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

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In This Nuclear World, What Is the Meaning of "Safe"?

In This Nuclear World, What Is the Meaning of "Safe"?
Friday 18 March 2011
by: Barbara Rose Johnson | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | Report

In a nuclear crisis, life becomes a nightmare for those people trying to make sense of the uncertainties. Imaginably, the questions are endless.

Radiation is invisible, how do you know when you are in danger?
How long will this danger persist?
How can you reduce the hazard to yourself and family?
What level of exposure is safe?
How do you get access to vital information in time to prevent or minimize exposure?
What are the potential risks of acute and chronic exposures?
What are the related consequential damages of exposure?
Whose information do you trust?
How do you rebuild a healthy way of life in the aftermath of nuclear disaster?

And the list of unknowns goes on.

These questions are difficult to answer in the chaos and context of an ongoing disaster, and they become even more complicated by the fact that governments and the nuclear industry maintain tight control of information, operations, scientific research, and the biomedical lessons that shape public-health response.

This regulation of information has been the case since the nuclear age began, and understanding this helps to illuminate why there is no clear consensus on what Japan's nuclear disaster means in terms of local and global human health.

Nuclear secrecy in context


Japan's nuclear disaster demonstrates in powerful and poignant terms the degree to which the state prioritizes security interests over the fundamental rights of people and their environment. Japan's response to its nuclear disaster -- similar to other government responses to catastrophic events like Katrina and Chernobyl -- has struggled to control the content and flow of information to prevent wide panic (and the related loss of trust in government), reduce liability, and protect nuclear and other industry agendas....


Is Germany abandoning wind, solar and bioenergy?

This is an excellent summary of the policy battle being waged over energy in Germany between the progressive populace and the Conservative government trying to preserve the coal and nuclear industries.

Is Germany abandoning wind, solar and bioenergy?

As has been reported in Climate Spectator over the last two weeks, including a column from Gerard Wynn on Thursday, Germany’s environment minister Peter Altmaier and economy minister Philipp Rösler have been keen to reign-in feed-in tariff support for renewable energy in Germany (commonly referred to as the ‘EEG’).

Altmaier went as far as to claim last week that the policy would cost Germans €1 trillion by 2030. He proposes to cap increases in subsidies for renewable power at 2.5 per cent growth per annum, and suspend feed-in tariffs to new installations. In addition, in a highly concerning move for investor confidence, he proposed a temporary cut in the feed-in tariff already received by existing renewable energy power plants.


This initiative from Altmaier and Rösler to undermine the EEG doesn’t represent some sudden about-face realisation amongst the German population of the inadequacies of renewable energy. Rather Altmaier and Rösler are part of the conservative-right wing side of German politics that has always been opposed to the EEG initiative ever since it became law in 2000.


Since forming government in 2009 this right-wing coalition has made three attempts at stemming the growth of renewable, which have largely failed.

In 2010 they rewound the prior policy of phasing out nuclear power while putting in steeper reductions in feed-in tariff rates. But plunging costs for solar PV in particular meant it grew spectacularly in spite of the cut in tariffs. Then, not long after the Fukishima nuclear plant explosion occurred, Chancellor Merkel had to revert back to an accelerated phase-out of nuclear while re-embracing renewables.

But in 2012 Altmaier’s predecessor...


How the NRC Brass Refuses to Recognize Costly Lessons of Fukushima - truthout

This is a well written, succinct synopsis of the ongoing effort to ensure the safety of the US nuclear fleet.

How the NRC Brass Refuses to Recognize Costly Lessons of Fukushima
Sunday, 24 February 2013 12:11
By Gar Smith, Truthout | News Analysis



NRC: "It Can't Happen Here"

Japan's New Safeguards

Lessons Learned?

A Thirty-Year Delay

The Industry Pushes Back

Nuclear Watchdogs Challenge NRC to Act


Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research (MSG from White House)

I signed a WH petition re increasing access to the results of research funded with public funds and received this reply in my email. I'm not particularly pleased with the outcome as it seems tilted more strongly towards preserving the profitability of the large publishers than it does timely, increased access to the results of research. Anyway, here is the policy they are preparing:

Link to pdf of memo mentioned below:

Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research
By Dr. John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Thank you for your participation in the We the People platform. The Obama Administration agrees that citizens deserve easy access to the results of research their tax dollars have paid for. As you may know, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been looking into this issue for some time and has reached out to the public on two occasions for input on the question of how best to achieve this goal of democratizing the results of federally-funded research. Your petition has been important to our discussions of this issue.

