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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Monolithic tomb for San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel

At San Onofre, spent nuclear fuel is getting special tomb Orange County Register, Aug. 28, 2016 ,By TERI SFORZA  “……..Once, San Onofre was a marvel of modern engineering – splitting atoms to create heat, boiling water to spin turbines and creating electricity that fulfilled 18 percent of Southern California’s demand. Now, it’s a demolition project of mind-boggling proportions, overseen by a dozen government agencies.

It’s expected to cost $4.4 billion, take 20 years and leave millions of pounds of spent nuclear fuel on the scenic bluff beside the blue Pacific until 2049 or so, because the federal government has dithered for generations on finding a permanent repository.

In this vacuum, contractors from Holtec International – one of only a handful of companies licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do dry-cask radiation storage in the U.S. – are at work. Construction of the controversial “concrete monolith” to protect San Onofre’s stranded waste has begun, over the protests of critics who decry a “beachfront nuclear waste dump.”

san-onofre-deadf

THE MONOLITH

The reinforced concrete pad that will support the monolith is finished.

Last week, Holtec workers used cranes and trucks to maneuver the first of 75 giant tubes into place atop it. When those tubes are bolted in, concrete will be poured up to their necks, and they’ll be topped off with a 24,000-pound steel-and-concrete lid. Earth will be piled around it so that it looks something like an underground bunker.

Southern California Edison, which operates the plant, would not share the Holtec contract or reveal its price tag, but San Onofre’s owners have recovered more than $300 million from the federal government for its failure to dispose of nuclear waste, which is why dry-cask storage must be built in the first place. San Onofre’s decommissioning plan sets aside $1.27 billion for future spent fuel management.

This is one of the first newly licensed Hi-Storm Umax dry-cask storage systems Holtec is building in the United States. Once it’s complete – expected to be late next year – workers will begin the deliberate and delicate dance of removing all spent fuel from cooling pools beside each reactor.

The iconic twin domes you see from the highway and the beach don’t reveal their enormity. They stand as tall as a 13-story building, and the adjacent pools holding their spent fuel are 25 feet wide, 60 feet long, about 40 to 50 feet deep and hold a half-million gallons of water.

When Southern California Edison begins removing the 2,668 fuel assemblies chilling there, bays to those enormous pools will open. Holtec storage canisters will be lowered in. Underwater, 37 spent fuel assemblies will be loaded into each canister and capped. The canister will be slipped into a “transfer cask,” lifted from the pool and drained.

Then it will be loaded onto a truck, driven a few hundred yards to the Umax and lowered into one of those 75 tubes. The waste-filled canister will remain inside. The transfer cask will be removed. The tube will be capped.

This will be repeated more than 70 times, until all the fuel in the more vulnerable pools is entombed in more stable dry-cask storage. That’s slated to be done by mid-2019.

TECHNOLOGY

The system will become something of a real-time experiment: Edison is partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute to develop inspection techniques to monitor the casks as they age. The casks’ integrity over time, while holding hotter “high burn-up” fuel, is a major concern of critics.

“Burn-up” – i.e., the amount of uranium that undergoes fission – has increased over time, allowing utilities to suck more power out of nuclear fuel before replacing it, federal regulators say. It first came into wide use in America in the latter part of the last century, and how it will behave in short-term storage containers (which, pending changes in U.S. policy on nuclear cleanup, must be used for longer-term storage) remains a topic of debate……..

ry-cask technology is not new, he said. Nuclear power plants in the U.S. have used it since 1986, and an analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute found that it would take at least 80 years before a severe crack could form in a dry storage canister.

The Umax uses the most corrosion-resistant grade of stainless steel; its design exceeds California earthquake requirements, and it protects against hazards such as water, fire or tsunamis.

Critics cast skeptical eyes on those claims.

They don’t disagree that dry storage is safer than the spent fuel pools, but activist Donna Gilmore says officials gloss over the potential for serious cracking – a bigger risk in a moist, salty, oceanfront environment such as San Onofre.

Once a crack starts, it would continue to grow through the wall of the canister, undetected, until it leaked radiation, Gilmore said.

Other countries use thicker-walled casks than those licensed in America, and she believes we should, too.

EYES FORWARD

What everyone wants is to remove the ensconced “stranded waste” from San Onofre as soon as possible, and the only way that can happen is if the federal government takes action.

