Informational items on various aspects of the nuclear industry
12 Dec 16 Australian nuclear lobbyists have had remarkable success in making themselves famous internationally, which is probably their main aim. . Barry Brook set this off, with a thin veil of environmentalism covering his dedication to the nuclear industry, in Brave New Climate. He got a heap of well-meaning environmentalists to sign up to a pro nuclear letter.
Now Ben Heard has gone a step further, with HIS nuclear front group – Bright New World. He’s got 25 important people to sign up to a pro nuclear campaign for South Australia. As with Brook’s disciples, some of these people seem quite altruistic and disconnected with the nuclear and mining industries.
Others do not:
Dr Ian Gould: chairing South Australia Energy and Resources Investment Conference 23-24 May 2017 Adelaide, geologist with 40 years experience in the minerals industry in diverse and senior positions, mainly within the CRA/Rio Tinto Group, current Chancellor of the University of South Australia and was awarded an AM in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to mining.
David Klingberg is a South Australian businessman, civil engineer and former Chancellor of the University of South Australia. director of ASX listed companies E & A Ltd and Centrex Metals Ltd. Klingberg is chair of a technical sub-group working on the Australian Government‘s National Radioactive Waste Management Project.
Dr Leanna Read is South Australia’s Chief Scientist, Expert Advisory Committee of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in South Australia.] Read is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering,[which advocated for nuclear power in Australia in August 2014.. Read is also the Chair of the South Australian Science Council.
Stephen Young director or Chairman on a number of companies including ,Electricity Trust of South Australia, Australian Submarine Corporation ,The University of Adelaide ,E&A ltd and its Subsidiaries.
Mr Jim McDowell Chancellor of the University of South Australia Jim McDowell is currently Chair of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and non-Executive director of a number of private and listed companies. He advises the Federal Government in a number of areas of Defence and Defence Procurement. He is a member of the First Principles Review of the Department of Defence and is currently on the Expert Advisory Panel for the Future Submarine. Formerly CEO OF BAE Systems Australia, the nation’s largest defence contractor.
Michael John Terlet Primary qualification in Electrical EngineeringNon Executive Chairman of Sandvik Mining and Construction Adelaide Ltd, a Director of Australian Submarine Corporation Pty. Ltd. Served as the Chief Executive Officer at AWA Defence Industries, Chairman of SA Centre for Manufacturing, Defence Manufacturing Council SA (MTIA)
Graham Douglas Walters AM, FCA Mr. Graham Douglas Walters, AM, FCA, serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors at Minelab Electronics Pty Ltd. Mr. Walters serves as Chairman and Director at Minelab International Pty Ltd.
Effectively this is the same draconian situation that existed under the earlier Commonwealth
Radioactive Waste Management Act 2005 introduced by the Howard government to override State and Territory interests to protect community health, safety and welfare from the risks and impacts of nuclear wastes and to nullify Federal laws that protect against imposition of nuclear wastes.
Public submission to the draft ARPANSA Information for Stakeholders & associated Regulatory Guide to Licensing a Radioactive Waste Storage or Disposal Facility
Revised ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” should address the following:
The nuclear fuel waste Store in the Flinders Ranges is intended to operate for approx. 100 years.
The ARPANSA “Information for Stakeholders” fails to be transparent and is not fit for purpose.
ARPANSA must inform the public on the proposed licence period for this nuclear fuel waste Store.
ARPANSA should also publicly acknowledge the Contingency that the proposed nuclear fuel waste Store may be at a different site to the proposed near surface Repository in the Flinders Ranges.
The proposed above ground Store in our iconic Flinders Ranges is unnecessary as the ANSTO’s existing Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can manage reprocessed nuclear fuel waste on contract from France and from the United Kingdom over the long term.
The ANSTO application for the Interim Waste Store was conservatively predicated on a 40 year operating life for the IWS, and ANSTO has a contingency to “extend it for a defined period of time”.
ANSTO also has a contingency option for the “Retention of the returned residues at ANSTO until the availability of a final disposal option” – which does not involve a Store in the Flinders Ranges.
The Lucas Heights Technology Centre is by far the best placed Institution and facility to responsibly manage Australia’s existing nuclear fuel waste and proposed waste accruals from the Opal reactor.
The Interim Waste Store (IWS) at the Lucas Heights Technology Centre can conservatively function throughout the proposed operating period of the Opal reactor without a requirement for an alternative above ground nuclear fuel waste Store at a NRWMF in the Flinders Ranges or elsewhere.
It is an inexplicably omission or an unacceptably act of denial for ARPANSA to fail to even identity or to properly explain Australia’s existing nuclear fuel wastes and proposed further decades of Opal reactor nuclear fuel waste production in the “Information for Stakeholders”.
Australia’s nuclear fuel wastes are by far the highest activity and most concentrated and hazardous nuclear wastes under Australian management, and must be distinguished from other waste forms. Read the rest of this entry »
Thorium Reactors: Fact and Fiction, Skeptoid These next-generation reactors have attracted a nearly cultish following. Is it justified? by Brian Dunning Skeptoid Podcast #555 January 24, 2017
Podcast transcript “………True or False? Thorium reactors were never commercially developed because they can’t produce bomb material.
This is mostly false, although it’s become one of the most common myths about thorium reactors. There are other very good reasons why uranium-fueled reactors were developed commercially instead of thorium-fueled reactors. If something smells like a conspiracy theory, you’re always wise to take a second, closer look.
