Category: No Nukes (page 1 of 3)

Donald Trump & Andrew Cuomo Are Brothers in Reactor Disaster

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By Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at Reader Supported News

08 June 17

onald Trump and New York governor Andrew Cuomo have joined forces in destroying our economy and environment.

While Trump wages global war on the climate, Cuomo demands a statewide bailout meant to keep failed nuke reactors on line until they melt and/or explode, Fukushima-style.

Trump and Cuomo are both are apostles of radioactive obsolescence.

The global climate treaty Trump wants to break has been signed by every nation on Earth except Syria and Nicaragua (which wants stronger terms).

Trump is globalizing the US legacy of breaking 800 treaties with indigenous peoples.

Like America’s indigenous tribes, the nations of the world will never trust us again.

Trump has shredded our global standing, as Germany’s Angela Merkel (CEO of the world’s #4 economy) has pronounced us an unreliable trading partner and China (#2) moves to partner directly with the European Union.

As Trump sabotages the dollar, watch him blame our economic death spiral on Muslims, commies, immigrants, and people of color.

Trump’s wedge between the US and Germany is a dream come true for Putin’s petro-mafia.

So is his attack on climate science as he hands our techno-future to King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes and Gas), the obsolete monster of a failed 20th century past.

Trump’s hatred of Solartopian technologies — solar, wind, tidal, wave, ocean thermal, geothermal, LED, efficiency, electric and hydrogen cars, advanced batteries, etc. — leaves the US out of the biggest job-creating transition in human history.

Through it all, Trump tweets his “love” for nuclear power.

With him on that is the alleged “liberal,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo wants New York ratepayers to pay $7.6 billion in raised electric rates to feed collapsing upstate nukes that could soon melt and/or explode.

The rate hikes would force New Yorkers as far away as Long Island to pay for uncompetitive loser nukes that supply them zero electricity.

In part because of a deal cut by Cuomo’s father Mario, Long Island still suffers from $7 billion wasted on the defunct Shoreham reactor.

None of the four upstate reactors Cuomo2 wants to bail out can compete with new wind or solar, which create far more jobs.

Tesla’s “Buffalo Billion” solar shingle factory will create 500 permanent jobs in northwestern New York, plus some 1400 spin-offs.

Ten such plants would create some 5,000 direct jobs, double those at Cuomo’s four loser nukes, with thousands more in spin-offs from cheap green power.

While Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Iceland, Denmark, South Korea and others head to 100% post-nuke Solartopian futures, China is investing $360 billion in renewables, and India is following suit.

Trump attacks such investments here while Cuomo’s bailout cripples them in New York.

The final four US nukes under construction (in Georgia and South Carolina) have bankrupted Westinghouse, maybe Toshiba, and may soon be cancelled.

The 99 licensed loser US reactors all teeter at the brink of economic/ecological catastrophe.

But Cuomo’s New York bailout is a model for owners to gouge billions from ratepayers to keep them open.

Cuomo says he’ll shut two reactors at Indian Point, near New York City, but still wants that Trump-style public handout.

No commercial reactor has liability insurance, so the next melt-down/explosion could bankrupt us all, with none of Trump/Cuomo’s industry cronies held responsible.

Cuomo’s bailout is being challenged in court. Trump’s legal challenges are legion.

Together, these brothers in reactor disaster are the ultimate radioactive Luddites.


Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-powered Earth is right here at www.solartopia.org along with Harvey’s History of the United States. The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections, written with Bob Fitrakis, is at www.freepress.org.

Three Mile Island Nuke Plant Closure Strengthens Call for Renewable Energy Future

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by Harvey Wasserman

Tuesday’s announcement that the Three Mile Island Unit One nuclear plant will close unless it gets massive subsidies has vastly strengthened the case for a totally renewable energy future.

That future is rising in Buffalo, and comes in the form of Tesla’s massive job-producing solar shingle factory which will create hundreds of jobs and operate for decades to come.

Three Mile Island, by contrast, joins a wave of commercially dead reactors whose owners are begging state legislatures for huge bailouts. Exelon, the nation’s largest nuke owner, recently got nearly $2.5 billion from the Illinois legislature to keep three uncompetitive nukes there on line.

In Ohio, FirstEnergy is begging the legislature for $300 million per year for the money-losing Perry and Davis-Besse reactors, plagued with serious structural problems. That bailout faces an uphill battle in a surprisingly skeptical legislature. FirstEnergy is at the brink of bankruptcy, and says it will sell the reactors anyway.

To make matters worse, Ohio lawmakers have imposed unique spacing restrictions on the state’s wind industry, blocking at least $1.6 billion in investments poised to build eight wind farms now waiting in the wings. Those turbine developments would go far in providing jobs to those who will inevitably lose them at FirstEnergy’s uncompetitive nukes.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a staggering $7.6 billion for four uncompetitive upstate reactors. That bailout is being challenged in court by environmental groups and by industrial players angry about unfair competition and soaring rates. Their owners concede these old nukes can’t compete with renewables or gas, and have wanted to shut most or all of them.

Now, Three Mile Island’s owners say without millions more in handouts from Pennsylvania rate payers, the reactor will close in 2019. A battle over the handout will be upcoming in the Pennsylvania legislature. Ironically, the Quad Cities plant in Illinois, which is in line for huge subsidies, could not compete with gas or renewables at a recent power auction, and may have to shut despite the handouts.

Meanwhile, coming on line this year, Tesla’s Buffalo Billion gigafactory has the power to transform our entire national economy.  It’s the core of a plan to fulfill America’s direst needs—a reliable supply of safe, cheap energy, and a base of good long-term employment for the nation’s battered working class.

Costing about $750 million, it will bang out solar roofing shingles by the end of this year. It will directly create at least 500 high-paying, clean, safe jobs that will last for decades and turn our energy economy green. Another 1,440 jobs are slated to come from spin-offs. Still more will be created by lowered electric rates and increased clean energy production.

The Buffalo factory joins Tesla’s new plant outside Sparks, Nevada—housed in the biggest building in the world—now producing a new generation of batteries. They will bridge the green energy gap when “the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.”

These two job-producing powerhouses are at the core of the Solartopian revolution. Solar panels, solar shingles, wind turbines, high-efficiency LED lighting and advanced batteries are key to our global survival and prosperity. Along with the hardware needed for tidal energy, ocean thermal, geothermal, advanced conservation and other renewable industries, giga-factories producing these technologies will be the engine for the 21st century economy.

If Gov. Cuomo’s $7.6 billion bailout ask went instead to build seven gigafactories like the Buffalo Billion, New York would gain thousands of jobs directly and thousands more through the industry powered by lower electric rates. They would be safe, secure, clean, good-paying jobs that could transform the state’s energy and employment situation.

Cuomo’s bailout plan, however, would raise rates on New Yorkers far outside their upstate service area. That even includes Long Island—hundreds of miles away—whose angry citizens rose up decades ago to kill the infamous failed $7 billion Shoreham reactor, which Cuomo’s father Mario helped bury when he was governor.

