Archive for the ‘Anti-Nuclear Activists’ Category
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
March 31, 2011
Perhaps the most visible impact of the Fukushima accident on the nuclear debate has been the conversion of British global warming alarmist George Monbiot to nuclear power. In an article written two days after the earthquake entitled, “Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power,” declared, “You will not be surprised to hear that events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed. . . I am no longer nuclear neutral. I now support the technology.”
Monbiot debuted in his new role yesterday in a television debate with veteran nuclear critic Helen Caldicott. While Caldicott has been at this since the 1970s and has reportedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts, it was entirely novel to have the relatively young and dashing Monbiot as her opponent instead of the usual mumbling utility executive who says solemnly that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s article 7D, section 14 assures that such accidents can’t possibly happen.
Monbiot tells it straight. Getting rid of nuclear means going back to coal. And coal kills more people in a week in China than the official death toll from Chernobyl. (If he ever has the opportunity to visit a coal plant, he’ll find it’s much worse than he imagines.) Caldicott counters with a scenario straight out of the standard anti-nuclear stockpile. The reports from Japan, she says, already say that the nuclear fuel has melted through the pressure vessel and is on the containment floor. There the plutonium is going to react with the concrete to cause a hydrogen explosion that will shatter the containment and spread a plume of radiation that will make Japan uninhabitable for all time and reach the United States and kill a lot of people there as well. Even the stodgy Democracy Now anchor seems a bit skeptical of that dissertation.
Monbiot counters nicely. While admitting that such a scenario could take place, he says, “I would disagree that such a scenario could devastate a large part of Japan forever. I think that’s an overstatement. . . . We’ve got to be very careful about not doing what the climate-change deniers do when they say there’s no danger from climate change, cherry-picking studies, plucking out work that is very much against the scientific consensus. When it comes to low-level radiation, unfortunately environmentalists have been responsible for quite a similar approach by making what appear to be unjustifiable and excessive claims for the impact of that radiation. That is not in any way to minimize what could well happen as a result of the events in Fukushima. What it does say is we have to use the best possible science to work out what the likely effects are to be and not engage in what could be far more devastating to the lives of the people in Japan – a wild overreaction in terms of the response in which we ask the Japanese people to engage.”
An auspicious debut, George – congratulations!
Read more about it at Huffington Post
Thursday, March 24th, 2011
March 24, 2011
From the Editors
“Never let a crisis go to waste” is becoming the watchword of all policy wonks and longtime nuclear critic Frank Von Hippel puts it to use this morning in a New York Times op-ed ominously entitled “It Could Happen Here.”
â€¨ â€¨“Nuclear power is a textbook example of the problem of `regulatory capture’ in which an industry gains control of an agency meant to regulate it,” writes the Princeton professor, not seeming to acknowledge that regulatory agencies can be captured by opponents of a technology as well. “Regulatory capture can be countered only by vigorous public scrutiny and Congressional oversight, but in the 32 years since Three Mile Island, interest in nuclear regulation has declined precipitously.”
â€¨Von Hippel criticizes the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for not requiring a filtering mechanism on auxiliary buildings that would remove some radioactive particles in case of an accidental steam release. “Even before Three Mile Island, a group of nuclear engineers had proposed that filtered vents be attached to buildings around reactors, which are intended to contain the gases released from overheated fuel,” he writes. “If the pressure inside these containment buildings increased dangerously as has happened repeatedly at Fukushima the vents would release these gases after the filters greatly reduced their radioactivity.”â€¨
â€¨Midway through the article, however, he switches gears and announces that an equally important reason for calling a halt to the advance of nuclear technology is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “Most notably, over the past 50 years the developed world has spent some $100 billion in a failed effort to commercialize plutonium breeder reactors. Such reactors would use uranium more efficiently, but would also require the separation of plutonium, a key component in nuclear weapons.” He also criticizes General Electric’s development of using laser technology to enrich uranium on the grounds that it will make it easier for other countries to build bombs.
