Archive for the ‘International’ Category
Monday, April 4th, 2011
April 4, 2011
â€¨Anti-nuclear activism is often associated with left-wing politics, but the UK Guardian is breaking the mold by issuing one sensible report after another about the perceived dangers of nuclear energy.â€¨
George Monbiot probably set the tone in his regular column three days after the earthquake when he declared, echoing Dr. Strangelove, “Why Fukushima Make Me Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power.” Monbiot subsequently made a good showing by debating the eternally apocalyptic Helen Caldicott on Democracy Now!
â€¨Now it’s guest science columnist Dr. Melanie Windridge informing readers, “Fear of nuclear power is out of proportion to the actual risks.” “Is it reasonable to decry nuclear power because of a crisis that has killed no one, caused by a natural disaster that killed thousands?” she asks.â€¨
Windridge notes that for the most part, safety mechanisms have worked as anticipated. “In fact, the disaster shows how safe nuclear reactors actually are. Reactors designed half a century ago survived an earthquake many times stronger than they were designed to withstand, immediately going into shut-down (bringing driven nuclear reactions to a halt).”
â€¨She notes – as have dozens of other commentators – that radiation is everywhere and so far the exposures to everyone outside the immediate vicinity of the plant have been at background levels. "Safety limits for nuclear facilities are necessarily stringent and contamination is taken extremely seriously. However, these precautionary limits can cause unnecessary alarm. For example, there were recommendations for restrictions on drinking water, which have now been lifted, but the radiation dose received by drinking Tokyo water for a year would have been less than that from moving to Cornwall [from the Thames Valley] and living there for a year.”
â€¨“Compared with other sources of energy, nuclear power is one of the safest,” she concludes. “I do not wish to trivialize the problems at Fukushima. . . . However, I believe we cannot sideline nuclear fission because of Fukushima.”
Read more about it at the Guardian
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
March 30, 2011
From the Editors
Think China and India are going to blink in their development of nuclear after the Fukushima accident? Not a chance. â€¨
â€¨“You can see rapid growth in nuclear installed capacity in India and China, notwithstanding the events in Fukushima,” Michael Parker, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Bernstein, tells Bloomberg. “The cheapest, most easily scaled, cleanest, and most technologically mature source of electricity for these economies is nuclear.”â€¨
â€¨China made big news in the first few days when government officials announced it would “pause” its efforts to add new reactors in the light of events in Japan. If anything, the comments showed that the Chinese are getting more adept at politics. “Pausing” and “appointing a study commission” are classic dodges of politicians who want to glide past public concern while moving straight ahead with what they were doing.â€¨â€¨
"China will probably not slow down much, as it wasn’t able to build nukes fast enough before and has a completely different decision-making process when it comes to sitting and dealing with issues,” Mike Thomas, a Hong Kong-based partner at energy consultant The Lantau Group, tells Bloomberg.
â€¨â€¨India is likely to have the same reaction. “Coal will continue to be the major fuel in the next couple of decades, but the mix of nuclear will increase in Asia,” Nigam Sharma, Singapore-based head of marketing for Asia at Emerson Process Management, tells Bloomberg. “Environment is one of the main drivers, along with demand. And this is where nuclear comes in.”â€¨â€¨
Indian utilities seem to be of much the same mind. “Now is not the time to enter into a withdrawal syndrome when it comes to India’s nuclear program,” Arup Roy Choudhury, chairman of NTPC, India’s biggest generator of electricity, tells Bloomberg. “If we don’t continue now, we will set ourselves back and have to start all over again.”
â€¨So don’t pay any attention to those press releases from anti-nuclear groups celebrating the end of the Nuclear Renaissance in Asia. From all indications, it will be going ahead on schedule.
Read more about it at Bloomberg
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011
March 30, 2011
From the Editors
Like “choice,” “equality,” “fairness” “creating jobs” and "social justice," “clean energy” is quickly becoming one of those political slogans that means entirely different things to different people.
Take the report the Pew Charitable Trusts has just released - “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?” which sounds the alarm that China is beating the pants off the U.S. in developing “clean energy.”
“A new report finds that global finance and investment in low-carbon energy technologies `roared back’ in 2010 from flat recession levels, but that the U.S. fell another rung to third place after losing the top spot to China in 2009,” says The Hill. “The Pew Charitable Trusts . . hopes to translate the findings into Capitol Hill momentum for more robust and stable federal policies to boost the U.S. sector.
