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Nuclear war threat: WE WHISTLED PAST THE GRAVEYARD in 2018. LET’S BE SMARTER IN 2019.

The Biggest Nuclear Threats of 2018 Will Follow Us into the New Year , Defense One, DECEMBER 29, 2018 WE WHISTLED PAST THE GRAVEYARD THIS YEAR. LET’S BE SMARTER IN 2019.

There was some positive news this year — most importantly the decreased possibility of war in Korea — but, overall it was bleak. Let’s get right to it.

1. The New Nuclear Arms Race is the clear winner as the greatest global nuclear threat of 2018. Each of the nine nuclear-armed states is building new weapons and the United States, instead of strengthening the global nuclear safety net, is actively shredding it.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced five new nuclear weapons he said Russia was building in response to the U.S. decision to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. All are designed to circumvent defenses. Russia has also deployed a small number of ground-based cruise missiles whose range exceed that permitted by the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that President Ronald Reagan negotiated. In October, President Donald Trump said he would pull out of this arms elimination pact, despite the objections of NATO allies.

Destruction of the INF Treaty is likely a prelude to allowing the New START treaty to die. This pact, negotiated by President Barack Obama, limits long-range strategic forces. If both go, it will be the first time since 1972 that U.S. and Russian nuclear forces have been completely unconstrained.

“The untimely death of these two agreements would add fuel to a new arms race and further undermine stability and predictability between Washington and Moscow,” warned former National Security Council senior director Jon Wolfsthal.

In mid-December, 26 Democratic senators wrote Trump “out of deep concern that your administration is now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership.” They feared that Trump and his administration wanted “to double down on new, unnecessary nuclear weapons while scraping mutually beneficial treaties.” This, they said, “risks the United States sliding into another arms race with Russia and erodes U.S. nonproliferation efforts around the world.”

Some countries, perhaps many of them, may see the building of new arsenals and the killing of restraining treaties as a material breach of the U.S. and Russian pledges in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, up for review in 2020. “Today, pessimism about the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime is again on the rise,” writes Harvard professor Rebecca Davis Gibbons. More countries, armed with more nuclear weapons would likely encourage greater risk-taking, leading to more conventional conflicts and the great risks of escalation.

2. President Trump remains a unique global nuclear threat. The danger comes from the combination of his nuclear policies, his ability to command the launch of a nuclear weapon at anytime, for any reason, and his intensifying domestic political crises.

Any president in this period would face the problems of restraining nuclear-armed adversaries, maintaining a U.S. nuclear deterrent, and rolling back the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran. But Trump’s policies have made several of these problems worse. His Nuclear Posture Review would build new, and more usable, nuclear weapons at a price tag of almost $2 trillion while abandoning any effort to restrain global arsenals. This not only fuels an arms race, it breaks the deal with the Senate that “investments in the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent…must be accompanied by pursuit of continued arms control measures,” as the 26 senators wrote.

Serious concerns about Trump’s mental stability have raised serious questions about the wisdom of a system that gives the president sole, unchecked authority to launch America’s nuclear weapons……… https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/12/biggest-nuclear-threats-2018-will-follow-us-new-year/153838/?oref=d-dontmiss

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January 14, 2019 Posted by | USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Problems for introducing permit changes at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Permit changes at WIPP face challenges https://www.abqjournal.com/1267913/permit-changes-at-wipp-face-challenges-ex-new-governor-urged-to-reconsider-predecessors-decision.html, BY MARK OSWALD / JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is encouraging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new administration to reconsider a state government decision made just before she took office Jan. 1 that changes how radioactive waste volume is measured at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in effect allowing more waste to placed in the underground repository near Carlsbad.

Udall said last week that limits on how much waste WIPP can hold were critical to federal-state negotiations that led to WIPP’s creation “and were a major reason New Mexico agreed to this mission in the first place.”

“I am encouraging the new administration to take a hard look at this action, and hopeful that it will pause and reconsider this last-minute change that has major ramifications for our state,” the senator said in an email statement.