When we make weapons-grade Pu239 for nuclear weapons, we use special production reactors designed to burn natural uranium, and only for about three months, to avoid contaminating it with Pu240. Only a very few reactors were ever built that can both do that and generate electricity. The rest of the reactors out there that generate electricity could have been any design that was wanted. So why weren’t thorium reactors designed instead? We did have some test thorium-fueled reactors built and running in the 1960s. The real reason has more to do with the additional complexity, design challenges, and expense of these MSBR (molten salt breeder) reactors.
In 1972, the US Atomic Energy Commission published a report on the state of MSBR reactors. Here’s a snippet of what was found:
A number of factors can be identified which tend to limit further industrial involvement at this time, namely:
- The existing major industrial and utility commitments to the LWR, HTGR, and LMFBR.
- The lack of incentive for industrial investment in supplying fuel cycle services, such as those required for solid fuel reactors.
- The overwhelming manufacturing and operating experience with solid fuel reactors in contrast with the very limited involvement with fluid fueled reactors.
- The less advanced state of MSBR technology and the lack of demonstrated solutions to the major technical problems associated with the MSBR concept.
In short, the technology was just too complicated, and it never became mature enough.
It is, however, mostly true that, if we’re going to use a commercial reactor to get plutonium for a bomb, recycling spent fuel from a uranium reactor is easier, and you can get proper weapons-grade plutonium this way. It is possible to get reactor-grade plutonium from a thorium reactor that can be made into a bomb — one was successfully tested in 1962 — but it’s a much lower yield bomb and it’s much harder to get the plutonium.
The short answer is that reduced weapons proliferation is not the strongest argument for switching from uranium fuel to thorium fuel for power generation. Neither reactor type is what’s typically designed and used for bomb production. Those already exist, and will continue to provide all the plutonium that governments are ever likely to need for that purpose.
There’s every reason to take fossil fuels completely out of our system; we have such absurdly better options. If you’re like me and want to see this approach be a multi-pronged one, one that major energy companies, smaller community providers, and individual homeowners can all embrace, then advocate for nukes. You don’t need to specify thorium or liquid fuel or breeders; they’re already the wave of the future — a future which, I hope, will be clean, bright, and bountiful. https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4555
National academies of sciences from around the world have published formal statements and declarations acknowledging the state of climate science, the fact that climate is changing, the compelling evidence that humans are responsible, and the need to debate and implement strategies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Not a single national science academy disputes or denies the scientific consensus around human-caused climate change. A few examples of joint academy statements since 2000 on climate are listed here. Many national academies have, in addition, published their own reports and studies on climate issues. These are not included here.
The Science of Climate Change (Statement of 17 National Science Academies, 2001)
Following the release of the third in the ongoing series of international reviews of climatescience conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chang (IPCC), seventeen national science academies issued a joint statement, entitled “The Science of Climate Change,” acknowledging the IPCC study to be the scientific consensus on climate changescience.
The seventeen signatories were:
- Australian Academy of Sciences
- Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
- Brazilian Academy of Sciences
- Royal Society of Canada
- Caribbean Academy of Sciences
- Chinese Academy of Sciences
- French Academy of Sciences
- German Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina
- Indian National Science Academy
- Indonesian Academy of Sciences
- Royal Irish Academy
- Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy)
- Academy of Sciences Malaysia
- Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
- Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- Turkish Academy of Sciences
- Royal Society (UK)
Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change(Statement of 11 National Science Academies, 2005)
Eleven national science academies, including all the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, signed a statement that the scientific understanding of climate change was sufficiently strong to justify prompt action. The statement explicitly endorsed the IPCC consensus and stated:
“…there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth’s climate.”………
Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change(Statement of 11 National Science Academies, 2005)
Joint science academies’ statement on Growth and responsibility: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection (Statement of 13 National Science Academies, 2007)
A joint statement on sustainability, energy efficiency, and climate change(Statement of 13 individual National Science Academies and the African Academy of Sciences, 2007)
Zmian klimatu, globalnego ocieplenia i ich alarmujących skutkow: “Climate change, global warming and its alarming consequences” (Statement of the Polish Academy of Sciences, December 2007)
Joint Science Academies’ Statement: Climate Change Adaptation and the Transition to a Low Carbon Society (Statement of 13 National Academies of Sciences, June 2008)
Climate change and the transformation of energy technologies for a low carbon future (Statement of 13 National Academies of Sciences, May 2009)
Health Effects of Climate Change (Statement of the Inter Academy Medical Panel/42 National Academies of Sciences, 2010)
Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (Joint Statement of the Royal Society and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, February 2014)
Position de l’Académie sur les Changements Climatiques (Statement of the Académie Royale des Science, des Lettres & des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, November 12, 2014)
U.K. Science Communiqué on Climate Change (Joint Statement of the Royal Society and member organizations, July 2015)
Facing critical decisions on climate change (Joint Statement of the European Academies Science Advisory Council and its 29 members, 2015)
Facing critical decisions on climate change in 2015
The science of climate change reported by the IPCC Fourth Assessment (2007) and Fifth Assessment (2014) have been thoroughly evaluated by numerous national academies (e.g. Royal Society/National Academy of Sciences, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) and by international bodies. Advances in science and technology have increased our knowledge of how to mitigate climate change, uncertainties in the scientific analysis continue to be addressed, co-benefits of mitigation to health have been revealed, and new business opportunities have been found. EASAC remains concerned, however, that progress in turning this substantial evidence base into an international policy response has so far failed to match the full magnitude and urgency of the problem…
Even if emissions of GHG stopped altogether, existing concentrations of GHG in the atmosphere would continue to exert a warming effect for a long time. Whatever measures are put in place to reduce the intensity of global human-induced climate forcing, building resilience through adaptation will be necessary to provide more resilience to the risks already emerging as a result of climate change…
Signatories/Members of the European Academies Science Advisory Council
- Academia Europaea
- All European Academies (ALLEA)
- The Austrian Academy of Sciences
- The Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
- The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
- The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts
- The Czech Academy of Sciences
- The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
- The Estonian Academy of Sciences
- TheCouncil of Finnish Academies
- The German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina
- The Academy of Athens
- The Hungarian Academy of Sciences
- The Royal Irish Academy
- The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei
- The Latvian Academy of Sciences
- The Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
- The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
- The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters
- The Polish Academy of Sciences
- The Academy of Sciences of Lisbon
- The Romanian Academy
- The Slovak Academy of Sciences
- The Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
- The Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences
- The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
- The Royal Society
- The Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) (Observer)
[This list is not a complete summary of the many individual or joint statements of national academies of sciences. Please send additions and corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org) https://www.skepticalscience.com/joint-statements-on-climate-change-from-nas-around-world.html
It is a good idea to at least test the feasibility of deep boreholes. As one resident said “Something must be done with the wastes”. There is no obligation on that community to agree to actually accept high level nuclear waste – only to host the testing of the deep bore concept.