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.

To that end, I have issued a memorandum today (.pdf) to Federal agencies that directs those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months after original publication. As you pointed out, the public access policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been a great success. And while this new policy call does not insist that every agency copy the NIH approach exactly, it does ensure that similar policies will appear across government.

As I mentioned, these policies were developed carefully through extensive public consultation. We wanted to strike the balance between the extraordinary public benefit of increasing public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research and the need to ensure that the valuable contributions that the scientific publishing industry provides are not lost. This policy reflects that balance, and it also provides the flexibility to make changes in the future based on experience and evidence. For example, agencies have been asked to use a 12-month embargo period as a guide for developing their policies, but also to provide a mechanism for stakeholders to petition the agency to change that period. As agencies move forward with developing and implementing these polices, there will be ample opportunity for further public input to ensure they are doing the best possible job of reconciling all of the relevant interests.

In addition to addressing the issue of public access to scientific publications, the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with Federal funding. Strengthening these policies will promote entrepreneurship and jobs growth in addition to driving scientific progress. Access to pre-existing data sets can accelerate growth by allowing companies to focus resources and efforts on understanding and fully exploiting discoveries instead of repeating basic, pre-competitive work already documented elsewhere. For example, open weather data underpins the forecasting industry and provides great public benefits, and making human genome sequences publically available has spawned many biomedical innovations—not to mention many companies generating billions of dollars in revenues and the jobs that go with them. Going forward, wider availability of scientific data will create innovative economic markets for services related to data curation, preservation, analysis, and visualization, among others.

So thank you again for your petition. I hope you will agree that the Administration has done its homework and responded substantively to your request.

San Onofre refunds urged at Costa Mesa meeting

San Onofre refunds urged at Costa Mesa meeting
The state Public Utilities Commission must decide whether costs associated with faulty steam generators can be passed on to ratepayers.


COSTA MESA – Supporters and opponents of a plan to restart a reactor at the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant took their concerns to state utility regulators Thursday at a public meeting.

About 300 people attended the first of two three-hour sessions held by the California Public Utilities Commission, which is investigating problems with faulty steam generators that have kept both of the plant's reactors offline for more than a year.

The agency must decide whether costs associated with the generators can be passed on to ratepayers, or whether ratepayers should receive a rebate.

The four steam generators, two for each reactor, were installed in a $671 million operation between 2009 and early 2011. But after a small leak of radioactive gas brought the shutdown of the second reactor Jan. 31, 2012 – the first was already offline for maintenance – inspections revealed unexpected wear among thousands of metal tubes inside the generators.

The tubes carry water...


One-Sided Keystone XL Poll Tells the Story Big Oil Wants You To Hear

One-Sided Keystone XL Poll Tells the Story Big Oil Wants You To Hear
By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 22, 2013 at 10:45 am
Cross-posted from the Sierra Club

After a weekend during which tens of thousands of Americans took to the streets to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and demand solutions to the climate crisis, the American Petroleum Institute (API) is touting a one-sided poll they claim shows Americans supporting the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
However, a closer look at their poll questions unveils a biased survey which failed to equip respondents with the basic facts of the project before asking them to form an opinion. Instead, API crafted a poll to ensure they got the types of answers they were looking for by totally ignoring the environmental and economic realities of the toxic pipeline from Canada.

You can see the questionnaire for yourself here (PDF). And you’ll notice that poll respondents are presented with all types of arguments for the pipeline, but not a single argument against Keystone XL. In fact, the survey doesn’t even mention the words “tar sands” at all. Without the proper context, people who had never heard of Keystone XL before could easily associate the pipeline with conventional oil — not the toxic, more carbon-intensive tar sands oil that Keystone XL would transport. Furthermore, there is no mention of the grave risks Keystone XL poses. API’s survey ignores any discussion of possible oil spills, drinking water contamination, or climate-disrupting pollution — just to name a few.

The poll also primes respondents to believe that Keystone XL tar sands oil is destined for the U.S. marketplace — rather than noting that it is effectively an export pipeline that pumps tar sands oil through the U.S. to get to the global marketplace. ...

