Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

The nuclear industry is dying. Bitcoin to the rescue?

September 14, 2021

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”

Zero-carbon [?] bitcoin? The owner of a Pennsylvania nuclear plant thinks it could strike gold

Talen Energy plans to build a $400 million bitcoin mine at its Pa. nuclear plant. “I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of nuclear plants.”

Could bitcoin mining be the salvation of the embattled nuclear energy industry in America?

The owners of several nuclear power plants, including two in Pennsylvania, have formed ventures with cryptocurrency companies to provide the electricity needed to run computer centers that “mine” bitcoin. Since nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, [ except that the whole nuclear fuel chain DOES] the project’s investors say, the zero-carbon [ a lie] bitcoin would address climate concerns that have tarnished the energy-intensive cryptocurrency industry.

  Talen Energy, the owner of the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station near Berwick, Pa., announced this week that it has signed a deal with TeraWulf Inc., an Easton, Md. cryptocurrency mining firm, to build a giant bitcoin factory next to its twin reactors in northern Pennsylvania. The first phase of the venture, dubbed Nautilus Cryptomine, could cost up to $400 million.

Talen’s project could eventually use up to 300 megawatts — or 12% of Susquehanna’s 2,500 MW capacity. It’s the second bitcoin-mining venture in the last month that involves owners of Pennsylvania nuclear facilities.

Last month Energy Harbor Corp., the former power-generation subsidiary of First Energy Corp., announced it signed a five-year agreement to provide zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] electricity to a new bitcoin mining center operated by Standard Power in Coshocton, Ohio. Energy Harbor owns two nuclear units in Ohio and the twin-unit Beaver Valley Power Station in Western Pennsylvania.

A nuclear fission start-up, Oklo, also announced last month it signed a 20-year deal with a bitcoin miner to supply it with power, though the company has not yet built a power plant.

In recent years, commercial nuclear operators have struggled to compete in competitive electricity markets against natural gas plants and upstart renewable sources such as wind and solar. Unfavorable market conditions have hastened the retirements of several single-unit reactors, such as Three Mile Island Unit 1 in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers in New Jersey, New York and Illinois have enacted nuclear bailouts, paid by electricity customers, to stave off early retirement for other plants.

The cryptocurrency deals would provide nuclear generators with reliable outlets for their power, and bitcoin miners with predictable sources of power at cheap prices, along with a zero-carbon [nuclear is NOT zero-carbon] cachet…….

The nuclear industry views the crypto craze not as a crutch but as a launching pad for expansion. “U.S. nuclear power plants are ready and able to supply miners with abundant, reliable carbon-free [ but nuclear is NOT carbon-free] power while also providing new business pathways for the nuclear developers and utilities, increasing their operating profits, and potentially accelerating the deployment of the next generation of reactors,” John Kotek, senior vice president of policy development and government affairs at Nuclear Energy Institute, said……

 Energy and cryptocurrency experts say several trends are shifting the market in favor of U.S. nuclear power producers. 

In May, Chinese regulators announced new measures to limit bitcoin mining in several regions that failed to meet Beijing’s energy-use targets. Bitcoin production levels have fallen since then, forcing bitcoin producers to relocate to places with low operating costs and cool climates to reduce the costs of cooling the bitcoin data centers. The state of Washington, which has lots of inexpensive hydroelectric power, has undergone a huge boom in bitcoin mining.

How mining is done

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer virtual currency, operating without a central authority, and which can be exchanged for traditional currency such as the U.S. dollar. It is the most successful of hundreds of attempts to create virtual money through the use of cryptography, the science of making and breaking codes — hence, they are called cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin mining is built around blockchain technology, and it involves generating a string of code that decrypts a collection of previously executed bitcoin transactions. Successful decryption is rewarded with a new bitcoin. The supply of bitcoins is limited to 21 million — nearly 90% have already been mined. So the remaining bitcoins become increasingly scarce and more difficult to extract

Data centers operated by bitcoin miners randomly generate code strings, called “hashes,” to solve the puzzle and earn new coins. Worldwide, miners on the bitcoin network generate more than 100 quintillion hashes per second — that’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 guesses per second, according to Blockchain.com. The first phase of the Nautilus project in Pennsylvania would generate five quintillion hashes per second.

Such guesswork requires muscular [doncha love that word ”muscular” when they mean ”huge”] computing power, robust internet connections, and lots of electricity. Smaller bitcoin miners have teamed up in consortiums to pool their computing power. Bigger players have built huge data centers devoted exclusively to producing lines of random code.

“Mining cryptocurrency is an international, profitable, and energy-intensive business,” ScottMadden a management consulting firm, said in a paper it published last year. Bitcoin mining consumes an estimated 0.5% of the electricity produced worldwide or about as much as the country of Greece. 

Some lawmakers have called for greater regulation of cryptocurrency, citing the enormous amount of resources required to produce it. “There are computers all over the world right now spitting out random numbers around the clock, in a competition to try to solve a useless puzzle and win the bitcoin reward,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in June, calling for a crackdown on “environmentally wasteful cryptocurrencies.”


………. Unlike other crypto projects in which the power generator is an arms-length electricity supplier, the Nautilus Cryptomine is a 50-50 venture between Talen and TeraWulf. The project would be directly connected to the Susquehanna plant — “behind the meter,” in industry parlance — and would avoid any transmission costs from the grid…….

The cryptomine would be located inside a 200,000-square-foot building — about four football fields. The mining operation would be built on a data center campus that Talen is developing next to the Susquehanna plant……..

“As you look across the United States, and you look at kind of the challenges that are facing nuclear plants, I think this is a great opportunity to prolong the life of a lot of plants,” said Dustin Wertheimer, vice president and divisional chief financial officer of Talen Energy   https://www.inquirer.com/business/cryptocurrency-bitcoin-pennsylvania-nuclear-power-talen-susquehanna-20210806.html

Bitcoin’s electricity use is boundless. No wonder that Elon Musk etc now want nuclear power to fuel it.

September 14, 2021

Here’s what a modern massive Bitcoin mining operation in upstate New York looks like:

Greenidge Generation’s bitcoin mining operation at their power plant in New York State.

How Bitcoin is Heating This Lake and Warming the Planet more https://earthjustice.org/blog/2021-june/bitcoin-dirty-power?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_term=page&fbclid=IwAR30Z3V5q_FlRtyr1NnIZCQ6tU34tMs1AQUp8rgFRVGNTYaNoXl7I6Au8dg

Bitcoin is bringing dirty power plants out of retirement. Earthjustice is fighting this new trend in order to put an end to fossil fuels once and for all.By Ben Arnoldy | June 1, 2021 Seneca Lake in upstate New York is drawing attention to Bitcoin’s impact on the environment. A nearby Bitcoin mining plant is heating the lake waters — and the climate.

Bitcoin, the first and most famous cryptocurrency, is now burning through as much energy and pumping out as much greenhouse gas as entire nations.

Current estimates put the currency’s electricity usage on par with countries like the Netherlands. This is, shall we say, not helpful at a time when humanity is racing to switch to clean energy before we cook the planet.

In fact, Bitcoin’s energy demands are so high that the people who get rich from producing it want to pull dirty power plants out of retirement to power their operations. Earthjustice is urging regulators not to let that happen.

Bitcoins aren’t physical coins, so you might be asking why does a virtual currency require much energy?

The appeal of Bitcoin for some people is it allows them to trust no person, bank, or government. Bitcoin is entirely decentralized. But there needs to be some system to prevent fraudsters from making copies of the coins and trying to spend them twice.

To solve this, the system incentivizes many people rather than one trusted entity to devote computing power to validating transactions. The system is competitive, awarding new Bitcoins only to one “miner” who completes the validating and other tasks first, leading to an arms race of ever faster and more powerful computer rigs. While other cryptocurrencies use much less energy, Bitcoin’s particular solution to security without trust, it turns out, is extremely energy-intensive.

