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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Remembering Three Mile Island

GIL SCOTT HERON – WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT (LIVE AT 98.3 SUPERFLY)

This Day in History: America’s Worst Nuclear Fears Realized at Three Mile Island Plant, VOA, 28 Mar 17, Thirty-eight years ago today — March 28, 1979 — disaster struck at 4 a.m. at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania after its cooling system failed.

It remains the worst nuclear accident in American history. A simple plumbing failure prevented the main feedwater pumps from sending water to generators that remove heat from the plant’s core reactor.

During those pre-dawn hours, the temperature of the reactor rose steadily even as staffers were unaware that a valve in the emergency cooling system had become stuck in place, allowing cool water to flow through the valve — not reaching the reactor.

Instruments in the control room misled operators, who thought the cooling system was working normally.

As coolant flowed from the primary system through the valve, other instruments available to reactor operators provided inadequate information. There was no instrument that showed how much water covered the core. As a result, plant staff assumed that as long as the pressurizer water level was high, the core was properly covered with water.

As alarms rang and warning lights flashed, the operators did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident — or, rather, the beginnings of a nuclear meltdown. And just after 6:00 am, data indicated the core reactor had overheated so much that radiation was detected inside the control room.

Half the core was later found to have melted………

In the months following the accident, questions were raised about possible adverse effects from radiation on human, animal and plant life around the nuclear power plant, although none could be directly correlated to the accident.

Thousands of environmental samples of air, water, milk, vegetation, soil and foodstuffs were collected by various government agencies monitoring the area.

In 1997, researchers from Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Science concluded increases in lung cancer and leukemia near the Pennsylvania plant suggested a much greater release of radiation during the 1979 accident than had been believed.

Three Mile Island Health Effects

The accident sparked sweeping safety regulations. The damaged reactor, on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, was never restarted. No new commercial nuclear power plant was licensed by the federal government until 2012….http://www.voanews.com/a/americas-worst-nuclear-fears-realized-at-three-mile-island-plant-in-1979/3784186.html

March 29, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

Concern about nuclear waste shipments to South Carolina

Among the materials with no disposition plan include weapons-grade plutonium, depleted uranium oxide, highly enriched uranium and heavy water.

Specifics about the quantity and timetables were redacted from the report. Lastly, the DOE report states that there is no disposition path for surplus plutonium stored at K-Area.

The DOE’s short-term strategy of continuing nuclear shipments to SRS runs counter to South Carolina’s long-held aversion to the state becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste.

More nuclear shipments to Savannah River Site likely, report says http://www.aikenstandard.com/news/more-nuclear-shipments-to-savannah-river-site-likely-report-says/article_4a380b86-13db-11e7-87c8-c3869ab88afe.html By Michael Smith msmith@aikenstandard.com Mar 28, 2017  Shipments of plutonium and other nuclear materials are expected to continue to the Savannah River Site in Aiken County for the foreseeable future, according to government records released by a watchdog group.

The latest data dump from SRS Watch includes the 2016 SRS Nuclear Materials Management Plan the group said it obtained through the Federal Freedom of Information Act.

Documents confirm that plutonium from Japan, Germany and Switzerland was shipped to the site last year, as previously reported by the Aiken Standard. The 2016 report further states the U.S. Department of Energy plans further shipments of plutonium, uranium and tritium, with some shipments expected to continue for 18 years.

“The most significant issue with respect to the current inventory of SNM (spent nuclear material) at SRS is the lack of an assigned disposition path for certain SNF (spent nuclear fuel) and plutonium materials,” the report says.

Among the materials with no disposition plan include weapons-grade plutonium, depleted uranium oxide, highly enriched uranium and heavy water.

Further, only a portion of spent nuclear fuel stored at L-Area is approved for processing at H Canyon, the report continues.

L-Area is where high and low enriched uranium used fuel is stored. H Canyon downblends this waste into low enriched uranium, which is then used to fuel Tennessee Valley Authority reactors, according to the SRS website.

Additionally, more foreign and domestic materials are expected to be shipped to L-Area through 2019 and 2035, respectively, the DOE report states.

Specifics about the quantity and timetables were redacted from the report. Lastly, the DOE report states that there is no disposition path for surplus plutonium stored at K-Area.

Options for disposing of surplus plutonium are limited. Construction of the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada halted a few years ago, while the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico also isn’t equipped to handle SRS materials.

The long-term strategy for disposing of defense plutonium remains completion of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, or MOX, which would convert waste into fuel for commercial reactors.

MOX, though, is only reportedly 70 percent complete, billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule……

The DOE’s short-term strategy of continuing nuclear shipments to SRS runs counter to South Carolina’s long-held aversion to the state becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste.

SRS Watch Director Tom Clements said in prepared comments the DOE report illustrates why importing nuclear materials to the site must cease.

“While it is clear that DOE hopes to maintain SRS as a site that receives and processes an array of nuclear materials, that role is clearly diminishing and continues to distract from the all-important clean-up mission at SRS,” Clements said in a statement. n recent years, MOX has only received minimal funding from Congress. The DOE assessment says this trend must change.

“Decisions/funding need to be made on the appropriate disposition path; which will include processing for use as mixed oxide fuel, another use, or a waste disposition,” the DOE report states.