More at http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/02/22/1621891/one-sided-keystone-xl-poll-tells-the-story-big-oil-wants-you-to-hear/

Link to poll: http://www.api.org/policy-and-issues/policy-items/keystone-xl/~/media/Files/News/2013/13-February/Keystone-XL-Pipeline-Interview-Schedule-Feb-2013.pdf

(FL) State senators to utilities: Build nuclear power or risk loss of funding

State senators to utilities: Build nuclear power or risk loss of funding
By Ivan Penn and Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
Thursday, February 21, 2013 4:13pm

TALLAHASSEE — Fed up Tampa Bay area state senators want utilities to either start building nuclear power plants or lose a state law that allows them to charge customers for the plants in advance.

Duke Energy customers already are on the hook for $1.5 billion for a proposed $24 billion plant in Levy County that the utility has delayed for almost a decade and still has not committed to build. The utility gets to pocket about $150 million of that money.

..."There were no provisions to look out for the consumers," said Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, one of the Senate bill's sponsors. "It has no accountability. It's an open-ended checkbook."

..."We do not support any changes to the law," said Mark Bubriski, an FPL spokesman. "Repealing the law would effectively kill all investment in new nuclear power for Florida, and we believe that would be very short-sighted policy."

More at: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/energy/state-senators-to-utilities-build-nuclear-power-or-risk-loss-of-funding/1276080

A nuclear proponent makes the case for nuclear power.

This article is fundamentally "it" for nuclear. It gives the entire case for nuclear power.

Can you spot what is wrong?

We cannot afford not to have nuclear in our low-carbon energy mix
Nuclear power must prove itself in cost terms – but we should not be thinking of giving up now

James Smith
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 19 February 2013 12.59 GMT

The euphoric phase on low-carbon energy is over. There is no solution that is clean and cheap and always on.

Yet we must make major investments in energy. Old coal and nuclear plants will have to close. And climate change has to be tackled or it will result in costly economic damage.

So let's consider the options for investment in low-carbon electricity. Over the coming 20 years there are only three options that are relevant – wind, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear. Each has significant imperfections yet each works. And there is no muddle through option.

Each technology has deeply entrenched opponents. But if all the opponents have their way, we are left with no solution. Or at a minimum there will be a long period of argument, muddle and delay, followed by a rushed, expensive and late period of investment. Isn't that how it is already feeling?

Let's consider the three energy technology options in turn....


Chinese Companies Projected To Make Solar Panels for 42 Cents Per Watt In 2015

Chinese Companies Projected To Make Solar Panels for 42 Cents Per Watt In 2015

Future cost drops from Chinese crystalline silicon solar producers will not be as steep as recent years, but they will still be significant.
Stephen Lacey, via GreenTechMedia

The cost of producing a conventional crystalline silicon (c-si) solar panel continues to drop. Between 2009 and 2012, leading “best-in-class” Chinese c-Si solar manufacturers reduced module costs by more than 50 percent. And in the next three years, those players — companies like Jinko, Yingli, Trina and Renesola — are on a path to lower costs by another 30 percent.

...“Clearly, the magnitude of cost reductions will be less than in previous years. But we still do see potential for significant cost reductions. Going from 53 cents to 42 cents is noteworthy,” says Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM Research.

With plenty of innovation still occurring in crystalline silicon PV manufacturing — including new sawing techniques, thinner wafers, conductive adhesives, and frameless modules — companies are able to squeeze more pennies off the cost of each panel. However, as the chart above shows, innovating “outside the module” to reduce the installed cost of solar will be increasingly important as companies find it harder to realize cost reductions in manufacturing.


Hanford nuclear tank in Washington State is leaking liquids

Hanford nuclear tank in Washington State is leaking liquids
The long-delayed cleanup of the nation's most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when it was announced that a radioactive waste tank is leaking.

By Mike Baker, Shannon Dininny, Associated Press / February 16, 2013

The long-delayed cleanup of the nation's most contaminated nuclear site became the subject of more bad news Friday, when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced that a radioactive waste tank there is leaking.

The news raises concerns about the integrity of similar tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation and puts added pressure on the federal government to resolve construction problems with the plant being built to alleviate environmental and safety risks from the waste.

The tanks, which are already long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy said liquid levels are decreasing in one of 177 underground tanks at the site. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels, but Gov. Inslee said the leak could be in the range of 150 gallons to 300 gallons over the course of a year and poses a potential long-term threat to groundwater and rivers.

"I am alarmed about this on many levels," Inslee said at a news conference...

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