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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
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Expert: Nuclear Power Is On Its Deathbed

Expert: Nuclear Power Is On Its Deathbed
A new report from a University of Vermont researcher says the cost of the safety measures needed for nuclear energy will eventually make the power source economically unviable

By Jason Koebler
March 30, 2012

..."From my point of view, the fundamental nature of [nuclear] technology suggests that the future will be as clouded as the past," says Mark Cooper, the author of the report. New safety regulations enacted or being considered by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would push the cost of nuclear energy too high to be economically competitive.


... according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, 80 percent of America's nuclear reactors are vulnerable to at least one of the factors involved in the Fukushima disaster, including vulnerability to earthquakes, fire hazard and elevated spent fuel.

Retrofitting existing reactors with the latest safety equipment is extremely expensive, Cooper says.

"Regardless of what Congress does, the NRC has put on the table very serious and important changes in how we look at safety after Fukushima," Cooper says. "There was one permit [for a new reactor] issued recently, and there's a second one expected in the near future. Frankly, that's about it. I don't see any other reactors moving forward. The economics are so unfriendly that I don't think the rest of the [proposals] are very active."



Japanese Power Struggle Delays Nuclear Regulatory Reform

Japan's attempt to launch new nuclear agency on April 1 fizzles

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government has given up launching a new nuclear regulatory agency on Sunday amid resistance from opposition parties, leaving the country with no other option but to maintain the current nuclear safety framework that has lost public trust in the wake of last year's devastating nuclear accident.

''It is extremely deplorable that the launch of the agency is not in sight,'' nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono told a press conference Friday, referring to the fact the Diet has not even begun deliberating the related bills.

The existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will continue to serve as the primary regulatory body, and the Nuclear Safety Commission of the Cabinet Office, which has overseen NISA's activities, will also remain in place.


The government began planning to set up a new regulatory agency under the Environment Ministry, after the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster stirred arguments that nuclear power regulators should be separated from the industry ministry to do their job properly. The current set-up has been severely criticized for making the regulatory agency a unit of the industry minister, which has worked to promote nuclear power.

But the plan has been found unconvincing ...


Nuclear and gas blow outs show where the dumb money is

Nuclear and gas blow outs show where the dumb money is
The smart money is on energy efficiency and renewables yet a government terrified of "backing winners" appears happy to back the nuclear, oil and gas losers

Follow the money: in the billion-dollar world of the energy business that is good advice. So what do the collapse of a quarter of the UK's new nuclear power plans and the gas still billowing dangerously from Total's Elgin rig in the North Sea tell us about keeping the lights on and tackling climate change at a price we can afford?

It tells us first that, despite decades of lavish public subsidy, nuclear power remains uninvestable without heavy state backing. And second it tells us that even "safe" gas and oil fields pose serious risks, making the race to the ends of the Earth and the depths of the oceans for new fields a true fool's errand.

E.on and RWE are huge, blue-chip multinationals, yet see nuclear as too big a gamble and that's despite the substantial subsidy it would enjoy in the UK, alongside other low-carbon energy projects. When the free-marketeers at the Economist damn nuclear power as the "dream that failed", you know you're in trouble.

But that trouble may not just afflict the companies, but all of us who pay for energy. The French state-controlled giant, EDF, looks well-placed for a nuclear monopoly in the UK, and don't forget it already has its own employees working right in the heart of government. As ministers found with the bungled attempt to get carbon capture and storage (CCS) off the ground, having one bidder for a contract leads either to failure or a fleecing.

Energy minister Charles Hendry sought to blame the German government's abandoning of nuclear power, given that ...


What is the future of nuclear power in the UK?

What is the future of nuclear power in the UK?
News that RWE and E.ON have ditched plans for two nuclear plants in Britain is a setback but the industry is not doomed

Rob Edwards guardian.co.uk, Friday 30 March 2012 11.21 EDT

What is the problem with Britain's nuclear power programme?
The German energy companies RWE and E.ON have abandoned plans to build two new nuclear power stations at Wylfa on the island of Anglesey in north Wales and at Oldbury on the Severn estuary. Depending on the interpretation, this is either a "total train wreck" or just a "disappointing" setback for the government's nuclear ambitions. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. A combination of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster, the German government's subsequent decision to phase out nuclear power and the general economic downturn has long made investments in new reactors look shaky. The sums of money are so large, the potential liabilities so daunting and the financial paybacks so uncertain, that investors have always been wary about nuclear power. Expect more setbacks.

