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Nuclear power plants in disarray: Lack of waste burial site to delay Tokai reactor decommissioning

Nuclear power plants in disarray: Lack of waste burial site to delay Tokai reactor decommissioning

Work to decommission the nation's first commercial nuclear reactor cannot start for the simple reason there is still no disposal site for radioactive waste.

Japan Atomic Power Co. looks set yet again to postpone dismantling of the reactor of the Tokai nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, sources said. The task was originally scheduled for fiscal 2011 and then put off until fiscal 2014.


Decommissioning will generate 27,800 tons of low-level radioactive waste. Of that, 1,600 tons, such as control rods and reactor components, must be buried at a depth of 50 to 100 meters.

Under the plan approved by the industry ministry in 2006, the reactor was to be dismantled over six years from fiscal 2011. The cost of decommissioning was estimated at 88.5 billion yen ($883 million).

No disposal site has since been selected...


The Passive House Concept i

This is the core concept behind the homes of all the companies mentioned in the OP.

The Passive House concept represents today's highest energy standard with the promise of slashing the heating energy consumption of buildings by an amazing 90%. Widespread application of the Passive House design would have a dramatic impact on energy conservation. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that buildings are responsible for 48% of greenhouse gas emissions annually and 76% of all electricity generated by U.S. power plants goes to supply the Building Sector [Architecture2030]. It has been abundantly clear for some time that the Building Sector is a primary contributor of climate-changing pollutants, and the question is asked: How do we best square our building energy needs with those of our environment and of our pocketbook? In the realm of super energy efficiency, the Passive House presents an intriguing option for new and retrofit construction; in residential, commercial, and institutional projects.

A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is an impressive system that not only saves up to 90% of space heating costs, but also provides a uniquely terrific indoor air quality.

A Passive House is a comprehensive system. "Passive" describes well this system's underlying receptivity and retention capacity. Working with natural resources, free solar energy is captured and applied efficiently, instead of relying predominantly on ‘active’ systems to bring a building to ‘zero’ energy. High performance triple-glazed windows, super-insulation, an airtight building shell, limitation of thermal bridging and balanced energy recovery ventilation make possible extraordinary reductions in energy use and carbon emission.

Today, many in the building sector have applied this concept to design, and build towards a carbon-neutral future. Over the last 10 years more than 15,000 buildings in Europe - from single and multifamily residences, to schools, factories and office buildings - have been designed and built or remodeled to the passive house standard. A great many of these have been extensively monitored by the Passiv Haus Institut in Darmstadt, analyzing and verifying their performance. Even governmental agencies have adopted passive house standards in their policy-making (read more about the EU Commision’s intent to implement the Passive House Standard.).


Sealing a home without proper ventilation is a health hazard. This is how you get the beneficial energy savings of a thorough thermally sealed home while ensuring proper ventilation.

From http://oneskyhomes.com/about/passive-house

Green homes for the masses – with no energy bills for 10 years

Green homes for the masses – with no energy bills for 10 years
In Houston, Texas, they're selling cheap, green homes where you are guaranteed to have no energy bills, writes Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer
Guardian Professional, Friday 15 November 2013 06.40 EST

A Houze house, one of the affordable homes with no energy bills being built in Houston
Imagine living in a house so efficient that the builder guarantees you'll have no energy bills for the first 10 years of ownership.

Such is the promise of Houze Advanced Building Science, a real-estate company in Houston, Texas. The company is building net zero-energy homes, equipped with walls that insulate like a thermos, appliances that sip little electricity and one-of-a-kind power cells.

The houses are some of the first affordable, net energy-producing homes in the United States. And, in Houston, they're moving in to support an otherwise underserved neighbourhood, Independence Heights.

David Goswick, founder and chief executive of Houze, came up with the idea behind the company in 2008, when the US housing market slowed to a standstill. He gathered a team to assess the needs of homebuyers of the future.

"We pushed the pause button and re-evaluated for two years...


