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Member since: Fri Dec 19, 2003, 01:20 AM
Number of posts: 25,156

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Three Years after Fukushima: Lulled into the Myth of Safety?

Three Years after Fukushima: Lulled into the Myth of Safety?

Elisa Wood, Contributing Editor
March 11, 2014

Virginia, USA -- World sentiment seemed to steer away from nuclear energy and toward more renewables following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant on March 11, 2011. Three years later, have we forgotten?

A “myth of safety” permeated before the accident — and indeed may have led to it. And the myth continues today, says Kennette Benedict, executive director of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which published a new English version of the book, “The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Disaster: Investigating the Myth and Reality.” The book was released today to commemorate the third anniversary of the disaster.

The book describes minute-to-minute events within the plant, utility and government agencies as the accident unfolded. It is based on the findings of an independent panel that conducted 300 interviews with those who played a role during the crisis — from workers in the plant to government leaders forced to make fateful decisions during the crisis.

Owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant suffered a catastrophic failure when a tsunami flooded the facility and shut down emergency generators, thus halting cooling to the reactor. The 140,000 people who lived nearby evacuated and have yet to return. The disabled plant continues to struggle with radiation release.

The book attempts to bring cultural and historic perspective to the accident. When Japan decided to pursue nuclear power more than 50 years ago....


Was Your Senator #Up4Climate or In Bed with the Oil Industry?

Was Your Senator #Up4Climate or In Bed with the Oil Industry?

28 Democrats participate in overnight talkathon designed to wake up Congress over global warming

Jon Queally, Common Dreams
March 11, 2014 s

Though likely impossible to find anyone in the climate justice or environmental community to say that any sitting U.S. senator — Republican or Democrat — has been an adequate leader on the issue of global warming, 28 Democrats (and two Independents) were garnering soft applause for their overnight effort on Monday into Tuesday as they pulled an all night session focused exclusively on climate change.

The most striking element separating those who participated and those who stayed home: the volume of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. The numbers support those who have long said the real villain in the fight against climate change is the fossil fuel industry, which uses its deep pockets to control the debate in Washington, bankroll industry-friendly politicians, and fund climate denialism in the American population.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that climate denial is still an acceptable political position to some in Washington," said Jason Kowalski, policy director for 350.org, "but I think it’s a sign of the times that over a quarter of the U.S. Senate is prepared to side with the people over the polluters tonight.”

The message is a simple one, said Hawaii's freshman Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat who organized the event: "We're not going to rest until Congress acts on the most pressing issue of our time."

More publicity stunt than legislative maneuver, participating senators gave speeches about the impact on global warming for future generations and the economic costs of doing nothing...


Japan: Local green power advocates to form national association to break away from nuclear

Kyodo News International March 11, 2014 9:48am
Local green power advocates to form national association

A group of 38 local green power advocacy groups said Tuesday they plan to set up a national association by June in an effort to break away from nuclear power generation.

The association is aimed at sharing information about each member's experience for setting up community-based renewable power plants, the founders said at a press conference in Tokyo.

It also plans to eventually create a system to issue certificates indicating the origin of electricity with an eye on the 2016 liberalization of the retail electricity market, which will allow households to choose suppliers.

Noting their wish not to repeat the tragedy involved in the nuclear disaster following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami three years ago, the founders said they hope to assist companies and individuals to solve challenges in developing locally driven power plants such as the lack of funds and human resources.

"We want to create a concrete step to realize calls to break away from nuclear energy by generating electricity in communities...


"Beyond Nuclear Summitry: The Role of the IAEA in Nuclear Security Diplomacy After 2016"

"Beyond Nuclear Summitry: The Role of the IAEA in Nuclear Security Diplomacy After 2016"
Discussion Paper, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
March 11, 2014
Author: Trevor Findlay, Senior Research Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy

Since it became apparent that the nuclear security summits are likely to end with a final meeting in Washington DC in 2016 there has been much speculation―but little detailed analysis―as to what might replace them. One candidate touted as a suitable inheritor of the summits’ mantle is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This discussion paper examines whether and how the IAEA could and should do so, what form its role might take, and how the Agency and the summiteers might prepare for such an eventuality. The paper begins by examining the evolving roles of both the summits and the IAEA in nuclear security diplomacy. In this light it investigates the extent to which the IAEA could, given its current resources and approaches, emulate the innovative aspects of the summits, or take over at least some of their functions. The paper concludes with recommendations for the summiteers and the IAEA in preparing for such outcomes.