So is nuclear power doomed?
Unlikely. The industry is politically very powerful and has successfully raised itself from the dead several times in the past. It has prevailed upon successive UK governments to take a series of "facilitative actions" to remove barriers to nuclear development. Last November, the pro-nuclear Department of Energy and Climate Change helped set up a high-powered programme management board with nuclear companies to try to prevent the nuclear project going off the rails. Britain's nuclear industry had "lost its international edge", the board said, yet it was now embarked on the UK's "most challenging infrastructure programme".

Why doesn't Britain have its own nuclear energy supplier?
It did, before it was denationalised by the Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the 1980s. That ultimately led to the creation of British Energy to run nuclear stations, which then had to be bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of more than £3bn. In 2008 British Energy was sold lock, stock and barrel to the French government's nuclear company EDF, which now runs Britain's nuclear generating stations. It is also leading the efforts to build new nuclear plants, starting at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

But isn't France losing faith in nuclear power?
There are certainly problems. Two reactors like the ones EDF wants for England are under construction in France and Finland and they are four years late and costing nearly twice as much as predicted. The former head of EDF, François Rousseley, has recently suggested that the reactor design should be dropped, and the French National Audit Office has agreed, saying it is complex and expensive. The replacement of president Nicolas Sarkozy at the elections later this month could also see a shake-up on nuclear policy.

Could there be ...



Nuclear giants RWE and E.ON drop plans to build new UK reactors
German nuclear companies pull out of Horizon project for two new plants, with France's EDF most likely to pick up contract


(Fukushima) The big question: How safe is fish to eat?

The big question: How safe is fish to eat?
March 27, 2012

For a fish-eating nation like Japan, research findings on cesium contamination in marine life since the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture a year ago is quite disconcerting.

Sea creatures dwelling on the ocean floor continue to show high levels of contamination.


Although the concentration of radioactive substances in seawater has gradually dropped to below detectable levels, the contamination has begun to gradually sink to the ocean floor, which is host to much marine life.


Over a prolonged period, higher cesium concentrations are found all the way up in the marine food chain.

"Fish are able to expel cesium from their body at some point, but those living on the ocean floor will continue becoming contaminated so long as they eat contaminated food," says Takashi Ishimaru, a professor at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology.

Because the ocean floor is...


Cesium levels in animals around Chernobyl fail to drop
By ICHIRO MATSUO / Staff Writer

Wildlife in an animal sanctuary in Belarus, close to the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, continues to show high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium, researchers say.

A similar pattern has emerged in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, where a meltdown occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake. There, surveys show that wild boar and other animals are displaying cesium levels in excess of what is deemed safe for human consumption.

The sanctuary in Belarus, called the Polessie State Radiation and Ecological Reserve, covers 2,165 square kilometers. It was established north of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1988.

To this day, the area remains highly contaminated. Of the total amount of cesium-137 that fell on Belarus, 30 percent, or 4,810 terabecquerels (1 terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels), fell on the area where the preserve is located, while 70 percent, (or 444 terabecquerels) of the strontium-90 fallout landed there.

Most of the plutonium fallout, 14.8 terabecquerels...


Another $22 billion needed due to nuclear meltdowns

And of course, this doesn't count the direct payments the national government has made to aid the victims. This is just public funds that have been required to maintain TEPCO as a functioning economic unit.

Operator of crippled Japan nuclear plant seeks another $22 billion to stay afloat

TOKYO — The power company behind Japan’s nuclear crisis is seeking another $22 billion from a state-backed fund to avoid insolvency as the cost of compensation and stabilizing damaged reactors swells.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. President Toshio Nishizawa told a news conference Thursday that the company is asking for 1 trillion yen ($12 billion) to stay afloat and another 846 billion yen ($10.2 billion) to cover compensation for thousands affected by the nuclear crisis.