Ferocious opposition to this bailout has arisen throughout New York. A critical court case will open on June 5. Support for this litigation can be sent to Rockland Environmental Group, LLC 75 North Middletown Road, Nanuet, NY 10954.

New developments at Sempra and other major electric utilities now make it possible for renewables to sustain a central grid 100 percent of the time, without the fluctuations critics claim make a green-powered future difficult to achieve.

So we can bail out Three Mile Island, Perry, Davis-Besse and a rising tide of our 99 obsolete, dangerously decayed atomic dinosaurs at a cost of untold billions? Do we want to escalate the risk of reactor disasters, create tons more radioactive wastes and temporarily preserve a few thousand dead-end jobs?

Or do we want to bang out these Buffalo Billion plants and join Germany, Switzerland, India and other major nations soaring to a Solartopian future.

Is there really a choice?

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Three Mile Island Nuke Plant Closure Strengthens Call for Renewable Energy Future by Harvey Wasserman was originally posted at EcoWatch

 

Open Letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos About Ohio’s Dead Nukes

by Harvey Wasserman

(originally published at The Progressive on May 22, 2017)

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The Perry nuclear power plant east of Cleveland is owned by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy that is today worth less than its combined long-term debt. First Energy is searching for new ways to subsidize nuclear plants because atomic energy, once “too cheap to meter,” is often now more expensive than power generated via other means.

Dear Mr. Bezos,

You have recently received some radioactive junk mail promoting the idea that your company, Amazon, should financially support Perry and Davis-Besse, the two financially dead atomic reactors in northern Ohio. It was a letter from “pro-nuke environmentalists,” the ultimate oxymoron in a world moving toward safe renewables, a transition embraced by your company’s wise commitment to go 100 percent renewable.

The nuclear advocates want you and your high-tech cohorts at Google, Apple, and Tesla to buy reactor-generated electricity at above-market prices so uninsured, competitively dead reactors at Perry and Davis-Besse can still dangerously operate.

Asking you to subsidize nukes is like asking you to bet your company on rotary dial telephones and new landline networks; to build more Edsels, Corvairs, and Pintos; to embrace thalidomide for pregnant women; to mass-produce buggy whips; and to convert your Internet business to a stand-alone fleet of small brick-and-mortar five and dimes.

As a long-time Ohioan, I’ve watched our “mistakes-by-the-lake” nuclear power plants spew unmitigated financial, ecological, and safety disaster. They’ve crippled Ohio’s economy and now could totally bury it.

Their owner, FirstEnergy, is on the brink of bankruptcy. In an obscene 1999 campaign, the company’s ancestors hustled Ohio legislators and regulators for a $9 billion bailout so these even-then-obsolete reactors could “compete” in a deregulated market. Now FirstEnergy wants another $300 million per year to subsidize nukes that still can’t compete with wind, solar, or gas.

The nuclear industry whines about renewables subsidies but hides its own, including public liability for reactors that can’t get private coverage. The public—including you and Amazon—will pay for the next reactor disaster.

Meanwhile, Germany (with the world’s fourth-largest economy) enjoys an “energiewende” that’s shutting all its nukes and converting to renewables. By leaping into the Solartopian Revolution, Germany is moving rapidly toward a stabilized energy supply based entirely on sustainable, Earth-based sources. So will Amazon as it converts to 100 percent actual renewables while totally avoiding any involvement with nuke power.

Switzerland has just voted to go a parallel route, with a referendum confirming its transition to a post-nuclear, 100 percent renewable economy.

California (with the world’s sixth-largest economy) is shutting its last two nukes at Diablo Canyon. State, utility, union, and actual environmental negotiators agreed to a “retain and retrain” program for plant workers and support for communities losing tax revenues. Many of us want Diablo to shut NOW, but all green advocates agree 100 percent of its output can be replaced with renewables.

The same is true for the Perry and Davis-Besse reactors. The winds in Lake Erie are uniquely powerful. Northern Ohio’s flat, breezy terrain hosts a fine transmission network, good access to urban markets, and communities that want the jobs and income turbines can provide. In response, FirstEnergy has worked to stop green energy wherever possible.

Perry was damaged by an earthquake in 1986, prior to its opening. A top-level state commission concluded that the region cannot be evacuated in a nuclear disaster, prompting then-Governor Richard Celeste to withdraw state approval of Perry’s evacuation plans.

Davis-Besse is a Three Mile Island clone infamous worldwide for a boric acid leak that nearly caused Chernobyl/Fukushima-scale devastation to our precious Great Lakes.

Now thirty-nine years old, Davis-Besse’s shield building is crumbling and its innards are embrittled.

The idea that these reactors are “zero-carbon” is fiction. All spew radioactive hot water and steam into the ecosphere. Nuke fuel production emits carbon.

The latest Hanford nuke tunnel collapse, and the 2014 explosion at New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, confirm the impossibility of radwaste management. The price tag for Nevada’s proposed Yucca Mountain dump was estimated at $96 billion in 2008. Based on decades of industry experience, that number could end up being much larger.

Thus the hugely radioactive fuel rods and other radwaste produced at Perry and Davis-Besse are likely to sit on site forever—-certainly long after FirstEnergy disappears into bankruptcy protection.

But if you continue Amazon’s path to 100 percent real renewables, and don’t buy above-market electricity from competitively dead reactors, you’ll do fine.

But if you continue Amazon’s path to 100 percent real renewables, and don’t buy above-market electricity from competitively dead reactors, you’ll do fine.

Good luck on your Solartopian conversion, and No Nukes in Ohio, or anywhere on this Earth.

“““““““““““`

Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green Powered Earth is available at www.solartopia.org.

 

Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry?

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at The Progressive on May 10, 2017

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The collapse of a tunnel at the massive nuclear waste dump at Hanford,

Washington, 200 miles east of Seattle, has sent shock waves through a nuclear power industry already in the process of a global collapse.

Hundreds of workers were told to “take cover,” and to refrain from eating or drinking anything while in the area. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “everyone has been accounted for and there is no initial indication of any worker exposure or an airborne radiological release.” But Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists emphasized that “collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release….this a potentially serious event.”

Robert Alvarez, a former DOE official, told the Post in an email that “the tunnels now store contaminated train cars and a considerable amount of highly radioactive, ignitable wastes including possible organic vapors.” Inspection of the tunnels has not been possible, he said, because radiation levels are too high.

We may never know the full extent of the damage from this latest incident at Hanford, which has been plagued by serious problems for years. Many critical nuclear industry oversight positions remain unfilled by the Trump Administration.

The 580-square-mile Hanford facility dates back to the 1940s production of the first atomic bombs, and is the nation’s major repository for high-level radioactive wastes from seven decades of nuclear weapons production. Since 1989, the Department of Energy has spent billions cleaning up nine reactors and other radioactive facilities there. One commercial reactor, the Columbia Generating Station, still operates at Hanford.