That monster requires a lot of energy to run the machines and to keep them from overheating. The cooling system for this rig uses cold water from Seneca Lake and discharges it back at temperatures reportedly as high as 98 degrees — with a permit to go even higher — harming trout and promoting algal blooms. For years, Bitcoin miners have sleuthed for places to set up shop where power is cheap and the climate cool, such as China’s Inner Mongolia or the hydro-abundant Pacific Northwest.

But the mining operation pictured above went next level. They own their own damn power plant:

Investors bought this plant in 2014. It was a fixer-upper. Mothballed power plants lying around for sale tend to be dirty fossil fuel plants.

The Greenidge Generation station in New York had been built in the 1930s as a coal-fired power plant. By 2011, there was not enough demand for its costly, dirty power and it was shut down. After not operating for several years, the new owners switched its fuel to dirty gas and re-started its operations, using the plant’s old pollution permits.

The plant struggled to find demand for its electricity, and the operators turned their attention instead to mining Bitcoin. Pollution started to skyrocket. In just one year, emissions of greenhouse gases increased ten-fold. The plant currently uses 19 MW of power, enough to power 14,500 homes if it weren’t mining Bitcoin. And it has plans to go to 55 MW and the capacity to go to 106 MW. At full capacity, the plant would blow past its current pollution permit — but that permit is up for renewal.

Earthjustice and the Sierra Club have sent a letter to regulators urging them not to allow the company, Greenidge Generation LLC, to expand the air permit and to take notice of the emerging trend of cryptocurrency miners taking over power plants and operating them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At least one other plant in the region is planning to get in on the game, and there are nearly 30 plants in upstate New York alone with the potential to convert to full-time Bitcoin mining. A coal plant in Montana is also ramping back up for cryptocurrency mining.

“The aim of the letter to the New York Department of Conservation is to say this is not some random or isolated thing. Cryptocurrency is real and increasingly important, and dirty power plants are coming back from the dead,” says Earthjustice attorney Mandy DeRoche. “Greenidge just gave other retired, retiring, or peaking plants a roadmap of how to do it, how to recruit investors, how to go public on NASDAQ.”

Earthjustice has spent years fighting in public utility commissions around the country to ensure old, dirty power plants get pushed into retirement — and if replacement power is needed, steer clear of dirty gas in favor of clean energy. Our goal is to hasten the day when everything is powered with 100% clean energy.

New York state has a new climate law, and DeRoche says the commitments made in that law won’t be met if dirty power plants get resurrected and operate 24/7. That should spur legislators and regulators to clarify the regulatory gray zone that miners have exploited here with power generation that’s not sent to the grid.

There are many ways to tackle this issue, and we are exploring them,” says DeRoche. “One solution may be to require renewable generation for cryptocurrency mining, with an excess renewable generation requirement on top, so that the mining is not preventing renewables from going directly into the grid. We need that clean power on the grid as fast as possible to mitigate the unequal and most harmful impacts of climate change.”

The climate crisis is accelerating, and we have less than a decade to dramatically cut our carbon emissions if we hope to preserve a livable planet. Tell your members of Congress it’s time to build a sustainable and just future with the American Jobs Plan.

How the war industry captures government (extract from A People’s Guide to the War Industry )

June 17, 2021

A People’s Guide to the War Industry -2: Profits & Deception  Consortium News, May 26, 2021   Christian Sorensen ”…………….Capitalists running the war industry utilize a five-step strategy to capture government:

  • Pull retiring military officers into war corporations
  • Stack the deck by placing ex-industry officials in the Pentagon’s leadership
  • Finance congressional campaigns
  • Lobby creatively and expansively
  • Fund think tanks & corporate media

War corporations recruit retired high-ranking military officers. War corporations use these eager retirees to open doors, influence policy, and increase sales. Generals and admirals retire from the U.S. Armed Forces and then join war corporations where they set to work converting their knowledge (about the acquisition process, senior military and civilian leaders, long-term military policy, and how the Pentagon works) and connections into profit.

Corporate jobs for these retired officers include manager, vice president, lobbyist, consultant, and director. Only a small number of 3- and 4-star officers declines this systemic corruption. War corporations have plenty to pull from, as there are more generals and admirals in uniform today in 2021 than there were at the end of World War II. Mere issuance of a bulletin announcing the hiring of a former high-ranking general or admiral often leads to a boost in stock price.

U.S. military officers benefit professionally and financially from implementing MIC aggression. There is no downside for high-ranking officers who support nonstop war. They’ll soon retire with full benefits, and likely go work for a war corporation. Officers who make it to the highest military ranks are very good at conforming to the system.

These officers support nonstop wars of choice and broad military deployments, and defer to pro-war pretexts and jargon coming from industry think tanks and pressure groups. They judge military activity in terms of numbers (dollars spent, weapons purchased, bases active, troops deployed) instead of clear soldierly goals.

Many officers are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the needs of a war corporation and the needs of a professional uniformed military. These U.S. military officers don’t see war corporations; they see a total force in which military and industry work together. An officer who dissents in a forceful manner risks their career. As the MIC crafts pretexts to justify its own existence and expansion, officers who go against the system from the inside are isolated, shed, or spit out.

Reality is difficult to stomach: There is an absolute dearth of class consciousness and moral courage within the Pentagon. The upper ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces are rife with a caliber of officer predisposed to seek out profit and reward upon retirement.


Executives move smoothly from corporations to the Pentagon, particularly the sundry civilian offices (secretary, deputy secretary, and assistant deputy secretary). These men and women who run the Pentagon have been raised in an environment of profiteering; they are steeped in corporate thought; their allegiance is to corporate success. They bring with them their industry contacts and an exploitative ideology. They turn to corporate products when presented with a military problem. They benefit professionally and financially.

Industry executives, the most rapacious of the capitalist class, enter “public service” and influence programs and policies. This invariably boosts the profits of former industry employers, who, thenceforth, capture and direct more of the U.S. military establishment. (Such actions, profit invested to make more profit, is money functioning as capital.)

Giant corporations finance the campaigns of people running for congressional office. Those people, once in office, help out the corporations. Washington is so corrupt that they’ve basically legalized this process — they’ve legalized bribery. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that limits on election spending are unconstitutional; in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the Supreme Court distorted the First Amendment’s free speech clause, allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political contributions; and in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014), the Supreme Court got rid of limits on the total number of political contributions one can give over a two-year period.

We are told that the Supreme Court defends liberty and provides a check against the executive and legislative branches, however, the function of the Court, as its rulings demonstrate, is to abet corporate authority and financial interest in line with what the Executive and Legislative branches pursue.

The war industry targets both houses of Congress, particularly elected officials on relevant committees (Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, Foreign Relations). The war industry finances many political action committees, or PACs. These are tax-exempt organizations that aggregate donations to fund political campaigns or influence federal elections. Super PACs (a.k.a. independent expenditure-only committees) allow unlimited contributions. Funding congressional campaigns directly impacts the way U.S. elected officials vote.

Politicians and their war industry bosses are proficient at claiming the “defense” industry creates jobs. Take caution when a war corporation throws the word “jobs” around. Many of these jobs are part-time, temporary, or menial (e.g. painter, welder, roustabout), parsed out to an increasingly desperate workforce. Some are construction jobs that vanish in a year or so. Working-class jobs in the war industry are often in difficult conditions.

Industry jobs that pay very well typically require advanced degrees, which the majority of the population does not have. Furthermore, some jobs are non-U.S. jobs (e.g. microchips manufactured overseas). Other jobs are induced (e.g. the mom making less-than-minimum wage on a ridesharing app driving an industry executive from work to a pub, or the waiter at a St. Louis restaurant where a missile engineer dines). Industry inflates job tallies. The goal is to confine the congressional side of the MIC, which cites the inflated jobs numbers and goes along for the ride.