Now this is something to get excited about. After all, China has 27 reactors under construction. They’ve just commercialized their first Integral Fast Breeder, a technology that we gave up on in 1994 even though it promises to turn all the world’s “nuclear waste” into fuel, giving us a supply that could last 1000 years. They’ve revived the Pebble Bed Reactor, even though Germany and South Africa gave up on it – and last week The New York Times even suggested we might borrow China’s research on this supposedly meltdown-proof reactor. (The disadvantage of the pebble bed is that the spent fuel has greater volume and is more difficult to reprocess.)
But wait a minute! This isn’t what the Pew Charitable Trusts is talking about at all. “The report finds that global investment and finance in green sectors such as wind and solar power last year grew over 30 percent from 2009 levels to reach a record $243 billion. But the U.S., while seeing a growth in investment, fell behind Germany into third place in the G-20.” The word “nuclear” does not appear once in the 51-page document.
On top of that, Pew has hired former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to lead its clean energy lobbying initiative. She’s the one who decided Michigan was going to abandon heavy manufacturing and become the solar and wind capital of the world – and almost bankrupted the state in the process.
Instead of calling it “clean,” how about we go back to last year’s term and say it’s “renewable energy?”
Friday, March 25th, 2011
March 25, 2011
Any doubt that China will continue to move ahead with nuclear despite the accident at Fukushima could be erased with the announcement that the country’s first integral fast reactor is about to go online.
"Our 20-megawatt reactor has been operating successfully. We will put 40 percent of its power, which means 8 megawatts, into the distribution network of the North China Grid by the end of June," Xu Mi, leading expert on fast reactor technology at the China National Nuclear Corporation, told China Daily.
The fast breeder is a reactor that can burn almost any kind of nuclear fuel. It extracts the entire fuel potential from uranium, gobbles up what is known as "nuclear waste," and offers almost unlimited fuel supplies at very low costs. The U.S. built an experimental fast breeder in Idaho in the 1980s but abandoned the project in 1992 when the Clinton Administration was trying to close down nuclear power. As this UPI story reports, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Japan and India have all built experimental fast breeders as well, but none have tried to put the technology into commercial use. Xu, who designed the current model, says he is now working on a 1000-MW model that he hopes will begin construction in 2017.
A fleet of fast breeders providing almost unlimited energy free of fossil fuels would probably clinch China’s position as the world’s dominant industrial nation. As one commenter to the UPI story remarks: "For those of us who weren’t around at the turn of the nineteenth century, this is what the transfer of world dominance from one nation to another looks like."
Read more about it at UPI
Thursday, March 24th, 2011
March 24, 2011
As conditions slowly continue to improve Fukushima and the situation comes into perspective, some journalists are beginning to ask, "Did the press overreact to the nuclear story at the expense of the much greater devastation caused by the earthquake?"
"Most broadcasters had one or two reporters focusing on the earthquake, compared to five or six talking about the threat from the nuclear plant," complains Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Center, which supplied the press with teams of scientists throughout the crisis. "The personal stories that usually have me in tears for days after a tragedy like this were comparatively rare, as journalists competed to summon the most alarming language possible to describe the nuclear ‘meltdown’. Terrifying headlines talked of a deadly radiation cloud descending on Tokyo, before drifting across the oceans to menace the United States."
In this long analysis on the BBC’s College of Journalism page, Fox observes that while the immediate call to her organization was for experts on earthquakes and tsunamis, within four days the press wanted only nuclear scientists and the earthquake was being completely ignored. "One tabloid’s Japan coverage was typical. Under the title `Japan’s Horror: Battle to Stop Nuclear Meltdown"’, the double-page spread included three articles by different reporters on the nuclear threat: `Now Food’s Nuked’, `Dangers Might Get a Lot Worse’ and `Despair of Victims in Nuke Zone’. The only piece about the earthquake itself was the story of a Brit who had a miraculous escape."
The same pattern regularly occurred in the U.S. press, where a typical headline would read, "Explosion at Nuclear Reactor, 10,000 Dead." Only in the text of the story would it be revealed that the explosion involved hydrogen venting and the 10,000 dead were from the earthquake and tsunami.
Even when the Science Media Center had assembled a stellar team of nuclear experts, Fox reports, the press universally ignored their sober assessments and concentrated on their own visions of "another Chernobyl."
"As we obligingly stood down our tsunami experts to find nuclear scientists," she writes, "a fair reading of the consensus would go something like this: `This was a very, very serious situation â€¨- The Japanese operators appeared to have done a tremendous job in controlling it â€¨- It was not another Chernobyl’."
Almost everything that followed supported her experts’ assessment. "So why," she asks, "did the best estimates of the best experts give way to another narrative? Why did so many responsible broadcasters and editors not allow the facts to get in the way of a good story?"
Fox offers many possible explanations, including the observation that any scientist who studies nuclear energy is suspected to being a "tool of the industry." This is a hard-hitting assessment of journalistic coverage of the situation in Japan well worth reading in its entirety.
Read more about it at the BBC’s journalism blog
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
March 23, 2011
If you’ve got lemons, make lemonade. That’s the approach the Russians are taking as they confront the threat posed by Fukushima to their $20 billion-a-year nuclear export industry.
Much to the affront of The New York Times, Russian scientists are claiming that their experience with Chernobyl 25 years ago has made them more safety conscious in marketing their reactors and uranium supplies to the rest of the world. In interviewing Leonid A. Bolshov, a Russian physicist who won a Soviet hero’s medal for improvising an on-the-sport core-catcher during the Chernobyl crisis, the Times reports: “Like many others involved in his country’s nuclear power industry, Mr. Bolshov, 64, expresses what to some ears may sound like a jarringly opportunistic sales pitch: that Chernobyl was the hard-earned experience that made Russia the world’s most safety-conscious nuclear proponent.”
But then the Russians have a lot at stake. Even as Fukushima was suffering a meltdown, Rosatom was signing an agreement with Belarus to provide the former satellite with a $9 billion reactor. The Russian nuclear company also has a $20 billion deal to build four reactors for Turkey and sales of uranium amount to another $3 billion annually. The Russians now provide 17 percent of the world’s uranium and are aiming to raise this to 25 percent by 2025.
The Times digs up a Norwegian environmentalist who complains, “They promote this technology only because it engages the enormous military nuclear industry left over from Soviet times.” But a more sensible interpretation would be that the Russians are becoming adept at capitalism and know an economic opportunity when they see one.
Read more about it at the New York Times
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Nuclear Energy Institute Post
UPDATE AS OF 9:15 A.M. EDT, TUESDAY, MARCH 15:
Units 1 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi are stable and cooling is being maintained through seawater injection. Primary containment integrity has been maintained on both reactors.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) reported an explosion in the suppression pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2, at 7:14 p.m. EDT on March 14. Reactor water level was reported to be at 2.7 meters below the top of the fuel. The pressure in the suppression pool decreased from 3 atmospheres to 1 atmosphere. Radiation readings at the site increased to 96 millirem per hour.
Dose rates at Fukushima Daiichi as reported at 10:22 p.m. EDT on March 14 were:
Near Unit 3 reactor building 40 rem/hr
Near Unit 4 reactor building 10 rem/hr
At site boundary 821 millirem/hr.
Kitaibaraki (200 km south of site) 0.4 millirem/hr.
We are working on getting updated information on radiation and dose rates at and near the plant.
Station personnel not directly supporting reactor recovery efforts have been evacuated, leaving approximately 50 staff members at the site. Operators are no longer in the main control room due to high radiation levels.
Safety relief valves were able to be re-opened and seawater injection into the reactor core was restarted around 1 a.m. EDT on March 15 and is continuing.
At Unit 4 on March 14 at approximately 8:38 p.m. EDT, a fire was reported in the reactor building. It is believed to have been from a lube oil leak in a system that drives recirculation water pumps. Fire fighting efforts extinguished the fire. The roof of the reactor building was damaged.
All four reactors at Fukushima Daini are being maintained with normal cooling using residual heat removal systems.
Friday, February 25th, 2011
February 25, 2011
The international nuclear chess game of nuclear power witnessed another bold gambit this week when Japan entered talks with Lithuania over the possibility of building the Lithuanians a new nuclear reactor.
â€¨Lithuania has been at the mercy of Russia for the last year after the European Union forced the country to give up the close its Ignalina reactor as a condition of entering the Union. The EU bureaucrats argued that Ignalina had the same design as Chernobyl and was therefore dangerous. The Lithuanians argued that they had added safety features and modifications and that Chernobyl had been as much a human error as technical malfunction, but the Brussels bureaucrats refused to relent. Ignalina supplied Lithuania with 70 percent of its electricity. â€¨
Since then the Lithuanians have been forced to buy gas from Russia at steep prices. The country put out a request for bids to build a new reactor last year and received proposals from Korea Electric Power and another unidentified rumored to be Electricite de France. The Lithuanians found the unidentified proposal unacceptable but were pleased with the Korean bid. Then the Koreans suddenly withdrew their offer. One story says the Russians pressured the Koreans because they did not want to give up the gas monopoly in their former satellite, but there has been nothing to substantiate this interpretation.
â€¨Japan’s entry into the discussions holds promise that Lithuania may once again be able to restore its energy independence. Energy Vice Minister Arvydas Darulis told Bloomberg that Japan “has very high standard of nuclear safety” that would meet EU requirements. “We need high technologies and those technologies are here in Japan,” Darulis said. Lithuania is hoping to complete the project by the end of the decade.
Read more about it at Bloomberg
Friday, February 25th, 2011
February 25, 2011
In October 1945, less than three months after Hiroshima had introduced the world to nuclear energy, Scribbs-Howard science reporter David Dietz wrote a breathless account of the coming wonders:â€¨
â€¨“A nonstop flight around the earth’s equator in 24 hours . . . A 240,000-mile rocket trip to the moon . . . These are but two of the miracles just ahead of mankind in the coming Era of Atomic Energy.”â€¨
We made it into orbit and to the moon without much help from nuclear energy.
But a much more pedestrian dream may soon be realizes as the Russians have announced the first attempt to power a railroad train with a nuclear engine.
â€¨Barents Observer reports that Rosatom and Russian Railways are developing a nuclear-powered locomotive. The engine will be a small fast breeder reactor. In its first trial runs, the train also will be a scientific exhibition to inform the public of the wonders of nuclear power.
â€¨â€¨“I looked at the design of the train, I liked it and I support the idea originally presented by Rosatom since it is a innovative way of develop nuclear energy,” Valentin Gapanovich, vice-president of Russian Railways, told Interfax.
â€¨â€¨Russian scientists first proposed a nuclear-powered locomotive in 1956 that would operate in remote regions of Siberia, where refueling is difficult. Those plans have now essentially been revived, according to an article in the Russian version of Popular Mechanics.”
By hooking two engines in tandem, the Russians could also leave one locomotive in Siberia to power remote industrial installations. Rosatom officials say the engine will easily convert to a power plant. Already underway is a plan to barge a small reactor from St. Petersburg to the Chukotka region on Siberia’s arctic coast in 2012. The locomotive technology would allow reactors to be delivered to inland villages and industrial sites as well.
â€¨Although David Dietz may not have imagined it in 1945, Siberia may end up being the new nuclear frontier.
Read more about it at Barents Observer
Thursday, February 24th, 2011
February 24, 2011
Chubu, Japan’s third largest utility, has announced plans to build 3,000-4,000 megawatts of new nuclear power in order to comply with the Japanese government’s requirements for providing carbon-free energy.
"We’ve concluded that without having a new nuclear plant, it would be difficult to meet the zero-emissions goal," Kazuhiko Okabe, an executive officer, said at a news conference on Thursday, as reported by Reuters. The two new units would raise nuclear from the current 14 percent to 50-60 percent in Chubu’s portfolio.
“Japan, the world’s fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has drawn a roadmap for a low-carbon economy, including a goal to boost the ratio of zero-emissions power from nuclear and renewable sources to 70 percent of output by 2030 from 34 percent now,” said Reuters in reporting the announcement. Chubu already has one other nuclear complex at Hamaoka that generates 3,504 MW. Chubu’s low-carbon strategy also includes plans to buy power from two reactors under construction by Japan Atomic Power, a merchant energy company. The two units at Tsuruga are scheduled for completion in 2017 and 2018.
In September, Tokyo Electric Power, Asia’s biggest utility, announced it plans to$30.5 billion on low-carbon projects by 2020 to cut its carbon emissions in half. The plans would also include new nuclear construction. Japan currently gets 35 percent of its electricity from nuclear. The new reactors would push it over 50 percent.
Read more about it at Reuters