Palmisano said energy is best expended pushing that forward, not arguing over canisters.

On that front, he is cautiously optimistic.

In January, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a new push to create temporary nuclear waste storage sites in regions eager for the business, currently in West Texas and New Mexico. Several of those could be up and running while the prickly question of coming up with a permanent site is hashed out.

There could be a plan, and a place, for this waste within the next 10 years, Palmisano said – but that would require congressional action, which in turn would likely require much prodding from the public.

“We are frustrated and, frankly, outraged by the federal government’s failure to perform,” he said. “I have fuel I can ship today, and throughout the next 15 years. Give me a ZIP code and I’ll get it there.”…..http://www.ocregister.com/articles/nuclear-727227-fuel-storage.html

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Desalinising water for drinking, by use of a Solar-powered Pipe

solar pipe desalinate California

Solar-powered Pipe desalinizes 1.5 billion gallons of drinking water for
California, http://inhabitat.com/solar-powered-pipe-desalinizes-1-5-billion-gallons-of-clean-drinking-water-for-california/ Inhabitat, by , 29 aug 16 
The infrastructure California needs to generate energy for electricity and clean water, which will be significant, need not blight the landscape. Designs like The Pipe demonstrate how the provision of public services like these can be knitted into every day life in a healthy, aesthetically-pleasing way. A finalist of the 2016 Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for Santa Monica Pier, the solar-powered plant deploys electromagnetic desalination to provide clean drinking water for the city and filters the resulting brine through on-board thermal baths before it is reintroduced to the Pacific Ocean.

“LAGI 2016 comes to Southern California at an important time,” write Rob Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian,co-founders of the Land Art Generator Initiative. “The sustainable infrastructure that is required to meet California’s development goals and growing population will have a profound influence on the landscape. The Paris Climate Accord from COP 21 has united the world around a goal of 1.5–2° C, which will require a massive investment in clean energy infrastructure.”
For this particular competition, LAGI asked designers to submit proposals that incorporate either an energy or drinking water component, since they are inextricably intertwined, or both. Khalili Engineersfrom Canada chose to power an electromagnetic desalination device using solar power. And – in keeping with the public art and educational aspect of LAGI’s overall environmental and social crusade – The Pipe is a beautiful design that allows people to seamlessly interact with their source of drinking water without any of the unpleasant side effects typically associated with energy generation.
“Above, solar panels provide power to pump seawater through an electromagnetic filtration process below the pool deck, quietly providing the salt bath with its healing water and the city with clean drinking water,” the design team writes in their brief. “The Pipe represents a change in the future of water.”

According to Khalili Engineers, their design, a long gleaming thing visible from Santa Monica Pier, is capable of generating 10,000 MWh each year, which will in turn produce 4.5 billion liters (or 1.5 billion gallons) of drinking water. Given the current drought throughout California, and the dearth of water in general, a variety of urban micro generators such as this can complement utility-scale energy generation.

“What results are two products: pure drinkable water that is directed into the city’s primary water piping grid, and clear water with twelve percent salinity. The drinking water is piped to shore, while the salt water supplies the thermal baths before it is redirected back to the ocean through a smart release system, mitigating most of the usual problems associated with returning brine water to the sea.”

The winners of LAGI 2016 will be announced on October 6, 2016 at Greenbuild 2016.  + LAGI 2016: Santa Monica  + Khalili Engineers

August 29, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA, water | Leave a comment

Canada’s nuclear scientists want freedom to express their safety concerns

see-no-evilflag-canadaNuclear scientists push for freedom to express views without fear of reprisals http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/nuclear-scientists-push-for-freedom-to-express-views-without-fear-of-reprisals/article31219139/ GLORIA GALLOWAYOTTAWA — The Globe and Mail, Aug. 01, 2016 Scientists working for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have asked their union to negotiate a policy on scientific integrity that would allow them to express their views about nuclear-safety issues without fear of reprisals from management.

The unionized professional employees at the nuclear regulator and two nuclear research facilities – Chalk River in Ontario and Whiteshell in Manitoba – have been negotiating a new contract for the past three years, a process that was significantly delayed as a result of last year’s federal election.

The labour talks have continued as the two reactors are gradually being decommissioned.