Batteries Included:
Maryland’s first commercial solar PV and battery storage microgrid improves resiliency and enhances the grid

The end of October marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, whose electrical system aftermath continues to drive calls for an updated and more resilient energy infrastructure nationwide. Earlier in August, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released its full strategy, chock full of references to “smarter” and “more flexible” energy infrastructure. Recent reports and initiatives from NREL and the Department of Homeland Security echoed those sentiments.

Clearly, the importance of resiliency is part of the national-level conversation, and it seems that more communities are taking notice. Islandable, renewable, resilient microgrids are a promising strategy, yet their widespread implementation in commercial applications is still mostly conceptual.

The first commercial, significantly islandable (the hurdle for “microgrid” designation), solar PV and battery hybrid project in Maryland came online this October in Laurel, demonstrating the reality these post-Sandy conversations are aiming to create. While at an elevation of 200 feet and not in danger of storm surge effects, Laurel and many inland communities on the East Coast can none the less be heavily impacted by broader grid shutdowns from hurricanes and other natural or man-made disruptions.

Konterra, a real-estate developer of mixed-use, sustainable communities, recently installed 402 kilowatts of solar generation, two EV charging stations, LED parking lot lighting, and notably, battery storage capacity. The project was inaugurated with much fanfare by the likes of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.

Konterra’s project brings the developer closer to its vision of sustainable, fully integrated communities. ..


NRC failing to enforce seismic regulations at California's Diablo Canyon reactors

Seismic Shift: The NRC and Diablo Canyon
Dave Lochbaum, director, Nuclear Safety Project
November 13, 2013

The 2008 discovery of the Shoreline fault closely offshore from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant again raised the question of whether its reactors conform to the NRC’s safety regulations governing seismic protection.

Depending on which NRC document you read, the “speed limit” at Diablo Canyon against ground acceleration caused by earthquake is 0.4g, 0.5g, or 0.75g. It’s tough to enforce a speed limit when you only know that it’s somewhere between stopped and the speed of light.

PG&E sought to answer this question by requesting that the NRC formally revise the safe shutdown earthquake (SSE) level to the level the company had evaluated for the Hosgri fault under its Long Term Seismic Program (LTSP) in the 1980s. PG&E believes the plant can withstand the ground motion caused by an earthquake on the Shoreline fault. But it has never performed a rigorous analysis of the Hosgri and Shoreline faults using the methods and assumptions required to legally re-define the seismic design basis. As a result, the NRC does not have the information it needs to determine that Diablo Canyon can operate safely.

Dr. Michael Peck, then an NRC resident inspector at Diablo Canyon, pointed out numerous deficiencies in PG&E’s evaluation of the Shoreline fault. Peck concluded that more analysis and likely additional modifications would be necessary before anyone could honestly claim that Diablo Canyon was adequately protected from an earthquake originating along the Shoreline fault.

Even if...


Poll finds blocking solar in Arizona is political suicide

Poll finds blocking solar in Arizona is political suicide

A poll in Arizona has found that 77% of people would be less likely to vote for an election candidate if they proposed ending support for solar.

Arizona is one of the states at the forefront of the fight by utilities to end net metering policies for homes with solar panels installed.

The policy allows PV users to sell excess electricity back on to the grid at the same price that they are charged for it. Critics say those without solar panels end up paying more for grid maintenance. Solar advocates say that is fair because those using electricity generated on their roof make less use of distribution infrastructure.

The survey was commissioned by Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK). The poll was conducted by Republican pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies.

“It continues to be political malpractice for Arizona elected officials to vote to end ...


Wanna buy a small modular reactor company?

BWC bailing out of SMRs?

Babcock & Wilcox to sell majority stake in mPower reactor venture

Jim Ferland, chief executive of Babcock & Wilcox, says the company remains committed to small modular nuclear reactors, but it thinks they can best be brought to the market with B&W as a minority partner.

John Downey
Senior Staff Writer-Charlotte Business Journal

The Babcock & Wilcox Co. (NYSE:BWC) plans to sell up to a 70 percent stake in its Generation mPower joint venture by mid-2014, reducing the Charlotte-based company’s share of the small modular reactor manufacturing project to 20 percent.

And CEO Jim Ferland says he expects that will mean a sale of the intellectual property B&W has developed on the 180-megawatt reactor. He outlined the company's plan during a conference call with analysts Wednesday morning.

