New report says renewables make up most of planned new U.S. generating capacity–and the reality is even better.

snlcapacitymapIf there was any lingering doubt that the tide has swung away from nuclear power and fossil fuels, consider this: a new report from SNL Financial finds that renewables represent–by a large margin–most of the new electrical generating capacity currently planned to be built in the U.S.

Fully 56.58% of new capacity is to come from renewables, according to the report, with wind making up the majority of the renewable installations. Natural gas comes in second at 30.52%. In total, the report says a total of 349,858 MW of new capacity is planned; wind is the largest single source at 111,936 MW.

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DOE’s desperation to give Vogtle loan now made clear

Southern Company's Vogtle site in March 2014, with two reactors under construction and two operating in the background. A lot of work remains to be done.

Southern Company’s Vogtle site in March 2014, with two reactors under construction and two operating in the background. A lot of work remains to be done. Photo provided by Tom Clements of Savannah River Watch.

Now we know just how desperate the Department of Energy was to give a taxpayer loan to Southern Company and others for construction of two new reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

Like a car dealer trying to sweep unsold autos off the lot, DOE gave Southern Co. the loan with nothing down. Nada. Zero. Continue reading

We made our own geiger counter. You can too.

The front and back of the geiger counter Mary Olson and Diane D'Arrigo of NIRS built yesterday.

The front and back of the geiger counter Mary Olson and Diane D’Arrigo of NIRS built yesterday.

I spent the day yesterday building my first Geiger counter. It is a bGeige and I had the great good fortune of learning how to do it from Joe, Sean, Pieter (three out of four of the founders of SAFECAST) and Dan Sythe of International Medcom.

As an intentional action by human beings, fission–the splitting of atoms–has been called by some an evolutionary step for our species. If that is so, then SAFECAST is another next step in our evolution.

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Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, April 18, 2014

rooftopsolarIt’s Friday! Time for an abbreviated, and mostly optimistic, Nuclear Newsreel…

Department of Energy workers yesterday made it far enough into the WIPP site to reach the contaminated area, according to the Associated Press. However, the workers were unable to remain deep in the site long enough to determine what caused the February and March radiation releases. The contaminated area is believed to be “panel 7.” As AP describes it, “Waste at the plant is stored in panels, which are a series of rooms cut out of underground salt beds. Five of those panels are full and have already been sealed. Panel 6 is full but has not yet been sealed. Panel 7 is the current active storage area. Crews made it to both Panels 6 and 7, and they found the contamination in Panel 7.”

Clean Energy

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman admits he thought the idea that the wind and sun could be major energy players was “hippie-dippy wishful thinking.” No more. With solar prices plunging and renewables gaining worldwide, Krugman now says de-carbonizing the planet is a realistic goal–and, it can be done without harm to the U.S. or world’s economies. Okay, probably most GreenWorld readers already knew that; but when the concept begins reaching the mainstream (though Krugman, despite his excellent work over the years, unfortunately remains somewhat left of the mainstream), that’s when you know the concept is not only valid, it will quickly become accepted wisdom. Krugman’s entire piece here is quite optimistic on the world’s ability to avoid the worst of climate change.

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Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nuclear Power

New confirmation. New study: wind, solar power is cheaper than new nuclear. A new European study confirms what by now almost everyone except the U.S. Congress and White House seem to know: renewables are cheaper than new nuclear power–20% cheaper, even if construction of natural gas backup plants were to be required. Renewables alone, according to the study, are 50% cheaper than new reactors. “Wind and solar systems will dominate the power system in increasingly more countries,” Patrick Graichen, head of Agora Energiewende [which commissioned the study], said in an e-mailed statement. “The battle for the cheapest CO2-free power mix is decided.”

Osetr whole smokedThe Entergy Corporation’s ongoing problems, chronicled well in these pages by Tim Judson on Tuesday, may not be entirely of its own making; it’s certainly not the only utility challenged by renewables and gas in the merchant electricity market. But Entergy does have a way of making things worse for itself. The latest: their idea to monitor the fish intake at the Indian Point reactors–an issue currently before the courts–by tying frozen sturgeon to the intake screens.

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Why are Entergy executives selling their stock?

Entergy's Palisades reactor has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., major maintenance and equipment issues, and a very uncertain future. Photo from Wikipedia.

Entergy’s Palisades reactor has the most embrittled reactor pressure vessel in the U.S., major maintenance and equipment issues, and a very uncertain future. Photo from Wikipedia.

Over the last few months, there has been a bit of a selling spree of Entergy stock. But this sell-off isn’t coming from just anybody: these sales are by some of the corporation’s top executives. Between December and early April, five Entergy execs sold off large portions of stock they hold in their employer. On December 3, 2013, Entergy CEO Leo Denault sold more than half of his Entergy stock (55.7%, or 33,949 shares valued at $2,103,480). On February 20, the Chief Financial Officer, Andrew Marsh, sold 20.7% of his stock (2,808 shares valued at $181,902). On February 27, Senior Vice President for Federal Government, Regulatory, and Policy Affairs Kimberly Despeaux sold 20.8% of her stock (3,024 shares valued at $193,113). And most recently, on April 9, Chief Accounting Officer Alyson Mount sold 45.9% of her stock (4,929 shares valued at $347,495). Also, on December 16 and October 16, Senior VP of Human Resources and Chief Diversity Officer Donald Vinci twice sold more than 16% of his Entergy holdings.

There was nothing illegal about any of this, they are all above-board transactions properly reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission and covered in the investment press. But if the three people who know most about Entergy’s finances (the CEO, CFO and CAO) and the person in charge of the company’s government and regulatory affairs—which are central to the company’s economic future (see below)—don’t feel that Entergy stock is a better long-term investment, you have to wonder whether there’s some big news on the horizon.

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Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, April 14, 2014

Japan's Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Photo by Greenpeace

Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Photo by Greenpeace

Nuclear Power

Babcock & Wilcox, best known for designing the Three Mile Island reactors, cuts back on its Small Modular Reactor program because it can’t find investors. Because, really, who would want one?

NRC respect for judicial process in action: the agency approved a new uranium mine in South Dakota even before a legal hearing challenging the mine was held. That may be a new low for the agency; in this editorial the Rapid City Journal notes: “By issuing the license before testimony is heard, the NRC invites cynicism in the uranium licensing process. Mining opponents can’t be faulted for believing the process has been corrupted, and that the NRC is controlled by the uranium industry that it’s supposed to regulate.”

Is Rick Perry cheerleading for a high-level radwaste dump in Texas? Apparently so. An excellent examination of the Governor’s actions in support of a new dump–and some bigtime Perry contributors–from The Texas Observer. If he’d do that to Texas, imagine what he could do to the entire country if ever elected president….

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