Nuclear Power news

Nuclear Plant May Be In Hot Water Over Its Cooling System

National Public Radio: Operators of the Turkey Point nuclear plant near Miami have received federal permission to run their cooling system above the old 100 degree limit. The decision is meant to combat algae growth and rising temperature in cooling canals, but environmental groups in nearby Biscayne National Park are concerned.

Sweden's nuclear plants forced to cut output due to warm weather

OSLO (Reuters) - Sweden's top nuclear power generators have been forced to cut output because of exceptionally warm weather in Scandinavia, and their output could be reduced for over a week, their operators said on Wednesday.

Read more [Reuters]

One of life’s hard-to-believe moments: Drilling holes in a nuclear reactor

Switzerland's cheese is famous for its holes and now one of the country's nuclear reactors is infamous for the same reason.

I don't know about you but I'm terrible at home improvements and DIY. Ask me to hang a picture on the wall and the picture will be crooked. Ask me to put up shelves and books will fall off them.

If in doubt, ask an expert. That's my motto.

Which makes me wonder what contractors at Switzerland's Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant were thinking when they drilled holes in the reactor's primary containment in order to mount fire extinguishers.

Who was the expert who gave the go-ahead for this piece of potentially catastrophic stupidity? Who had this bright idea?

Here's how it went. On June 24 this year six 6mm holes were discovered by chance in the primary containment of the nuclear plant that, by the way, is on the border with Germany. They had been drilled right through the 3.8cm-thick steel of the concrete and steel shell surrounding the reactor's core and is meant to keep all the horrible radioactivity inside from escaping.

If that wasn't bad enough, the plant's operator admitted that they were drilled in 2008.

That's right. Six holes in the Leibstadt nuclear reactor containment went unnoticed for six years!

The holes have thankfully now been filled, which is a temporary solution approved by the Swiss nuclear regulator ENSI.

So we're left with a number of questions.

Firstly, how did ENSI not notice six holes in the reactor's containment for six years?

We're not talking about microscopic cracks in the steel, which can go undetected.

No, at Leibstadt we're talking about holes big enough for red fire extinguishers to hang from one of the most vital parts of the reactor's safety system. And yet 500 inspections have been made by ENSI at Leibstadt since 2008.

Secondly, ENSI says the Leibstadt reactor can stay in operation until a permanent fix is found. This permanent fix must be in place by this week or the reactor will be shut down. This makes no sense.

If the problem is serious enough that the reactor must be shut down if a permanent fix isn't found, why wasn't it shut down when the holes where first discovered? It's an unacceptable concession to the energy companies that own Leibstadt.

As we've seen all over the world, this is about putting the profits of the nuclear industry before the safety of people and the environment.

The irony of this is that ENSI likes to present itself as a champion of nuclear safety and regulatory policies. That image is ruined by the incompetence at Leibstadt. As our nuclear campaigner in Switzerland Florian Kasser says, "ENSI has a kind of an arrogant habit of pretending 'we in Switzerland do it better'". Clearly not.

No nuclear reactor can ever be 100% safe. But even the most pro-nuclear person alive should tell you that allowing people to drill holes in them is not a good idea.

I won't be letting a nuclear contractor hang my pictures or put up my shelves (or mount my fire extinguishers) any time soon. The only thing they could do is send me some Swiss cheese. 

Justin McKeating is a nuclear blogger for Greenpeace International, based in the UK.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

New York environment regulators seek summer shutdown at Indian Point

(Reuters) - New York state environmental regulators are proposing shutting the giant Indian Point nuclear power plant to protect fish in the Hudson River during summer months, when demand for electricity for air-conditioning is greatest.

Read more [Reuters]

Power from the Sun: A new life for Dharnai, India

In this world where we seem surrounded by news of gloom and doom, we don't often hear stories of positive change.

But here is one: a story of a village that has unshackled itself from darkness, after 30 years of having its energy needs neglected by governments.

Today, Dharnai is blooming with hope and ambition.

Dharnai village in Bihar, one of India's poorest states, is now lit-up by a Greenpeace India solar-powered micro-grid. 

Enter the village and you'll see electric poles all around. The solar micro-grid supplies the electricity for homes, street lighting for roads and lanes, and water pumps.