The controversial state permit modification for WIPP, approved by then-New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Butch Tongate on Dec. 21, changes the way waste volume is calculated to exclude empty space inside waste packaging. With the alteration, WIPP becomes only about a third full instead of 50 percent full.

And there have been indications that the federal Department of Energy – which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons operations – wants to bring new kinds of waste to WIPP, which the additional space could accommodate. That’s one reason activists opposed the volume calculation change.

In May, DOE Secretary Rick Perry said in a letter to a key member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that 34 tons of excess weapons-grade plutonium was headed to WIPP. Perry at the time was pulling the plug on a troubled, costly and long-delayed effort at the DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina turn the plutonium into fuel rods for nuclear power plants.

Perry confirmed that DOE is removing plutonium from South Carolina, adding, “We are currently processing plutonium for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and intend to continue to do so.”

“I certify that the Department will work with the state of New Mexico to address the capacity issues related to receipt of the full 34 metric tons at WIPP,” Perry wrote in his letter to U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.

Udall said at the time he had serious questions about whether there was enough room at WIPP to store additional waste from Savannah River, given “the clear legal limits” in the 1992 federal act creating WIPP that resulted “following a lawsuit New Mexico won against DOE when I served as Attorney General.”

Udall added: “If DOE is asking New Mexico to take on additional waste missions beyond what is authorized by current law, unilateral action (by DOE) is absolutely not an option.”

WIPP now takes transuranic waste, largely contaminated items and material leftover from plutonium work, including protective clothing. Changing what kind of waste WIPP can hold would require another permit change.

Udall said last week, “If New Mexico is being asked to take on additional waste missions beyond what is authorized by current law, New Mexicans need to have a say – and we should only agree to a new agreement that is in the overall best interest of New Mexico. There needs to be ample time for public input and awareness, and we must ensure that the safety of workers and the public is protected long into the future.”

James Kenney is Lujan Grisham’s recently dubbed secretary-designate of the state environment department. He said in an interview last week that he needs more time to analyze the previous administration’s decision on WIPP volume measurements before speaking on it, but the topic remains “high on (his) list” of priorities.

The change in how the volume of waste is measured came after a request by DOE and WIPP operating and managing contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC. There was public comment period and a three-day public hearing in Carlsbad.

The plutonium that had been slated for conversion to fuel in South Carolina would likely be first diluted with an inert, cement-like material, essentially turning it into waste, an idea called “dilute and dispose” that was conceived by the Obama administration as cheaper than trying to make the excess weapons plutonium into fuel rods.

January 14, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

As coal and nuclear power stations retire, 2019 U.S. renewable generation additions expected to far outpace gas

2019 US renewable generation additions expected to far outpace gas: EIA https://www.utilitydive.com/news/2019-us-renewable-generation-additions-expected-to-far-outpace-gas-eia/545836/ AUTHOR, Iulia Gheorghiu @IMGheorghiu

Dive Brief:

  • 23.7 GW of new U.S. electric generating capacity, mostly from wind, natural gas and solar, are expected in 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) inventory of electric generators.
  • In addition, EIA data shows 8 GW of primarily coal, nuclear and natural gas generation are expected to retire this year, though that number could increase as utilities continue to evaluate their generating portfolios.
  • The expected retirements include Arizona’s 2.3 GW Navajo coal-burning power plant, Exelon’s 819 MW Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and Entergy’s 677 MW Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts.

Dive Insight:

Cheaper prices of natural gas and renewable energy have impacted the competitiveness of more traditional generation fuels.

Renewable additions are projected to more than double gas in 2019. Last year, natural gas capacity additions outpaced renewable energy additions for the first time since 2013. 2018 was also a landmark year for new capacity additions, as EIA expected nearly 32 GW of new capacity — the most in a decade.

The estimates, based on EIA data, do not include additions in the residential and commercial solar sectors, which are expected to be an additional 3.9 GW by the end of 2019.

In 2019, EIA is tracking about 6.1 GW of combined-cycle gas plants and 1.4 GW of combustion-turbine gas plants, expected to be mostly online by June, in order to meet high energy demand during the summer peak. The rest of the expected additions include wind, solar and about 2% of other renewable and battery storage capacity.

