Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, January 23, 2014

This article is pretty skimpy on information, but this can’t possibly go well: it seems that Iran, France & Argentina are teaming up to encourage construction of a new reactor in Bolivia. If true, we guess France isn’t really all that worried about Iran’s nuclear programs….

EcoWatch: Japanese cooperatives collaborate to help monitor Fukushima radiation in soil and food.
Ukrainian power prices likely to double for nuclear safety upgrades; green groups want investment in renewables instead. I’ll refrain from saying a lot about Ukraine right now–my wife is Ukrainian and is plugged into constant livefeeds from the Maidan. I’ve been to Ukraine several times, some for extended visits, and what’s happening there this week is both inspiring and horrifying. But I will say the Yanukovich government is both self-serving and incredibly incompetent at anything that is not self-serving. In this case, those multi-billion dollar loans from Russia–and all the strings that come with them–aren’t going to help matters that much when money for fundamental needs like electricity is being diverted to prop up Ukraine’s aging and extremely dangerous fleet of Soviet-era nuclear reactors rather than being invested in a more modern energy infrastructure. Of course, in this case much of the electricity from Ukraine’s reactors is for export–yet it is Ukrainian ratepayers who will have to bear the burden of the increased costs.

Outgoing California PUC Commissioner warns that utilities would strangle rooftop solar if they could and that the PUC has to continue to keep a close eye on them. But he also added that California has far more opportunity to shape energy policy than is the case at the federal level right now. “We are at an inflection point where the convergence of new technologies, changing economics and, I hope, an added urgency to address our deteriorating climate, will combine to create exciting new business and policy opportunities,” said outgoing Commissioner Mark Ferron. The PUC is also going to have its hands full as the campaign to close the state’s last nuclear reactors, at Diablo Canyon, heats up this year.

The American Wind Energy Association debunks myths about wind power’s impact on wildlife. Anti-wind power forces (often funded by fossil fuel and nuclear interests) continue to perpetuate the myth that wind turbines kill huge numbers of birds. Actually, they don’t–at least not the kinds of numbers those interests would have you believe. And the industry is getting better and better at reducing its impact on wildlife. Compare that to the ongoing devastation of marine life caused by once-through cooling systems used by many nuclear reactors. At both California’s Diablo Canyon and New York’s Indian Point reactors, the killing of marine life is at a point where state action to force cooling towers is a major roadblock to their continued operation. Licensed to Kill, published by NIRS and other groups back in 2001, first brought the issue to public attention and remains the most thorough investigation of the impact of nuclear power on marine life.

New Jersey Sierra Club files petition to require the state to set energy efficiency targets; charges Gov. Christie and legislature have diverted clean energy program funds. North Carolina has supplanted New Jersey as the state with the second-most installed solar capacity (behind California), and the Sierra Club says that New Jersey was once a national leader in energy efficiency, but has fallen to the middle of the pack.

Perhaps there is at least one progressive sector in government these days: according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors survey, mayors across the country are planning significant investments in energy efficiency over the next five years. Yet another reason why utilities should not be relying on past projections of increased electrical demand.

The Iowa Supreme Court will decide the fate of rooftop solar power in the state and perhaps set a precedent for other midwestern states as well. Utility companies want to protect their monopoly and say they should be the only ones allowed to provide electricity to customers. If the Court upholds that view, it will prevent the growing practice of other companies leasing or selling solar PV systems directly to customers. A District Court judge last March ruled in favor of the solar companies–hopefully the Supreme Court will follow suit. Seems to us this is not only about smart energy policy, but about fundamental democracy. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to use alternatives to the utility monopoly?

Duke Power teams up with far-right ALEC to attack growing use of solar power in North Carolina. Even though a startling 40% of North Carolina state legislators are members of ALEC, the extremist group (is there any other accurate way to describe them) failed in previous attempts to overturn state law beneficial to solar power. This year, as it is doing in other states, ALEC is attempting to repeal net metering laws, which allow ratepayers to sell any excess solar power back to the grid, and which, as solar becomes more widely adopted, reduces the need for expensive nuclear and fossil fuel power. ALEC and Duke need to be defeated again.

Some 200 energy experts issued a report yesterday to President Obama telling him bluntly: you don’t need Congress. The report recommends a number of actions the President can take on his own to support clean energy and help prepare the country for the energy systems of the 21st century. We don’t agree with all of them (and we haven’t see the full report, just the executive summary)–especially on natural gas–but we’re pleased to see that nuclear is not being promoted, at least it isn’t mentioned in the summary. This National Journal article includes a link to the executive summary.

Is Google becoming an energy company? Yes, that’s probably an important question. Here’s one opinion.

Two articles today from SmartGridNews on the future of smart grids and distributed generation. This piece points out that while distributed generation provides a firm foundation to integrate Solar PV into the grid, policy needs to catch up with technological advances. This article takes a similar view but goes into more detail about what needs to be done.

Michael Mariotte


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