Trump Team’s Asking for Ways to Keep Nuclear Power Alive
by Mark Chediak and Catherine Traywick, Bloomberg, December 9, 2016
Nuclear facing increasing competition from gas, renewables
Trump team asked Energy Department for ways to help nuclear
President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers are looking at ways in which the U.S. government could help nuclear power generators being forced out of the electricity market by cheaper natural gas and renewable resources.
In a document obtained by Bloomberg, Trump’s transition team asked the Energy Department how it can help keep nuclear reactors “operating as part of the nation’s infrastructure” and what it could do to prevent the shutdown of plants. Advisers also asked the agency whether there were any statutory restrictions in resuming work on Yucca Mountain, a proposed federal depository for nuclear waste in Nevada that was abandoned by the Obama administration.
- The list of questions to the Energy Department offers one of the clearest indications yet of Trump’s potential plans for aiding America’s battered nuclear power generators. Five of the country’s nuclear plants have closed in the past five years, based on Energy Department data, and more are set to shut as cheaper supplies from gas-fired plants, wind and solar squeeze their profits.
Media representatives for the Trump transition and Energy Department didn’t immediately respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. For more on the questions Trump’s team sent the Energy Department, click here.…….https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-09/trump-s-team-is-asking-for-ways-u-s-can-keep-nuclear-alive
Anti-nuclear group applauds closing of Palisades nuclear plant Entergy Corp., has announced in a news release Thursday, Dec. 8, that the Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert Township will close in 2018. (Mark Bugnaski / MLive.com) By December 08, 2016 COVERT, MI — Kevin Kamps, a representative of the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear, has long called for the closure of the Palisades nuclear power plant near South Haven.
It appears that Kamps will soon have his wish.
Entergy Corp., the plant’s owner, announced the facility’s impending closure in a news release Thursday, Dec. 8. The plant will receive its final load of fuel in 2017 and close permanently on Oct. 1, 2018, according to the company.
Kamps praised the announcement in a news release issued Thursday.
“Entergy’s announcement today that it will permanently shut down the Palisades atomic reactor by Oct. 1, 2018 is most welcome to the large number of Michiganders, and beyond, who have fought so hard, for so long, to get it shut down,” he said……
Kamps pointed to the fact that the plant’s reactor is one of the most “embrittled” nationwide, arguing that keeping it open until 2018 poses serious risks.
“Nearly two more years of operation is a frightening prospect for a catastrophic release of hazardous radioactivity due to pressurized thermal shock fracture of the vessel,” he said. “The good news is that, after permanent shutdown and removal of irradiated nuclear fuel from the reactor core, no more meltdown can happen, and no more high-level radioactive waste will be made.”
The “embrittled” reactor puts it at risk of cracking, prompting the NRC in 2014 to begin a three-year review of results of tests on the reactor.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission determined that the plant operated safely in 2015, but it was under increased NRC oversight for the first three quarters of 2015 due to its failure to accurately calculate radiation doses to workers during an activity in 2014. ……..
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, urged the community to not turn its back on those employees in the coming years.
The plant’s closure will not noticeably impact the power grid, according to Consumers Energy.
After the plant closes for good in 2018, Kamps said area residents and environmental watchdogs should remain vigilant as the facility and dismantled and any lingering contamination is addressed. http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2016/12/anti-nuclear_group_applauds_cl.html
Decommissioning Palisades nuclear plant a lengthy process, NRC says http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2016/12/decommissioning_palisades_nucl.html COVERT, MI — When nuclear plants open, they are required to provide for their eventual closing.
Entergy Corp., owner of the Palisades nuclear plant in Covert Township near South Haven, had set aside $384.16 million in 2014, according to the most recent report submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2015. (The next report, due in 2017, will show the numbers for 2016.).
Entergy Corp announced Thursday that it plans to close the Palisade plant in October 2018.
Viktoria Mitlyng, spokesperson for the NRC Midwestern Region near Chicago, said Entergy has 30 days from Thursday’s announcement to formally notify the NRC of its intentions.
