Tag: Fukushima

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)

wind power

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.

Fukushima4 Fuels Solartopian Revolution

The catastrophe that began at Fukushima four years ago today is worse than ever.

But the good news can ultimately transcend the bad—if we make it so.

An angry grassroots movement has kept shut all 54 reactors that once operated in Japan. It’s the largest on-going nuke closure in history. Big industrial windmills installed off the Fukushima coast are now thriving.

Ohio’s Davis-Besse, New York’s Ginna, five reactors in Illinois and other decrepit American nukes could shut soon without huge ratepayer bailouts.

Diablo Canyon was retrofitted—probably illegally—with $842 million in replacement parts untested for seismic impact. Already under fire for illegal license manipulations and an avoidable gas explosion that killed eight in San Bruno in 2010, Pacific Gas & Electric has plunged into a legal, economic and political abyss that could soon doom California’s last reactors.

Meanwhile, Germany is amping up its renewable energy generation with a goal of 80 percent or more by 2050.

France—once nuke power’s poster child—has turned away from new reactor construction and is moving strongly toward renewables.

Worldwide the Solartopian revolution is ahead of schedule and under budget. Predictions about its technological and economic potential are being everywhere exceeded.

More than twice as many Americans now work in solar as in coal mines. As the head of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund recently put it: “We are quite convinced that if John D Rockefeller were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

Even America’s Tea Party has developed a green wing promoting renewables.

Vital focus now centers on battery breakthroughs needed to escalate rooftop solar, electric cars and other post-nuke game-changers.

But there’s plenty of bad news. The State Secrets Act of Japan’s authoritarian Abe regime renders unreliable all “official” information from Fukushima. Grassroots nuclear campaigners are under serious attack.

At least 300 tons of radioactive water still pour daily into the Pacific Ocean. The utility wants to dump even more untreated outflow into currents that are already testing radioactive along the California coast. Details of fuel rod bring-downs and site clean-ups remain unknown.

Thyroid damage rates are soaring among downwind children. Abe is forcing evacuees back into areas that are seriously contaminated. Fukushima’s owner (Tepco) is the #1 money funnel to his Liberal Democratic Party, which flips untold billions back to the utility.

More than 128,000 petitioners asking that the world community take charge at Fukushima have been ignored by the United Nations since November, 2013.

Throughout the world decaying reactors threaten our survival. Ohio’s Davis-Besse containment is literally crumbling. Diablo Canyon is surrounded by 15 known fault lines, one just 700 yards from the cores. New reactor sites in Finland, France and Georgia show slipshod construction, substandard parts and corrupted supervision that would make them instant threats should they go on line.

Citizen activism challenges all that. Today Solartopian activists will picket Japanese consulates worldwide.

An evolving electricity boycott to “unplug nuclear” and a growing grassroots demand for green energy herald a new era of people power.

Four years after the endless Fukushima disaster began, that renewable revolution defines our survival.

It’s a fight we can’t afford to lose. It’s a victory we must soon embrace … with the utmost relief and joy.
—————
Harvey Wasserman wrote SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH and edits www.nukefree.org. His Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at prn.fm.

Fighting Our Fossil-Nuke Extinction

and on the radio at: http://prn.fm/green-power-and-wellness-peter-scheer-4814/

Fighting Our Fossil-Nuke Extinction

By Harvey Wasserman

 

The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster has brought critical new evidencethat petro-pollution is destroying our global ecosystem. The third anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan confirmsthat radioactive reactor fallout is doing the same. How the two mega-poisons interact remains largely unstudied, but the answers can’t be

good. And it’s clearer than ever that we won’t survive without ridding our planet of both. To oppose atomic power with fossil fuels is to treat cancer by burning down the house. To oppose petro-pollution with nukes is to

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that fire with radiation. …..

READ MORE AT :

 

 

Solartopia! Winning the Green Energy Revolution

High above the Bowling Green town dump, a green energy revolution is being won. It’s being helped along by the legalization of marijuana and its bio­fueled cousin, industrial hemp.

