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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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If nuclear fuel is so cheap, why do we need to subsidize a failing enrichment company?

It is a truism of nuclear power that the fuel cost is inconsequential to the overall cost of the electricity generated. If that's the case, why are subsidies needed for the manufacturing process of that fuel?

Markey, Burgess Call For GAO Investigation of DOE Support for Near-Bankrupt USEC
Jun. 12, 2012 --
Precarious financial situation, contravention of laws, inaccurate national security benefits underscore risk for bailout of nuclear enrichment company

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas) today wrote the Government Accountability Office (GAO) calling for an investigation of the Departments of Energy’s (DOE) continued support for the floundering United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC). In their letter to the GAO, the lawmakers point to USEC’s inability to avoid insolvency in the absence of continued DOE bailouts, most recently in the form of $44 million in assistance so that the company could continue work on USEC’s flawed centrifuge technology and tens of thousands of tons of free uranium transferred from the Energy Department to stave off an immediate shut down of its Kentucky enrichment facility. Additionally, the Congressmen cite the recent credit downgrading, technical problems, and inaccurate assertions about the national security benefits as reasons why the nuclear enrichment program may never reach full commercialization.

“We’ve been told this earmark is all about avoiding risk to our national security, but the real risks of this nuclear bailout is for taxpayers who will be on the hook for questionable government handouts that are worth more than the entire company,” said Rep. Markey. “The GAO should immediately commence an investigation into DOE’s ongoing support for USEC before we throw more money at a company whose junk bond status and junk technology make it better suited for the budgetary junk heap.”

“The Department of Energy has been harming the uranium mining industry for years, dumping excess uranium tails into the market to prop up a failing company that couldn't stand on its own feet. As a result, thousands of miners from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, and others, have had their livelihoods put in jeopardy,” said Rep. Burgess. “It is time the Department of Energy is held accountable for their activities. This GAO report will be the first step in bringing justice for an industry still damaged by Department of Energy policies.”


In the letters, Reps. Markey and Burgess request the GAO’s investigation to examine issues including:
- The assertion that the USEC program is needed in order to fulfill a national security need ...


A copy of Rep Markey's letter here:

Timeline of Rep Markey's work on this issue:

UK Government-backed body invests in "Rock Battery" company

Press Release
12 June 2012

UK Government-backed body invests in Isentropic’s revolutionary, low cost energy storage system.

The ETI is investing £14m ($22m) in Isentropic’s project to build a Pumped Heat Electricity Storage (PHES) system.

Segensworth, Hampshire, England, 12 June 2012

Isentropic Ltd, a private UK company announces that the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has provided project funding and an equity investment, together totalling £14m ($22m). The funding is to build a full scale demonstrator of its revolutionary, low cost energy storage device - called Pumped Heat Electricity Storage (PHES). Isentropic will use the funds to develop and deploy a 1.5MW/6MWh electricity storage unit on a UK primary substation owned by Western Power Distribution in the Midlands region.

The ETI, a partnership between the UK Government and six leading international energy and energy technology companies, has previously commissioned 36 renewable and low carbon projects worth £138m. However, this is the first time it has made an equity investment in any of the companies it has funded.

Isentropic’s PHES technology has the potential to dominate the large-scale electrical storage market because it offers the prospect of being the lowest cost solution to the intermittency problems of renewable energy sources, such as wind. The technology is environmentally friendly, has no geographical constraints, is compact and can demonstrate a round trip efficiency of 75%.

James Macnaghten, Isentropic’s CEO, says: “The equity investment and project funding by the ETI and its corporate partners represents a huge vote of confidence in our unique Pumped Heat Electricity Storage (PHES) technology. We believe this project will allow us to demonstrate our leading position in the fast growing energy storage market.

“According to Lux Research’s report, “Grid Storage under the Microscope: Using Local Knowledge to Forecast Global Demand”, the global demand for grid storage will reach $113.5 billion by 2017, from a $2.8 billion market in 2012. I believe this timely investment could allow us to fulfil our mission to become the global leader in this fast growing industry.”

Dr David Clarke, ETI Chief Executive, says: “Isentropic are innovators in the field of electricity storage. Our investment strategy here is two-fold. Firstly we are providing financial support to allow the company to develop this technology further and staff up accordingly. Secondly we are using our position to expand the testing of this new UK technology to seek to identify the large-scale deployment potential to help provide affordable clean and secure energy solutions for the

Philip Bale, Western Power Distribution Project Engineer for the Midlands area, says: “Western Power Distribution is pleased to be working with Isentropic to develop this innovative form of energy storage. We are looking forward to demonstrating the storage device at one of our primary substations. We believe that distribution scale energy storage could be used to improve the future operation of the distribution network.”


See also Greentech Media's coverage:
$22M for Potential Breakthrough in Energy Storage: Isentropic Energy
Could Isentropic Energy’s pumped-heat electrical energy storage disrupt the large-scale electrical energy storage market?


