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Testing a deep borehole as a potential way to bury highly radioactive nuclear trash

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

Christina Macpherson’s websites & blogs

It is a good idea to at least test the feasibility of deep boreholes. As one resident said “Something must be done with the wastes”. There is no obligation on that community to agree to actually accept high level nuclear waste – only to host the testing of the deep bore concept.

The whole project would really make sense if it were combined with a definite plan to STOP MAKING TOXIC RADIOACTIVE WASTES, by closing down all nuclear reactors. This could be done, with genuine good will, and planning for compensation and transition to other employment for workers in the nuclear industry.

New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project  LMT Online, , January 15, 2017 “……. The U.S. Energy Department, Quay County and two energy development companies say the nation’s latest nuclear waste experiment could inject as much as $40 million into the county’s economy. Nara Visa residents just have to agree to let the companies drill a three-mile-deep borehole — seven times deeper than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad — into the crystalline, granite crust of the earth a few miles outside of town, on land currently occupied by fat, black cattle.

Right now, the project is pegged as a scientific experiment. The Energy Department says no nuclear waste will be placed in the test borehole.

The ultimate goal is to find a permanent place to dispose of the ever-growing and deadly stockpile of spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste collected at nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons laboratories nationwide.

Until this year, no town in the U.S. had agreed to the proposal. But when the Quay County Commission approved the plan in October, it put Nara Visa on track to become the first.

About seven miles outside Nara Visa, there is a small, gravel roadside park where semi-truck drivers pull off U.S. 54 to sleep. Below the earth, the granite is devoid of oil but just right for deep drilling.

These 10 acres belong to Louis and Elaine James, who’ve agreed to lease it to the government………

As far as the nuclear waste component is concerned, Louis James, 69, said, “I have more of a problem with it sitting over at Pantex 100 miles away than I do with it being under the ground, because you know it will get you if they ever attack those spots.” He was referring to the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons assembly facility outside Amarillo, Texas……

The test hole planned for the James’ property is meant to be just 8 1/2 inches wide but would go deep below ground, first through the water table and a mile through sediment before hitting the top of a crystalline rock layer. From there, the hole would be drilled another two miles into the Earth. This is the layer where nuclear waste would be stored, then sealed off with a steel casing and concrete to protect the environment and water in the mile span separating the waste from the land’s surface.

borehole-16

Utah-based DOSECC Exploration Services LLC and Enercon Federal Services, Inc., based in Atlanta, are developing the Nara Visa proposal and are one of four groups that have been granted the go-ahead from the Energy Department for Phase 1 of the project. This is referred to as “community buy-in,” gaining not only public approval but also support for the project, and securing the land for the borehole site.

If DOSECC and Enercon win this bid, they will get $35 million over a five-year period to drill the first hole. The Energy Department will grant an additional $50 million to drill a second, wider borehole if the first is successful……

State Rep. Dennis Roch said that after meeting with the companies, he felt confident there was “no connection between this viability test and the ultimate decision of where to dispose of nuclear waste way down the road.”…….

The Nara Visa site would only be permitted for drilling, he added. Nuclear waste storage would require an entirely different permitting and regulatory process…….

WIPP, after being closed for nearly three years following the radiation leak, began depositing waste below ground for the first time in December. But the stagnation of waste disposal at these facilities left the Energy Department scrambling for alternatives, and in 2012, deep boreholes resurfaced as a potential alternative, an idea that was first floated in the 1950s.

To store all of the waste sitting at 77 U.S. facilities, the Energy Department needs to drill 950 boreholes at an estimated $20 million per hole, or $71 billion for the entire project, including transportation, environmental reclamation, monitoring and site characterization, according to the 2010 Sandia study. In contrast, Yucca Mountain was estimated to cost $96 billion.

Each hole is expected to contain 400 vertically stacked fuel pods that, unlike the costly steel drums used to pack waste headed to WIPP, would not require specialized containers but instead would be stored in their spent fuel form or glass. Multiple boreholes could be drilled just over 200 meters apart to avoid thermal reactions.

Though the Sandia study said boreholes could be used for nuclear reactor waste, Mast from Enercon said he believes the Energy Department is only looking at boreholes for waste from nuclear weapons development.

To actually begin placing nuclear waste in the boreholes will require an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Before the proposal reaches that stage, Greg Mello, director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, says the government should be more transparent about exactly what type of high-level nuclear waste would go in the holes: spent fuel rods, nuclear weapons waste or down-blended plutonium. …..http://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/New-Mexico-town-steps-up-for-nuclear-borehole-10858853.php

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

World’s largest largest rooftop solar farm to be built on Tesla’s gigafactory

text-relevantTesla building world’s largest rooftop solar farm on $5B NV gigafactory http://www.constructiondive.com/news/tesla-building-worlds-largest-rooftop-solar-Solar field at a VW plant in Chattanoogafarm-on-5b-nv-gigafactory/434022/   

Dive Brief:

 

 

 Dive Insight:

Another energy-saving strategy at the gigafactory, according to 2015 statements from JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, was to eschew natural gas pipelines in the structure’s design so that there could be no future possible concessions regarding the company’s no-emissions policy.

Construction on the Nevada gigafactory — expected to be fully functional in 2018 — is progressing, and battery production is already underway. It is widely believed that the solar panels Tesla will use to build its rooftop solar farm will come from SolarCity, which Tesla purchased last year. Soon after the acquisition, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that SolarCity would begin to market a relatively low-cost solar roof shingle that mimicked the look of high-end slate and terra cotta roofs, removing the aesthetic barrier of traditional, industrial-looking solar shingles and panels.

Tesla’s solar ambitions, however, extend far beyond the U.S. and solar rooftops. In November, TechCrunch reported that Tesla and SolarCity were behind a solar microgrid project — funded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the American Samoa Economic Development Authority — that aims to eliminate the island’s reliance on costly diesel generators by providing 72 hours of full power from a solar array that recharges with seven hours of sunlight.

