Month: September 2016

How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming

dealy-nuke-power

by Harvey Wasserman

(originally published on The Progressive on September 21, 2016)

Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong.

Every nuclear generating station spews about two-thirds of the energy it burns inside its reactor core into the environment. Only one-third is converted into electricity. Another tenth of that is lost in transmission. According  to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Nuclear fission is the most water intensive method of the principal thermoelectric generation options in terms of the amount of water withdrawn from sources. In 2008, nuclear power plants withdrew eight times as much freshwater as natural gas plants per unit of energy produced, and up to 11 percent more than the average coal plant.

Every day, large reactors like the two at Diablo Canyon, California, individually dump about 1.25 billion gallons of water into the ocean at temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the natural environment.

Diablo’s “once-through cooling system” takes water out of the ocean and dumps it back superheated, irradiated and laden with toxic chemicals. Many U.S. reactors use cooling towers which emit huge quantities of steam and water vapor that also directly warm the atmosphere.

These emissions are often chemically treated to prevent algae and other growth that could clog the towers. Those chemicals can then be carried downwind, along with radiation from the reactors. In addition, hundreds of thousands of birds die annually by flying into the reactor domes and towers.

The Union of Concerned Scientists states:

The temperature increase in the bodies of water can have serious adverse effects on aquatic life. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water, thus discharge from once-through cooling systems can create a “temperature squeeze” that elevates the metabolic rate for fish. Additionally, suction pipes that are used to intake water can draw plankton, eggs and larvae into the plant’s machinery, while larger organisms can be trapped against the protective screens of the pipes. Blocked intake screens have led to temporary shut downs and NRC fines at a number of plants.

And that’s not all.

All nuclear reactors emit Carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating the industry’s claim that reactors are “carbon free.” And the fuel that reactors burn is carbon-intensive. Themining, milling, and enrichment processes needed to produce the pellets that fill the fuel rods inside the reactor cores all involve major energy expenditures, nearly all of it based on coal, oil, or gas.

And of course there’s the problem of nuclear waste. After more than a half-century of well-funded attempts, we’ve seen no solution for the management of atomic power’s intensely radioactive waste. There’s the “low-level” waste involving enormous quantities of troublesome irradiated liquids and solid trash that must be dealt with outside the standard civilian waste stream. And that handling involves fossil fuels burned in the process of transportation, management, and disposal as well

As for the high-level waste, this remains one of humankind’s most persistent and dangerous problems. Atomic apologists have claimed that the intensely radioactive spent fuel rods can somehow be usable for additional power generation. But after a half-century of efforts, with billions of dollars spent, all attempts to do that have utterly failed. There are zero successful reactors capable of producing more reactor fuel than they use, or able to derive more energy from the tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods they create.

Some reactors, like Fukushima, use “mixed-oxide” fuels that have proven to be extremely dirty and expensive. It’s possible some of this “MOX” fuel containing plutonium, actually fissioned at Fukushima Unit Three, raising terrifying questions about the dangers of its use. The mushroom cloud that appears on video as Fukushima Unit Three exploded stands as an epic warning against further use of these impossible-to-manage fuels.

The MOX facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina, is now projected to require another ten years to build with another ten possible after that to phase into production. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on September 13, 2016, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the mismanaged project was “impossible” to carry out and that it could cost $30 billion to $50 billion. Even the current pro-nuclear Congress won’t fully fund the project and the Department of Energy DOE continues to recommend abandoning it.

There are no credible estimates of the global warming damage done by the intensely hotexplosions at the four Fukushima reactors, or at Chernobyl, or at any other past and future reactor meltdowns or blowups.

Atomic apologists argue that the disposal of high-level reactor wastes should be a relatively simple problem, lacking only the political will to proceed. The industry touts New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, or WIPP, which has long been the poster child for military attempts to deal with plutonium contaminated trash from the nuclear weapons program. Accepting its first shipment of waste in 1999, WIPP was touted as the ultimate high-tech, spare-no-expense model that proved radioactive waste disposal “can be done.”

But a series of disastrous events in February,  2014, led WIPP to stop accepting wastes—the sole function for which it was designed. Most significant was an explosion of radioactive waste materials (The theory that the waste was mistakenly packed with organic rather than clay-based kitty litter has been widely accepted – but it has not been proven). Twenty-two WIPP workers working above ground at WIPP tested positive for internal radioactive contamination. The entire facility remains closed. In a phone interview, facility management told me it may again accept some wastes before the end of this year. But at least part of the cavernous underground labyrinth may never be reopened. The Los Angeles Times estimated the cost of this single accident at $2 billion.