The tunnel collapse happens at a time when the nuclear power industry appears to be in an accelerating death spiral.

Two reactors under construction at Vogtle, Georgia, may be on the brink of cancellation. Some $13 billion in cost overruns sparked a Westinghouse bankruptcy, and primary owner Southern Company is looking for billions more to finish a project already years behind schedule and billions over budget. Huge rate increases within Georgia have seriously poisoned the climate for more state money.

Southern representatives recently asked the White House for help, (and termed the response “A-Plus”). But Vogtle was begun with some $8.35 billion in guaranteed federal loans from Barack Obama. Whether the feds will shell out another $4.3 billion is another story, as is the question of whether that would actually be enough to do the job, and how long it would really take.

In neighboring South Carolina, SCANA Corp. may pull the plug on its massive double-reactor V.C. Summer project, which is also billions over budget and a contributor to the Westinghouse bankruptcy. Should both Summer and Vogtle go down, there will be zero new reactors under construction in the U.S. for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive end of the “Peaceful Atom” as a source of future new large-scale power capacity in the United States.

Some atomic devotees are pushing small-scale “modular” reactors as a possible future energy source. But they’re untested, underfinanced, uncompetitive and unlikely to come to fruition.

Ninety-nine reactors remain licensed to operate in the United States. They average well over thirty years of age. Most cannot compete with fracked gas or renewables, and would close rapidly in a free-market situation. Last year New York Governor Andrew Cuomo intervened to save four upstate reactors with $7.6 billion in subsidized rates. A similar bailout is underway in Illinois.

Throughout the United States, reactor owners are now flooding state legislatures with bailout scams. In Ohio, FirstEnergy’s pleadings for $4.5 billion for Davis-Besse near Toledo and Perry near Cleveland are meeting stiff resistance. How long the nation’s operable reactors stay open will depend entirely on how much money their owners can gouge out of the public.

Meanwhile the Hanford tunnel collapse further challenges the industry’s credibility on dealing with radioactive waste. Three years ago America’s only major operable facility for the permanent disposal of plutonium contaminated nuclear weapons waste, at Carlsbad, New Mexico,  failed because of an underground explosion that forced plutonium into the accessible environment. Some twenty-two workers tested positive for internal radioactive contamination and the facility was shut for three years. Fierce debate has erupted over the disposal of wastes left behind by the shutdown of California’s San Onofre reactors, between Los Angeles and San Diego, with billions of dollars at stake. Other such fights are sure to escalate as more reactors close.

Industry advocates claim much of this could be solved by opening a national waste dump at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a project nixed by the Obama Administration. The Trump budget proposes some $120 million to start a Yucca revival process. But $12 billion has already been spent on what amounts to a tunnel through a dormant volcano in the middle of the desert. Estimates to finish Yucca run to $96 billion and beyond. Finish times stretch to a decade or more.

Nuclear energy faces a seriously clouded future.

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Written by Harvey Wasserman

Edited by Myla Reson

 

4 Dying Nuke Plants vs. Fleet of Gigafactories: Which Will Gov. Cuomo Choose?

By Harvey Wasserman and Tim Judson

Originally published at EcoWatch

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Elon Musk’s SolarCity is completing the construction of its “Buffalo Billion” Gigafactory for photovoltaic (PV) cells near the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York. It will soon put 500 New Yorkers to work inside the 1.2 million-square-foot facility with another 700 nearby, ramping up to nearly 3,000 over the next few years.

The production of some 10,000 solar panels per day will put thousands of New Yorkers to work doing the installations. The panels will produce electricity cheaper, cleaner, more safely and more reliably than any fossil or nuclear source of power, including fracked gas, thus fueling a bright industrial future for the state.

With a little common sense from the governor, upstate New York could have many more of these massive factories, create many thousands of good, stable, high-paying jobs and solve its energy problems along the way.

All he has to do is shift over the absurd, wrong-headed $7.6 billion hand-out he now wants to give the Illinois-based Exelon Corporation for continuing to run four extremely old and dangerous nuclear reactors.

Those four reactors employ a total of about 2,100 people. They came online in 1969, 1970, 1975 and 1988 respectively. Aside from being dangerously decrepit, they run the risk of early shutdown because of general mechanical deterioration, rising maintenance costs, a shortage of replacement parts and the likelihood of major component failures.

At some point all operating reactors will also face escalated safety standards certain to result from the next Fukushima-like disaster, an ever-more likely reality as the global nuke fleet ages and deteriorates. Because the nuclear industry is failing throughout the U.S. and Europe, there is an ever-narrowing pool of workers qualified to keep the plants going. Because the electricity they produce is so expensive, they will drain a huge pool of resources from a state-wide economy in desperate need of industrial rebirth.

By contrast, SolarCity’s solar panel plant will be productive for decades. It’s called the Gigafactory because it will produce a gigawatt’s (1 million kilowatts) worth of solar panels every year, about the same as a nuclear reactor. (Depending on climate and sunlight, PV capacity produces electricity equivalent from about a half to a third of the capacity from an atomic reactor, assuming the reactor doesn’t blow up, melt down or shut for other reasons).

The cells produced at “Buffalo Billion” will spread throughout New York and the nation, revolutionizing our energy system. The energy those cells will produce will create far more jobs than subsidized nukes and would emit no greenhouse gases. The nukes they’d replace currently emit billions of gallons of hot wastewater annually, a major contributor to climate chaos.

Should the money Gov. Cuomo has earmarked for those old Exelon nukes be shifted to solar, New York’s economy would be revolutionized.

The template for such a plan has already been established by Pacific Gas & Electric at California’s last two reactors. Surrounded by earthquake faults at an oceanfront site nine miles west of San Luis Obispo, the Diablo Canyon nukes are being phased out in an agreement between the state, the utility, environmental, labor and local government groups.

Pacific Gas & Electric has admitted that the power Diablo produces can be replaced with 100 percent renewables. The company has also agreed to retain the plant’s 1,200 workers through the phase-out and retrain them for jobs in the renewables industry at when the plant shuts down. Surrounding communities will also be compensated for lost tax revenues.

Gov. Cuomo should take heed. The $7.6 billion he’s earmarked for these four upstate nukes comes with a price tag of $3.64 million per retained job. But in the solar/efficiency field, the state is producing jobs manufacturing clean energy technology with far better long-term prospects for just $148,000 per job.

Rather than having all the jobs in the nuclear basket, that $7.6 billion could also help fund a diversity of facilities that have an actual future in a global economy experiencing a revolutionary green transformation.

SolarCity’s Gigafactory in Buffalo will cost the state about $750 million to build. SolarCity is investing another $900 million for manufacturing equipment and build-out.

