Nuclear Power news

Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit.







Read more [Reuters]

US, Europeans row over post-Fukushima nuclear safety step

VIENNA (Reuters) - The United States is lobbying against an amendment to an international nuclear safety pact proposed by Switzerland, which Berne argues could help prevent Fukushima-style disasters but which may also increase industry costs, diplomats said.







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On World Energy Day let's remind the EU that people want ambitious EU 2030 targets

Our ship, the Arctic Sunrise is back with a mission. After a year in Russian custody for a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic, she is now released, repaired and back in the water. Once again she will challenge reckless dirty fossil fuels plans – this time off the Spanish coasts, which is under the threat of off-shore drillings.

Activists onboard the Arctic Sunrise – and all over Europe – are calling for clean energy the very week that EU leaders are about to make crucial decisions about Europe's energy system for decades to come. They will be talking about how to reduce climate change including through using more renewable energy and improved energy efficiency. I hope the politicians attending will show the same courage and strength.

Image Gallery.. 

These activists are – literally – shouting from the rooftops, reminding the world what poll, after poll in Europe tells us: people want less fossil fuel exploration, more use of renewable energies and more effective energy efficiency.

These two strategies are the most clear and direct way to address climate change. Is this the week that politicians will listen?

Our message to EU leaders is very clear: Don't stand by as we stumble towards catastrophic climate change simply because you don't have the political backbone to modernize our aging, polluting energy system.

These leaders are posturing and wringing their hands, but they know what they have to do. They have to agree that the only way to stop climate change is to fully embrace the need for more renewable energy and implement better energy efficiency.

The choice is simple and their job at the EU summit this week is to do the ground work so this can happen.

If anyone is not sure what people want, take a train anywhere in Europe and see. Farms using wind turbines. Small roofs half covered in solar panels. In fact 60% of the renewables in Germany are used by households, farms and cooperatives. The future is arriving but we need to accelerate the process.

We want to know that when an office block renovates for a new business, planning permission requires that any changes result in the highest possible standards of insulation.

We want to know that any new city buses and private cars use as little fossil fuels as possible, making them cheaper to run.

We want government buildings to put solar panels on their roofs, not only to cut their energy bills, but to reflect the will of their electorate.

We want to reduce the billions of euros a day Europeans pay to import fossil fuel and steer fraction of it towards establishing a credible, smart renewable sector which will excite investors and create jobs.

All of these things would help curb climate change which, if unimpeded, will cost us much, much more in the future.

Greenpeace's volunteers and Europeans want to remind political leaders that they may not see these things but we are watching them and we won't tolerate their tired old arguments.  

Don't pretend drilling for oil is for jobs. Destroying the Canary Island tourism business doesn't help Spain's economy.

Don't pretend it's too expensive to have renewables. The UK's proposed new nuclear reactor will be one of the most expensive power generators in the world.

Don't pretend it's about logic or that a better energy system is unrealistic. Embracing a clean, modern, sustainable future that protects where we live – the planet – is the most logical, most realistic, in fact the only, choice.

Let's hope that this week, those politicians have the guts for the glory of us all and show they are worthy of our votes.

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Virag Kaufer is a European Energy Project Coordinator for Greenpeace Hungary.



Read more [Greenpeace international]

Japan prosecutors set to rule on possible Fukushima indictments

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese prosecutors must decide this week whether to charge Tokyo Electric Power Co executives for their handling of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, in a process that could drag the operator of the stricken nuclear plant into criminal court.

Read more [Reuters]

ROSATOM – the risks of nuclear politics

The Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, is aggressively pursuing export contracts throughout the world – pledging to offer an ideal all-inclusive solution to the huge problems and risks associated with nuclear reactors

Even leaving aside the massive economic and human costs of a Fukushima-like disaster, nuclear reactors are expensive and slow to build. They require maintenance, regulatory infrastructure, and skilled labour to operate. They generate waste that is lethal to life for longer than modern humans have existed on the planet.

For decades Greenpeace has tirelessly exposed the corruption, environmental contamination and exploitation of populations by various nuclear suppliers and operators. These include: Areva, Westinghouse, GE, Hitachi and Toshiba. The nationality of the bad actor is not the issue. The massively negative impacts and socialized risks wrought by these actors, as well as the inherent risks posed by nuclear energy, are the problems.

But a new Greenpeace report exposes Rosatom, the most ambitious nuclear exporter, peddling a supposed cure-all contract solution to the enormous nuclear problems, as a particularly risky and dangerous business partner.