...“Our financial condition is extremely severe. It’s getting worse by the day,” Nishizawa said.

The 1 trillion yen needed to stay in business would bring the total amount of public money injected into TEPCO to 2.5 trillion yen ($30.7 billion), virtually nationalizing the company.



A Practical, Affordable (and Safe) Clean Electric Energy Plan by Craig Severance

This article provides a great deal of food for thought. Severance is a CPA and this piece is written from the view of how utilities must adapt and change in order to provide maximum consumer benefit going into the future. It is a quite bit different than most "plans" that are out there. It has the added advantage of being very readable - it is a blog post, not a research paper.

Content summary:
A Practical, Affordable (and Safe) Clean Electric Energy Plan
by Craig Severance March 14, 2011

Investment, or Runaway Spending?

The Way to a Fail.

Little or No Need for Government Subsidies.

What Electric Customers Need.
Need #1: Affordable...
Need #2: Always Available....
Need #3: Clean Power...

Reducing Unemployment.

Challenges Facing Electric Utilities.

Utility Challenge #1: Demand is Soft and Unpredictable.
Utility Challenge #2: Consumers Can Now Walk Away.
Utility Challenge #3: Unused Capacity.
Utility Challenge #4: Need to Replace Aging Power Plants
Utility Challenge #5: New Power Plants Are Much More Expensive.

How Much Money Will Need to Be Invested?
Gas and Small Hydro.
Wind and Geothermal.
Concentrating Solar Power.
New Coal.
New Nuclear.

This Project is no Moon Shot -- It's Much More Costly.

Innovative Strategies To Make Clean Energy Goal Affordable.

Innovative Strategy #1: Do Customer Level Projects First.
Innovative Strategy #2: Storage to Allow Full Use of Idle Capacity, and Full Use of Wind and Solar.
Innovative Strategy #3: Create a "Legacy" Electric System.

A sampling of the text:
Utility Challenge #2: Consumers Can Now Walk Away.

...Electric customers can now "walk away" from their central utility not only through efficiency, but also by generating their own power. As recently noted by Yahoo Finance, on-site electricity generation with solar panels is now reaching parity with retail electric rates. Combined Heat and Power offers customers yet another cost-effective distributed power solution. The days of a captive customer base for central utilities are over.

The unspoken fear of all utility managers is the Death Spiral Scenario. In this nightmare, a utility commits to build a very expensive new power plant. However, when electric rates are raised to pay for the new plant, the rate shock moves customers to cut their kWh use. The utility then has no way to pay for the new power plant unless it raises rates even higher -- causing a further spiral as customers cut their use even more or "walk away".


Utility Challenge #5: New Power Plants Are Much More Expensive. ...We've gotten used to driving the old paid-off clunker....


This is personal. My two year old grandson Ashton will only be 26 years old in 2035. His generation will see the end of affordable natural gas, coal and uranium. What are we leaving them? There will be no end to the sun, the wind, the rain (hydro power), or the heat in the earth.

We can build a practical Legacy System. The time to start is now.

Fears grow over explosion and eco damage of leaking North Sea gas rig

Fears grow over explosion and eco damage of leaking North Sea gas rig
Scientists warn oil from Elgin platform owned by Total risks poisoning marine life alongside potential methane explosion

Fears are growing that a naked flame on the top of a leaking gas rig could spark a massive explosion and lead to a major pollution incident in the North Sea.

Total, the operator of the Elgin platform 140 miles east of Aberdeen, confirmed that in addition to a growing methane gas "cloud", a 4.8sq km sheen of oil "condensates" now covered the surface of the water near the platform. But the company played down risks of major marine or air pollution. "The situation is currently stable. We continue to take all possible measures to try to identify the source and cause of the leak and to bring it under control," the company said in a statement.

According to Total, engineers are still trying to ascertain precisely where the gas and oil leaks are coming from. It is believed that the main reservoir at the base of the drill shaft has been closed off, but gas and condensates may be leaking from any one of many points above it.