Full text of "Beyond Nuclear Summitry: The Role of the IAEA in Nuclear Security Diplomacy After 2016 (2.3 MB PDF)
Available at this link: http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/23986/beyond_nuclear_summitry.html

PJM Grid Operators: We Can Handle 30 Percent Renewable Energy Integration, And Here's How

PJM Grid Operators: We Can Handle 30 Percent Renewable Energy Integration, And Here's How

James Montgomery, Associate Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com
March 10, 2014

New Hampshire, USA -- Experts believe that the PJM Interconnection system, which encompasses all or parts of Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, can handle up to 30 percent of its energy from wind and solar without "any significant reliability issues," assuming transmission upgrades and additional regulation reserves — and at the same time reducing costs and reliance on its costlier conventional generation fleet.

Twelve PJM member states have renewable portfolio standards ranging from 18-25 percent, most with solar carve-outs. PJM projects its own wind and solar requirements will continue to steadily build from roughly 4 GW combined wind and solar in 2010 to 33 GW of wind and over 9 GW of solar by 2029. To get their arms around this rapidly increasing amount of wind and solar energy in its infrastructure back in the spring of 2011 PJM stakeholders requested a study, led by GE Energy, to assess the operational, planning, and market impacts of adding large-scale integration of wind and solar power over the next 15 years. The study covered how it would take shape and be operated, what transmission upgrades would be required, capacity values, and general overall impact on PJM operations. Ten scenarios were explored, from simply maintaining 2011 levels of 2 percent renewable integration, to meeting a 14 percent RPS mandate by 2026, up to a maximum of 30 percent energy annually from solar and wind.

Preliminary results were disclosed last fall, and final results were presented last week. The bottom line: PJM says its system "would not have any significant reliability issues operating with up to 30 percent of its energy " (note: that's energy, not capacity) though it will require significant additional transmission (nearly $14 billion) and regulation reserves (up to 1.5 GW).

Here's a shortlist of the findings...


Note the 30% is the maximum studied, not the maximum penetration possible.

Obama's new rule would make it harder for employers to deny you overtime


Obama's new rule would make it harder for employers to deny you overtime

On Thursday, President Obama will reportedly direct the Labor Department to significantly broaden the number of American workers eligible for overtime pay. The new rules don't require congressional approval, but they won't take effect until after a public comment period. And there will be lots of comments.

Under the proposed rules, businesses would find it harder to avoid paying middle managers, shift supervisors, and other salaried "professional" workers overtime. The current rules were written by the George W. Bush administration in 2004. The new changes "would potentially shift billions of dollars' worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers," say Michael D. Shear and Steven Greenhouse at The New York Times.

The opponents and proponents of the measure fall along pretty predictable lines...


Rolling back a major Shrub era attack on labor.


GreenPeace Commissioned Study 2014

Nearly three years on from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the 25 oldest nuclear reactors in Europe have all passed 35 years of operation. More than two-thirds of US nuclear reactors have received extended licences permitting 60 years of operation, far beyond their original design lifetimes. We are entering a new era of nuclear risk.

At the time of writing (January 2014) the average age of European nuclear reactors has reached 29 years. An increasing number are reaching their design lifetimes of 30 or 40 years. New nuclear reactor construction in the EU is not capable of replacing all the reactors that are approaching the end of their design lifetimes, and the Fukushima disaster acted as a brake on new build programmes. Nevertheless we are seeing an increasing demand for new strategies to avoid a phase-out of nuclear energy, especially in countries that have not developed viable alternatives.

The current strategy of nuclear operators in much of Europe, including Switzerland, Ukraine and Russia, is targeted at a combination of extension of reactor lifetime (also called Long Term Operation) and power uprating. These factors taken together may have an important impact on the safety of the operational reactor fleet in Europe.

The design lifetime is the period of time during which a facility or component is expected to perform according to the technical specifications to which it was produced. Life-limiting processes include an excessive number of reactor trips and load cycle exhaustion. Physical ageing of systems, structures and components is paralleled by technological and conceptual ageing, because existing reactors allow for only limited retroactive implementation of new technologies and safety concepts. Together with ‘soft’ factors such as outmoded organisational structures and the loss of staff know-how and motivation as employees retire, these factors cause the overall safety level of older reactors to become increasingly inadequate by modern standards.

Measures to uprate a reactor’s power output can further compromise safety margins, for instance because increased thermal energy production results in an increased output of steam and cooling water, leading to greater stresses on piping and heat exchange systems, so exacerbating ageing mechanisms. Modifications necessitated by power uprating may additionally introduce new potential sources of failure due to adverse interactions between new and old equipment. Thus, both lifetime extension and power uprating decrease a plant’s originally designed safety margins and increase the risk of failures.

