officials inclined to look the other way to benefit a major employer.

After leaving these Chinese mines and refiners, much of the graphite is sold to Samsung SDI, LG Chem and Panasonic — the three largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries. Those companies supply batteries to major consumer companies such as Samsung, LG, General Motors and Toyota.

Apple products use batteries made by those companies, too Continue reading

October 5, 2016 Posted by | China, environment, health, Reference | Leave a comment

In these Chinese villages – graphite IN THE AIR, IN THE WATER

IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A trace of graphite is in consumer tech. In these Chinese villages, it’s everywhere. Washington Post, Story by Peter Whoriskey   Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez  Videos by Jorge Ribas   October 2, 2016   “………IN THE AIR, IN THE WATER

Despite the name, only a small portion of a lithium-ion battery consists of lithium. Graphite is used to make the negative electrode and represents about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of a typical lithium-ion battery, according to analysts.

The demand for graphite has risen in parallel with the demand for more-powerful laptops, tablets and phones.

Ten years ago, for example, the battery of the best-selling Motorola Razr had a capacity of 680 milliamp-hours. Today, the batteries in the best-selling smartphones have three or four times that.

Lyu Guoliang, senior engineer at the graphite business association in Jixi, said the demand for graphite rose very rapidly in 2010, driven by the demand for lithium-ion batteries.

Graphite for batteries must be refined to high levels of purity, and the flakes must be reformed into tiny spherical or potato-like particles. This extra refining means that the refined graphite is worth 10 times as much as the raw material, said Lyu, and that made the business particularly attractive.

But without proper controls, mining and refining can cause pollution in two ways — by air and by water.

Graphite powder can quickly become airborne dust, drifting for miles. Without systems of tarps and fans to keep it under control, the resulting fine-particle pollution can cause an array of breathing difficulties, such as aggravating lung disease or reducing lung function, and has been linked to heart attacks in people with heart disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Graphite operations can also lead to pollution because their chemicals leak into local waters. According to industry sources, the purifying process, especially in China, is commonly done with acids, often hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic substance.

This method is cheaper than the one used in other countries, where the graphite is purified by “baking,” — that is, heating it up. Riddle, of Asbury Carbons, said refining graphite that way is better for the environment but adds about 15 percent to the price. He said that for the past 20 years his company has insisted on purchasing only graphite refined this way.

“We had hoped more companies and users would follow our lead, but this has not been the case,” Riddle said.

Tracing your battery’s graphite

The lithium-ion battery industry has a massively complicated supply chain. Each consumer company has dealt with multiple suppliers — and their suppliers have dealt with multiple suppliers. This shows some of the connections within the industry. See companies’ responses to Washington Post’s investigation.

WAR AGAINST POLLUTION’

The Chinese government has shown increasing concern about the nation’s environmental woes.

After decades of extraordinary economic growth, the country’s air has become an acute health danger. A million or more Chinese die prematurely every year because of outdoor air pollution, according to multiple estimates, including the report known as the Global Burden of Disease, part of a project run out of the University of Washington. One of the critical groups of pollutants in the Chinese air is “particulate matter” — dust, soot, smoke — a category that includes the air pollutants emitted from graphite plants.

Meanwhile, water quality in China has deteriorated, too. In 2015, the portion of the country’s groundwater supplies classified as “bad” or “very bad” stood at over 60 percent, according to China Water Risk, a nonprofit group that tallies figures from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. More than a quarter of China’s key rivers were deemed by the government as “unfit for human contact,” according to the group.

According to a report on graphite mining shown on state-run CCTV, the rivers in Jixi show levels of lead and mercury that are many times the national limit. Given the array of industry in the area, however, it is impossible to say how much of the lead and mercury come from the graphite industry.

“We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty,” Premier Li Keqiang announced in 2014.

About three years ago, the country’s environmental efforts focused on the graphite industry, and records indicate that more than a dozen companies were issued citations by provincial and city officials, mostly in Heilongjiang and Shandong provinces, where most of China’s graphite business is done.

For example, Aoyu, which operates the plants near Lyu Shengwen and Liu Fulan in Mashan, was cited for not controlling the dust and the water pollution. It was fined roughly $7,500 for those infractions and asked to make improvements, according to a database of government records kept by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), a Beijing-based nonprofit.

Likewise, BTR faced similar enforcement efforts for air and water pollution.

So, too, has Hensen, a graphite producer in Shandong province that sells to BTR, according to its manager, who did not respond to emailed questions regarding the water pollution.

Guo, the BTR spokeswoman, said that the plant in question has been improved and won the approval of the local government. She attributed the complaints to the fact that BTR is an environmental leader within the industry. As a result, she said, “we think it is normal . . . that someone attacks BTR by improper means. . . . BTR will talk with local people. . . . We would like to prove to them that BTR doesn’t make pollution on the water and crops.”

An Aoyu official hung up on a reporter seeking comment about the pollution.