Martin Preston, marine pollution specialist and honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool, said that from an environmental standpoint, both greenhouse gas emissions and local fish deaths were a concern. "The methane release represents a very significant explosion hazard, and of course methane is a potent greenhouse gas. The gas in this field is 'sour gas' – ie it contains hydrogen sulphide which is very poisonous to humans and aquatic life – so localised risks to marine life are likely. The hydrogen sulphide content of the current release is unclear at present. Localised fish kills cannot be ruled out."

Oil pollution expert ...


Flare still burning on North Sea gas leak platform
Total says wind is blowing gas away from flare on Elgin platform – but there is a high risk of explosion if two come into contact

A flare is still burning on the North Sea platform that has been leaking gas for the last four days.

Total, the French oil company that operates the platform, first disclosed that the flare was still burning late on Tuesday night. The wind is blowing the gas in the opposite direction but, if it should come into contact with the flare, there is a high risk of explosion.

David Hainsworth, health and safety manager for Total UK, told the Guardian that Total had not informed the media earlier the flare was still burning because "we have been trying to feed information that is pertinent as the situation was unfolding, the fact that the flare was burning was not one of the most pertinent parts of information. It [the flare] is not our immediate concern."

The fact that the flare is still alight was only made clear last night following a direct question on Channel 4 News. "I was asked a direct question by Channel 4. I can only answer questions," Hainsworth said. "[It was] not our number one top priority whether the flare was alight. We've been trying to get useful information to the media to tell [the public]."

He said the odds of the gas connecting with the flare and exploding were "low"...


US acted to conceal evidence of intelligence failure before 9/11

US acted to conceal evidence of intelligence failure before 9/11
Operation Foxden, delayed by turf war between the FBI and the CIA, given green light three days before the al-Qaida attacks

Ian Cobain
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 27 March 2012 15.26 EDT

The US government shut down a series of court cases arising from a multimillion pound business dispute in order to conceal evidence of a damning intelligence failure shortly before the 9/11 attacks, MPs were told.

Moreover, the UK government is now seeking similar powers that could be used to prevent evidence of illegal acts and embarrassing failures from emerging in court, David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, told the Commons.


Davis said that in 1998 the FBI seized upon an opportunity to eavesdrop on every landline and telephone call into and out of Afghanistan in a bid to build intelligence on the Taliban. The Bureau discovered that the Taliban regime had awarded a major telephone network contract to a joint US-UK venture, run by an American entrepreneur, Ehsanollah Bayat and two British businessmen, Stuart Bentham and Lord Michael Cecil.

"The plan was simple" Davis said. "Because the Taliban wanted American equipment for their new phone network, this would allow the FBI and NSA, the National Security Agency, to build extra circuits into all the equipment before it was flown out to Afghanistan for use. Once installed, these extra circuits would allow the FBI and NSA to record or listen live to every single landline and mobile phone call in Afghanistan. The FBI would know the time the call was made and its duration. They would know the caller's name, the number dialled, and even the caller's PIN."

But the plan, Operation Foxden ...


San Onofre nuclear power plant prohibited from restarting

San Onofre nuclear power plant prohibited from restarting
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission lays out steps that Southern California Edison must take before the troubled San Onofre plant will be allowed to come back on line.

By Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 2012

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, citing serious concerns about equipment failures at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, has prohibited Southern California Edison from restarting the plant until the problems are thoroughly understood and fixed.

The plant has been shut down for two months, the longest in San Onofre's history, after a tube leak in one of the plant's steam generators released a small amount of radioactive steam. Since then, unusual wear has been found on hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

Neither regulators nor Edison have said when they believe the plant will reopen. San Onofre is a major supplier of power for Southern California, producing about 2,200 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to serve 1.4 million households. It is Southern California's only nuclear power plant.

State officials are already working on contingency plans to avoid power outages during the summer months if the plant remains out of commission. They are considering transmission upgrades, bringing back retired generating units at a natural gas plant in Huntington Beach and launching new conservation efforts, including flex-alerts to encourage customers to use less energy.

Until now, the cause of the tube problems had been a mystery....

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