But it’s under extreme attack from the billionaire Koch Brothers, utilities like First Energy (FE), and a fossil/nuke industry that threatens our existence on this planet. Robber Baron resistance to renewable energy has never been more fierce. The prime reason is that the Solartopian Revolution embodies the ultimate threat to the corporate utility industry and the hundreds of billions of dollars it has invested in the obsolete monopolies that define King CONG (Coal, Oil, Nukes & Gas). The outcome will depend on YOUR activism, and will determine whether we survive here at all. Four very large wind turbines in this small Ohio town are producing clean, cheap electricity that can help save our planet. A prime reason they exist is that Bowling Green has a municipal­owned utility. When it came time to go green, the city didn’t have to beg some corporate­owned electric monopoly to do it for them. In fact, most of northern Ohio is now dominated by FirstEnergy, one of the most reactionary, anti-­green private utilities in the entire US. As owner of the infamous Davis­Besse reactor near Toledo, FE continually resists the conversion of our energy economy to renewable sources. Except for the occasional green window­ dressing, First Energy has fought fiercely for decades to preserve its unsafe reactors while fighting off the steady progression of renewable generators. FE’s obstinance has been particularly dangerous at Davis­Besse, one of the world’s most profoundly unsafe nukes. To the dismay even of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and other notoriously docile agencies, undetected boric acid ate nearly all the way through a reactor pressure vessel and threatened a massive melt­down/explosion that could have irradiated the entire north coast and the Great Lakes. FE’s nuke at Perry, east of Cleveland, was the first in the US to be substantially damaged by an earthquake. Both Perry and David­Besse are in the stages
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of advanced decay. Each of them is being held together by the atomic equivalent of duct tape and bailing twine. A major accident grows more likely with each hour of operation. Small wonder the nuclear industry has been shielded since 1957 by the Price-­Anderson Act, which limits corporate liability in any reactor disaster to less than $15 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to what has already happened at Chernobyl and Fukushima, and could happen here. Should either of those reactors blow, FE and other investors will simply not have to pay for the loss of your home, family or personal health. Should that federal insurance be removed, the reactors would shut soon thereafter since for the last 57 years, no private insurers have stepped forward to write a policy on these reactors. As for the wind turbines in Bowling Green, there are no such problems. With zero federal insurance restrictions, they initially came in ahead of schedule and under budget. They have boosted the local economy, created jobs and produced power is that is far cheaper, safer, cleaner and more reliable than anything coming out of the many nearby trouble­plagued burners of fossil and nuclear fuels. Throughout the world similar “miracles” are in progress. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 92 percent of the new electrical generating capacity installed in the US in the first two

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months of 2014 was renewable. That includes six new wind farms, three geothermal facilities, and 25 new solar plants. One of those wind installations is a 75 megawatt plant in Huron County, Wisconsin. Four solar arrays will produce 73 megawatts for Southern California Edison, which was just forced by agrassroots upsurge to shut its two huge reactors at San Onofre, between Los Angeles and San Diego. SoCalEd and the people of southern California are now in the process of filling that void with a wide range of renewable installations. Many home owners will be doing it by installing solar panels on their rooftops, a rapidly advancing technology that is proving extremely cost-­effective while avoiding production of millions of tons of greenhouse gases and radioactive waste. By comparison, according to one report, new development in “fossil fuel ­based infrastructure was almost non­existent for January and February, with only one natural gas facility brought on line.” Across the nation, public opinion polls show an accelerating embrace of renewables. According to a Gallup Poll taken last year, more than 70 percent of Americans want more emphasis put on solar and wind power, well over twice as many as embrace coal (31 percent) and nearly twice as many as those who support new nukes (37 percent). And here Wall Street agrees with Main Street. Despite gargantuan federal subsidies and its status as a legal fiefdom unto itself, major investors have shunned atomic energy. The smart money is pouring toward Solartopia, to the tune of billions each

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year in new invested capital. There have been the inevitable failures, such as the infamous Solyndra which left the feds holding more than a half-­billion in bad paper. But such pitfalls have been common throughout the history of energy start­ups, including all aspects of the fossil/nuke industry. And in solar’s case, Solyndra has been dwarfed by billions in profits from other green investments. Ironically, one of the biggest new fields ­­­advanced bio-­fuels ­­­is being opened by the legalization of marijuana and its industrial cousin, hemp. Hemp was the number two cash crop (behind tobacco) grown in the early American colonies. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were enthusiastic cultivators. Jefferson wrote passionately about it in his farm journal, and Washington took pains to import special seed from India. As a crop with many uses, hemp has been an essential player in human agriculture for 50 centuries. In early America, hemp’s primary early service was as feedstock for rope and sails for ships. But it was also used to make clothing and other textiles. Ben Franklin processed it in his first paper mill. And it has wide applications as a food crop, especially thanks to the high protein content of its seeds, which are also a core of the bird feed business. Some of the early colonies actually required farmers to grow hemp. During World War II the military commandeered virtually the entire state of Kansas for it, using it primarily for rope in the Navy. But since then it has been almost everywhere illegal. There are many theories behind why, including a belief that the tree ­based paper industry does not want to compete with hemp feedstock, which­­­ as Franklin knew­­­ makes a stronger paper, and can be grown far more cheaply and sustainably. China, Japan, Germany, Rumania and other nations have long been growing hemp with