Overall, the idea that atomic power is “clean” or “carbon free” or “emission free” is a very expensive misconception, especially when compared to renewable energy, efficiency, and conservation. Among conservation, efficiency, solar and wind power technologies, there are no global warming analogs to the heat, carbon, and radioactive waste impacts of nuclear power. No green technology kills anywhere near the number of marine organisms that die through reactor cooling systems.

Rooftop solar panels do not lose ten percent of the power they generate to transmission, as happens with virtually all centralized power generators. S. David Freeman, former head of numerous large utilities and author of All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future, says: “Renewables are cheaper and safer. That argument is winning. Let’s stick to it.”

No terrorist will ever threaten one of our cities by blowing up a solar panel. But the nuclear industry that falsely claims its dying technology doesn’t cause global warming does threaten the future of our planet.

############

 

[Updated & Edited by Myla Reson on September 29, 2016]

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH. He edits nukefree.org. You can find his GREEN POWER & WELLNESS SHOW at www.prn.fm

Will Christie Whitman Follow Her 9/11 Apology With One for Her Nuke Shill Game?

 

11-sept-11-harvey

The  attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. (photo: Aristide Economopoulos)

By Harvey Wasserman

Cross-posted on Reader Supported News on September 11, 2016

oon after the 9/11 terror attacks 15 years ago today, then-US EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman assured New Yorkers the air was safe to breathe.

Today she has issued a “heartfelt” apology, admitting that her misleading advice caused people to die. But will she also apologize for pushing lethal atomic reactor technologies that could kill far more people than 9/11?

Back in 2001, Whitman went public to “reassure the people of New York and Washington D.C. that their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink.” She also said, “The concentrations are such that they don’t pose a health hazard….”

The Environmental Protection Agency itself later said there was insufficient data to offer such assurances.

The 9/11/2001 collapse of the World Trade Towers and the nearby Building 7, along with the attack on the Pentagon, coated lower Manhattan and other downwind areas with huge quantities of toxic dust. Among the components of the deadly cloud were asbestos, mercury, lead, glass, heavy metals, concrete, and countless other poisons from vaporized windows, computers, carpets, structural steel, and much much more. Clearly anyone breathing the dust that spread throughout the region was at risk.

But the Bush administration had other interests. Among them was reopening Wall Street and the stock exchange. Bush himself showed up at the site without a respirator, as did then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. School children were brought back into the area far sooner than was safe, as were thousands of residents and workers.

To unofficial observers, the administration’s assurances were cavalier and irresponsible. “Bush, Rudy & Whitman to New Yorkers: Drop Dead,” read one angry blog in the Huffington Post.

Since then, numerous first responder and area residents have been sickened and died from 9/11-related sicknesses that were both predictable and avoidable. “I’m very sorry that people are dying, and if the EPA and I in any way contributed to that, I’m sorry,” Whitman said. “We did the very best we could at the time with the knowledge we had.”

Whitman’s apology has not been met with universal applause.

I don’t believe her for one second,” said John Feal to the NY Daily News. As executive director of the FealGood Foundation, a first responders’ advocacy group, Feal is pushing the Zadroga Bill, meant to ensure health coverage for Ground Zero sufferers.

“If she was sincere she would have walked the halls of Congress with me,” Feal said. “If she was sincere, she could have gone to one of the 154 funerals with me. She was reckless and careless because of her words, and believe it or not, words have consequences. God’s going to be her judge.”

“I knew the air was no good but as a first responder that’s what I signed up for,” said Rich Alles, formerly a chief with the NY Fire Department. “But what she did jeopardized the health of every school child who returned to school in Lower Manhattan, every educator who went back to school to teach them and every person who lived in that area who returned home to breathe in toxic dust.”

A former GOP governor of New Jersey, Whitman has since signed on as a paid advocate for atomic energy. This June, she co-wrote an op ed asking for massive subsidiesto keep money-losing nukes in Illinois online.

Whitman has co-chaired the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), funded by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry PR front. Apparently her deceptions after 9/11 have not yet caught up with her at the dying reactors whose increasingly dangerous operations she advocates.

The nuke industry’s primary focus now is to get public handouts to keep open the 100 decrepit, money-losing reactors still operating in the US. The ones backed by Whitman in Illinois were designed in the 1960s, and are dangerously embrittled. The entire US fleet is aging and increasingly subject to catastrophe. A new reactor recently opened in Tennessee has already suffered two shutdowns.