Dharnai is the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar. The 100 kilowatt (kW) system powers the 450 homes of the 2,400 residents, 50 commercial operations, two schools, a training centre and a health care facility. A battery backup ensures power around the clock.

The secure power supply of the new solar micro-grid has brought immense benefits to the community. Household lighting, agriculture, business activity and social infrastructures like schools, and health centers all have guaranteed electricity.

Reliable electricity in the evening has improved educational opportunities for village children, and brought the safety of street lighting. A dependable power supply has boosted the local economy, and brought a welcome improvement to the social life of the villagers.

The better quality of life of Dharnai residents has become the talk of neighbouring villages, all eager to understand and replicate the Dharnai model.

The story of the Greenpeace micro-grid project inspiring. It is unbelievable to see an entire village lit-up by solar energy. It illustrates how, in a country like India, universal energy access can be achieved without compromising the environment with coal pollution. 

It's motivating because the affordable micro-grid became a reason for an entire community to join hands and work together to solve its energy problem, and to make this project a success. What a privilege it is to see sign boards on the highway saying: Dharnai Solar Village – 1 km ahead.

We have done it with the support of the villagers of Dharnai, and with partners BASIX and CEED. After two months of successful testing, we launched the micro-grid on Sunday 20 July with the eldest person of Dharnai (80 years old) formally switching it on in front of a supportive crowd of thousands.

With an electricity system in place after 30 years of waiting, Dharnai now has all the elements to build a strong local economy. Their progress is no longer thwarted by a lack of electricity.

Dharnai shows a way forward for thousands of other villages everywhere which have been left behind. These villages can develop their own clean power and contribute to saving their environment by showing we don't need to use nuclear, coal or other fossil fuels for energy.

Dharnai is just the beginning. India has 80,000 more villages that need solar micro-grids. Greenpeace India will work to build greater collaboration to ensure all get access to clean, reliable electricity.

There is a story here that goes well beyond India. Hundreds of millions live without electricity. For them, the Dharnai solar-powered micro-grid could be a game-changer, a model for bringing clean, reliable energy to those energy-starved millions.

Communities without electricity, and their governments, can take a leap forward and develop the innovative solar systems. And comunities can avoid the energy systems of the past that plague the world and build a clean energy system they can own and control. 

To learn more, please visit:

Neha Khator is a media consultant and Ruhie Kumar is a digital media consultant for Renewable Energy with Greenpeace India.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan Plan Restart Nuke Plants Ignores Lessons Learned From Fukushima

EcoWatch: The decision of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) to approve the draft assessment for the two Sendai nuclear reactors in Kyushu is a clear and dangerous signal that Japan`s nuclear village--industry, regulators and government--is deliberately and cynically ignoring the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The approval of the assessment is the first step in restarting the Sendai reactors. The two Sendai reactors have been shutdown since 2011. These are old reactors--29 and 30 years respectively....

A Nuclear Waste Dump on the Shore of the Great Lakes?

EcoWatch: Is dilution really the solution to pollution--especially when it’s nuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is. The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic meters...

Back to the future with Japan's nuclear village

The decision of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) to approve the draft assessment for the two Sendai nuclear reactors in Kyushu is a clear and dangerous signal that Japan's nuclear village – industry, regulators and government – is deliberately and cynically ignoring the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The approval of the assessment is the first step in restarting the Sendai reactors.

The two Sendai reactors have been shutdown since 2011. These are old reactors – 29 and 30 years respectively. Nuclear reactors, no matter what age, are inherently at risk of an accident, but the older the plant the greater the risk. A car designed four decades ago and operating for 30 years in no way can meet safety standards of the present day. Fukushima has shown again that nuclear reactors have the potential to devastate a region and its people.

The citizens of Japan know that the Sendai reactors are not safe to operate. When the NRA announced it was putting the reactors at the top of the list for review, 6000 people demonstrated in Kagoshima near the plant. According to an opinion poll by Greenpeace Japan, less than 10% of the people living within a 30km radius of the Sendai nuclear power plant think they can evacuate without being exposed to radiation if a severe nuclear accident were to occur.

Last week, Aira city councillors voted 23 to 1 against restarting the Sendai reactors. Aira, in Kagoshima Prefecture, lies only 30km from the Sendai nuclear reactors, and is a designated evacuation point in the event of a severe accident.