January 16, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Ontario public has a month to comment on plan for nuclear waste dump near Kincardine.

it’s “absolute madness” to “dig this hole beside the drinking water source for 40 million Canadians and Americans.”

 

Bruce NGS Great Lakes Lake HuronOPG identifies most of Ontario as alternate ‘location’ to bury nuclear waste: Ontario Power Generation was asked by the federal government to identify “actual locations” as alternates for its plan to bury nuclear waste. It’s now up to the minister as to whether they’ve done that. The Star, By , Jan. 10, 2017..……The hunt for an appropriate site for a Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) to house waste from Ontario’s nuclear facilities is not a subject to be taken lightly. Everything from mops to materials close to the reactor core, such as ion exchange resins that bear a “significant amount” of Carbon-14, a radionuclide that has a half life of more than 5,700 years, is slated for permanent burial.

………. A report recently released by OPG cites Ryden’s GPS co-ordinates as one of the plot points in one of two contemplated alternate locations for the DGR. Equally curious, the co-ordinates for the second alternate include a stately two story brick home in Chaplin Estates, near Yonge St. and Davisville Ave.

This is worth digging into.

On Dec. 28, Ontario Power Generation submitted the results of its federally mandated assignment to present technically and economically feasible alternate locations for the DGR — alternate, that is, to OPG’s preferred strategy to inter the waste from the Bruce, Darlington and Pickering nuclear power plants at Bruce Nuclear near Kincardine.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will take until Jan. 16 to determine “whether OPG’s information is complete and that it conforms to the Minister’s information request.” A 30-day public comment period will follow.

When the federal Environment Ministry requested the study, 11 months ago, it sought details as to “specific reference to actual locations.” While OPG responded in April that it intended to assess two feasible “geological regions” in the province, “without providing specific reference to actual locations,” it says now that in this document and the main submission it is using specific references to actual locations.

The common reader may see the word “location” to mean, as it is conventionally defined, a particular or exact place.

OPG has provided something quite different and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna now must decide whether the power giant has come up with an evaluation that is good enough.

Let’s remember that the proposed Bruce site will be dug nearly 700 metres deep in limestone host rock a distance of 1.2 km from Lake Huron. The town of Kincardine is on side. Opposition voices on both sides of the border have been loud, particularly as it concerns protecting the Great Lakes.

The dominant question: is Bruce the best spot? And a corollary: wasn’t granite — the Canadian Shield in northern Ontario — discussed long ago as potentially the appropriate geology for toxic waste? The issue may pertain not just to low and intermediate waste, but ultimately the disposal of spent fuel rods, a headache for the generations that has yet to be effectively addressed………..

Rod McLeod’s view is that it’s “absolute madness” to “dig this hole beside the drinking water source for 40 million Canadians and Americans.”

OPG insists that, at least according to its own social media analysis, Ontarians aren’t bothered. “The topic is not a popular one, nor is it generating large volumes of curiosity,” the report states, adding that interest in the DGR has “flatlined.”

The public now has little more than a month to change that perception, should it care to. jenwells@thestar.ca    https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/01/10/opg-identifies-most-of-ontario-as-alternate-location-to-bury-nuclear-waste-jennifer-wells.html

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Canada, wastes | Leave a comment

Examining the role of New York’s Governor Cuomo in the Indian Point Nuclear Deal

What’s Really Behind the Indian Point Nuclear Deal? CounterPunch  There was general celebration among sensible-thinking people on January 9 when New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed a deal that would see the twin reactors at the Indian Point Nuclear Generating Station in Buchanan, NY, close by 2021.

Indian Point, on the shores of the Hudson River, has been plagued by safety problems for years, sits on two fault lines — putting it at high risk of earthquake — and was identified as a potential target by the 9/11 attackers who flew over the plant while taking flight training lessons.

In 2004, the group Riverkeeper commissioned physicist, Dr. Edwin Lyman, now with Union of Concerned Scientists, to analyze the outcome of a terrorist attack on Indian Point, a report entitled Chernobyl On The Hudson? Lyman calculated that, depending on the weather that day,  an attack on Indian Point “could result in as many as 44,000 near-term deaths from acute radiation syndrome or as many as 518,000 long-term deaths from cancer among individuals within fifty miles of the plant.”

Clearly, it’s high time Indian Point, less than 30 miles from Manhattan, was closed. It is equally obvious that 2021 is not soon enough, tempering the joy among those who have worked for decades to get the plant shut down.

Disappointingly, however, the Cuomo administration is at the same time handing out a massive bailout to four upstate nuclear reactors — two at Nine Mile Point and the single units at FitzPatrick and Ginna. FitzPatrick is the same GE Mark I boiling water reactor design as those that exploded and melted down at Fukushima. If we are going to shut down nuclear reactors,  the 30 of this design still operating in the U.S. should be top of the list.

Cuomo is a self-proclaimed advocate for renewable energy. Why then would he shoot its development in the foot by handing out $7.6 billion in state subsidies to keep decrepit and dangerous nuclear plants going upstate while shuttering Indian Point?

In a July 22, 2016 submission to the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC), four advocacy groups noted that this massive bailout effectively values each of the 2,090 nuclear jobs at the three nuclear sites at $303,000 per year per worker, almost three times what these workers are currently paid.

All of this naturally provokes a frustrating level of cynicism about Cuomo’s motives. Is he really a green energy champion or just another pragmatic politician concerned only with (1) getting re-elected in 2018 and (2) raising campaign funds?

In the last gubernatorial election in 2014, Cuomo predictably ran strong in the affluent counties in and around New York City, including Westchester, where Indian Point is located. In wealthy, downstate counties, Cuomo easily defeated his Republican rival, Rob Astorino, by largely resounding margins………

Cuomo is vulnerable at ballot boxes in the farther reaches of the state, (excepting Erie County, home to Buffalo and where he won in a landslide). Making a show of “saving jobs” in these poorer areas could potentially translate into political capital.