The claim that the “defense” industry brings jobs is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: Spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on the military.

The war industry can inflate job numbers because there is no accountability coming from Washington: Capitol Hill is largely content letting Corporate America police itself. Readers are likely familiar with cases where corporations get to inspect their own product (e.g. the airline industry, the pork industry) instead of external government inspectors doing the job.

Corporations policing corporations is rampant in the war industry, like when the advertising agency GSD&M measures the effectiveness of its own efforts at recruiting working class youth into the military. Sometimes one corporation polices part of industry, like when Calibre Systems conducts “cost and economic analysis of major weapons system programs and associated acquisition/financial management policies and procedures.” ………  https://consortiumnews.com/2021/05/26/a-peoples-guide-to-the-war-industry-2-profits-deception/

A People’s Guide to the War Industry, by Christian Sorensen

June 17, 2021

“The main role of the federal government under capitalism is to maintain the capitalist economic system and set the general conditions by which large corporations and billionaires are able to accrue more and more profit.”

A People’s Guide to the War Industry, by Christian Sorensen — Rise Up Times A People’s Guide to the War Industry -2: Profits & Deception  https://consortiumnews.com/2021/05/26/a-peoples-guide-to-the-war-industry-2-profits-deception/May 26, 2021   Christian Sorensen maps out the global system of weapons mongering. Second in a series of five articles on the U.S. military-industrial-congressional complex.   By Christian Sorensen

Special to Consortium News   War corporations are spread across the United States. The top war industry hubs in the U.S. are Huntsville, Alabama; greater Boston; greater Tampa, Florida; the Dallas-Fort Worth region; southern California; and the corridor stretching from northeast Virginia, through Washington, to Baltimore (consistently home to the wealthiest counties in the country).

The U.S. war industry profits well through global supply chains, including setting up subsidiaries in allied capitalist countries and using those countries’ industrial bases to produce parts of a weapons platform (such as the costly, underperforming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, parts of which are built in locations as diverse as Italy and Japan).

War corporations manage global chains by organizing, coordinating, and enforcing a hierarchical command structure upon disparate locations. Orders flow down the chain and capital flows up, allowing the corporation’s executives, and ultimately Wall Street — not workers who make the products — to harvest enormous amounts of wealth. This exacerbates inequality, not just in Lemont Furnace, Pennsylvania, and Marietta, Georgia, but also Rochester, England, and Aire-sur-l’Adour, France — all locations where U.S. war products are made. War corporations paint these actions as “building lasting capacity” and other euphemisms.

A euphemism is a kinder, gentler term used in place of a direct, often more accurate one. The MIC employs euphemisms adeptly. Public relations gurus know the English language very well. Recall George Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language:”

”In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

With the care of a sommelier, MIC propagandists select the perfect euphemisms to mask their activities and present death and destruction in comfortable terms. Getting rid of euphemism, pursuing an honest language, is one step toward achieving a system that benefits people and planet.

Globe-Spanning Installations

Military installations are avenues through which corporations route goods and services. Sometimes the U.S. military sets up an installation overseas with permission from the allied capitalist regime. Sometimes the ruling class orders the military to take the land by force. It stole land in Guam, compensating locals a paltry sum or nothing at all. It took the Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands. It stole Vieques, Puerto Rico. It teamed up with the Danish government to remove the indigenous Inughuit to make way for Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland. And the Pentagon and State Department teamed up with the United Kingdom to remove Chagossians from the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean in order to set up what is now called Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia.

Incredible corporate profit (e.g. base operations, ordnance, platforms, construction, fuel, maintenance) runs through each military installation. Most U.S. military bases overseas are not located in active war zones. The largest concentrations of U.S. troops are on bases in the Persian Gulf, Europe, and the Western Pacific.

There are thousands of U.S. military installations inside the United States (land stolen from the Native Americans). As contract announcements indicate, Corporate America is sometimes put in charge of studying and documenting the effect a planned base or weapons range might have on the surrounding community — aircraft noise, potential for mishaps and accidents, and the extent to which land use works with or against local designs — even though Corporate America stands to benefit if the base or range gets established.

Duping Workers

In the capitalist economic system, relatively few people control the means of production (e.g. machinery, factories). In order to survive, most people (the working class) sell their ability to work. They receive a wage in return. A worker’s work is what makes money for the ruling class. This is true across all industries, including the war industry.

Workers who design and assemble the major weapons of war form the core of the working class within the war industry. They put together missiles at Raytheon’s factory in Tucson, Arizona. They manufacture drones at General Atomics’ factory in Poway, California. They fabricate land vehicles at AM General’s factory in South Bend, Indiana. They build landing craft at Textron’s factory in New Orleans, Louisiana. Whatever the workers produce is not theirs to use or sell. Instead, their output belongs to the capitalist class. These rulers (literally sitting in corporate suites) decide what to produce, how to produce it, and to whom to sell it.

The ruling class profits by underpaying the workers. A given worker on a given day produces value, which we’ll call A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The corporation pays the worker a wage comparable to F and G. The rest (A, B, C, D, E) is “surplus value.” This difference between what a worker is paid in wages and the value a worker creates is how the corporation profits

Those profits go toward executives’ compensation (CEO pay at the top five war corporations totaled almost half a billion dollars over the course of 2015-2019); boost stock price and allow for stock buybacks; and are invested to make more profit. Money used to expand business to increase future profits is functioning as capital. An example of this is General Dynamics building a 200,000-square-foot building for submarine assembly at its Groton, Connecticut, shipyard in order to make more goods to sell for profit.

The ruling class inundates the working class with various forms of advertising, public relations gimmicks, propaganda, and disinformation in order to keep the working class (which greatly outnumbers the ruling class) passive and compliant. Many within the working class have swallowed such deception.

Working class jobs within the war industry are various, and include administrative assistant, analyst, armed mercenary, astrophysicist, data officer, engineer, lawyer, lobbyist, linguist, mathematician, public relations specialist, technician, and tradesperson. From the haughtiest academic to the humblest welder, what propaganda have they seized in order to justify working in the war industry?

Civilian Use

Unlike products from other industries, the public cannot eat, consume, play with, learn from, or interact with most goods and services sold by the war industry. Employees of war corporations invoke civilian applications of military technology: The internet, the jet engine, radar, and satellite technology all came about from military funding.

But these are ancillary benefits. Imagine what technological benefits society could achieve if $750 billion per year was directed intentionally toward research and development of technology that benefits human wellbeing and the natural world, not military and war.

We can harness the human mind in many ways. Nonetheless, so far — by the numbers — the U.S. government has only spent significant monies on military and war. Try throwing that kind of money at the sciences and arts every year — via other federal departments, such as Interior, Agriculture, Health & Human Services, Transportation — and see where unpressured, non-militarized research and development lead.

Distancing 

Lockheed Martin’s director of communications once said, “The missile has nothing to do with the manufacturer… Lockheed Martin was not the one that was there, firing the missile” (Robert Fisk, Independent,May 18, 1997).

Such distancing is no different from an engineer at a U.S. university who justifies her work on nuclear weapons along the lines of, “Well it’s not me pushing the button. Surely, there are military professionals in charge of these weapons.” Other workers in the war industry rationalize by arguing, “I might disagree with the wars, but I’m not the one elected to make such decisions. I’m just doing my job.” Those who resort to distancing focus on their own daily, incremental tasks, blocking out all consequence.

Traditional Patriotism 

Traditional patriotism rallies a person around the flag and shuns holding authority to account. Traditional patriotism allows the wars to continue. True patriotism, however, involves questioning government, making government accountable, and changing government when it is polluted and corrupt. True patriotism, as retired Major Danny Sjursen puts it, is “participatory and principled.”