All reactors emit massive quantities of wastewater and steam, which heat the planet. They generate thousands of tons of spent fuel that cannot be managed. And they regularly emit radiation that kills and maims entire downwind populations, as did 9/11.

It’s only a matter of time before another commercial nuke explodes, like the one Soviet reactor at Chernobyl and the four US-designed GE reactors at Fukushima.

The question for Christine Todd Whitman is this: when the next reactor blows up, will you again apologize for your inexcusable role in it, as you’ve now done for your inexcusable cover-up of the health impacts at 9/11?

And if you do, who will care?

 

 


 

Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and edits www.nukefree.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm.

Distrust of 2016’s Hackable Election Is a Media Landslide With Just One Solution: Hand-Counted Paper Ballots

9-7-2016-rsn-pic

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, (cross posted at Reader Supported News)

07 September 16

inally, the major for-profit media is approaching consensus that it’s easy to hack U.S. political elections. Even candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are raising unprecedented doubts – from very different directions – about the reliability of the upcoming vote count.

    Ultimately, there is just one solution: universal hand-counted paper ballots, with carefully protected voter registration rolls, and a transparent chain of custody.

    The corporate media and the Democrats are obsessed with the “Russians.” Donald Trump rants about a mythological army of voters voting multiple times.

    But the real threat to our election system comes from private for-profit corporations that register voters, control voter databases, then count and report the vote with secret proprietary software and zero transparency, accountability, or recourse.

    After ignoring or attacking the reportage since Florida 2000 of Bev Harris, Greg Palast,  freepress.org and numerous others, the corporate media seems finally to be getting the message: under the current system, any American election – even the one for president – can be stripped and flipped by a tiny handful of electronic hackers working anywhere from the Kremlin to a party HQ to a state governor’s office to a teenager’s garage.

    Here is some of what the mainstream media is finally admitting. In an article posted on July 28, 2016, NBC News pointed out that our elections are vulnerable to hacking because they “are not part of the vast ‘critical infrastructure protection’ safety net set up by the Department of Homeland Security.”

    CBS News wrote August 10, 2016, about “the hackers at Symantec Security Response” who demonstrated how “Election Day results could be manipulated by an affordable device you can find online.”

    Former national coordinator for counter-terrorism Richard Clarke, reporting for ABC News on August 19, 2016, analyzed the particular security problems related to battleground states like Ohio and Florida: “In 2000 and 2004, there were only a handful of battleground states that determined which presidential candidate had enough Electoral College votes to win. A slight alteration of the vote in some swing precincts in swing states might not raise suspicion. Smart malware can be programmed to switch only a small percentage of votes from what the voters intended. That may be all that is needed, and that malware can also be programmed to erase itself after it does its job, so there might be no trace it ever happened.” Clarke was on the White House National Security Council during both Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s administrations.

    Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the North Carolina School of Information and Library Science, in his August 12, 2016 New York Times op-ed “The Election Won’t Be Rigged but It Could Be Hacked,” wrote: “The mere existence of this discussion is cause for alarm. The United States needs to return, as soon as possible, to a paper-based, auditable voting system in all jurisdictions that still use electronic-only, unverifiable voting machines.”

    On August 30, 2016, the Washington Post wrote: “Deleting or altering data on voter rolls could cause mayhem on Election Day disenfranchising some voters. Many voting machines themselves also are vulnerable, especially touch-screen systems that do not create a paper record as a guard against fraud or manipulation.” The Post also supplied a list of the 15 states with the most vulnerable voting systems.

    The list of those now admitting the obvious includes the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, USA Today, The Guardian, Mother Jones, and Politico, some of which have previously mocked those of us reporting on this issue. Most important has been the highly influential The Hill, which weighed in on May 2, 2016 with “Election fraud feared as hackers target voter records.” The lede was straightforward: “A series of data breaches overseas are spurring concerns that hackers could manipulate elections in the United States.”

    Trump advisor Roger Stone wrote a column in The Hill with the headline: “Can the 2016 Elections Be Rigged? You Bet.” He also referred to our latest summary volume, “The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft,” as “a must-read book on the strip and flip techniques used to rig these machines.”

    But in the 2016 primary election, there are other must-reads as well. Perhaps the most important is Election Justice USA’s report entitled “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries.” This report cites six major areas of election irregularities in this year’s 26 primary elections:

  1. Targeting voter suppression
  2. Registration tampering
  3. Illegal voter purges
  4. Exit poll discrepancies
  5. Evidence for voting machine tampering
  6. The security (or lack thereof) of various voting machines types.