The regulators have accepted the view of Kyushu Electric Power Company, the Sendai operator, that the seismic and tsunami risks are low at the site. This is despite a warning from independent seismologists that the science of earthquakes is such that it is not possible to predict where an event will happen and its strength. No tsunami sea wall has been built at the Sendai plant.

The major issues of concern at Sendai include: no effective evacuation plan for the populations in the region, no functioning emergency response centre protected against radiation, and the failure of Kyushu Electric and the NRA to conduct robust assessments on volcano risk.

Like many nuclear plants in Japan, Sendai is close to an active volcano – in this case, Sakurajima, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and one of the few that are at present in constant (persistent) activity. This volcano is about 70km from the Sendai nuclear plant. Ongoing, typical activity ranges from strong strombolian (low-level eruptions) to large ash explosions every 4-24 hours.

The Sakurajima volcano is of major concern to many experts, including vulcanologists, with the threat that in the event of an eruption, it could take out offsite electric power to the plant. The same eruption could clog the air intakes of diesel generators, the only source of ongoing power if the offsite power is taken out of service. A station blackout was what led to the loss of cooling function at Fukushima and the subsequent reactor meltdowns.

The nuclear village in Japan was one of the principal reasons why the Fukushima accident took place. While the Abe administration and nuclear industry may prefer to forget the lessons of 2011 the people of Japan will not. They are determined to stop the planned restart of Japan's nuclear reactors.

As we approach the one year birthday of no nuclear-powered electricity in Japan (the last of the country's remaining 48 reactors were shutdown in September 2013) it is clear that Japan can function as a society without risking catastrophic nuclear accidents, while rapidly growing its renewable energy sector and embracing efficiency. The NRA decision may make headlines around the world but Japan is a long long way from restarting its large nuclear program – and the people of Japan are determined to make its future energy path a very different one from its past. 

Kazue Suzuki is a Nuclear and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan Readies Atomic Restarts as Regulator Signals Approval

Bloomberg: Japan’s nuclear regulator vouched for the safety of two reactors in the country’s south, setting in motion the re-adoption of atomic power even as most Japanese remain skeptical after the Fukushima disaster of 2011. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said in a 400-page draft report that Kyushu Electric Power Co. (9508)’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at its Sendai plant in southern Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture passed safety checks. The NRA’s commissioners agreed at a meeting today to move to the next...

Doubts over ice wall keep Fukushima safe from damaged nuclear reactors

Guardian: In fading light and just a stone's throw from the most terrifying scenes during Japan's worst nuclear accident, engineers resumed their race against time to defeat the next big threat: thousands of tonnes of irradiated water. If all goes to plan, by next March Fukushima Daiichi's four damaged reactors will be surrounded by an underground frozen wall that will be a barrier between highly toxic water used to cool melted fuel inside reactor basements and clean groundwater flowing in from surrounding...

Scientists including in China study thorium-fuelled nuclear power

South China Morning Post: In 1829, as Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius named a metallic element he had discovered after the Norse god of thunder and lightning, he surely had no inkling of its potential for unleashing enormous power. Yet today there's growing interest in thorium, which just might prove key to a new generation of nuclear reactors. If so, it could slash our dependency on fossil fuels, greatly helping to limit global warming, as well as reducing air pollution. Both benefits could be significant for Hong...

Divestment: over 300 churches vote end fossil fuels investment

Blue and Green: The World Council of Churches (WCC), representing 590 million people in 150 countries, has agreed on divesting from firms blamed for worsening climate change, triggering hope that major religious institutions from across the world will follow suit. The WCC is fellowship of over 300 churches, which has previously taken a stance against nuclear energy as well, preferring clean and safe renewables. The institution is also holding an Interfaith Summit on Climate Change in New York in September. The...

Fukushima Workers Quit Japan Utility in Droves Over Stigma, Pay Cuts

Al Jazeera: Stigma, pay cuts and risk of radiation exposure are among the reasons why 3,000 employees have left the utility at the center of Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster. Now there's an additional factor: better-paying jobs in the feel-good solar energy industry. Engineers and other employees at TEPCO, or Tokyo Electric Power Co., were once mainstays of Japan's corporate culture, which is famous for prizing loyalty to a single company and lifetime employment with it. But the March 2011 tsunami that swamped...