Support the Troops 

Some people justify working for the war industry by saying they do it for the troops. Journalist Jeffrey Stern describes how one machinist at a missile factory rationalizes his role:

“[T]he thing that he said made him most proud about working at Raytheon was helping to keep American servicemen and women safe. The company makes a point of hiring veterans with combat injuries, which reminds him of whom he’s working for and why. He feels it when he sees the gigantic photos of service members that the company hangs in the most prominent parts of the plant. The photos, he explained, are of relatives of Raytheon workers. When he’s at work, the notion of helping American servicemen and women is not abstract. It’s almost tactile.”

Well played, Raytheon! The phrase “support the troops” is a clever slogan through which the MIC throws a blanket of patriotism over the underlying issue: supporting the wars. “Support the troops” has been very effective in getting the working class to line up in favor of war.

Delusion & Moral Bankruptcy 

Many people within the war industry are deluded or morally bankrupt and therefore have no problem working in such a destructive industry. Delusion and moral bankruptcy are the direct result of decades of refined capitalist propaganda and indoctrination. Many workers don’t understand that the system exists because of their exploitation. Many don’t understand that the war industry exists as a means of profit. Nor does the increasingly privatized and standardized public-school system emphasize the critical thinking needed to alter such a sad state of affairs.

Lack of Courage

Many smart people, blissfully comfortable with the paycheck that being part of the war industry work brings, lack the courage to act. Consider one plucked at random from the middle ranks of a war corporation. The man’s résumé is impressive: degree from a prestigious university, awards from industry and the Pentagon, and not one ounce of moral courage. His participation in the war industry leads directly to the deaths of innocents abroad and perpetuates war.

This flexible, powerful recipe allows one to justify working in the war industry.

A few people within the MIC recognize the gravity of the situation — that funneling so much money toward military, espionage, and war has a negative effect on U.S. security because it drains manpower, time, and capital, and forestalls social care — but are afraid of the consequences of speaking up.

Group think, hierarchy, compartmentation, economic incentive, and chain of command enforce the status quo. Violence and social isolation deter the few who push back against the machinery of war. The minor whistleblower is ostracized and demoted, the leaker fined and locked up. When just a few people push back, the MIC crushes them. When the working class pushes back, united and together, the MIC has a problem on its hands.

The ruling class employs other devices to ensure the workers continue to sell their labor power. Divide and conquer is a popular device: pit the workers against one another, profiting the capitalist while exhausting the worker. Wedge issues, such as race and nationalism, further split the working class along arbitrary, divisive lines, as seen when U.S. workers buy into the demonization of Arab, Persian, or Chinese workers.


Capitalists also elevate a few workers here and there above other fellow workers (think of the foreman in a Virginia shipyard or a taskmaster in an office producing signals intelligence software). These elevated few are given a tad more money in exchange for keeping the majority of the workers in line.

Replacing workers with machines and automating jobs keeps the workforce desperate. With so many people unemployed and underemployed, capitalist rulers get to pick the most passive laborers for war industry jobs, the ones who will keep their heads down and not raise a fuss about the relative pittance they’re paid. Purchasing the necessities of life (e.g. food, exorbitant healthcare, sky-high rent, utilities) requires that workers continue to sell their labor (the products of which maim and kill the working class in other countries) through which the ruling class becomes fantastically wealthy.

Academia

Education in the United States exists within narrow confines. The working class educated in elementary and secondary schools are not given the opportunity to learn about capitalism, let alone the horrific nature and devastating effects of the U.S. war industry. They are not taught about how the interests of the ruling class (including the Pentagon’s leadership, industry executives, Wall Street financiers, and Congress) clash head-on with the interests of the working class. An uneducated population will not mobilize effectively against its oppressors. This atmosphere of ignorance greatly benefits the MIC.

The war industry and the Pentagon fund extensive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) initiatives across the U.S. and in allied countries. By attracting students into STEM careers, the war industry and the Pentagon prepare and safeguard their future. Industry promotion of STEM lays the groundwork for future design, engineering, and production capacity, while the Pentagon promotes STEM in order to foster a technologically literate workforce and future generations of enlisted troops who are capable enough to operate the war industry’s products. STEM efforts are comprehensive, covering a wide geographical area and all ages, from elementary through university.

Many universities in the United States are part of the U.S. war industry. The role of these academic institutions is threefold: research and develop technology, serve as a holding station (e.g. Harvard’s Belfer Center) for MIC elites before they rotate into government or corporate suites, and accept philanthropy from war profiteers thereby whitewashing capitalist brutality. The main academic participants in the war industry include but are not limited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, the University of Dayton, and Georgia Tech.

The U.S. government runs many research labs pursuing military and intelligence R&D. The Army Research Lab and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity are located in Maryland. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Office of Naval Research are in Arlington, Virginia. The Air Force Research Lab is run out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, northeast of Dayton, Ohio, with branches in New Mexico and upstate New York. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research & Development Center is in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Most work in and for these labs is carried out by corporations and academic institutions, not uniformed military personnel.

report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued in September 2020 detailed, “DOD does not know how contractors’ independent R&D projects fit into the department’s technology goals.”


“Brain drain” happens when industry herds intelligent people toward purposes of war, like when a graduate of an engineering school goes to work for a war corporation instead of a municipality. Humanity thus loses skilled human beings as a result. Brain drain is a great tragedy, and the war industry’s biggest success. In Boston, the U.S. Air Force alone funds ninety different research projects, according to the Air Force Secretary. And that’s just the publicly declared actions of one branch of the military in one city.

Lockheed Martin alone employs nearly 50,000 scientists and engineers, according to its CEO in her presentation to the Society of Women Engineers. Imagine if these minds were working on problems and projects for the betterment of humanity and the planet, instead of devising more ingenious ways to surveil or murder. Imagine the possibilities.

Effective science is based on free, open discussion. Military funding and stipulations (compartmentation, shoehorned focus, classification, near-term deadlines, stove-piped fields) oppose free, open discussion. Breakthroughs benefitting humanity rarely happen when people are tied to military-industry funding priorities, schedules, and narrow cognitive confines. Military and industry shun and condemn the polymath, the free thinker, and the uninhibited tinkerer. Military and industry embrace and fund the careerist, the complicit academic, the rigid functionary, the greedy corporatist, and the aspiring bureaucrat. Military-industry science may possess strong minds, but it does not often make the scientific breakthroughs society needs.

Influence

Strategy involves establishing priorities, making choices, and then matching available resources to goals, means to ends. Capitalists running the war industry utilize a five-step strategy to capture government:

  • Pull retiring military officers into war corporations
  • Stack the deck by placing ex-industry officials in the Pentagon’s leadership
  • Finance congressional campaigns
  • Lobby creatively and expansively
  • Fund think tanks & corporate media

War corporations recruit retired high-ranking military officers. War corporations use these eager retirees to open doors, influence policy, and increase sales. Generals and admirals retire from the U.S. Armed Forces and then join war corporations where they set to work converting their knowledge (about the acquisition process, senior military and civilian leaders, long-term military policy, and how the Pentagon works) and connections into profit.

Corporate jobs for these retired officers include manager, vice president, lobbyist, consultant, and director. Only a small number of 3- and 4-star officers declines this systemic corruption. War corporations have plenty to pull from, as there are more generals and admirals in uniform today in 2021 than there were at the end of World War II. Mere issuance of a bulletin announcing the hiring of a former high-ranking general or admiral often leads to a boost in stock price.

U.S. military officers benefit professionally and financially from implementing MIC aggression. There is no downside for high-ranking officers who support nonstop war. They’ll soon retire with full benefits, and likely go work for a war corporation. Officers who make it to the highest military ranks are very good at conforming to the system.

These officers support nonstop wars of choice and broad military deployments, and defer to pro-war pretexts and jargon coming from industry think tanks and pressure groups. They judge military activity in terms of numbers (dollars spent, weapons purchased, bases active, troops deployed) instead of clear soldierly goals.