 Sources familiar with the bargaining say the CNSC workers decided that, with all of the changes that will be occurring at the two facilities, this is the time they should negotiate for the right to point out potential problems without fear of embarrassing their managers or being told to keep problems under wraps.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents them, says the aim is to secure scientific integrity in the workplace. Allowing more freedom for government scientists to speak to the public and the media has been a central theme of the PIPSC’s negotiations with many government departments.

“When our members fight for scientific integrity to be in the collective agreement, they’re not just fighting for their own right as regulatory scientists, they’re also fighting for the rights of every Canadian to live in safety,” Debi Daviau, president of PIPSC.

“The situation with specialists at the nuclear regulator is a clear case of that,” she said. “After a decade of disregard for the advice of public service professionals, we want to see real change reflected in our collective agreements.”

The effort to free the CNSC’s scientific staff to voice concerns comes as the regulator investigates allegations contained in an anonymous letter, purportedly written by employees at the nuclear regulator, that says information was withheld from commissioners while they were making critical decisions about the licensing of this country’s nuclear plants.

The letter, which was sent several weeks ago to CNSC president Michael Binder, points to five separate cases in which the commission’s staff sat on relevant material about risk or non-compliance that might have called the safety of a plant into question.

Environmental groups have complained for many years that the CNSC acts more as a booster for nuclear energy than as a watchdog for public safety. In response to the union’s demands, the CNSC created a working group, composed largely of managers, to develop ways to resolve scientific or regulatory disagreements, to establish the rules for publishing research and to discuss the scope of a potential policy on scientific integrity.

A document, obtained under Access to Information by the environmental group Greenpeace, says one of the aims of that working group is to “provide mechanisms for staff to express dissenting views without fear of reprisal in a respectful environment.”

That document says the CNSC would benefit from having a science policy and recommends the creation of a science adviser position to ensure compliance with that policy.

The CNSC said in an e-mail that its staff have always had scientific freedom to publish their research, that healthy debate is encouraged, that a formal process for resolving differences of professional opinion already exists and that whistle blowers can raise concerns anonymously.

But the union says CNSC scientists are extremely fearful of the repercussions they might face for speaking out. Although management is open to creating its own internal policy around scientific integrity, the union says it wants to the policy written into the collective agreement to ensure that its members are protected.

August 29, 2016 Posted by | Canada, civil liberties | Leave a comment

In 2016 every month has been a record breaker for Renewable Energy Generation

Sun and wind.Flag-USARenewable Energy Generation Breaks Records Every Month in 2016 http://www.ecowatch.com/renewable-energy-breaks-records-1987755555.html   DeSmogBlog  By Mike Gaworecki, 29 Aug 16

Electricity generation from wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies have set monthly records every month so far in 2016, based on data through June released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Wednesday.

“Both hydroelectric and nonhydroelectric renewables have contributed to this trend, but in different ways. After a lengthy West Coast drought, hydro generation has increased and is now closer to historical levels. Nonhydro renewable generation continues to increase year-over-year and has exceeded hydro generation in each month since February 2016,” the EIA said.

According to EIA’s data, net U.S. electricity generation from non-hydroelectric, utility-scale renewables—biomass, geothermal, solar and wind—through June 2016 was 17 percent higher than in the first half of 2015. Electricity generation from conventional hydropower also rose, by nearly 12 percent. Combined, production from all utility-scale renewable sources was up 14.5 percent compared to the same period in 2015.

Not only has electricity generated by renewables exceeded previous levels in every month so far in 2016—in other words, more renewable energy was produced in January 2016 than any other January on record, more renewable energy was produced in February 2016 than any other February and so on—but renewable utility-scale electricity generation hit an all-time high of 16.55 percent of total domestic generation.

Those weren’t the only records broken, either. Utility-scale wind rose 23.5 percent in the first half of 2016, setting a new six-month record of 5.96 percent of total generation.

Meanwhile, generation from utility-scale solar thermal and photovoltaics grew by 30.3 percent and accounted for 0.87 percent of total utility-scale electrical output. The EIA also estimates that distributed solar photovoltaics or rooftop solar systems, expanded by 34.3 percent. Combined, utility-scale and distributed solar comprised 1.26 percent of total generation. A year ago, solar was responsible for just 0.94 percent of electricity generation.

Together, wind and solar grew by nearly 25 percent over the first half of 2015 and now provide almost as much electricity as conventional hydropower. Biomass and geothermal were the only renewable sources tracked by the EIA that have experienced declines so far in 2016.