The whole project would really make sense if it were combined with a definite plan to STOP MAKING TOXIC RADIOACTIVE WASTES, by closing down all nuclear reactors. This could be done, with genuine good will, and planning for compensation and transition to other employment for workers in the nuclear industry.
New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project LMT Online, , January 15, 2017 “……. The U.S. Energy Department, Quay County and two energy development companies say the nation’s latest nuclear waste experiment could inject as much as $40 million into the county’s economy. Nara Visa residents just have to agree to let the companies drill a three-mile-deep borehole — seven times deeper than the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad — into the crystalline, granite crust of the earth a few miles outside of town, on land currently occupied by fat, black cattle.
Right now, the project is pegged as a scientific experiment. The Energy Department says no nuclear waste will be placed in the test borehole.
The ultimate goal is to find a permanent place to dispose of the ever-growing and deadly stockpile of spent nuclear fuel rods and high-level radioactive waste collected at nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons laboratories nationwide.
Until this year, no town in the U.S. had agreed to the proposal. But when the Quay County Commission approved the plan in October, it put Nara Visa on track to become the first.
About seven miles outside Nara Visa, there is a small, gravel roadside park where semi-truck drivers pull off U.S. 54 to sleep. Below the earth, the granite is devoid of oil but just right for deep drilling.
These 10 acres belong to Louis and Elaine James, who’ve agreed to lease it to the government………
As far as the nuclear waste component is concerned, Louis James, 69, said, “I have more of a problem with it sitting over at Pantex 100 miles away than I do with it being under the ground, because you know it will get you if they ever attack those spots.” He was referring to the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons assembly facility outside Amarillo, Texas……
The test hole planned for the James’ property is meant to be just 8 1/2 inches wide but would go deep below ground, first through the water table and a mile through sediment before hitting the top of a crystalline rock layer. From there, the hole would be drilled another two miles into the Earth. This is the layer where nuclear waste would be stored, then sealed off with a steel casing and concrete to protect the environment and water in the mile span separating the waste from the land’s surface.
Utah-based DOSECC Exploration Services LLC and Enercon Federal Services, Inc., based in Atlanta, are developing the Nara Visa proposal and are one of four groups that have been granted the go-ahead from the Energy Department for Phase 1 of the project. This is referred to as “community buy-in,” gaining not only public approval but also support for the project, and securing the land for the borehole site.
If DOSECC and Enercon win this bid, they will get $35 million over a five-year period to drill the first hole. The Energy Department will grant an additional $50 million to drill a second, wider borehole if the first is successful……
State Rep. Dennis Roch said that after meeting with the companies, he felt confident there was “no connection between this viability test and the ultimate decision of where to dispose of nuclear waste way down the road.”…….
The Nara Visa site would only be permitted for drilling, he added. Nuclear waste storage would require an entirely different permitting and regulatory process…….
WIPP, after being closed for nearly three years following the radiation leak, began depositing waste below ground for the first time in December. But the stagnation of waste disposal at these facilities left the Energy Department scrambling for alternatives, and in 2012, deep boreholes resurfaced as a potential alternative, an idea that was first floated in the 1950s.
To store all of the waste sitting at 77 U.S. facilities, the Energy Department needs to drill 950 boreholes at an estimated $20 million per hole, or $71 billion for the entire project, including transportation, environmental reclamation, monitoring and site characterization, according to the 2010 Sandia study. In contrast, Yucca Mountain was estimated to cost $96 billion.
Each hole is expected to contain 400 vertically stacked fuel pods that, unlike the costly steel drums used to pack waste headed to WIPP, would not require specialized containers but instead would be stored in their spent fuel form or glass. Multiple boreholes could be drilled just over 200 meters apart to avoid thermal reactions.
Though the Sandia study said boreholes could be used for nuclear reactor waste, Mast from Enercon said he believes the Energy Department is only looking at boreholes for waste from nuclear weapons development.
To actually begin placing nuclear waste in the boreholes will require an amendment to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.
Before the proposal reaches that stage, Greg Mello, director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, says the government should be more transparent about exactly what type of high-level nuclear waste would go in the holes: spent fuel rods, nuclear weapons waste or down-blended plutonium. …..http://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/New-Mexico-town-steps-up-for-nuclear-borehole-10858853.php
Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.
In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.
We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long.