Many officers are unable or unwilling to distinguish between the needs of a war corporation and the needs of a professional uniformed military. These U.S. military officers don’t see war corporations; they see a total force in which military and industry work together. An officer who dissents in a forceful manner risks their career. As the MIC crafts pretexts to justify its own existence and expansion, officers who go against the system from the inside are isolated, shed, or spit out.

Reality is difficult to stomach: There is an absolute dearth of class consciousness and moral courage within the Pentagon. The upper ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces are rife with a caliber of officer predisposed to seek out profit and reward upon retirement.


Executives move smoothly from corporations to the Pentagon, particularly the sundry civilian offices (secretary, deputy secretary, and assistant deputy secretary). These men and women who run the Pentagon have been raised in an environment of profiteering; they are steeped in corporate thought; their allegiance is to corporate success. They bring with them their industry contacts and an exploitative ideology. They turn to corporate products when presented with a military problem. They benefit professionally and financially.

Industry executives, the most rapacious of the capitalist class, enter “public service” and influence programs and policies. This invariably boosts the profits of former industry employers, who, thenceforth, capture and direct more of the U.S. military establishment. (Such actions, profit invested to make more profit, is money functioning as capital.)

Giant corporations finance the campaigns of people running for congressional office. Those people, once in office, help out the corporations. Washington is so corrupt that they’ve basically legalized this process — they’ve legalized bribery. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that limits on election spending are unconstitutional; in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), the Supreme Court distorted the First Amendment’s free speech clause, allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political contributions; and in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014), the Supreme Court got rid of limits on the total number of political contributions one can give over a two-year period.

We are told that the Supreme Court defends liberty and provides a check against the executive and legislative branches, however, the function of the Court, as its rulings demonstrate, is to abet corporate authority and financial interest in line with what the Executive and Legislative branches pursue.

The war industry targets both houses of Congress, particularly elected officials on relevant committees (Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, Foreign Relations). The war industry finances many political action committees, or PACs. These are tax-exempt organizations that aggregate donations to fund political campaigns or influence federal elections. Super PACs (a.k.a. independent expenditure-only committees) allow unlimited contributions. Funding congressional campaigns directly impacts the way U.S. elected officials vote.

Politicians and their war industry bosses are proficient at claiming the “defense” industry creates jobs. Take caution when a war corporation throws the word “jobs” around. Many of these jobs are part-time, temporary, or menial (e.g. painter, welder, roustabout), parsed out to an increasingly desperate workforce. Some are construction jobs that vanish in a year or so. Working-class jobs in the war industry are often in difficult conditions.


Industry jobs that pay very well typically require advanced degrees, which the majority of the population does not have. Furthermore, some jobs are non-U.S. jobs (e.g. microchips manufactured overseas). Other jobs are induced (e.g. the mom making less-than-minimum wage on a ridesharing app driving an industry executive from work to a pub, or the waiter at a St. Louis restaurant where a missile engineer dines). Industry inflates job tallies. The goal is to confine the congressional side of the MIC, which cites the inflated jobs numbers and goes along for the ride.

The claim that the “defense” industry brings jobs is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: Spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on the military.

The war industry can inflate job numbers because there is no accountability coming from Washington: Capitol Hill is largely content letting Corporate America police itself. Readers are likely familiar with cases where corporations get to inspect their own product (e.g. the airline industry, the pork industry) instead of external government inspectors doing the job.

Corporations policing corporations is rampant in the war industry, like when the advertising agency GSD&M measures the effectiveness of its own efforts at recruiting working class youth into the military. Sometimes one corporation polices part of industry, like when Calibre Systems conducts “cost and economic analysis of major weapons system programs and associated acquisition/financial management policies and procedures.”

The claim that the “defense” industry brings jobs is a stale public relations ploy. It hides the truth: Spending on healthcare, education, or clean energy creates more jobs than spending on the military.

The war industry can inflate job numbers because there is no accountability coming from Washington: Capitol Hill is largely content letting Corporate America police itself. Readers are likely familiar with cases where corporations get to inspect their own product (e.g. the airline industry, the pork industry) instead of external government inspectors doing the job.

Corporations policing corporations is rampant in the war industry, like when the advertising agency GSD&M measures the effectiveness of its own efforts at recruiting working class youth into the military. Sometimes one corporation polices part of industry, like when Calibre Systems conducts “cost and economic analysis of major weapons system programs and associated acquisition/financial management policies and procedures.”


Second in a five-part series by the author. Part 3 on Friday: ‘Bribery and Propaganda’

Christian Sorensen is an independent journalist mainly focused on war profiteering within the military-industrial complex. An Air Force veteran, he is the author of the recently published book, Understanding the War Industry. He is also a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media Network (EMN), an organization of independent veteran military and national security experts. His work is available at War Industry Muster

The huge carbon footprint and massive energy use of online activities and of Bitcoin

May 3, 2021
Graphic courtesy of Alice Eaves on Rehabilitating Earth website

This is a most timely article.    Why is  the world not noticing this?   Elon Musk and other billionaire Bitcoin fans are also fans of space travel –   another energy-gobbling thing.   They are fans of nuclear energy.  The thing that nuclear energy fans have in common with space travel fans and Bitcoin fans is their religious fervour for endless growth and endless energy use.

Unfortunately our entire culture, the Western consumer culture, has swept the world  with a mindless belief in ever more stuff, ever more digital use, with no awareness of the  energy used.   So we tink that our billions of trivial tweets are up ”in the cloud”, – not even realising that they are in dirty great steel data buildings that use massive amounts of energy just to keep cool, This ever- expanding energy and resource gobbling is going to kill us, – and Bitcoin is just one glaring, sorry example of this.

Truth or fiction: Is mining bitcoin a ticking time bomb for the climate?  Rehabilitating Earth   By Jennifer Sizeland 2 May 21

While many of us may consider the carbon footprint of buying a physical item like a jumper or a toaster, it is truly mind boggling to think about the environmental impact of time spent online. This may be why the huge carbon footprints of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going largely under the radar for many of us, including investors and climate activists.

Yet the real-world cost of bitcoin cannot be underestimated. A University of Cambridge study found that the network burns through 121 terawatt-hours per year, putting it into a category of a top-30 country in terms of electricity usage. In fact, the carbon cost was largely ignored altogether until 2017 when prices surged and the general population started to take more notice. Aside from the significant carbon footprint of bitcoin, it’s important to understand what bitcoin is and why it’s so popular.

Decoding Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is created by mining a 64-digit hexadecimal number (known as a ‘hash’) that is less than or equal to the target hash that the miner is looking for. The miner gets paid in crypto tokens for all the currency they make. The act of solving these computational equations on the bitcoin network makes the payment network trustworthy. It proves the worth of the bitcoin and verifies it at the same time so that it can’t be spent twice. Essentially, an online log makes records of the transactions made and once approved, they’re added to a block on the chain, hence the phrase ‘blockchain’.

What makes it all the more confusing is that not only is cryptocurrency fairly new to the general population, but the way it is created is shrouded in secrecy due to its niche status. This makes it much harder for miners to be held accountable for their intensive carbon usage, in a time when every company needs to consider their impact on the planet.

The secrecy is also what excites investors about bitcoin since it isn’t tied to a certain location or institution and it’s completely decentralised – unlike a bank. Investors trust bitcoin as inflation is controlled algorithmically by cutting the reward rate periodically, rendering the rate of new bitcoin supplies as unalterable by design. The issue remains that there is no government or organisation to hold them to account for their carbon footprint. A footprint which is intrinsically tied to its value as the demand for it increases, using more and more energy. With every market jump, the cost to the planet is greater.

The price of one bitcoin is $57,383 at the time of writing, which takes the market cap value above that of Facebook and Tesla. The wider cryptocurrency market that includes dogecoin, ethereum and litecoin has reached an estimated $1.4 trillion and counting.