Renewable capacity typically comes online at the end of the year, according to the EIA. This matches the upcoming changes in renewable energy tax credits. The wind production tax credit will phase out completely at the end of the year from its current status at 40% of 2015 levels. On the solar side, this is the last year for a full 30% investment tax credit for developing solar energy systems, which will begin to phase down in 2020.

Utility integrated resource plans (IRPs) are beginning to show that renewables can beat out older coal plants, as the Northern Indiana Public Service Company demonstrated through its 2018 IRP analysis last fall, assessing a scenario to eliminate the resource by 2028.

Half of the 4.5 GW of coal-fired capacity expected to retire in 2019 comes from the Navajo Generation Station (NGS), which has not found enough customers for its power generation despite support from a number of groups and the Trump administration to keep it open. Last September, private equity firm Middle River Power dropped its bid to purchase the plant.

In addition, the Pilgrim nuclear plant, set to retire in May, and Three Mile Island, scheduled to retire in September, follow announcements from the plant operators of “severe economic challenges.” Exelon’s Three Mile Island failed to clear the PJM Interconnection capacity market auction in 2017 and Entergy based the decision for Pilgrim on a range of financial factors, including low current and forecast wholesale energy prices.

While the Trump administration has worked to support existing coal and nuclear power plants and to create economic conditions to add new coal and nuclear capacity, trends are pointing away from nuclear and coal additions.

“I don’t think there are any trends in the current electricity market that favor the idea of building new coal or nuclear power plants,” Tim Fox, vice president of ClearView Energy Partners, told Utility Dive.

The natural gas plants set for retirement largely consist of steam turbine plants, mostly located in California. They are older units that came online more than 50 years ago. Other capacity retirements for the year include a hydroelectric plant in Washington state and smaller renewable and petroleum capacity.

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January 12, 2019 Posted by | renewable, USA | Leave a comment

America’s EPA preparing to appoint yet another anti-environment chief

The Energy 202: Senate Democrats warn EPA may be ‘afoul’ of law by prepping Wheeler for confirmation during shutdown, The Hour, Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post, January 11, 2019 A group of Senate Democrats says the Environmental Protection Agency may be violating spending laws by preparing the agency’s acting chief, Andrew Wheeler, for his confirmation hearing during a partial government shutdown.

Four members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee – Thomas Carper of Delaware; Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island; and Benjamin Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both of Maryland – sent a letter to the agency questioning whether it is improperly using resources to help Wheeler get ready for his confirmation hearing before them next Wednesday.

The move underscores the extent to which Senate Democrats are ready to fight President Donald Trump’s second pick to run the EPA after the former chief, Scott Pruitt, and now Wheeler have sought the reversal of many environmental regulations implemented under President Obama.

In response to the letter, the EPA told The Washington Post it is well within its rights under Justice Department guidelines to work toward getting the agency a Senate-confirmed leader.

The EPA is one of the agencies that isn’t receiving funding as the partial government shutdown drags into its 21st day over the standoff surrounding President Trump’s border wall. Only about 800 of the EPA’s 14,000 employees have been deemed essential to work through the shutdown. The vast majority of those remaining at work are “necessary to protect life and property.”

Only a handful of other employees – six top-level political appointees and a dozen others “necessary to the discharge of the President’s constitutional duties and powers” – are still allowed to work during a shutdown, according to the agency’s Dec. 31 contingency plan.

But according to the Democratic senators, five EPA employees have been involved in coordinating meetings with senators, who will have to approve Wheeler to serve as the agency’s permanent chief after President Trump this week formally tapped him for the position.

An EPA notary also worked to certify an ethics form for Wheeler, who worked for years as a lobbyist.

“It is difficult to understand how preparing you for next week’s confirmation hearing credibly falls within any of the categories listed in EPA’s Contingency Plan, particularly the category of employee that is ‘necessary to protect life and property,’ ” the senators wrote in their letter to Wheeler, sent Thursday.

“Using EPA resources in this manner may also run afoul of the Antideficiency Act,” they added, referring to the law requiring a federal agency’s expenditures not exceed the amount appropriated by Congress.