Should troubled nuclear reactors be subsidized? http://bangordailynews.com/2017/01/13/the-point/compete-or-suckle-should-troubled-nuclear-reactors-be-subsidized/ By Peter Bradford, The Conversation
Since the 1950s, U.S. nuclear power has commanded immense taxpayer and consumer subsidy based on promises of economic and environmental benefits. Many of these promises are unfulfilled, but new ones take their place and more subsidies follow.
Today, the nuclear industry claims that keeping all operating reactors running for many years, no matter how uneconomic they become, is essential in order to reach U.S. climate change targets.
Economics have always challenged U.S. reactors. After more than 100 construction cancellations and cost overruns costing up to $5 billion apiece, Forbes magazine in 1985 called nuclear power “the greatest managerial disaster in business history … only the blind, or the biased, can now think that most of the money [$265 billion by 1990] has been well spent.” U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Chair Lewis Strauss’ 1954 promise that electric power would be “ too cheap to meter” is today used to mock nuclear economics, not commend them.
As late as 1972, the Atomic Energy Commission forecast that the U.S. would have 1,000 power reactors by the year 2000. Today, we have 100 operating power reactors, down from a peak of 112 in 1990. Since 2012, power plant owners have retired five units and announced plans to close nine more. Four new reactors are likely to come on line. Without strenuous government intervention, almost all of the rest will close by midcentury. Because these recent closures have been abrupt and unplanned, the replacement power has come in substantial part from natural gas, causing a dismaying uptick in greenhouse gas emissions.
The nuclear industry, led by the forlornly named lobbying group Nuclear Matters, still obtains large subsidies for new reactor designs that cannot possibly compete at today’s prices. But its main function now is to save operating reactors from closure brought on by their own rising costs, by the absence of a U.S. policy on greenhouse gas emissions and by competition from less expensive natural gas, carbon-free renewables and more efficient energy use.
Only billions more dollars in subsidies and the retarding of rapid deployment of cheaper technologies can save these reactors. Only fresh claims of unique social benefit can justify such steps.
When I served on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977 through 1982, it issued more licenses than in any comparable period since. Arguments that the U.S. couldn’t avoid dependence on Middle Eastern oil and keep the lights on without a vast increase in nuclear power were standard fare then and throughout my 20 years chairing the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions. In fact, we attained these goals without the additional reactors, a lesson to remember in the face of claims that all of today’s nuclear plants are needed to ward off climate change.
Nuclear power in competitive electricity markets
During nuclear power’s growth years in the 1960s and 1970s, almost all electric utility rate regulation was based on recovering the money necessary to build and run power plants and the accompanying infrastructure. But in the 1990s, many states broke up the electric utility monopoly model.
Now a majority of U.S. power generation is sold in competitive markets. Companies profit by producing the cheapest electricity or providing services that avoid the need for electricity.
To justify their current subsidy demands, nuclear advocates assert three propositions. First, they contend that power markets undervalue nuclear plants because they do not compensate reactors for avoiding carbon emissions or for other attributes such as diversifying the fuel supply or running more than 90 percent of the time.
Second, they assert that other low-carbon sources cannot fill the gap because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So power grids will use fossil-fired generators for more hours if nuclear plants close.
Finally, nuclear power supporters argue that these intermittent sources receive substantial subsidies while nuclear energy does not, thereby enabling renewables to underbid nuclear even if their costs are higher.
Nuclear power producers want government-mandated long-term contracts or other mechanisms that require customers to buy power from their troubled units at prices far higher than they would pay otherwise.
Providing such open-ended support will negate several major energy trends that currently benefit customers and the environment. First, power markets have been working reliably and effectively. A large variety of cheaper, more efficient technologies for producing and saving energy, as well as managing the grid more cheaply and cleanly, have been developed. Energy storage, which can enhance the round-the-clock capability of some renewables is progressing faster than had been expected, and it is now being bid into several power markets — notably the market serving Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.
Long-term subsidies for uneconomic nuclear plants also will crowd out penetration of these markets by energy efficiency and renewables. This is the path New York has taken by committing at least $7.6 billion in above-market payments to three of its six plants to assure that they operate through 2029.
Nuclear power versus other carbon-free fuels While power markets do indeed undervalue low-carbon fuels, all of the other premises underlying the nuclear industry approach are flawed. In California and in Nebraska, utilities plan to replace nuclear plants that are closing early for economic reasons almost entirely with electricity from carbon-free sources. Such transitions are achievable in most systems as long as the shutdowns are planned in advance to be carbon-free.
In California, these replacement resources, which include renewables, storage, transmission enhancements and energy efficiency measures, will for the most part be procured through competitive processes. Indeed, any state where a utility threatens to close a plant can run an auction to ascertain whether there are sufficient low-carbon resources available to replace the unit within a particular time frame. Only then will regulators know whether, how much and for how long they should support nuclear units.
If New York had taken this approach, each of the struggling nuclear units could have bid to provide power in such an auction. They might well have succeeded for the immediate future, but some or all would probably not have won after that.
Closing the noncompetitive plants would be a clear benefit to the New York economy. This is why a large coalition of big customers, alternative energy providers and environmental groups opposed the long-term subsidy plan.
The industry’s final argument — that renewables are subsidized and nuclear is not — ignores overwhelming history. All carbon-free energy sources together have not received remotely as much government support as has flowed to nuclear power.
Nuclear energy’s essential components — reactors and enriched uranium fuel — were developed at taxpayer expense. Private utilities were paid to build nuclear reactors in the 1950s and early 1960s, and received subsidized fuel. According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, total subsidies paid and offered to nuclear plants between 1960 and 2024 generally exceed the value of the power that they produced.