Inspired by History

It was 29 years ago today that the Rainbow Warrior came to rest at the bottom of the port of Auckland after her bombing by French secret service agents. She took Fernando with her. We will always remember both.

I was not there, but I remember the shock. It was the day when Greenpeace realized first-hand that our work touches sensitive nerves. You see, when power and authority is being questioned, reactions can be violent and… unexpected. In a way, the day of the bombing signals the end of the days of innocence.

The bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, as well as the trial of the secret agents is now part of history, as is her entire life; full of activities, breakthrough actions. She helped challenge the belief that "destroying the environment is fine as long as it brings financial growth." She bore witness to environmental crimes around the globe; promoting peace, empowering people to take action for the future of the planet and for the sake of future generations. The world's oceans, the whales, the dolphins and millions of people have kept her in their hearts. She has passed nearly into mythology, but her legacy remains all too real.

Her successor is no less of a myth. The Rainbow Warrior II, has written her own unique page in the recent history of Greenpeace. She has been successfully challenging the legal system; she has confronted environmental crimes all over the world's oceans, played a key role in empowering local movements and communities to fight for their environment and for justice, stopped nuclear and toxic waste dumping, confronted whalers, fought against dirty energy and for protecting the climate. After 21 mythical years with Greenpeace, she retired from her Greenpeace life on August 16th, 2011.

By the way, she was also bombed, impounded, rammed, and raided. I hope this has nothing to do with the name.

Now, the new Rainbow Warrior continues to sail the oceans. And we are proud she is sailing -- in her new incarnation -- through the Mediterranean for the first time. The struggle to stop catastrophic climate change by putting pressure on governments and corporations to end our deadly dependence on fossil fuels (or nukes) has found a new banner in her impressive sails. She has already started showing her teeth.

At this moment, she is engaging with campaigns around the Med to protect our sea from oil drilling. The economic crisis in the European south is seen as an opportunity to further strengthen the energy dependency from oil pumped from the bottom of the historic and extremely fragile marine ecosystem of the Med.

From "Oil and water do not mix" (on banners used in actions in the past) we now move to the need for an Energy Revolution where fossil fuels and nuclear energy have no place. And this is real.  And it is a tough challenge as it was every trip with the Rainbow Warriors.

We do not live with history and we are not limited by history. But we are stupid not to get inspired by and be proud of our history.

Go Warriors, go.

Nikos Charalambides is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Greece.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

On this day: the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior

Blue and Green: On this day, June 10, in 1985 the Greenpeace campaign ship Rainbow Warrior was sank in the port of Aukland, New Zealand, by French foreign intelligence services. In an operation codenamed Operation Satanique, the ship was sank by French special operatives posing as campaign supporters to prevent it from interfering in a proposed Nuclear weapons test in Moruroa. The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, however, caused the death of photographer Fernando Pereira, and the incident became a French PR...

S.Korea restarts nuclear reactor shut in June

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean nuclear reactor has restarted after a month-long closure due to a control rod problem, a spokesman at state-run atomic operator Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co Ltd said on Thursday.

Read more [Reuters]

Fukushima farmer takes on nuclear plant operator over wife's suicide

YAMAKIYA Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese court is due to rule next month on a claim that Tokyo Electric Power is responsible for a woman's suicide, in a landmark case that could force the utility to publicly admit culpability for deaths related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Read more [Reuters]

Political Forums of the "Highest Level"

You may have heard about a new roadmap to prevent climate catastrophe that was launched at the United Nations yesterday. After the launch, Jeffrey Sachs, one of the people behind the report, came into the "High Level Segment of the High Level Political Forum" (yes, that really is the name) meeting that I am currently at to present the report. And he got the attention of the audience, because he showed personal photographs taken all over the world. His pictures and stories described a world in crisis, from air pollution in Beijing to water scarcity in Turkey. They did make the case for urgent action.

It's a shame therefore, that the report -- though right about the urgency to act -- is endorsing some technologies that are not sustainable, fast to deploy, or safe. It's simply not possible to produce the amount of bioenergy the report calls for in a sustainable way, for example. And nuclear power is so expensive, slow and dangerous, that it is simply a distraction in the climate fight. We can do better. The technologies are there to deliver a true Energy Revolution based on energy efficiency and renewables. We therefore recommend that you look at our roadmap to a safe energy future before you rush to endorse Sachs's.