The DOE’s short-term strategy of continuing nuclear shipments to SRS runs counter to South Carolina’s long-held aversion to the state becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste.

SRS Watch Director Tom Clements said in prepared comments the DOE report illustrates why importing nuclear materials to the site must cease.

“While it is clear that DOE hopes to maintain SRS as a site that receives and processes an array of nuclear materials, that role is clearly diminishing and continues to distract from the all-important clean-up mission at SRS,” Clements said in a statement.

“More effort must be put into a permanent and near-term halt to the inflow of nuclear materials into SRS and the development of acceptable disposition paths for hard-to-manage materials already at the site,” the statement continued.

A federal judge recently ruled that the DOE failed to abide by legal obligations to remove or dispose of 1 metric ton of defense plutonium per year from SRS.

But the March 20 order doesn’t impose any sanctions for missing that milestone, nor does it prevent the continued flow of nuclear materials into Aiken County.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | safety, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

America and her allies oppose UN talks for a treaty that would ban nuclear weapons

United States and Allies Protest U.N. Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons, NYT, MARCH 27, 2017, UNITED NATIONS — Saying the time was not right to outlaw nuclear arms, the United States led a group of dozens of

March 29, 2017 Posted by | politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA tries to block UN nuclear-weapons-ban -talks, backed by its “Deputy Sheriff” Australia.

UN nuclear treaty: Australia plays deputy as US ‘sheriff’ baulks at ban Daniel Flitton, The Age, 29 Mar 17   Nikki Haley marched in on her first day as Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations with a blunt warning to the world: “For those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.”

Australia has now gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure its name stays off Trump’s naughty list. With negotiations for a new treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons kicking off on Monday (New York time), Haley called an extraordinary press conference outside the UN to declare the US opposition to the talks.

And there, at her heels, was Australia.

At the very moment representatives from more than 120 countries were starting their negotiations inside, Australia stood with Trump’s appointee and a group widely known as the “weasel countries” who are opposed to banning the bomb.

According to anti-nuclear campaigners, 21 countries joined Haley’s protest. They included Albania, Turkey, Croatia, Romania, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, Hungary and South Korea. Britain and France, both nuclear armed, also spoke against a ban. Other NATO allies joined in, although not all……

Back in January, Haley had made plain the attitude the Trump administration would take to the world body. “Our goal … is to show value at the UN, and the way to show value is to show our strength, show our full voice,” she declared. “Have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our backs as well.

“For those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names, and we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”

On Monday, after the protest at the UN, she told a key lobby group for Israel in Washington: “For anyone who says you can’t get anything done at the UN, they need to know there’s a new sheriff in town.”

And she made the nuclear issue personal…….

Tilman Ruff, of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told Fairfax Media from New York that the US action was alarming and Australia was “aligning itself with the extremes of the Trump administration”.

“What credibility does Australia have to criticise North Korea’s reckless nuclear proliferation when it continues to claim protection itself through the very same weapons, and oppose efforts to ban them?” Dr Ruff said. http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/un-nuclear-treaty-australia-plays-deputy-as-us-sheriff-baulks-at-ban-20170328-gv8bge.html

March 29, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How did the Pentagon lose $10 Trillion?

$10 Trillion Missing From Pentagon And No One — Not Even The DoD — Knows Where It Is http://www.activistpost.com/2017/03/10-trillion-missing-pentagon-no-one-not-even-dod-knows.htmlMARCH 27, 2017, BY CLAIRE BERNISH

Over a mere two decades, the Pentagon lost track of a mind-numbing $10 trillion — that’s trillion, with a fat, taxpayer-funded “T” — and no one, not even the Department of Defense, knows where it went or on what it was spent.

Even though audits of all federal agencies became mandatory in 1996, the Pentagon has apparently made itself an exception, and — fully 20 years later — stands obstinately orotund in never having complied.

Because, as defense officials insist — summoning their best impudent adolescent — an audit would take too long and, unironically, cost too much.

“Over the last 20 years, the Pentagon has broken every promise to Congress about when an audit would be completed,” Rafael DeGennaro, director of Audit the Pentagontold The Guardianrecently. “Meanwhile, Congress has more than doubled the Pentagon’s budget.”

Worse, President Trump’s newly-proposed budget seeks to toss an additional $54 billion into the evidently bottomless pit that is the U.S. military  — more for interventionist policy, more for resource-plundering, more for proxy fighting, and, of course, more for jets and drones to drop more bombs suspiciously often on civilians.

Maybe.

Because, without the mandated audit, the DoD could be purchasing damned near anything, at any cost, and use, or give, it — to anyone, for any reason.

Officials with the Government Accountability Office and Office of the Inspector General have catalogued egregious financial disparities at the Pentagon for years — yet the Defense Department grouses the cost and energy necessary to perform an audit in compliance with the law makes it untenable.

Astonishingly, the Pentagon’s own watchdog tacitly approves this technically-illegal workaround — and the legally-gray and, yes, literally, on-the-books-corrupt practices in tandem — to what would incontrovertibly be a most unpleasant audit, indeed.