……… The EPA has been without a Senate-confirmed chief since the White House forced Pruitt to resign in July amid investigations into his ethical and managerial decisions.

While happy to see Pruitt gone, many environmentalists are fiercely oppose to Wheeler’s nomination after he spent years representing coal mining and nuclear energy firms in Washington.

They have long been critical of the EPA under both Pruitt and Wheeler for pursuing the rollback of Obama-era rules. During the shutdown, however, much of that work rewriting regulations has been put on pause.

But activists still take issue with Trump and Senate Republicans working to advance Wheeler’s nomination while other EPA employees are furloughed, such as those working to inspect factories for pollution or prepare cleanup plans for toxic waste sites.

“It’s a shocking waste of precious resources to spend any staff time preparing Andrew Wheeler’s nomination,” Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation, said while calling for a delay in the hearing. https://www.thehour.com/news/article/The-Energy-202-Senate-Democrats-warn-EPA-may-be-13526124.php

January 12, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | Leave a comment

Iowa Utilities Board OK’s Alliant ending nuclear power purchase: Duane Arnold nuclear plant to shut down

State board OK’s Alliant ending nuclear power purchase, The Gazette, 11 Jan 19Alliant Energy’s request for a settlement that will allow the utility to end its purchase of energy from Duane Arnold Energy Center has been approved.

The Iowa Utilities Board’s approval of Alliant’s request to recover a one-time $110 million payment allows the utility to end its purchase of power from the state’s sole nuclear power plant. The plant, based in Palo, is slated to shut down in late 2020 — five years sooner than the current power purchase agreement between NextEra Energy Resources and Alliant Energy.

The Iowa Utilities Board announced the settlement agreement in a Thursday news release.

Duane Arnold, which first began producing power in 1975, is about 9 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids and is one of the larger employers in Linn County. The power plant, at 3277 Daec Road, is owned by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources……..https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/business/state-board-approves-alliants-plan-to-close-duane-arnold-in-2020-20181213

 

January 12, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

Activists Want Details On Inquiry Into Ex- Nuclear Weapons Plant at Rocky Flats

Rocky Flats Controversy Continues: Activists Want Details On Inquiry Into Ex-Nuke Weapons Plant, 4 CBS Denver,  By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press  DENVER (AP) — Activists asked a U.S. judge Thursday to make documents public from a 27-year-old criminal investigation into former nuclear weapons plant Rocky Flats outside Denver with a history of fires, leaks and spills.The activists said the documents could show whether the federal government did enough to clean up the site before turning part of it into a wildlife refuge and opening it to the public.

The government built plutonium triggers at the Rocky Flats plant from 1952 to 1989. It was shut down after a two-year grand jury investigation into environmentalviolations.

After the investigation, Rockwell International, the contractor that operated the plant, pleaded guilty in 1992 to criminal charges that included mishandling chemical and radioactive material. The company was fined $18.5 million.

The documents from the grand jury investigation are still sealed. Seven groups representing environmentalists, former nuclear workers, nearby residents and public health advocates filed a motion in federal court Thursday asking for the information to be made public.

Officials from the U.S. attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversaw the plant, didn’t immediately respond to emails and a phone call seeking comment. Many employees of the two agencies are furloughed because of the partial government shutdown.

Pat Mellen, an attorney representing the activist groups, said the documents could show whether the government tracked down and cleaned up all the contamination.

Mellen said the grand jury subpoenaed documents from the plant that would have shown where plutonium and other hazardous wastes were disposed of, spilled or buried.

Comparing those documents to the cleanup would show whether all the known contamination sites were remediated, she said………https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/01/10/nuclear-weapons-plant-rocky-flats/

January 12, 2019 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

USA electric-power producers call on Supreme Court to overturn state subsidies for nuclear power

No states’ nuke subsidies, power group tells Supreme Court https://www.reuters.com/article/no-states-nuke-subsidies-power-group-tel/no-states-nuke-subsidies-power-group-tells-supreme-court-idUSL1N1ZB0F6, Barbara Grzincic, – 11 Jan 19

A trade group for electric-power producers has doubled down on its fight against state-mandated subsidies for nuclear power plants, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn two appellate courts that upheld Zero Emission Credit (ZEC) programs in New York and Illinois last fall.