That said, Sachs's call for action was overdue. So far, the "High Level Political Forum" had lacked any urgency. This Forum was created at the Rio+20 Summit two years ago. It is supposed to give greater weight to developments that do not cost the earth or our future. And it is supposed to check on whether governments are actually implementing the (however inadequate) commitments made in Rio. This includes new Sustainable Development Goals, which governments are set to agree by September 2015. So far, though, we see no sign of the "High Level Political Forum" having the gravitas and importance to really hold governments accountable to sustainable development. On the contrary, we hear of wrangling behind the scenes in which some governments try to weaken the "High Level Political Forum" further…

It would be easy to despair at such news. But meetings at the UN are never just about what is formally being negotiated. As the media coverage of Sachs's roadmap shows, the UN is also a platform. It is ground zero and the place for necessary global discussions – including climate change. It's simply a fact, for example, that the media pays more attention to climate issues during the yearly global climate negotiations than during any other time of the year.

And out of many hours of misery in airless, windowless rooms at UN meetings, sometimes real progress springs up. Over our 40-plus year history, for example, Greenpeace has been instrumental in creating many global environmental rules. Dumping radioactive wastes at sea used to be perfectly legal until public pressure and a resulting coalition of governments wanting to act banned the practice. Over time, we have contributed to the toxic waste trade being sanctioned, the transboundary movements of genetically engineered (GE) organisms being regulated and many cancer causing chemicals having been eliminated. I would therefore recommend that any NGOs working on global issues but not yet accredited with the United Nations, to please join us now (here is how you can get access to the UN).

It's true that environmental bodies generally lack the teeth that organizations like the World Trade Organization (WTO) have. Whereas the WTO can impose punitive trade sanctions on countries not following their rules, environmental bodies are often lacking meaningful enforcement mechanisms. But there is no doubt that, without the global rules we do have, the plunder of our planet would be even faster and more extensive.

Especially because global rules become the "minimum standard" on which you can build. For example, the toxic waste trade rules - known as the Basel Convention - helped us, when we – successfully – campaigned against electronic waste. We needed to tighten up national legislations to succeed and the national discussions could start at a higher level, because there was already an agreed global benchmark.

Global political meetings currently are often as frustrating as they have been here at the "High Level Political Forum" because of the ownership of all too many governments by polluters. To change that, we need to build pressure at the local, national and global level to tilt the balance in the direction of rules that protect people and planet. "Power never concedes nothing without a demand," said slavery abolitionist Frederick Douglas who already knew the score in the 19th century. If we do not demand action from our governments – whether on protecting our precious High Seas or on climate change – we, too, are to blame if they do not act.

So as I go back now to the windowless conference rooms at UN Headquarters to do my part in pressuring our governments, please help me by joining our movement.

Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

California Governor Is Big on Talk, Weak on Climate Action

EcoWatch: California Governor Is Big on Talk, Weak on Climate Action | EcoWatch HomeNewsClimate ChangeFrackingKeystone XLEnergyWaterCoalBiodiversityTar SandsNuclearLivingFoodHealthTipsBusinessRenewablesSustainable BusinessGreen BuildingTransportationUniversityStudentsOn CampusResearchPartnersInsightsWritersArticlesShopAdvertiseAboutAboutStaffBoard of DirectorsAdvisory BoardContact Climate ChangeCalifornia Governor Is Big on Talk,...

Evacuation plans stir fresh doubts over Japan nuclear restarts

ICHIKIKUSHIKINO Japan (Reuters) - Japanese authorities, keen to restart nuclear power plants three years after the Fukushima disaster, may face an additional hurdle in securing approval - coming up with a cogent evacuation plan in the event of new accidents.

Read more [Reuters]

Scientists unable to recreate chemical reaction suspected in New Mexico radiation leak

(Reuters) - Government scientists have not been able to replicate a chemical reaction suspected of causing a radiation leak at a U.S. nuclear waste dump in New Mexico, complicating efforts to understand what went wrong, a U.S. Energy Department official said Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

TEPCO senior management still out of touch with their victims

It has often been pointed out that TEPCO has been badly managed for years and that it caused the triple meltdown of its reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. So, I attended the 90th Annual General Meeting of TEPCO to see if management has improved in the three plus years since the disaster. Sadly they haven't.

