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kristopher

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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 02:20 AM
Number of posts: 29,798

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Public Transit Is Underfunded Because the Wealthy Don’t Rely on It

Public Transit Is Underfunded Because the Wealthy Don’t Rely on It
BY KEITH BARRY12.16.136:30 AM

<snip>

...“Since the dominant benefit is travel time savings,” the study’s authors wrote, “the majority of benefits tend to accrue to the strata most represented by BRT users — typically lower- and middle-income.”

While it’s great to have a system that improves transportation access for the majority of a city’s population, BRT’s mass appeal could — ironically — be a political concern that prevents its adoption, at least in the U.S. As Alex Pareene wrote in Salon, public transit often suffers because politicians and donors rarely rely on it. The results show in the states, whose existing BRT systems lag behind those in cities around the world.

Even in densely populated and traditionally liberal cities like New York and Minneapolis, politicians neglect transit. And “because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere,” Pareene wrote.

Indeed, the Embarq report echoes the public transit wealth gap, and cites that most BRT systems are often paid for by tax revenue collected from those who may never ride it. Bogota’s famed TransMilenio was financed by increased gasoline taxes, and all the systems required both substantial investment and support from municipalities.

...

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2013/12/brt-middle-class/


Link to study:
http://www.embarq.org/sites/default/files/Social-Environmental-Economic-Impacts-BRT-Bus-Rapid-Transit-EMBARQ.pdf

WTF Japan? - Firms linked to municipal assembly members received nuclear facility contracts

Firms linked to municipal assembly members received nuclear facility contracts
December 22, 2013

By SATOSHI OTANI/ Staff Writer

ROKKASHO, Aomori Prefecture--With the public alarm over the safety of nuclear facilities following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, municipal assembly members would be expected to monitor closely any local nuclear-related project and avoid any appearance of impropriety.

However, The Asahi Shimbun has learned that did not occur in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, which is home to a number of facilities connected to the nation's nuclear fuel recycling program.

Five construction companies in the village won construction orders totaling at least 520 million yen ($5 million) in fiscal 2011 and 2012 after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. All five companies were headed by individuals related to incumbent Rokkasho municipal assembly members.

....

The five companies in question are now headed by either the wife, son or younger brother of a Rokkasho municipal assembly member. However, all five assembly members once served as president of the companies and three were the founders.

The assembly members connected ...

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/AJ201312220026


Background
Rokkasho: nuclear white elephant or yen sucking black hole?

...Two decades and $21 billion after construction commenced, Japan’s nuclear reprocessing and waste storage facility at Rokkasho may finally start operating in 2014, but probably later. There have been numerous delays and large cost overruns, but the operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), is hopeful because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has revived prospects for restarting nuclear reactors. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission and JNFL want to get the facility running as soon as possible, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is busy reviewing applications to restart 12 reactors based on the new safety guidelines issued in July 2013.
...
Much more: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/09/21/commentary/rokkasho-nuclear-white-elephant-or-yen-sucking-black-hole/

And

Rokkasho and a hard place
The government’s fudge on its nuclear future remains unconvincing

Nov 10th 2012 | ROKKASHO

THIS remote north-eastern coastal village in Aomori prefecture would delight a North Korean or Iranian spy. Not because of the rolling countryside, but the uranium-enrichment facility, the plant undergoing testing to make nuclear fuel by reprocessing spent uranium and plutonium, and the stash of a good part of Japan’s stockpiles of more than nine tonnes of separated plutonium—enough, experts say, to make more than 1,000 nuclear warheads.

The Rokkasho plant seems an anomaly in a country that forswears nuclear weapons and that has shut down all but two of its 54 nuclear reactors. Yet the same government that says it wants to phase out atomic energy by the end of the 2030s also insists that it is committed soon to start reprocessing enough nuclear waste at Rokkasho to provide fuel for Japan’s nuclear-power plants to go flat out into the 2050s. It does not take much prodding for officials to concede a potential contradiction, big enough to render Japan’s nuclear policy almost meaningless.

The key to understanding the contradiction is this village of 11,000, and the immense leverage its plant has over national nuclear policy. Near-countrywide disgust followed the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant last year. Yet, officials say, Rokkasho has helped force the administration of Yoshihiko Noda to water down its plans for ending dependency on nuclear power, even though the prime minister’s popularity is plunging. Polls suggest many of the electorate favour a firmer anti-nuclear stance.