The Electric Power Supply Association, represented by former U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr, argues that the 2016 state regulations infringe on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s power to regulate wholesale electricity rates, which Congress gave to FERC in the Federal Power Act in 1935.

To read the full story on Westlaw Practitioner Insights, click here: bit.ly/2SKaXWt

 

January 12, 2019 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

The utter complexity of Moving Nuclear Waste Out of San Diego

North County Report: The Head-Spinning Complexity of Moving Nuclear Waste Out of San Diego, Voice of San Diego, 9 Jan 19 

The clock is ticking on attempts to find a suitable destination for nuclear waste from the decommissioned San Onofre power station north of Oceanside, and Carlsbad is sending a new representative to SANDAG.   What to do with the spent nuclear fuel at the decommissioned San Onofre power station north of Oceanside — let’s just call it “waste” — is an important question. But I hadn’t spent much time thinking about it because it seemed remote and abstract……

 lots of people have lots ideas about what to do with the millions of pounds of nuclear waste in San Diego County sitting, as the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation put it, “100 feet from the shoreline, on a receding bluff, near a fault line … next to the one of the nation’s busiest freeways, and within roughly 50 miles of the densely populated City of San Diego.”

Everyone with a stake in San Onofre seems to agree today that the waste shouldn’t be there, especially as the Pacific Ocean creeps closer. But moving the waste inland is politically difficult because it requires buy-in from outside communities and action at the federal level.

“We have maybe a year to work on this,” said David Victor, a UCSD professor international relations and chair of a San Onofre community engagement panel, “then the presidential election will shut down the conversation.”

Southern California Edison, the station’s majority owner, has long maintained that the waste is safe and being properly stored. Earlier this week, a nonprofit estimated that a major release of radiation on the site could cause upwards of $13 trillion in economic damage…..

San Onofre was closed and then decommissioned in 2013 after the detection of a small radiation leak. When the station’s owners got permission from the California Coastal Commission in 2015 to begin burying the waste in dry bunkers on the beach, they cited a lack of off-site places willing to take it. Several groups filed suit and the owners agreed in 2017 to move the canisters away from the Pacific Ocean. Eventually. And pending the development of a federally approved facility, possibly in New Mexico, Texas or Arizona.

There’s been a growing sense of urgency in recent months, and not just among activist kombucha sellers. Although no one was hurt, an incident in August has given plenty of cause for concern.

Workers at the station were loading a nuclear canister into a bunker when it got wedged near the top and remained that way for about 45 minutes, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Eventually the workers readjusted and lowered the canister the remaining 18 feet.

SoCal Edison told regulators about the incident the following business day, but the public didn’t learn of it until a contractor blew the whistle at a later community meeting. In response, an independent nuclear expert told the U-T that although the incident posed no threat to public, the station was “tempting fate.”

Even the station’s chief nuclear operator said the incident was unacceptable and suspended the transfer of nuclear fuel from cooling pools into dry bunkers on the San Onofre site. He has also acknowledged a second, previously unreported incident, in July, when workers encountered trouble lowering another canister into place. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected soon to hand down a punishment.

Meanwhile, according to the U-T, former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who sued San Onofre’s owners in 2015, is asking the FBI to investigate whether the handling of nuclear waste by a SoCal Edison contractor rises to the level of a criminal violation.

So, Where’s the Nuclear Waste Supposed to Go?

Last year, the U.S. House passed a bill intending to redevelop permanent storage at Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, which had already received billions in investment but had been stalled under the Obama administration thanks to Sen. Harry Reid. That bill had the support of then-Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican whose district included San Onofre, and was meant to appease lawmakers who were reluctant to hold the waste before it went to the final destination.

In bureaucratic-speak, these facilities are known as “interim storage.”……….