It's cliché to claim that large-scale energy storage is the holy grail or missing link of renewable energy.

But the problem remains -- energy storage technology is too expensive. Haresh Kamath of EPRI's Technology Innovation Group has said, "Storage is a great idea -- except for the cost." Steve Berberich of the California ISO recently said of energy storage, "It's good stuff, but it's expensive, and we have to find business cases."

Today, the only economical method of storing energy at a large scale is pumped hydro (pumped hydro accounts for almost all large-scale electricity storage) or compressed air energy storage (CAES). Unfortunately, both of those technologies require easy access to an immense airtight underground cavern or a couple of large reservoirs.

Back in 2010 we covered a U.K.-based firm, Isentropic, that claimed it could change the cost structure of energy storage. Today, the firm announced a large funding event to get it to demonstration scale.

The U.K. government-backed...


The intermittent nature of nuclear power

When nuclear goes down, the consequences for energy security are dramatic, expensive and long lasting; and we aren't even going into Fukushima/Chernobyl territory.

The long, hot summer without San Onofre's nuclear power
By Karin Klein
June 11, 2012, 4:20 p.m.

San Onofre's two nuclear-power units have been down for months and will stay that way for months more. Late last week, Southern California Edison officials acknowledged that after early hopes that the reactors would be running safely in time for the summer energy load, it isn't going to happen. They'll have a plan by midsummer for reopening Unit 2, but then the plan will have to go through the lengthy regulatory process. And no one seems even remotely confident of when Unit 3 might return, and if it does, at what level of power? (Unit 1 was closed years ago.)

The problem stems from the huge bundles of tubes that are an integral part of the new steam generators for which ratepayers recently shelled out $671 million. In February, it was discovered that many of the tubes -- especially in Unit 3 -- were wearing thin despite their newness, a result of vibration that caused the closely bundled tubes to rub against each other. These tubes don't get replaced like a hose in your car; they have to be plugged when there's a problem, and if enough of them are plugged, the reactor cannot run at full power.

Two retired natural-gas generators in Huntington Beach have been brought back to life to help see the region through the hot days of summer. That, plus a conservation program, should prevent brownouts, utility officials say -- unless there's a bad heat wave. But the gas plants are a stopgap measure; they can't stay online for more than a few months. Some environmentalists are saying that San Onofre should simply remain closed, though it produces 19% of Edison's power. Running at reduced power wouldn't eliminate the vibration, Friends of the Earth contends, and the risk isn't worth it.

Meanwhile, the license for the plant expires in 2022. Edison officials said they haven't decided whether to apply for a 20-year extension; that decision would need to be made by 2017 to go through the application process.

The company says...


Kucinich - Major Disclosure: Margin of Safety Eroded at Davis-Besse

June 13, 2012
Major Disclosure: Margin of Safety Eroded at Davis-Besse

Despite Lack of Safety Margin, Davis-Besse Restarted Today

Cleveland, Ohio (June 13, 2012)—Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released a video explaining how the cracking at Davis-Besse nuclear power plant operated by FirstEnergy has deteriorated the margin of safety below the threshold required for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue a license to operate. Despite that deterioration, FirstEnergy today restarted the plant.

(Japan) Prime Minister's flawed arguments for Oi reactor restarts play on fear, hobble reform

PM's flawed arguments for Oi reactor restarts play on fear, hobble reform

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's June 8 news conference on the restart of reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture appealed neither to our reason nor our hearts. The message he was trying to convey -- that the Oi plant reactors are safe and need to be brought back online -- was plainly aimed not at the Japanese people, but at Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, whose okay is needed to flip the switch.

This approach cannot possibly win the support of the public, and there are a number of serious flaws with it. First of all, Noda stated that "accidents can be prevented even if the Oi plant is hit with an earthquake or tsunami on the scale of the one that struck Fukushima," and "even if the plant lost power, this would not result in damage to the reactor cores."

To begin with, the greatest lesson we've learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is that no matter how thorough preparations may be, accidents can still happen. Nevertheless, Noda has gone back to the now broken premise that "accidents can't happen" as a way to push forward with the Oi reactor restarts. In other words, the government has returned to the "safety myth" that underpinned nuclear power in Japan before the Fukushima disaster.

We must also take issue with using "Fukushima-like" as a parameter for defining "guaranteed safety." Whatever shape the next accident takes, it certainly won't be exactly the same as the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Internationally, the safety of nuclear power is generally based on five "layers" of protection...


UK can't make nuclear work without "special arrangements"

The end of the article discusses the negative effect this push for nuclear is having on the (heretofore) growing renewable industry in the UK.

UK nuclear plans 'need saving by David Cameron and Francois Hollande'
Commons committee chairman Tim Yeo says heads of state must intervene, after EDF casts doubt on its UK investment

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 12 June 2012 12.10 EDT

The prime minister must step in urgently to rescue the UK's nuclear power programme, or risk it failing, a senior Tory has warned after French nuclear company EDF gave a downbeat report on the prospects for a new fleet of reactors in the UK.