That may involve selling a majority stake to a single investor and selling smaller shares to strategic partners with expertise in different parts of the nuclear industry as Generation mPower files with federal regulators next year to get the new technology licensed...


Massive Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes In Texas Town, Causing Evacuation Of 800 Residents

A massive explosion of a 10-inch Chevron natural gas pipeline near a drilling rig in Milford, Texas, led the company to ask law enforcement to evacuate the entire town on Thursday. Milford, in rural Ellis County, is about halfway between Dallas and Waco. The cause is still unknown, and the fire is expected to rage for another day.

At 9:30 a.m. CST, huge gouts of flame shot into the air at a what appeared to be a drilling rig, according to local affiliate FOX 4. Black smoke was visible for at least 20 miles around. Some vehicles at the worksite appeared to be seriously damaged. No injuries have been reported so far.

Chevron’s statement simply describes an “incident at a Chevron pipeline” and offered no further details....

Ellis County officials also asked people on FM 308 from Milford back toward Italy and Maypearl to leave because a second line was reportedly in danger of another explosion. Chevron is expected to let the highly-pressurized gas leak out through the inferno until there is no more gas left in the pipeline segment.

Students and school staff were evacuated...


The Rapid Pickling Of The World’s Oceans Affects More Than Just Shellfish

The Rapid Pickling Of The World’s Oceans Affects More Than Just Shellfish

Hot and sour might be a delicious combination if you’re ordering soup in a Vietnamese restaurant, but when it comes to the world’s oceans, hot and sour is a deadly and destructive duo.

According to research just released by a panel of over 500 of the world’s leading experts on ocean acidification, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are acidifying the oceans at an “unprecedented rate, faster than at any time in the last 300 million years. Since the start of the industrial revolution, oceans have become 26% more acidic.

By 2100, ocean acidification is predicted to increase by 170 percent if current rates of greenhouse gas emissions continue. More acidic water will make the oceans unlivable for about 30 percent of ocean species. About one quarter of annual CO2 emissions from human activities currently end up in the ocean, or about 24 million tons of CO2 every day.

Some of the species most at risk are mollusks like oysters and clams, and corals, but any species that needs a hard shell to survive may be affected. Oyster farmers in the Northwest are already seeing the impact. The global cost of the decline in mollusks could be $130 billion by 2100.

Coral reefs are already imperiled by warming oceans which cause coral bleaching...


In science terms, Japan has no need at all to kill whales

From the Japan Times:

In science terms, Japan has no need at all to kill whales


...But in the Southern Ocean the stakes for thousands of Minke whales, in particular, are higher. If Japan wins the case — and some commentators suggest it is in a strong position — the legal status of its whaling program could be strengthened.

Masayuki Komatsu, Japan’s chief whaling negotiator from 1999 to 2004, told The Australian newspaper that the international court could rule that Japan’s “scientific” whaling program — which many countries as well as Australia believe is a masquerade for a commercial whaling operation — is legitimate.

The worst-case scenario, for opponents of whaling, is that the court overturns the IWC’s 1985/86 moratorium on commercial whaling, known as Article 10E in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. That outcome would be disastrous for whales worldwide — and it is precisely why the legal challenge to Japan, which at first glance many people opposed to whaling would probably support, is highly risky.



Japan passes law to break up electric utility monopolies

New law paves way to break up electricity monopolies
NOV 13, 2013

In light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Diet enacted a law Wednesday to begin a drastic, three-stage reform of the electricity sector that will free up the regionally monopolized supply system.

The law will enable the creation of a nationwide power grid operator in about 2015 as the first part of the reform, and sets a timeline for fully liberalizing the retail market and separating utilities’ power generation and transmission businesses by around 2020.

The government has been seeking to overhaul the power industry after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 and ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster led to power shortages and exposed the vulnerability of the existing electricity supply system.

As a result of the planned reform, the 10 utilities’ regional monopolies on supplying power to households will come to an end, and market competition is expected to increase with the entry of more suppliers, including those dealing with renewable energy.

This will enable ...

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