At full capacity, the PV Gigafactory and its local suppliers will employ 2,900 workers, almost 40 percent more than all four old nukes combined. It will support about 2,000 more jobs statewide. Thus the SolarCity facility will account for about 5,000 jobs—close to three times as many as at the four old reactors. Its cheaper, more reliable energy will fuel a far healthier economy, free of the worry of catastrophic melt-downs and explosions.

Right now some 8,000 New Yorkers work in the solar installation business. They are too often installing imported panels because China has made a huge investment in its PV export business. Panels made in Buffalo will keep that money in New York.

Meanwhile a plant making solar panel wafers in Rochester, built for about $700 million, employs about a 1,000 workers. The Soraa LED lightbulb plant in Syracuse has created 420 permanent local jobs.

Tesla is now pouring thousands of high-efficiency batteries out of its $3.5 billion state-of-the-art facility in Nevada. By mid-2017, it will employ 1,700 workers and about 6,500 when the plant is running at full capacity in 2020. Such a factory could easily be built in New York, again at a fraction the cost of Cuomo’s nuke bailouts.

Worldwide, nuke power is in an advanced state of collapse. Westinghouse, the proud purveyor of the first electricity to come from Niagara Falls, has been bankrupted by its failed nuke construction projects and may take Toshiba down with it.

Those uninsurable old upstate nukes, three of them nearly a half-century old, could do the same to New York. The choice being made here is between a failed technology in the process of collapse or a 21st Century industry in the process of remaking the world.

If Gov. Cuomo wants to take New York forward, instead of locking it into a failed radioactive past, he’ll follow California’s lead. A small fraction of that $7.6 billion could retain and retrain the workers at those four upstate nukes and compensate the local communities and help them rebuild their economies and tax bases. As the results from a 2015 report by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Alliance for Green Economy show, supporting reactor communities and workers should cost far less than any bailouts.

The rest of those billions can then create tens of thousands of solid, state-of-the-art jobs producing cheap, clean, safe green energy components in factories and installation sites sure to guarantee New York state a modern, competitive industrial future.

It’s an easy choice, Gov. Cuomo. Fund four dying nukes with 1,100 jobs or a prosperous Solartopian future for New York state with tens of thousands of permanent positions in a a booming sustainable economy.

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Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

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by

Originally published at The Progressive on March 17, 2017

Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer.

In addition to slashing funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, he also announced this week that he wants massive rollbacks in automotive fuel efficiency standards and billions in new investments in nuclear weapons and storage for commercial nuclear waste.

The administration’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from the EPA’s operating funds—roughly 31 percent—taking the agency’s annual budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, the smallest since it was formed in 1970. These cuts will cripple regulation of air and water quality, strip oversight of a wide range of land management programs, and loosen restrictions on chemical emissions from industrial facilities.

Much of this money would be shifted directly over to the military, which the Trump Administration wants to bolster with an additional $54 billion over the final Obama allocations.

As Wenona Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, the cuts would lower staff to about 11,800, in an agency that employed 17,000 in 2010 and, according to the Washington Post, about 15,000 today.“We should be clear that 90 percent of EPA programs are run by state agencies,” Hauter says.“Half that staff is located in regional offices.

The cuts, says Hauter, would cripple the states’ ability to protect clean air and water across the country.

Following through on his campaign promise to reduce the EPA to “little tidbits,” Trump’s budget defunds more than 50 programs. These include infrastructure improvement on Indian reservations, major projects to clean up Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, a wide range of renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, numerous climate change research programs, national heritage sites, environmental justice programs, oceanographic research and preservation, and much more. Gina McCarthy, a former EPA official under Obama,described it as “a scorched earth budget that represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land.”

Some of the immediate opposition has crossed party lines. Ohio’s recently re-elected Republican Senator Rob Portman, a close associate of former President George W. Bush, strongly opposed cuts to the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies warned, “if such cuts are realized, many more people will die prematurely and get sick unnecessarily due to air, water and waste pollution.”

Among the programs affected will be popular Energy Star campaigns that set efficiency standards for household and other appliances. The program is well-established and popular among large manufacturers seeking marketing tools in a highly competitive global business. “It’s alarming and bewildering to see the Trump Administration propose cuts to critical government programs that support clean energy innovation, helped create thousands of new jobs, and saved Americans millions on their utility bills,” says Amit Ronen, Director of George Washington University’s Solar Institute.

Scott Sklar, head of the Stella Group, a D.C.-based environmental consulting firm, and chair of the steering committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition adds that the EPA cuts come in tandem with assaults on programs at the Department of Energy critical to advances in LED light bulbs, advanced batteries, electric trucks, biofuels and other cutting-edge green power projects. Overall, says Sklar, the cuts could cripple some seventeen national laboratories whose innovative technical work spans the horizon from windmills and solar panels to advanced batteries and accelerated efficiency.

In addition, says Ronen, “Trump and his cronies can fundamentally change how EPA does its job by rolling back carbon and air regulations and not enforcing current law.”

A deadly dose of that medicine is now being  administered in Detroit, where Trump has moved to slash motor vehicle efficiency requirements and emissions standards.

At the behest of auto company executives, Trump is exploiting a legal loophole in Obama-era requirements to gut fleet fuel-economy capabilities. Complaining about technical challenges, the industry may soon slouch back to lower emissions standards feeding higher short-term profits. Detroit will once again race to the bottom in a global transportation industry increasingly dominated by Germany, China, and Japan.

The trends are being further exploited with shifts at the state as well as federal levels to slash tax breaks and incentives for electric cars and solar panels. Guided by handouts from the Koch brothers’ fossil fuel empire, “free market” legislators in states like Ohio, Oklahoma, and Arizona have partnered with the American Legislative Exchange Council to impose debilitating taxes and regulatory barriers against electric cars, green power production, advanced efficiency, mass transit and more. The trend has been underscored by Trump’s quick approval of the Keystone and Dakota pipelines, and relaxed rules governing fracking on public lands.

Meanwhile, Illinois and New York are moving toward massive subsidies for uncompetitive, dangerously dilapidated old nuclear reactors in a marketplace where renewables are coming in far cheaper and creating thousands more jobs. In Ohio and other states, owners of money-losing reactors are advocating for massive handouts to block cheaper, job-creating renewables and efficiency from getting into the marketplace.

Adding insult to injury, Trump wants to add $120 million to the long-dead Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. Despite fierce local opposition, the Department of Energy has blown some $13.5 billion since 2002 digging a giant tunnel through the dormant volcano eighty miles outside Las Vegas to store radioactive waste. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, got President Obama to cancel Yucca in 2011. Yucca could ultimately cost more than $90 billion by some estimates, and take decades.  A $2 billion 2014 explosion shut America’s sole state-of-the-art radioactive-waste repository, at Carlsbad, New Mexico, casting a long shadow over underground burial.

Ohio’s Crumbling Nukes Face Judgement Day

by Harvey Wasserman

This article originally appeared at www.freepress.org.