Of course, renewables aren’t the only record-breakers out there. July 2016 was the 15th record-breaking month in a row in terms of global temperatures, data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association showed. And Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, reported that July 2016 was also “absolutely the hottest month since the instrumental records began.”

Electricity generated from coal plummeted by more than 20 percent and nuclear power stagnated, growing just one percent, per the EIA data. Generation fueled by natural gas, on the other hand, was up by 7.7 percent.

Still, Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted that renewable energy has continued to defy projections.

“Renewable energy’s share of net electrical generation for the balance of 2016 may dip a little because electrical output from wind and hydropower sources tends to be highest during the first six months of each year,” Bossong said. “Nonetheless, the data thus far is swamping EIA’s earlier forecast of just 9.5 percent growth by renewables in 2016.”

August 29, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

USA’s potential for immense electricity source, in offshore solar power

Arkona offshore wind power project.Flag-USAThe Unlimited Power of Ocean Winds, NYT By THE EDITORIAL BOARDAUG. 27, 2016 The first offshore  wind farm in American waters, near Block Island, R.I., was completed this month. With just five turbines, the farm won’t make much of a dent in the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, but it shows the promise this renewable energy source could have. When the turbines start spinning in November, they will power the island, which currently relies on diesel generators, and will also send electricity to the rest of Rhode Island.

Putting windmills offshore, where the wind is stronger and more reliable than on land, could theoretically provide about four times the amount of electricity as is generated on the American grid today from all sources. This resource could be readily accessible to areas on the coasts, where 53 percent of Americans live.This technology is already used extensively in Britain, Denmark, Germany and other European countries, which have in the last 15 years invested billions of dollars in offshore wind farms in the North, Baltic and Irish Seas. In 2013, offshore wind accounted for 1.5 percent of all electricity used in the European Union, with all wind sources contributing 9.9 percent of electricity. By contrast, wind power made up only 4.7 percent of electricity in the United States last year.While electricity generated by offshore wind farms is more expensive than land-based turbines, costs have fallen with larger offshore turbines that can generate more electricity. Construction firms have also become more efficient in installing offshore farms……http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/opinion/the-unlimited-power-of-ocean-winds.html?ref=opinion&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&assetType=opinion&_r=0

August 29, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

America could take a practical first step towards nuclear disarmament

It is time to turn nuclear common sense into national policy. A declaration that the United States would never use nuclear weapons when conventional weapons could destroy the target could reduce the number of nuclear weapons we need for legitimate deterrence purposes.

Flag-USAhighly-recommendedThe common-sense fix that American nuclear policy needs, WP,  By Jeffrey G. text-relevant
Lewis and Scott D. Sagan August 24

Jeffrey G. Lewis is director of the East Asian Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro professor of political science and senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. This op-ed was adapted from an article that will appear in the fall issue of Daedalus.

President Obama, in his final months in office, is considering major nuclear policy changes to move toward his oft-stated goal of a world without nuclear weapons. One option reportedly under consideration is a “no first use” pledge, a declaration that the United States would not be the first state to use nuclear weapons in any conflict. While we think that such a pledge would ultimately strengthen U.S. security, we believe it should be adopted only after detailed military planning and after close consultation with key allies, tasks that will fall to the next administration.

There is, however, a simpler change that Obama could make now that could have as important, or even greater, benefits for U.S. security. The president could declare, as a matter of law and policy, that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against any target that could be reliably destroyed by conventional means.

This might seem like common sense, but current U.S. doctrine allows the use of nuclear weapons against any “object” deemed to be a legitimate military target. In 2013, the Obama administration did issue a guidance directing the U.S. military to “apply the principles of distinction and proportionality and seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects” and pledged that “the United States will not intentionally target civilian populations or civilian objects.”