The plant plays a strong hand, though its completion is 15 years behind schedule and it has been a financial black hole. Rokkasho’s mayor, Kenji Furukawa, argues that if the plant were suspended after {Yen}2.2 trillion ($28 billion) had been spent on it, the blow to a once-poor fishing and farming village would be devastating. Rokkasho has grown dependent on the reprocessing complex for nearly all its jobs and income.

A stronger economic argument...

http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21566018-governments-fudge-its-nuclear-future-remains-unconvincing-rokkasho-and-hard-place

Special for GG: Sex, gluttony and hoarding marked evolution of flowering plants

Given GG's current thesis on the nature of life, I thought he'd like to see this.

December 22, 2013
Sex, gluttony and hoarding marked evolution of flowering plants
By GEOFFREY MOHAN
Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Never mind the selfish gene — the cellular family history of the oldest living species of flowering plants is marked by enough sex and gluttony to earn a place in Shakespeare’s folio.

The powerhouse organelles inside cells of Amborella trichopoda, a woody shrub that grows only in the humid jungles of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, gobbled up and retained the entire genome from the equivalent organelles of four different species, three of moss and one of algae, according to a study of the plant’s mitochondrial DNA published this week in the journal Nature.

The results are the product of a years-long effort to sequence the full genome of the plant, a crucial step in solving what Charles Darwin once called “the abominable mystery” — the sudden flourishing long ago of several hundred thousand species of flowering plants.

An analysis of the nuclear DNA of the species, published in the same edition of Nature, revealed that the plant is the equivalent of the animal kingdom’s duck-billed platypus — a solitary sister left behind more than 100 million years ago by what became a panoply of flowering, or fruiting, plants.

The genome map...


http://www.starbeacon.com/nationalnews/x1353068212/Sex-gluttony-and-hoarding-marked-evolution-of-flowering-plants

New fast breeder nuclear reactor for Dounreay, Scotland

Let me apologize for omitting the fact that this is a story from 1966; I want you to know I didn't do it lightly. When I first read the article, I was struck by how similar the arguments presented were to those being used today. Since this gives us a view of how those predictions of the value of nuclear power were borne out by what actually came to pass I thought the historical lesson justified the omission from the title bar. My apologies to anyone that thinks I decided poorly.


9 February 1966 BBC
New nuclear reactor for Dounreay

A nuclear reactor described as "the system of the next century" is to be built at the Dounreay power station on the north coast of Scotland.
...

'The future'

At a press conference, Mr Cousins said there had been a change in attitude towards nuclear power and many local authorities had wanted the PFR built in their area.
...Scientists say the technology used by the PFR is the most economical way to produce electrical power.
...The new reactor will benefit the local economy in Caithness with 700 construction jobs to be filled.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/february/9/newsid_2730000/2730083.stm

The legacy
Scottish nuclear fuel leak 'will never be completely cleaned up'

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has abandoned its aim to remove all traces of contamination from the north coast seabed

Rob Edwards
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 September 2011 07.48 EDT


<snip>

...Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometre radius of the plant since 1997.

The most radioactive of the particles are regarded by experts as potentially lethal if ingested. Similar in size to grains of sand, they contain caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, but they can also incorporate traces of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years – meaning that is the time period for half of the material to break down.

The particles are milled shards from the reprocessing of irradiated uranium and plutonium fuel from two long-defunct reactors. They are thought to have drained into the sea with discharges from cooling ponds.

In 2007, Dounreay, which is now being decommissioned, pleaded guilty at Wick sheriff court to a "failure to prevent fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel being discharged into the environment". The plant's operator at the time, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, was fined £140,000....


http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/sep/21/scottish-nuclear-leak-clean-up


Background from research report to Scottish Parliament

Research Note 01/03
9 January 2001

DOUNREAY


The Dounreay Nuclear Power Development Establishment, situated near Thurso, Caithness, was established in 1955 primarily to pursue the UK Government policy objective of developing fast breeder reactor technology. It was located on a remote Second World War airfield partly for safety reasons as new technology was to be used. Today the only operating reactor on the site is at the Ministry of Defence Vulcan Nuclear Reactor Training Establishment (VNRTE), which shares emergency facilities with the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), but is separate in all other regards.

Nuclear power stations
Electricity is produced from nuclear power stations in much the same way as it is in conventional power stations. The difference is in how the steam that drives the turbines is produced. In conventional plants, fuel (e.g. gas, coal) is burnt to produce heat in order to convert water to steam. In nuclear plants the heat needed is produced from nuclear reactions within a reactor.

