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Tokyo must stop and listen to the world, says Beijing, as Japan’s PM claims Fukushima wastewater release into ocean can’t wait

RT | October 18, 2021

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has reiterated its opposition to Japan’s decision to release nuclear wastewater from the Fukushima power plant into the ocean, after Tokyo’s new leader said the discharge could wait no longer.

Speaking on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian took aim at Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, who visited the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant on Sunday.

“The Japanese side must listen to the voice of the international community, revoke the wrong decision, and stop advancing preparations for the discharge of nuclear wastewater into the ocean,” the spokesman told the gathered press, arguing that Tokyo needed the authorization of other nations and international institutions.

Zhao claimed the issue of Fukushima nuclear wastewater disposal was not a private matter for Japan, but a major international issue concerning the public health of everyone living in Pacific Rim countries, as well as for the global marine environment.

He said China and other nations had requested assurances about the reliability of Japan’s nuclear wastewater purification equipment and raised concerns about the impact of releasing the supposedly treated waters into the ocean.

He added that Japan had yet to exhaust all measures for safely storing the nuclear wastewater, which was used to treat the Fukushima powerplant after it went into meltdown a decade ago.

Zhao’s comments came after Japanese leader Kishida visited the nuclear plant and its huge facility for storing wastewater on Sunday. “I felt strongly that the water issue was a crucial one that should not be pushed back,” Kishida told reporters having been shown around by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power.

In August, the operator announced plans to build an undersea tunnel to facilitate the release of over a million tons of treated water after the government had already elected to discharge the liquid into the sea. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it will send experts to Japan later this year to evaluate the plans for discharging into the ocean.

Last year, Greenpeace said the wastewater from the plant was more dangerous than the Japanese government had claimed. In a paper, the organization said the allegedly treated water still contained “dangerous levels of carbon-14” – a radioactive substance that has the “potential to damage human DNA.” The water is also known to contain radioactive tritium.

October 19, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

They can’t hide the costs of Net Zero forever

By Patrick Benham-Crosswell | TCW Defending Freedom | September 6, 2021

THE run-up to the COP26 climate change jamboree in Glasgow later this year is probably not going as well as the government would like.  Despite being committed to Net Zero by Mrs May’s undebated and uncosted statutory instrument, the size of the likely costs can’t be hidden for ever and the guardian of the magic money tree, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, is fretting.

I have just produced a short book on Net Zero (brazen plug, you can buy it here) and, having spent several months trawling through the government’s own numbers, have reached the conclusions that the costs are huge (and possibly more than that). Replacing fossil fuels means we have to produce our energy from nuclear and renewables. At the moment they provide just about 10 per cent of our energy requirements. Making up the shortfall needs 30 to 50 Sizewell Cs, or 300 to 500 Small Modular Reactors, or 17,000 to 28,000 new offshore wind turbines. It will also need the electricity distribution grid to more or less quadruple in size. (The uncertainty primarily comes from whether Mr Gove can convert 25million homes to heat pumps, or whether we adopt hydrogen).

The cost of the generation alone comes out at something like £1trillion. Add to that car chargers, heat pumps, hydrogen electrolysers and suchlike and the costs could double. Or more.

The cost of energy will also rise. A report from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in 2016 (when Mrs May imposed Net Zero) forecast that the price of electricity would increase by at least 50 per cent. Which means that the UK is likely to be operating on a higher cost base than those economies which have not yet followed our lead and declared a net zero target. That’s most of the world – only Bhutan, Suriname, Uruguay, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Austria and Germany have followed Mrs May’s quixotic charge. I’m not sure Germany is serious – 25 per cent of its power comes from coal and it is phasing out nuclear power.

Hilariously (or tragically) the government is threatening to crack down on ‘greenwashing’, by which they mean the habit of suppliers claiming that buying their product saves the planet. Yet our political leaders maintain that it will all be fine, that Net Zero is achievable and all we need to do is plant some trees. If they looked at their own data they would know that this is not the case.

To cite one example, every now and then one of them will trumpet about carbon capture, use and storage. Capturing CO2 is tricky and expensive. The world CO2 demand is some 230million tons per year (mostly for the oil and food industries). That’s less than half of the UK’s current CO2 emissions. There is no chance of widescale use of COcaptured in the UK.

Of course there is already ample legislation on what may or may not be said in advertisements. New legislation is unnecessary.

As we have seen during the pandemic, this government has a habit of deploying misleading graphs and generally being economical with the truth. If they really wanted to improve the flow of information to the public they would apply the current law to their own presentations.