Of course it’s an illusion, because propping up jobs at three times their value is a costly piece of lip service. Comments submitted in April 22, 2016 to the NYPSC by the Alliance for a Green Economy and Nuclear Information and Resource Service show that far more secure, long-term jobs are already being created in the renewable energy sector in the upstate region. And some nuclear jobs could still be retained while the plants are being decommissioned.

“The development of green industry, such as the Solar City factory in Buffalo, the 1366 Technologies factory near Rochester, and the Soraa LED lightbulb factory in Syracuse, NY” will collectively “create 6,420 long-term jobs” with just $937 million in state support, said the two groups.

It is in any case just a matter of time before these flawed, aging and uneconomic nuclear plants either close down or melt down. Where will the nuclear workforce go then? Is Cuomo more willing to risk a radiological disaster in low-income Oswego County than 30 miles from Manhattan? Clearly he can win the election without those upstate voters as the 2014 results showed.

Oswego and Ontario counties may have been conned for now into thinking they have been thrown a job-saving lifeline rather than a potential death sentence.  But while the bailout has been approved, it can still be challenged. That’s an essential strategy if we are to pre-empt a potential Fukushima on the Great Lakes.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development.    http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/13/whats-really-behind-the-indian-point-nuclear-deal/

January 16, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

President Obama’s 6 Big ClimateAchievements

Obama solarThanks, Obama: 6 Big Climate Accomplishments From President Obama’s Tenure, Clean Technica, January 12th, 2017 Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.

“……….Here are six big climate accomplishments from President Obama’s time in office……..

THE CLEAN POWER PLAN In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. The EPA projected the plan would bring many, many benefits for Americans, including creating tens of thousands of jobs, saving US citizens as much as $155 billion in energy costs between 2020—2030, and helping prevent some 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

The benefits didn’t end at our borders, either, as the plan showed the rest of the world we were serious about reducing emissions, leading to a landmark climate deal with China in 2015 that helped energize international climate talks at COP 21. These talks led to the historic Paris Agreement being forged in December 2015.

The Clean Power Plan was a cornerstone of the US commitment to reduce overall emissions 26—28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 in the agreement.

A BAN ON DRILLING IN US-OWNED PARTS OF THE ARCTIC AND ATLANTIC OCEANS In December, President Obama worked to seal his environmental legacy by permanently banning offshore drilling in Arctic and Atlantic waters controlled by the US federal government – an incredible 3.8 million acres. This is an important move not only to protect marine life, but also to protect our climate. This is especially important in the Arctic. According to NOAA, the region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world on average.

Some have gone as far as to call President Obama the “Ocean President” because he’s protected more marine areas from development than any other president before him. Since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, his administration has quadrupled the area of protected waters around the US.

COAL LEASING MORATORIUM Between 2009 and 2014, companies mined enough coal on public lands to put more than 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent emissions of over 825 million cars on the road – every year.

In January 2016, though, the climate community had a major win when the Department of the Interior put a temporary freeze on leasing our public lands for coal mining (called a moratorium). The moratorium is a big deal because when coal is burned for energy, it creates more carbon dioxide per unit than any other fossil fuel.

The bottom line? When we lease our federal lands for coal, we’re helping fuel climate change. The moratorium – though temporary – helps stop that.

PROPOSED NEW FUEL ECONOMY STANDARDS One of the more important moves by the Obama Administration (and it’s gone under the radar in some ways) has been to significantly push fuel economy standards for the vehicles filling our roads and highways – and sending carbon pollution into the atmosphere. In 2011, the White House proposed new fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles, requiring an average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The administration also finalized new fuel economy standards for commercial trucks, vans, and buses, which are projected to save over 500 million barrels of oil and save American drivers an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs.

These new standards are the most ambitious any US president has implemented, and will save consumers money at the pump, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce US demand for oil.

IMPROVING ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN HOMES AND BUSINESSES The Obama Administration has focused on increasing energy efficiency not only to protect our environment, but also save Americans money and create jobs. One of the major ways the White House is accomplishing this is through the Better Buildings Challenge, a US Department of Energy initiative focused on making homes, commercials buildings, and industrial plants more energy efficient.

The Better Buildings Challenge is projected to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20 percent by 2020 through investments in upgrading offices, universities, hospitals, and other commercial buildings. It’s also projected to save companies and business owners about $40 billion per year on energy bills, which can be used to hire more workers and benefit companies in other ways.

CUTTING METHANE EMISSIONS In May 2016, the EPA announced final regulations to curb harmful methane emissions from new and modified oil and gas facilities. These first-ever federal methane pollution standards are a big part of how the US will reach its goal of cutting this pollution by 40–45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

While there’s less methane than CO2 in the atmosphere, it’s much more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat – 84 times more potent over 20 years, in fact. Which means it can still do a lot of harm to our climate. These new rules will help rein in the millions of tons of methane the oil and gas industry is leaking into the air, and is a big climate win for the Obama Administration – and all of us………. https://cleantechnica.com/2017/01/12/thanks-obama-6-big-climate-accomplishments-president-obamas-tenure/

January 16, 2017 Posted by | climate change, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Despite shutdown of Indian Point nuclear plant, New York will invest billions in upgrading other nuclear stations

The shutdown of New York’s Indian Point is far from the end of nuclear power The agreement between the state and the plant owner comes as New York will invest billions in the upgrade of nuclear power plants upstate. Christian Science Monitor  Staff |  JANUARY 8, 2017 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is supportive of nuclear power generation upstate, but has long said a facility 30 miles north of Manhattan is too close to the nation’s most populous city.

Mr. Cuomo will get his wish in 2021, as the Indian Point Nuclear Power plant in Westchester County will shut down its two nuclear reactors under an agreement New York State reached with plant owner Entergy, The New York Times first reported. At the same time, the state has authorized up to $7.6 billion in ratepayer-financed subsidies to keep three other aging nuclear plants operating upstate.

In one sense, the agreement to close Indian Point is part of a nationwide trend to close aging power plants critics have long said pose too many safety risks. California reached a similar agreement with the state’s largest utility provider early this summer to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco……..