Closing nuclear plants is a complicated process with “lots of moving parts,” she said. “Our role as a nuclear safety regulator, is to oversee that process, including the removal of all fuel from the reactor to a “spent fuel pool” withing the facility, to its eventual placement, for an indefinite period, in dry cask storage.”
The dry cask storage is within the plant’s protected perimeter but not within the building itself, she said.
Throughout the process, Mitlyng said, the NRC requires that security is maintained and that detailed safety protocols are The very last phase of decommissioning requires that radiation levels in the area meet NRC requirements for decommissioning.
There is not yet a site, nationally, for long-term storage of spent fuel, an ongoing policy issue in which the NRC is not involved, Mitlyng said.
Until such a facility is planned – “and there is nothing on the drawing board at this point as far as we know,” she said — spent fuel remains in dry cask storage on site.
The storage is monitored by the NRC.
During final decommissioning, plant is taken apart — all radioactive systems are removed — and the plant has 60 years to get to final phase where the decommissioning is complete and meets NRC requirements.
After the plant is totally decommissioned, only the dry cask storage remains.
Some companies perform decommissioning activities themselves, others hire another company to take down the plant. If that is done, though, the license must be transferred, with NRC approval, Mitlyng said. The NRC also monitors the status of the decommissioning fund, which cannot be used for any other operations, she said.
“I want to emphasize that our responsibility as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is to ensure that a plant is safe, whether in operation or during decommissioning,” she said. “We have inspections for all stages of that process to assure that it is done in a way to protect people.”
Safety requirements do not change, whether a plant is operational or closing, Mitlyng said. “There is no change in the NRCs posture, none at all.”
Does Donald Trump Believe Nuclear War Is Inevitable? The man about to take control of US nukes has a very fatalistic view, Mother Jones, DEC. 8, 2016 n just seven weeks, a man known for being ill-tempered, thin-skinned, narcissistic, and erratic will take control of the US nuclear arsenal. Donald Trump will have the authority and power to launch any combination of the country’s 4,500 nuclear weapons. At any time and for any reason he deems fit, Trump could destroy a nation and, through miscalculation, the world.
During the presidential campaign, he uttered several troubling statements about nuclear arms. At a Republican primary debate, he botched a question about the nuclear triad—America’s system of sea-, air-, and land-based nuclear weapons—suggesting he did not understand the most basic information about the structure of the US nuclear command. (He babbled, “For me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”) At other points in the campaign, Trump noted he would support allowing Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to obtain nuclear weapons and indicated he would be open to using such weapons against ISIS and in other conflicts.
What makes Trump’s loose talk—and ignorance—about nuclear weapons particularly worrisome is that in the past, he has taken a fatalistic approach toward the notion of nuclear war. He has spoken as if he believed such a conflagration was almost inevitable. And now he is about to become one of the few humans on the planet who can decide the fate of the Earth……. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/donald-trump-nuclear-war-weapons-inevitable
Entergy strikes deal with Michigan utility, will shut Palisades nuke plant http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/business/article_40cc55e6-bd4d-11e6-b979-975dba92ca04.html ADVOCATE STAFF REPORT, DEC 8, 2016
All indications so far point to a bleak future for addressing climate change, or even recognizing it as one of the world’s largest challenges. A number of his cabinet nominees, political appointees and closest advisors are outright climate deniers while others have funded the denial of climate change or are lukewarm on accepting the science.
At best, climate action will likely take a backseat to other issues. At worst, there could be an all-out assault on the science, and as important, the funding that makes it possible.
To glean a clearer picture of where Trump’s administration stands and where it may be headed, we’ve created a list of his major cabinet and agency appointees as well as his senior advisors. We’ll continue to update this as appointments are made.
Steve Bannon, Senior Advisor
His views: Since 2012, Bannon has been in charge of Breitbart News, a site that espouses extremist right-wing views on a number of issues, including climate change. Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has repeatedly referred to climate change as a hoax and denigrated everyone from scientists (“dishonest” and mostly “abject liars”) to the Pope (“a 16-year old trotting out the formulaic bilge”) who has spoken out about the need to rein in carbon pollution.