Hell will freeze over before that happens.

September 6, 2021 Posted by | Book Review, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Nuclear Power | | Leave a comment

All British children have plutonium in their teeth, from Sellafield nuclear plant

By Antony Barnett | The Guardian | November 30, 2003

The Government has admitted for the first time that Sellafield ‘is a source of plutonium contamination’ across the country. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson has revealed that a study funded by the Department of Health discovered that the closer a child lived to Sellafield, the higher the levels of plutonium found in their teeth.

Johnson said: ‘Analysis indicated that concentrations of plutonium… decreased with increasing distance from the west Cumbrian coast and its Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant – suggesting this plant is a source of plutonium contamination in the wider population.’ Johnson claimed the levels of plutonium are so minute that there is no health risk to the public. But this is disputed by scientists, MPs and environmental campaigners who have called for an immediate inquiry into how one of the world’s most dangerous materials has been allowed to continue to contaminate children’s teeth. There have long been claims of clusters of childhood leukaemia around Sellafield.

In the late 1990s researchers collected more than 3,000 molars extracted from young teenagers across the country during dental treatment and analysed them. To their surprise they found traces of plutonium in all the teeth including those from children in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Alarmingly, they discovered that those living closer to Sellafield had more than twice the amount of those living 140 miles away.

Plutonium is a man-made radioactive material and the only source of it in Britain is from Sellafield. The plant, which reprocesses nuclear fuel from reactors, still discharges plutonium into the Irish Sea.

The original research was carried out in 1997 by Professor Nick Priest who was working for the UK Atomic Energy Authority. At the time the conclusions of the research received little attention because the study concluded that the contamination levels were so minuscule they were thought to pose an ‘insignificant’ health risk.

But earlier this year the Committee Examining Radiation Risks from Internal Emitters, looking at health risks posed by radioactive materials, examined Priest’s study. Some of the committee’s members have now cast doubt on the conclusions that plutonium in children’s teeth posed no health risk. Professor Eric Wright, of Dundee University Medical School, is one of the country’s leading experts on blood disorders and a member of the committee. He believes that the tiny specks of plutonium in children’s teeth caused by Sellafield radioactive pollution might lead to some people falling ill with cancer.

He said: ‘There are genuine concerns that the risks from internal emitters of radiation are more hazardous [than previously thought]. The real question is by how much. Is it two or three times more risky… or more than a hundred?’

Wright believes that, while the plutonium contamination is unlikely to pose a health risk to much of the British population, it might be a problem for some individuals.

He said: ‘If somebody has a bad collection of genes which means their body cannot deal with small levels of internal radioactive material, then there could be an issue.’

Wright’s comments, coming on top of the admission from the Health Minister, have led to calls for an independent inquiry. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker said: ‘[This] stinks of a cover-up. They have known for six years that Sellafield has contaminated the population with plutonium but done nothing. Yet the plant continues to discharge plutonium into the Irish Sea. It shows the wanton disregard the nuclear industry has for public health and there needs to be an independent inquiry.’

Janine Allis-Smith of the campaign group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment said: ‘There is no safe amount of plutonium. The plant must be closed down immediately.’

May 30, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Japan Restarts Older Nuclear Reactors For First Time Since Fukushima

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | April 28, 2021

Since achieving the ambitious emissions-reduction targets laid out in the Paris Accords will require developed nations to revive their nuclear plans (something that climate activists have increasingly supported despite the continuing fallout from the disaster at Fukushima) Japan on Wednesday decided to revive three long-idled reactors, marking the first time that Japan has restarted a reactor that’s more than 40 years old.

After Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last week announced a new goal of cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions 46% by fiscal 2030 (an announcement that coincided with President Biden’s virtual climate summitNikkei reports that Gov. Tatsuji Sugimoto of Fukui Prefecture (located about 300 km, about 186 miles, west of Tokyo) gave the green light on Wednesday to restart the Kansai Electric Power reactor units 1 and 2 at the Takahama nuclear power plant, and unit 3 at the utility’s Mihama plant. Japan’s plans for building new reactors have been frozen for years, leaving its aging nuclear infrastructure largely intact.

Achieving the emissions goals laid out by Suga last week will require generating 20% of Japan’s power via nuclear energy in the coming decades, experts said.

Currently, Japanese regulations imposed after the 2011 Fukushima meltdown set the operating life of Japanese reactors at 40 years, while leaving open the possibility of extending that to 60 years. No reactors older than 40 years are currently operating in Japan – but that’s about to change.

Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama on Tuesday told Sugimoto that Japan “will use nuclear power sustainably into the future” and promised up to 2.5 billion yen ($23.1 million) in federal grants to help restart older reactors. Sugimoto told reporters that Kajiyama’s remarks were “something we hadn’t heard before.”

Japan had about 50 nuclear reactors when Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi plant was struck by a tsunami in 2011 that knocked out its emergency power, leading to a historic meltdown.

Since then, more than 20 reactors in Japan have been marked for decommissioning. By 2030, nearly half of the country’s remaining reactors will be over 40 years old.

Still, as Fukushima fades into history, support for nuclear power is growing within Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. To open the door to reviving more reactors, more lawmakers favor a different rubric for counting a reactor’s operating age that will subtract the years they spent idled.

Unfortunately for the nuclear industry in Japan, other obstacles remain aside from environmental concerns. For example, the outlook for restarting Tokyo Electric’s workhorse Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has been dimmed by a report that finds insufficient safeguards against terrorist attacks. In the US, nuclear has remained out of favor ever since the incident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania.

As we pointed out on Earth Day, proponents of lower emissions are starting to accept that nuclear is the only practical strategy that wouldn’t involve massive reductions in energy use, while still maintaining robust systems that won’t seize up when wind turbines freeze.

April 29, 2021 Posted by | Nuclear Power | | Leave a comment

Disposing of Fukushima’s nuclear water is ‘not Japanese housework,’ countries have every right to claim compensation, China says

RT | April 23, 2021

The Chinese Foreign Ministry says neighboring countries will bear the brunt of the problems created by Japan’s decision to dump radioactive wastewater into the ocean, adding that Tokyo should be ready to compensate.

Speaking on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Tokyo can no longer pretend to be deaf and dumb over the issue of releasing its supposedly treated nuclear wastewater from the now-defunct Fukushima power plant into the ocean.

Citing an expert who claimed that Japan’s neighbors would be most impacted by their decision, Zhao stated, “as the neighboring countries that bear the brunt of the sewage from Japan’s nuclear accident, China, South Korea and other countries have every right to claim compensation from Japan.”

The spokesman continued, saying Japan must not put its own private interests above international and public interests. “The disposal of nuclear contaminated water in Fukushima, it is definitely not Japan’s housework. If the nuclear sewage is not polluted, why doesn’t Japan keep it for itself?”

Zhao added that Japan is making a dangerous first step, claiming its government will pay the price for its irresponsible behavior, leaving a stain on history.

Last week, Japan announced it would be releasing the wastewater from the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean “in around two years.” The plan, which had been widely rumored to be Tokyo’s preferred option, was met with condemnation by Japan’s neighbors.

Concerns have been raised about how safe the water is despite years of treatment. Last year, Greenpeace reported that the wastewater from the plant was more dangerous than the Japanese government had suggested. Their publication titled, ‘Stemming the tide 2020: The reality of the Fukushima radioactive water crisis’ claimed the supposedly treated water still contains “dangerous levels of carbon-14,” a radioactive substance that has the “potential to damage human DNA.” The water is also known to contain radioactive tritium.

April 23, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

[“Sustainable”] Uranium Prices Poised To Rally

Oilprice.com | April 3, 2021

The uranium market is emerging from years in the doldrums as the overhang from the nuclear disaster in Japan is cleared and global demand picks up steam.

The spot price for U3O8 moved above $30 per pound for the first time this year as uranium producers and mine developers hoover up above-ground inventories and reactor construction continues apace.

Two new research notes from BMO Capital Markets and Morgan Stanley say today’s price marks a floor and predict a rally in prices over the next few years to the ~$50 level by 2024.

The stars seem to be aligning for a new phase of nuclear energy investment with the US, China and Europe bolstering the bull case for the fuel this month.

Although nuclear energy was not mentioned explicitly in the $2 trillion Biden infrastructure proposal released today, its federally mandated “energy efficiency and clean electricity standard” is hardly achievable without it.

Source: Cameco

Over the weekend leaked documents showed a panel of experts advising the EU is set to designate nuclear as a sustainable source of electricity which opens the door for new investment under the continent’s ambitious green energy program.

China’s 14th five-year plan released a fortnight ago also buoyed the uranium market with Beijing planning to up the country’s nuclear energy capacity by 46% – from 48GW in 2020 to 70GW by 2025.