And was subsequently  published on Reader Supported news on March 2, 2017

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he likely explosion of an American nuclear power plant is the ultimate terror in the age of Trump.

Across the United States, 99 dangerous, decrepit, and disastrous commercial nukes are literally falling to pieces. With no private insurance and no meaningful regulation, the industry is poised to wreak apocalyptic havoc on our planet. While the industry bribes and strong-arms governors and state legislatures into massive bailouts, the next meltdown/blowup could very well cost you both your money and your life.

None of these nukes are nearer to the breaking point than Ohio’s infamous Davis-Besse reactor, near Toledo. It is poised to lose hundreds of millions of dollars for its owners and Ohio ratepayers. So, of course, the “free enterprise” Republican legislature is poised to give those nuke operators a massive bailout. To the tune of more than $4 billion (that’s not a typo).

Natural gas is cheaper. New gas plants are under construction throughout the state. Ohio has tremendous wind resources, far in excess of anything we will ever need and far more than it would take to replace DB. Thanks to spectacular technological advances in recent years, that wind power – along with new solar panels – is cheaper, safer, cleaner and more reliable than the nuke, and would create thousands of jobs beyond the few hundred at Davis-Besse.

But FirstEnergy, which owns both Davis-Besse and the legislature, does not own the gas or the wind. Davis-Besse is also poised to melt down and/or blow up. Six other reactors (Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima 1-4) have already done one or both.

One of the world’s oldest reactors, Davis-Besse is literally crumbling. As Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear has shown, DB’s shield building has been pulverized by storms, internalized moisture that alternatively freezes and thaws, faulty maintenance, and corrupt decision making.

DB is infamous worldwide for its “hole-in-the-head” fiasco. That happened when boric acid ate nearly all the way through the reactor pressure vessel. It came within a fraction of an inch of another Chernobyl. Says Kamps: “FirstEnergy has admitted that it has known since 2011 that large chunks of Shield Building exterior face concrete could fall off – as due to an earthquake, or meltdown pressures – and fall down onto safety significant systems, structures, or components below, exacerbating the disaster, perhaps even leading to a meltdown, that the breached containment could no longer contain.”

But if the all-too-likely disaster comes, FirstEnergy will not be liable for the damages. You will pay, with your money, your property, and maybe your life.

The 1957 Price-Anderson Act was passed to encourage utility companies to build atomic reactors, which were essentially a happy face for the atomic bomb. The Atomic Energy Commission that both regulated and promoted nuclear power also produced America’s nuclear weapons. The power companies resisted the reactors because they feared meltdowns, which government reports at the time presciently warned could wipe out an area the size of Pennsylvania. The industry at the time promised electricity “too cheap to meter” and denied a commercial reactor could ever explode. Both statements proved to be epic lies.

Meanwhile a captive Congress let the industry proceed without liability insurance. A tiny ($540 million) fund was set up, essentially for show. That’s now up to about $13 billion. But considering Chernobyl did at least a half-trillion in damage and Fukushima more than anybody can yet calculate, the kitty is essentially an absurdity. A radioactive cloud pouring out of Davis-Besse would do $13 billion in damage to life and property within the first few miles.

The rest would be paid for by the public – you and me. After 60 years, American reactors still have no private liability insurance.

Protected by the government, FirstEnergy has no corporate stake in protecting the people or property downwind. Some workers might care. Some executives might be perpetually poised to flee the inevitable apocalyptic cloud as it hurtles toward their lakefront mansions.

But as an inanimate entity, the company itself is immune to radiation. Should the corporate shield crumble, bankruptcy is the easy and obvious option.

Which is what FirstEnergy may face at Davis-Besse. Among the world’s very oldest reactors, its operating and maintenance costs have soared. Even with the fake regulation provided by the rubber stamp Nuclear Regulatory Commission, DB faces massive repairs just to keep its turbines twirling. The building has already been slashed into four times to replace core components. It’s the equivalent of having four open-heart surgeries (if a reactor can be said to have a heart) through a rib cage that cannot heal, with each invasion accelerating general deterioration.

As Sierra Club energy expert Ned Ford explains, the economic crisis FirstEnergy now faces is of its own making. Many years ago, when it was known as Cleveland Electric Illuminating (and then Centerior, also encompassing Ohio Edison) the utility’s financial geniuses gouged out of the legislature a massive bailout for Davis-Besse and its compadre Perry reactor east of Cleveland. Together they took what energy expert Ned Ford estimates to be up to $20 billion from Ohio ratepayers.

At the time they argued (with straight faces) we’d all save millions in an open “free market” competition. But to get there, they insisted we underwrite the two lakefront nukes, which could not compete without gargantuan handouts that made a mockery of that old “too cheap to meter” pitch.

The legislature, of course, gave them all they wanted. We who testified against this outrageous stick-up warned that the “free market” reactor operators would be begging for re-regulation.

Why?

Because nukes can’t function without huge subsidies. Regulation guarantees a return on investment at ratepayer expense (which has never bothered a “free market” utility).

As Ned Ford has extensively shown, Ohio has huge excess capacity in coal-burners, though many are as decrepit and dysfunctional as Davis-Besse. It’s also over-built in gas burners, many of which sat unused when methane prices were high, but which now churn out juice far cheaper than any nukes anywhere.

Most importantly, northern Ohio has spectacular wind resources. The breezes in the middle of Lake Erie are as strong and steady as anywhere on Earth. The lake is relatively shallow and fresh, meaning there’s no salt to corrode the moving parts. The likely sites are also relatively close to Toronto, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and other major consuming centers.

On-shore is even better. The winds aren’t as strong, but installation is cheaper and there’s plenty of transmission, many willing farm hosts, and good proximity to the cities. Alongside solar cells, wind is humankind’s fastest-growing new energy source, creating millions of jobs worldwide – tens of thousands of which are poised to pour into Ohio whenever the nukes finally shut. Advanced reliability has driven capacity factors constantly higher, with downtime increasingly covered by a revolution in battery technologies.

In 2010 a broad coalition of activists, working with Governor Ted Strickland, put a far-seeing energy plan in place to take Ohio deep into a green energy future. The pioneer package of goals and incentives was set to bring the Buckeye State an energy mix that was clean, cheap, cutting-edge, and poised to create thousands of jobs in an advanced economy that could have pulled Ohio far ahead of the rest of the rust belt and into a truly sustainable post-recessional future. Several billion dollars in investment capital – much of it focused on wind farms in northern Ohio – was ready to go.

But with the coming of John Kasich and a Koch-controlled legislature, all that disappeared. Kasich has since softened his anti-green tone. But the legislature is still run by far-right corporate Republicans who hate anything that’s not fossil/nuke, even if there are jobs and money to be made and a sustainable future to be had. They also hate anything that smacks of government interference or handouts – until a big corporate donor like FirstEnergy demands billions in ratepayer subsidies for uninsurable privately-owned reactors that put the public at risk.

Indeed, FirstEnergy is now unabashedly asking this “anti-government” legislature to guarantee its return on nuclear investments whose real dollar values are a huge negative. Massive quantities of radioactive trash have piled up at the reactor sites with nowhere to go. The pioneer American radioactive waste facility – New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project –blew up three years ago at an estimated cost of $2 billion and counting. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, decades from being completed if at all, will be even more unstable, with an ultimate price tag approaching $100 billion.

Both Ohio reactors are gargantuan liabilities demanding inestimable resources to decommission. Funds have been accumulated to allegedly pay for that, but nobody seriously believes there’s enough to do the job.

The nuclear industry has also adopted the astonishing lie that these reactors are somehow “zero emission” and therefore help fight global warming. It’s an amusing argument, coming from Republicans who adamantly denounce the idea that climate change might be real.

It’s also blatantly false. Davis-Besse, Perry, and all other reactors dump billions of gallons of heated water directly into the air and water. They thus “fight climate change” by directly heating the climate. They also emit Carbon 14 in their fission process, and many tons of carbon dioxide in the process of mining, milling, and enriching their uranium fuel.

Nukes also constantly emit radioactive gases and particulates that kill living things, both in their “normal” operating process and when they explode, as at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Above all, they have been blown away economically by the revolution in solar and wind. More than 260,000 Americans now work in the solar industry and more than 100,000 in wind, far more than in coal, oil, and nukes combined. Every time a reactor shuts, opportunity arises to create thousands of stable, long-term, well-paying jobs in renewables and efficiency. The faster the reactors shut, the more jobs are created and the safer, cleaner, and cooler the planet becomes.

If Ohio’s legislature does re-regulate and hand FirstEnergy its radioactive ransom, lawsuits will erupt (as they already have in Illinois) from independent “market” utilities seeking to compete. The type of monopoly status the “free market” Republicans are poised to give FirstEnergy will be challenged in the courts and regulatory agencies in hugely expensive litigations. The only certain outcome is years of delay and a yet another massive price tag – which FirstEnergy would stick to the rest of us.

Also certain would be the devastating impact on Ohio’s economic future. As shown by the Sierra’s Ford, the billions sucked up by these ancient, obsolete nukes have poisoned the Buckeye economy and helped hollow out what was once an industrial powerhouse. The only jobs created will be among the attorneys adding their exorbitant fees onto the ratepayers’ tab.

The revolution in wind and solar that’s sweeping the planet should long ago have brought Ohio’s economy into the new millennium.

Instead, these massively subsidized, crumbling, obsolete radioactive jalopies keep on rumbling toward the inevitable atomic cliff. What melted TMI, Chernobyl, and the Fukushimas draws closer every day.

Likewise the shameless, self-serving, and unconscionable campaign FirstEnergy has launched to force us all to yet again fund our own economic, employment, ecological and biological demise.

FirstEnergy now says it will sell Davis-Besse and get out of the generating business. But the deal will be meaningless if DB continues to operate.

Somewhere along the line, Ohioans must find those two off-switches at Perry and Davis-Besse while turning on the revolution in wind and solar power that is bringing jobs and prosperity to so much of the rest of the world.


Harvey Wasserman is author of SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, available viawww.solartopia.org. He edits www.nukefree.org. This article originally appeared at www.freepress.org.

The Death Spiral of Atomic Energy

hour-of-wellness

Listen to the Green Power and Wellness Hour February 2, 2017 audio archive  for an update on accelerated demise of Atomic Energy with Harvey Wasserman and his guests Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear, and Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)

Harvey, Kevin and Tim start out with recent big  news about the  Westinghouse decision to go out of the nuclear power consumption business. Learn how this decision impacts the new reactors being built on the public dime in Georgia.  You’ll hear about the planned shutdown of Pilgrim, Indian Point, Diablo Canyon and learn about how we transition to Solartopia.

 

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Crumbling Reactors and Other Nightmares of a Trump-Perry Energy Policy

burns towers 4 solartopia

Mr. Burns, Matt Groening Productions, Inc. Published by HarperPerennial. The Simpsons & 1990 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. 

by Harvey Wasserman

Tthis article was originally published by The Progressive on January 13, 2017]

In the area of energy policy under the presidency of Donald Trump, two concerns loom above all others.

One is Trump’s support for nuclear power and fossil fuel energy, at a time when other powerful countries are going renewable. Trump’s economic commitments to nuclear energy and fossil fuels contrast sharply with China’s massive new commitment to energy sources including solar and wind. If China, the world’s number-two economy, joins Germany (number four) and possibly Japan (number three) in converting to 100 percent renewable sources, the U.S. economy will be left in the dust.

The other concern is geriatric atomic reactors. The nation’s 99 nuclear plants now have an average age of more than thirty-five. Some, like Ohio’s Davis-Besse, are literally crumbling. Others, like New York’s Indian Point, and Diablo Canyon on the California coast, are surrounded by active earthquake faults.

A single Fukushima-scale disaster at an American reactor could poison millions, destroy our continental eco-system, and bankrupt our economy.

Sixty years after America’s first commercial reactor opened, not one can get private liability insurance. When the next one blows, the public will be stuck with the damages, which could easily soar into the trillions.

Nuclear waste management has already failed miserably. In February 2014, a single barrel of radioactive trash exploded at the hugely expensive state-of-the-art disposal facility in Carlsbad, New Mexico. More than a dozen workers were irradiated and the facility was shut for more than two years at a cost of more than $2 billion.

Now the nuclear-utility lobby nationwide is strong-arming state governments for massive bailouts to prop up decrepit reactors. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently approved a $7 billion handout for money-losing upstate reactors that cannot compete with fracked gas or renewables, whose owners wanted them shut, and whose extremely serious safety issues grow more severe every hour.  In Illinois, the nuclear lobby has won more than $2 billion to sustain three ancient reactors that are literally falling apart.

Ohio’s FirstEnergy is now begging the Public Utilities Commission and state legislature for billions to keep running the infamous Davis-Besse reactor, which has suffered numerous accidents and whose shield building is literally crumbling. In Michigan and elsewhere, as utilities move to shut the most dangerous and money-losing reactors in their obsolete fleet, the nuclear lobby is crying for more taxpayer handouts, both state and federal.

The Nuclear Information & Resource Service estimates the public cost of a nationwide wave of such bailouts at about $280 billion. In business terms, that’s like jumping into the mass manufacture of Edsel automobiles, or turning away from cell phones to stake our future on land lines.

In New York, Cuomo did finally move to shut two badly deteriorated reactors at Indian Point, but then diluted the decision by allowing them to operate for several more years. In California, a deal to shut two reactors at Diablo Canyon allows them to operate (also with expired licenses) well into the 2020s even though they are surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults.

Trump is expected to pour federal money into the nuclear kitty. The incoming president says he “loves solar,” but has also said it’s too expensive. It’s likely that Trump will end tax credits for renewable energy, which has been a major support for emerging industries, and decimate Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have pushed states to cut power plant emissions. And Trump’s pick for energy secretary, former Texas Governor Perry, has been deeply supportive of the growth of fossil fuel and nuclear industries in Texas throughout his career.