There are dozens of sites across the country where waste is accumulating with nowhere to go……. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/north-county-report-the-head-spinning-complexity-of-moving-nuclear-waste-out-of-san-diego/

January 12, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Over 600 Environmental Groups lobby U.S. Congress in support of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal

More Than 600 Environmental Groups Just Backed Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal,Gizmodo, Brian Kahn , 11 Jan 19, Pressure continues to mount on Congress to get its act together on climate change. The latest salvo came on Thursday, as 626 groups delivered a letter to every member of Congress laying out their support for a Green New Deal and their demands.

The list of groups includes heavy hitters in the climate and policy world like Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, 350, and Indivisible, as well as a raft of local groups in a show of how the idea of a Green New Deal has captured grassroots activists. But the letter also highlights some areas of disagreement with previous proposals for how to shape a Green New Deal, particularly when it comes to pricing carbon and nuclear power.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez popularized the proposal for a Green New Deal to wean the U.S. off fossil fuels in a little over a decade during the midterm election, and protests on Capitol Hill have galvanized support. Add in the fact that there’s basically a decade left to get our act together to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, and it’s clear the time is here to shape the only climate plan in line with the science into a specific set of policy proposals.

“With a new House majority, which is so diverse and so representative of a new generation, now is the time to emphasize the urgent need for climate action,” Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, told Earther.

The letter sent to Congress on Thursday lays out the 626 groups’ vision for a Green New Deal. On the energy side, it calls on the government to stop leasing federal lands for fossil fuel extraction, to end approval for new fossil fuel infrastructure, and utilize the Clean Air Act to set more stringent standards for greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. It also calls for shifting to 100 percent renewable power by 2035 if not sooner.

The letter emphasizes respecting indigenous rights and a transition away from fossil fuels that centers justice, including a “comprehensive economic plan to drive job growth and invest in a new green economy that is designed, built and governed by communities and workers.” A similar plan has been implemented in Spain to help coal workers, while the pitfalls of not engaging with the people most impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels are clear in France’s yellow vest protests.

The plan isn’t totally feasible right now because of, as Snape put it, “the toddler in the White House,” but he added that the growing impacts of climate change mean that “at some point we believe elected Republicans will have no choice but to join our effort.”

Getting Republicans under the tent may take compromise, to say nothing of other groups already on board with the Green New Deal. The letter sent to Congress notably mentions that any energy transition must “exclude all combustion-based power generation, nuclear, biomass energy, large scale hydro and waste-to-energy technologies.” …….https://earther.gizmodo.com/more-than-600-environmental-groups-just-backed-ocasio-c-1831640541?IR=T

January 12, 2019 Posted by | ENERGY, politics, USA | Leave a comment

Will the Rocky Flats Grand Jury Files Finally Be Opened?

 https://www.westword.com/news/rocky-flats-grand-jury-documents-should-be-released-for-audit-of-nuclear-weapons-plant-cleanup-11106187

January 12, 2019 Posted by | Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration’s plan to reclassify nuclear wastes as not “High Level”

Trump administration wants to reclassify leaking nuclear waste to avoid cleaning it up, say officials
‘This is unacceptable, and we will not stand by while this administration plans to abandon its responsibility to clean up their mess’, Independent UK, 10 Jan 19Josh Gabbatiss, Science Correspondent @josh_gabbatiss  Donald Trump‘s administration has been accused of trying to downplay the danger of nuclear waste so it can “abandon its responsibility to clean up their mess”. 

A federal government plan to reclassify this waste as less dangerous has been fiercely criticised by officials in Washington state, who said the move would allow it to walk away from its responsibility to clean up millions of gallons of toxic, radioactive material.

The state is home to the Hanford nuclear site which houses the nation’s largest collection of nuclear waste, left over from atomic bomb production.

  • There are the 177 ageing underground tanks stored at the site containing the most dangerous material – some of which are leaking.

    Amid fears much of the waste will be left in the ground, earlier this week, Washington state filed its objections to the US Department of Energy.

  • These were accompanied by a letter from the state’s Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

    The US Department of Energy is seeking to reclassify a large percentage of the waste as lower-level waste. That would allow treatment and disposal options that would not guarantee long-term protections.