This was a good step forward. But Obama’s guidance omitted an important legal concept derived from just-war doctrine — the “principle of necessity,” which suggests that war planners must use only the minimum amount of military force necessary to destroy a target. Ignoring the necessity principle leaves a loophole large enough to fly a nuclear-armed bomber through. To give one egregious example, although the U.S. military does not target civilian populations directly, following the principle of noncombatant immunity, it insists that it can legally target civilian airports in an adversary’s cities because they could be converted to military airports during a war — and there is no restriction in place against using nuclear weapons against such a civilian airport………

It is time to turn nuclear common sense into national policy. A declaration that the United States would never use nuclear weapons when conventional weapons could destroy the target could reduce the number of nuclear weapons we need for legitimate deterrence purposes. Placing conventional weapons at the center of debates about the future of deterrence would also help focus the policy discussion on plausible scenarios with realistic plans for the use of U.S. military power. And it would more faithfully honor the just-war principles of distinction, necessity and proportionality, by placing them at the heart of our deterrence and security policies, where our highest ideals belong. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-common-sense-fix-that-american-nuclear-policy-needs/2016/08/24/b9692dd0-6596-11e6-96c0-37533479f3f5_story.html?utm_term=.a6cc17bf50cf

August 27, 2016 Posted by | weapons and war, USA, politics international, Reference | Leave a comment

USA taxpayers up for #billions for WIPP nuclear waste cleanup?

A typo and a bag of kitty litter might cost US taxpayers billions in nuclear waste cleanup, Business Insider, DAVE MOSHER AUG 27, 2016, A typo and a bag of organic kitty litter may end up costing United States taxpayers more than $2 billion in nuclear waste cleanup, according to a new report by Ralph Vartabedian at the Los Angeles Times.

waste drum burst WIPP

Back in February 2014, a drum of nuclear waste burst open inside the cavernous Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), Waste Isolation Pilot Plant WIPPwhich is drilled out of a salt deposit nearly half a mile below the deserts of Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The US Department of Energy (DOE), which funds the company that runs the nuclear waste dump, quickly suspended operations and launched an investigation to figure out the cause.

In their 277-page report, investigators determined the blast vaporized nearly 7.5 lbs of the material inside a single barrel, labelled “Drum 68660.” That material included some radioactive isotopes of americium, plutonium, and uranium — byproducts of Cold War-era nuclear weapons production.

Although no one was inside WIPP when the drum burst, the facility’s air ventilation system spread some of the gases outside, exposing 21 workers to low doses of radiation.

Investigators also discovered the trigger of the “thermal runaway event,” also known as an “explosion”: a dangerous combination of nitric acid and salts, triethanolamine, and“sWheat Scoop” organic kitty litter. (The DOE mentions the brand almost 400 times in its report.)

The cleanup itself will cost hundreds of millions, but that’s not where the mishap’s ledger ends.

The “organic” part of the kitty litter in question is crucial.

That’s because wheat, which makes up the pee-absorbing bulk of organic kitty litter, contains plant cellulose that can burn. Standard kitty litter, meanwhile, is inorganic, since it’s primarily made of clay.

So when drum-packing workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) followed instructions to add an organic variety to soak up radioactive fluids, they were unknowingly packing up what Sarah Zhang at Gizmodo called “the ingredients of a bomb.”………

Whatever the case, WIPP isn’t entombing any nuclear waste while cleanup work continues — which means the US government’s grand scheme to seal it all up has a major wrench in its gears.

The Times reports the facility may need 7 years of additional operation to handle the backup of waste. At $200 million per year, according to the Times’ analysis, that could add up to $1.4 billion in extra costs triggered by the mishap……

In the meantime, the DOE might also have to pay temporary storage and inspection costs for all of the waste that WIPP can’t entomb until the cleanup work is finished. The DOE couldn’t confirm or deny this, nor the cost.

“The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is critical to the Department of Energy’s mission to cleanup nuclear waste generated by atomic energy activities,” a DOE spokesperson told Business Insider in an email. “WIPP is the nation’s only repository for the disposal of nuclear waste known as transuranic (TRU) waste. The Department is committed to the recovery, and resumption of TRU disposal operations at WIPP when it is safe to do so.”…..http://www.businessinsider.com.au/kitty-litter-nuclear-waste-accident-2016-8?r=US&IR=T

August 27, 2016 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Groundwater infiltrates turbine building in Vermont Yankee nuclear station

Nuclear plant: Water infiltration down for turbine building http://www.wcax.com/story/32850407/nuclear-plant-water-infiltration-down-for-turbine-building  Aug 27, 2016  VERNON, Vt. (AP) – A nuclear energy company says the level of groundwater infiltrating a turbine building at its Vernon plant is falling.

Entergy Nuclear tells The Rutland Herald 700 gallons of groundwater a day infiltrated the Vermont Yankee turbine building this month. Between 3,000 and 2,500 gallons had been infiltrating the building each day in January. The plant closed in 2014.