But things are shifting on the international scene. China’s cities are choking on lethal air pollution from its consumption of coal, and while the Chinese are still debating a potential major commitment to nuclear, they have alsocommitted to a $365 billion investment in renewable energy by 2020.

Similar things are true of Germany and its energiewende commitment. Immediately after the 2011 catastrophe at Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered the shutdown of eight reactors, with the rest of Germany’s nuclear power plants planned for closure by 2022. Tens of thousands of Germans put solar panels on their rooftops, rendering many communities energy self-sufficient, and dropping electricity prices throughout the country.

The glut of cheap energy has forced numerous fossil fuel and nuclear energy plants to shut, leading to disruptive crises in supply and pricing. But the transition will sort itself out, establishing Germany as a dominant supplier of clean electricity, giving it the industrial high ground in Europe and on a global scale.

Japan may soon follow suit. Despite the pro-nuclear stance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a massive grassroots movement has prevented the reopening of nearly all Japan’s fifty-four reactors. A number of smaller countries have also made substantial investments in renewables, including Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Scotland. Even oil-rich nations are getting in on the renewables game. The United Arab Emirates just announcedplans to invest $163 billion in renewables to generate half the nation’s power by 2050.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to bleed billions to prop up dying coal and nuclear industries. Nuclear bailouts like those in New York and Illinois are crippling a transition that the U.S. must make if it is to have a competitive future in world industrial markets.

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Harvey Wasserman  is co-founder of the global grassroots No Nukes movement and author or co-author of twenty books, including Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth (solartopia.org), and The Last Energy War (Seven Stories Press).

King CONG vs. Solartopia

 

again

by Harvey Wasserman, (cross posted from Reader Supported News)

 

s you ride the Amtrak along the Pacific coast between Los Angeles and San Diego, you pass the San Onofre nuclear power plant, home to three mammoth atomic reactors shut by citizen activism.

Framed by gorgeous sandy beaches and some of the best surf in California, the dead nukes stand in silent tribute to the popular demand for renewable energy. They attest to one of history’s most powerful and persistent nonviolent movements.

But 250 miles up the coast, two reactors still operate at Diablo Canyon, surrounded by a dozen earthquake faults. They’re less than seventy miles from the San Andreas, about half the distance of Fukushima from the quake line that destroyed it. Should any quakes strike while Diablo operates, the reactors could be reduced to rubble and the radioactive fallout would pour into Los Angeles.

Some 10,000 arrests of citizens engaged in civil disobedience have put the Diablo reactors at ground zero in the worldwide No Nukes campaign. But the epic battle goes far beyond atomic power. It is a monumental showdown over who will own our global energy supply, and how this will impact the future of our planet.

On one side is King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes, and Gas), the corporate megalith that’s unbalancing our weather and dominating our governments in the name of centralized, for-profit control of our economic future. On the other is a nonviolent grassroots campaign determined to reshape our power supply to operate in harmony with nature, to serve the communities and individuals who consume and increasingly produce that energy, and to build the foundation of a sustainable eco-democracy.

The modern war over America’s energy began in the 1880s, when Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed over the nature of America’s new electric utility business. It is now entering a definitive final phase as fossil fuels and nuclear power sink into an epic abyss, while green power launches into a revolutionary, apparently unstoppable, takeoff.

In many ways, the two realities were separated at birth.

Edison pioneered the idea of a central grid, fed by large corporate-owned power generators. Backed by the banker J. Pierpont Morgan, Edison pioneered the electric light bulb and envisioned a money-making grid in which wires would carry centrally generated electricity to homes, offices, and factories. He started with a coal-burning generator at Morgan’s Fifth Avenue mansion, which in 1882 became the world’s first home with electric lights.

Morgan’s father was unimpressed. And his wife wanted that filthy generator off the property. So Edison and Morgan began stringing wires around New York City, initially fed by a single power station. The city was soon criss-crossed with wires strung by competing companies.

But the direct current produced by Edison’s generator couldn’t travel very far. So he offered his Serbian assistant, Nikola Tesla, a $50,000 bonus to solve the problem.

Tesla did the job with alternating current, which Edison claimed was dangerous and impractical. He reneged on Tesla’s bonus, and the two became lifelong rivals.

To demonstrate alternating current’s dangers, Edison launched the “War of the Currents,” using it to kill large animals (including an elephant). He also staged a gruesome human execution with the electric chair he secretly financed.

Edison’s prime vision was of corporate-owned central power stations feeding a for-profit grid run for the benefit of capitalists like Morgan.

Tesla became a millionaire working with industrialist George Westinghouse, who used alternating current to establish the first big generating station at Niagara Falls. But Morgan bullied him out of the business. A visionary rather than a capitalist, Tesla surrendered his royalties to help Westinghouse, then spent the rest of his haunted, complex careerpioneering various inventions meant to produce endless quantities of electricity and distribute it free and without wires.

Meanwhile, the investor-owned utilities bearing Edison’s name and Morgan’s money built the new grid on the back of big coal-burners that poured huge profits into their coffers and lethal pollutants into the air and water.

In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal established the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Project. The New Deal also strung wires to thousands of American farms through the Rural Electrification Administration. Hundreds of rural electrical cooperatives sprang up throughout the land. As nonprofits with community roots and ownership, the co-ops have generally provided far better and more responsive service than the for-profit investor-owned utilities.

But it was another federal agency—the Atomic Energy Commission—that drove the utility industry to the crisis point we know today. Coming out of World War II, the commission’s mandate was to maintain our nascent nuclear weapons capability. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it shifted focus, prodded by Manhattan Project scientists who hoped the “Peaceful Atom” might redeem their guilt for inventing the devices that killed so many.

When AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss promised electricity “too cheap to meter,” he heralded a massive government commitment involving billions in invested capital and thousands of jobs. Then, in 1952, President Harry Truman commissioned a panel on America’s energy future headed by CBS Chairman William Paley. The commission reportembraced atomic power, but bore the seeds of a worldview in which renewable energy would ultimately dominate. Paley predicted the United States would have thirteen million solar-heated homes by 1975.

Of course, this did not happen. Instead, the nuclear power industry grew helter-skelter without rational planning. Reactor designs were not standardized. Each new plant became an engineering adventure, as capability soared from roughly 100 megawatts at Shippingport in 1957 to well over 1,000 in the 1970s. By then, the industry was showing signs of decline. No new plant commissioned since 1974 has been completed.

But with this dangerous and dirty power have come Earth-friendly alternatives, ignited in part by the grassroots movements of the 1960s. E.F. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautifulbecame the bible of a back-to-the-land movement that took a new generation of veteran activists into the countryside.

