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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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Posted by Evan Osnos

In the new PBS “Frontline” documentary, “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown,” a Japanese colonel named Shinji Iwakuma recalls a moment, shortly after the tsunami a year ago, when he was called in to try to prevent the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear-power station from blowing up. Iwakuma’s mission was to pump water onto the overheating nuclear fuel, and he was in a jeep pulling up to the base of a reactor when the building around the reactor exploded. “Lumps of concrete came ripping through the roof” of the jeep, he said. “Radioactive matter was leaking in through the bindings of our masks. Our dosimeters were beeping constantly.” The soldiers were wounded but somehow managed to get out of there fast enough to avoid serious doses of radiation. “We were lucky,” Iwakuma says. “Just lucky.”

Good fortune is not the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Fukushima these days. But it is, in fact, one of the clearest—and most troubling—lessons to be drawn from the Fukushima story: plain old luck, along with a colossal dose of heroism and quick-thinking, prevented the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns from wounding Japan even more thoroughly than they did. That is the lesson that comes through in several new projects appearing in preparation for the first anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The “Frontline” documentary by the filmmaker...

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2012/03/the-media-did-not-hype-fukushima.html#ixzz1nzIi7glX

The abuse of political power is as dangerous as nuclear power itself

The abuse of political power is as dangerous as nuclear power itself
The newly evicted protesters against proposed nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point reject both the technology and the flaunting of democracy

It's been a busy week for the bailiffs. Even as one group was carting people off from the steps of St Paul's in London on Monday night to remove Occupy protesters, so another was storming a Somerset farmhouse early on Wednesday to snuff out a small protest against the proposed two new Hinkley C nuclear power stations.

End of story? Not at all. Occupy will be back and anger in Someset is growing at the way that the nuclear steamroller is gearing up to build its stations. EDF, who went to the high court in London rather than Bristol, tried to get a blanket injunction on anyone going near the site but was thwarted by the court which could see no justification in granting anything so wideranging.

The Somerset protests are against nuclear power itself but also at the way the company appears to be flaunting democracy and the new planning laws even before it starts building. EDF has permission to spend £100m preparing the site for the two power stations on the basis that they will return many millions tonnes of earth and restore the land to exactly how it was, should a public inspector decline to give them planning permsssion in 2013.

This is clearly impossible, so the EDF must be 100% certain that it will get permission to build. In which case, say the protesters, the whole consultation exercise and planning process is a sham - a situation that looks likely to be subject to further court cases.

Half of all local residents are against the power station but everyone in the area is united in believing that the planning system has been corrupted by cash...


(UK) Local opposition to onshore windfarms has tripled, poll shows

Local opposition to onshore windfarms has tripled, poll shows
National debate over energy sources has become sharply polarised since 2010, Guardian research reveals

Local opposition to onshore windfarms has tripled since 2010, a new Guardian poll reveals, following a series of political and media attacks on the renewable technology.

However, a large majority of the British public (60%) remains firmly in favour of wind power, while also opposing the building of new nuclear or coal power plants in their local area.

The poll shows that the national debate over wind energyis becoming sharply polarised, with the percentage of Britons strongly supporting the building of a new windfarm in their area going up by 5%, and the percentage strongly against rising by 14%.

The government has firmly backed wind power, along with nuclear power and gas when the carbon emissions are captured and buried, as the mix needed to provide secure, affordable energy over the coming decade and beyond, while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

"A responsible energy policy...


Are India nuclear power plants safe: 3 deaths at Kalpakkam raises doubts

Are India nuclear power plants safe: 3 deaths at Kalpakkam raises doubts

India, March 1 -- By John C K Daly India is betting heavily on nuclear power to meet its surging energy needs. While India currently has six nuclear power plants (NPPs) with 20 reactors generating 4 780 megawatts seven other reactors are under construction and are expected to generate an additional 5 300 megawatts.


As for worries about the hazards of nuclear power generation earlier this month Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee told a gathering at the Department of Atomic Energy s Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology in Indore "All atomic energy plants in the country are totally secured as per international standards and are also capable of dealing with natural calamities like tsunamis or earthquakes."


After being in denial for years last month the selfsame Department of Atomic Energy for the first time admitted that the deaths of its employees and their dependents at the Kalpakkam nuclear site were caused by multiple myeloma a rare form of bone marrow cancer linked to nuclear radiation.

Not that the DAE willingly divulged the information it came to light in response to a Right to Information (RTI) inquiry from October 2011 with the DAE acknowledging that nine people including three employees working at the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) at Kalpakkam 44 miles from Chennai died of multiple myeloma and bone cancer between 1995 and 2011. The DAE had previously stonewalled all previous requests for information.

The report paints a troubling picture of the policies at the DAE which sends out high ranking officials with bland assurances ...


A Green Empire

A Green Empire
How Anthony Malkin ’84 engineered the largest “green” retrofit ever
by Jonathan Shaw
March-April 2012

WHEN IT OPENED in 1931, the Empire State Building was not only the biggest building in the world, it was—with the tallest elevators ever created—an exemplar of the mechanical age. But recently, the landmark had begun to show its years. In 2006, the Malkin family, signficant owners who are responsible for the building’s day-to-day operations, faced a decision: as Anthony Malkin ’84 put it to his father, Peter Malkin ’55, J.D. ’58, they could either sell the iconic structure or take on massive infrastructure upgrades likely to cost half a billion dollars or more. After securing the agreement of the Leona Helmsley estate (which shares control of the building’s operating lease with the Malkins), they decided to take the riskier course and pursue a turnaround of the asset while simultaneously making the building an energy-efficient exemplar of the green age.