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great profit. Canada’s annual crop has been valued at nearly $500,000,000. Estimates of its domestic consumption here in the US run around $550,000,000, all of it imported. The US hemp industry is widely regarded as an innocent by­stander in the insane war against marijuana. (Some believe that because it threatens so many industrial interests, hemp is actually a CAUSE of marijuana prohibition). But because marijuana prohibition seems finally to be on the fade, the laws against hemp cultivation are falling away. The national farm

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community is in strong support, for obvious reasons. Hemp is extremely easy to grow, does not require pesticides or herbicides (it’s a weed!) and has centuries of profitability to back it up. When Colorado legalized recreational pot it also opened the door for industrial hemp, with the first full­ on crop now on its way in. Washington state is following suit. In Kentucky, right ­wing Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell both strongly support legalization. The federal law against its cultivation in states where it’s being legalized has now eased. Hemp’s role in the Solartopian revolution is certain to be huge. The oil content in its seeds make it a prime player in the booming bio-­fuels industry. The high cellulosic content of its stems and leaves mean it might also be fermented into ethanol. (The stalks and stems are also highly prized as building materials and insulation). There has been strong resistance to bio-­fuels now derived from corn and soy, for good reason. Those are food crops, and their use for industrial fuel has pitted hungry people against automobiles and other combustion technologies, bringing on rising prices for those who can least afford them. Corn and soy are also extremely inefficient as fuel stocks (corn is far worse). In a world dominated by corporate agri­business, they are generally raised unsustainably, with huge quantities of pesticides, herbicides and petro-­based fertilizers. None of those are required for hemp, which is prolific, sustainable and can be raised in large quantities by independent non­corporate growers. Along with on­going breakthroughs in other feedstocks (especially algae) hemp will be a major player in the Solartopian future. As pot inches its way toward full legalization, we can reasonably expect to see a revolution in bio­-fuels within a very few years. Likewise wind and solar. Windmills have been with us for at least five centuries. Coming from the plains of Asia, they covered our own Great Plains in the Great Depression and have rapidly advanced in power and efficiency. Newly installed turbine capacity is far cheaper than nukes and has recently surpassed all but the dirtiest of fossil fuels. As at Bowling Green, installation can be quick and efficient. Actual output often exceeds expectation, as do profits and job­creation. But the real revolution is coming in photo­voltaics (PV). These technologies ­­­and there’s a very wide range of them ­­­convert sunlight to electricity. Within the next few decades, they will comprise the largest industry in human history. Every home, office, factory, window, parking lot, highway, vehicle, machine, device and much more will be covered and/or embedded with them. There are trillions of dollars to be made. The speed of their advance is now on par with that of computing capability. Moore’s Law ­­­which posited (correctly) that computing capacity would double every two years ­­­is now a reality in the world of PV. Capacity is soaring while cost plummets. It’s a complex, demanding and increasingly competitive industry. It can also be hugely profitable. So there’s every technological reason to believe that in tandem with wind, bio-­fuels, geo­thermal, ocean thermal, wave energy, increased efficiency, conservation and more, the Solartopian revolution in clean green PV power could completely transform the global energy industry within the next few years. “Only flat­earthers and climate­deniers can continue to question the fact that the age of renewable energy is here now,” says Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. But there’s a barrier ­­­King CONG, the Robber Baron energy corporations. In fact, the Koch Brothers and their fossil/nuke cohorts are conducting a vicious nationwide campaign against renewables. It puts out all sorts of reasons for the bloviators to blurt. But the real motive is to protect their huge corporate investments. Because what’s really at stake here is the question of who will control the future of energy ­­­King CONG, or the human community. Though it would seem it could also be monopolized, Solartopian energy is by nature community ­based. Photovoltaic cells could be owned by corporations, and in many cases they are. But in the long run PV inclines toward DG (distributed generation). The nature of roof­top collectors is to allow homeowners to own their own supply. The market might incline them at various stages to buy or lease the solar cells from a monopoly. But in real terms, the price of PV is dropping so fast that monopolization may well become moot. As futurist Jeremy Rifkin puts it more generally his “Rise of Anti­Capitalism.” “The inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing costs so far down that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces. While economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero.” But that’s what’s starting to happen with photovoltaic cells, where fuel is free and capital costs are dropping low enough that the utility industry and its fossil/nuke allies can’t quite grab control. When individual building owners can generate their own PV power, when communities like Bowling Green can own their own windmills, when small farmers can grow their own hemp­based fuel, who needs King CONG? We know this powerful beast will fight against the renewable revolution right down to its last billion, especially now that American elections are so easily bought and stolen. Defending the green ­powered turf will not be easy. But sooner or later, if we can survive fracking, the next few Fukushimas and the oil spills after that, Solartopia must come. Our economic and our biological survival both depend on it. See you there!