    At present the government is obliged to keep the waste safely in a “deep geological repository”, but if it was reclassified there would be no such obligation. Critics are concerned this could mean that the was allowed to reside in areas in which it posed a threat.

    This dangerous idea will only serve to silence the voices of tribal leaders, Hanford workers, public safety officials, and surrounding communities in these important conversations,” said Mr Inslee, a Democrat who is considering a presidential run in 2020. “This is unacceptable, and we will not stand by while this administration plans to abandon its responsibility to clean up their mess.”

  •  ……….Critics say that reclassifying some of the high-level radioactive waste to low-level could save the government billions of dollars and decades of work, but would do so by simply leaving dangerous material in the ground.
  • Cleanup efforts at Hanford have been underway since the late 1980s and cost about $2bn a year.

    Currently, all of that waste is classified as high-level. Plans for its treatment and disposal have been developed to isolate it from the environment until it is no longer dangerous.

    The energy department wants to reclassify some waste if it meets certain highly technical conditions, and says such measures would save $40 billion in clean-up costs.

    The proposed measure would also cover other waste disposal facilities in places like South Carolina and Idaho, and could be implemented without the approval of Congress. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/nuclear-waste-trump-radioactive-washington-state-hanford-atomic-bombs-a8719021.html

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January 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA, wastes | 8 Comments

New book: former chairman of Nuclear Regulatory Commission opposes nuclear energy

How Dangerous is Nuclear Power and How Bad is Its Regulation? (2019)

Former NRC chairman remains clearly opposed to nuclear energy, Las Vegas Sun, 9 Jan 19, “……… former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is going on the offensive to explain why nuclear energy is nowhere near a perfect solution to the climate crisis.

In a new book, Jaczko reiterates his longstanding criticism of the nuclear industry and his opposition to development of traditional nuclear power plants, which he says are unsafe despite technological improvements designed to make them safer.

Exhibit No. 1 in Jaczko’s argument is the Fukushima disaster. …, he contends that the catastrophe at Fukushima wiped out environmental gains that Japan made by burning less fossil fuels

…….Meanwhile, he says, the cost of generating electricity through natural gas and renewables is lower in most parts of the country than nuclear generation

……“So to me, the idea that somehow we’re going to preserve these reactors and that’s a climate solution is just wrong,” he said.

Then, of course, there’s the issue with nuclear waste ………

Jaczko’s bottom-line assessment is that despite decades of development, nuclear energy remains too hazardous and costly to be a viable source of power.

“There’s going to be an accident,” he said. “The only question is when and where.”

It’s a compelling argument, and anyone who may be warming to nuclear energy in the fight to reverse climate change should examine it. The book, “

,” is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other outlets. https://lasvegassun.com/news/2019/jan/09/former-nrc-chairman-remains-clearly-opposed-to-nuc/

January 10, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, resources - print, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power Is Economically Obsolete

 https://www.ecowatch.com/nuclear-power-cost-renewables-2625524662.html, By Grant Smith, 9 Jan 19,

Last year the Trump administration’s Energy Department announced the launch of a media campaign to counter what an official called “misinformation” about nuclear power. We haven’t noticed an upsurge in pro-nuclear news—because there is none to report.

On the first day of 2019, the energy industry trade journal Power asked whether new technology can save nuclear power by making new reactors economically feasible—not only to replace coal and natural gas but also to compete with the rapidly dropping cost of renewable energy. The verdict from Peter Bradford, a former member of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

. . . [N]ew nuclear is so far outside the competitive range. . . . Not only can nuclear power not stop global warming, it is probably not even an essential part of the solution to global warming.

His bleak outlook is shared by the authors of a recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The authors—an engineer, an economist and a national security analyst—reviewed the prospects for so-called advanced designs for large nuclear reactors, and for much smaller modular reactors that could avoid the billions in construction costs and overruns that have plagued the nuclear energy industry since the beginning.

They concluded that no new designs can possibly reach the market before the middle of the century. They cite the breeder reactor that, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, received $100 billion in public development funds worldwide over six decades and still did not get off the ground.