The U.S. government also has pledged to dispose of nuclear power’s most hazardous wastes — a promise that has never been made to any other industry. By 2020, taxpayers will have paid some $21 billion to store those wastes at power plant sites.
Furthermore, under the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, each plant owner’s accident liability is limited to some $300 million per year, even though the Fukushima disaster showed that nuclear accident costs can exceed $100 billion. If private companies that own U.S. nuclear power plants had been responsible for accident liability, they would not have built reactors. The same is almost certainly true of responsibility for spent fuel disposal.
Finally, as part of the transition to competition in the 1990s, state governments were persuaded to make customers pay off some $70 billion in excessive nuclear costs. Today, the same nuclear power providers are asking to be rescued from the same market forces for a second time.
Christopher Crane, the president and CEO of Exelon, which owns the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, preaches temperance from a bar stool when he disparages renewable energy subsidies by asserting, “I’ve talked for years about the unintended consequences of policies that incentivize technologies versus outcomes.“
But he’s right about unintended and unfortunate consequences. We should not rely further on the unfulfilled prophesies that nuclear lobbyists have deployed so expensively for so long. It’s time to take Crane at his word by using our power markets, adjusted to price greenhouse gas emissions, to prioritize our low carbon outcome over his technology.
Peter Bradford is a the former chair of the Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commissioner. He also is on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists. This piece was originally published on TheConversation.com.
An engineer’s perspective on the Indian Point shutdown http://enformable.com/2017/01/an-engineers-perspective-on-the-indian-point-shutdown/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Enformable+%28Enformable%29 Author: Karl Grossman, 11 Jan 17
The good—the very good—energy news is that the Indian Point nuclear power plants 26 miles north of New York City will be closed in the next few years under an agreement reached between New York State and the plants’ owner, Entergy.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has long been calling for the plants to be shut down because, as the New York Times related in its story on the pact, they pose “too great a risk to New York City.” Environmental and safe-energy organizations have been highly active for decades in working for the shutdown of the plants. Under the agreement, one Indian Point plant will shut down by April 2020, the second by April 2021.
They would be among the many nuclear power plants in the U.S. which their owners have in recent years decided to close or have announced will be shut down in a few years.
This comes in the face of nuclear power plant accidents—the most recent the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan—and competitive power being less expensive including renewable and safe solar and wind energy.
Last year the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska closed following the shutdowns of Kewanee in Wisconsin, Vermont Yankee in Vermont, Crystal River 3 in Florida and both San Onofre 2 and 3 in California. Nuclear plant operators say they will close Palisades in Michigan next year and then Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim in Massachusetts in 2019 and California’s Diablo Canyon 1 in 2024 and Diablo Canyon 3 in 2025.
This brings the number of nuclear plants down to a few more than 90—a far cry from President Richard Nixon’s scheme to have 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000.
But the bad—the very bad—energy news is that there are still many promoters of nuclear power in industry and government still pushing and, most importantly, the transition team of incoming President Donald Trump has been “asking for ways to keep nuclear power alive,” as Bloomberg news reported last month.
As I was reading last week the first reports on the Indian Point agreement, I received a phone call from an engineer who has been in the nuclear industry for more than 30 years—with his view of the situation.
The engineer, employed at nuclear plants and for a major nuclear plant manufacturer, wanted to relate that even with the Indian Point news—“and I’d keep my fingers crossed that there is no disaster involving those aged Indian Point plants in those next three or four years”—nuclear power remains a “ticking time bomb.” Concerned about retaliation, he asked his name not be published.
Here is some of the information he passed on—a story of experiences of an engineer in the nuclear power industry for more than three decades and his warnings and expectations.
THE SECRETIVE INPO REPORT SYSTEM
Several months after the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in March 1979, the nuclear industry set up the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) based in Atlanta, Georgia. The idea was to have a nuclear industry group that “would share information” on problems and incidents at nuclear power plants, he said.
If there is a problem at one nuclear power plant, through an INPO report it is communicated to other nuclear plant operators. Thus the various plant operators could “cross-reference” happenings at other plants and determine if they might apply to them.
The reports are “coded by color,” explained the engineer. Those which are “green” involve an incident or condition that might or might not indicate a wider problem. A “yellow” report is on an occurrence “that could cause significant problems down the road.” A “red” report is the most serious and represents “a problem that could have led to a core meltdown”—and could be present widely among nuclear plants and for which action needs to be taken immediately.
The engineer said he has read more than 100 “Code Red” reports. What they reflect, he said, is that “we’ve been very, very lucky so far!”
If the general public would see these “red” reports, its view on nuclear power would turn strongly negative, said the engineer.
But this is prevented by INPO, “created and solely funded by the nuclear industry,” thus its reports “are not covered by the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and are regarded as highly secretive.” The reports should be required to be made public, said the engineer. “It’s high time the country wakes up to the dangers we undergo with nuclear power plants.”
THE NRC INSPECTION FARCE
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is supposed to be the federal agency that is the watchdog over nuclear power plants and it frequently boasts of how it has “two resident inspectors” at each nuclear power plant in the nation, he noted.
However, explained the engineer, “the NRC inspectors are not allowed to go into the plant on their own. They have to be escorted. There can be no surprise inspections. Indeed, the only inspections that can be made are those that come after the NRC inspectors “get permission from upper management at the plant.”
The inspectors “have to contact upper management and say they want to inspect an area. The word is then passed down from management that inspectors are coming—so ‘clean up’ whatever is the situation is.”
“The inspectors hands are tied,” said the engineer.
THE 60- AND NOW 80-YEAR OPERATING DELUSION
When nuclear power plants were first designed decades ago, explained the engineer, the extent of their mechanical life was established at 40 years. The engineer is highly familiar with these calculations having worked for a leading manufacturer of nuclear plants, General Electric.