There are several factors working in uranium’s favour, not least the fact that annual uranium demand is now above the level that existed before the 2011 Fukushima disaster when Japan shut off all its reactors:

  • Uranium miners, developers and investment funds like Yellow Cake (13m lbs inventory build up so far) are buying material on the spot market bringing to more normal levels government and utility inventories built up over the last decade
  • Major mines are idled including Cameco’s Cigar Lake (due to covid-19) which accounts for 18m lbs or 13% of annual mine supply. The world’s largest uranium operation McArthur River was suspended in July 2018 taking 25m lbs off the market
  • Permanent closures so far this year include Rio Tinto’s Ranger operation in Australia (3m lbs) and Niger’s Cominak mine (2.6m lbs) which had been in operation since 1978. Rio is exiting the market entirely following the sale of Rössing Uranium in Namibia
  • Like Cameco, top producer Kazatomprom, which mined 15% less material last year due to covid restrictions has committed to below capacity production (–20% for the state-owned Kazakh miner) for the foreseeable future
  • Price reporting agency and research company UxC estimates that utilities’ uncovered requirements would balloon to some 500m lbs by 2026 and 1.4 billion lbs by 2035
  • Roughly 390m lbs are already locked up in the long term market while 815m lbs have been consumed in reactors over the last five years, according to UxC
  • There are 444 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide and another 50 under construction – 2 new connections to the grid and one construction start so far in  2021
  • Much cheaper and safer, small modular nuclear power reactors which can readily slot into brownfield sites like decommissioned coal-fired plants (or even underground or underwater) are expected to become a significant source of additional demand.

There are caveats to this rosy scenario, however.

Morgan Stanley warns that “the opacity of the inventory situation remains a key uncertainty to price – see for example palladium, which needed almost 7 years of deficit before the price really took off.”

BMO says given the still high levels of inventories “acute shortages and price squeezes are extremely unlikely, both for this year and the foreseeable future,” adding that “there is no obvious need for new mine supply in the near future.”

April 4, 2021 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Progressive Hypocrite | , | 4 Comments

Dredging Near Chernobyl Disaster Site Raises Radioactive Contamination Concerns

By Andrei Dergalin – Sputnik – 23.12.2020

The intent to “build a dam and have boats going just by the bottom of the Chernobyl reactor” as part of the E40 project has been called “unbelievable” by one nuclear physicist.

A massive infrastructure project to create a waterway connecting the Black and Baltic seas may pose a potential risk to millions of people in Ukraine, due to its proximity to the most infamous nuclear disaster in history, the Guardian reports.

According to the newspaper, plans for the 2,500-km long waterway – coined E40 – involve dredging the Pripyat riverbed, which “snakes within 2.5km” of the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Dredging has already taken place “in at least seven different places, five of which are within 10km of the reactor.”

That work, which reportedly began in July after Ukrainian dredging company Sobi won the tender for digging up 100,000 cubic metres of sediment, defies the recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Association, which says the Chernobyl exclusion zone should be left undisturbed.

Now, several NGOs, such as Save Polesia, WWF, and BirdLife argue that the 2015 feasibility study for the project, carried out by the Maritime Institute of Gdansk, “failed to properly look at the implications of radioactive contamination from dredging inside the exclusion zone.”

“Constructing the E40 will have a radiological impact on the construction workers and the population depending on the rivers… the IAEA recommends to leave the contaminated sediments in the Kyiv reservoir in place, to avoid exposure of the population downstream. In this context the construction of the E40 is not feasible,” a French NGO Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité dans l’Ouest (Acro) said following research commissioned by the Frankfurt Zoological Society.

Nuclear physicist and Acro chairman Dr David Boilley also told the newspaper that “the fact they want to build a dam and have boats going just by the bottom of the Chernobyl reactor” is simply “unbelievable.”

“This is the most contaminated part of the exclusion zone,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dmitrij Nadeev, a manager at Sobi, reportedly said that the company “did commission research on radiation and took soil samples.”

“Analysis showed that the work can be done safely, but all workers were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and dosimeters. During the work, scientists took daily water samples downstream of the dredger,” he explained.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster struck on 26 April 1986, when an explosion at the station’s Reactor 4 contaminated a vast territory.

Nearly 3,000 square miles of northern Ukraine and parts of Belarus have been depopulated as a result, with 1,000 square miles considered off-limits as an exclusion zone due to elevated levels of radiation.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Fukushima, the Nuclear Pandemic Spreads

By Manlio Dinucci | Global Research | November 5, 2020

It was not Covid, therefore the news went almost unnoticed: Japan will release over a million tons of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. The catastrophic incident in Fukushima was triggered by the Tsunami that struck the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, submerging the power plant and causing the core of three nuclear reactors to melt.