About 2,100 shareholders attended TEPCO's annual general meeting. They saw on the stage 20 management men, all in black suits, no women.

Greenpeace Japan went to the meeting with a clear theme in mind. We held a peaceful protest at the venue with banners that read: TEPCO: PAY VICTIMS, NO RESTART.

But the men in black suits are so pitiful they don't deserve to be in business. Here's why:

  • They still haven't helped their victims – at least 130,000 people still live in limbo after TEPCO's Fukushima disaster suddenly destroyed their lives. More than three years later, they still fear for their and their families' health condition.
  • TEPCO's terrible management caused the Fukushima disaster but they will not fully accept the blame.
  • The company is focusing a lot of effort on trying to restart reactors, instead of helping victims or cleaning up the radioactive mess at Fukushima.

That's what was behind our TEPCO: PAY VICTIMS, NO RESTART message.

Last year at this meeting, Greenpeace asked the leaders to investigate the accident. This year, I directly questioned new Chairman Mr. Fumio Sudo and asked if the investigation has been done and what have they found out? In particular I wanted to know about the companies that supplied TEPCO with reactors for Fukushima. What was the role of TEPCO's suppliers in the cause or extent of the nuclear disaster.

First, Takafumi Anegawa, Director in charge of nuclear, said: "We have been investigating in the cause of the disaster. So far we found nothing that involves suppliers responsibility." The same reply as last year.

Then Mr Sudo added: "I believe that suppliers' responsibility is very significant. I would like to deal with the matter of this question from management point of view." This is something new, not heard at last year's AGM.

Last year, 110,000 people from around the world signed up to call for holding TEPCO's supplier companies responsible to the disaster. Their products were part of the disaster. So far, the main suppliers, GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba, have accepted no responsibility as reactor suppliers of Fukushima Daiichi. And they haven't provided any help for the victims of their disaster.

TEPCO, once the biggest electricity utility in the world, become nearly bankrupt because of its nuclear business (i.e. Fukushima disaster), yet they seem still to have full trust in nuclear power. An amazed shareholder pointed that out and questioned why they keep trusting nuclear.

TEPCO has also reported that it is looking at the electricity market in Europe to earn income to support its business. Well, I wonder how many people want to do business with a company that cannot deal with its own disaster after three years yet still blindly believes in the same business model (i.e. nuclear).

What should TEPCO do now? Listen to the message of our banner and pay victims fair compensation and stop spending so much of its efforts on restarting its other reactors.

Hisayo Takada is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

Nuclear power: small isn’t beautiful, safe or cheap

Blue and Green: Justin McKeating, a Greenpeace blogger, has a message for the US, where the Obama administration has pledged to waste money financing the small modular reactor (SMR): nuclear power is not beautiful, safe or cheap. SMRs are supposed to be small and prefab – constructed from parts made in a central location and slapped together onsite like a cheap prefab home. Those parts can then be shipped out and built by staff who don’t necessarily have the skills to build larger, more complex reactors. The trouble...

‘Big-Bang’ machine prepares for relaunch

After months of maintenance work, the world's most powerful particle accelerator – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – has begun a cool-down phase in preparation for a second three-year run. Research should begin again in early 2015. Following 16 months of repairs and upgrades, the LHC, based at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) north of Geneva, is on track to resume at double the energy level of its initial working run, CERN said in a statement on Monday.   In the giant subterranean collider, which started up in March 2010, high-energy protons in two counter-rotating beams are smashed together hundreds of times a second in search of exotic particles. Travelling at just under the speed of light, they are guided by thousands of superconducting magnets. The debris is then tracked on huge detectors.   During its first three-year run, the LHC ran at a collision energy of seven-to-eight-trillion electron volts  (TeV), delivering particle collisions to four major ... Show more
Read more [ sci & tech]

Climate change, biological weapons worsen Nigeria security crisis

Daily Indpendent: Over two years ago, the United States listed climate change, use of biological and nuclear weapons, cyber attacks and transnational crimes as five major events that could change the scope of global security for the worse in the coming decades. The 2012 prediction contained in a report by the US National Defence may have been confirmed by recent violent events that have compromised the safety of lives and properties in Nigeria, like the insurgency being perpetrated by the Islamic sect, Boko Haram,...