People tend to focus on vehicle emissions as a principal source of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide that propels global warming. But building operations actually account for a much greater share of carbon emissions—about 40 percent—and are therefore the single most important contributor to climate change. (In New York City, the number is closer to 80 percent.) And buildings, unlike vehicles, are also an enduring capital investment. Tony Malkin points out that three decades from now, approximately 80 percent of current structures in New York City will still be in use. “If you want to turn back carbon emissions,” he says, “you have to deal with existing buildings.”

Beyond an undertaking that he hoped would be both environmentally and economically sound for his own building, Malkin aspired to something much larger: creating a reproducible, scalable process for energy-efficiency retrofits that could be adopted worldwide in other big buildings, in hospitals, and on campuses. “If we could put all the best minds together on this particular task,” he reasoned, “it could fulfill all of my objectives in life, ranging from making money to making the world a better place.” It was a green synergy.

In 2007, meanwhile...


$8.3 B: A Big Price Tag For a DOE Dice Roll

$8.3 B: A Big Price Tag For a DOE Dice Roll

Kelly Vaughn
Senior PR Coordinator
February 27, 2012

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this month he expects to finalize an $8.3 billion DOE loan guarantee for Southern Company’s two new nuclear reactors. This announcement comes on the heels of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent decision to approve one of the projects in Waynesboro, Georgia—the first time the commission has approved construction of a new nuclear reactor since 1978.


Some argue that transitioning to a clean, affordable, and secure electric system should include an “all options on the table” approach, and that all available low-carbon technologies—nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration, natural gas, and renewables—should be pursued simultaneously and with equal rigor. RMI disagrees.

In a rapidly shifting industry facing dramatically changing demands and technology options, massive, capital-intensive projects that lock electricity providers into one option for 50 years or more are not a smart move. Despite the carbon benefits, pursuing nuclear does not address critical issues around security, financial stability, and competition.

Companies making multi-billion-dollar, multi-decade bets have the opportunity to place the right ones now. Reinventing Fire, RMI’s roadmap to a clean-energy future, points out that the greatest drivers of transformational change to our current electric system may not be carbon legislation, but rather disruptive technologies like low-cost solar power and increasing customer engagement and control...


Reinventing Fire:

Iran, Electric Cars and Our Stuck Narrative

Iran, Electric Cars and Our Stuck Narrative

Randy Essex
Editorial Director
December 30, 2011


Our national leaders are stuck and our narrative is stuck.

The entirely predictable response to Iran’s threat will be calls for military action and increased domestic oil production.

These decades-old ideas, which have not yet made us secure and leave us to depend on the continued stability of Saudi Arabia, of course do nothing to address the environmental and economic risks of continued fossil fuel dependency. We urgently need a new storyline, such as the Reinventing Fire vision of freeing the U.S. from fossil fuels by 2050, with business leading the way.
The only way to avoid these costs is to stop using oil, and RMI research shows a huge potential prize for doing so—the transportation sector alone holds a $3.8 trillion opportunity from oil not needed.


Coming of age during to first oil embargo Mr. Essex's observations on the energy situation are an interesting read...

Innovation in solar panels overcomes many mundane problems

If you follow solar technology you'll appreciate the solutions this company has come up with for several annoying problems related to designing a solar array.

28 Feb on PBS: Fighting the Unthinkable: Japan’s Furious Scramble to Contain Catastrophe

Fighting the Unthinkable: Japan’s Furious Scramble to Contain Catastrophe
Published: February 27, 2012

PBS gets an early start on observing the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan with “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown,” a “Frontline” episode on Tuesday that doesn’t feel particularly definitive but certainly recaptures the fear, uncertainty and courage engendered by the disaster.

The program tells the story of what went on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant through interviews with people who were working there, as well as with Naoto Kan, Japan’s prime minister at the time, and a not-very-helpful spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant operator.

It is harrowing stuff, of course, full of cascading problems and difficult decisions. The March 11 earthquake shook the plant — “We were all on our knees, holding onto the railings,” one worker recalls — yet the realization that the plant was in trouble took a while to dawn because workers believed that it had been designed to withstand any punishment an earthquake could bring.

The serious trouble began when the tsunami waves struck; the biggest, we’re told, was more than twice the height of the plant’s protective sea wall. Backup generators that were supposed to cool the nuclear fuel were flooded, something that had been inconceivable to workers...


Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis

Japan Weighed Evacuating Tokyo in Nuclear Crisis
Issei Kato/Reuters, via Bloomberg
Published: February 27, 2012

TOKYO — In the darkest moments of last year’s nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.

The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offers one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan’s response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that shut down the plant’s cooling systems.

The team interviewed more than 300 people, including top nuclear regulators and government officials, as well as the prime minister during the crisis, Naoto Kan. They were granted extraordinary access, in part because of a strong public demand for greater accountability and because the organization’s founder, Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan’s most respected public intellectuals.

An advance copy of the report describes how Japan’s response was hindered at times by a debilitating breakdown in trust between the major actors: Mr. Kan; the Tokyo headquarters of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco; and the manager at the stricken plant. The conflicts produced confused flows of sometimes contradictory information in the early days of the crisis, the report said.

It describes frantic phone calls ...

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