From a financial perspective, miners want cheap servers to increase their profit margins which is why much of the bitcoin activity is done in China. As the industry is unregulated there is no reason why activity wouldn’t surge in the place where it costs the least to do it. Currently, China does not have a cost-effective renewable energy supply so two thirds of the grid is fuelled by dirty coal power stations.

Another problematic caveat to the bitcoin story is the amount of so-called green companies and investors that are buying into it. Some of them are not disclosing this element of their portfolio due to the immense carbon footprint but those that are publicly traded have no choice. Perhaps one of the most high-profile companies to reap the rewards from bitcoin is Elon Musk’s Tesla, who have made $1 billion in 10 weeks from their investment. It remains to be seen whether these businesses are doing their due diligence regarding the origins of their bitcoin and if it is mined from a sustainable source. While this may give Tesla more money to invest in green infrastructure, it’s hard to say whether this is the more ethical way to do so……….

One important lesson we can take from this is that it demonstrates how the digital world has a very real impact on planet Earth. Whether we’re buying cryptocurrency or simply scrolling the internet, we are impacting the planet in one way or anotherhttps://rehabilitatingearth.com/2021/05/02/truth-or-fiction-is-mining-bitcoin-a-ticking-time-bomb-for-the-climate/

Fukushima nuclear accident costs so far $188billion, projected final costs of $740 bn.

April 5, 2021

David Lowry’s Blog 10th March 2021, Pediatrician Dr Alex Rosen, a leading figure in the German branch of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) said it was “luck and divine intervention” that wind from the west blew most of the radiological releases out over the Pacific Ocean, meaning the Fukushima accident released more radioactivity to the oceans than the Chernobyl accident and all the nuclear weapons tests together.

Another webinar I attended, on 9 March, was co-hosted by Northwestern University’s Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs located in Evanston, Illinois, and the Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists, based in Chicago, to launch a new international interdisciplinary collaborative study on “Nuclear Disaster Compensation: Lessons from Fukushima: Interviews with Experts and Intellectuals, edited by anthropology professor Hirokazu Miyazaki. Former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairperson, Allison McFarlane, now a professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, pointed out in the webinar that the Fukushima accident has so far cost US$188billion, with projected final costs of US$740 bn. http://drdavidlowry.blogspot.com/2021/03/nuclear-fuk-ed.html

Need to establish compensation schemes for future nuclear accidents

April 5, 2021

Fukushima lesson: Victim compensation schemes need updating, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , By Hirokazu Miyazaki | March 10, 2021 At the 10th anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that set off a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, it is time to revisit the laws that govern compensation for victims of such disasters.

Fortunately, major nuclear accidents are rare. To date, only Fukushima and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Russia are rated level 7 “major” accidents by the International Atomic Energy Agency. But given the potential for nuclear power generation to expand, accidents of various levels of severity could also increase in frequency.

………..  expanding protection for victims, including the amount and scope of compensation they can receive, should become an international priority for the industry, policymakers, and global nuclear organizations.

As my colleagues and I who are part of the Meridian 180 Global Working Group on Nuclear Energy have found, domestic laws and international conventions around nuclear power and compensation for victims of accidents are insufficient and need to be revisited. These laws and protocols were designed, at least originally, to promote nuclear energy and protect the interests of the nuclear power industry. Given the infrequency of major accidents, the laws and protocols have not been tested very often.

The laws limit the liability faced by nuclear power plant operators and manufacturers and the amount of compensation paid to victims. As a result, investors can pursue nuclear energy projects without fear of a potentially significant burden to compensate victims if a major accident were to occur. But the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them—not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims.

Compensation claims remain unresolved. The Chernobyl disaster did lead to some reform of international and domestic laws to strengthen victim protections. But since Fukushima, few regulatory policy changes have been enacted, inside or outside Japan, and Fukushima damage compensation claims remain unresolved. Among the victims in Fukushima Prefecture are thousands of local residents who faced losses — of their homes, communities, ancestral homelands, and day-to-day life activities. Although not directly attributable, the deaths of more than 1,500 people have been linked to physical and mental stresses related to the evacuation after the nuclear reactor meltdowns.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has paid more than 9.7 trillion yen (or approximately $92 billion) to nuclear accident victims, the largest damage payout ever made to such victims and among the highest (if not the highest) paid in any industrial disaster. But dissatisfaction and unsettled claims remain. Some have not been compensated for losses because their residences were outside mandatory evacuation zones. Nearly 30 collective lawsuits brought against Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Japanese government are pending.

Three goals for deliberative conversation. Fair treatment and compensation for victims and those impacted by nuclear accidents can best be achieved through a deliberative conversation that is anticipatory, participatory, and transnational:

  • Anticipatory. Discussion of laws that govern nuclear power and provide for compensation of victims must occur before the next disaster. Many dedicated professionals continue working to prevent future nuclear accidents………….. the scope of responsibility is a question that requires careful and inclusive deliberation, before the next nuclear accident occurs.

    • Participatory
      . Any forum on nuclear disaster compensation must include a wide variety of people and interests, including ordinary citizens who have been impacted, or are likely to be impacted, by a disaster as well as nuclear engineers, medical doctors, environmental scientists, and other experts with specialized knowledge………

      • Transnational. 
        Nuclear disasters do not respect national borders, so forums on accident compensation must be transnational—a departure from past practice……….highlight the implications of compensating citizens who live beyond the borders of the state or region where a catastrophe occurs.Preparing for the next one. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima was deeply transnational in scope and participation: The US-designed reactors at the Fukushima plant used nuclear fuel that was mined outside Japan, likely in Canada, Kazakhstan, Niger, Australia, Russia, or Namibia, six countries that supply more than 85 percent of the nuclear fuel used worldwide. As nuclear power plants continue to operate, and with the prospect that more plants will be built in the future, the potential for accidents remains. Rather than assume they can be prevented, we must prepare for them — not only with emergency plans and safety protocols, but also with laws that protect and compensate the victims, which can only stem from discussions at all levels of government and industry that meaningfully include those most likely to be injured, should another nuclear disaster occur.  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/a-fukushima-lesson-victim-compensation-schemes-need-updating/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter03112021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_Miyazaki_03102021

Despite the problems, small nuclear reactor salesmen aggressively marketing: it’s make or break time for the nuclear industry

April 5, 2021

Entrepreneurs Look to Small-Scale Nuclear Reactors,   The American Society of Mechanical Engineers,  Mar 2, 2021, by Michael Abrams  ‘‘……… even concepts that are predicated on being small, modular, and fast to build seem locked into decades-long development cycles.

The key to reviving the nuclear power industry  is building these small reactors not as projects, but as factory-made products. That’s easier said than done. “Usually, a bunch of nuclear engineers go in a room and then they come out after a year or two, and they have a design that doesn’t have a lot of foundation in realty, and nobody can make it, and the projects dies,” said Kurt Terrani, a senior staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory………..

In terms of reactor physics, the NuScale concept is fairly bog standard: low-enriched uranium, light-water cooling. In essence, their reactor is just a smaller version of the nuclear plants already in operation. That NuScale didn’t go with a more revolutionary design to mitigate waste or utilize an alternative fuel cycle is no accident. To do so would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to come up with an entirely new licensing framework, said José Reyes, cofounder and chief technology officer at NuScale.

“Pressurized water-cooled reactors have benefited from billions of dollars of research and development and millions of hours of operating experience over the past 50 year,” Reyes said. “NuScale went with a more traditional approach to assure a design that is cost-competitive and capable of near-term deployment.” …………. The containment vessel will also sit underground in a giant pool capable of absorbing radiation from a leak. Multiple reactors would share the same pool. Being underground, they are also earthquake- and airplane-resistant. [ Ed. no mention of what would happen in the case of flooding, or of an emergency requirinfpeople to quickly respond underground] The company believes that its design is robust enough that utilities could site the reactors much closer to population centers, rather than in remote locations surrounded by an emergency planning zone.