Take the following of myriad examples, called “plugging,” for which Pentagon bookkeepers are not only encouraged to conjure figures from thin air, but, in many cases, they would be physically and administratively incapable of performing the job without doing so — without ever having faced consequences for this brazen cooking of books.

To wit, Reuters reported the results of an investigation into Defense’s magical number-crunching — well over three years ago, on November 18, 2013 — detailing the illicit tasks of 15-year employee, “Linda Woodford [who] spent the last 15 years of her career inserting phony numbers in the U.S. Department of Defense’s accounts.”

Woodford, who has since retired, and others like her, act as individual pieces in the amassing chewed gum only appearing to plug a damning mishandling of funds pilfered from the American people to fund wars overseas for resources in the name of U.S. defense.

“Every month until she retired in 2011,” Scot J. Paltrow wrote for Reuters, “she says, the day came when the Navy would start dumping numbers on the Cleveland, Ohio, office of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Pentagon’s main accounting agency. Using the data they received, Woodford and her fellow DFAS accountants there set about preparing monthly reports to square the Navy’s books with the U.S. Treasury’s – a balancing-the-checkbook maneuver required of all the military services and other Pentagon agencies.

“And every month, they encountered the same problem. Numbers were missing. Numbers were clearly wrong. Numbers came with no explanation of how the money had been spent or which congressional appropriation it came from. ‘A lot of times there were issues of numbers being inaccurate,’ Woodford says. ‘We didn’t have the detail … for a lot of it.’”

Where a number of disparities could be corrected through hurried communications, a great deal — thousands each month, for each person on the task — required fictitious figures. Murkily deemed, “unsubstantiated change actions” — tersely termed, “plugs” — this artificial fix forcing records into an unnatural alignment is common practice at the Pentagon.

Beyond bogus books, the Pentagon likely flushed that $10 trillion in taxes down the toilet of inanity that is unchecked purchasing by inept staff who must be devoid of prior experience in the field of defense.

This tax robbery would eclipse the palatability of blood money — if it weren’t also being wasted on items such as the 7,437 extraneous Humvee front suspensions — purchased in surplus over the inexplicable 14-year supply of 15,000 unnecessary Humvee front suspensions already gathering warehouse-shelf dust.

And there are three items of note on this particular example, of many:

One, the U.S. Department of Defense considers inventory surpassing a three-year supply, “excessive.”

Two, the stupefying additional seven-thousand-something front suspensions arrived, as ordered, during a period of demand reduced by half.

Three, scores of additional items — mostly unaccounted for in inventory — sit untouched and aging in storage, growing not only incapable of being used, but too dangerous to be properly disposed of safely.

Worse, contractors greedily sink hands into lucrative contracts — with all the same supply-based waste at every level, from the abject disaster that is the $1 trillion F-35 fighter program, to the $8,123.50 shelled out for Bell Helicopter Textron helicopter gears with a price tag of $445.06, to the DoD settlement with Boeing for overcharges of a whopping $13.7 million.

The latter included a charge to the Pentagon of $2,286 — spent for an aluminum pin ordinarily costing just $10.

Considering all the cooking of numbers apparently fueled with burning money stateside, you would think Defense channeled its efforts into becoming a paragon of economic efficiency when the military defends the United States. Overseas. From terrorism. And from terrorists. And terrorist-supporting nations.

But this is the Pentagon — and a trickle of telling headlines regularly grace the news, each evincing yet another missing shipment of weapons, unknown allocation of funds, or retrieval of various U.S.-made arms and munitions by some terrorist group deemed politically less acceptable than others by officials naming pawns.

In fact, so many American weapons and supplies lost by the DoD and CIA become the property of actual terrorists — who then use them sadistically against civilians and strategically against our proxies and theirs — it would be negligent not to describe the phenomenon as pattern, whether or not intent exists behind it.

Since practically the moment of nationalist President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the ceaselessly belligerent of the military-industrial machine have been granted a new head cheerleader with a bullhorn so powerful as to render calls to apply the brakes effectively, if not unpatriotically, moot.

Sans any optimistic indication thus far lacking from the Trump administration it would reverse course and move toward, rather than against, transparency, the painstaking audit imperative to DoD accountability remains only a theory — while the Pentagon’s $10 trillion sits as the world’s largest elephant in apathetic America’s living room.

For now, we know generally where our money is going: war. Which aspect of war — compared to the power of your outrage about its callous and reckless execution in your name — matters little.

Claire Bernish writes for TheFreeThoughtProject.com, where this article first appeared.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trump takes action to reverse Obama’s climate change initiatives

Donald Trump moves to erase Barack Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, The Age 29 Mar 17 Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, Washington: US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to scrap Obama-era climate change regulations that his administration says are hindering oil drillers and coal miners.

“My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said before signing the decree. “With today’s executive action I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.”

It is the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record and instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing US carbon emissions. The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as former president Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Mr Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots…..

Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables. The order is silent on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 per cent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, because the administration remains divided on that question.

Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables. The order is silent on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 per cent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, because the administration remains divided on that question.

The order comes after several moves by Mr Trump to roll back Obama-era restrictions on mining, drilling and coal and gas-burning operations. In his first two months as President, Mr Trump has nullified a regulation barring surface-mining companies from polluting waterways and set aside a new accounting system that would have compelled coal companies and other energy firms to pay more in federal royalties.