The company says ongoing drought conditions likely contributed to the drop and allowed for foundation cracks and a sump-pump drain to be sealed.

The company says it has paid about $1.2 million to ship and treat water from the plant.

Entergy says it has effectively suspended its request to discharge slightly radioactive water from the building into the Connecticut River.

Federal nuclear regulators plan to inspect the plant next week.

August 27, 2016 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Preparing for hurricane risk to Turkey Point nuclear reactor

nuke-&-seaLTurkey Point workers prepare nuclear power plant for possible rough weather http://www.local10.com/weather/hurricane/turkey-point-workers-prepare-nuclear-power-plant-for-possible-rough-weather Tropical wave weakening, but still could impact South Florida By Ben Kennedy – Reporter, August 26, 2016 “Should a storm come like the one that is approaching now, we make sure the site is ready,” emergency preparedness manager Kevin O’Hare said. In the event of a power outage, the twin reactor nuclear power station has a backup system called the Flex Building — a 60-by 150-foot-long structure.

“As a result of Fukushima, (we) needed another level of protection,” Sergio Chaviano, project manager of the Flex Building, said.

Inside a box are backup systems that can deliver power to the entire plant. We have a pump here to the right, a smaller pump to the left. We have trailers that can carry hoses throughout the plant,” Chaviano said.

The hoses can carry water to cool reactors in the event of an emergency, but crews said they’ve been preparing for hurricane season since March.

“Our philosophy is to prevent problems so that by June 1 we are ready for hurricane season and whatever might come our way,” O’Hare said.

August 27, 2016 Posted by | safety, USA | Leave a comment

USA pushes India and Pakistan to join nuclear testy ban treaty

text-cat-question

 

Is this because USA wants nuclear disarmament, or because USA wants to sell nuclear materials to the sub continent?

US urges India and Pakistan to sign and ratify nuclear test ban treaty Washington has welcomed text-relevantPakistan’s recent proposal to India for a bilateral agreement on nuclear weapons test ban, IBT  By  August 24, 2016 The US has asked arch-rivals India and Pakistan to set aside their differences and sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Welcoming Pakistan’s recent proposal to India for a bilateral agreement on nuclear weapons test ban, Washington has urged the two countries to hold talks.

Mark Toner, the State Department deputy spokesperson, said: “We welcome this high-level dialogue between India and Pakistan, encourage both countries to engage in the dialogue and exercise restraint aimed at improving strategic stability.”……..

On Tuesday (23 August), Pakistan announced a fresh move to seek support for its NSGmembership bid. Syed Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, embarked on a visit to Belarus and Kazakhstan to win their backing, The Hindu reported.

While India was kept out, Pakistan’s membership was not discussed during the plenary meeting of the NSG in Seoul in June. Although it has China on its side, it failed to get the backing of the US.http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/us-urges-india-pakistan-sign-ratify-nuclear-test-ban-treaty-1577733

August 27, 2016 Posted by | India, Pakistan, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA considers supplying weapons grade uranium to Belgium!

U.S. mulls long-term, bomb-grade uranium exports to Belgium Reuters By Timothy Gardner and Robert-Jan Bartunek | WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS, 25 Aug 16 

The U.S. nuclear regulator is considering long-term shipments of weapons-grade uranium to a medical research reactor in security-challenged Belgium, something critics say would set back global anti-proliferation efforts.

With a final decision still months away, the Belgian Nuclear Research Center is seeking permission from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to receive 317 pounds (144 kilos) of highly enriched uranium, or HEU, fuel in a series of shipments over 10 years.

The United States has supplied the reactor, which produces radioisotopes for fighting cancer, with HEU for decades. But the long-term nature of the latest request is unprecedented; previous agreements have been for periods of one to three years.

The Belgian research center has told U.S. officials since at least 2005 that it is on the verge of converting to low-enriched uranium, or LEU, not suitable for bombs. But there is no definitive date set for that change.

“Now more than a decade has passed and they are asking for another 10 years – that seems to be a bit preposterous,” said Armando Travelli, who until 2005 headed the U.S. Energy Department’s program to convert research reactors to safer uranium and bring bomb-grade uranium back to the United States.

