Category: No Nukes (page 1 of 3)

Nuclear Plants Plus Hurricanes: Disasters Waiting to Happen

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at Progressive.org on September 21, 2017

Lucie GoodSt. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant at Port St. Lucie, Florida

Although the mainstream media said next to nothing about it, independent experts have made it clear that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma threatened six U.S. nuclear plants with major destruction, and therefore all of us with apocalyptic disaster. It is a danger that remains for the inevitable hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters yet to come.
During Harvey and Irma, six holdovers from a dying reactor industry—two on the Gulf Coast at South Texas, two at Key Largo and two more north of Miami at Port St. Lucie—were under severe threat of catastrophic failure. All of them rely on off-site power systems that were extremely vulnerable throughout the storms. At St. Lucie Unit One, an NRC official reported a salt buildup on electrical equipment requiring a power downgrade in the midst of the storm.
Loss of backup electricity was at the core of the 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan when the tsunami there and ensuing flood shorted out critical systems. The reactor cores could not be cooled. Three melted. Their cores have yet to be found. Water pouring over them flooded into the Pacific, carrying away unprecedented quantities of cesium and other radioactive isotopes. In 2015, scientists detected radioactive contamination from Fukushima along the coast near British Columbia and California.
Four of six Fukushima Daichi reactors suffered hydrogen explosions, releasing radioactive fallout far in excess of what came down after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Extreme danger still surrounds Fukushima’s highly radioactive fuel pools, which are in varied stages of ruin.
“In addition to reactors, which at least are within containment structures, high-level radioactive waste storage pools are not within containment, and are also mega-catastrophes waiting to happen, as in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane,” says Kevin Kamps of the activist group Beyond Nuclear.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew paralyzed fire protection systems at Florida’s Turkey Point and so severely damaged a 350-foot-high tower it had to be demolished. The eye of that storm went directly over the reactor, sweeping away support buildings valued at $100 million or more.
There’s no reason to rule out a future storm negating fire protection systems, flinging airborne debris into critical support buildings, killing off-site backup power, and more.
As during Andrew, the owners of the nuclear plants under assault from Harvey and Irma had an interest in dragging their feet on timely shut-downs. Because they are not liable for downwind damage done in a major disaster, the utilities can profit by keeping the reactors operating as long as they can, despite the obvious public danger.
Viable evacuation plans are a legal requirement for continued reactor operation. But such planning has been a major bone of contention, prompting prolonged court battles at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and playing a critical role in the shutdown of the Shoreham reactor on Long Island. After a 1986 earthquake damaged the Perry reactor in Ohio, then-Governor Richard Celeste sued to delay issuance of the plant’s operating license. A state commission later concluded evacuation during a disaster there was not possible. After Andrew, nuclear opponents like Greenpeace questioned the right of the plant to continue operating in light of what could occur during a hurricane.
Throughout the world, some 430 reactors are in various stages of vulnerability to natural disaster, including ninety-nine in the United States. Numerous nuclear plants have already been damaged by earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, and floods. The complete blackout of any serious discussion of what Harvey and Irma threatened to do to these six Texas and Florida reactors is cause for deep concern.

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Harvey Wasserman’s California Solartopia show airs at KPFK 90.7 fm  Los Angeles; his Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm. He is the author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

A No Nukes Nation to Trump: RESIGN!!!

By Harvey Wasserman

In the shadow of Santa Monica’s legendary “Chain Reaction” monument, a clear message was sent to the unelected interloper in the White House: RESIGN!!!

Yesterday was the 72d anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, and the 43d of the resignation of Richard Nixon. Nixon was the last president to seriously threaten the use of nuclear weapons. Amidst the debacle of the Vietnam war, Nixon told then top advisor Daniel Ellsberg that he wanted to drop atomic bombs on Southeast Asia, but that he feared the response of the global anti-war movement.

While peace activists gathered yesterday across the street from Santa Monica’s Rand Corporation, where Ellsberg once worked, Dan himself addressed a parallel crowd at the Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory in the San Francisco Bay, where atomic research still proceeds.

In Santa Monica, investigative reporter Greg Palast, actor/activist Mimi Kennedy, and many more mourned the mass slaughter in Nagasaki and urged the departure of the most recent White House psychopath to threaten the planet with atomic annihilation.

conrads peace 8.9.17

In a 90-minute rally soon to be broadcast on KPFK-Pacifica, speakers such as legendary activist Blasé Bonpane, Denise Duffield of Physicians for Social Responsibility, peace campaigner Jerry Rubin and many more mourned the nightmare of having an irresponsible madman like Trump with his finger on the nuclear button.

In combination with the apparently unhinged leadership of North Korean, Trump has brought the world to the brink of atomic suicide. The clock ticking on the likelihood of a nuclear apocalypse has leapt toward midnight with Trump’s inflammatory, adolescent school-bully rantings.

The atomic “fiery fury” Trump has promised is terrifying the world. During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President John F. Kennedy stood up to a room full of crazed generals ready to obliterate the planet. Today we have a spoiled child in the White House who lacks even the simplest understanding of what’s involved with nuclear war….or with the basics of civilized diplomacy.

resign!