But not all of the graphite factories appear to have been targeted by the crackdown. For two of the five factories visited by Post journalists, no records of any government citations could be found in the IPE database.

And even at those places where polluters were cited by the government, neighbors said that if any improvements were made, they were short-lived or not substantial enough to clean up the problem. Villagers said some factories employ pollution prevention measures — such as tarps to keep graphite from flying away, or actions to prevent toxic sewage from flowing into local waters — only when the environmental officials are present.

“It was worse last year, but it’s still bad,” Li Jie said in Liumao. “Everything is mai tai.” The trouble, residents and some industry representatives said, is that while the government wants to protect the environment, they also want to protect the jobs at the graphite factories.

Hou Lin, 30, works at the Aoyu plant in Mashan as a safety manager. He walked by as some farmers were complaining to reporters about the pollution.

“The company pollutes a lot,” he agreed. “But people need to have jobs.”……………..Story by Peter Whoriskey. Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez. Videos by Jorge Ribas. Graphics by Lazaro Gamio andTim Meko. Design by Matt CallahanEmily Chow and Chris Rukan.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/graphite-mining-pollution-in-china/

October 5, 2016 Posted by | China, environment | Leave a comment

Chinese villagers intimidated by graphite plant owners in collusion with local authorities

graphite-miner-china-16IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A TRACE OF GRAPHITE IS IN CONSUMER TECH. IN THESE CHINESE VILLAGES, IT’S EVERYWHERE. WASHINGTON POST, STORY BY PETER WHORISKEY   PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ  VIDEOS BY JORGE RIBAS   OCTOBER 2, 2016  “…….BEING WATCHED

One of the main obstacles in clearing the pollution, villagers said, is the powerful alliance between local government officials and the owners of the graphite plants. The officials, the villagers said, protect the factories from environmental complaints.

At three of the five villages visited by Post journalists in May and June, a village official either tried to attend interviews or soon after inquired of the interviewees what had transpired in the interviews. Moreover, plant managers and party officials sometimes discouraged journalists from speaking with villagers.

After Post journalists visited the Haida Graphite plant in Pingdu, for example, a plant employee jumped in a car to follow their taxi off the property and through the village streets.

The taxi stopped twice in the village so The Post could interview more people. At each stop, the driver of the Haida car approached to within a few feet and blared the car horn continuously, making talking to villagers impossible. The driver relented only when The Post’s taxi left the area. Asked to comment later about the pollution complaints, a Haida official accused a Post reporter of “espionage” and refused to answer questions.

Similarly, after The Post visited a BTR graphite factory in Jixi, two cars with several men inside began following the reporters’ taxi. Three times, over several miles, the taxi pulled over to let them pass. Each time, the following cars pulled over and stopped behind the Post taxi. Confronted, the men in the cars told reporters that it was just a coincidence that they had stopped at the same time that the taxi did. The men said they were mapping out a bicycle race.

The intimidation has an effect on villagers.

Not far from the Hensen graphite plant in Laixi is a small factory that makes women’s underwear. Han Wenbing, 48, is the owner. A large man, proud of his workshop, he was eager to talk about the graphite pollution.

He readily invited reporters into his home, showing the dust quickly gathering on his kitchen table and showing how his well water, which had been fine for drinking, now is topped with a gray film.

But as he made his case against the graphite plant, his wife grew nervous — and then angry. To speak out would only cause trouble with the plant manager and village officials, she warned her husband.

“Yes, there is absolutely an impact [from the graphite], but we don’t want to be on TV,” she said. “This could offend the boss of the company, which could affect our lives. You [reporters] wash your hands and walk away, but we live here.”

Han nevertheless wanted to make his complaints known. Once his wife acquiesced, he offered to point out a field that showed some of the worst effects of the pollution. The field had been used by small farmers, he said, but industrial runoff had affected the soil so much that “not even the weeds can grow.”………Story by Peter Whoriskey. Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez. Videos by Jorge Ribas. Graphics by Lazaro Gamio andTim Meko. Design by Matt CallahanEmily Chow and Chris Rukan.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/graphite-mining-pollution-in-china/

October 4, 2016 Posted by | China, environment, PERSONAL STORIES, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Rising demand for lithium, and the pollution resulting from this

IN YOUR PHONE, IN THEIR AIR  A TRACE OF GRAPHITE IS IN CONSUMER TECH. IN THESE CHINESE VILLAGES, IT’S EVERYWHERE. WASHINGTON POST, STORY BY PETER WHORISKEY   PHOTOS BY MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ  VIDEOS BY JORGE RIBAS   OCTOBER 2, 2016 “……DEMAND RAMPS UP

While U.S. consumers may seem uninvolved in — and untouched by — the Chinese pollution, the truth is more complicated.

The U.S. demand for cheap goods helps keep the Chinese factories going. More than a quarter of the emissions of two key pollutants in China — sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides — arose from the production of goods for export, according to research published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The largest share of exports goes to the United States.