The authors say there may be an opening for small modular reactors but that it will be very difficult to find a market for these reactors without—as is always the case with nuclear power—a massive infusion of taxpayer dollars. “For that to happen,” they argue, “several hundred billion dollars of direct and indirect subsidies would be needed to support their development and deployment over the next several decades, since present competitive energy markets will not induce their development and adoption.”

Despite the past failure and poor future outlook, support for more nuclear funding persists. In a recent study, the Energy Department pointed to the $50 billion in federal incentives provided to renewables like solar and wind power between 2005 and 2015, implying that such policies can have a similar impact on modular nuclear reactors. But unlike nuclear power, the costs of wind and solar have dropped dramatically, to the point where the cost of new, unsubsidized utility-scale wind and solar power investment can now competewith that of existing coal and nuclear power plants.

The bigger question is whether nuclear power is needed at all.

Nuclear advocates’ claims that nuclear power is required to fight climate change falls short. California met its climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 four years early by turning off its nuclear plants and setting policies that prioritize renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage investments over natural gas plant additions.

An argument advanced in the Energy Department report is that, to ensure that power can be delivered 24/7, large coal and nuclear power plants designed to run day and night—also known as baseload plants—need to be replaced by small nuclear units that run day and night. However, mounting, real-world evidence refutes this assertion.

Recent studies from New York and California show that it is cheaper to invest in renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage in order to replace aging nuclear plants than it is to keep the existing plants running. Savings range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars—achieved without any impact on electric system reliability.

Nuclear power belongs in a museum. We shouldn’t continue to squander public dollars on a technology that will never make economic sense. We should divert resources into improving and deploying wind, solar, energy efficiency and energy storage technology that we know will keep the lights on, effectively reduce carbon emissions and cost what we can afford to pay.  Grant Smith is senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, USA | Leave a comment

State of Washington opposes federal plan to reclassify Hanford nuclear waste

State opposes federal plan to reclassify Hanford nuclear waste, KATU 2, by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS , Associated Press, January 9th 2019 

The state this week filed its objections to a Trump administration plan to reclassify millions of gallons of waste stored in underground tanks at Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The objections were accompanied by a letter from Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The U.S. Department of Energy is seeking to reclassify a large percentage of the waste as lower-level waste. That would allow treatment and disposal options that would not guarantee long-term protections.

“This dangerous idea will only serve to silence the voices of tribal leaders, Hanford workers, public safety officials, and surrounding communities in these important conversations,” said Inslee, a Democrat who is considering running for president in 2020. “This is unacceptable, and we will not stand by while this administration plans to abandon its responsibility to clean up their mess.” ……https://katu.com/news/local/state-opposes-federal-plan-to-reclassify-hanford-nuclear-waste

January 10, 2019 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

With tax-payer funding, and weakened safety regulation, Bill Gates’ nuclear project could be a goer in USA

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WANTS BILL GATES TO DITCH CHINA AND BUILD HIS NUCLEAR PROJECT IN THE US, Daily Caller, Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator 01/08/2019 |  Members of the Trump administration are actively working to convince Bill Gates to relocate his now-scrapped nuclear reactor project in China over to the U.S.

“We hope we can work with them and bring them back,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette in an exchange with reporters Monday. Brouillette revealed the Energy Department has held “several conversations” with Gates, adding that he was optimistic the U.S. government could streamline the permitting process and entice the billionaire to bring his project stateside…….

“Unfortunately, America is no longer the global leader on nuclear energy that it was 50 years ago. To regain this position, it will need to commit new funding, update regulations, and show investors that it’s serious,” Gates wrote in a year-end blog post, first revealing his botched nuclear plans. ……

In the waning days of December, Congress passed the The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act by wide margins in both chambers. The legislation aims to streamline the regulatory process for commercial nuclear plants, with an end game of making the development and commercialization of nuclear technology more affordable.

If signed by President Donald Trump, the bill could make nuclear projects, like the one Gates is spearheading, easier to accomplish. https://dailycaller.com/2019/01/08/bill-gates-nuclear-project/

January 10, 2019 Posted by | politics, USA | 1 Comment