Dozens of nonviolent confrontations erupted, with thousands of arrests. In June 1978, nine months before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island, the grassroots Clamshell Alliance drew 20,000 participants to a rally at New Hampshire’s Seabrook site. And Amory Lovins’s pathbreaking article, “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken,” posited a whole new energy future, grounded in photovoltaic and wind technologies, along with breakthroughs in conservation and efficiency, and a paradigm of decentralized, community-owned power.

As rising concerns about global warming forced a hard look at fossil fuels, the fading nuclear power industry suddenly had a new selling point. Climate expert James Hansen, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman, and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand began advocating atomic energy as an answer to CO2 emissions. The corporate media began breathlessly reporting a “nuclear renaissance” allegedly led by hordes of environmentalists.

But the launch of Peaceful Atom 2.0 has fallen flat.

As I recently detailed in an online article for The Progressive, atomic energy adds to rather than reduces global warming. All reactors emit Carbon-14. The fuel they burn demands substantial CO2 emissions in the mining, milling, and enrichment processes. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen has compiled a wide range of studies concluding new reactor construction would significantly worsen the climate crisis.

Moreover, attempts to recycle spent reactor fuel or weapons material have failed, as have attempts to establish a workable nuclear-waste management protocol. For decades, reactor proponents have argued that the barriers to radioactive waste storage are political rather than technical. But after six decades, no country has unveiled a proven long-term storage strategy for high-level waste.

For all the millions spent on it, the nuclear renaissance has failed to yield a single new reactor order. New projects in France, Finland, South Carolina, and Georgia are costing billions extra, with opening dates years behind schedule. Five projects pushed by the Washington Public Power System caused the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. No major long-standing green groups have joined the tiny crew of self-proclaimed “pro-nuke environmentalists.” Wall Street is backing away.

Even the split atom’s most ardent advocates are hard-pressed to argue any new reactors will be built in the United States, or more than a scattered few anywhere else but China, where the debate still rages and the outcome is uncertain.

Today there are about 100 U.S. reactors still licensed to operate, and about 450 worldwide. About a dozen U.S. plants have shut down in the last several years. A half dozen more are poised to shut for financial reasons. The plummeting price of fracked gas and renewable energy has driven them to the brink. As Gundersen notes, operating and maintenance costs have soared as efficiency and performance have declined. An aging, depleted skilled labor force will make continued operations dicey at best.

And nuclear plants have short lifespans for safe operation.

“When the reactor ruptured on March 11, 2011, spewing radioactivity around the northern hemisphere, Fukushima Daiichi had been operating only one month past its fortieth birthday,” Gundersen says.

But the nuclear power industry is not giving up. It wants some $100 billion in state-based bailouts. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently pushed through a $7.6 billion handout to sustain four decrepit upstate reactors. A similar bailout was approved in Ohio. Where once it demanded deregulation and a competitive market, the nuclear industry now wants re-regulation and guaranteed profits no matter how badly it performs.

The grassroots pushback has been fierce. Proposed bailouts have been defeated in Illinois, but then approved. They are under attack in New York and Ohio, but their future is uncertain. A groundbreaking agreement involving green and union groups has set deadlines for shutting the Diablo reactors, with local activists demanding a quicker timetable. Increasingly worried about meltdowns and explosions, grassroots campaigns to close old reactors are ramping up throughout the United States and Europe. Citizen action in Japan has prevented the reopening of nearly all nuclear plants since Fukushima.

Envisioning the “nuclear interruption” behind us, visionaries like Lovins see a decentralized “Solartopian” system with supply owned and operated at the grassroots.

The primary battleground is now Germany, with the world’s fourth-largest economy. Many years ago, the powerful green movement won a commitment to shut the country’s fossil/nuclear generators and convert entirely to renewables. But the center-right regime of Angela Merkel was dragging its feet.

In early 2011, the greens called for a nationwide demonstration to demand the Energiewende, the total conversion to decentralized green power. But before the rally took place, the four reactors at Fukushima blew up. Facing a massive political upheaval, and apparently personally shaken, Chancellor Merkel (a trained quantum chemist) declared her commitment to go green. Eight of Germany’s nineteen reactors were soon shut, with plans to close the rest by 2022.

That Europe’s biggest economy was now on a soft path originally mapped out by the counterculture prompted a hard response of well-financed corporate resistance. “You can build a wind farm in three to four years,” groused Henrich Quick of 50 Hertz, a German transmission grid operator.

“Getting permission for an overhead line takes ten years.”

Indeed, the transition is succeeding faster and more profitably than its staunchest supporters imagined. Wind and solar have blasted ahead. Green energy prices have dropped and Germans are enthusiastically lining up to put power plants on their rooftops. Sales of solar panels have skyrocketed, with an ever-growing percentage of supply coming from stand-alone buildings and community projects. The grid has been flooded with cheap, green juice, crowding out the existing nukes and fossil burners, cutting the legs out from under the old system.

In many ways it’s the investor-owner utilities’ worst nightmare, dating all the way back to the 1880s, when Edison fought Tesla. Back then, the industry-funded Edison Electric Institute warned that “distributed generation” could spell doom for the grid-based industry. That industry-feared deluge of cheap, locally owned power is now at hand.

In the United States, state legislatures dominated by the fossil fuel-invested billionaire Koch brothers have been slashing away at energy efficiency and conservation programs. Ohio, Arizona, and other states that had enacted progressive green-based transitions are now shredding them. In Florida, a statewide referendum pretending to support solar power was in fact designed to kill it.

In Nevada, homeowners who put solar panels on their rooftops are under attack. The state’s monopoly utility, with support from the governor and legislature, is seeking to make homeowners who put solar panels on their rooftops pay more than others for their electricity.

But it may be too little, too late. In its agreement with the state, unions, and environmental groups, Pacific Gas and Electric has admitted that renewables could, in fact, produce all the power now coming from the two decaying Diablo nukes. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District shut down its one reactor in 1989 and is now flourishing with a wave of renewables.

The revolution has spread to the transportation sector, where electric cars are now plugging into outlets powered by solar panels on homes, offices, commercial buildings, and factories. Like nuclear power, the gas-driven automobile may be on its way to extinction.

Nationwide, more than 200,000 Americans now work in the solar industry, including more than 75,000 in California alone. By contrast, only about 100,000 people work in the U.S. nuclear industry. Some 88,000 Americans now work in the wind industry, compared to about 83,000 in coal mines, with that number also dropping steadily.

Once the shining hope of the corporate power industry, atomic energy’s demise represents more than just the failure of a technology. It’s the prime indicator of an epic shift away from corporate control of a grid-based energy supply, toward a green power web owned and operated by the public.

As homeowners, building managers, factories, and communities develop an ever-firmer grip on a grassroots homegrown power supply, the arc of our 128-year energy war leans toward Solartopia.


Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth is at solartopia.org. His Green Power & Wellness Show is at prn.fm. He edits nukefree.org.

This article was originally published on Reader Supported News.

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