If the Belgian reactor closes before the end of the 10 years, it could leave the center with an HEU supply over which the United States would have little control, he said……..http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-nuclear-belgium-idUSKCN10Q0VL?feedType=RSS&feedName=GCA-Commodities

August 26, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, Uranium, USA | Leave a comment

Utilities, commercial purchasers benefit from wind energy’s improvements and lowered prices

piggy-ban-renewablesAnnual wind report confirms tech advancements, improved performance, and low energy prices, Eureka Alert,  DOE/LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LABORATORY, 17 Aug 16  Wind energy pricing remains attractive to utility and commercial purchasers, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Energy and prepared by the Electricity Markets & Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Prices offered by newly built wind projects are averaging around 2¢/kWh, driven lower by technology advancements and cost reductions.“Wind energy prices–particularly in the central United States–are at rock-bottom levels, with utilities and corporate buyers selecting wind as the low-cost option,” said Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser. “Moreover, enabled by technology advancements, wind projects are economically viable in a growing number of locations throughout the United States.”

Key findings from the U.S. Department of Energy’s reflective “Wind Technologies Market Report” include:

  • Wind power represented the largest source of U.S. electric-generating capacity additions in 2015. Wind power capacity additions in the United States surged in 2015, with $14.5 billion invested in 8.6 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity. Wind power constituted 41% of all U.S. generation capacity additions in 2015, up sharply from its 24% market share the year before and close to its all-time high. Wind power currently meets about 5% of the nation’s electricity demand, and represents more than 10% of total electricity generation in twelve states, and more than 20% in three of those states.
  • Bigger turbines are enhancing wind project performance……
  • Low wind turbine pricing continues to push down installed project costs. Wind turbine prices have fallen 20% to 40% from their temporary highs in 2008, and these declines are pushing project-level costs down. …..
  • Wind energy prices remain very low. Lower installed project costs, along with improvements in capacity factors, are enabling aggressive wind power pricing. ….
  • The manufacturing supply chain continued to adjust to swings in domestic demand for wind equipment. …. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/dbnl-awr081716.php

August 26, 2016 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

Sea level rise will threaten 2 million American homes

As sea levels rise, nearly 1.9 million U.S. homes could be underwater by 2100, WP  By Brady Dennis August 24 The real estate data firm Zillow recently published a research analysis that estimated rising sea levels could leave nearly 2 million U.S. homes inundated by 2100, a fate that would displace millions of people and result in property losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

More than 100,000 of those homes would be in Maryland and Virginia, according to the analysis. Another 140,000 would be submerged in the Carolinas. And Florida would face the gravest scenario of any state, with one in eight properties in danger of being underwater……

there’s near-unanimous agreement among scientists that the seas will rise. Insurance companies are anticipating it. Some cities are already planning for it.

“This is going to be a massive issue worldwide,” Michael Gerrard of Columbia University, who directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told The Post in a recent interview. “We don’t know yet the exact pace, but we know it’s coming. A certain amount is unavoidable.”….

Here is a list of the states that stand to lose the most homes, should seas indeed rise by six feet by 2100:……https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/08/24/as-sea-levels-rise-23-states-could-see-nearly-1-9-million-homes-underwater/?utm_term=.766db7c58ec6

August 26, 2016 Posted by | climate change, USA | Leave a comment

Requiem for five nuclear power plants

Nuclear Renaissance–Nuclear Requiem, Union of Concerned Scientists , DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR SAFETY PROJECT | AUGUST 25, 2016 There was considerable discussion a decade or so ago about the purported Nuclear Renaissance. New reactors were proposed almost everywhere but Delaware: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

Time turned renaissance into requiem. Owners permanently shut down five reactors since 2013 and have informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of plans to close several other reactors over the next three years.

Whether you celebrated or mourned the five reactor closures, it’s worth reflecting on what each accomplished during its lifetime.

Crystal River Unit 3 (Florida) first achieved criticality of the reactor core on January 15, 1977. It shut down in September 2009 for a refueling outage during which the steam generators were to be replaced. The containment structure was severely damaged by the hole cut through it to allow replacement of the steam generators. Attempts to repair the damage failed, leading the owner to announce in February 2013 that the reactor would not be restarted……..

Kewaunee (Wisconsin) first achieved criticality of the reactor core on March 7, 1974. It shut down permanently on May 7, 2013, due largely to economic pressure from natural gas generators……..