Documents Say Navy Knew Fukushima Dangerously Contaminated the USS Reagan

A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago. If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy. The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode. In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout. Scores of sailors from the Reagan and other ships stationed nearby now report a wide range of ailments reminiscent of those documented downwind from atomic bomb tests in the Pacific and Nevada, and at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. A similar metallic taste was described by pilots who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and by central Pennsylvanians downwind of Three Mile Island. Some parts of the atolls downwind from the South Pacific bomb tests remain uninhabitable six decades later. Among the 81 plaintiffs in the federal class action are a sailor who was pregnant during the mission, and her “Baby A.G.,” born that October with multiple genetic mutations. Officially, Tepco and the Navy say the dose levels were safe. But a stunning new report by an American scholar based in Tokyo confirms that Naval officers communicated about what they knew to be the serious irradiation of the Reagan. Written by Kyle Cunningham and published in Japan Focus, “Mobilizing Nuclear Bias” describes the interplay between the U.S. and Japanese governments as Fukushima devolved into disaster. Cunningham writes that transcribed conversations obtained through the Freedom of Information Act feature naval officials who acknowledge that even while 100 miles away from Fukushima, the Reagan’s readings “compared to just normal background [are] about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out to sea.”   On the nuclear-powered carrier “all of our continuous monitors alarmed at the same level, at this value. And then we took portable air samples on the flight deck and got the same value,” the transcript says.

Serious fallout was also apparently
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found on helicopters coming back from relief missions. One unnamed U.S. government expert is quoted in the Japan Focus article as saying:

At 100 meters away it (the helicopter) was reading 4 sieverts per hour. That is an astronomical number and it told me, what that number means to me, a trained person, is there is no water on the reactor cores and they are just melting down, there is nothing containing the release of radioactivity. It is an unmitigated, unshielded number. (Confidential communication, Sept. 17, 2012).

The transcript then contains discussion of health impacts that could come within a matter of “10 hours. It’s a thyroid issue.”

Tepco and the Navy contend the Reagan did not receive a high enough dose to warrant serious concern. But Japan, South Korea and Guam deemed the carrier too radioactive to enter their ports. Stock photographs show sailors working en masse to scrub the ship down.  

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) conduct a counter-measure wash down on the flight deck to remove potential radiation contamination while operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Tomodachi, March 22, 2011. Picture taken March 22, 2011.

Sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan wash down the flight deck to remove potential radiation contamination while operating off the coast of Japan providing humanitarian assistance in support of Operation Tomodachi, March 22, 2011.

The $4.3 billion boat is now docked in San Diego. Critics question whether it belongs there at all. Attempts to decontaminate U.S. ships irradiated during the Pacific nuclear bombs tests from 1946-1963 proved fruitless. Hundreds of sailors were exposed to heavy doses of radiation, but some ships had to be sunk anyway. Leaks at the Fukushima site continue to worsen. Despite its denials, Tepco recently admitted it had underestimated certain radiation releases by a factor of 500 percent. A new report indicates that particles of radioactive Cesium 134 from Fukushima have been detected in the ocean off the west coast of North America.

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Global concerns continue to rise about Fukushima’s on-going crises with liquid leaks, the troubled removal of radioactive fuel rods, the search for three missing melted cores, organized crime influence at the site and much more. The flow of information has been seriously darkened by the pro-nuclear Abe Administration’s State Secrets Act, which imposes major penalties on those who might report what happens at Fukushima. But if this new evidence holds true, it means that the Navy knew the Ronald Reagan was being plastered with serious radioactive fallout and it casts the accident in a light even more sinister than previously believed. The stricken sailors are barred from suing the Navy, and their case against Tepco will depend on a series of complex international challenges. But one thing is certain: neither they nor the global community have been getting anything near the full truth about Fukushima. Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

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