The components in nuclear plants, particularly their steel parts, “have an inherent working shelf life,” said the engineer.
In determining the 40-year total operating time, the engineer said that calculated were elements that included the wear and tear of refueling cycles, emergency shutdowns and the “nuclear embrittlement from radioactivity that impacts on the nuclear reactor vessel itself including the head bolts and other related piping, and what the entire system can handle. Further, the reactor vessel is the one component in a nuclear plant that can never be replaced because it becomes so hot with radioactivity. If a reactor vessel cracks, there is no way of repairing it and any certainty of containment of radioactivity is not guaranteed.”
Thus the U.S. government limited the operating licenses it issued for all nuclear power plants to 40 years. However, in recent times the NRC has “rubber-stamped license extensions” of an additional 20 years now to more than 85 of the nuclear plants in the country—permitting them to run for 60 years. Moreover, a push is now on, led by nuclear plant owners Exelon and Dominion, to have the NRC grant license extensions of 20 additional years—to let nuclear plants run for 80 years.
Exelon, the owner of the largest number of nuclear plants in the U.S., last year announced it would ask the NRC to extend the operating licenses of its two Peach Bottom plants in Pennsylvania to 80 years. Dominion declared earlier that it would seek NRC approval to run its two Surry nuclear power plants in Virginia for 80 years.
“That a nuclear plant can run for 60 years or 80 years is wishful thinking,” said the engineer. “The industry has thrown out the window all the data developed about the lifetime of a nuclear plant. It would ignore the standards to benefit their wallets, for greed, with total disregard for the country’s safety.”
The engineer went on that since “Day One” of nuclear power, because of the danger of the technology, “they’ve been playing Russian roulette—putting one bullet in the chamber and hoping that it would not fire. By going to 60 years and now possibly to 80 years, “they’re putting all the bullets in every chamber—and taking out only one and pulling the trigger.”
Further, what the NRC has also been doing is not only letting nuclear plants operate longer but “uprating” them—allowing them to run “hotter and harder” to generate more electricity and ostensibly more profit. “Catastrophe is being invited,” said the engineer.
THE CARBON-FREE MYTH
A big argument of nuclear promoters in a period of global warming and climate change is that “reactors aren’t putting greenhouse gases out into the atmosphere,” noted the engineer.
But this “completely ignores” the “nuclear chain”—the cycle of the nuclear power process that begins with the mining of uranium and continues with milling, enrichment and fabrication of nuclear fuel “and all of this is carbon intensive.” There are the greenhouse gasses discharged during the construction of the steel and formation of the concrete used in nuclear plants, transportation that is required, and in the construction of the plants themselves.
“It comes back to a net gain of zero,” said the engineer.
Meanwhile, “we have so many ways of generating electric power that are far more truly carbon-free.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“The bottom line,” said the engineer, “is that radioactivity is the deadliest material which exists on the face of this planet—and we have no way of controlling it once it is out. With radioactivity, you can’t see it, smell it, touch it or hear it—and you can’t clean it up. There is nothing with which we can suck up radiation.”
Once in the atmosphere—once having been emitted from a nuclear plant through routine operation or in an accident—“that radiation is out there killing living tissue whether it be plant, animal or human life and causing illness and death.”
What about the claim by the nuclear industry and promoters of nuclear power within the federal government of a “new generation” of nuclear power plants that would be safer? The only difference, said the engineer, is that it might be a “different kind of gun—but it will have the same bullets: radioactivity that kills.”
The engineer said “I’d like to see every nuclear plant shut down—yesterday.”
In announcing the agreement on the closing of Indian Point, Governor Cuomo described it as a “ticking time bomb.” There are more of them. Nuclear power overall remains, as the experienced engineer from the nuclear industry said, a “ticking time bomb.”
And every nuclear power plant needs to be shut down.
Puget Sound’s ticking nuclear time bomb, Crosscut by Glen Milner, 10 Jan 17 “……“Command and Control” shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us, and it speaks directly to Puget Sound citizens: Locally, we face a similar threat in Hood Canal with the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
An accident at Bangor involving nuclear weapons occurred in November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nose cone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf. All missile-handling operations at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.
The Navy never publicly admitted that the 2003 accident occurred. The Navy failed to report the accident at the time to county or state authorities. Public responses from governmental officials were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.
The result of such an explosion likely would not cause a nuclear detonation. Instead, plutonium from the approximately 108 nuclear warheads on one submarine could be spread by the wind…… http://crosscut.com/2017/01/nuclear-accidents-bangor-accident-command-and-control/
Nuclear Energy Dangerous to Your Wallet, Not Only the Environment http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/01/nuclear-energy-dangerous-to-your-wallet-not-only-the-environment/ Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog and has been an activist with several groups. His book, It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, is available from Zero Books.
Quite an insult: Subsidies prop up an industry that points a dagger at the heart of the communities where ever it operates. The building of nuclear power plants drastically slowed after the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, so it is at a minimum reckless that the latest attempt to resuscitate nuclear power pushes forward heedless of Fukushima’s discharge of radioactive materials into the air, soil and ocean.
There are no definitive statistics on the amount of subsidies enjoyed by nuclear power providers — in part because there so many different types of subsidies — but it amounts to a figure, whether we calculate in dollars, euros or pounds, in the hundreds of billions. Quite a result for an industry whose boosters, at its dawn a half-century ago, declared that it would provide energy “too cheap to meter.”