Our report lays bare the troubled history and current problems with the Russian nuclear program. As Rosatom’s predecessors oversaw the worst nuclear disaster in world history at Chernobyl, the company likes to claim it learned from its mistakes and has some of the safest reactors in the world. But a look at both its domestic and foreign projects casts a long shadow of doubt on both these claims and their future ambitions abroad.

Rosatom offers what seems like a deal too good to be true – a Build Own Operate (BOO) contract, which promises to finance, build, and operate reactors abroad – as well as take back and reprocess the waste spent from those reactors.  But the deal has serious financial, environmental and political implications.

Countries attracted to it for what they see as energy independence and security will, in fact, find themselves frequently indebted and beholden to this Russian state company for both the reactors Rosatom owns in their territory as well as uranium fuel imports. They could also find themselves with vast piles of highly radioactive wastes from reprocessing piled back on their doorstep– an important, but often overlooked footnote to the promise of Russian reprocessing.

In short, Rosatom is peddling this BOO scheme because nuclear power equals political power.

To be able to tap that political power, you need to get into the market, and for that you need financing. Rosatom, backed up by the Russian state budget and state controlled banks, can deliver it. Russia can offer loans at low interest rates (the goal is not monetary, but political profit, remember). But, as Hungary could attest, those low rates can come with enough complex punishment paragraphs in the fine print, to tie you hand and foot.

Many countries buying into Rosatom's BOO schemes believe that the company is selling a tested standardised product with its MIR reactor. As a bit of background, "Mir" means peace or world in Russian, MIR stands for Modernised International Reactor. In reality, except for the marketing concept, all VVER 1200 reactors so far have been completely different – as the Czech nuclear envoy Václav Bartuška has concluded.

Of course, in addition to technological safety, and political risks, there are also issues of corruption, cost overruns, and delays.

All of it adds up to a very risky and dangerous business partner – one that should cause a long pause before any policymaker jumps after a shiny promise of Russian nuclear only to find themselves in the nuclear quicksand rather than in greener renewable energy pastures.

Jan Haverkamp is nuclear expert consultant at Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Blowin' in the wind

 

Wind power has a pivotal role to play in the world's energy supply over the next few years. By providing huge amounts of clean, affordable power, it can buy us time in the fight against global warming while revolutions in energy efficiency and solar power gain momentum.

Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council have just released a two-yearly status report on wind energy and its prospects up to 2050.

In as little as five years' time wind power could prevent more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being emitted each year by dirty energy. That's equivalent to Germany's and Italy's emissions combined, or Africa's total CO2 emissions, or those of Japan, or two-thirds of what India pumps out.

Ten years after that, wind power could be supplying up to 19% of the world's electricity and avoiding over three billion tonnes of CO2 a year. By 2050, 25-30% of global power could come from harnessing the wind.

The wind industry has grown at around 26% per year over the past 18 years. Europe and China have been solid wind markets for over a decade.

Now the USA is on the way to gaining a 20% share of the world market. In the coming five years, the rapidly developing economies of Brazil, South Africa and India are likely to be among the next to reap the benefits of wind power.

The main reason for this is that wind power has become the least-cost option for adding new power capacity to the grid in an increasing number of markets. Prices are continuing to fall and smart investors are seizing on the potential. During each of the past four years, an average of €50 billion went into new wind power equipment. This could increase to €104 billion by 2020 and €141 billion by 2030, according to the status report.

There is also good news for jobs. Around 600,000 people currently work in the wind power industry. That figure could rise to around 1.5 million by 2020 and exceed 2 million jobs by 2030.

But what also makes wind power attractive is its 'scalability' and the speed that power can be brought on line. That's particularly important where people have no access to electricity. Contrast that with huge and highly controversial coal-fired or nuclear power plants that involve years of debate and construction.

(By the way, forget the claim by sceptics that more energy is used in manufacturing wind turbines than they supply. A wind turbine 'pays back' all of the carbon dioxide emissions from its manufacturing, installation, servicing and decommissioning in its first three to nine months of operation. That means pollution-free power for the rest of its 20-year design lifetime).

Why all this is important is because the power sector pumps out more than 40% of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Wind power is an ideal technology to achieve early reductions in carbon pollution and to keep the window open to avoid global warming crossing the 2°C 'danger' threshold. But time is short for meeting climate protection targets and ensuring that global emissions peak and decline during this decade.

Capturing all of the future opportunities for wind power will once again depend on convincing recalcitrant policymakers and overcoming the vested interests of the fossil fuel lobby.

Sven Teske is a senior energy expert with Greenpeace International. Since 2005 he has been the project leader for the global energy scenario "Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook".


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Climate Change on the Nuclear Subcontinent

Huffington Post: In a recent blog post, Secretary of State John Kerry described climate change as a "gathering storm," already affecting millions around the world and posing direct challenges to our national security and global stability. In a new report, the Pentagon agreed. Indeed, our climate is changing in erratic but decisive ways, as the ice caps melt, seas warm (and rise), and the temperature of the globe increases over time. Diverse disciplines offer perspectives on these issues that could lead to our deeper...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Dr. Caldicott Tells of Fukushima Lethal Toll and Meeting Ronald Reagan

EcoWatch: The great Dr. Helen Caldicott graced the Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show this week with her unique assessment of the health effects of Fukushima and the rest of the nuclear power industry. She tells us about what`s happening to the renewable industry in Australia, and why Dr. James Hansen needs to reassess his views on atomic energy. "Nuclear Power Plants are cancer factories and bomb factories ... because any country that has a nuclear reactor makes 500 pounds of plutonium a year and...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Lockheed says makes breakthrough on fusion energy project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.







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Lockheed says makes breakthrough on fusion energy project

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready for use in a decade.







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Japan's nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in Dec

Reuters: As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country's idled reactors. More than three years after the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, the worst disaster since Chernobyl, Japan's nuclear plants remain offline nationwide even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes to restart reactors that meet new safety guidelines set by an independent...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Japan's nuclear restart unlikely this year, local vote expected in December

SATSUMASENDAI Japan (Reuters) - As Japan pitches an unpopular nuclear restart to residents near Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai plant, local politicians say approval is unlikely until December, delaying an already fraught process to revive the country's idled reactors.

Read more [Reuters]

French energy transition law to cut red tape on renewables

PARIS (Reuters) - France's much-delayed energy transition bill passed a key hurdle on Tuesday after a clear majority of the lower house of parliament adopted a text that skirts the key nuclear issue but includes simplification measures likely to boost renewables.

Read more [Reuters]

Companies call on EU leaders to back ambitious climate and energy policies

In the past, politicians have often been the ones pushing companies to become more conscious of health and safety issues. American politicians insisted that car companies install seatbelts. European politicians voted for hormone disrupting chemicals to be removed from children's rubber duckies.

Yet on the biggest issue of our generation, preventing climate change, it is companies showing leadership and trying to drag politicians into understanding what is best for us all; a clean planet where climate change has not become catastrophic.

Greenpeace applauds these 11 companies for embracing the future.

Unilever, IKEA, Philips, Eneco, Interface, Spar, ASN Bank, Heijmans, Swarovski, Actiam, and Zwitserleven understand that Europe's economic future relies on saving more energy using more renewable energy and (of course) immediately reducing greenhouse gases.

They are sending EU leaders a strong message before they meet at a decisive summit on 23-24 October. And they want some serious results from that meeting, as do we. They want an agreement on binding targets for the climate and energy package far more ambitious than what is being considered.

Here's the difference: EU leaders are discussing a 40% drop in European greenhouse gas emission, renewable energy making up at least 27% of overall energy use, and energy consumption being reduced by 30% through increased efficiency. These targets wouldn't be achieved until 2030.

In their statement, these companies ask for both renewable and energy efficiency to be boosted to at least 40%, a significant increase. Of course it's not as ambitious as Greenpeace wants, but these industry leaders are certainly heading in the right direction. And they're not just talking the talk.

They are walking the walk in their own businesses. Unilever has committed to ensuring that 40% of its energy use is from renewable sources by 2020. Philips is aiming for 100% renewable energy by the same year and Ikea wants to do even more by creating renewable energy on site. For instance, they’re building solar farms in Poland.

The company which is so big it has become a verb, Google has invested €2.5bn in Nest, a smart home energy company which improves energy efficiency.

These companies know that their continued success depends on making better use of energy, having more secure sources for it and using the latest technologies to access it.

The world's largest private bank UBS, agrees. Recently they advised their clients that solar power, electric cars and cheaper storage batteries are the future. Not outdated pipelines that leak into water tables all over the world, or expensive risky nuclear plants which never come in on budget and leave us with a painful legacy of waste which – decades later – nuclear operators still haven't figured out how to handle.

Yet our government followers (can we really call them 'leaders'?) line up to support polluting fossil fuel energy, much of which Europe pays to import from undemocratic, corrupt regimes. (Greenpeace's recent report "Tied down: Why Europe's energy giants want to keep us hooked on imported fossil fuels" explores that more closely.)

Europeans aren't waiting for their politicians to catch up. Farmers are running energy cooperatives with their neighbours. Apartment blocks are installing solar panels. Home owners have smart house devices that automatically turn off electricity and heat. More and more people are embracing the new technologies which help us cut our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Like these companies, people know that our very survival depends on it.

When these companies wrote in their statement; "Europe must use this opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future", they weren't referring to those already doing it, rather to the politicians who must catch up with them.

The summit is next week. There is still time to move your political leader to actually lead. Tweet them. Email them. Call them. Tell them to meet us in the future not pull us into the past.

Jorgo Riss is Director of the European Unit Greenpeace.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

The key to nuclear's future or an element of doubt?

CADARACHE France (Reuters) - Behind thick glass in a laboratory nestled in French woodland, a silvery molten metal swirls like a liquid mirror. But the material is no mere novelty; as dangerous as it is captivating, it could offer a solution to the nuclear power debate.







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The key to nuclear's future or an element of doubt?

Reuters: Behind thick glass in a laboratory nestled in French woodland, a silvery molten metal swirls like a liquid mirror. But the material is no mere novelty; as dangerous as it is captivating, it could offer a solution to the nuclear power debate. For sodium, the sixth-most abundant element on the planet, is being held up as the key to one of several new types of nuclear reactor being developed as governments grapple with the problem of making atomic energy more environmentally friendly, safe and financially...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

Reuters: Among the usual commercials for beer, noodles and cars on South Korean TV, one item stands in marked contrast. A short film by a government advisory body carries a stark message: the nation faces a crisis over storing its spent nuclear fuel after running reactors for decades. The world's fifth-largest user of nuclear power has around 70 percent, or nearly 9,000 tonnes, of its used fuel stacked in temporary storage pools originally intended to hold it for five or six years, with some sites due...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

As nuclear waste piles up, South Korea faces storage crisis

SEOUL (Reuters) - Among the usual commercials for beer, noodles and cars on South Korean TV, one item stands in marked contrast.

Read more [Reuters]

French MPs back cut to nuclear energy reliance

PARIS (Reuters) - A law which fixes a target of reducing French nuclear power production from 75 percent of the country's energy supplies to 50 percent by 2025 won approval from the lower house of parliament on Friday.

Read more [Reuters]

Japan pitches nuclear restart in tightly controlled townhalls

SATSUMASENDAI Japan (Reuters) - As part of a plan to restart its nuclear industry, Japan on Thursday began a controversial consultation process with local residents near idled reactors that was criticized for failing to give everyone in the region a say.







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Reports: Germany mulls legal action over EU's nuclear Hinkley ruling

BusinessGreen: The Germany government is reportedly considering joining Austria in suing the European Commission for approving UK plans to help finance the £24.5bn construction of new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point, Somerset. According to Montel, the German ministries of energy and environment are studying the contract between EDF and the UK to ensure it complies with state aid guidelines. After a lengthy investigation, the European Commission on Wednesday approved a modified UK plan to offer developer...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

The European Commission’s nuclear decision threatens our clean energy future

Yesterday's authorisation by the European Commission of massive subsidies for the UK's Hinkley Point C nuclear project is an enormous set-back for the country's development of a sustainable and clean energy future. Not only that, it may well stall the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency in large parts of Europe for the next decade.

Strong nuclear lobbies in countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are pinning their hopes for survival on the Hinkley project. The chance to funnel large sums from state coffers and consumers' pockets to these megalomaniac pet projects will cause frantic activity in those countries where old, centralised energy systems are still popular with politicians.

Plans for 19 new nuclear reactors in Europe are based in the east of the European Union. Excluding the 12 reactors planned in the UK, there are none so far in Western Europe. It's hard to believe that even multi-billion euro hand-outs could change the atmosphere in countries like Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, who are all phasing out their nuclear fleets.

There is a small risk that this will lead to new operating nuclear reactors. Nuclear power has priced itself out of the market in Europe with massive construction costs (5000 € / kWe or more). It's simply impossible to find sufficient financial backing unless countries are willing to sell themselves out completely to Russia's Rosatom and Vladimir Putin's financial and energy moguls, as Hungary and Finland are currently doing.

More disturbing is the threat of the discussion about energy efficiency and clean (and cheaper) renewable energy sources being pushed into the margins again. Europe needs to start urgently harvesting its abundant reserves of clean energy and plans for new nuclear reactors stand in the way.

The one non-nuclear country in the midst of it all, Austria, has announced it will fight the Commission decision in the European Court. It stands a good chance, because this deal breaks too many EU rules. As my colleague, Greenpeace EU legal adviser Andrea Carta, says:

"It's such a distortion of competition rules that the Commission has left itself exposed to legal challenges. There is absolutely no legal, moral or environmental justification in turning taxes into guaranteed profits for a nuclear power company whose only legacy will be a pile of radioactive waste."

Jan Haverkamp is nuclear expert consultant at Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe


Read more [Greenpeace international]

EU approves Hinkley Point nuclear power station as costs raise by £8bn

Guardian: The European commission on Wednesday gave Britain the green light for a huge government subsidy that will open the way for the first atomic power stations to be built for nearly 20 years. The ruling was welcomed by ministers and the nuclear industry but Austria threatened legal action against it, while consumer champions said it could add more than £5bn a year to energy bills. A majority of commissioners agreed Britain was not breaking state aid rules, overcoming the last regulatory hurdle...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

First new British nuclear plant in decades wins EU funding fight

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A British plan to guarantee the price of power from its first new nuclear project in decades won European Union backing in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that now faces legal challenges.







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First new British nuclear plant in decades wins EU funding fight

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A British plan to guarantee the price of power from its first new nuclear project in decades won European Union backing in a landmark ruling on Wednesday that threatens to trigger legal challenges.

Read more [Reuters]

The Swiss start-up tackling radiation threats

Entrepreneurs have helped develop a new system designed to detect radiological threats, which is being tested at ports across Europe. (SRF ECO, swissinfo.ch) Monitors hidden inside a van can single out freight containing substances such as uranium, plutonium, or radiological components for "dirty bombs”. These are weapons that combine radioactive material with conventional explosives. The information gathered allows operators to exclude the possibility of a detected plutonium source being a “ready-to-go” nuclear weapon. The system is the first of its type in the world to combine fast and thermal neutron detection. The technologies were tested at CERN, the European Laboratory for Nuclear Research near Geneva. The MODES_SNM project – the result of pan-European research and development –unites specialists from a number of fields, ranging from customs to nuclear physics. It was funded by the European Commission and developed by a consortium that includes Swiss start-up Arktis ... Show more
Read more [Swissinfo.org: sci & tech]

Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay

HIRONO (Reuters) - Almost a year after Japan pledged to double hazard pay at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, workers are still in the dark about how much extra they are getting paid, if anything, for cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Read more [Reuters]

Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay

HIRONO (Reuters) - Almost a year after Japan pledged to double hazard pay at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, workers are still in the dark about how much extra they are getting paid, if anything, for cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.







Read more [Reuters]

Solar power market could hit 200GW milestone by year end

BusinessGreen: The worldwide solar power industry is set to add the equivalent of five large-scale nuclear power plants in the final quarter of 2014, potentially hitting the 200GW capacity mark by the year end, according to analysts. New research by NPD Solarbuzz published yesterday estimates that global PV installations in quarter four will exceed 19.5GW, taking the annual total to 50GW. As a sign of how strong the market is growing, the installations for the coming quarter alone are likely to surpass the entire...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Should the European Commission wear green goggles more often?

That's the question lawyers were arguing about in Luxembourg last week. It is a case where Greenpeace is challenging the approval of up to €1.6 billion in aid to Spain's coal industry.

Spain is a poster child for clean energy. It has revolutionised its power supply, pushing down harmful emissions, reducing the bill for fossil fuel imports and creating thousands of green jobs along the way — all in the space of a few years. Last year, wind power was Spain's top source of electricity.

But this success story is now under threat. The Spanish government is retroactively changing the rules and cutting back on support for renewables which it says cost too much. At the same time, it continues to defend its support of the country's uncompetitive coal industry which has swallowed over €24 billion in subsidies since 1990.

Our legal challenge relates to the latest major support scheme for coal, a Royal Decree euphemistically entitled "Restrictions to Guarantee Supply", which was adopted in 2010. At that time, mine workers in Castille and León were marching in protest against unpaid wages — a major worry for the socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who hails from the region.

The mines were already receiving direct subsidies, and EU rules prevented a further increase. Instead, the government decided to impose a "production obligation" on 10 power plants which run on Spanish coal, requiring them to continue buying and burning it. In return, the government promised up to €400 million a year in compensation to cover the higher cost of Spanish coal and the purchase of greenhouse gas emission allowances.

Under EU rules, State aid of this kind must be reviewed by the European Commission. The Spanish government argued that the scheme should be approved on the grounds that the 10 coal-fired power plants perform a "service of general economic interest" by keeping the lights on when the wind isn't blowing. They argued that the scheme also reduces Spain's dependence on imported energy.

Power companies that generate electricity from other sources — such as renewables, gas or imported coal — were up in arms. So were environmental organisations, including Greenpeace. They pointed out that, far from being at risk of blackouts, Spain's electricity system suffers from serious overcapacity. Many Spanish gas-fired power plants don't run at full capacity, because there is not enough demand for electricity — and they offer a much cleaner back-up solution than coal does.

Yet, after intensive lobbying by the Spanish government, the Commission approved the aid without opening an investigation. Its effect was immediate — Spain's National Energy Commission estimated that the scheme caused a 35% increase in carbon emissions from the electricity sector in 2011.

A number of power companies decided to sue the Commission before the EU's General Court. Greenpeace applied to join these cases. On Tuesday, the hearing was held in Castelnou Energia v Commission, with Greenpeace Spain intervening.

Castelnou argued some of its gas-fired plants have been put out of action due to unfair competition from subsidised coal. Greenpeace Spain — represented by high-caliber pro bono lawyers — focused on the negative environmental impact of the Spanish scheme. Under EU law the European Commission is required to take environmental requirements into account in all its activities, in order to promote sustainable development. This is called the "integration principle", and is found in Article 11 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). As we put it in court, the Commission should look at the world through "green goggles".

What does a scheme that orders power plants to burn more coal — and tells them not to worry about pollution as the government will pick up the bill — look like through green goggles? Quite brown, and hardly in line with the "polluter pays principle" — which is also enshrined in the same treaty. The Commission, we told the Court, should at least have opened an investigation to see whether "security of supply" could not be guaranteed in a greener way.

Non-governmental organisations like Greenpeace are only very rarely given an opportunity to argue before the EU courts. This case is therefore a special opportunity to challenge some three-quarters of energy subsidies in the EU that still go towards fossil fuels. Will the judges put on green goggles of their own and side with our case? Expect the ruling some time in mid-2015. The Spanish support scheme will have ended by then — it expires at the end of this year. Hopefully, the Spanish government will not attempt to renew it in some form, avoiding the need for further legal action.

At the same time, Greenpeace is trying to convince the Commission to put on green goggles in another case; the unprecedented State aid that the UK government wants to give to the Hinkley nuclear power plant. Let’s hope that the Commission will do the right thing, and will avoid facing more legal challenges, by us and by others.

Daniel Simons is Legal Counsel for Campaigns and Actions at Greenpeace International.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

United Kingdom: New cracks in Hunterston reactor

BBC: New cracks found in the core of the Hunterston-B nuclear reactor could threaten operator EDF's plans to extend the Scottish power station's life. Experts say fissures in two of the 3,000 graphite fuel bricks that make up its No 4 core are of a new type. These "Keyway root cracks" are said to be more serious than previously identified fractures. Safety rules stipulate that if the new problem gets above a certain threshold, the reactor would have to close. Hunterston-B came online in 1976,...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

While politicians are deciding our energy future, let's tell them: Listen to people not the polluters!

In three short weeks, on the 23rd and 24th of October, Europe's political leaders will meet in Brussels to agree on a European energy policy that will last for decades to come.

These politicians are under pressure, especially after the climate summit in NYC. They know they have to do more than talk and wring their hands about global warming. Europeans are expecting them to act.

As winter approaches, President Putin is likely to continue threats to turn off the tap to Europe. The fossil fuel lobby is working hard to convince a political leader that, despite what is happening in Ukraine, and in my home country of Hungary (where the government is folding under Russian pressure), we should not upset the Russian government. The suggestion is: staying quiet will help us stay warm. And the safest bet is to ignore calls for more renewable energy.  

We know that the most secure energy is renewable energy, and every wind turbine we build cuts Europe's fossil fuel bill. The EU pays more than €400 billion every year, to buy more than half of its energy (53%) from abroad.

The cost of renewable energy continues to drop despite receiving smaller public subsidies than either the nuclear or fossil fuel sectors. According to leaked EU figures, in 2011 those industries soaked up a combined €60 billion in public subsidies in the EU – double the amount given to renewable energy producers in the same year.

Then you factor in the health costs of choosing fossil fuels. Air pollution from burning coal alone is costing Europeans €42.8 billion in annual health costs, while the unsolved problem of radioactive waste and nuclear decommissioning costs will continue to drain resources for generations. For instance, to extend the life of the French nuclear fleet to 50 years would, according to EDF, cost €55 billion.

Furthermore, we know that renewables provide jobs. By 2011 the renewable energy business in the EU had already created between 800,000 and 1.2 million jobs. (Commission staff working document 2014: Impact assessment for a 2030 climate and energy policy framework).

And then there is the low hanging fruit: energy efficiency. Every single country in Europe wants to use energy more efficiently. Who in their right mind would be against saving energy? I have never heard a politician say wasting energy is a good plan.

We want politicians to recognise that the people who voted for them have said what they want over and over, most recently by joining climate marches across the globe. Renewable energy = energy security.

We want to ensure that these politicians listen to the people who put them in the rooms of power, not just the fossil fuel and nuclear industries who are loudly knocking on the door. They are knocking on politicians' doors because they are scared. Their business model is outdated. They haven't invested in renewable energy when it is clearly the way of the future. Instead, the core of their business depends on importing dirty fossil fuels from volatile regimes and maintaining Europe's geopolitical vulnerability.

Greenpeace is calling on Europe's politicians to agree on a 45% share of renewables, 40% energy savings and 55% cut in domestic carbon emissions in their energy policy for 2030.

The next step towards the final agreement takes place on Monday October 6th in Milan, Italy. EU energy and environment ministers will prepare the ground for the big leaders' meeting two weeks later.

We want all those ministers to hear from their home countries before they arrive in Milan. We want our supporters to call on them to support more energy efficiency, more renewables and greater carbon cuts.

We want to remind them who they're working for.

Let's speak with one formidable, unavoidable voice for the future we want: renewables and efficiency are our greatest security.

If you live in Europe tweet your energy minister today! Tell him or her you want renewables and energy efficiency for a secure energy future.

Virag Kaufer is a European project coordinator, Energy at Greenpeace Hungary.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

CERN turns 60

Sixty years ago, scientists began to explore the secrets of the universe at the largest particle physics laboratory in the world: CERN in Geneva. (SRF, swisinfo.ch) The business of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is fundamental physics: what is the universe made of and how does it work? Following the Second World War, a group of scientists and public administrators on both sides of the Atlantic decided to set up a research centre as a way of fostering peace and unity. The founding convention for CERN was signed by 12 states, including Switzerland. Increasingly powerful accelerators at CERN have allowed researchers to explore new frontiers of energy. Some of this research work has dramatically improved our understanding of the laws of nature. One example is the discovery by Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer of the particle carriers of the weak force. This is one of the four fundamental forces in the universe and causes beta decay, a form of radioactivity. Show more
Read more [Swissinfo.org: sci & tech]

Sweden's incoming coalition to set up energy commission

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's Social Democrats said Wednesday they had agreed with junior coalition partner the Green Party to set up an energy commission, offering hope of reconciling their opposing views on nuclear policy.

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Dominion finds damaged fuel rods at Virginia nuclear plant

(Reuters) - Dominion Virginia Power has discovered two damaged nuclear fuel rods at its North Anna power plant, 90 miles (140 km) southwest of Washington, and has shut it down, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

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IEA: Solar could be largest power source by 2050

RTCC: By 2050 the sun could become the world’s largest source of electricity, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It has released two reports which it says show how solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar thermal sources could provide 26% of the world’s electricity by mid-century. This would push solar ahead of fossil fuels, hydropower, nuclear and other forms of electricity generation. The IEA says a government-backed move to solar would negate the emission of six billion...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

U.S. Chamber: EPA using 'nuclear option' as everyday tool

Wyoming Business Report: An Affordable Energy Rally attended by both Wyoming U.S. senators and Gov. Matt Mead drew about 300 people in Gillette Thursday, though organizers expected as many as 1,000. The meeting was a rallying cry against proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. While environmentalists say such action is necessary to abort or slow global warming, many Wyoming and national leaders are saying the measure will slow economic growth while...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

That moment in New York City when the game of the climate movement changed

Who anticipated a turn-out like this? The largest political march in the US for over decade and it all took place in New York, home of the world's largest stock exchange, headquarters of international financial institutions and both dominated by coal and oil-fueled interests for over 20 years. And here we were, people of all kinds, standing up and marching for the climate on a Sunday afternoon. We kept in our hearts the struggles of past, present and future climate victims. Our hopes and feet carried us to a better world, one without fossil fuels and nuclear energy but powered by 100% clean and green energy for all by mid-century.

It was a powerful event that bared the determination of the people to influence political process. The people's climate march, solemn yet colorful, extended for several kilometers and tested our patience and endurance. I had to wait three hours before I could start marching. People from across the country walked and shared with me their concerns about the imminent catastrophic impacts of global warming. Workers, teachers, accountants, firemen, and students spread the message: to change everything we need everyone. Among them marched global citizen Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations. His courage was followed by a few ministers and celebrities; namely, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sting, and also Naomi Klein showed her vested interest. The march took us through the temple of consumption, New York's mid-town neighborhood. All traffic stood still. What an exceptional moment when a whole society's spirit soared. Goose-bumps included.

The next day I attended the opening of Climate Week NYC where company leaders, like Apple's Tim Cook, were taking part. The excitement from the Sunday was still lingering. The bosses of all kinds of companies detailed their march experience. Ban Ki-moon in particular still seemed taken by the positive contact with ordinary people the day before. He was talking at length about the march until he finally concluded that the heads of states need to listen to the people.

We cannot disagree with Ban, can we? That is why a handful of Greenpeace activists sidled to a remote location and produced a projection onto the side of the UN headquarters building reading 'listen to the people not the polluters'. Just like the people at the climate march, we demanded clear political actions: we want a future built on solutions; that is, clean and green energy. But if politicians continue supporting the old economic model that favors the polluters, our future will be dark and dirty. That future locks us into coal and oil and only gratifies businesses like Vattenfall, RWE and Shell. In team with nuclear energy leaders, they are trying to jam ambitious and binding targets for renewable energy whenever they can. The coming EU energy package for October is just one of the many occasions.

Last week, I felt alarmed when I had to witness the leaders of polluting companies lying about actively averting the process global warming. They supported a price on global carbon - the smokescreen of climate (in)action.

The Ban Ki-moon Summit has sent some important signals in support of the long-term goal of 100% renewable energy for all in a just transition period. A few political leaders pledged to achieve the 100% goal and a consolidation of companies voiced their commitment to get 100 companies to commit to 100% renewable energy in 2020! Were their actions inspired by the marching people? Many of the protesters wore shirts with that exact demand!

The last couple of days made one thing clear: people are standing up to express what future they want. They overcome frustration with action. In the UK and on the day of the Summit, a group of courageous people stopped a coal train from Russia and returned the dirty load to the sender. Even if the path is long and rocky at times, we will not be silent until the world we want to live in, one that makes life worthy and safe, has become a reality for all.

The speeches of US President Barack Obama and China's Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli featured the much anticipated words of admission that there is in fact a global responsibility and that they are prepared to take it forward. China added they intend to peak as soon as possible. I followed the speeches closely, reacting to fragments with joy and pain. Fine examples of leadership alternated with boneless pledges of commitment. So many promises were offered and no paths that will fulfill them. The time is now!

The movement needs to spread and grow. With the people's climate march on the back I am convinced our voices will be louder than those of the polluters.
Image Gallery.. 

Martin Kaiser is the International Climate Politics Coordinator at Greenpeace Germany.


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Nuclear Plants Across Emerging Nations Defy Japan Concern

Bloomberg: Three years after Japan closed all of its nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima meltdown and Germany decided to shut its industry, developing countries are leading the biggest construction boom in more than two decades. Almost two-thirds of the 70 reactors currently under construction worldwide, the most since 1989, are located in China, India, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Countries including Egypt, Bangladesh, Jordan and Vietnam are considering plans to build their first nuclear...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

Japan: Food Contaminated by Fukushima Harms Animals Still

Nature World: Even several years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, food contaminated from the meltdown is still harming animals, according to a new study. Specifically, butterflies eating food collected from cities around the site showed higher rates of death and disease. The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant released large amounts of radiation into the surrounding atmosphere. While no significant human health effects have been reported, scientists from the University of Rukyus in...
Read more [EcoEarth.info]

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