The power plant was built on the coast just 4 meters above sea level with five-meter-high breakwater dams, in a tsunami-prone area with waves 10-15 meters high. Furthermore, there had been serious failures by the private company Tepco managing the plant, in the control of the nuclear plant: the safety devices did not come into operation at the time of the Tsunami.

Water has been pumped through the reactors for years to cool the molten fuel. The water became radioactive, and was stored inside the plant in over a thousand large tanks, accumulating 1.23 million tons of radioactive water. Tepco is building other tanks, but they will also be full by mid-2022.

Tepco must continue pumping water into the melted reactors and has decided to discharge, in agreement with the government, the water accumulated so far into the sea after filtering it to make it less radioactive (however, to what extent it is not known) with a process which will last 30 years. There is also radioactive sludge accumulated in the decontamination filters of the plant, stored in thousands of containers, and huge quantities of soil and other radioactive materials.

As Tepco admitted, the melting in reactor 3 is particularly serious because the reactor was loaded with Mox, a much more unstable and radioactive mix of uranium oxides and plutonium.

The Mox for this reactor and other Japanese ones was produced in France, using nuclear waste sent from Japan. Greenpeace has denounced the danger deriving from the transport of this plutonium fuel for ten thousand kilometers.

Greenpeace also denounced that Mox favors the proliferation of nuclear weapons, since plutonium can be extracted more easily and, in the cycle of uranium exploitation, there is no clear dividing line between civilian and military use of fissile material.

Up to now, around 240 tons of plutonium for direct military use and 2,400 tons for civil use (nuclear weapons can however be produced with them), were accumulated in the world (according to 2015 estimates), plus about 1,400 tons of highly enriched uranium for military use. A few hundred kilograms of plutonium would be enough to cause lung cancer to 7.7 billion inhabitants of the planet, and plutonium remains lethal for a period corresponding to almost ten-thousand human generations.

A destructive potential has thus accumulated, for the first time in history, capable of making the human species disappear from the face of Earth. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the more than 2,000 experimental nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, at sea and underground; the manufacture of nuclear warheads with a power equivalent to over one million Hiroshima bombs; the numerous accidents involving nuclear weapons and those involving civilian and military nuclear plants, all this has caused radioactive contamination that has affected hundreds of millions of people.

A portion of approximately 10 million annual cancer deaths worldwide – documented by WHO – is attributable to the long-term effects of radiation. In ten months, again according to the World Health Organization data, Covid-19 caused about 1.2 million deaths worldwide. This danger should not be underestimated, but it does not justify the fact that mass media, especially television, did not inform that over one million tons of radioactive water will be discharged into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, with the result that it will further increase cancer deaths upon entering in the food chain.

*

This article was originally published in Italian on Il Manifesto.

Manlio Dinucci is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

November 11, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Japan to release Fukushima contaminated water into sea: Reports

Storage tanks for radioactive water at TEPCO’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. (Photo by Reuters)
Press TV | October 16, 2020

Nearly a decade after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s government has decided to release contaminated water from the destroyed plant into the sea, media reports said on Friday, with a formal announcement expected to be made later this month.

The decision is expected to rankle neighboring countries like South Korea, which has already stepped up radiation tests of food from Japan, and further devastate the fishing industry in Fukushima that has battled against such a move for years.

The disposal of contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been a long-standing problem for Japan as it proceeds with a decades-long decommissioning project. More than one million tonnes of contaminated water are currently stored in huge tanks at the facility.

The plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., suffered multiple nuclear meltdowns after a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

On Friday, Japan’s industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said no decision had been made on the disposal of the water yet, but the government aims to make one quickly.

“To prevent any delays in the decommissioning process, we need to make a decision quickly,” he told a news conference.

He did not give any further details, including a time-frame.

The Asahi newspaper reported that any such release is expected to take at least two years to prepare, as the site’s irradiated water first needs to pass through a filtration process before it can be further diluted with seawater and finally released into the ocean.

In 2018, Tokyo Electric apologized after admitting its filtration systems had not removed all dangerous material from the water, collected from the cooling pipes used to keep fuel cores from melting when the plant was crippled.

It has said it plans to remove all radioactive particles from the water except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen that is hard to separate and is considered to be relatively harmless.