The administration also has announced it will reconsider stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and has approved two major oil pipelines, Dakota Access and Keystone XL, that Mr Obama had halted.

Accelerating fossil-fuel production on federal lands and sidelining climate considerations could lead to higher emissions of the greenhouse gases driving climate change and complicate a global effort to curb the world’s carbon output. But Mr Trump has repeatedly questioned whether climate change is underway and emphasised that he is determined to deliver for the voters in coal country who helped him win the Oval Office……

Rewriting emissions limits

The centrepiece of the new presidential directive, telling the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, will trigger a laborious rule-making process and a possible legal fight.

The agency must first get permission from the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, where the rule is tied up in litigation, to revisit the matter. Then, agency officials will have to justify reaching the opposite conclusion of the Obama EPA, which argued it was technically feasible and legally warranted to reduce carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

“So, for the president, even if he would like to revoke the Clean Power Plan, he doesn’t have legal authority to do that,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at the Bracewell law firm who opposes the Obama-era rule. Mr Holmstead, who headed the EPA’s air and radiation office under George W. Bush, said he thinks the agency can justify reversing the regulation. But “they have to justify why they have changed,” he added……http://www.theage.com.au/world/donald-trump-moves-to-erase-barack-obamas-legacy-on-fighting-climate-change-20170328-gv8kru.html

March 29, 2017 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Vague outlook for India-U.S. civil nuclear pact, unlikely to meet June deadline

India-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline, THE HINDU, Suhasini Haidar 27 Mar 17 Bankruptcy of reactor maker Westinghouse clouds operationalisation of the deal.

More than two years after India and the U.S. announced that the civil nuclear deal was “done,” its actual operationalisation is in doubt over a number of developments that stretch from a “school scandal” in the Japanese parliament to the Cranberry, Pennsylvania headquarters of Westinghouse Electric, which is expected to file for bankruptcy this week.

 Six reactors for A.P. According to the agreement over liability issues and the negotiations that followed former U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June 2016, the two sides had agreed to “work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017” for six reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

When completed, this was to be the first operationalisation of the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal, which was announced in 2008, and proof that both sides had effectively sorted out all their issues, including over the liability that suppliers must accept in the event of an accident.

The reason for the concern is that the nuclear arrangement hinged on two major factors — the completion of the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), as Toshiba and other suppliers for reactor parts are bound by Japanese laws and by the actual contract to be negotiated by the U.S.-based Westinghouse…….

When contacted, the U.S. Embassy declined to comment on how the bankruptcy issues would affect the deal. Nuclear officials said it was “likely” the June 2017 commercial contract with Westinghouse would be “delayed”, given that other financial companies, insurance companies would require clarity on the company’s future before agreeing to sign on the contract.

“The truth is the picture is very hazy at the moment,” a senior official of NPCIL said, adding that in the absence of land acquisition procedures for the other India-U.S. nuclear venture with GE-Hitachi for six 1594 MW reactors, the future of the India-U.S. nuclear deal is, for the moment, pinned to the future of Westinghouse itself. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indo-us-civil-nuclear-pact-likely-to-miss-june-deadline/article17668572.ece

March 29, 2017 Posted by | India, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Despite the turmoil in the nuclear industry, Dominion Energy forges on with new nuclear plans

Amid nuclear industry turmoil, Dominion forges ahead with new nuclear reactor http://www.utilitydive.com/news/amid-nuclear-industry-turmoil-dominion-forges-ahead-with-new-nuclear-react/439122/ March 28, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • Dominion Energy continues to advance plans for a proposed third nuclear reactor at its Santa Anna facility in Virginia, even as financial difficulties have imperiled construction of other projects in the region.
  • Southeast Energy News reports federal regulators last week determined that with some “structural changes” to guard against earthquake damage, the proposed reactor could be approved.
  • Dominion’s interest in constructing a new nuclear reactor comes as Westinghouse Electric Co., the nuclear engineering firm overseeing construction facilities in Georgia and South Carolina, prepares to file for bankruptcy at the end of this month.
  • Dive Insight:

    Dominion has not committed to building a third unit at North Anna—so far the utility appears to be keeping its options open in pursuing the license—but despite uncertainty in the industry and objections from clean energy advocates, the project is chugging along.

    But recent bad news within the nuclear sector shows signs of upheaval and uncertainty.

    Toshiba recently announced a $6 billion writedown at its Westinghouse subsidiary, which is managing construction of new nuclear generation at the Vogtle plant in Georgia and V.C. Summer in South Carolina. Reuters reports Westinghouse could file for bankruptcy as early as today.

    MIT Technology Review believes a Westinghouse bankruptcy means an end to new nuclear construction in the United States. The news outlet also reports analysts doubt Toshiba will find a buyer for its stake in Westinghouse, nor any construction partners willing to forge ahead with the nuclear plants it planned to build.

  • The Vogtle and VC Summer plants are years behind schedule and costs are mounting. Development of those plants will likely continue, but within the industry there has been speculation that if Westinghouse fails, it will likely spell the end of new nuclear development for the time being.