In New York, Entergy has agreed to close the first of Indian Point’s two reactors by April 2020 and the second exactly a year later.

The agreement, a source confirmed to the Times and the Associated Press, will resolve longstanding disputes between Entergy, a Louisiana-based utility company, and New York State. The state and Riverkeeper, an environmental group that has long fought Indian Point, have agreed to drop safety and environmental claims they previously filed with federal regulatory agencies against the nuclear plant that came online in the 1970s, according to the Times. Entergy, meanwhile, has agreed to make repairs and safety upgrades, as well as allow inspections into the plant starting this year.

Entergy and the New York Attorney General’s office have each signed off on the agreement, which would also approve Indian Point’s two reactor licenses for six years, which expired in 2013 and 2015. The governor’s office has not yet signed off on the agreement……..

The move to close Indian Point would follow the shuttering of other plants across the country. In addition to the proposal to close the Diablo Canyon plant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., energy companies across the country pulled the plug between 2013 and 2014 on four nuclear power plants. In June, Exelon Corp. also announced plansto shutter two nuclear plants in Illinois by 2017 and 2018, respectively……

The Cuomo administration also recently authorized billions worth of upgrades to three upstate nuclear facilities because, it said, nuclear power is necessary to transition the state to renewables.

There are currently 100 nuclear reactors (including the one that came online in Tennessee in October) in the United States, concentrated in 30 states, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Nuclear energy supplies about 20 percent of the nation’s power, while renewables – wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectricity – produce 13 percent combined. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2017/0108/The-shutdown-of-New-York-s-Indian-Point-is-far-from-the-end-of-nuclear-power

January 16, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Monumental showdown between grassroots campaigners and Coal, Oil, Nuclear, and Gas

text-relevantKing CONG vs. Solartopia, Harvey Wasserman “………Some 10,000 arrests of citizens engaged in civil disobedience have put the Diablo nuclear reactors at ground zero in the worldwide No Nukes campaign. But the epic battle goes far beyond atomic power. It is a monumental showdown over who will own our global energy supply, and how this will impact the future of our planet.

On one side is King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas), the corporate megalith that’s unbalancing our weather and dominating our governments in the name of centralized, for-profit control of our economic future. On the other is a nonviolent grassroots campaign determined to reshape our power supply to operate in harmony with nature, to serve the communities and individuals who consume and increasingly produce that energy, and to build the foundation of a sustainable eco-democracy…….

with this dangerous and dirty power have come Earth-friendly alternatives, ignited in part by the grassroots movements of the 1960s. E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful became the bible of a back-to-the-land movement that took a new generation of veteran activists into the countryside.

Dozens of nonviolent confrontations erupted, with thousands of arrests. In June 1978, nine months before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, the grassroots Clamshell Alliance drew 20,000 participants to a rally at New Hampshire’s Seabrook site. And Amory Lovins’s pathbreaking article, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken,” posited a whole new energy future, grounded in photovoltaic and wind technologies, along with breakthroughs in conservation and efficiency, and a paradigm of decentralized, community-owned power.

As rising concerns about global warming forced a hard look at fossil fuels, the fading nuclear power industry suddenly had a new selling point. Climate expert James Hansen, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand began advocating atomic energy as an answer to CO2 emissions. The corporate media began breathlessly reporting a “nuclear renaissance” allegedly led by hordes of environmentalists.

But the launch of Peaceful Atom 2.0 has fallen flat.

climate and nuclearAs I recently detailed in an online article for The Progressive, atomic energy adds to rather than reduces global warming. All reactors emit Carbon-14. The fuel they burn demands substantial CO2 emissions in the mining, milling, and enrichment processes. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has compiled a wide range of studies concluding new reactor construction would significantly worsen the climate crisis.

Moreover, attempts to recycle spent reactor fuel or weapons material have failed, as have attempts to establish a workable nuclear-waste management protocol. For decades, reactor proponents have argued that the barriers to radioactive waste storage are political rather than technical. But after six decades, no country has unveiled a proven long-term storage strategy for high-level waste.

For all the millions spent on it, the nuclear renaissance has failed to yield a single new reactor order. New projects in France, Finland, South Carolina, and Georgia are costing billions extra, with opening dates years behind schedule. Five projects pushed by the Washington Public Power System caused the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. No major long-standing green groups have joined the tiny crew of self-proclaimed “pro-nuke environmentalists.” Wall Street is backing away.

Even the split atom’s most ardent advocates are hard-pressed to argue any new reactors will be built in the United States, or more than a scattered few anywhere else but China, where the debate still rages and the outcome is uncertain……..

Where once it demanded deregulation and a competitive market, the nuclear industry now wants re-regulation and guaranteed profits no matter how badly it performs.

The grassroots pushback has been fierce. Proposed bailouts have been defeated in Illinois and are under attack in New York and Ohio. A groundbreaking agreement involving green and union groups has set deadlines for shutting the Diablo reactors, with local activists demanding a quicker timetable. Increasingly worried about meltdowns and explosions, grassroots campaigns to close old reactors are ramping up throughout the United States and Europe. Citizen action in Japan has prevented the reopening of nearly all nuclear plants since Fukushima.

Envisioning the “nuclear interruption” behind us, visionaries like Lovins see a decentralized “Solartopian” system with supply owned and operated at the grassroots………

logo-solartopia

[In Germany] the transition is succeeding faster and more profitably than its staunchest supporters imagined. Wind and solar have blasted ahead. Green energy prices have dropped and Germans are enthusiastically lining up to put power plants on their rooftops. Sales of solar panels have skyrocketed, with an ever-growing percentage of supply coming from stand-alone buildings and community projects. The grid has been flooded with cheap, green juice, crowding out the existing nukes and fossil burners, cutting the legs out from under the old system.

In many ways it’s the investor-owner utilities’ worst nightmare,………

The revolution has spread to the transportation sector, where electric cars are now plugging into outlets powered by solar panels on homes, offices, commercial buildings, and factories. Like nuclear power, the gas-driven automobile may be on its way to extinction.