Online quick 4 slide briefing: http://out-of-age.eu/ageing/

PDF of more comprehensive brief:

Download full report PDF

Sample snip from section on insurance and liability.
Given that the costs of a nuclear accident are potentially much higher than those covered in the limited liability coverage, liability limitation (capping) effectively gives the nuclear industry a two-fold subsidy: the limit itself, leading to lower insurance costs; and either top-up coverage by the state (in the case of Europe) or the opportunity to defer a portion of insurance costs to second-tier retrospective coverage (USA). These legal regimes thus protect nuclear operators and artificially decrease their risk costs, potentially creating three types of distortions:

1. The reduced cost of insurance gives nuclear energy an artificial competitive advantage because other electricity generation technologies (and market operators) have to internalise their full risk;

2. The liability cap reduces an operator’s economic incentive to reduce the risk of a nuclear accident.

3. The cap, coupled (in the case of Europe) with inadequate top-up coverage, may result in a lack of or insufficient compensation for victims in the event of an accident.

The increasing risk posed by nuclear ageing should lead to an increase in operators’ insurance premiums. With ageing nuclear reactors, adequate financial security to cover the costs of a potential accident becomes even more a necessity. It is important for society as a whole that objective calculations are made of the damage that a nuclear accident could potentially cause, and on that basis alternative systems of financing the coverage have to be investigated.

It is obviously important to accompany this with a mandatory financial security requirement for operators, but the higher resulting costs resulting from such an analysis should not be a reason to limit liability. Pooling of the financial security by operators may be a good alternative to the current European nuclear insurance pools.

I disagree. The automatic systems for tracking a downed aircraft aren't online and...

...no sign of debris.

And though you are disregarding it, the aircraft looks to be hundreds of miles off course. That doesn't happen by accident.

Hijacking for hostages is less likely IMO than to obtain the aircraft.

Why would you need a civilian aircraft?

I think "stealing" might be a better word than hijacking.

My mind keeps going to the idea of a weapon's delivery system. I can see a plan for delivery of some form of WMD that would be very, very difficult to protect against.

Leak in massive Hanford nuclear waste tank getting worse

Leak in massive Hanford nuclear waste tank getting worse
via King5.com

RICHLAND, Wash. — Workers have found more waste leaking between the walls of a nuclear storage tank on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The waste was found in a new place between the walls of one of the 28 double shell tanks at the site. The US Dept. of Energy, which owns Hanford, says the waste is covering an area of 7 feet by 21 inches. The double shell tanks were built to be the most robust tanks at Hanford. They were constructed with the intent to be able to safely store the dangerous wastes until the technology to permanently dispose of the liquids is developed. A leak in a double shell tank is seen as one of the biggest setbacks to the cleanup program at Hanford in the last decade.

It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since recently retired WRPS worker, Mike Geffre, found the first signs of the leak in October, 2011. To date, there is no solid plan on how to mitigate the leak or pump the contents of the tank to a safer holding vessel. Geffre says the company is stalling.

“Instead of being pro-active they become defensive. You need to handle everything as if it’s real. You may respond to a few false alarms but that’s the way it is. You cannot handle things, in the wait and see (mode). In the radiation world and the nuclear world that is extremely irresponsible,” said Geffre.

The Washington State Dept. of Ecology, which is a regulator at Hanford, has given the US Dept. of Energy until Friday, March 7, to submit a revised pumping plan for AY-102...


See also

'Bizarre' Cluster of Severe Birth Defects Haunts Health Experts

A mysterious cluster of severe birth defects in rural Washington state is confounding health experts, who say they can find no cause, even as reports of new cases continue to climb.

Federal and state officials won’t say how many women in a three-county area near Yakima, Wash., have had babies with anencephaly, a heart-breaking condition in which they’re born missing parts of the brain or skull. And they admit they haven't interviewed any of the women in question, or told the mothers there's a potentially widespread problem.

But as of January 2013, officials with the Washington state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had counted nearly two dozen cases in three years, a rate four times the national average.

Since then, one local genetic counselor, Susie Ball of the Central Washington Genetics Program at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, says she has reported “eight or nine” additional cases of anencephaly and spina bifida, another birth defect in which the neural tube, which forms the brain and spine, fails to close properly.

“It does strike me as a lot,” says Ball.

And at least one Yakima...

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