So far, the concept and design have been convincing enough to win funding from the DoE and to move NuScale farther along in the regulatory process than any of its would-be competitors. “NuScale’s small modular reactor technology is the world’s first and only to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,”   NuScale set out to design a reactor that was small enough to transport to site, essentially complete. Not everyone agrees, however, that building out a power plant in 60-MW modules is optimal. “The whole idea of SMRs is that smaller is better,” said Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and the director of the Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. “But within the class of small reactors, larger is still better.  If you can design a reactor that is still simple, that  is still passively safe, that can still be built in a factory, but that generates 300 megawatts, that for sure is going to be more economically attractive than the same thing that generates 60 megawatts.” Buongiorno points to GE’s BWRX-300 concept as a potentially better option. It, too, is a light-water reactor with fuel rods and passive cooling. But its larger size makes it a more of a plug-and-play replacement for coal plants…… Holtec’s SMR-160 is intended to be installed deep underground; the steel containment vessel is strong enough to keep the core covered during any conceivable disaster. “ …… Other SMR designs are dispensing with solid fuel altogether. These reactors would instead dissolve uranium in a molten salt. Some of these designs are miniaturized versions of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment built by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the late 1960s………   The one downside to molten salt reactors is that the salts usually contain fluoride, which is extremely corrosive. Simplifying the mechanical design of the cooling system cuts down on the parts in danger of corroding, but the pins that will contain the fuel are still at risk…..

Make or Break for Nuclear

Moltex is aiming for build costs at around $2,000 per kW—more than wind or solar, but less than newly built coal or gas plants, let alone competing nuclear concepts. “We’ve believe we’ve come up with a concept that can radically reduce the cost of nuclear power,” ……   Other SMR companies are less aggressive with their cost estimates—NuScale has its scopes on a cost of around $3,600 per kW, while GE is aiming for less than $2,500—but still come in under conventional nuclear power. ……. Proof of whether those costs can be achieved will be actual construction and commissioning. “This decade will be very telling,” said Chicago’s Rosner. “It’s the make or break decade for nuclear.” Furthest along is NuScale, which in September 2020 announced its SMR design had been issued a standard design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That means the design can be referenced in an application for a construction permit—a big step, and one that had not been before achieved by a small modular reactor design. In August 2020, the NRC had completed its Phase 6 review and issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER). The company also announced in November that it had uprated its Power Module to 77 MW, which should improve its economics by around 25 percent…. The key is getting the cost and scale right.  https://www.asme.org/topics-resources/content/entrepreneurs-look-to-small-scale-nuclear-reactors

Systemic corruption in the American nuclear industry

February 18, 2021

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021

The “largest bribery, money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people and the state of Ohio” came to light during an unexpected press conference in July 2020 in Columbus. Speaking haltingly and carefully, US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers announced “the arrest of Larry Householder, Speaker of the House of the state of Ohio and four other defendants for racketeering. The conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money.”

Unravelling an intricate web of alleged illegal activities used to launder money, DeVillers broke down the complicated modus operandi of “Company A.” With a gentle smile on his face, he said, “everyone in this room knows who Company A is, but I will not be mentioning the name of Company A because of our regulations and rules. They have not, and no one from that company has as of yet, been charged”.

Company A is FirstEnergy Solutions, a fact most Ohians had been aware of long before the July 2020 press conference. FirstEnergy, now called Energy Harbour, is one of Ohio’s largest utility corporations. For years, the firm lobbied to get a subsidy to continue operating its unprofitable nuclear plants and maintain its revenue flow. When lobbying efforts failed to produce subsidies, it resorted to bribery to gain legislative support for House Bill 6, 2019 legislation that forces state consumers to pay into something called “the Ohio Clean Air Fund.” The green language is a smoke screen for the real purpose: to siphon nearly $150 million annually to FirstEnergy to keep its Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants and two coal-fired power plants operating, while simultaneously gutting Ohio’s renewable energy standards. Also gone were the state’s energy efficiency programs, which had saved consumers and corporations millions of dollars. When citizens tried to organize a referendum to repeal the bill, FirstEnergy indulged in various dirty tactics to thwart this democratic opposition.

Ohio is not alone in its nuclear energy corruption. Also in July 2020, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), a subsidiary of Exelon, was charged with bribery to “Public Official A” in Illinois. Though not named, the filing makes it clear that “Public Official A” is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has denied wrongdoing. ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve this case. Exelon also finds itself at the centre of another ongoing investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. The focus of the investigation is reportedly Anne Pramaggiore, a former Exelon CEO who stepped down from the company and from his post chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. As in Ohio, the corruption charges relate to lobbying for state subsidies and special treatment of nuclear power plants.

Three other states—New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York—have implemented similar subsidies (although, to date, no allegations of wrongdoing related to them have been made public). Changes in the economics of electricity markets are threatening the profitability of nuclear power plants, a shifting reality driving a demand for these financial bailouts. As the New Jersey-based energy company Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) explained in October 2020, across the nation “nuclear plants continue to struggle economically to survive. Since 2018, three nuclear plants have closed in the eastern US, all for economic reasons, and the impact has had a ripple effect.”

Changing economics of electricity generation. These “economic reasons” have to do with an ongoing massive transformation of the energy sector. Over the last decade, the cost of renewables like solar and wind have dropped substantially; these renewables can generate electricity at much lower costs than fossil fuels and, especially, nuclear power. In the United States, unsubsidized wind power costs fell by 71 percent between 2009 and 2020, whereas unsubsidized utility scale solar energy costs declined by 90 percent during the same period. Nuclear energy costs increased by 33 percent between 2009 and 2020. The International Energy Agency has dubbed solar energy “the new king of electricity” and foresees it dominating future deployment in the electricity sector for decades.

The major beneficiaries of the subsidies for nuclear plants are large corporations: PSEG in New Jersey and Dominion in Connecticut, besides Exelon and FirstEnergy. These, and other electrical utility companies in the United States, have historically invested primarily in nuclear reactors and fossil fuel plants. Thanks to the changing economics of electricity, these companies are finding it harder to maintain their profits while operating the older power plants that are now more expensive as sources of electricity.  

These companies and various associated organizations have engaged in extensive lobbying and large-scale propaganda campaigns to get governments pass legislation that makes consumers pay more for the electricity they use. In that sense, what has resulted would be better described as corporate welfare than as subsidies. The subsidies have improved these companies’ financial situation, which in turn contributes to their clout in state and national policy making and their ability to fund advocacy efforts—and even to pay politicians tidy sums of money. The larger significance of the political power these large utilities have amassed is their ability to block transition to a fully renewable and more environmentally sustainable energy system.

Financial subsidies. Subsidies take different forms in different states. In New York and Illinois, utility companies are required to purchase a specific amount of zero-emission credits from authorized nuclear generating stations, all of which are owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. Purchasing contracts in both states will be in effect for 10 to 12 years, and utility companies are mandated to tack on the cost to consumer bills. Over in New Jersey, “each electric public utility” is required to purchase “Nuclear Diversity Certificates” from nuclear power plants, with consumers paying for these programs through higher utility bills.

The deal that Dominion Energy struck in Connecticut was different, taking the form of a contract that requires the state’s two electric distribution utilities to purchase about 50 percent of the  electricity output of Dominion’s Millstone nuclear generating plant for 10 years. Millstone houses two operational nuclear reactors. In all of these cases, the annual financial benefits to these large corporations run in to the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The modus operandi was developed by multiple stakeholders and publicly released in 2016 in the form of a toolkit by the American Nuclear Society (ANS). Produced by a special committee consisting of senior nuclear officials, the toolkit outlined “a variety of policy pathways to support the current nuclear fleet and prevent early retirement.” The states mentioned above have implemented polices that incorporate one or more of the strategies outlined in the ANS toolkit, including amalgamations of low-carbon portfolio standards and mandated purchase of nuclear energy. The toolkit even went so far as to suggest that state government entities could acquire nuclear power plants or suspend collecting taxes, but these suggestions have not been implemented so far.