When it comes to nuclear power, small isn't beautiful. Or safe or cheap.

Not beautiful, safe or cheap: a message to the United States, where the Obama administration has pledged to waste money financing the Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

SMRs are supposed to be small and prefab – constructed from parts made in a central location and slapped together onsite like a cheap prefab home. Those parts can then be shipped out and built by staff who don't necessarily have the skills to build larger, more complex reactors.

The trouble is, this is merely old nuclear technology in new clothes. So why is the US Department of Energy (DoE) is giving $217 million dollars over five years to NuScale, a SMR manufacturer.

Let's note, with a weary shake of the head, that this is yet another public subsidy for the failing economics of nuclear power, and take a look why this is a bad investment of taxpayer dollars by the Obama administration.

Dr. Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, has published a paper titled, The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power and the Development of a Low-Carbon Electricity Future: Why Small Modular Reactors Are Part of the Problem, Not the Solution.

In his paper, Dr. Cooper finds SMRs won't be cheaper and, more worryingly, manufacturers and supporters of the technology want to short-circuit safety regulations to get them built.

With the Fukushima disaster in its fourth year and no real solution to the ongoing problems and massive contamination in the foreseeable future, maybe now is not the time to talk about reducing nuclear safety, particularly with experimental, untested technology.

Dr Cooper adds SMRs will be more expensive than traditional nuclear technologies and that up to $90 billion dollars will be needed to make SMRs commercially viable. That's a huge sum that will drag financing away from renewable power projects that are vital in the fight against climate change. 

We've been here before: the story of the nuclear industry wasting billions is an old one. Take a look at the experimental, untested European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) being built in Olkiluoto in Finland. Originally budgeted at 3 billion euros (around $4 billion), the cost has swelled obscenely until it's now around 8.5 billion euros (around $11.5 billion). And the project still isn’t finished.

Meanwhile, research published by German think tank Agora Energiewende "found that new wind and solar PV could generate energy for an overall cost of up to 50 per cent less than new nuclear…" in Europe and "today’s feed-in tariffs for wind and PV in Germany are up to 50 per cent lower than those offered for new nuclear in the UK according to the Hinkley Point C agreement."

Basically, subsidies for new and increasingly innovative renewable energy generation are half those of old, tired nuclear power which has tried and failed over the last 60 years to come up with a viable economic model.

Big financial players like Citigroup (hardly hippy greenies) agree when they say 'Age of Renewables' has begun and nuclear power has priced itself out of the market. "We predict that solar, wind, and biomass continue to gain market share from coal and nuclear into the future," said its analysts in April.

I wonder if Barack Obama is a betting man because he's certainly betting on a lame horse here.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

World's energy systems vulnerable to climate impacts, report warns

Guardian: Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world's energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found. Energy companies are more often cited as part of the problem of climate change, generating the lion's share of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to around 40% of the total. But they will also suffer as global warming picks up pace, as generators – from nuclear reactors to coal-fired...

United Kingdom: We can turn the tide of climate change by working with China

Guardian: Much has been written about the nuclear agreements signed at the UK-China summit. Given the boost to low-carbon electricity, to energy security and to jobs, the Chinese interest in taking forward investment at Hinkley Point C, the UK's first nuclear station in a generation – is hugely welcome. But equally important is that both China and the UK recognise that climate change is one of the greatest global challenges we face. For the first time ever, the UK and China have released a joint statement,...

UK & Chinese governments issue ‘ground-breaking’ climate change pledge

Blue and Green: The UK and Chinese governments have agreed to co-operate to tackle the issues around climate change and energy security, further signalling that UN climate talks next year will be more successful than previous opportunities. The UK government described the statement as “ground-breaking”. The governments have signed a civil nuclear agreement, which they argue will help diversify the energy mix of both countries while tackling climate change. Additionally, a joint £20m research programme, which...