Taxpayers are not finished footing the bill for the industry, however. There is the matter of disposing radioactive waste (often borne by governments rather than energy companies) and fresh subsidies being granted for new nuclear power plants. None of this is unprecedented — government handouts have the been the industry’s rule from its inception. A paper written by Mark Cooper, a senior economic analyst for the Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment, notes the lack of economic viability then:
“In the late 1950s the vendors of nuclear reactors knew that their technology was untested and that nuclear safety issues had not been resolved, so they made it clear to policymakers in Washington that they would not build reactors if the Federal government did not shield them from the full liability of accidents.” [page iv]
Nor have the economics of nuclear energy become rational today. A Union of Concerned Scientists paper, Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies, states:
“Despite the profoundly poor investment experience with taxpayer subsidies to nuclear plants over the past 50 years, the objectives of these new subsidies are precisely the same as the earlier subsidies: to reduce the private cost of capital for new nuclear reactors and to shift the long-term, often multi-generational risks of the nuclear fuel cycle away from investors. And once again, these subsidies to new reactors—whether publicly or privately owned—could end up exceeding the value of the power produced.” [page 3]
The many ways of counting subsidies
Among the goodies routinely given away, according to the Concerned Scientists, are:
*Subsidies at inception, reducing capital costs and operating costs.
*Accounting rules allowing companies to write down capital costs after cost overruns, cancellations and plant abandonments, reducing capital-recovery requirements,
*Recovery of “stranded costs” (costs to a utility’s assets because of new regulations or a deregulated market) passed on to rate payers.
Yes, you read that last item correctly. Even when the energy industry receives its wish to be rid of regulation, it is entitled to extra money because of the resulting rigors of market pressures.
The amount of government subsidies for nuclear (and for oil and gas) is far greater than that for solar energy, despite Right-wing attempts to exploit the Obama administration’s generous loan guarantees to failed California solar-panel manufacturer Solyndra. A primary source for Right-wing disinformation campaigns against renewable energy appears to be a report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency that lists direct federal government subsidies to renewables as significantly larger than for nuclear or for natural gas and petroleum liquids for fiscal years 2007 and 2010.
The report, prepared at the behest of three hard-line Republican members of the House of Representatives, was narrowly focused, and notes that it “do[es] exclude some subsidies.” And, as a snapshot, the decades of previous handouts to nuclear, oil and gas companies are not accounted for. Nor does the Energy Information Agency report account for legacy costs — solar and wind power, for example, do not leave behind tons of radioactive waste as does nuclear energy.
Numerous research papers paint a fuller picture. A Congressional Research Service report found that nuclear power had received $74 billion for research and developmentby the U.S. government for the period 1948 to 1998, more than all such money given for fossil fuels, renewables and energy efficiency combined.
A report by the venture-capital firm DBL Investors, Ask Saint Onofrio, reports that nuclear energy cumulatively has received four times more subsidies than solar energy in California, and that nuclear subsidies were higher than solar in 2011 and all previous years. Nuclear has received $8.2 billion in subsidies in California, while providing the state with three percent of its power in 2012.
The uneconomical state of nuclear power is a global phenomenon, not limited to any one place. A comprehensive study prepared for the Green Party of Germany’s Heinrich Böll Stiftung, The Economics of Nuclear Power: An Update, reports:
“Up to now, nuclear power plants have been funded by massive public subsidies. For Germany the calculations roughly add up to over 100 billion Euros and this preferential treatment is still going on today. As a result the billions set aside for the disposal of nuclear waste and the dismantling of nuclear power plants represent a tax-free manoeuvre for the companies. In addition the liability of the operators is limited to 2.5 billion Euros — a tiny proportion of the costs that would result from a medium-sized nuclear accident.”
The paper later says:
“Successive studies by the British government in 1989, 1995, and 2002 came to the conclusion that in a liberalised electricity market, electric utilities would not build nuclear power plants without government subsidies and government guarantees that cap costs. In most countries where the monopoly status of the generating companies has been removed, similar considerations would apply.”
New plants are being built, with new subsidies
Significant cost overruns are the norm in building nuclear power plants, and it isn’t investors who are on the hook for them.
Three nuclear projects are under construction in the United States and two in Western Europe, a group that features an assortment of cost overruns and generous guarantees:
*The two new Vogtle reactors in Georgia are already $3 billion over budget although their completion date is three and a half years away. The largest owner, Southern Company, has received $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees. Overruns at this plant are not unprecedented; the two existing reactors cost $8.7 billion instead of the promised $600 million, resulting in higher electricity rates.
*The Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor in Tennessee, which received its license to operate in October, has seen its cost rise to $6.1 billion from $2.5 billion. (This is technically a restart of a unit on which construction was suspended in 1985.) The existing reactor at this site has a history of safety problems.
*In October 2013, British authorities approved a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, England, that features subsidies designed to give the owner, Électricité de France, aguaranteed 10 percent rate of return on the project. Power from the plant will be sold at a fixed price, indexed to the consumer inflation rate. In other words, The Independent reports, “should the market price fall below that [agreed-upon] level the Government would make up the difference.” The agreed-upon fixed price set by the Cameron government at the time was double the wholesale price for electricity.
*Olkiluoto-3 in Finland was supposed to have cost €3 billion, but is 10 years behind schedule and €5 billion over budget.
High costs despite high subsidies
There would at least be a small silver lining in this dark picture if the electricity produced were cheap. But that’s not the case. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, the cost of producing electricity from nuclear power in France tripled and in the United States the cost increased fivefold, according to the Vermont Law School paper [page 46].