Nationwide, more than 200,000 Americans now work in the solar industry, including more than 75,000 in California alone. By contrast, only about 100,000 people work in the U.S. nuclear industry. Some 88,000 Americans now work in the wind industry, compared to about 83,000 in coal mines, with that number also dropping steadily.

Once the shining hope of the corporate power industry, atomic energy’s demise represents more than just the failure of a technology. It’s the prime indicator of an epic shift away from  corporate control of a grid-based energy supply, toward a green power web owned and operated by the public.

As homeowners, building managers, factories, and communities develop an ever-firmer grip on a grassroots homegrown power supply, the arc of our 128-year energy war leans toward Solartopia.

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is at solartopia.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at prn.fm. He edits nukefree.org.  http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/12/189107/king-cong-vs-solartopia

January 14, 2017 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Risk of nuclear war with China is raised in comments by Trump’s proposed secretary of state

Atomic-Bomb-SmFlag-USATrump’s China policy threatens nuclear war World Socialist Website,  James Cogan 13 January 2017 The confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees confirm that his administration intends to vastly intensify US demands for massive economic and strategic concessions from the Chinese regime. In pursuit of the predatory ambitions of a tiny layer of corporate oligarchs, policies are being put forward that could result in a military clash and trigger a nuclear exchange.

On Thursday, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s proposed secretary of state, made unprecedented statements on the attitude the next US government will take toward China’s land reclamation activities and construction of facilities on the islets and reefs Beijing claims as sovereign territory in the South China Sea.

Tillerson declared: “We are going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

The implications of such a policy are immense. The islands referred to by Tillerson are occupied by Chinese military personnel. The waters surrounding them are patrolled by the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy. The airspace above them is patrolled by the Chinese air force. The only conceivable way to deny China access would be through the large-scale deployment of US aircraft carriers and associated military forces into the South China Sea.

Media headlines around the world have reflected the recognition that war would be the most likely outcome of attempting to implement Tillerson’s declaration. For its part, the Chinese state-owned publication Global Times, whose editorial line is believed to come directly from the highest echelons of the Chinese regime, has not hedged its words in response.

Its January 13 editorial states: “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish. The US has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories [emphasis added].”

An analysis of the social forces and economic interests that stand behind Trump leaves no room for doubt that his administration is more than prepared to threaten a full-scale war with China, posing the risk of a nuclear exchange.

Before he is even sworn in, Trump and the cabal of billionaires and ex-generals who will comprise his cabinet have signaled they will provoke conflict with China over a range of issues. In addition to rejecting Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, these policies include imposing tariffs on Chinese exports; demanding Beijing force North Korea to shut down its nuclear weapons program; and threatening to repudiate the “One China policy” under which Washington, since 1979, has formally recognised that the island of Taiwan is part of China and not an independent state.

Adding to the possible list of provocations, one of Trump’s chief supporters in the Congress, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, joined with Republican presidential aspirant Marco Rubio to introduce the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” in November. The Act would require the US government to take action to ensure Hong Kong remains “sufficiently autonomous” from the mainland regime. Tibetan nationalists have enthusiastically welcomed Trump’s election as a signal that their cause might also be taken up by the incoming administration.

The focus on China flows directly from the interests of a powerful faction of the American corporate elite who view it as their greatest immediate economic, geopolitical and potential military competitor.

Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of oil conglomerate ExxonMobil, personifies this layer. Under Tillerson, ExxonMobil aggressively pursued access to potential oil and gas fields in the South China Sea, in partnership with Vietnam and in defiance of China’s territorial claims. In 2014, one of its fields was occupied by a Chinese oil rig. ExxonMobil’s ambitions for a stake in mainland Chinese energy production and distribution have been hindered also by the dominance of the Chinese state-owned companies that monopolise the domestic industry. Around the world—even in US-occupied Iraq—bids by American energy corporations for contracts have been undercut by their Chinese rivals.

The preoccupation of the Trump oligarchs with shattering Chinese competition is most clearly demonstrated in their willingness to defy the furious demands in the American ruling class for action first against Russia. Trump has thus far largely brushed aside the hysterical calls from the Democratic Party, figures in the Republican Party and the intelligence agencies for an immediate confrontation with Moscow over its alleged interference in the US election and its intervention in Syria to protect the regime of Bashar al-Assad from US-backed Islamist rebels……..ttps://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/01/13/pers-j13.html

January 14, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Wyoming lawmakers introduce Bill to stop large-scale wind or solar energy projects

Flag-USAWyoming bill would bar utilities from using wind or solar energy http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/wyoming-bill-would-bar-utilities-from-using-wind-or-solar-energy/article/483604

BY KAREN GRAHAM , 13 Jan 17   
While it may be hard to believe, nine lawmakers in Wyoming have introduced a bill that would forbid utilities from providing any electricity to the state that comes from large-scale wind or solar energy projects by 2019.
SENATE FILE NO. SF0071 details the Electricity Production Standard for the state of Wyoming, and it’s a real doozy. It is being sponsored by two state senators and seven state representatives, all Republicans, of course.

Inside Climate News is calling the bill an attack on clean energy in Wyoming, and possibly the nation. And what’s really absurd is that it is coming at a time when the cost of using clean energy sources has plummeted across the country, as we seek to remedy the impacts of climate change.

There are only six permissible resources allowed for the generation of electricity in the state, coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, something called a “net metering” system, nuclear power and oil. Wind and solar are not included with the exception that they are for individual use only, reports the Star Tribune.

Utility companies are mandated to use the approved sources to meet 95 percent of the state’s electricity needs by 2018 and 100 percent of the state’s power needs by 2019. Bottom line — using power from utility-scale wind, solar and other renewable projects would be outlawed under this legislation.

Now utility companies can sell electricity generated by wind or solar power outside the state without paying a penalty. But they will be charged a fine of $10.00 per kilowatt hour if they give any electricity to state residents.