According to James Delingpole, a writer for Breitbart, “one of his pet peeves is the great climate-change con . . . it’s going to be a core part of his administration’s political program.”
Bannon has also framed dealing with climate change and terrorism as an either/or choice (a similar theme has emerged with Trump’s national security picks as well. It’s also a false dichotomy).
What he could do: As senior advisor, Bannon will be in position to influence Trump’s thinking on a wide range of issues, including climate change.
Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff
His views: As chair of the Republican National Committee, Priebus oversaw the creation of the 2016 party platformthat called the widely respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution.”
During the primaries, Priebus criticized Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley for saying that “the cascading effects” of climate change contributed to the rise of ISIS despite the research directly linking the climate-change fueled Syrian drought to instability in the region.
More recently, Priebus reiterated that Trump “has his default position, which most of it is a bunch of bunk” when it comes to climate science.
What he could do: As chief of staff, Priebus will also have Trump’s ear and advise him on all fronts, including climate change. Traditionally, the chief of staff also acts as a gatekeeper to the president and works with Congress to communicate and enact the president’s agenda.
Senator Jeff Sessions, nominee for Attorney General
His views: Sessions (R-Ala.) has repeatedly questioned climate change and voted against climate action. In a 2003 floor speech in opposition to the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, Sessions said, “I believe there are legitimate disputes about the validity and extent of global warming . . . Carbon dioxide does not hurt you. We have to have it in the atmosphere. It is what plants breathe. In fact, the more carbon dioxide that exists, the faster plants grow.”
Sessions repeated an oft-debunked claim that there’s been “almost no increase” in temperatures over the past 19 years during a December 2015 episode of Washington Watch, a podcast put out by the conservative think tank Family Research Council.
Sessions also signed a letter to cut U.S. contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund, which is designed to help poor countries adapt to climate change. He is also on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where Republicans have attacked the U.S. commitments to the Paris Agreement and the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
What he could do: As attorney general, Sessions would be advising Trump on the legality of various climate rules and treaties, including the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Agreement. Sessions would also be head of the Justice Department, which is currently defending the Clean Power Plan in court. As Attorney General, Sessions could tell federal government to stop arguing the case, though how that would work and what would come after is unclear according to Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Burger said there are a number of states, cities and environmental organizations that could continue the defense.
Rep. Mike Pompeo, nominee for Director of the CIA
His views: Pompeo (R-Kan.) has been an outspoken critic of factoring climate change into national security issues during his tenure in the House of Representatives. In a December 2015 statement, Pompeo said, “For President Obama to suggest that climate change is a bigger threat to the world than terrorism is ignorant, dangerous, and absolutely unbelievable.” The Pentagon doesn’t necessarily support that view nor the idea that climate and terrorism is an either/or issue (more on that below).
Pompeo has referred to the Paris Agreement — a pact forged between nearly 200 countries to voluntarily take steps to reduce their impacts on the climate beginning in 2020 — as a “radical climate change deal” and even used last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino to claim that President Obama “continues his pursuit of misguided policies, including his radical climate change agenda.”
On C-SPAN in December 2013, Pompeo responded to a question on if he agrees that global warming is a problem by saying “Look, I think the science needs to continue to develop. I’m happy to continue to look at it. There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.”
That statement belies the fact that the world has warmed dramatically, with temperatures increasing about 1°C since the start of the Industrial Revolution. This year will be the hottest on record, marking the third year in a row that’s happened. The 2000s were the warmest decade on record and the 2010s are easily on the path to surpass that mark.
- What he could do: As the CIA’s director, Pompeo would be responsible for how the U.S. approaches national intelligence and security. The CIA shut down its climate program last year, but an agency spokesperson said “it continues to evaluate the national security implications of climate change.” Under Pompeo, it’s likely that resources focused on climate change would be further scaled back or scrapped altogether.
Gov. Nikki Haley, nominee for United Nations ambassador
Her views: South Carolina, where Haley is governor, is one of the states suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan. She has criticized that plan, saying in a meeting with electric utilities that it “raises the cost of power. That’s what’s going to keep jobs away.”