Last week, Japanese fish industry representatives urged the government not to allow the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant into the sea, saying it would undo years of work to restore their reputation.

South Korea has retained a ban on imports of seafood from the Fukushima region that was imposed after the nuclear disaster and summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how Tokyo planned to deal with the Fukushima water problem.

During Tokyo’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2013, then-Prime minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the Fukushima facility was “under control”.

The Games have been delayed to 2021 because of the pandemic and some events are due to be held as close as 60 km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.

October 16, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | | 1 Comment

‘Eco-modernist’ Germans pitch Nukes over reliance on Russia

As Renewables Falter, Environmentalists Stand Up For Nuclear

By Michael Shellenberger | Forbes | September 9, 2020

Environmentalists have long promoted renewable energy sources as better for nature.

But a new study suggests that the expansion of mining for the materials to make solar panels and wind turbines may pose a greater threat than climate change to endangered species.

“Most mining areas (82%) target materials needed for renewable energy production,” note the authors in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications. And, they add, “these new threats to biodiversity may surpass those averted by climate change mitigation.”

The study comes at a moment when the expansion of solar and wind energy is increasing local oppositionraising electricity prices, and contributing to electricity shortages.

Recent electricity outages in California forced the state’s governor to acknowledge the dangers posed by attempting to rely on unreliable sources of renewable energy.

“We cannot sacrifice reliability,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said on August 17. “We have to sober up to the reality that… we’re going to have to do more, and be much more mindful, in terms of our capacity to provide backup and insurance.”

The problem with relying on solar panels is that the sun sets during peak demand, which is between 5 pm and 10 pm, requiring a massive ramping up of natural gas power plants. And the same lack of wind behind the heatwaves has also meant a lack of electricity from industrial wind turbines.

Meanwhile, environmental resistance is blocking and slowing the expansion of industrial wind and solar energy projects.

In Britain, Greenpeace has opposed a massive new solar farm, “arguing that ‘vast continuous fields of panels on agricultural land” are not “the best way to go solar.’” New York environmentalists, meanwhile, “say large-scale solar installations will spoil beautiful farmland,” reported Financial Times.

As renewables have faltered, pro-nuclear environmentalists have become increasingly vocal, even in Germany, the world’s most anti-nuclear nation.

Europeans Protest Greenpeace

Last Saturday pro-nuclear activists organized by the German pro-nuclear organization Nuklearia dropped a banner in front of Greenpeace’s Germany headquarters. It read, “Climate Crisis? Nuclear energy!”

Pro-nuclear activists similarly protested in front of Greenpeace’s Paris headquarters in late June, denouncing the NGO’s role in replacing nuclear plants with fossil fuels.

“Several dozen protesters — wearing face masks — carried banners in front of the Greenpeace headquarters in Paris, with slogans such as ‘Less nuclear means more coal,’” reported Reuters.

“In the following weeks, there will be similar rallies,” reported the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) last week, “where the five other German nuclear power plants that are still running but whose operating licenses will soon expire.”

Over the next six weeks, there will be over forty pro-nuclear demonstrations around the world organized by the Nuclear Pride Coalition. (My nonprofit organization, Environmental Progress, is a member of the coalition, but did not organize the demonstrations in Germany, France, or other nations.)

The chairman of Nuklearia is Rainer Klute, a computer scientist and eco-modernist. That’s someone who, according to FAZ, ”wants to save the world by relying on modern technology, not on using jute bags.” FAZ noted that Klute is finding allies “among those who oppose wind turbines out of concern for noise and the landscape.”

It wasn’t the first pro-nuclear demonstration in Germany. In December 2019, 120 people from Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic rallied near the Philippsburg nuclear power plant, forty-five minutes from the French border, which the German government had forced to close prematurely.

While Klute emphasizes the need for nuclear to combat climate change, Peters stresses the need for nuclear energy to avoid over-dependence on imported natural gas from Russia. … Full article

September 11, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

US agrees to pay South Carolina $600 million, dispose of plutonium by 2037

Press TV – August 31, 2020

The US Energy Department said on Monday it has reached a settlement with South Carolina on removing weapons-grade plutonium by 2037 from a Cold War-era site and shipping most of it to a disposal facility in New Mexico.

South Carolina, which had sued the energy department, will receive an upfront payment of $600 million. The state will waive its right to bring any more lawsuits over the plutonium until 2037.

