Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, February 10, 2014

Nuclear Power

What those pro-nuke climate scientists just don’t understand: The unavoidable economics of nuclear power. Another on-target piece from economist Marc Cooper, who takes the small minority of climate scientists arguing for more nuclear power to task. A couple of excerpts that provide a sense of Cooper’s well-formed arguments:

“But the evidence shows that nuclear power has always been substantially more expensive than the alternatives and there is nothing in the historical or contemporary record to suggest that it will be less costly than low-carbon alternatives in the foreseeable future. The climate scientists who claim ‘much has changed since the 1970s’ have not noticed the collapse of a nuclear renaissance caused by exactly the same problems that scuttled the nuclear sector in the 1980s – a tripling of the estimated costs and design and construction problems.”

“Indeed, given the fact that there was as much dangerous radioactive material in waste storage at Fukushima as in the reactors, the climate scientists’ claim that we must view ‘safer nuclear systems’ as ‘essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on the atmosphere as a waste dump’ does not ring true. Shifting to a technology that treats the earth as a waste dump instead of the atmosphere makes little sense when there are alternatives that treat both the air and the land much more gently. Waiting for a nuclear technology that does not produce waste is an unacceptable answer, not only because nuclear advocates have been talking about it for decades, but also because the climate scientists calling for such solutions are the same ones insisting immediate action is needed.”

79 sailors from U.S. aircraft carrier re-file lawsuit charging health damages from Fukushima radiation. We’re not sure whether this lawsuit will come to any better a fate than a previous one, which was withdrawn: proving harm from radiation exposure in a courtroom is a nearly insurmountable task, especially when the radiation levels that the sailors received are unknown but presumed by the authorities, at least, to be low. But the descriptions of the illnesses suffered by U.S. sailors is heartbreaking. One of the attorneys bringing the suit will be appearing on Harvey Wasserman’s (who wrote this article) Solartopia radio show Tuesday, February 11 at 5 pm.

75 children in Fukushima area now diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Of course, there is no proof the thyroid cancers are a result of radiation releases from the accident, but the suspicion is certainly high.

Japanese nuclear utilities carp about safety checks/paperwork needed for reactor restarts. Sorry, but those requirements are there because the utilities blew it; or have they forgotten about Fukushima already? Indeed, in a sane world, the utilities would be complaining about the safety checks and paperwork needed to undergo decommissioning, because those reactors would never restart.

Anti-nuke candidates split vote, allow pro-nuker to win Tokyo gubernatorial election with 30% of vote. Two former Prime Ministers had joined forces and sought to make the election a referendum on nuclear power in Japan, but with 13 candidates, most of whom were anti-nuclear, the election went to the one candidate supported by current Prime Minister Abe. As a referendum, perhaps the gambit succeeded–the anti-nuclear vote clearly carried the day. But that vote didn’t put anyone in office.

Fuel rod corrosion found at 25 of EDF’s 58 French reactors. Maybe that will lead to a regulatory crackdown in France? Maybe?

New York Times: Some see WIPP–limited by law to transuranics, which are long-lasting but not terribly active nor thermally hot–as a potential new site for high-level commercial radwaste. They perhaps have forgotten that WIPP stands for Waste Isolation Pilot Project. In other words, it was meant to be a test of geologic storage for certain types of waste–not a permanent fixture, nor a candidate for expansion into an entirely different and much more hazardous waste stream. WIPP is in a salt dome; salt is highly corrosive and is questionable at best as a storage medium for thousands of steel casks, which tend to rust over the years (thousands of years in this case) when exposed to corrosives.

Bipartisan group of Senators question Obama administration’s failure to require reprocessing ban for nuclear trade. This article by former NRC Commissioner Victor Gilinsky brings up an often overlooked issue. The U.S. is promoting trade in nuclear power at the same time it is seeking to combat nuclear proliferation. At the moment, trade is winning. For reasons that are not clear other than the likelihood that the dollars from sales are beating concerns about proliferation, the Obama Administration is taking perhaps the weakest position on proliferation in history and seems unwilling to require that countries that want to purchase nuclear materials not pursue uranium enrichment and reprocessing programs. That has brought rare agreement among Senate Democrats and Republicans, who blasted the Administration’s position at a completely overlooked Senate hearing January 30.

The nuclear power market remains weak. Uranium producer Cameco scraps “lofty production goals” due to global surplus of uranium with little likelihood of increased demand.

Clean Energy

Amory Lovins: Renewables are disrupting utilities in Europe as well as U.S. And that’s a good thing. As we’ve been writing about regularly at GreenWorld since we began publication last month, the old utility model of building big power plants that provide baseload power and then collecting lots of money from captive ratepayers is rapidly turning on its head. Utilities that can’t adapt to the rapid changes in energy production and distribution technology are going to fade away and be replaced by far more nimble competitors offering what consumers really want: clean energy at a reasonable price, preferably generated close to home and without the enormous backup power requirements needed to replace 1,000 MW power plants when they go down for refueling or suddenly by a scram or other problem. We’ve been focusing on the U.S., Amory Lovins points out that the same factors are disrupting utilities in Europe in the same way–but perhaps even faster.

As Lovins points out, “Laments for Europe’s money-losing electric utilities were featured in an October 2013 cover story in the Economist. It said Europe’s top 20 energy utilities have lost over half their 2008 value, or a half-billion Euros – more than Europe’s banks lost. Many utilities therefore want renewable competition slowed or stopped. Indeed, some European giants, like Germany’s E.ON and RWE, are in real trouble, and five of Europe’s top ten utilities have suffered credit downgrades.” Excellent article and a must-read if you want to understand what is happening to the electric utility industry.

Solar carport at Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Solaire Generation.

Solar carport at Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Solaire Generation.

This is what every parking lot in America should be: a solar power station. Solar power opponents frequently talk about the huge land requirements to generate large amounts of solar power. They forget about all that “land” above us; not only on rooftops but also above parking lots. Think about how much land is used by parking lots in the U.S., and then think about using that “land” above the parking lots to create solar power plants. Seriously: this is what every Ikea, Wal-Mart, shopping mall, factory, government and every other institution’s parking lots should look like. And, by the way, they can also be set up as chargers for the oncoming wave of electric cars….providing both electricity and reducing reliance on oil. A win-win if we’ve ever heard of one.

New ad reveals Duke Energy’s anti-solar, monopoly protection plan. From TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed).

Renewables provided 15% of California’s power during last week’s emergency; time to go to 100% renewable? Yes.

Bipartisan Senate bill would extend Investment Tax Credit, which provides a boost to solar power and other 21st century energy technologies.

Oh boy, this is something we could have waited about another hundred lifetimes for….Sen. Ted Cruz (Insane-Texas) will give a speech tomorrow outlining his energy agenda (think fast approval of Keystone XL pipeline, then apparently add in incentives for every other polluting fuel you can think of). He’s reportedly preparing a legislative proposal, the American Energy Renaissance Act. Fortunately, we expect it to be about as successful as his government shutdown efforts.

Michael Mariotte


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