During her tenure as governor, the state Department of Natural Resources came under fire for burying a report on the impacts of climate change throughout South Carolina for what appear to be political reasons.
What she could do: As the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Haley would set the tone for how the U.S. approaches international climate negotiations. Trump has threatened to “cancel” the Paris Agreement. While he can’t cancel it, he can pull the U.S. out of it and Haley would likely play a major role in doing that if Trump decides to move forward.
Lt. General Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor
His views: Similar to Pompeo, Flynn has railed against the idea that climate change should be a national security priority, a stance that would fly in the face of the Pentagon’s risk assessment and planning.
Dealing with climate change and terrorism is not a simple one-or-the-other decision. The two are linked, withnumerous studies showing climate change is tied to conflict and that climate change will only further destabilize the world. The Pentagon itself has described climate change as an “immediate” risk and major threat multiplier, one that could cause crops to fail, spark mass migrations and increase conflict for dwindling water resources (to say nothing of the threat sea level rise poses to U.S. naval bases around the world).
- What he could do: As national security advisor, Flynn will be Trump’s main sounding board and trusted source on security issues. If he downplays the threat of climate change, Flynn could create a huge blind spot for the administration’s security plans.
Betsy DeVos, nominee for Education Secretary
Her views: Of all Trump’s appointees so far, DeVos, an heiress to the Amway fortune and philanthropist, has the most moderate views on climate change (though she’ll likely have little influence in that realm as head of the Department of Education). WindQuest Group, the investment management firm she operates with her husband Dick DeVos, has overseen investments in clean technology.
But that moderation is somewhat tempered. DeVos has donated to the political campaigns of a number of Republican senators and representatives who deny climate change and have voted on an array of bills that would increase offshore oil drilling, end fuel efficiency standards and bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Of course, that’s a bit of guilt by association as over the past eight years Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to Obama’s climate and energy policies and any donation to her party would have resulted in votes against meaningful climate action. But given Republicans will soon control the White House, Senate and House, the legislators she’s backed will likely play a role in further gridlocking climate action or actively dismantling it.
What she could do: As education secretary, DeVos would have little direct sway on climate policy as there are no national education standards. But Ann Reid, head of the National Center for Science Education, said DeVos’ interest in providing vouchers and school choice could have an indirect effect on climate education.
“It’s not at all clear these charter schools are held to the same standards as public schools with curricula,” Reid said. “Part of their point is to be creative and teach in new ways. That sounds grand but what if they don’t accept climate change? Are they going to be held to the standards of the state? That’s a big, big change.”
K.T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor
Her views: Like Bannon, Pompeo and Flynn, McFarland views climate change and terrorism as mutually exclusive. McFarland worked in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations on national security and is currently a commentator on Fox News. It’s in the latter position where she’s espoused views that terrorism is a greater threat than climate change. Speaking about President Obama attending the 2015 climate conference in Paris in the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed 130, she told Fox host Neil Cavuto:
“Well, because President Obama thinks that climate change is the greatest strategic and geological and existential threat to our future. You know, here we are — and the irony, if it were not so tragic it would be funny — here we have ISIS, which is attacking with suicide vests and Kalashnikovs and potentially chemical weapons in the French water supply. What are we doing? We’re going to fight ISIS. We’re going to have windmills. We’re going to have solar panels. We’re going to show them. It’s just really — all it does is it gives encouragement to the terrorists who feel that they have been selected and chosen by Allah to establish the caliphate and kill everybody who disagrees with them. They now look at this and they are laughing.
“This is a threat and an assault against all western civilization. We will not defeat it with windmills and solar panels.”
What she could do: As deputy national security advisor, McFarland will occupy a similar role to Flynn, and her views on climate change appear to line up with his.
Rep. Tom Price, nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary
His views: The voting pattern of Price (R-Ga.) in the House lines up with his fellow cabinet nominees Pompeo and Sessions. He has voted against having the EPA regulate greenhouse gases and voted no on subsidies for renewable energy as well voting to continue giving subsidies for oil and gas exploration.
Price also signed a pledge created by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group funded by the Koch brothers, vowing to oppose climate legislation.
What he could do: As Health and Human Services Secretary, Price would have sway over a number of agencies and centers that do research on climate-related diseases and health issues, including the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.
Elaine Chao, nominee for Transportation Secretary
Her views: In a 2009 blog post for the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, where she was a fellow at the time, Chao derided a proposed cap-and-trade system as a policy that “would drain trillions of dollars out of the private economy and into federal coffers.” While the economics of any cap-and-trade system are worthy of debate, it’s clear something has to be done about climate change and Chao has shown no interest in any alternative. Letting global warming continue unabate could cause trillions in economic losses from drowned coastal cities to decreased agricultural productivity.
Chao was on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ board until January 2015. She chose to step down after the foundation decided to ramp up its “Beyond Coal” campaign. The move came shortly after her husband, Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.), won re-election during a campaign where he was attacked for accepting money from “enemies of coal,” a veiled reference to Chao’s board membership at Bloomberg.
What she could do: As Transportation Secretary, Chao would be tasked with overseeing a large chunk of Trump’s proposal to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure over the next 10 years. She would also be tasked with building out the electric vehicle charging corridors proposed by the Obama administration earlier this month, a project that is unlikely to fit with Trump’s plans that focus on the private sector.
Steven Mnuchin, nominee for Treasury Secretary
His views: It’s a mystery. Mnuchin has worked at Goldman Sachs, hedge funds and as a financier in Hollywood. Through all that, he’s said nary a word about climate change or energy-related issues.
His political donations also don’t say much about his views. He and his wife donated $5,400 to Trump, the maximum amount allowed under campaign finance law, and $309,600 to the Republican National Committee. That’s not surprising since he was Trump’s campaign finance chair. He also donated $2,000 to Kamala Harris, California’s new Senator who has been outspoken about the need to address climate change (in sharp contrast to Trump).
What he could do: As Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin would essentially help Trump set economic policies for the country. Climate change is expected to cost the U.S. — and the world — trillions if actions aren’t taken. Speaking at the Brookings Institute in 2014, current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said, “if the fiscal burden from climate change continues to rise, it will create budgetary pressures that will force hard tradeoffs, larger deficits or higher taxes.”
The Treasury has also had to loan $24 billion to the National Flood Insurance Program to cover hurricane damages from Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Sandy, underscoring that planning for a fiscal response to near- and longer-term climate shocks will be a part Mnuchin’s job.
Wilbur Ross, nominee for Commerce Secretary
His views: Ross is a billionaire who made his fortune in buying distressed companies, cutting costs and selling them for a profit. In the past, he’s invested in coal companies and has recently moved into the oil and gas industry.
Beyond those investments, Ross hasn’t said anything about his interest or understanding of climate science.
What he could do: As Commerce Secretary, he would oversee the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s $189 million climate research budget. One of Trump’s advisors has suggested shifting some of NASA’s climate science responsibilities to NOAA, further expanding the amount of climate work Ross would be in charge of.
Gen. James Mattis, nominee for Defense Secretary
His views: Mattis served in a number of roles in the Marines prior to retiring in 2013. He hasn’t espoused anything publicly, but according to Stephen Cheney, a retired Marine brigadier general, Mattis “gets climate change.”
In 2003, Mattis led the 1st Marine Division during the Iraq invasion. Following the invasion, he told Navy researchersto “unleash us from the tether of fuel.” That indicates an understanding that renewable energy and alternative fuels have an important role to play in military preparedness and operations. The statement lines up with recent Department of Defense goals to reduce the use of petroleum products, increase renewable energy and cut non-combat greenhouse gases 34 percent by 2020.
What he could do: As Defense Secretary, Mattis would be in charge of implementing military strategy around the world (in comparison to Trump’s National Security Advisor, who can only offer advice). Under the Obama administration, climate change has been on the Department of Defense’s radar from how it affects national security to how military installations around the world should prepare for climate impacts, like sea level rise at naval bases, melting permafrost in the Arctic and more extreme rainfall events around the world.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correctly note that Kamala Harris is California’s newest Senator, not governor.