“Today’s announcement is a guarantee to the people of South Carolina that plutonium will be removed safely from this state,” said US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

The US government had planned to build a mixed oxide (MOX) plant to convert the material into fuel for nuclear power. But a MOX plant had never been built in the United States, and the Trump administration axed the program in 2018 saying it would cost about $48 billion more than $7.6 billion already spent on it.

That decision was a blow to South Carolina politicians, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had touted the jobs it would provide.

The department said 9.5 metric tons of plutonium will be removed from the Savannah River site. Much of the material will be sent to New Mexico, where it will be diluted and disposed of in a nuclear waste site near Carlsbad.

A notice in the Federal Register on Friday indicated that the department and its arm the National Nuclear Security Administration will dispose 7.1 metric tons at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The energy department was required by law to either build the MOX plant or remove the plutonium but it had done neither.

The US government had secretly shipped plutonium from South Carolina to Nevada sometime before November 2018, the Trump administration revealed last year. Democratic officials in Nevada were angered when they learned the news.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said the deal was the largest single settlement ever in the state’s history. The deal will prevent the state from becoming a dumping ground for nuclear waste and the money will help its economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

September 1, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power | | 1 Comment

Why the economics behind Jason Kenney’s small nuclear reactor dream don’t add up

By David Climenhaga | AlbertaPolitics | August 12, 2020

When Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says small nuclear reactors “could be a game changer in providing safe, zero-emitting, base load power in many areas of the province,” as he did Sunday in a tweet, he’s pulling your leg.

For a variety of economic and technical reasons, the scenario Kenney described while re-tweeting a CBC story about his announcement that Alberta intends to sign onto the three-province effort to develop small nukes is unlikely ever to occur.

Kenney and his government’s officials certainly know this.

This is not a judgment call on whether “small modular reactors” — as the companies proposing manufacturing these things prefer to call them to sooth a public skittish about the word “nuclear” — will perform as advertised. Small nuclear reactors can be built and should be able to be operated reasonably safely.

Nor is it a call on whether nuclear power is the solution to a warming planet or a dystopian nightmare with the potential to make things even worse. There are reasonable voices on both sides of that debate.

The problem is that the economics of the scheme described by Kenney just don’t add up.

Consider these facts:

As long as natural gas is cheap and plentiful, small nuclear reactors will not make economic sense.

Except in a few locations like very remote mines, small nuclear reactors will never make sense from an economic standpoint as long as natural gas is readily available and inexpensive, as it is now in Canada and will likely remain.

Even a modular reactor built by a mature industry selling lots of units would cost more to build and run than a natural-gas powered plant. And right now, there is no approved small reactor design anywhere in the West, and no mature industry to make them.

Even if this idea is not just a pipe dream, no electrical utility is ever going to buy one unless they are forced to by government policy or regulation — the kind Alberta’s United Conservative Party purports to be opposed to. Nor will any bitumen-mining company.

Probably the only way to make these things competitive would be to impose a stiff carbon tax that vastly increases the price of natural gas.

Small nuclear reactors are not necessarily as cheap to build as nuclear fairy tales like the premier’s suggest.

Creating an acceptable small nuclear reactor design all the way from the drawing board to approval by a national nuclear regulatory authority will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

While dozens of speculative companies are printing colourful brochures with pretty pictures of little nukes being trucked to their destinations, very few are serious ventures with any possibility of building an actual reactor. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency says diplomatically there are about 50 concepts “at different stages of development.” Those that are serious, like NuScale Power in the United States, have huge amounts of government money behind them.

The only small nuclear reactor plant known to be operating in the world now is the Akademik Lomonosov, Russia’s floating power barge with two 35-megawatt reactors aboard. From an original estimate of US$140 million in 2006, its cost had ballooned to US$740 million when the vessel was launched.

Operational costs are bound to be higher because it floats, but the kind of small reactors Kenney is talking about won’t be cheap by any yardstick.

Small reactors are less economical to run than big reactors.

If a reactor is only producing 300 megawatts of electricity compared to 800 megawatts or more, it’s not going to generate as much profit for its private sector owners. This is why all reactors getting built in the world nowadays are large — 1,000 to 1,600 megawatts.

Ontario Power Generation Inc.’s eight operational reactors at the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on Lake Huron can produce a combined 6,200 megawatts. The eight reactors at the Pickering NGS near Toronto have combined output of 3,100 megawatts.

This is why nobody wanted to buy the scaled-down CANDU-3 reactor, development of which was paid for by Canadian taxpayers in the 1980s. At 300 megawatts, CANDU-3s were just too small for commercial viability. A working CANDU-3 has never been built.