    In their 96-page report, Election Justice researchers documented how Hillary Clinton’s campaign benefited from these “various types of fraud.” Their conclusion: “Based on this work, Election Justice USA has established an upper estimate of 184 pledged delegates lost by Senator Bernie Sanders as a consequence of specific irregularities and instances of fraud.”

    Election Justice’s well-documented estimate that Sanders lost 184 delegates means that if the election had been conducted fairly, the Senator from Vermont would now be the Democratic nominee.

    Another document essential to understanding election irregularities that allowed Hillary Clinton to capture the Democratic Party nomination is a paper co-authored by Axel Geijsel of Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Rodolfo Cortes Barragan of Stanford University. Their analysis found that primary election results in states with the most vulnerable and hackable voting machines and without a paper trail overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton 65 percent to 35 percent. Sanders led Clinton 51 percent to 49 percent in states where the vote count could be verified with a paper trail.

    The correlation between the increased Clinton vote and the increased vulnerability of the voting machines has been avoided like the plague by the corporate media.

    Equally important to read is mathematician Richard Charnin’s blog. Charnin is a man the mainstream media often attacks – but not with mathematical formulas to rebut Charnin’s detailed analysis. Rather they attack him because, like the vast majority of Americans, he believes that John F. Kennedy was not killed by a lone gunman. In 2016, official Democratic primary vote counts compared to exit poll results were significantly outside the margin of error in 12 of 26 states. Charnin concluded that the probability of those official vote tallies being correct are one in 78 billion. There were no such discrepancies in this year’s Republican primaries.

    Now 16 years after the theft of the presidency in Florida 2000, and a dozen since it was done again in Ohio 2004, the corporate media are approaching consensus that it is indeed very easy to strip millions of legitimate citizens from the voting rolls, and then to hack electronic voting machines and computerized central tabulators to flip the official final outcome.

    The threat to this year’s election does not come from non-existent armies of mythological hordes voting multiple times. It comes from the private partisan companies with their secret proprietary software that control the voter rolls, the electronic machines, and ultimately the final outcome at all levels of government. The mega-corporations are the ones that flipped George W. Bush into the White House and Hillary Clinton into the Democratic nomination, not to mention manipulating countless Senate, House, and state and local elections along the way.

    For a hopelessly vulnerable electronic election system which is flawed, hackable and riggable from top to bottom, there is just one solution: transparent unhackable voter rolls, and universal hand-counted paper ballots open to public scrutiny from the precinct level to the final official tallies, as dutifully reported by our slowly awakening corporate media.

 


 

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, available at www.freepress.org and www.solartopia.org, where Bob’s Fitrakis Files and Harvey’s Solartopia! can also be found.

Nuclear’s Last Stand? New York’s Cuomo Rushes in to Save Dying Plants

ny nuke

by Harvey Wasserman

Image by GuenterRuopp

New York’s “liberal” Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to ram through a complex backdoor bailout package worth up to $11 billion to keep at least four dangerously decrepit nuclear reactors operating.

To many proponents of safe energy, the move comes as a shock. Its outcome will have monumental consequences for nuclear power and the future of our energy supply.

For years, Governor Cuomo has made a public show of working to shut down two Entergy-owned reactors at Indian Point, thirty-five miles north of Manhattan. He and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have fought Entergy in court, trying to stop operations. They warn that the reactors are too dangerous to run so close to New York City, which cannot be evacuated in case of a major accident.  More than ten million people live within a fifty-mile radius of Indian Point, whose two operating reactors opened in the 1970s.

Entergy is now trying to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the expired operating licenses for the two plants, Indian Point Two and Three. (Indian Point Unit One was shut in October 1974 due to its lack of an Emergency Core Cooling System).

Cuomo claims he still wants to close Indian Point Two and Three. Like most aging reactors, they have been continually plagued with leaks, mechanical failures, structural collapse, and unplanned shutdowns. Recent revelations of major problems with critical bolts within Indian Point’s core structure, and tritium leaks into the broader environment, have deepened public opposition.

The national and local groups fighting to shut Indian Point, some for decades, include Riverkeepers, Clearwater, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Beyond Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, and many more.

But now Cuomo wants to earmark more than $7 billion in public money, for starters, to keep four upstate nuclear reactors on line. One is the Ginna reactor, near Rochester; the other three—FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point One, and Nine Mile Point Two—occupy a single site on Lake Ontario. Fitzpatrick is owned by Entergy. The rest are owned by Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power owner/operator.

All four reactors are in various stages of advanced deterioration and were slated for permanent closure. Without massive public subsidies, none can compete with natural gas or with wind and solar, which are rapidly dropping in price.

Entergy announced last fall that economic factors would force it to shut Fitzpatrick in January 2017. Exelon told the New York Public Service Commission that it would probably shut Nine Mile 1 and Ginna next year as well.

Environmentalists hailed the announcements. The aging U.S. fleet now involves about 100 reactors, down from a maximum of about 130, and 900 fewer than the 1,000 Richard Nixon predicted in 1974. Many of them, like Ginna, are well over forty years old. Many are known to be leaking various radioactive substances, most commonly tritium, as at Indian Point. Major leaks have also recently been revealed at FitzPatrick. Structural problems like Indian Point’s missing bolts and a crumbling shield building at Ohio’s Davis-Besse are rampant.

Nonetheless, in a complex twelve-year package ostensibly meant to promote clean energy, Cuomo’s PSC has passed a huge subsidy plan meant to keep the four upstate reactors going

The deal’s arcane terms involve a transfer of Fitzpatrick from Entergy to Exelon.  The handouts from the public to the nuclear industry would be spread over more than a decade. Ironically, they could, under certain circumstances, also be used to keep open the two reactors at Indian Point.

Cuomo has made much of “saving” some 2,000 reactor jobs jobs in a depressed region where unemployment is rampant. But Stanford economist Mark Jacobson has shown that the billions spent to keep the reactors open could create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the state if spent on pursuing wind and solar energy and increased efficiency. Those sources could provide New York with far more energy at a much cheaper rate, without the long-term safety, ecological, and public health problems caused by the aging reactors.

Cuomo has also cited former climate expert James Hanson, claiming the prolonged nuke operations will not emit carbon. But the pro-nukers ignore the four reactors’ huge hot water and steam releases.

U.S. reactors each dump some 800 million to 1.25 billion gallons of hot water and steam into the environment every day, a major source of global warming. The estimate for the daily emissions at California’s double-reactor plant at Diablo Canyon is about 2.5 billion gallons of hot water per day. Only about one-third of the energy U.S. reactors produce actually makes it onto the grid in the form of useable electricity. About ten percent of that is then lost in transmission.

Nuke operators throughout the United States are watching to see if New York’s proposed subsidies will keep set a precedent for states to jump in and keep money-losing reactors operating as they crumble. Exelon has lost a fight for billions in Illinois. Environmental, consumer, and even competing utilities are fighting huge bailout demands from FirstEnergy for its Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the industry fought for deregulation, arguing that its reactors would do well in a “free market economy.” But in the process it demanded (and got) about $100 billion in public handouts for “stranded costs” that it argued were unfairly imposed on its massively inefficient technology.

Now that the reactors are failing even after that huge cash infusion, the industry wants another round of huge subsidies

Meanwhile, there are some positive signs. In California, a turning-point deal has been cut at Diablo Canyon with the state, Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant’s unions and major environmental groups to shut the two huge reactors in about nine years, when their licenses expire. In the meantime, the utility will shift almost entirely to carbon-free wind and solar, and will “retain and retrain” the bulk of the plant’s workers.

California’s anti-nuke community worries that the nine years left for Diablo to operate are too much. The two reactors sit on or near a dozen earthquake faults, and are just forty-five miles from the San Andreas, half the distance Fukushima was from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

But the deal marks the first time a nuclear utility has admitted that all the power from its reactors can come instead from renewables. And it’s the first major phase-out plan to allow for a transition for both the plant’s workers and the nearby communities, which will lose a substantial tax base when the reactors close.

With such developments as a backdrop, the New York fight could be a serious turning point in nuke power’s last battle.

The reaction among New York anti-nuke groups to Cuomo’s handout has been fierce. The battle heads back to the PSC in the form of public comment, and then into the courts. Opponents are buoyed by the growing success of the state’s solar industry. As the interests tied to Solartopian technologies expand, their opposition to bailouts like this escalates.

It’s unclear how the battle over nuclear power in New York will be resolved. “The fight,” promises Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, “is far from over.”

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of the global “No Nukes” movement, has been writing forThe Progressive (where this article is cross-posted) since 1967. He is author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, and edits www.nukefree.org.

© 2017 Solartopia.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