Critics blast Cuomo’s $7.6B subsidy for nuclear plants, WBFO.org, By KAREN DEWITT, 8 Dec 16, A long-term energy plan by the Cuomo administration that includes a nearly $8 billion subsidy to two upstate nuclear power plants is being challenged from both ends of the political spectrum, and a lawsuit has been filed to try to stop the deal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Public Service Commission plans to convert 50 percent of the state’s power sources to renewable energy over the next decade and a half. A controversial part of that program includes a $7.6 billion state-financed subsidy to a company that now runs two New York nuclear power plants – Nine Mile Point in Oswego and Ginna near Rochester – and is taking over a third plant, FitzPatrick, also in Oswego.
That has angered environmental groups, who filed a lawsuit, saying the PSC “acted improperly when it mandated a massive subsidy to prop up New York’s aging, failing nuclear power plants as part of the State’s Clean Energy Standard.”
Other progressive-leaning groups, including the New York Public Interest Research Group, also object to the deal.
“In some ways, it’s a straight-up ratepayer issue,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG’s legislative director.
He said the deal will result in $2.3 billion in increased payments for residential utility customers, and even more for businesses. That’s in a state that already has among the highest utility rates in the nation.
“Roughly 800,000 New Yorkers are already having a hard time paying their existing electric bills,” Horner said. “This isn’t going to make it any better.”
Not only left-leaning groups oppose the deal. Fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP have objected, filing complaints with the PSC. Oil and gas companies would have to essentially help subsidize the deal through the price of zero emission tax credits bought and sold in New York…..http://news.wbfo.org/post/critics-blast-cuomos-76b-subsidy-nuclear-plants
Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change, WP A few weeks ago, a federal judge in Oregon made headlines when she ruled that a groundbreaking climate lawsuit will proceed to trial. And some experts say its outcome could rewrite the future of climate policy in the United States.
The case, brought by 21 youths aged 9 to 20, claims that the federal government isn’t doing enough to address the problem of climate change to protect their planet’s future — and that, they charge, is a violation of their constitutional rights on the most basic level. The case has already received widespread attention, even garnering the support of well-known climate scientist James Hansen, who has also joined as a plaintiff on behalf of his granddaughter and as a guardian for “future generations.”
The U.S. government under President Obama, along with several others representing members of the fossil fuel industry, filed to have the lawsuit dismissed. But on Nov. 10, federal judge Ann Aiken denied the motion, clearing the case to proceed to trial. According to Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit representing the youth plaintiffs, a recent case management conference indicated that the case would likely go to trial by summer or early fall of 2017.
[Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening]
“It’s been called the biggest trial of the century, and it is,” said Mary Wood, a law professor at the University of Oregon and expert in natural resources and public trust law. “Literally, when I say the planet is on the docket, it would be hard to imagine a more consequential trial, because the fossil fuel policies of the entire United States of America are going to confront the climate science put forth by the world’s best scientists. And never before has that happened.”
The odds of success
Theoretically, the trial’s outcome could have major implications for the incoming Trump administration, which aims to dismantle many of the climate and energy priorities established under President Obama.
Should the plaintiffs prevail, the federal government could be forced to develop and adhere to stringent carbon-cutting measures aimed at preserving the planet’s climate future for generations to come. The only other place such action has ever been ordered by a court is in the Netherlands, where a similar case resulted in a landmark ruling last year requiring the Dutch government to slash its emissions by a quarter within five years…….. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/01/trump-could-face-the-biggest-trial-of-the-century-over-climate-change/?utm_term=.d1aa009e5e04
Officials set to repackage radioactive waste in New Mexico, Huron daily Tribune, Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press, December 1, 2016 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Isolated in a temperature-controlled storage area at one of the nation’s premiere nuclear weapons laboratories, dozens of containers of radioactive waste similar to one that ruptured in 2014 remain under 24-hour surveillance, awaiting treatment so they can be stabilized and disposed of.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that treatment of the 60 containers is expected to begin next spring following a series of safety assessments and upgrades to the building where the work will be performed…….
The work is one step in a yearslong effort to get the federal government’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program back on track at Los Alamos and other installations around the country where decades of Cold War-era waste — from gloves and tools to clothing and other material —have piled up.