    In Virginia, Dominion is spending upwards of $600 million to obtain approval from the federal government. Long-term costs could exceed $19 billion, with the project possibly taking until 2029 to complete. The utility could spend $2 billion in just the planning stages alone. Dominion would use a new kind of nuclear design developed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

South Carolina utility officials tight-lipped about nuclear plans, in view of Westinghouse’s financial crisis

State-owned utility doesn’t want to talk about nuclear plans http://www.thestate.com/news/local/article141313913.html 28 Mar 17, MONCKS CORNER, SC  A state-owned electric utility doesn’t want to talk about its plans for dealing with possible construction problems at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant, where it is teaming with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. to build two additional nuclear reactors.

The lead contractor of the $14 billion expansion, Westinghouse Electric Co., is experiencing serious financial problems amid media reports that it could file for bankruptcy protection.

Concerns are rising about how much it would cost to complete the plants and, in a worst case, whether the reactor project would be finished. The project already is about $3 billion over budget and years behind schedule.

Santee Cooper senior vice president and general counsel Michael Baxley would only say that a resolution approved by its board Monday in a closed telephone conference “authorizes certain contingency actions by management in the fluid situation with respect to new nuclear construction,’’ The Post and Courier reported.

Baxley would not elaborate, but said the plan would put the Moncks Corner utility “in a position to be able to immediately respond to issues or conditions that may occur with respect to the V.C. Summer project.”

Santee Cooper is responsible for 45 percent of the cost. SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA Corp., is paying the other 55 percent. The two utilities also share the costs of the existing nuclear reactor at the site in Fairfield County.

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore wouldn’t say Tuesday whether the power company would release the resolution.

“Santee Cooper is continuing to monitor the situation,’’ she said. “It is complicated. While they continue to work through the details, Santee Cooper can’t really provide any speculation about this.’’

SCANA has said it has a plan to complete the project, with or without Westinghouse and its parent company, Toshiba.

If Westinghouse sought bankruptcy protection, it could lead to higher rates for utility customers to help pay for the reactors, plant critics have said.

Staff writer Sammy Fretwell contributed.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Air Force B-2 to Get New Digital Nuclear Weapons

& Air-Ground Missiles, Warrior, KRIS OSBORN, 29 Mar 17 The stealthy B-2 is slated to fly alongside the Air Force’s new Long Range Strike – Bomber into the 2050s,

Air Force pilots of the 1980s-era stealthy B-2 Spirit bomber plan to arm the B-2 with new weapons and upgrade the aircraft to fly the aircraft on attack missions against enemy air defenses well into the 2050s, service officials said.

In coming years, the B-2 will be armed with with next generation digital nuclear weapons such as the B-61 Mod 12 with a tail kit and an Long Range Stand-Off weapon or, LRSO, an air-launched, guided nuclear cruise missile, service officials said.

The B-61 Mod 12 is an ongoing modernization program which seeks to integrate the B-61 Mods 3, 4, 7 and 10 into a single variant with a guided tail kit. The B-61 Mod 12 is being engineered to rely on an inertial measurement unit for navigation.

In addition to the LRSO, B83 and B-61 Mod 12, the B-2 will also carry the B-61 Mod 11, a nuclear weapon designed with penetration capabilities, Air Force officials said…….http://www.scout.com/military/warrior/story/1641631-pilot-intv-inside-attack-missions-b-2-bomber

March 29, 2017 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Great Barrier Reef bleaching? No, according to Breitbart, that is fake news

Breitbart’s James Delingpole says reef bleaching is ‘fake news’, hits peak denial.more https://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2017/mar/24/breitbarts-james-delingpole-says-reef-bleaching-is-fake-news-hits-peak-denial Graham Readfearn  A claim like this takes lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at   24 March 2017 


I
t takes a very special person to label the photographed, documented, filmed and studied phenomenon of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef“fake news”. You need lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Donald Trump’s hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at.

It also helps if you can hide inside the bubble of the hyper-partisan Breitbart media outlet, whose former boss is the US president’s chief strategist.

So our special person is the British journalist James Delingpole who, when he’s not denying the impacts of coral bleaching, is denying the science of human-caused climate change, which he says is “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.

Delingpole was offended this week by an editorial in the Washington Post that read: “Humans are killing the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, and there’s nothing Australians on their own can do about it. We are all responsible.”

Delingpole wrote:

Like the thriving polar bear, like the recovering ice caps, like the doing-just-fine Pacific islands, the Great Barrier Reef has become a totem for the liberal-left not because it’s in any kind of danger but because it’s big and famous and photogenic and lots and lots of people would be really sad if it disappeared. But it’s not going to disappear. That’s just a #fakenews lie designed to promote the climate alarmist agenda.

Now before we go on, let’s deal with some language here.

When we talk about the reef dying, what we are talking about are the corals that form the reef’s structure – the things that when in a good state of health can be splendorous enough to support about 69,000 jobs in Queensland and add about $6bn to Australia’s economy every year.

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered mass coral bleaching three times – in 1998, 2002 and 2016 – with a fourth episode now unfolding. The cause is increasing ocean temperatures.

CORAL BLEACHING

“Is the Great Barrier Reef dying due to climate change caused by man’s selfishness and greed?” asks Delingpole, before giving a long list of people and groups who he thinks will answer yes, including “the Guardian” and “any marine biologist”.