Then there are the costs of nuclear that are not imposed by any other energy source: What to do with all the radioactive waste? Regardless of who ultimately shoulders these costs, the environmental dangers will last for tens of thousands of years. In the United States, there is the fiasco of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Nevada. The U.S. government has collected $35 billion from energy companies to finance the dump, which is the subject of fierce local opposition and appears to have no chance of being built.
Presumably, the energy companies have passed on these costs to their consumers but nonetheless are demanding the government take the radioactive waste they are storing at their plants or compensate them. As part of this deal, the U.S. government made itself legally responsible for finding a permanent nuclear-waste storage facility.
And, eventually, plants come to the end of their lives and must be decommissioned, another big expense that energy companies would like to be borne by someone else. The Heinrich Böll Stiftung study says:
“[T]here is a significant mismatch between the interests of commercial concerns and society in general. Huge costs that will only be incurred far in the future have little weight in commercial decisions because such costs are “discounted.” This means that waste disposal costs and decommissioning costs, which are at present no more than ill-supported guesses, are of little interest to commercial companies. From a moral point of view, the current generation should be extremely wary of leaving such an uncertain, expensive, and potentially dangerous legacy to a future generation to deal with when there are no ways of reliably ensuring that the current generation can bequeath the funds to deal with them, much less bear the physical risk. Similarly, the accident risk also plays no part in decision-making because the companies are absolved of this risk by international treaties that shift the risk to taxpayers.” [page 17]
The British government, for instance, currently foots more than three-quarters of the bill for radioactive waste management and decommissioning, and for nuclear legacy sites. A report prepared for Parliament estimates that total public liability to date just for this program is around £50 billion, with tens of billions more to come.
Liability caps for accidents are also routine. In the U.S., the Price-Anderson Act, in force since 1957, caps the total liability of nuclear operators in the event of a serious accident or attack to $10.5 billion. If the total is higher, as it surely would be, taxpayers would be on the hook for the rest. As a further sweetener, the Bush II/Cheney administration, in 2005, signed into law new nuclear subsidies and tax breaks worth $13 billion. The Obama administration, attempting its own nuclear push, has offered an additional $36 billion in federal loan guarantees to underwrite new reactor construction, again putting the risk on taxpayers, not investors.
The Vermont Law School paper aptly sums up this picture with this conclusion:
“If the owners and operators of nuclear reactors had to face the full liability of a nuclear accident and meet the alternatives in competition that is unfettered by subsidies, no one would have built a nuclear reactor in the past, no one would build a reactor today, and anyone who owned one would exit the nuclear business as quickly as they could.” [page 69]
If we had a rational economic system, they surely would.
USA’s EPA ( Nuclear Industry Protection Agency) confirms dramatic increase in radiation will be permitted in drinking waterFebruary 1, 2017
RADICAL DRINKING WATER RADIATION RISE CONFIRMED IN EPA PLAN http://www.peer.org/news/news-releases/radical-drinking-water-radiation-rise-confirmed-in-epa-plan.html EPA Hid Planned Exposure Levels 1,000s of Times Safe Drinking Water Act Limits PEER, Dec 22, 2016 Washington, DC
— In the last days of the Obama Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to dramatically increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity to levels thousands of times above the maximum limits of the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to documents the agency surrendered in a federal lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These radical rollbacks cover the “intermediate period” following a radiation release and could last for up to several years. This plan is in its final stage of approval.
The documents indicate that the plan’s rationale is rooted in public relations, not public health. Following Japan’s Fukushima meltdown in 2011, EPA’s claims that no radioactivity could reach the U.S. at levels of concern were contradicted by its own rainwater measurements showing contamination from Fukushima throughout the U.S. well above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. In reaction, EPA prepared new limits 1000s of times higher than even the Fukushima rainwater because “EPA experienced major difficulties conveying to the public that the detected levels…were not of immediate concern for public health.”
When EPA published for public comment the proposed “Protective Action Guides,” it hid proposed new concentrations for all but four of the 110 radionuclides covered, and refused to reveal how much they were above Safe Drinking Water Act limits. It took a lawsuit to get EPA to release documents showing that –
- The proposed PAGs for two radionuclides (Cobalt-60 and Calcium-45) are more than 10,000 times Safe Drinking Water Act limits. Others are hundreds or thousands of times higher;
- According to EPA’s own internal analysis, some concentrations are high enough to deliver a lifetime permissible dose in a single day. Scores of other radionuclides would be allowed at levels that would produce a lifetime dose in a week or a month;
- The levels proposed by the Obama EPA are higher than what the Bush EPA tried to adopt–also in its final days. That plan was ultimately withdrawn; and
- EPA hid the proposed increases from the public so as to “avoid confusion,” intending to release the higher concentrations only after the proposal was adopted. The documents also reveal that EPA’s radiation division even hid the new concentrations from other divisions of EPA that were critical of the proposal, requiring repeated efforts to get them to even be disclosed internally.
- “To cover its embarrassment after being caught dissembling about Fukushima fallout on American soil, EPA is pursuing a justification for assuming a radioactive fetal position even in cases of ultra-high contamination,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has called for the PAGs to be withdrawn on both public health and legal grounds. “The Safe Drinking Water Act is a federal law; it cannot be nullified or neutered by regulatory ‘guidance.’”Despite claims of transparency, EPA solicited public comment on its plan even as it hid the bulk of the plan’s effects. Nonetheless, more than 60,000 people filed comments in opposition.
“The Dr. Strangelove wing of EPA does not want this information shared with many of its own experts, let alone the public,” added Ruch, noting that PEER had to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force release of exposure limits. “This is a matter of public health that should be promulgated in broad daylight rather than slimed through in the witching hours of a departing administration.”