The shipment of that waste to an underground disposal facility in southern New Mexico was put on indefinite hold in February 2014 when a container sent from Los Alamos to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant breached, contaminating a significant portion of the underground storage area……
The incident resulted in an overhaul of policies, costly work to mitigate the contamination, and a multimillion-dollar settlement with the state of New Mexico for numerous permit violations.
The Energy Department had hoped to resume some work at the Waste Isolation Plant by the end of the year. But the agency still needs to submit a readiness report to state regulators for review and an onsite inspection needs to be done.
Even if the site is cleared to begin moving waste into the underground, state officials say shipments will be sent slowly before they are ramped up………All of the work will be done inside an enclosed box in a specially engineered building with filters. Technicians will handle the waste only through gloved ports. http://www.michigansthumb.com/news/article/Feds-prepare-to-repackage-radioactive-waste-in-10646737.php
An Albuquerque watchdog group is calling for an additional federal review before WIPP can reopen.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad has been working for nearly three years to recover from a radiation accident in February 2014.
Roof collapses at WIPP raise new safety questions,Albuquerque Journal By Lauren Villagran / Journal Staff Writer Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 In a salt mine more than 2,000 feet underground where drums of nuclear waste are embedded in enormous rooms – some radiologically contaminated – workers heard a loud noise and saw a spray of salt dust.
For patients, unnecessary procedures (usually imaging procedures) and radiation dosing errors represent the bulk of risk from medical radiation, whereas incidental, unintended radiation exposure is the primary concern for nurses and other health care workers…
Radiation safety for patients—and nurses Oncology Nurse Advisor, Bryant Furlow, October 26, 2011 Diagnostic and therapeutic radiation have prolonged and improved millions of patients’ lives, and represent indispensable and increasingly sophisticated tools in clinical oncology. But medical radiation’s gifts have come at the potential cost of unintended irradiation of patients and health care workers and increased lifetime risks of secondary cancers. This concern has grown with improving patient survival times, particularly among pediatric cancer patients. Continue reading
US to build $1.6B Idaho facility for warships’ nuclear waste,WNTV.com 6 Dec 16 By KEITH RIDLER Associated Press BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A $1.65 billion facility will be built at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho to handle fuel waste from the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered warships, the Navy and U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday.
Officials said the new facility is needed to keep nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines deployed.
The new construction will be at the Naval Reactors facility on the Energy Department’s southeastern Idaho site that covers about 890-square-miles of high-desert sagebrush steppe. The area also includes the Idaho National Laboratory, considered the nation’s primary lab for nuclear research.
“This action will provide the infrastructure necessary to support the naval nuclear reactor defueling and refueling schedules to meet the operational needs of the U.S. Navy,” the Department of Energy said in a statement.
Officials said site preparation is expected to begin in 2017 with construction of the facility likely to start in 2019, creating 360 on-site jobs. The facility is expected to start operating in late 2024. The Department of Energy formally announced the plan with publication of what’s called a record of decision in the Federal Register. The record of decision made public Tuesday was signed last month by Admiral James F. Caldwell Jr., director of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
The record of decision concludes a lengthy and public environmental process that also looked at continuing using outdated facilities at the eastern Idaho site or overhauling them…..
The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, a joint Navy and Energy Department organization, has been sending spent Navy fuel to the Idaho site since 1957. It’s transported by rail from shipyards. Dahl declined to describe security at Navy site.
“Appropriate security will be provided for the new facility,” he said.
Officials also declined on Tuesday to describe security measures at the rest of site, but access roads have armed checkpoints and visitors must leave passenger vehicles far from facilities and ride buses into secured areas.
Nuclear waste coming into Idaho prompted lawsuits when state leaders in the late 1980s and early 1990s thought the site was becoming a permanent nuclear waste repository. The lawsuits culminated in a 1995 agreement, then a 2008 addendum, limiting such shipments and requiring most nuclear waste to be removed from the federal site by 2035. The deal applies to the Navy’s spent nuclear fuel.