“Have they been out there personally – as I have – to check. No of course not,” says Delingpole.

Yes. James Delingpole has been out there “personally” to check, but all those other people haven’t. He doesn’t say when he went but he has written about one trip before. It was back in late April 2012. Everything was fine, he said, based on that one visit. I can’t find any times when he has mentioned another trip since.

So here’s the rhetorical question – one that I can barely believe I’m asking, even rhetorically.

Why should there not be equivalence between Delingpole’s single trip to the reef (apparently taken 10 years after a previous severe case of bleaching and four years before the one that followed) at one spot on a reef system that spans the size of Italy [takes breath] and the observations of scientists from multiple institutions diving at 150 different locations to verify observations taken by even more scientists in low-flying aircraft traversing the entire length of the reef?

I mean, come on? Why can those two things – Delingpole making a boat trip with mates and a coordinated and exhaustive scientific monitoring and data-gathering exercise – not be the same?

So it seems we are now at a stage where absolutely nothing is real unless you have seen it for yourself, so you can dismiss all of the photographs and video footage of bleached and dead coral, the testimony of countless marine biologists (who, we apparently also have to point out, have been to the reef ) and the observations made by the government agency that manages the reef.

Senator Pauline Hanson and her One Nation climate science-denying colleagues tried to pull a similar stunt last year by taking a dive on a part of the reef that had escaped bleaching and then claiming this as proof that everything was OK everywhere else…….

Government ministers at federal and state levels, of both political stripes, claim they want to protect the reef.

They are running this protection racket, somehow, by continuing to support plans for a coalmine that will be the biggest in the country’s history.

That’s some more hubris right there.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, media, USA | Leave a comment

Need for America and China to work together on North Korean situation

North Korea: Why America and China need to deal with Kim Jong-un together http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-26/why-america-and-china-need-to-deal-with-kim-jong-un-together/8385362   By North Asia correspondent Matthew Carney, Nearly every week, Kim Jong-un seems to announce a successful test in his nuclear and missile program, edging him ever closer to his aim of striking America with a nuclear warhead.

Taking the North Korean leader out with military action is now being discussed, but that could lead to much bigger problems and plunge the region into years of chaos and instability. Worse still, it could force a confrontation between China and the US.

On the face of it, the North Korean military looks impressive. It has about 1.2 million troops. But the reality is that the weaponry is outdated and obsolete, much of it from the Soviet era. It’s no match for any modern army, so Mr Kim could be removed effectively.

Christopher Hill, probably the most experienced US diplomat in North Korean affairs, says with Mr Kim in power, there is no chance of dialogue. “Frankly, we don’t have a real insight into his thinking — we do know he seems to be totally uninterested in negotiation,” he said.

The real danger, said Mr Hill, is that the Trump administration has little understanding about how to deal with the North Korea threat, and the US State Department is in disarray. “We have a kind of Home Alone situation at the State Department, so we don’t have a lot of people focusing on this issue at this point,” he said.

Military action could prove costly Despite this, while visiting North Asia last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out negotiation and put military action on the table. It’s action that could prove costly: a humanitarian disaster, with biological and nuclear weapons at play; a contested occupation as China and America battle for control.

Dr Euan Graham from the Lowy Institute says it could prove more destructive and costly than the Iraq war.

“Kicking in the door is the easy part; once you go in and occupy ground, then if that’s contested you can very quickly find even superpowers’ resources can become thinly spread,” he said.

Mr Hill says people like to compare the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the reunification of Germany, but this would actually be much worse. Frankly speaking, the difference between North Korea and East Germany cannot be described,” he said.

“They are just worlds apart in terms of what Germany had to do and what the South Koreans would have to do.”

These immense challenges make policymakers and experts around the world question the value of removing Mr Kim and his nuclear program.

Dr Graham says the US then has a choice: “Is it better to live with this threat and manage it through deterrence and existing sanctions like it did with China and the Soviet Union for decades? Or does it become so unacceptable that it has to accept the high cost of potential economic recession in north-east Asia and military conflict that could take several thousands if not higher numbers of lives?”

China and America are at oddsThe complicating factor is that the powers at play cannot agree on what North Korea should become. They all have competing strategic needs.

China wants a new regime that will serve its interests, and it fears US troops on its border.

Professor Cheng Xiaohe from Beijing Renmin University says China will have to deal with a flood of refugees.

“Millions of North Koreans will seek safe havens in China or across the 38th parallel into the minefields to seek protection in South Korea,” he said.

“Even hundreds of thousands will take to boats to sail boat to other countries to seek refuge.”

It’s doubtful whether America wants to lead another foreign intervention. The Iraq campaign almost bankrupted the country with little to show in return, and it left hundreds of thousands dead.

South Korea too is losing its desire for reunification. It would cost several trillion dollars at least and threaten South Korea’s thriving high tech economy which is 18 times bigger than North Korea’s.

Dr Jiyoung Song from the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs says the younger generation in the South have very little in common with their brethren in the North.

Most South Koreans are definitely worried about the economic side — the unification costs, but also the unemployment and competition for jobs and universities.

The only way forward…Mr Hill, who led the push for a negotiated solution with the six-party talks that ended in 2009 after North Korea withdrew and resumed its nuclear program, says the only way forward is to engage with China and plan how to deal with the regime and the aftermath.

