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[“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

Ohio’s $60 million bribery scandal could ensnare the American nuclear sector, because public trust is undermined

By Ken Silverstein | RT | July 23, 2020

Ohio’s $60 million corruption, bribery case – that has ensnared the House speaker and four others – has also embroiled the nuclear power industry, which is at the heart of the criminal charges filed this week.

The nuclear energy sector in the United States has been trying to keep its head above water — unable to compete with cheap shale gas and subsidized wind and solar power. So it has sought help from state governments, which have taken up legislation to reward nuclear for being a carbon-free source of energy. In the case of Ohio, it is home to FirstEnergy, which owns two nuclear power plants in the state and which asked lawmakers for such consideration.

Ohio’s lawmakers, like those from Connecticut, Illinois, New York and New Jersey, voted to save their nuclear power plants not just because they are reliable and clean [???] but also because they employ thousands of people. In Ohio, it was a $1.3 billion bailout package. What the citizens of Ohio learned this week, however, is that $60 million in surreptitious payments were allegedly made to make that happen and part of that money went into the pockets of House Speaker Larry Householder.

FirstEnergy Solutions, now known as Energy Harbor, is the nuclear unit within FirstEnergy Corp.

According to the Energy and Policy Institute, this is the company which owned the nuclear assets that Householder helped to bailout “and which FirstEnergy spun off in bankruptcy restructuring.”

Energy Harbor says that it will cooperate fully with the investigators, although it is not named in the criminal complaint. However, it is likely the entity that prosecutors refer to as ‘Company A’ — the one that made the $60 million in payments to Speaker Householder’s ‘Generation Now’ fund so that it could get the $1.3 billion in benefits. Prosecutors say that the money was paid over a three-year time frame beginning in 2017.

“This is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio,” US Attorney David DeVillers told a press conference. “This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay to play.”

In the actual complaint, the prosecution alleges the payments were tantamount to “bags of cash” that went unregulated and unreported.

This is more than a public corruption scandal. It is a potential take-down of nuclear energy. If it is, the ramifications would be huge: According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, there are 96 nuclear reactors in 29 states. Altogether, they supply about 20 percent of the country’s electricity and about 55 percent of its carbon-free power. They operate at 92 percent capacity, more than any other type of power plant.

A heavy weight

Context is key. In the US, electricity grid operators are the ones to order up and dispatch the lowest-cost electricity sources — a system that invariably favors shale gas because it is so cheap relative to competing fuels. Existing generators that sell their electricity at market rates, can’t win. This fact, along with the high capital costs it takes to construct nuclear plants, has severely curtailed nuclear development in the US.

As a result, six nuclear plants have closed down since 2013 and several more have announced retirement dates over the next decade. The practical implications of moving away from nuclear and into natural gas have been greater CO2 emissions. When Southern California Edison closed its plant in 2013, such heat-trapping releases rose by 35 percent. To avoid further closures, state legislatures are subsidizing nuclear power by recognizing their carbon-free contributions.

But the American nuclear power sector has never learned the most basic lesson of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station, which suffered a partial meltdown of its core in 1979 and which triggered an irrevocable backlash: get accurate information to the public in a timely manner. Secrecy does not work. In 2013, Southern California Edison said it would shutter its San Onofre Generating Station because of a small radiation leak. While the utility had maintained publicly that it only learned of the seepage in 2012 during routine maintenance, it was subsequently proven that it long knew that irregular vibrations could lead to leaks.

The utility then lost all credibility with regulators and the public.

Bad economics in combination with poor PR have been mounting for a long time. And the problems are bound to get worse now that FirstEnergy’s Energy Harbor is allegedly embroiled in this latest mess. And the industry can’t blame the environmental movement for this latest crisis — a movement concerned about storing radioactive nuclear waste and potential accidents.

“FirstEnergy’s successful campaign last year to secure a $1 billion bailout of its Ohio nuclear plants is at the center of a pay-to-play scandal that is rocking Ohio,”says Sandy Buchanan and Seth Feaste, of the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis. “The FBI would do well to take a closer look at all other state government-official involvement with FirstEnergy during the years when FirstEnergy was seeking a ‘legislative solution’ to save its nuclear plants.”

Where does the nuclear sector go from here? No doubt, the industry will separate itself from the corruption scandal now plaguing the state of Ohio. It will continue to maintain that global climate goals cannot be met without heavy participation from nuclear. But it will once again have to fight off the stench of secrecy and back-room politics — the same factors that have weighed it down since 1979. When the Ohio case is resolved, so too might be nuclear’s future in the US.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Nuclear Power, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

British nuclear submarine close to disaster after NEAR MISS with packed passenger ferry, report finds

RT | July 16, 2020

A British nuclear-powered submarine was at “serious risk of collision” with a passenger ferry with hundreds on board after the commanding officer made decisions on “inaccurate information,” an investigation has found.

A report conducted by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) – published on Thursday – found that the two vessels came within 50-100 meters of each other during the incident on November 6, 2018. The investigation revealed that it was the third time in four years that a submerged Royal Navy submarine had narrowly missed a calamitous collision with another vessel.

The Stena Superfast V11 ferry was travelling from Belfast to Cairnryan in Scotland when it was forced to take “immediate action” and alter its course to save the 215 passengers and 67 crew onboard – having spotted the submarine’s periscope just 250 yards (229 meters) ahead.