Under the agreement, fuel waste coming to the new facility after 2035 will only remain for the six years it takes to cool in pools. After that, it’s required to be put in dry storage and taken out of Idaho. However, the nation has no repository for spent nuclear fuel at this time, so where it will go is not clear…..http://www.wbtv.com/story/33941726/us-to-build-16b-idaho-facility-for-warships-nuclear-waste
How far will Trump go to gut U.S. climate policies? http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060046632 Evan Lehmann, E&E News reporter ClimateWire: Monday, December 5, 2016 President-elect Donald Trump would have to undertake a herculean political effort to reverse his administration’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases, and he might not be able to count on Republicans in Congress for help.
In promising to rescind the Clean Power Plan, Trump is clipping a regulation off at the stem, but the roots would survive to pester his administration with the threat of lawsuits and the likelihood of future rules governing the release of carbon dioxide at U.S. firms, according to experts.
When the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases are an “air pollutant,” it set in motion a series of actions that could now require Trump to convince the courts that global warming is not adversely affecting humans and the Earth — after the same court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, came to the opposite conclusion in 2012.
That effort would occur if Trump’s U.S. EPA tried to reverse the so-called endangerment finding of 2009, a tick-tock in the bureaucratic record that gave rise to a cascade of regulations on greenhouse gases over cars, power plants, natural gas wells and more in the future. The finding is EPA’s trigger to regulate. Continue reading
James Mattis warned that land-based nuclear missiles pose false alarm danger
Trump’s pick for next US defence secretary has questioned need for US’s ICBMs, which are ready to launch within minutes in event of an attack, Guardian, Julian Borger, 4 Dec 16, James Mattis, the retired general Donald Trump has chosen to be the next US defence secretary, has questioned the need for land-based nuclear missiles on the grounds they represent a higher risk than other weapons of being launched on a false alarm.
Mattis raised doubts about US nuclear orthodoxy in a statement to Congress in 2015, raising the issue over whether nuclear deterrence should continue to rest on a “triad” of weapon types: land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched missiles and warheads carried by air force bombers. During the campaign, Trump vowed to proceed with current plans to modernise all three legs of the triad, with an estimated price tag of half a trillion dollars over 20 years.
In his remarks to the Senate about US national security priorities, Mattis struck a more sceptical tone. He asked whether the US should declare that the sole purpose of its nuclear arsenal was to deter nuclear attack, a statement that would narrow its purpose and potentially lower the number of warheads required. The present US nuclear posture states that, in some circumstances, the current, 4,500-warhead arsenal has a role in deterring conventional or chemical weapon attack.
“The nuclear stockpile must be tended to and fundamental questions must be asked and answered,” Mattis told the Senate armed services committee. “We must clearly establish the role of our nuclear weapons: do they serve solely to deter nuclear war? If so we should say so, and the resulting clarity will help to determine the number we need.”
“Is it time to reduce the triad to a diad, removing the land‐based missiles? This would reduce the false alarm danger,” Mattis said.
The US has about 400 ICBMs on a “hair-trigger alert”, ready to launch within minutes if early warning systems show an incoming attack. Several former defence secretaries and generals have argued that they should be taken off this state of readiness because of the danger of false alarms, especially in the age of cyber warfare. Some former officials, including William Perry, defence secretary in the Clinton administration, have argued ICBMs should be scrapped altogether.
Perry said he knew Mattis well, having worked for the marine, then a colonel, for three years during Perry’s time at the Pentagon. The two have since taken part in conferences and panel discussions on nuclear weapons and defence.
“He’s very intelligent, a very serious thinker, nothing frivolous at all about him,” Perry told the Guardian. “My view of him is that he will be a solid addition to Trump’s team. He brings an experience in defence and national security that is lacking.”
“More importantly,” Perry said, “he is a man who says what he thinks. He’s not easily intimidated. He is known for speaking truth to power and that will be a great asset in this administration.”
Perry added that, during conversations he had had with Mattis and George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, the marine general showed a deep understanding of the dangers of nuclear weapons. “I would not expect him to be recommending anything rash with nuclear weapons,” Perry said……. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/04/james-mattis-defense-secretary-nuclear-missiles-trump