The Santa Monica rally was framed by the 26-foot-high “Chain Reaction” mushroom cloud that stands as a monument to peace activism. The monument was saved through a multi-year campaign to preserve and protect it.

 

In its shadow and elsewhere, the human species is now engaged in a vital campaign to stop both nuclear war and the ecological destruction wrecked by nuclear power plants and so many other polluters.

 

The madness of Donald Trump, like that of Richard Nixon, threatens to kill us all—-in the short term with nuclear weapons, and in the bigger picture with ecological, economic and spiritual ruin.

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But with the kind of grassroots social activism welcomed and enshrined in rallies like those yesterday, we know that peace…and people…and the planet really do have a chance.

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Harvey Wasserman was among those marching to end the Vietnam war….and all others!

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Nuclear Power. Construction of Two of Four Remaining Planned U.S. Plants Just Canceled

by

(Originally published on August 1, 2017 at The Progressive)

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Two of the last four commercial nuclear power plants under construction in the United States—both of them at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina—have been cancelled. A decision on the remaining two, which are in Georgia, will be made in August.

“DING DONG, Summer is dead,” says Glenn Carroll, one of a core group of safe energy activists who have labored for decades to rid the southeast of these last four reactor projects.

“This project has been a multi-billion-dollar disaster,” adds Stephen A. Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We also call on Georgia Power and their utility partners to protect their customers from the similarly risky, mismanaged project” at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

Should those two plants in Georgia also be cancelled, as seems increasingly likely, the United States would be free of all new commercial reactor construction for the first time since the 1950s. It would mark the definitive death of the dream of “too cheap to meter” radioactive energy, and end an era marked by massive cost overruns, soaring operating and maintenance expenses, a string of bankruptcies, two major meltdowns, an unsolved radioactive waste burden.

The U.S. nuclear fleet, which  Richard Nixon projected in 1974 would reach 1,000 reactors by the year 2000, never got higher than about 250 on line or in the works. Currently, 99 nuclear plants now operate in the United States. Five have shut in the last several years, with dozens more poised to follow, primarily due to their inability to compete with cheap gas, solar, and wind power.

The fate of two reactors under construction in South Carolina was sealedJuly 31, with the unanimous vote of the board of the publicly owned Santee Cooper utility, which owns 45 percent of the project. The SCANA Corporation, which owns 55 percent, immediately followed with a statement saying it would also abandon construction, first proposed in 2007.

Santee Cooper had been forced to raise rates five times to pay for construction at Summer. SCANA had raised them nine times.

The two Summer reactors were slated to come on line in 2017 and 2018. The plants were to be Westinghouse AP 1000 designs, an upgraded version of the traditional light water reactor, of which some 430 are now licensed worldwide. Westinghouse pioneered and built the Pressurized Water Reactors that count for about half the world’s fleet.

The AP 1000 was meant to provide a safer, more economical upgrade. But anunending stream of technical failures and soaring costs, as well as plummeting prices for gas, wind, and solar, and a drop in electricity demand, doomed the project. In a catastrophic financial failure, the four reactors it was building in South Carolina and Georgia drove Westinghouse into bankruptcy in March. (The iconic company dated back to the 1800s, when it won the contract to produce and deliver the first major loads of commercial electricity from Niagara Falls to the American northeast using technology developed by the legendary Nikola Tesla.)

The Westinghouse bankruptcy has driven its parent company, Toshiba, to the brink of bankruptcy as well. Toshiba has offered some $2.2 billion to help finish the South Carolina project, but many doubt the giant company could actually make good on the pledge. Some $11 billion or more could be needed to finish the two new Summer reactors. Among other things, their owners have concluded that they could not meet a 2021 completion date to qualify for a critical federal tax credit.

The news about the South Carolina plants is just the latest in a series of death shudders from the nuclear power industry.

Reactors under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, are also massively over budget and teetering on the brink of collapse. In the American northwest, construction of five reactors for the Washington Public Power System triggered the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. More than forty reactors remain shut in Japan in the wake of the 2011 multiple meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima. Two U.S. reactors, Fermi I near Detroit and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, have also melted, along with the catastrophic 1986 explosion at Chernobyl.

In Georgia, America’s two remaining nukes under construction at the Vogtle site are on the precipice. Though President Barack Obama provided the project with $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees, the massive cost overruns, multi-year delays, Westinghouse’s bankruptcy and public anger over repeated rate increases have cast a long shadow.

Worldwide, only China is still proposing to build large numbers of atomic reactors, a decision it will hopefully soon reverse.

With massive hot water and steam emissions, plus carbon emissions in plant construction, waste management and the production of nuclear fuel, atomic reactors are a significant factor in unbalancing planetary weather patterns. Their cancellation, alongside the rise of green technologies like solar and wind power, bring the Earth a giant step closer to preservation.

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See Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth. He edits www.nukefree.org. This article is written with profound thanks to the great activists who helped make this vital victory happen.

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)

5.22.17 perry

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.

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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.

####

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

epa 4 solartopia

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

besse blows

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.

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