Wyoming’s dependence on coal

You could believe it when I say many of the lawmakers backing the bill are from top coal-producing counties in the state. Coal production has been the backbone of Wyoming’s economy since the 1970s and has provided the most stable source of tax revenues for the state over the past four decades.

And the proposed legislation is a last ditch effort to save a coal industry that has already been crippled because of plummeting oil, gas and coal prices over the past few years. This is one reason it was so important that Donald Trump win the election in November. With Trump, there was a very good chance that regulations would be rolled back, energizing the coal industry in the state.

Trump’s energy platform is primarily about deregulation, including a promise to kill the Clean Power Plan, which is under consideration by the courts. Under the plan, coal production in Western states would fall by 155 million tons between 2015 and 2040. And two-thirds of that coal comes from the Powder River Basin in northern Wyoming and Montana, according to a story in the Star Tribune in October 2016.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | politics, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Wind, solar power will continue to gain market share- analysis of levelized cost of energy

solar,-wind-aghast“Our analysis suggests that solar could now infringe on gas’ market share and in some cases challenge its peak margins, and that gas and renewables collectively will continue to gain market share at the expense of coal and nuclear,”

Levelized cost of energy survey shows wind, natural gas cementing economic edge SNL, 06 January 2017   By  Lucas Bifera

A survey of levelized cost of energy, or LCOE, studies illustrates that onshore wind and combined-cycle gas have secured their place as the lowest-cost energy resources, with utility-scale solar not far behind.

Often used as a barometer for estimating the cost at which certain generation technologies can be deployed on an economic basis, LCOE has become a mainstay for policymakers, analysts and industry groups as a reference when comparing costs and benefits of various technologies on the grid.

Incumbent technologies like combined-cycle gas, onshore wind, utility-scale solar photovoltaic, nuclear and coal are uniformly included in studies…….the emergence of a cluster around onshore wind and combined-cycle gas across the different studies indicates an economic consensus, one that highlights the cost effectiveness of renewables on an unsubsidized basis and role of combined-cycle gas as the preeminent baseload resource.

“The demands of a developed economy will continue to require both traditional and alternative energy sources as the technologies driving renewable energy evolve,” observed George Bilicic, vice chairman and global head of power, energy & infrastructure group at Lazard, an investment bank that releases a widely-cited LCOE study each year.

But on an unsubsidized basis, renewables remain competitive across all studies, and in the case of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, wind resources in Texas have become the cheapest source of power across North and South America, consistent with Lazard’s finding that wind has a low end range of $32/MWh in the Midwest and $36/MWh in Texas.

“Wind capital costs will go up because they are building higher towers, but LCOE values will fall because they have better capacity factors,” said Josh Rhodes, postdoctoral fellow at the Webber Energy Group and co-author of a study from The University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute.

“I think we will see a major deployment of solar and wind to come online by [the end of] 2019 in order to take advantage of the full ITC and PTC,” Rhodes noted, looking outward.

Onshore wind and utility-scale solar additions appear poised to outstrip additions of natural-gas fired ………  the Energy Information Administration’s recent 2017 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that between 2018 and 2022, as much as 54.2 GW of wind could come online, in addition to 13.4 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity.

Combined, that projected capacity is more than 40 times the amount of projected advanced natural gas-fired capacity projected in the same study, which EIA estimates at 1.6 GW.

“Our analysis suggests that solar could now infringe on gas’ market share and in some cases challenge its peak margins, and that gas and renewables collectively will continue to gain market share at the expense of coal and nuclear,” Guggenheim added. http://www.snl.com/web/client?auth=inherit&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWlRsaU0yUXhZMkV3TnpjNCIsInQiOiJGZnRMT045UWllTkRYNzZsSDE1YWFJMXE0M0lQU2F1QnN6Z25jM2hoZlFpNDhwNFFSRzIyTnI1cDdyUW14c2hKXC9keStFV2JvenljcVVFT2Ztc3gxck12WElPXC9WMGVlQWNMbjNJcklpalltM01OTUN2ckRsQktyWlFLTFRcL0VrVyJ9#news/ar

January 14, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Changes in technology result in rise in employment in renewable energy

green-collarFlag-USAHow Did 2016 Fare For U.S. Energy Employment?

North American Wind Power by Betsy Lillian on January 13, 2017 Changes in America’s energy profile are affecting national employment in key sectors of the economy, explains a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In particular, wind and solar added 25,000 and 73,000 new jobs, respectively, last year, says the agency.

According to the DOE’s second annual report tracking these employment trends, 6.4 million Americans now work in the “traditional energy and energy efficiency industries,” which added over 300,000 net new jobs in 2016 – representing 14% of the nation’s job growth. The report describes “traditional energy” jobs as those in “electric power generation and fuels” and “transmission, distribution and storage,” both of which include include “fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy sources and their value chains,” the report explains. In addition, “energy efficiency” jobs are described as those covering the “production of energy-saving products and the provision of services that reduce end-use energy consumption.” The report notes that energy efficiency jobs increased by 133,000 jobs for a total of 2.2 million.

The agency says its “2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER)” uses information from surveys to over 30,000 employees in energy sectors and tracks “dramatic growth” in several key sectors of the U.S. economy in 2016. The report also uses secondary data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

For wind power specifically, the industry employs a total of 101,738 workers, which represents a 32% increase since 2015, the report says. The largest share of wind employment lies in construction, which accounts for 37% of the workforce. Manufacturing and wholesale trade follow at 29% and 14%, respectively.

“Wind means opportunity and job security for over 100,000 Americans,” comments Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. “The Department of Energy’s new jobs data underscore the incredible impact of wind power in creating American jobs. Wind workers directly contribute to our nation’s energy independence and economic success story. We’re especially proud of helping America’s veterans find well paying jobs after their service – employing them at a rate that is 50 percent higher than the national average.”

For solar, the report says U.S. Department of Labor data does not adequately capture the true employment numbers: The data “dramatically underestimates” how many workers are employed in the solar sector, which, the DOE report says, includes 373,807 Americans who “spend some portion of their time working to install, distribute or provide professional services to solar technologies.” Like wind, construction/installation represents the biggest employment share, followed by “wholesale trade, manufacturing and professional services.”