Japan to revive nuke power reactors

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Europe’s ageing nuclear reactors must have an environmental assessment

World Environment Day today was important for European nuclear energy policy, and the triggering issue was in Ukraine. No, it was not because of the G7 meeting talking about the consequences of energy dependence in the shadow of the political problems in Ukraine. The G7 did not really address nuclear, because they are aware nuclear cannot really help them out and the risks of nuclear power in conflict areas are not a strong issue on their agenda.

The important issue was a decision of the Meeting of Parties of the Convention (MoP) on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, also known as the Espoo Convention [1]. Such meetings are normally rather boring with occasional pearls at side-event and seminars. This time there was a lot of heated discussion on the lifetime extension of the Rivne 1 and 2 nuclear reactors in Ukraine.

In the end, the MoP endorsed the conclusions of its Implementation Commission [2]. As a result, all ageing nuclear power stations in Europe will have to be submitted to an environmental impact assessment before a licence renewal or the approval of a 10-year-periodic safety review.

This is a groundbreaking decision. Until now, most European countries prolonged the lifetimes of their ageing nuclear reactors by only looking at whether prescribed safety standards are met. Normally, there is no further consideration about whether the increasing risk of potential large environmental impacts due to a severe accident at an ageing power station can be justified in comparison with other alternatives for generating electricity. The public is not consulted before old reactors receive another lease on life. This now has to change.

And the Espoo Convention Implementation Committee has made it clear that its decision about Ukrainian nuclear reactors is valid for all parties to the Convention, from Spain in the South to Finland in the North, from Armenia in the East to the UK in the West.

Technically speaking, the MoP endorsed its Implementation Committee’s conclusion that Ukraine had breached the Convention by not carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before finalising a periodic safety review of the Rivne nuclear reactors 1 and 2 that allows them to operate another 10 years beyond their original 30 years design lifetime.

The Implementation Committee concluded that the potential impacts of extending the lifetime of a nuclear reactor apply to neighbouring and to distant countries. An EIA, therefore, has to be transboundary, and include distant countries that might be affected after, for instance, a severe nuclear accident. It also concluded that an EIA has to be carried out even when no physical changes are to be made to the reactors [3], a reason the highest Dutch court recently used to block an EIA for the Netherland’s 40-year-old Borssele nuclear reactor. The Espoo Implementation Committee urged Ukraine to carry out an EIA that would permit public participation and prepare EIA documentation before the next periodic safety review.

With this MoP decision, 60 ageing nuclear reactors in Europe will have to undergo an environmental assessment in the coming three years [4]. There are good alternatives for lifetime extension of ageing nuclear reactors. Greenpeace has published studies that show energy efficiency measures and renewable energy sources can help address today's energy challenges, including: climate change, energy dependence and the need to develop in a faster, cheaper and cleaner way [5]. With environmental assessments now necessary, governments will have to compare longer operation of old nuclear reactors with these reasonable alternatives.

Jan Haverkamp is a Greenpeace expert consultant on nuclear energy and energy policy and lives in Gdansk, Poland.


[1] The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context was done at Espoo (Finland), on 25 February 1991. Next to all EU member states, also Switzerland, Norway, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan are parties.

[2] The documentation of the Rivne lifetime extension case can be found here. The issue was brought to the attention of the Implementation Committee by the Ukrainian NGO EcoClub Rivne.

[3] The Committee concluded in its 25th session that the extension of the lifetime of a nuclear power plant, even in the absence of any works, was to be considered as a major change to an activity and consequently subject to the provisions of the Convention.

[4] These include reactors in: Belgium (1), Bulgaria (1), Czech Republic (4), Finland (2), France (22), Germany (2), Spain (4), Hungary (4), Slovakia (2), Sweden (5), the UK (7) as well as Ukraine (7). Source: IAEA PRIS database. The Implementation Committee currently also considers information concerning the lack of an EIA for the lifetime extension of the Dutch nuclear reactor at Borssele.

[5] See for example the Greenpeace / EREC energy [R]evolution scenarios.

Image: © Greenpeace / Jan Haverkamp. Iryna Holovka (r) from CEE Bankwatch and the National Ecological Center of Ukraine and Oksana Maiboroda of EcoClub Rivne – the two Ukrainian activists who challenged the lack of an EIA for the Rivne 1 and 2 lifetime extension in front of the Palais de Nations where the Espoo MoP took place.

Read more [Greenpeace international]

German nuclear waste may be headed to South Carolina site

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