“We have to have an in-depth dive deep with the Chinese to really figure out how together we can deal with that and I think we need to do it and do it a lot more,” he said.

But Mr Hill says both sides have to get over their mutual distrust.

“Many Chinese see the demise of North Korea as a Chinese defeat and a US victory,” he said.”They worry that the US might take advantage of this and put US troops right up on the Chinese border.”

Dr Cheng agrees that China is afraid of being played by the US.

“All countries need to work together to settle their differences and adopt a joint line to build that country for peace and stability and carry out post-reunification works,” he said.

But while experts may agree in a call for global engagement, the Trump administration seems to be turning inwards towards more isolationist policies.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Resolutions introduced in US Congress opposing nuclear waste dumping close to Great Lakes

Stabenow, Peters, Kildee Introduce Resolution Opposing Nuclear Waste Storage Site in Great Lakes Basin https://www.stabenow.senate.gov/news/stabenow-peters-kildee-introduce-resolution-opposing-nuclear-waste-storage-site-in-great-lakes-basin, March 15, 2017 U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) today introduced resolutions, in both the House and Senate, expressing opposition to construction of a nuclear waste repository less than a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario. 

“Canada is facing a critical decision that will impact generations in both our countries,” said Senator Stabenow.  “A nuclear waste spill near the Great Lakes could have a devastating impact on our health and environment and threaten our Michigan way of life.  Given what is at stake, I urge our Canadian neighbors to make the right choice and shelve plans for this site once and for all.”

“The Canadian proposal to build a permanent nuclear waste repository less than a mile from Lake Huron could cause significant, lasting damage to the Great Lakes and undermine the progress we have made cleaning up the water quality in the Great Lakes Basin,” said Senator Peters. “President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson should make every effort to prevent the Canadian government from moving forward with this proposal and work to find an alternative solution that does not jeopardize the health of the Great Lakes.”

“Permanently storing nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron just doesn’t make sense and poses a great risk to our Great Lakes,” said Congressman Kildee. “From Detroit to Toronto, a growing number of people – in both the U.S. and Canada – have voiced opposition to this dangerous plan. Surely in the vast land mass that comprises Canada, there must be a better place to permanently store nuclear waste than on the shores of Lake Huron.”

 

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are also original co-sponsors of the Senate resolution.  Mike Bishop (MI-08), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), David Joyce (OH-14), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Mark Pocan (WI-02), David Trott (MI-11), Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04), Sander Levin (MI-09), Paul Mitchell (MI-10), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and John Moolenaar (MI-04) are also original co-sponsors of the House resolution.

 

Over 40 million people in Canada and the United States get their drinking water from the Great Lakes and the highly toxic waste could take tens of thousands of years to decompose to safe levels. Ontario Power Generation is currently seeking approval from the Canadian Ministry of Environment to build a deep geologic repository to permanently store 7 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.  The facility would be located less than 1 mile from Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario.

 

The resolution urges the President and Secretary of State to work with their counterparts to prevent a permanent nuclear waste repository from being built within the Great Lakes Basin. It further states that the U.S. and Canada should develop a safe and responsible solution for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Wisconsin and Louisiana cities join 23 others in USA, in going for 100% renewable energy

25 Cities Now Committed to 100% Renewables, EcoWatch, http://www.ecowatch.com/cities-commit-renewable-energy-2324917492.html , 22 Mar 17, Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday.

Madison and Abita Springs are the first cities in Wisconsin and Louisiana to make this commitment. They join 23 other cities across the United States—from large ones like San Diego, California and Salt Lake City, Utah to smaller ones like Georgetown, Texas and Greensburg, Kansas—that have declared similar goals.

Madison is the biggest city in the Midwest to establish 100 percent renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions. The Madison Common Council unanimously approved a resolution to allocate $250,000 to develop a plan by January 18, 2018 that includes target dates for reaching these goals, interim milestones, budget estimates and estimated financial impacts.

Madison Common Council Alder Zach Wood said that his city is determined to “lead the way in moving beyond fossil fuels that threaten our health and environment.”

After a unanimous vote, Abita Springs is aiming to derive 100 percent of the town’s electricity from renewable energy sources by December 31, 2030.

The Sierra Club noted that Tuesday’s votes from the politically polar municipalities reflect the growing bipartisan support for alternative energy development. To illustrate, during the November election, more than 70 percent of Madison voters supported Hillary Clinton versus the 75 percent of voters in St. Tammany Parish, where Abita Springs is located, who supported Donald Trump.But as Abita Springs’ Republican mayor Greg Lemons said, “Transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy is a practical decision we’re making for our environment, our economy and for what our constituents want in Abita Springs.”

“Politics has nothing to do with it for me. Clean energy just makes good economic sense,” Lemons added. LeAnn Pinniger Magee, chair of Abita Committee for Energy Sustainability, had similar remarks.

“In a state dominated by oil interests, Abita Springs is a unique community that can be a leader on the path to renewable energy,” she said. “Our town already boasts the solar-powered Abita Brewery and we can see first-hand how clean energy benefits our businesses and our entire community. By transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, we will save money on our utility bills and protect our legendary water and clean air in the process.”