â€¨ â€¨Von Hippel’s solution is a One-World approach, where all nuclear technology would be put under the control of some international body. “Doing so would make it more difficult for countries like Iran to justify building national enrichment plants that could be used to produce nuclear weapons materials [emphasis added]."
â€¨But what if Iran didn’t feel the need to justify its enrichment effort and just went ahead and did it anyway? One way or another, that’s pretty far afield from overheating reactors at Fukushima.
Read more about it at the New York Times
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
March 3, 2011
From the Editors
Somehow word of the worldwide nuclear renaissance hasn’t yet reached Washington.
In yesterday’s edition of The Hill, Georgetown University lecturer Francis Slakey suggests a new concern for the overburdened Nuclear Regulatory Commission – conducting “non-proliferation risk assessments” on all new uranium enrichment technology.
“Here’s one thing the U.S. can do to help keep [uranium enrichment] facilities [around the world] in plain sight,” writes Slakey. “NRC can conduct an assessment of the proliferation risks of any enrichment facility before granting a license. With a rigorous assessment, a facility would only get commercialized by assuring that it has some unique detectable `signature.’ It may have a distinct infrared or acoustic trace that is evident to our satellite or ground based arrays. Or, there may be a unique component of the technology whose acquisition would indicate the intent to build a facility. Any of those would guarantee that the US would always have the ability to detect the facility, diminishing worries about covert construction or use.”
The argument here is based on one simple premise: the U.S. is the fountainhead of nuclear technology and the rest of the world is filled with technological idiots. That may have been true in 1977 when we first gave up nuclear reprocessing, but it is no longer true today. “The concern arises,” continues Slakey, “from new and anticipated developments that will allow nuclear fuel facilities — uranium enrichment technologies — to get so small and so efficient that U.S. surveillance methods can’t spot them. Then, a rogue nation might acquire the plans, covertly build the facility, use it to produce nuclear weapons material, and develop a nuclear weapon without the U.S. ever seeing a thing.”
Today the “rogue nation” is just as likely to develop its own technology or ask for help form Russia, China or North Korea. And if they do acquire U.S. technology, couldn’t they just disable whatever “signature” was built into the process? Does anyone think they’re not smart enough to do that?
Unfortunately, it is the non-proliferation industry that is behind the curve. “Fortunately, the secret uranium enrichment facility in North Korea was uncovered,” claims Slakey. In fact, North Korea used plutonium to build its bombs and the CIA report of a secret uranium enrichment facility turned out to be something of a false alarm.
What this new manifesto reveals is that delusions about America as the fountainhead of nuclear technology and efforts to halt nuclear power in this country go hand-in-hand. “If we don’t develop the technology, no one else will,” has been the argument since we gave up reprocessing in 1977. This premise has proved spectacularly wrong. The rest of the world has gone ahead without us.
Read more about it at the Hill
Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
December 29, 2010
It may seem at the moment that only the U.S. and Germany are mired in anti-nuclear opposition and that the Nuclear Renaissance is proceeding apace everywhere else in the world. But maybe we are just ahead of the game and other countries will soon grow their own environmental opposition as well. That already seems to be happening in India.
"India and France had signed the agreement on the 9,900 MW Jaitapur nuclear power project — expected to be the biggest in the world and 10 times that of Chernobyl," reports Zeenews, an Indian online news service, in a comparison that indicates the reporter might not be entirely objective. "However, the project ran into controversy after many environmentalists questioned the clearances given by the [Ministry of Environment and Forests]. . . . Civil society groups like the Konkan Bachao Samiti have come out in the open with their worries over the radiological safety of the nuclear plant and its impact on the environment. . . . Moreover, as per a report quoted by a news channel, the Jamshetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has revealed that the plant will be a disaster for the region if allowed to be built."
Environmental opposition usually comes from comfortable elites and bureaucrats who prefer controlling things through endless procedure rather than actually building and doing things. India has plenty of both. In fact, they are often the same people. For centuries, the Subcontinent was ruled by a Brahmin class that did little but observe religious ceremonies and collect taxes. Only ten years ago, the Indian government was so choked with bureaucracy that it required the signature of seven cabinet ministers to start a corporation. Only in the last decade has India freed itself from the bureaucrats and begun to prosper. As in the United States, however, environmental regulation could easily be the way that bureaucratic elites once again put their strangling hold on the economy.
Read more at Zee News
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
December 21, 2010
Nuclear advocates are nothing if not resourceful. Stymied by a 34-year-old law banning nuclear power plants in California, the Fresno Nuclear Energy Group says it will try to build its reactor as a water treatment plant instead.
"If you review the language under a microscope, the moratorium talks about power plants," Fresno Nuclear’s CEO John Hutson told the Fresno Bee. "You can build all the nuclear you want to desalinate water. … So the way we see it, we're going to move forward."
While California is a mess, with a $28 billion budget deficit and 11 percent unemployment, but Fresno and the Central Valley are in far worse shape. Unemployment is close to 20 percent and the farm economy – hemmed in by environmental restrictions and water shortages – is a shambles. Fresno Nuclear is trying to solve both problems at once by building a purification plant to clean salt-tainted irrigation water and provide cheap and reliable energy for a manufacturing revival.
Standing in the way is the state law which says that no nuclear reactors can be built until someone comes up with a solution to the “problem” of nuclear waste. The best solution, of course, would be reprocessing but with Yucca Mountain, a poor second, on hold there is no resolution in sight.
California officials are sure to respond negatively. The Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (sic), which is opposing relicensing of San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, has already put in its two cents worth of opposition. But the environmental bureaucracy – which has contributed mightily to state’s impending bankruptcy – has already announced its disapproval as well. "Until the issue of nuclear waste can be resolved or there is a change in the state's moratorium, nuclear facilities cannot be considered in California," commission spokesman Adam Gottlieb told the Bee.
But Hutson remains determined. "We're not looking for a loophole or trying to get around anything," Hutson told the Bee. "We're just exposing an archaic law that's dying of old age."
Read more at the Fresno Bee
Monday, October 18th, 2010
Years ago, the conservative Weekly Standard ran a cover story called “The Myth of Alternative Energy.” On the cover was gadfly Amory Lovins desperately pedaling a bicycle in an attempt to keep windmills and solar collectors going to generate electricity.
How times have changed. This week, in a brilliant coup, Lovins has persuaded the editors of The Standard to publish “Nuclear Socialism,” an anti-nuclear diatribe that follows the usual pattern of carefully selected facts, exaggerations and double standards, adding up to an argument that nuclear power couldn’t possibly get anywhere without government intervention.
Lovins rehearses the cost overruns of the 1980s, the bankruptcy of the Washington Public Power Supply System (WHOOPS!) and teases out figures suggesting that nuclear power is declining worldwide. What he misses is that there are 60 reactors under construction around the world, that Asia has embraced the technology and has jumped out to the forefront in developing it, that France has the cheapest electricity and lowest carbon emissions in Europe because it is 80 percent nuclear and that everywhere in the world except Germany people are deciding their fears of nuclear have been exaggerated and nuclear energy represents the future. If much of this is being undertaken by government-owned corporations, that is only because in most of the countries of the world the government owns just about everything.
To see why Lovins’ analysis doesn’t work, you only need repeat Milton Friedman’s dictum, “When government gets big enough, the only thing that can overcome it is more government.” General Electric, Westinghouse and Babcock & Wilcox built 100 reactors in this country in the 1970s and 1980s without a dime of construction subsidies or insurance because the government allowed them. Now the regulatory burden has become so overwhelming that nobody can do anything. Last August, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stopped site clearance for six weeks at the Vogtle plant – the only reactor that has received a federal loan guarantee – because Shaw, the major subcontractor, had failed to fill out written forms in questioning prospective employees about drug and alcohol abuse. No reactor will ever be built on time and on budget under such bureaucratic micromanagement and no construction project in the world could proceed under such oversight. Yet the TVA just completed the five-year rehabilitation of its Brown’s Ferry reactor on time and on budget – mainly because, as a quasi-government agency it has some push-back against NRC interference.
In the end, Lovins writes: "Here’s a principled alternative: Reverse the energy subsidy arms-race. Don’t add subsidies; subtract them. Take markets seriously. Not just for nuclear and fossil fuels but for all so-called ‘clean’ technologies, head toward zero energy subsidies, free enterprise, risk-based credit pricing, competition on merit, cheaper energy services, greater energy security, and dwindling deficits."
So let’s take him one better. Let’s also eliminate renewable portfolio standards, state renewable mandates and other government directives that distort the market far more than loan guarantees that costs the government nothing if the project is finished on time. Then we will stop building windmills, solar collectors and nuclear reactors and put up nothing but natural gas plants – the risky, regressive and potentially disastrous path of least resistance down which Lovins and all the other anti-nuclear advocates are pushing us.
Read more at the Weekly Standard
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
"`[H]ysteria’ appears to be the only suitable term for the ill-informed opposition to plans to send 16 worn-out steam generators from an Ontario nuclear plant off by ship to Sweden, via the St. Lawrence Seaway, for recycling.”
So begins the editorial today in the Montreal Gazette, trying to restore a little sanity to the panic that has swept upstate New York and Canada over the shipment of a few used reactor parts down the St. Lawrence Seaway. As reported on Nuclear Townhall two weeks ago, the hysteria began when a Syracuse TV reporter got word of the shipment and started drumming up environmental groups. The environmentalists had no awareness of the shipments but started issuing dire warning anyway.
The warnings have now been picked up by the Kahnawake Tribe, whose reservation borders the Seaway. The Kahnawake quickly began talking about “sacred ground” and issued a proclamation this week that no nuclear material would traverse their land. “Fortunately for the whole Great Lakes basin,” notes the editorial, “the band council has no say in what gets shipped down the Seaway.”
Unlike the opposition, the editorial writers at the Gazette have done a little homework. “The reality is that nuclear shipments of all kinds, large and small, are on the move in different parts of the world every day,” they write. “Like all things nuclear, these shipments each need relentless prudence, expert supervision, and high security. What they emphatically do not need is hysteria.”
Read more at the Montreal Gazette
Friday, September 17th, 2010
Following the lead of its Persian Gulf neighbors, Kuwait plans to build four nuclear reactors over the next twelve years – if oil revenues hold out.
The Kuwaitis are obviously impressed with the success the success of the United Arab Emirates, which has just awarded a $20-billion contract to Korea to build four new reactors over the next two decades. Secretary General of Kuwait’s National Nuclear Committee is quoted as saying that Kuwait will be able to develop nuclear energy as long as the price of oil remains relatively stable – meaning the Kuwaitis would have trouble paying for the project if oil revenues fall.
In reporting the story, the Kuwait Times nonetheless manages to find a whole raft of public and private officials opposing the project. Adnan Shaheen, General Manager and Managing Director of Al-Daw Company for Environmental Projects, is quoted as saying, "Kuwait does not have the capacity to maintain the safety standards of such reactors” – apparently unaware that Korea, Japan, France or whoever builds and maintains the reactors will have plenty of experience.
Shaheen also cites power cuts in the country last summer as proof that "We do not have the ability to secure the safety of such plants" – although that would also seem like proof that Kuwait needs more electricity. Tarek Al-Wazzan, Board Director of Aref Energy Company, “raised a question on the project’s sustainability amid reports of gas and hydrocarbon reserves depletion after a period of 30 years or so,” according to the Times. Al-Wannan opined that “many other energy production methods such as wind power plants, water, solar power plants can be resorted to.”
It’s nice to know that even in the heart of the Persian Gulf there are skeptics who dream of a world run on windmills and solar collectors while ignoring the awesome potential of nuclear energy
Read more at Energy Central
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
“Green Lantern,” Slate’s environmental blog, written by Nina Shen Rastogi, tackles the incendiary subject of nuclear power today in a post reprinted in The Washington Post.
“I thought nuclear reactors were an absolute no-go for environmentalists,” begins the dialogue, real or imaginary. “But I keep hearing them touted as a clean energy source. What are nuclear energy’s green credentials?” Rastogi then weighs the pros and cons of nuclear and finds it not entirely wanting.
“Some environmentalists are indeed coming around to nuclear energy. That’s because the nuclear fission process produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions, unlike the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.” Right on!
Of course Rastogi does find much to worry about – proliferation, possible Three Mile Islands, and “What are we going to do with the waste?” In this she establishes herself as 15 years behind the curve. A visit to France’s reprocessing center at Le Hague is recommended.
Altogether, though, it’s a daring effort by Slate and The Post to tiptoe back into the nuclear argument.
“The Lantern doesn’t find herself particularly freaked out by atomic energy. The long-term waste conundrum seems more pressing: After all, isn’t the notion that you don’t bequeath problems to your descendants a major tenet of environmentalism? At the same time, global warming is itself a dire legacy, and every energy technology has its pitfalls. So if nuclear power can play a role in cooling our planet, the Lantern thinks it deserves to stay on the table.”
Read it at The Washington Post
Thursday, July 15th, 2010
Special to Nuclear Townhall
It was called a “stakeholders meeting” but the only stakeholders present were the pony-tailed men in business suits, the cheerful young attorneys from the Naderite Public Interest Group and the legions of well-dressed, well-spoken women who can’t for the life of them imagine why anybody would ever want to invent nuclear power.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko ventured into the vortex yesterday morning in Brattleboro, confronting more than a hundred passionate nuclear opponents (plus a dozen TV cameras) at the Ramada Inn on Route 5. If you’d taken a vote at 11 a.m., it would have been 125-0 in favor of closing Vermont Yankee that afternoon.
Jaczko took a lot of heat. The man who heads the commission that just shut down site clearance for two days at Plant Vogtle in Georgia because one of the contractors hadn’t turned in written statements from prospective employees about drug abuse was characterized as negligent, indifferent to public safety and in the pockets of giant, malignant corporations who are ‘only in it for the profit.”
The key moment occurred, however, when Jaczko made the casual and seemingly indisputable remark that “what the offshore oil industry is going through now the nuclear industry went through thirty years ago at Three Mile Island – except there was no off-site damage.”
To any objective observer, this was a simple reference to the “worst accident in American nuclear history” in which, fortunately, no one was hurt. To this crowd, however, it was red meat.
“What about the radiation monitors that blew out!” “What about all those cancer studies?” They are all steeped in the lore that Three Mile Island was in fact a health catastrophe that has been diligently covered up by the powers that be.
Nuclear community voices were already complaining yesterday that business interests were excluded from the Brattleboro session and that only one side was represented. But Jaczko’s method did seem to serve a purpose. It allowed the anti-nuclear side –- a sizable contingency in this community -– to vent its anger. Of course they still weren’t satisfied. The main theme at the end of the meeting was Jaczko’s refusal to allow the press to accompany him on his afternoon tour of the plant –- another alleged cover-up in the making.
And so the “Close Vermont Yankee Now” crowd had their day. The question that wasn’t asked, however -– and which the NRC, the state legislature and even the anti-nukes are eventually going to have to face –- is how in the world can the state possibly replace the 600 MW generated on the banks of the Connecticut River? “Close it now” advocates argue that “only 270 MW is consumed in Vermont” with the rest going onto the New England grid. But subtracting 330 MW from the grid would mean all of New England would be scrambling over those few fossil-burning plants that are supposed to make up the difference.
It goes without saying that Citizens Awareness Network, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Nuclear Free Vermont by 2012, the Safe & Green Campaign, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance and the New England Coalition have a simple answer –- “conservation and renewables.” Citizens Awareness even features a bevy of windmills surrounding the challenged reactor on its website.
Given that at this very moment public officials and environmentalists in the Great Lakes region around Niagara County, NY are passionately protesting the erection of 166 wind turbines on the Lake Ontario shoreline as part of the New York Power Authority’s effort to bring renewable energy to western part of the state, one has to ask how renewables of any scale can ever expect to fly in Vermont?