Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, January 17, 2016

Democracy Now has been reporting on Fukushima all week; their website on their coverage is well worth a visit. It includes coverage of growing protests against reactor restarts, interviews with Fukushima refugees, and much more. Note: some of the articles do not yet have full transcripts as of this morning, but they say they will be posted soon. And here’s Amy Goodman’s (Democracy Now host) personal take on lessons from their visit to Japan: Fukushima is an ongoing warning to the world on nuclear energy.

A lot of interesting articles on solar power today: One good reason no new nukes are needed in North Carolina: state now ranks #2 in solar capacity. Duke Power/Progress Energy already has cancelled its plans to build two new reactors at Shearon Harris, near Research Triangle, but hasn’t yet cancelled its proposed two Lee nuclear reactors. But with solar power taking off in North Carolina (even without much state government support and sometimes outright opposition), there really isn’t any need for the Lee reactors. Duke will acknowledge that sooner or later.

From the front page of the Washington Post: Solar on a grand scale. It’s a nice look at the large (hundreds of megawatts) solar power plants starting to come online in the West this year, especially in California. But the article notes that investment in such large renewable power plants is ebbing. On the East coast and midwest, the future of renewables is more likely to be smaller, more distributed energy.

Speaking of smaller, more distributed energy, two complementary articles on the continuing phenomenal growth of rooftop solar. Sun still rising on rooftop solar takes a brief look at some of the companies and financing mechanisms that have enabled the rapid growth of rooptop solar. How rooftop solar got its groove back credits the more aggressive political stance of the solar industry, especially its trade association SEIA, in fighting anti-solar policies as a key reason for the growth of the industry. Entertaining and revealing article.

Meanwhile, the French and German governments are joining together at a high level to promote renewable energy and phase out nuclear power. In Germany’s case, of course, it’s a complete phase-out. France wants to reduce its nuclear reliance from its current 75% of the nation’s electricity to 50% by 2025.

The French umbrella anti-nuclear group Sortir due Nucleaire today submitted a letter, with 30,000 signers, opposing an Areva uranium mine on native land in Canada.

The Washington Post reports that 18 of the big “green groups” yesterday sent a letter to President Obama rejecting the Administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy as contradictory to the Administration’s goal of making meaningful policy steps to address climate change. Specifically mentioned were the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic. So far, so good. Except, of course, there was no mention at all of nuclear power as one of the “all-of-the-above” energy strategies that must be opposed–both on public health and safety grounds, as well as climate. Investment of billions of dollars of taxpayer money in nuclear power (e.g. the proposed $8+ billion loan for the Vogtle reactors) is money that can’t be spent on technologies that reduce carbon emissions faster, cheaper and safer. It’s always disappointing that the clean energy community has to constantly fight with the “green groups” to even get nuclear mentioned in their work, even though some of them are explicitly anti-nuclear and most others are publicly critical of nuclear power. In this case, of course, NIRS and others that focus primarily on nuclear power and clean energy issues weren’t asked to sign the letter to Obama.

Another environmental group, Ceres (which didn’t sign the letter to Obama; probably, like NIRS, they weren’t asked to sign on) has launched a different approach to climate with their Clean Trillion Campaign, an effort to encourage the world’s investment community to step up and provide the kind of investment needed to build a clean energy future.

Significant delays for new reactors in Vietnam. This kind of story is repeated so often around the world, journalists probably have a template by now and just insert the appropriate country. In this case, Vietnam first said it would build four new reactors, starting this year, with operation to begin in 2020. Last year, that became two new reactors with construction to begin in 2017. Now, the initial construction date has been pushed back to 2020. We kinda get the idea that Vietnam is playing with its contractors and that the whole thing is never going to happen….

Speaking of significant delays, TVA claims its Watts Bar-2 reactor will be completed in 2015. TVA began construction on Watts Bar in 1973.

And in the continuing saga of the misuse of your taxpayer dollars, chronicled here the past couple of days, Congress continues to throw taxpayer money at the USEC uranium enrichment firm. Never mind that USEC, which at this point exists only on taxpayer dollars, admits it is going to file for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2014..

2:45 pm update. Yesterday we reported on press releases issued by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Friends of the Earth on different issues involved in the construction of the only two private nuclear projects underway in the U.S., at the Vogtle, GA and Summer, SC sites. Today, the U.K.’s Ecologist picked up on those releases and published an article questioning claims being made by Toshiba that it can bring its Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors (the same as used at the two U.S. sites) cheaper and faster than can Electricite de France at the Hinkley Point site. Whether or not Toshiba can “beat” EDF is probably irrelevant in the grand scheme of things; the reality is that both projects, if actually undertaken, are likely to go overbudget, be behind schedule, and end up costing ratepayers far more than the alternatives. That’s the history of the nuclear power industry and there is nothing going on anywhere in the world that suggests that the nuclear industry’s history won’t repeat itself. Of course, since this time the entire world knows better (or at least should), it really is repeating itself as farce….

Michael Mariotte



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