Last year’s Gallup poll indicated for the first time that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer an alternative energy strategy. Fifty-one percent of Republicans favor alternative energy, up from the previous high of 46 percent in 2011.

“Whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, from a liberal college city or a rural Louisiana town, clean energy is putting America back to work and benefiting communities across the country,” Jodie Van Horn, director of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, said. “That’s why Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana, today join the ranks of 23 other cities and towns across the United States that are going all-in on clean, renewable energy.”

Van Horn noted that local leaders and governments will be increasingly tasked to curb President Trump’s pro-fossil fuel policies and gutting of environmental regulations.

“As the Trump Administration turns its back on clean air and clean water, cities and local leaders will continue to step up to lead the transition towards healthy communities and a more vibrant economy powered by renewable energy,” she said.

March 27, 2017 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Trump’s budget could help get rid of the nuclear waste along the San Onofre coastline http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-nuclear-waste-20170320-story.html Rob Nikolewski
 A sense of momentum is building about finding a way to deal with the massive amounts of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, including Southern California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
Last week’s Trump administration “skinny budget” proposal, which calls for boosts in defense spending but cuts in domestic funding and federal agencies, found $120 million for starters to “initiate a robust interim storage program” while also looking at reviving the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.

Decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

“These investments would accelerate progress on fulfilling the federal government’s obligations to address nuclear waste, enhance national security and reduce future taxpayer burden,” a note said in the section reserved for the U.S. Department of Energy. (The Energy Department’s budget came in for a 5.6% reduction.)

A president’s budget proposals are ultimately subordinate to what Congress decides. But David Victor, chairman of the SONGS Community Engagement Panel, said the appropriation for nuclear waste may be one of the only topics in the current political environment that can generate support from members of both parties.

There are 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste sitting along the coastline at the San Onofre plant, part of the 76,000 metric tons of spent fuel at sites nationwide.

“There’s a lot of Trump’s proposed budget that horrifies me, in particular around cutting funding for science and energy, but [long-term nuclear storage] is an area where I think the nation is now starting to make some progress,” Victor said.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who has introduced a bill called the Interim Consolidated Storage Act, said he thinks the chances for funding the White House nuclear waste proposal are “extremely good.”

“You have an active group of members, some of whom are Democratic members, who have a vested interest” in moving legislation forward, Issa said. “And … the fingerprints of whoever wanted to force it out would show all over.”

“As a budget line item it’s not a bad number at all,” Issa said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It’s sufficient to do the feasibility of these sites.”

Consolidated interim storage sites are designed to be built in isolated locations where multiple nuclear facilities could deposit their waste.

Two potential interim storage locations have been discussed — one in western Texas and another in eastern New Mexico.A company in Andrews, Texas, has filed an application to accept 5,000 metric tons of nuclear material. The district is represented by Republican Rep. Mike Conaway, who has co-sponsored Issa’s bill.

Getting the massive nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, located about 100 miles from Las Vegas, back on track assuredly would involve a battle on Capitol Hill.

Democrats as well as Republicans from Nevada blasted the Trump proposal. “Washington needs to understand what Nevada has been saying for years: We will not be the nation’s nuclear waste dump,” said Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

The federal government spent about $15 billion to build the facility at Yucca Mountain to house nuclear waste from sites across the country. But then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) led the fight to shut the repository down, and in 2010 President Obama suspended licensing for the site.

Yucca Mountain was scheduled to open in 2017.

While taking a tour of San Onofre last month with Issa, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), who is chairman of the House subcommittee that reviews nuclear sites, was asked if Yucca Mountain was coming back onto the bargaining table.

“It’s never been off the table,” Shimkus said.

Issa’s bill would be paid for by using part of the federal government’s Nuclear Waste Fund, which is worth upward of $40 billion and was funded by ratepayers in areas powered by nuclear plants.

A 2014 court order stopped the federal government from taking fees from electricity customers because, with Yucca Mountain sidelined, the government had no place to send nuclear waste.

“We’re paying a lot of money for the privilege of not having a solution that we were obligated to have,” Issa said. “It’s not free. It’s going to cost every taxpayer money until there’s a working solution.”

But even if Congress adopts a plan roughly similar to the White House proposal, there are a series of practical and regulatory hurdles to clear.

For example, sites such as San Onofre, which closed in 2013, would still need to place some of their spent fuel into canisters. Then federal law would need to be changed to install a reliable funding mechanism for interim sites, and a strategy would need to be adopted in order to move the waste from one place to another.

“There is still a long way to go,” Victor said. “We could have troubles on any of those fronts, but I think what’s encouraging is that on every single one of those fronts, we’re starting to see progress.”

Millions of people live within 50 miles of San Onofre, which hasn’t produced electricity since January 2012 after a steam generator leaked a small amount of radiation.

Southern California Edison is the majority owner of the plant, which is in the process of being decommissioned.

Edison officials said they were heartened by the news of $120-million proposal.

“We are pleased to see funding proposed to restart the Yucca licensing process, and continue to also support interim storage proposals that would enable [Southern California Edison] to move San Onofre’s used fuel to an off-site location,” spokeswoman Maureen Brown said

March 27, 2017 Posted by | decommission reactor, USA | Leave a comment