San Onofre Unit 2 (California) first achieved criticality of the reactor core on July 26, 1982. It shut down on January 9, 2012, for a refueling outage. Workers identified abnormally high wear and tear of the tubes in the recently replaced steam generators. Plans to remedy the damage proved futile, leading the owner to announce in June 2013 that the reactor would not be restarted…….

Vermont Yankee (Vermont) first achieved criticality of the reactor core on March 24 1972. It shut down permanently on December 29, 2014, due largely to economic pressure from natural gas generators……

5 Reactors, 0 Meltdowns, 1 Near Miss (nearly)

According to the NRC’s Accident Sequence Precursor program, Kewaunee experienced the most serious safety event among these five reactors. Resin beads leaking from a mixed-bed demineralizer unit in the makeup water system collected in the condensate storage tank. The three auxiliary feedwater pumps transfer water from the condensate storage tank to the steam generators to assist in removing decay heat generated by the reactor core. On November 5, 1975, the motor-driven auxiliary feedwater pumps 1A and 1B failed when resin beds clogged the strainers installed in the piping before the pumps. Turbine-driven auxiliary feedwater pump 1C also failed when resin beads clogged its suction strainer. Fortunately, the feedwater pumps that normally transfer water from the condenser hotwell to the steam generators were unaffected by this problem and remained operable throughout this event.

The NRC calculated a core damage frequency of 2.3E-02 for this incident, solidly among the NRC’s top ten near misses of all time………http://allthingsnuclear.org/dlochbaum/nuclear-renaissance-nuclear-requiem

August 26, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Stuck in the past – America’s nuclear weapons policy


US nuclear policy remains dangerously stuck in the past http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-text-relevantblog/defense/292299-us-nuclear-policy-remains-dangerously-stuck-in-the-past
 By Diana Ohlbaum,August 23, 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump has been ridiculed for asking “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” and castigated for his cavalier attitude toward their use. But he is only restating, albeit less artfully, what is, in fact, the standard orthodoxy: that the United States needs nuclear weapons not only as a deterrent to aggression, but as a plausible option for achieving strategic aims.

Those who grew up in the era of the “Doomsday Clock” and “duck and cover” might assume that the days of mutual assured destruction andlaunch under attack were swept away with the Soviet Union. They would be wrong. America’s nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, and the commander in chief has not ruled out being the first to use them.

Statue of Liberty Gun

For all his talk about a “nuclear free world,” President Obama has proposed a $1 trillionmodernization of the nuclear arsenal. Republicans, having engineered the demise of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, are intent on ramping up U.S. nuclear defenses. The nuclear “football” still follows the president everywhere, enabling a cataclysmic strike to be launched on a moment’s notice.

Twenty-five years after the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy remains stuck on the same horrifying premise: that U.S. national security depends on its willingness to use nuclear weapons.

The problem is, who but a madman would ever do so?

First, the danger of escalation is simply too great. Whether the United States used nuclear weapons preemptively, or simply responded in kind, could it count on a nuclear power such as Russia or China to stand down and give in? There is no scenario more unimaginable than the United States taking the chance of setting off a chain reaction that ends in total annihilation.

Second, the humanitarian and environmental risks are unacceptable. Seventy-one years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan,, residents are still developing cancerous tumors that can be linked to radiation exposure. New evidence suggests that a nuclear exchange would produce far more serious harm to public health than previously imagined. The United States has made drones its “weapon of choice” in the war on terror in large part because of its obligation under international law to take “all feasible precautions” to avoid and minimize incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Third, the world is in a different place than it was when U.S. nuclear doctrine was conceived. Globalization — for better or worse — has interlocked America’s economic fate with that of its former adversaries. Over the past quarter-century, ideological differences have receded, U.S. trade relations with Russia and China have become normalized, and profound cultural, educational, scientific and human ties have been forged. Climate change, mass migration and pandemic disease have brought wide recognition of the interdependence of the planet. And disastrous U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have plainly demonstrated the limits of what can be achieved with military power, no matter how shocking or awesome it may be.

Envisioning Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear button helps us to understand how poorly the country is served by its absurd nuclear procedures, which allow a single individual, acting alone and instantaneously, without the benefit of full information or consultation, to order a nuclear attack that could end life as we know it. President Obama has a moral obligation to his country, and the world, to dismantle the “use it or lose it” system designed for a bygone era, and to declare that the United States will never be the first to use nuclear weapons.   Ohlbaum is an independent consultant and a board member of the Center for International Policy.

August 24, 2016 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

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