“This report verifies the dynamic role that our energy technologies and infrastructure play in a 21st-century economy,” says David Foster, the DOE’s senior advisor on industrial and economic policy. “Whether producing natural gas or solar power at increasingly lower prices or reducing our consumption of energy through smart grids and fuel-efficient vehicles, energy innovation is proving itself as the important driver of economic growth in America, producing 14 percent of the new jobs in 2016.”

USEER examines four sectors of the economy – electric power generation and fuels; transmission, wholesale distribution and storage; energy efficiency; and motor vehicles – which cumulatively account for almost all of the U.S.’ energy production and distribution system and roughly 70% of U.S. energy consumption, according to the DOE.

By looking at such a wide portion of the energy economy, the agency says, USEER can provide the public and policymakers with a clearer picture of how changes in energy technology, systems and usage are affecting the economy and creating or displacing jobs……… The full report can be found here.   http://nawindpower.com/how-did-2016-fare-for-u-s-energy-employment

January 14, 2017 Posted by | employment, renewable, USA | Leave a comment

New York has big plans for clean non nuclear energy.

poster renewables not nuclearFlag-USANew York Bets On Renewables To Replace Indian Point text-relevantNuclear Plant https://cleantechnica.com/2017/01/13/new-york-bets-renewables-replace-indian-point-nuclear-plant/ January 13th, 2017 Originally published on Think Progress. By Jeremy Deaton

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans this week to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies electricity to New York City and surrounding areas. The plant’s two working reactors — which account for roughly 10 percent of the state’s power generation — are slated to go offline in 2020 and 2021, more than a decade ahead of schedule.

Nuclear power plants represent a range of risks, from hazardous radioactive waste to a full-scale meltdown. They also supply the bulk of America’s zero-carbon electricity. In laying out its carbon-cutting goals, the Environmental Protection Agency assumed that existing nuclear power plants would continue to hum and buzz for decades to come. But cheap natural gas is digging into the profits of America’s aging nuclear power plants, pressuring them to close ahead of schedule.

Some states, like Illinois, have thrown a lifeline to nuclear, subsidizing struggling plants, lest they be replaced by carbon-spewing natural gas. New York, by contrast, is betting that the hole created by Indian Point’s closure will be filled with solar, wind, and hydropower.

In a statement, Cuomo said the plant’s closure won’t drive up emissions “at the regional level.” Given New York’s ambitious climate policies, he might be right.

New York has big plans for clean energy.

This week, Cuomo called for states belonging to the Northeast carbon trading program to further limit carbon pollution. He also announced that New York would cut carbon emissions by an additional 30 percent by 2030. As part of its energy plan, New York will require 50 percent of its power to come from renewables by 2030.

To help integrate renewables, New York is remaking its power grid, incentivizing utilities to advance distributed energy — rooftop solar panels, community solar arrays and microgrids. It’s also building power lines to supply New York City with wind and hydroelectric power generated upstate. Cuomo promised that new hydropower and improved transmission would largely fill the gap left by Indian Point. He’s said the shift will come “at a negligible cost to ratepayers.”

You may be wondering why New York isn’t maximizing zero-carbon power, building out wind, solar, and hydropower while maintaining its nuclear reactors. More zero-carbon power means less natural gas. Less natural gas means less climate change.

Advocates and policymakers are trying to perform triage on environmental threats. With climate change, there is a high probability of a global disaster in the future. With nuclear power, there is low probability of a local disaster in the present. How we should balance these risks is the subject of vigorous debate.

In the years following the Three Mile Island disaster, the United States stopped building nuclear power plants, in part because new projects were met with fierce local opposition. This left the door open for carbon-intensive coal and natural gas. Now, New York is trying to wean its way off nuclear without repeating the same mistake.

Cuomo is weighing numerous risks.

The Indian Point power plant presents a range of risks. Last year, it was discovered that a leak at the power plant was turning groundwater radioactive, though reportedly not enough to threaten human health. Experts are most concerned about the possibility of nuclear meltdown or a terrorist attack. The people who planned the 9/11 attacks had initially floated targeting nuclear power plants in addition to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Indian Point offers a prime target for terrorists. The plant lies less than 40 miles from Midtown Manhattan.

What should replace Indian Point? Unlike wind turbines and solar panels, gas-fired power plants can provide energy on demand. But, gas-fired power plants generate carbon dioxide and other pollutants, putting vulnerable New Yorkers in harm’s way.

“Western Queens already produces a majority of the electricity for the New York metropolitan area and has the high asthma and emphysema rates to prove it,” New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D) said in a statementissued in response to the planned closure of Indian Point. “Make no mistake, I will vigorously fight any efforts to build new power plants in already over-saturated communities.”

Cuomo is putting his money on clean, resilient renewable energy, but New York can’t transform its energy grid overnight. It will take decades to run the state on wind, solar, and hydropower alone, and that transition depends on smart public policy.

Renewables thrive where policies nurture their growth. That’s why New Jersey generates more solar power than Texas. And it’s why New York can shutter an important nuclear power plant and realistically expect to curb carbon emissions at the same time.

Its slate of climate policies could serve as a model for other states looking to wean off fossil fuels and nuclear energy both. And it has already begun: Just this week, Cuomo announced a new offshore wind project that will generate enough electricity to power more than 18,000 homes.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

America’s nuclear power plants going down like dominoes

nuclear-dominoesU.S. Nuclear Power Plants Continue To Close, Oil Price, 

While the New York government supported reactors elsewhere in the state, they resisted Indian Point because of its proximity to the city. Entergy ultimately conceded, as the company is in the midst of ridding itself of nuclear reactors in the north and is instead focusing on regulated markets in the south.

In fact, Entergy disputed Gov. Cuomo’s influence, citing cheap natural gas as a significant factor in its decision to shut down the plant. But Gov. Cuomo and the state’s attorney general resisted granting Entergy a 20-year license extension on Indian Point. Entergy spent $200 million over the past decade in legal fees trying to obtain a new license, to no avail……..

Gov. Cuomo is now aggressively pushing offshore wind, and is targeting 2.4 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. The first down payment on that target is a 90-megawatt project off the coast of Long Island, which he is supporting. However, those projects will take years to come online even under the most optimistic circumstances, raising fears of a gap in power supply…..

Environmental groups are more confident. “Hats off to the Cuomo Administration and New York leaders for planning to shut down another nuclear plant and replacing it with clean energy,” Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions Program, said in a statement. “There’s more than enough renewable energy projects in the pipeline to replace Indian Point.” Offshore wind could be complemented by onshore wind, solar, and energy efficiency. If New York fails to fill the gap left by Indian Point with renewables, the state can still import hydropower from Quebec.

Indeed, New York is unfazed. The state recently implemented a tighter renewable portfolio standard that requires utilities to source 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, one of the most aggressive in the nation. Gov. Cuomo also announced this week that New York will cut greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 30 percent below 2020 levels by 2030, tightening the requirements under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional cap-and-trade program between Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states. Gov. Cuomo is going all-in on renewables in an effort that has raised questions regarding his presidential aspirations in 2020.

Indian Point is just one power plant, but it is indicative of the eroding position of nuclear power. Only a handful of new nuclear reactors are under construction, and despite the hype of a “nuclear renaissance,” even the newest models are facing lengthy delays and cost overruns, a longstanding problem for the industry. Meanwhile, existing nuclear reactors are getting picked off, one by one.

Whether it will be solar, wind or natural gas, the one thing that is clear is that nuclear power will increasingly give way to alternatives.http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/US-Nuclear-Power-Plants-Continue-To-Close.html

January 14, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Analysing the pros and cons of tax-payer subsidies for nuclear power

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long.

Tax - payershighly-recommendedShould troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized? http://bangordailynews.com/2017/01/13/the-point/compete-or-suckle-should-troubled-nuclear-reactors-be-subsidized/ By Peter Bradford, The Conversation

Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and consumer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place and more subsidies follow.

Today, the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.

Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to $5 billion apiece, Forbes magazine in 1985 called nuclear power “the greatest managerial disaster in business history … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money [$265 billion by 1990] has been well spent.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Chair Lewis Strauss’ 1954 promise that electric power would be “ too cheap to meter” is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.

As late as 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission forecast that the U.S. would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today, we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990. Since 2012, power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by midcentury. Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.

The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today’s prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.

Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.

When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977 through 1982, it issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn’t avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today’s nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.

Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets

During nuclear power’s growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s, many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.

Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.

To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.

Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.

Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.

Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.

Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster than had been expected, and it is now being bid into several power markets — notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York has taken by committing at least $7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.

Nuclear power versus other carbon-free fuels  While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.

In California, these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support nuclear units.

If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.

Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.

The industry’s final argument — that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not — ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.

Nuclear energy’s essential components — reactors and enriched uranium fuel — were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.

The U.S. government also has pledged to dispose of nuclear power’s most hazardous wastes — a promise that has never been made to any other industry. By 2020, taxpayers will have paid some $21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.

Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, each plant owner’s accident liability is limited to some $300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed $100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors. The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.

Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some $70 billion in excessive nuclear costs. Today, the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.

Christopher Crane, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, “I’ve talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes.“

But he’s right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It’s time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.

Peter Bradford is a the former chair of the Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commissioner. He also is on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. This piece was originally published on TheConversation.com.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Reference, USA | Leave a comment

Religious leaders of diverse faiths join together, saying that climate change is a moral issue

church greenFlag-USAFaith leaders reframe climate change as moral issue  Marion Renault The Columbus Dispatch  •  Friday January 13, 2017

Priests, pastors and ministers nationwide are spreading the gospel of climate change — as are imams and rabbis.

In recent years, faith-based advocacy has emerged as a powerful tool in the environmental movement. By reframing climate change and sustainability as moral issues, religious leaders hope to advance environmentalism by elevating it above the political fray.

“I believe that all religions, all faiths share a common goodness,” said Zerqa Abid, founder of My Project USA, a Muslim youth organization in Columbus. “All of us have to look within our houses, within our cities, in our everyday lives.

“We take care of the Earth, or we destroy it.”

Americans report fairly high levels of spirituality, but most do not view climate change as a moral issue, according to a 2015 survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Presenting climate change as a spiritual issue could be a successful strategy for attracting religious folks to environmental causes, the report suggests.

In Ohio, three-fourths of voters identify as religious, but little more than half say environmental laws are worth the cost, according to 2016 Pew Research Center surveys.

“Hitting people in the head with science doesn’t get them in the heart,” said Deborah Steele, fiscal officer for Clinton Township who previously worked for three years as an Ohio Interfaith Power and Light coordinator. “What gets people is a matter of conscience and not the logic of science.”

As leaders of intimate community spaces, religious officials are beginning to address the human-rights implications of climate change.

For example, exploitation of natural resources severely affects the world’s poorest populations and violates divine dictates on how people should treat the planet, said Rabbi Alex Braver of Tifereth Israel.

“The big-picture view, that’s what religion can offer,” Braver said. “I think (environmentalism) has very deep roots in ancient text and tradition, but it’s been lifted up in a different way now that we’re seeing the immense power we can have over the environment.”……….

At a rally on Monday, people from across several faiths and campaigns called on U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, to reject nominees for President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet who deny climate change or come from the fossil-fuel industry.

Among the people who attended was Aline Yamada and her two children. Yamada, a Buddhist from Clintonville, said she feels a parallel between her beliefs and the protest’s message.

“We are all connected,” she said. “I think this is the biggest moral challenge of our time.” mrenault@dispatch.com

@MarionRenault  http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2017/01/13/faith-leaders-reframe-climate-change-as-moral-issue.html#

January 14, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Religion and ethics, USA | 1 Comment