Chairman of the influential energy and climate change committee and former Tory cabinet minister Tim Yeo said that Cameron must speak to his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, in order to decide what conditions are necessary for the state-owned French utility to fulfil its planned investment.

"This is something that can only be done by the heads of government of Britain and France," he told the Guardian. "There may need to be special arrangements for nuclear [separate from the regulation and subsidy of other forms of power]. Given the size of this investment – billions and billions, with a return on investment coming well into the 2020s – this has to involve the heads of government."

Yeo was speaking after the committee's MPs questioned EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz and several other energy company senior directors. De Rivaz was "very downbeat" on the prospects for new nuclear power stations, said Yeo...


(Climate Progress) Must-Read: Scientists Uncover Evidence Of Impending Tipping Point For Earth

Must-Read: Scientists Uncover Evidence Of Impending Tipping Point For Earth
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jun 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

JR: If we stay anywhere near our current greenhouse gas emissions path, we will cross many climate tipping points this century. There’s the nearby tipping point for an ice-free arctic, with all that means for making our weather much more extreme and for triggering another tipping point, the rapid loss of carbon from the permafrost. There’s the tipping point for the “self-amplifying” disintegration of Greenland and, after that, an ice free planet (though we’d cross the point of no return long before the full melting ever happened). Other lines are blurrier: Dust-Bowlification looks to be a continuous process. But the key point is that the changes that occur are largely irreversible over an extended timeframe (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).
We’re near 400 parts per million atmospheric concentration of C02, rising 2+ ppm a year (a rate that is projected to rise as emissions increase and carbon sinks saturate). While no one knows the exact line of demarcation for the various tipping points, the latest science suggests that if we go substantially above, say, 450 ppm we risk starting the chain of events, while going substantially above 500 ppm seems downright suicidal (see links below). We are, sadly, on track for 800 to 1000 ppm this century, which would be the end of modern civilization as we know it today, according to the most recent science. Long before then, however, we’ll cross all the big tipping points. Indeed, as Dr. Tim Lenton explains in Scientific American, ”The worse case would be that kind of scenario in which you tip one thing and that encourages the tipping of another. You get these cascading effects.”
A major new study has been released on tipping points in Nature, “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere” (subs. req’d). The news release is reposted below.

UC Berkeley professor Tony Barnosky explains how an increasing human population, coupled with climate change, could irreversibly alter Earth’s ecosystem. (Video produced by Roxanne Makasdjian)
by Robert Sanders, via UC Berkeley News Center

A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation.

“It really will be a new world, biologically, at that point,” warns Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of ...


European Commission Calls for Coordinated Approach to Renewables

European Commission Calls for Coordinated Approach to Renewables

he European Commission is calling for a more coordinated approach to the support and use of renewables beyond the region-wide target of 20% renewables by 2020.

The Commission urges the establishment of a solid framework beyond that deadline to give regulatory certainty to investors. The “lack of certainty” on the direction of future policies is hindering progress, says the Commission. The approach risks missing out on growth in renewables that generate up to 3 million jobs, boost GDP and save over €500 billion in oil imports.

The EU should be focusing on four main areas for renewed efforts, says the Communication: addressing the energy market and the need for generation incentives that integrate renewables; making support schemes more consistent across the region; encouraging cooperation among member states; and particularly cooperation across Mediterranean states.

“We should continue to develop renewable energy and promote innovative solutions,” commented Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. “We have to do it in a cost-efficient way. This means: producing wind and solar power where it makes economic sense and trading it within Europe, as we do for other products and services.”

Beyond 2020...


See also:
Germany Ranks Highest in Renewable Energy Production

European countries, led by Germany, get more of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources than any other region in the world, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Virginia Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coast

Thought you'd like to know...

Xpost from: http://www.democraticunderground.com/112717374

Virginia Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coast

Virginia Lawmaker Says ‘Sea Level Rise’ Is A ‘Left Wing Term,’ Excises It From State Report On Coastal Flooding
By Rebecca Leber on Jun 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Virginia’s legislature commissioned a $50,000 study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores. To greenlight the project, they omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description itself. According to the House of Delegates sponsor of the study, these are “liberal code words,” even though they are noncontroversial in the climate science community.

Instead of using climate change, sea level rise, and global warming, the study uses terms like “coastal resiliency” and “recurrent flooding.” Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle, who steered the legislation, cut “sea level rise” from the draft. Stolle has also said the “jury’s still out” on humans’ impact on global warming:
State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the “sea level rise” study in the General Assembly to one on “recurrent flooding,” said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.
He said “sea level rise” is a “left-wing term” that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?
“What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door,” Stolle said. “Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it.”

There is a resistance to calling science what it is, even in...

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