Fast reactor technology
The fuel most commonly used in nuclear reactors is uranium. Natural uranium consists primarily of two different isotopes: uranium-238 and uranium-235. Only uranium-235 can be used as a nuclear fuel, but in conventional thermal reactors providing research and uranium-238 can be transformed into plutonium-239, which itself can be used as nuclear fuel.
Fast breeder reactors can convert uranium-238 into plutonium-239 at a rate faster than they consume their original fuel. This means that in theory, with multiple recycling of fuel, fast reactors could extend the energy output from the world's uranium fuel reserves 25 fold.1

Fast breeder technology, with its associated increases in fuel efficiency, was considered a solution to the UK's future energy needs in the 1950s.

End of the fast reactor programme
Fast breeder technology at Dounreay seems to have been undermined by a number of factors. In 1988 the Government announced that funding was being withdrawn from the fast reactor programme as it was not going to live up to its economic potential. In June 1998 Donald Dewar, then Secretary of State for Scotland, and John Battle, then Energy Minister at the DTI, made a joint statement indicating that whilst the technology had been useful in the development of the nuclear industry, it was the case that:
"there is no economic case for supporting commercial reprocessing at Dounreay over the longer term."


It seems likely that the decision to halt the fast breeder programme and decommissioning was based not only on economic considerations but also on the fact that there were safety concerns over Dounreay's condition and activities, making the site politically sensitive.
The decommissioning decision is that Dounreay will accept no more commercial reprocessing contracts other than those where legally binding contracts already exist. The work involving these contracts is expected to cease in 2006.


THE DOUNREAY SITE
Dounreay's reactors
Three reactors were operated on the civilian site at Dounreay over a period from 1958 to 1994. These reactors are all now closed and they, together with the supporting laboratories and fuel processing areas, are in various stages of decommissioning.

1958 Dounreay Materials Testing Reactor (DMTR) comes online
1959 Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) comes online
1969 DMTR ceases operation
1974 Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) online
1977 DFR ceases operation
1994 PFR ceases operation

The Prototype Fast Reactor (PFR) and Dounreay Fast Reactor (DFR) are undergoing stage 1 decommissioning whilst the Dounreay Materials Test Reactor (DMTR) having already undergone stage 1 decommissioning, is under a care and maintenance regime...

<snip 17 pages>

The cost of decommissioning and restoring the Dounreay site is estimated to be in the region of £4 billion over a 50-60 year timescale. These costs will be met by the public purse.

Conservative groups spend $1bn a year to fight action on climate change

Conservative groups spend $1bn a year to fight action on climate change
• Author: 'I call it the climate-change counter movement'
• Study focuses on groups opposing US political action

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent
theguardian.com, Friday 20 December 2013 14.58 EST

.... “It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this. This is a large-scale political effort.”

Brulle's study, published on Friday in the journal Climatic Change, offers the most definitive exposure to date of the political and financial forces blocking American action on climate change. But as he acknowledged, there are still big gaps.

It was not always possible to separate funds designated strictly for climate-change work from overall budgets, Brulle said. “Since the majority of the organizations are multiple focus organizations, not all of this income was devoted to climate change activities.”

Some of the think tanks on Brulle's list – such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) – said they had no institutional position on climate change and did not control the output of their scholars. In addition, Brulle acknowledged that he was unable to uncover the full extent of funding sources to the effort to oppose action on climate change. About three-quarters of the funds were routed through trusts or other mechanisms that assure anonymity to donors – a trend Brulle described as disturbing and a threat to democracy.

“This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” he said. “They have their profits and they hire people to write books that say climate change is not real. They hear people to go on TV and say climate change is not real. It ends up that people without economic power don't have the same size voice as the people who have economic power, and so it ends up distorting democracy.

“That is the bottom line here. These are unaccountable organisations...


http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/20/conservative-groups-1bn-against-climate-change

We can get a better picture than that

From The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013
http://www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Report-2013.html#executive_summary_and_conclusions


As of the middle of 2013, a total of 31 countries were operating nuclear fission reactors for energy purposes. Nuclear power plants generated 2,346 terawatt-hours (TWh or billion kilowatt-hours) of electricity in 2012 [21], less than in 1999 and a 172 TWh or 6.8 percent decrease compared to 2011 as well as 11.8 percent below the historic maximum nuclear generation in 2006. The maximum contribution of nuclear power to commercial electricity generation worldwide was reached in 1993 with 17 percent (see figure 1). It has dropped to 10.4 percent in 2012, a level last seen in the 1980s. According to BP, the nuclear share in commercial primary energy consumption dropped to 4.5 percent, “the lowest since 1984”. [22]

Figure 1: Nuclear Electricity Generation in the World



About three-quarters of the decrease is due to the continuing and substantial generation drop in Japan (–139 TWh or –50 percent over the previous year), which in three years fell back from the 3rd to the 18th position of nuclear generators. Production also decreased for differing reasons in all top five nuclear generating countries: United States (–20 TWh or –2.5 percent), France (–16 TWh/–4 percent), Germany (–8 TWh/–10 percent), South Korea (–7 TWh/5 percent) and Russia with an insignificant drop (–0.8 TWh/–0.5 percent).

Nuclear generation declined in a total of 17 countries, while in 14 countries it increased or remained stable [23]. Seven countries [24] generated their historic maximum in 2012.


Figure 2. Nuclear Power Generation by Country, 2012/2011 and Historic Maximum


The “big five” nuclear generating countries—by rank: the United States, France, Russia, South Korea and Germany—generated 67 percent of all nuclear electricity in the world. The three countries that have phased out nuclear power (Italy, Kazakhstan, Lithuania), and Armenia, generated their historic maximum of nuclear electricity in the 1980s. Several other countries’ nuclear power generation peaked in the 1990s, among them Belgium, Canada, Japan, and the U.K. A further six countries peaked their nuclear generation between 2001 and 2005: Bulgaria, France, Germany, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Among the countries with a steady increase in nuclear generation are China, the Czech Republic and Russia. However, even where countries are increasing their nuclear electricity production this is in most cases not keeping pace with overall increases in electricity demand leading to a reduced and declining role for nuclear power.

Only one country in the world, the Czech Republic, peaked its nuclear share in 2012 with 35 percent. In fact, all other countries—except Iran, which started up its first nuclear plant in 2011—reached their maximum share of nuclear power prior to 2010. While three countries peaked in 2008 (China) or 2009 (Romania, Russia), the other 26 countries saw their largest nuclear share by 2005. In total, nuclear power played its largest role in ten countries during the 1980s [25], in 12 countries each in the 1990s and in the 2000s.
Increases in nuclear generation are mostly a result of higher productivity and uprating [26] at existing plants rather than due to new reactors. According to the latest assessment by Nuclear Engineering International [27], the global annual load factor [28] of nuclear power plants decreased from 77 percent in 2011 [29] to 70 percent in 2012. Not surprisingly the biggest change was seen in Japan, where the load factor plunged from 69.5 percent in 2010 to 39.5 percent in 2011 to 3.7 percent in 2012. This is also due to the fact that officially 50 of the 54 pre-3/11 units in Japan are still counted as operational—even though some reactors have not generated electricity for years (see box hereunder).

Figure 3. Nuclear Share in Electricity Mix by Country, 2012/2011 and Historic Maximum



<big snip>


Figure 4. Nuclear Power Reactor Grid Connections and Shutdowns, 1956–2013



Figure 5. World Nuclear Reactor Fleet, 1954–2013



Figure 6. Number of Nuclear Reactors under Construction



Figure 7. Age Distribution of Operating Nuclear Reactors, 2013



Figure 8. Age Distribution of Shutdown Nuclear Reactors, 2013



Figure 9. 40-Year Lifetime Projection



Figure 10. The PLEX Projection (Accommodates probable lifetime extensions)



Figure 11. Forty-Year Lifetime Projection versus PLEX Projection (in numbers of reactors)



Figure 12. Start-ups and Closures of National Nuclear Power Programs, 1950–2013



Figure 13: Average Annual Construction Times in the World 1954–2013

Note: The bubble size is equivalent to the number of units started up in the given year. Sources: MSC based on IAEA-PRIS 2013




"The Second-Largest Carbon Market In The World Just Opened In China"

The Second-Largest Carbon Market In The World Just Opened In China
BY ARI PHILLIPS ON DECEMBER 19, 2013 AT 4:10 PM


CREDIT: ASSOCIATED PRESS
On Thursday China began trading in Guangdong’s carbon permit market, which is expected to be the world’s second-largest market after the European Union in terms of carbon dioxide emissions covered. It is far larger than either the Australian or Californian emissions trading schemes.

The Chinese government has approved seven pilot carbon trading exchanges in total, with Shenzhen being the first to launch in June followed by Beijing and Shanghai. However, Guangdong, which is home to over 100 million people and has an economy larger than Indonesia, far outweighs the other pilot projects launched to date. These pilot projects are working toward a national trading system that could be introduced within the next few years, the government has said.

Aside from being the largest carbon market to operate in China yet, Guangdong is also the first to use auctions to distribute emissions permits, rather than offering them all initially for free.

The Guangzhou-based China Emissions Exchange oversaw the first day of trading, in which, “price level matched expectations, following a government auction of 3 million permits sold at 60 yuan, the official price floor for auctions, on Dec. 16,” according to Reuters.

60 yuan is $9.85. For comparison, the E.U.’s carbon market closed at $6.81 on Wednesday...


http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/19/3088811/chinas-biggest-carbon-market-guangdong/

"Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Gas Companies To Frack Wherever They Want
BY KATIE VALENTINE ON DECEMBER 19, 2013

Some major parts of Pennsylvania’s two-year-old Marcellus Shale drilling law are unconstitutional, the state’s Supreme Court decided Thursday.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, the court voted 4 – 2 that a provision that allowing natural gas companies to drill anywhere, regardless of local zoning laws, was unconstitutional. Seven municipalities had challenged the shale drilling law, known as Act 13, that required “drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed.”

The Court said Act 13 “fundamentally disrupted” the expectations of Pennsylvania residents living in residential zones, and that the provision wasn’t in line with the constitution or Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment.

“To describe this case simply as a zoning or agency discretion matter would not capture the essence of the parties’ fundamental dispute regarding Act 13,” the ruling read. “Rather, at its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindiction of citizens’ rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety and the owners’ continued enjoyment of their private property.”

Representatives of the townships that challenged Act 13 praised the court’s decision....


http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/19/3092621/fracking-pennsylvania-unconstitutional/

45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About

What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About
BY EMILY ATKIN ON DECEMBER 17, 2013 AT 1:26 PM
"What A Year: 45 Fossil Fuel Disasters The Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About"

While coal, oil, and gas are an integral part of everyday life around the world, 2013 brought a stark reminder of the inherent risk that comes with a fossil-fuel dependent world, with numerous pipeline spills, explosions, derailments, landslides, and the death of 20 coal miners in the U.S. alone.

Despite all this, our addiction to fossil fuels will be a tough habit to break. The federal Energy Information Administration in July projected that fossil fuel use will soar across the world in the come decades. Coal — the dirtiest fossil fuel in terms of carbon emissions — is projected to increase by 2.3 percent in coming years. And in December, the EIA said that global demand for oil would be even higher than it had projected, for both this year and next.

Here is a look back at some of the fossil fuel disasters that made headlines in 2013, along with several others that went largely unnoticed.


Pipelines

...


http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/17/3056321/year-fossil-fuel-disasters/

Reason for and a critical question about 2012's 6.9% decline in nuclear production

From the 2013 BP Review of World Energy
In 2012...
World nuclear power generation declined by 6.9%, the largest decline on record for a second consecutive year. Japanese nuclear output fell by 89%. Nuclear’s share of global primary energy was the lowest since 1984.


http://preview.tinyurl.com/bp2013nuclear

- The decline in production at the rate observed is a direct consequence of the meltdowns at Fukushima. Whether it is reasonable or not, whether it is good judgement or not, the use of nuclear technology for energy isn't well accepted by the public and that isn't likely to change.

- Given the aging nuclear fleet and the observed incidence of previous accidents capable of inciting public backlash what happens when the next one comes along?

For more on the observed failure rates, see:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/112759049 especially
http://www.democraticunderground.com/112759049#post23


- Nuclear plants are commonly found near large population centers.


So here is the question for nuclear supporters:

- If, after spending 25 years investing heavily in nuclear generation with funds that would have otherwise gone to building a system of distributed renewable generation, the next Fukushima or Chernobyl level event hits one of those population centers hard...

...what would you expect are the consequences to our effort to move away from carbon?

- Assume for a moment a worse case scenario where a Tokyo, Chicago or Shanghai is required to be abandoned for decades but there is limited direct health impact.

......what would you expect are the consequences to our effort to move away from carbon?
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