Building political support. While the American Nuclear Society led the policy-development charge, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI)—the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm—reinforced the advocacy message on the ground. The NEI’s 2017 report outlined specific plans and efforts instituted around the same time as many of these nuclear bailouts were pushed through state legislatures. Substantial resources were funnelled toward lobbying efforts aimed at key political and public actors. NEI’s deliberate intention, as outlined in the 2017 report, was to build political support to “avoid placing additional financial burden on US nuclear plants.”

Large-scale media dissemination, educational campaigns, relationship-building with regulatory bodies, think tanks, and policy institutions, and direct political lobbying are some of the tactics outlined in the report. Not all of the tactics aimed at subsidies; some were aimed at lowering expenses for nuclear companies by finding ways to lessen their environmental obligations. For example, the NEI managed to terminate annual fees charged to nuclear generating plants for hazardous material cleanup, which made taxpayers liable for these costs. The NEI took full credit for this shift: “After targeting the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, NEI successfully prevented reimplementation of a $200 million annual fee placed on the industry.”

The NEI also tried to influence the appointment of officials to oversight bodies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), declaring that it “shared names of potential candidates with the Trump administration and worked with member companies to urge Congress to communicate with the White House the need to nominate and confirm commissioners.” The NRC is the agency tasked with overseeing safety, and in 2017, the NEI proudly announced that it had “worked with the House Appropriations Committee to again reduce the NRC’s budget.”

The institute took credit for engaging “across the Ohio state government to support enactment of zero-emission nuclear credit legislation,” for convening “meetings with the governor’s staff on the value of nuclear energy,” and for testifying “at legislative hearings on the issue.” Not surprisingly, NEI’s efforts were supported by large cash payments allegedly provided by FirstEnergy.

The power game. Many energy companies are actively involved in local or state-level lobbying. In recent years, Illinois has been a site of intense lobbying by Exelon and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), primarily to get more and more subsidies from the state. “At least two dozen former Illinois state lawmakers have lobbied on behalf of ComEd or Exelon since 2000,” according to Illinois Policy, an independent public policy organization. Exelon’s hold on Illinois decision-making has been characterized by David Kraft of the Nuclear Energy Information Service as “nuclear blackmail,” a result of politics that “forced environmentalists wanting to see new legislation pass that would expand renewables, into a reluctant and grudging alliance with Exelon, but on Exelon’s terms.”

The process works as follows. Every so often, Exelon or ComEd would declare that one or more of their nuclear plants are no longer profitable and threaten to shut the plants down within a year. The threats have tended to be successful; lobbyists can argue, with some truth on their side, that a shutdown will lead to job losses and a cut in tax revenue, also leaving Illinois with an energy shortage that may increase reliance on carbon-based sources.

The same strategy was used successfully in New YorkConnecticut, and New Jersey, where state officials described the process in colorful terms like “highway robbery” and “ransom.”  The nuclear sector has extensively resorted to this kind of power politics, even using it in regard to nuclear plants that eventually shut down, such as the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station.

Money begets money. The effects of enacting laws that favor nuclear energy firms are clear from the financial status of these corporations. Exelon share prices increased from $34.63 on April 1, 2017 to a high of $50.95 exactly two years later, while Dominion’s stock price grew from $64.19 on May 1, 2018 to $83.70, as of November 6, 2020. Similar increases have been recorded by FirstEnergy and PSEG.

Apart from stock owners, the other major beneficiaries from the utility business are, of course, executives in these companies. CEOs like Dominion’s Thomas Farrell and Exelon’s Christopher Crane are among the highest paid executives in the electrical generation and utility industry………..

Dealing with corruption, legal and illegal. The crimes that people like Larry Householder and Michael Madigan are accused of committing are shameful; they are, however, just examples of the apparent systemic corruption that seems to permeate the nuclear industry.

While the actions taken against these individuals have captured headlines, the picture painted in the media still misses the mark on less egregious, everyday forms of political action. Lobbying by deep-pocketed industries and other efforts to capture regulators are pernicious but often go unremarked, in part because under the rules that govern politics in the United States, such actions are often legal. Addressing these problems with the urgency they require will necessarily involve confronting the economic and political system that privileges profits and capital over people and the environment.https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/

Busting the propaganda that the nuclear industry wants to reduce carbon emissions

February 18, 2021

Big money, nuclear subsidies, and systemic corruption, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Cassandra JefferyM. V. Ramana | February 12, 2021  ”………..Material interests and policy interests.

The most common argument used by these companies and those who support nuclear subsidies is the need to fight climate change. There are two problems with this argument.

First, it is based on the false idea that nuclear power, if shut down, will necessarily be replaced by fossil fuel plants. A June 2016 decision by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) demonstrates the invalidity of this assumption. PG&E will close the last two nuclear power plants in California (the Diablo Canyon units) by 2024 and 2025, replacing the lost electrical capacity “with a cost-effective, greenhouse gas free portfolio of energy efficiency, renewables and energy storage.” This move to renewables is more cost-effective today than it was in 2016 because of declining costs of renewables and energy storage. As Matthew McKinzie of the Natural Resources Defense Council argued at that time, the decision “shows that given sufficient time to prepare, retiring nuclear capacity can transition smoothly to a mix of energy efficiency measures; clean, renewable resources; and energy storage without any role for fossil fuels – an outcome that can be optimal for the environment, the market, and the reliability of the electric grid.” At a larger scale, Germany has shown that it is possible to retire nuclear plants and reduce emissions at the same time.

The second problem is the assumption that corporations owning nuclear plants are primarily interested in rapidly reducing emissions. Many utilities have large fossil fuel investments— investments that suggest a shutdown won’t be happening anytime soon. This suggestion seems especially true with natural gas plants. Although utilities often describe natural gas as clean (for example, Exelon describes its fleet as powered by “clean burning natural gas”), the climate implications of continued natural gas use are substantial. Exelon, the company with the most nuclear plants in the country, also owns and operates, along with its subsidiaries, 11 oil-fired power plants, five dual-fuel (natural gas and oil-powered) power stations, and 10 natural gas-based power plants throughout North America. In addition to its four nuclear power plants, Dominion owns 17 power plants fueled by natural gas and 14 power plants fueled by coal or oil. The company’s estimate of carbon dioxide emissions from its power plants is around 40 million metric tons in 2018, roughly the same level as in 2012. Likewise, PSEG owns just two nuclear power plants, but the company owns or has a stake in 10 fossil fuel generating plants with one more natural gas powered plant under construction.

With such large stakes in fossil fuel-based power plants, it is clear that these utilities are not about to switch immediately to renewables—or even to nuclear power—and give up on years and years of future profits that they and their shareholders are hoping for. In all of the states that offered nuclear subsidies, and elsewhere, the utilities have tried to hold back the deployment of renewables in more or less obvious ways. US utilities are not alone. Studies show that electric utilities around the world have “hindered the transition of the global electricity sector towards renewables, which has to date mostly relied on non-utility actors (such as independent power producers) for expanding the use of renewables.”

Rather than adapting to the necessity of building up renewables, these utilities resort to tactics that have been used in the past to justify nuclear power plant construction. As former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford listed at the beginning of the so-called nuclear renaissance, these include “subsidy, tax breaks, licensing shortcuts, guaranteed purchases with risks borne by customers, political muscle, ballyhoo, and pointing to other countries (once the Soviet Union, now China) to indicate that the US is ‘falling behind.’”…. https://thebulletin.org/2021/02/big-money-nuclear-subsidies-and-systemic-corruption/