The two-year probe found that the sub had miscalculated that it was 1,000 yards away when the ferry swerved. It was actually a quarter of that distance away from disaster.

This was an unsafe event and placed the ferry’s passengers and crew, as well as the submarine and its crew, in immediate danger.

The report said that the Royal Navy vessel’s control room team “overestimated the ferry’s range and underestimated its speed.” It goes on to say that the commanding officer and its officer of the watch made “safety-critical decisions” that might have appeared rational at the time but were in fact “based on inaccurate information.”

The sub – which is based at Faslane in Scotland – is part of Britain’s nuclear-powered fleet, although it has not been revealed whether it was one of four that carry nuke missiles.

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Nuclear Power | | 2 Comments

Armenian Foreign Ministry Slams Baku’s Threat to Bomb Nuclear Plant as Breaching Int’l Law

Sputnik – 16.07.2020

Azerbaijan’s threat to carry out an airstrike on the Armenian-based Metsamor nuclear power plant (NPP) is in violation of international law, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, calling upon Baku to publicly denounce threats like that.

Earlier in the day, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly said that Armenia should beware that Baku has the necessary equipment to conduct a precision strike against the Metsamor NPP.

“The actions threatened by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan are a flagrant violation of the International Humanitarian Law in general and the First Additional Protocol to Geneva Conventions in particular. Such threats are an explicit demonstration of state terrorism and genocidal intent of Azerbaijan,” the Armenian ministry’s statement read.

The ministry emphasized that such statements by Azerbaijan were “a menace to all the peoples of the region, including its own people.”

“We strongly condemn the nuclear threats voiced by Azerbaijan, which demonstrate absolute absence of responsibility and sound judgement from this particular member of the international community. Azerbaijan must publicly denounce such threats at once,” the ministry said.

Clashes broke out in the border area that separates Armenia’s Tavush province and Azerbaijan’s Tovuz region this past Sunday. The escalation is in its fourth day now, a reasonable distance away from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, where the two sides have waged war for decades.

Azerbaijan has by far reported 11 troops killed as a result of armed hostilities, while Armenia has reported four fatalities.

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Dutch emergency services battle fire at abandoned NUCLEAR PLANT, urge residents to lock windows and doors

RT | May 21, 2020

Dozens of firefighters have been deployed to tackle a blaze at a disused nuclear facility in Dodewaard in the Netherlands. Police have asked the public to stay away and lock all doors and windows to avoid exposure to the fumes.

The fire broke out shortly before noon local time on Thursday in Dodewaard, which is roughly 100 km from Amsterdam. Eyewitness video from the scene shows fire crews battling the blaze on the roof.

The cause of the fire is as yet unknown, but it may have started after work was carried out on the roof recently, according to a spokesperson for the Gelderland-Zuid Safety Region, who added that there may be gas bottles up there. Nearby residents have been told to remain indoors and lock all doors and windows and cut off any ventilation systems.

Police have established a security cordon, while asking cyclists, motorists and other passers-by eager for a look at the incident to leave the area immediately.

The plant has been out of service since 1997 but is not expected to be dismantled until 2045, when radiation at the site drops to safe levels. All fuel rods were removed from the site in 2003, so there is no immediate danger of radioactive fallout.

The main operational areas of the plant were bricked up and contained within a so-called ‘safe zone’, to prevent areas that previously housed radioactive material from being exposed to the outside world.

The power company conglomerate behind the facility is embroiled in a legal battle with the government over who should cover the estimated €80 million cost of decommissioning.

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

‘Imminent’ 9.0 Earthquake, 30M Tsunami Could Wreck Fukushima, Government Panel Says

Sputnik – 23.04.2020

A specially set up working group has been projecting the possible repercussions of new probable natural disasters off Japan’s coastline and drawing up measures to prevent them.

A Japanese government panel has warned that a tsunami as high as 30 metres could land on Hokkaido if a 9.0-magnitude earthquake occurs, the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported.

The panel, set up by the Cabinet Office, said it is the “worst-case scenario”, admitting that it is difficult to calculate the probability of such a quake. The panel pointed out that such disasters occur every 300-400 years, with the latest one dating back to the 17th century.

An earthquake is portrayed as imminent in the area around the Japan Trench and the Kuril Trench, following a panel studying simulations of tsunamis that occurred over the past 6,000 years and covered seven prefectures including Hokkaido, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibarak, Aomori, and Chiba.

The working group concluded that Iwate might have to bear the brunt of a tsunami of around 29.7 metres, followed by Hokkaido which will potentially be hit by 27.9-metre waves.

The worrisome predictions and media reports have meanwhile stoked concerns that a massive tsunami may wreck the Fukushima nuclear station, which its operator TEPCO has been cleaning up from toxic waste ever since the 2011 tsunami.

For instance, according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a Japanese government study projected that a tsunami with waves as high as 13.7 metres could sweep away the 11-metre high seawall built by TEPCO on the ocean side of the compound of the Fukushima Daichi plant. The out-of-service plant reportedly stores around 1,000 tanks of wastewater in one of its compounds.

In response, TEPCO announced, as cited by Reuters, that the company is set to dig into the latest prognosis and “analyse the impact on the ongoing preventive measures” against natural disasters.

April 23, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | | 3 Comments