Moreover, the same researchers found that some of the pollution in China reaches the United States — the air pollution drifts across the ocean and raises ozone levels in the western part of the country, according to the study.

“Outsourcing production to China does not always relieve consumers in the United States . . . from the environmental impacts of air pollution,” according to the authors of the study, which was conducted by a consortium of scientists from China and the United States.

Now the rise of the electric-car industry promises a huge surge in the lithium-ion battery business.

Making batteries big enough to power cars will cause a daunting leap in demand. A laptop requires just a handful of the familiar, thin, cylindrical lithium-ion batteries known as “18650s.” A smartphone requires even less. But a typical electric car requires thousands of times the battery power.

Today, the best known “gigafactory” for electric-car batteries is the one being built by Tesla in the Nevada desert — a plant the company says will produce 500,000 electric-car batteries annually. But it’s just one of many. About a dozen other battery gigafactories are being planned around the world.

This is “not just a Tesla story,” said Simon Moores, managing director of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a firm that tracks demand and assesses prices for raw materials in the industry. “The demand is rising everywhere, especially in China.”   Todd C. Frankel and Yanan Wang in Washington and Xu Jing contributed to this report.

October 4, 2016 Posted by | China, environment, RARE EARTHS, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

China’s growing nuclear waste problem

waste levels are growing rapidly. The government-backed China Nuclear Energy Association said that by the end of 2020, the nation’s nuclear plants will have to get rid of more than 1,000 tonnes of spent fuel each year……

The Tianwan facility as well as the Daya Bay nuclear plant complex in the southern city of Shenzhen have nearly run out of room for on-site waste storage, said Mr Chai Guohan, chief engineer at the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre.

tianwan-npp-2013

text-relevantSpent-fuel issues cloud China’s nuclear expansion Questions raised over country’s ability to handle radioactive waste as storage space runs out, Today,  BEIJING , 2 Oct 16— A Chinese nuclear power plant construction programme has been on a fast track ever since the government’s four-year moratorium on building such facilities was lifted this year.

Now, five years after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster led to the moratorium, China is fully engaged in an expansion that is scheduled to add 24 new reactor units to the nation’s existing 32.

 Nuclear plants now meet 3 per cent of the nation’s demand for electricity. That number could hit 10 per cent by 2030, according to Mr Li Ganjie, director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration.

But nuclear plant construction projects have stirred controversy in China, particularly due to questions surrounding incomplete plans for handling a dangerous by-product of nuclear energy — radioactive waste.

In August, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest a government plan to build a nuclear waste recycling facility in the Jiangsu province city of Lianyungang. The protest prompted the local authorities to suspend work on a feasibility study that would have moved the project forward.

Indeed, public scepticism about nuclear power in China has persisted ever since an earthquake-induced tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant.

Some analysts have linked that scepticism to a lack of transparency among government agencies that oversee nuclear power plants and the energy companies that build them.

In the wake of the Lianyungang protests, for example, neither the central nor local government authorities have said when work on the feasibility study might resume, nor whether officials might consider building the plant elsewhere.

The proposed Lianyungang recycling plant would be built by state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation and French energy company Areva under an agreement they signed in 2013…….

China plans to open a permanent storage facility for high-level radioactive waste, perhaps in the remote west, by 2020. Waste reprocessing and recycling, which have the potential for squeezing energy out of spent fuel, are also part of the equation.

Radioactive waste generated by reactors at existing nuclear plants across the country is currently being stored at each plant site.

Moreover, medium and low-level wastes are currently stored at sites in Gansu province and Guangdong province. Plans call for opening five additional facilities for this kind of waste by 2020……

Medium and low-level waste can be safely stored at near-ground-level storage facilities, according to Mr Zhao Chengkun, a former director of the National Nuclear Safety Administration.

But waste levels are growing rapidly. The government-backed China Nuclear Energy Association said that by the end of 2020, the nation’s nuclear plants will have to get rid of more than 1,000 tonnes of spent fuel each year……

The controversial plan for a Lianyungang recycling centre was drafted due to rising demand for a new place to put waste from the Tianwan nuclear complex near the city. The complex includes two operating reactors and two that are now under construction.

The Tianwan facility as well as the Daya Bay nuclear plant complex in the southern city of Shenzhen have nearly run out of room for on-site waste storage, said Mr Chai Guohan, chief engineer at the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre.

The proposed Lianyungang facility, with a capacity for treating 800 tonnes of spent fuel every year, was originally slated to be up and running before 2030.

China has for years been looking at reprocessing spent fuel using a system commonly used in other countries called “plutonium uranium redox extraction” (Purex). The Lianyungang plant would use this system.

Dr Ma Yuefeng, a researcher from the China Institute for Radiation Protection, said that although Purex can reduce the amount of nuclear waste on hand, public health can be threatened by chemical pollutants that are by-products of the process……..http://www.todayonline.com/chinaindia/china/spent-fuel-issues-cloud-chinas-nuclear-expansion

October 3, 2016 Posted by | China, wastes | Leave a comment