The cost of small reactors would have to come down significantly to change this. And remember, the research and development requirements of small reactors are just as high as for big ones. With nobody manufacturing modules, there are no existing economies of scale. In other words, dreamy brochures about the future of small reactors are just that — dreams.

By the way, in 2011 the Harper government privatized the best commercial assets of Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., to … wait for it … SNC-Lavalin Group Ltd. Think about that every time you hear Conservatives in Ottawa screeching about the goings on at SNC-Lavalin!

In the Alberta government’s news release, Energy Minister Sonya Savage was quoted saying “Alberta’s rich uranium deposits … could make us an attractive destination to develop and deploy SMRs.”

Not really.

With one exception, all current small reactor designs use enriched uranium, and Canada doesn’t produce any. So if we adopted a lot of the small reactors being touted by Premier Kenney right now, we’d be putting our energy supply in the hands of foreigners.

Would putting a large percentage of our national power needs directly in the hands of other countries be sound policy from the standpoint of security or sovereignty? Not if you’ve been paying attention!

The only exception is the CANDU-3, which SNC-Lavalin recently rebranded as the CANDU-SMR, which can run on naturally occurring uranium like that found in Alberta.

Global uranium markets are already saturated, so there’s no way this will become a new resource industry for Alberta.

Don’t expect a boom in uranium mining in Alberta, either. There’s a worldwide glut of the stuff. Prices are low. (Sound familiar?) Existing suppliers have invested billions to mine high-grade deposits, and even that production is fetching only depressed prices.

So nobody’s interested in creating new uranium mines in Alberta, probably ever.

Small reactors might be safer than big reactors, but we don’t really know that.

Kenney and Savage talk about small reactors as if it were a fact they’re safer than big reactors. Maybe they are. But we don’t really know that because nobody but the Russians actually seems to have built one, and in most cases they haven’t even been designed.

Remember, the Russians’ small reactors are both on a barge. For what it’s worth, critics have called it “floating Chernobyl.”

However safe they are designed to be, small reactors won’t be safe without public regulation.

This is an important consideration. The safety of electricity generation projects regardless of what kind of fuel they use needs to be watched over by accountable, responsible, and, yes, properly paid public employees.

This runs counter to the philosophy of all four provincial governments involved in the inter-provincial effort to encourage the development of small nukes.

With the potential effects of a nuclear disaster so long lasting, can we trust industry to regulate itself? More importantly, can we trust a UCP government not to hand regulation of these plants to the for-profit companies that would operate them?

Then there’s still the matter of waste disposal.

Nuclear plants don’t produce a lot of waste by volume, but what there is sure has the potential to cause problems for a very long time. Thousands of years and more. So safe storage is an issue with small nukes, just like it is with big ones.

Where are we going to store the waste from all these wonderful small nuclear reactors Kenney is talking about?

Canada created the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to find a “willing host community” for a deep geological repository capable of storing nuclear waste for thousands of years. Almost nobody wants the stuff, for obvious reasons. Does any Alberta community want to put up its hand?

“More research and development work is required on the fuel cycle for some SMR technologies,” the UN’s IAEA notes cautiously.

Alternatively, spent fuel could be reprocessed in fast reactors. But why do that when natural uranium prices, just like oil prices, are in the bargain basement, making fast reactors uneconomical? What are we going to do to raise prices? Build a uranium pipeline?

So what gives?

None of this sounds like the basis of an exciting new industry for Alberta. On the contrary, there’s a whiff of scam about the whole effort to proselytize the idea of a small reactor manufacturing industry, which wouldn’t be located in Alberta anyway, and more uranium mining, which isn’t going to happen.

The timing of last Friday’s announcement was certainly intended as a distraction from a political embarrassment the day before.

But arguably the whole memorandum of understanding is a distraction too, a way to tell citizens and foreign investors fretting about global climate change, “Don’t worry about it, we’re working on it.” That’s less embarrassing than admitting that we’re doing very little to reduce CO2 emissions.

Ontario has a big nuclear industry with lots of private employers and a large workforce, so for a modest investment it looks good for Premier Doug Ford to sign on.

How many jobs is it likely to create here in Western Canada? Well, Saskatchewan’s ministry of the rnvironment recently posted a job for a “Director of SMRs.” That person will supervise four people. That’s probably about it for the foreseeable future.

If Alberta ends up with the same number of people working on this, we’ll be lucky.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

August 12, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment