Darth Meter? - An example of a fire incident occurring around a hydro meter in Ontario. From a report done by the Office of the Fire Marshal Fire Investigation Services in Ontario
Another Bright Idea from Mr. O.?
As the U.S. election season unfolds in all its weirdness, it seems appropriate to mention an issue that has not so far surfaced on the campaign trail.
Depending on your point of view, the list of President Obama’s accomplishments – or crimes – includes the following: bailing out Wall Street and the auto industry; prosecuting more whistleblowers than all past presidents put together; setting a record for breaking up immigrant families through massive deportations; escalating drone strikes around the world, thus murdering hundreds of innocent civilians and their children; signing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sanctioning indefinite detention and criminalizing dissent; and asserting the authority to execute American citizens (and their kids) anywhere in the world without charge or trial.
Then there’s another item that should be added to the list – providing stimulus funds to help jumpstart the wireless Darth Meter rollout.
‘Smart Grid’ as Moon Shot
In his recent national bestseller “Confidence Men: Washington, Wall Street and the Education of a President,” Ron Suskind describes then-candidate Obama chairing meetings of his economic planning team in the months leading up to the 2008 election.
“’What about smart grids?’ he asked at one meeting.
“The conversation then turned to an extended discussion with Carol Browner, Obama’s top adviser on energy and the environment, about the limitations of eminent domain. A smart grid would need to be implemented district by district, which, as part of the stimulus, was entirely unfeasible.
“Obama, frustrated, refused to let the topic go. ‘We need more moon shot,’ he said” (pp154-5)
And, by February 17, 2009, the unfeasible had apparently become feasible. On that day by-then-President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Designed as a Keynesian stimulus package, the $831 billion law covered many sectors, including: infrastructure, education, health care, transportation, communication, homeland security, law enforcement and energy. Included was $11 billion to fund a fully interoperable smart grid for the U.S. electric power system.
Of course, as we’ve noted before, the ‘smart grid’ concept did not originate with the Obama administration, but from the elite Davos-based World Economic Forum, and is being promoted by the world’s largest consulting firm, Accenture.
Though Darth Meter enthusiasts claim that ARRA ‘mandates’ the deployment of wireless automatic metering devices (AMI), our colleague Kikulani at Burbank Action has extensively documented that neither ARRA, nor the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), nor the Energy Policy Act of 2005, nor any Executive Order makes either wireless meters OR the ‘time-of-use pricing’ – which is their stated goal – ‘mandatory.’ She reports that even President Obama himself has stated that they should be voluntary.
Nevertheless, the march of folly rollout of wireless Darth Meters continues. A Consumers’ Digest report last year [ Why Smart Meters Might Be a Dumb Idea by William J. Kelly ] opined that
“Despite…objections, it’s clear that smart meters ultimately won’t be stopped.”
The Digest went on to report that, as of a year ago last January,
“Department of Energy says utilities have installed about 18 million smart meters in states across the nation, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland and Texas. Meanwhile, federal economic-stimulus money that totals $3.4 billion and was granted by DOE is supporting the installation of 40 million additional smart meters by scores of electric companies in 40 states, federal territories and federal districts in the next few years. By 2015, an estimated 65 million smart meters will have been installed. These will cover 52 percent of household electricity customers, according to Edison Electric Institute, which is a research group that is funded by electric companies.”
But that was then, and in the nearly 2 years since the Digest’s premature prediction that the rollout ‘won’t be stopped,’ ratepayer/citizen pushback against the wireless meter rollout has spread across the states and around the world – and is proving effective.
Claims that smart meters will enable consumers to dramatically cut their energy use, particularly during periods of peak demand have not been born out by subsequent studies, while reports of serious health effects, safety risks and cyber-security threats multiply.
Cities and counties are passing moratoria and demanding to opt-out of the rollout as communities. In California, the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has been forced to order all utilities within its jurisdiction to allow individual customers to opt-out, albeit for a fee. In a continuing proceeding (in which EON is a party) the Commission is being forced to consider the questions of ‘community-wide opt-out, what constitutes a ‘community;’ and who should pay the costs of this colossal technocratic blunder. In Michigan, DTE Energy will offer an opt-out mechanism for its customers who do not want to be equipped with a wireless so-called ‘advanced electric meter.’
As the Darth MeterTM farce continues to unfold, and the cloud of wireless gizmo pollution thickens, informed resistance IS proving fertile. Please scroll down for a look at recent stories.
Smart meter installations are the suspected cause of an “unusual” number of fires similar to a recent electrical fire at a home in Mission, according to a recent investigation by the Ontario fire marshal’s office.
BC Hydro is in the process of a $1-billion installation of the meters, which use wireless technology to transmit information about electricity consumption to power utilities, following the lead of provinces and states including Ontario and California.
There’s no evidence to suggest that the meters themselves are overheating and catching fire, but it appears from an Ontario fire marshal’s report, dated June 15, 2012, that the base plates, or four-pronged sockets that meters plug into, can become compromised and start to burn if they’re old or suffer rough handling during installation.
SF cell phone safety law in appeals court battle
The battle over San Francisco’s controversial cell phone safety law is playing out right now in federal appeals…
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A legal battle that’s being closely watched around the nation took another step forward at the Court of Appeals in San Francisco Thursday.
At issue is the city’s law forcing cell phone retailers to warn customers about potential health risks. It’s on hold while the two sides fight it out.
San Francisco passed what’s called the “Right to Know” law two years ago, making it the only city in the nation to require customer warnings for cell phones. But the industry has sued, saying the groundbreaking measure violates retailers’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to provide messages they oppose.
Federal Appeals Court Hearing on San Francisco Labeling Law This Week
Washington D.C. (August 6, 2012) — Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has introduced H.R. 6358, the Cell Phone Right to Know Act, a bill to grant a consumer’s right-to-know by providing for warning labels on cell phones. It would also create a new national research program to study cell phones and health and require the Environmental Protection Agency to update the outdated Specific Absorption Rate (SAR). A federal appeals court in San Francisco is expected to consider a local right-to-know ordinance this week.
“Consumers have a right to know the radiation levels of cell phones and whether they are buying the phone with the lowest – or the highest – level of exposure to cell phone radiation. They also deserve to have up-to-date exposure standards that are put together by health professionals without conflicts of interest,” said Kucinich.
From Louis Slesin Editor, Microwave News:
An interesting development:
According to the an item in today’s Times of India, India is adopting the same SAR limit for cell phones as that of the FCC: 1.6 W/Kg averaged over 1g of tissue. India is also reducing its current RF exposure standards by a factor of ten.
NEW DELHI: India is all set to clamp down on excessive radiation emanating from cellphone handsets and towers. According to the new radiation norms coming into effect from September 1, the radio frequency (RF) exposure limits are to be lowered to 1/10th of the existing level.
It will also become mandatory for the specific absorption level (SAR) — the rate at which RF energy is absorbed by the body — to be embossed and displayed on the mobile handset by the manufacturer. SAR level for mobile handsets will also be restricted to 1.6 watt/kg, averaged over a mass of 1 gram of human tissue. Mobile handsets manufactured and sold in India or imported will now be checked for SAR limit compliance.
BC Hydro plans to install 1.8 million smart meters across B.C. by the end of 2012
A “cell phone right to know” bill was just introduced in the Congress, and the City and County of San Francisco will defend its “cell phone right to know” ordinance against a CTIA lawsuit in a federal appeals court.
A “cell phone right to know” bill was just introduced in the Congress, and on Thursday, the City and County of San Francisco will defend its “cell phone right to know” ordinance against a CTIA lawsuit in the 9th District Court of Appeals.*
Although the text for the newly proposed federal legislation is not yet available from the Library of Congress,** a press release appears below. I plan to analyze the bill when the text becomes available.
Two years ago, I published an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle about cell phones that called for community health education, government-funded research independent of industry to avoid conflicts of interest, and more protective regulatory standards and warning labels. See below for a link to my op-ed and additional concerns I have raised more recently.
The federal legislation appears to address a major concern I raised on June 15 (link below). Namely, that an FCC review of the current inadequate cell phone radiation standards would rubber stamp the 16-year old standards. The proposed legislation would require a different agency with the appropriate expertise to conduct the review — the Environmental Protection Agency.
The only major cell phone radiation health effects research our Federal government currently funds is a study of the effects of 2G (GSM and CDMA) on mice and rats by the National Toxicology Program. The preliminary results from this study should be available by 2014. However, 2G technology will likely be obsolete in the US by the end of 2016.*** To date, little research has been conducted on the health effects of 3G, and some research suggests that this carrier technology damages DNA at much lower exposure levels than 2G. No research that I am aware of has been conducted on 4G.
[The next one below is from Susan Foster, who comments, ‘It would demand an increase in allowable power within phones and emanating from towers. The directive was reported in May 2012.
When did Chairman Genachowski suggest revisiting safety standards but in the same statement he said he did not think there were any relevant health concerns with existing standards? Is this presidential order the motivation? If so, you know what we can expect from the FCC.]
IDG News Service – U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered all major government agencies to make two key services available on mobile phones within a year, in an effort to embrace a growing trend toward Web surfing on mobile devices.
Obama, in a directive issued Wednesday, also ordered federal agencies to create websites to report on their mobile progress. The websites are due within 90 days.
Innovators in the private sector and the government have used the Internet and powerful computers to improve customer service, but “it is time for the federal government to do more,” Obama said in the memo. “For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need.”
Many government services are not optimized for smartphones or tablets, and other services aren’t available at all on those devices, Obama wrote.
“Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device,” Obama said in a statement. “By making important services accessible from your phone and sharing government data with entrepreneurs, we are giving hard-working families and businesses tools that will help them succeed.”
If You See This Google Warning, Act Fast: Big Brother is Watching
By Dr. Mercola
Big Brother is watching. No kidding. And the warning is coming from none other than Google, which says government spies may be spying on you. Some believe the Google announcement may be related to the recent discovery of the data-mining virus named “Flame.” In a June 3 New York Times article, Andrew Kramer and Nicole Perlroth write1:
“When Eugene Kaspersky, the founder of Europe’s largest antivirus company, discovered the Flame virus that is afflicting computers in Iran and the Middle East, he recognized it as a technologically sophisticated virus that only a government could create.
He also recognized that the virus, which he compares to the Stuxnet virus built by programmers employed by the United States and Israel, adds weight to his warnings of the grave dangers posed by governments that manufacture and release viruses on the internet.
“Cyberweapons are the most dangerous innovation of this century,” he told a gathering of technology company executives… While the United States and Israel are using the weapons to slow the nuclear bomb-making abilities of Iran, they could also be used to disrupt power grids and financial systems or even wreak havoc with military defenses.”
• A massive data-mining virus named “Flame” has been detected in computers in the Middle East, particularly in Iran. It’s the first virus found with the added ability to spread wirelessly by attaching itself to Bluetooth-enabled devices. Once there, it can trace and steal information stored on those devices. The program also contains a “microbe” command that can activate any microphone within the device and record audio files
• The NSA is building a massive spy center in Bluffdale, Utah, which will intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast amounts of the world’s communications—both foreign and domestic
• As of the first week of June, Google will warn you when it picks up activity on your computer account that looks suspiciously like state-sponsored monitoring of your computer activities
• To re-secure your account, Google recommends creating a unique password that includes a mix of capital letter, lowercase letters, punctuation marks and numbers; enable 2-step verification; and update your browser, operating system, plugins, and document editors
The airport x-ray machines are not safe. And for over a year, TSA has been defying a court order.
A few months ago we told you about the dangers of airport full—body scanners—that they emit low levels of ionizing radiation and can cause cancer. The x-rays skim the entire surface of your skin instead of being directed to a localized area of your body, which means that radiation levels could be 10 to 20 times higher than the manufacturer’s calculations. The cancer threat has the European Union so concerned that it has put a moratorium on the machines.
Europe Bans Airport X-Ray Scanners. Should the U.S. Follow Suit?
As millions of American travelers take to the airways this Thanksgiving, they will increasingly face the new generation of full-body scanners at airport security — including the kind that Europe just banned for reasons of “health and safety.”
In its new airport security policy, the European Commission announced on Nov. 14 that it would ban the controversial “backscatter” X-ray machines, which emit ionized radiation, from all airports in the European Union’s 27 member nations “in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.”
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Though dozens of nearby residents had sent letters of opposition to the Commission, far outweighing those in support, and despite the project clearly violating several key sections of the Coastal Act and Local Coastal Plan, the Commission approved the project at the direction of the wireless industry, seemingly irritated by the large number of people who showed up to speak and defend Big Basin State Park and Santa Cruz County’s pristine North Coast….
BONNY DOON – Some North Coast residents lost their bid Friday to have the California Coastal Commission block the installation of six high-speed cellular hubs on a scenic stretch of Highway 1.
The project, proposed by Next G, should bring 4G technology to residents of Bonny Doon and visitors enjoying the charms of Northern Santa Cruz County, which includes bluff-top farmlands, hidden beaches and spectacular vistas.
But several people objected, saying cellular technology raises significant health concerns and would blight the landscape, with many having fought unsuccessfully to prevent the widespread local installation of PG&E Smart Meters.
“They went with the money. … This is an example of how the 1 percent are not making decisions democratically, they’re forcing things on the 99 percent,” said Josh Hart, one of more than a dozen people who spoke against the project.
Representatives of Next G did not attend the meeting. Hart, an architect of local Smart Meter resistance, objected on behalf of a group of neighbors based on health concerns for humans and wildlife, as well as the project’s visual impacts.
Angela Flynn of Green Evolution comments on the Sentinel article –
Yesterday’s hearing was one of the worst travesties of justice that I have witnessed. Mark Stone was clearly electioneering as he played close and fast to the Wireless Industries interests. The public were prohibited from speaking, which is in clear violation of the Commission’s rules. I’ll leave off with some references on this.
Distributed Antenna Systems are the latest industry trend. They are putting high powered microwave transmitters on utility poles in their effort to meet 4G video streaming functions. You may wake up one day and find one on the pole outside your bedroom window and that may be the last night you get decent sleep. It’s easy to dismiss the health effects of microwave exposure because it is not readily apparent. Cancer can take over a decade to develop to the point where you have obvious symtpoms. Not being able to sleep is easily dismissed and often not related to exposure. But that does not mean we are safe from harm.
The FCC public exposure guidelines are only intended for thermal effects. There are no safety standards nor non thermal guidelines for microwave exposure. And as non human beings are smaller than us it is safe to assume that they have lower exposure thresholds. There are no guidelines for their exposures either.
I recommend that the Commissioners take jurisdiction over the Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for this project for these reasons:
NextG/Crown Castle has submitted misleading and inadequate information to the Santa Cruz County Planning Department (SCCPD) and to the California Coastal Commission (CCC).
Application 111114 and Appeal A-3-SCO-12-006 raise regional and statewide issues of significance.
Substantial issues have been raised regarding Santa Cruz County’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP) conformance due to the significance of the coastal resources affected by the decision.
NextG/Crown Castle has unlawfully commenced installation for this project prior to the hearing of this appeal.
The precedential value of the local government’s decision for future interpretations of its LCP.
The fact is the public can speak if they contest the staff report of finding no substantial issues. I submitted, ex parte, comments that clearly raised this finding.
Here are the Coastal Commission references:
Coastal Commission decisions must be made on the basis of information available to all commissioners and the public. Therefore, copies of communications made to Commissioners that are forwarded to staff will be included in the public record. Public records are available for inspection at Commission meetings or in the Commission’s office.
NOTE: The purpose of these legal requirements is to protect due process and fairness in the Commission’s decision-making process. Failure to follow them could lead to fines, revocation of permits and substantial costs. If you have any questions, you can contact Commission legal staff at (415) 904-5220. https://www.coastal.ca.gov/meetings/headings.html
NEW APPEALS. (Note: This agenda item requires an initial determination of whether the appeal raises a “substantial issue” and may not include a de novo public hearing on the merits of the project.)
When staff recommends “substantial issue,” a public hearing on the question will only be held if 3 or more Commissioners ask for it. If three Commissioners do not request a hearing on “substantial issue” the matter automatically proceeds to de novo public hearing either at this or a later Commission meeting. If staff recommends “no substantial issue,” public testimony will be taken only on the question whether the appeal raises a “substantial issue.” Generally and at the discretion of the Chair, testimony is limited to 3 minutes total per side.
If the Commission finds “substantial issue” and there is no staff recommendation on the merits of the project, the de novo hearing will be scheduled for a subsequent meeting.
To help keep EON’s work going, please check out all the support options on our Donation Page or you can also send a check made out to EON to EON, POB 1047, Bolinas, CA
The San Onofre nuclear plant, just south of Orange County, is shown. Both of its reactors have been shut down for more than four months, when abnormal "thinning" was discovered in the tubes of recently installed steam generators. (Los Angeles Times / June 22, 2012)
“The Chernobyl disaster “caused such a negative opinion of nuclear energy that, should such an accident occur again, the existence and future of nuclear energy all over the world would be compromised.”
World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) – 1996
“The nuclear establishment has a long history of failing to deliver. In 1973-1974, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) forecasted an installed nuclear capacity of 3,600-5,000 GW in the world by 2000, ten times what it is today.” – World Nuclear Report – 2012
Nuclear Roll-Back or Nuclear Come-Back?
That is the battle being waged around the world in the ‘post-Fukushima environment.’
The on-going Fukushima disaster seems to be rolling back nuclear power in Japan and Germany, while India, China and Russia continue to forge ahead with nearly three-quarters (43) of the nuclear power units currently under construction.
The recent decisions by the U.S. appeals court and the NRC have put the brakes on nuclear construction and licensing in the U.S.. Targeted are new construction permits for 16 reactors, and renewal permits for 14. Pointing out that the ruling does not affect the go-aheads already given for the Vogtle plant in Georgia and at the Sumner plant in South Carolina, nukophiles are poo-pooing the moves as a minor setback and dismissing the post-Fukushima surge in anti-nuclear public opinion as a mere ‘bump in the road.’
But, as our friend and founding EON board member, the late social movement theorist Bill Moyer [not Bill Moyers] pointed out, it’s very important for social movements to recognize and celebrate even small victories and let them nourish and encourage the continuing campaign.
In actual fact, as several of the items below suggest, prospects do not look all that rosy for the ‘nuclear enthusiasts.’
Praful Bidwai, gives this global overview in his Financial Chronicle article “India’s March of Folly” below:
“Four countries have announced time-bound nuclear power phaseouts: Germany, Belgium, Taiwan and Switzerland. At least five countries (Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait and Thailand) have abandoned their nuclear plans. Not one of the other countries in the “potential newcomers” list (Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and Vietnam) has put financing arrangements in place for building reactors. Iran alone newly started commercial nuclear generation — for the first time since Romania, in 1996. France, the world’s most nuclear power-dependent country, is reeling under excess capacity, and has only one reactor (a European pressurised reactor — EPR) under construction, and that too plagued by numerous problems.”
So, as you scan these offerings, take heart from the realization that, while nuclear waste is forevermore, nuclear power may not be.
Some other questions addressed in the posts below include:
Is JPMorgan Chase still jacking around California’s electricity market in an Enron deja vu all over again?
Can Japanese prosecutors hold any government or corporate officials accountable for the Fukushima disaster?
Are nuclear reactors too hot to run in a warming world?
Why does the nuclear industry dismiss NRC rulings?
What makes the town of Carlsbad, New Mexico WANT atomic waste?
What’s the current status of the teetering cooling pool at Fukushima Unit 4 and why is the danger it poses to the planet not being addressed?
Is “Dark Knight” a pro-nuke propaganda film?
Are the scientific models currently used to assess nuclear contamination’s impact on humans, other living things and the environment giving a false sense of security in a radiated world?
Are ‘watchdog’ agencies like the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) protecting public and environmental safety, or promoting nuclear energy while ignoring and concealing its risks?
With losses to date pegged at $190 million and counting, will the shut down San Onofre nuke plant be sold for the bankruptcy of its operating company? Are SoCal Edison ratepayers owed a refund?
What are the human implications of the genetic damage found in Fukushima butterflies?
What was it like ‘in the control room’ for plant manager Masao Yoshida and his colleagues during the early hours of the triple meltdown?
SANTA MONICA, CALIF. — Last night, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to urge the state to fully investigate the costs and reliability of the crippled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and to compare it to other available energy sources. The council also voted unanimously to urge federal regulators to hold a transparent and public license amendment procedure for the plant’s twin reactors.
Under state law, Edison can ask the California Public Utilities Commission to allow it to recover its costs through rate increases to its customers. An investigation by the CPUC, such as the one called for by the Santa Monica City Council, could end in a ruling that Edison, not its customers, is liable for the costs. Such a ruling could push Edison to permanently shut down the reactors rather than incur additional expenses.
Santa Monica’s action is similar to the resolution unanimously adopted last week by the Laguna Beach City Council. Read more
Update: Fukushima’s Nuclear Casualties
by JOSEPH MANGANO
It’s been nearly 18 months since the disastrous nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. There have been many reports on the huge amounts of radioactivity escaping into the air and water, unusually high levels in air, water, and soil – along with atypically high levels of toxic chemicals in food – that actually “passed” government inspection and wasn’t banned like some other food.
Conspicuously absent are reports on effects of radiation exposure on the health of the Japanese people. Have any health officials publicly announced post-March 2011 numbers on fetal deaths, infant deaths, premature births, birth defects, cancer, or other health conditions? The answer so far is an emphatic “no.”
Score two for the movement against nuclear power in this country.
In June, the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was in violation of the law for failing to adequately assess the environmental hazards involved in the storage of nuclear waste, a point that anti-nuke activists have been making for years and years.
In response to that court ruling, the NRC this week issued a statement that it was stopping the issuing of permits for new nuclear power construction, as well as for life extensions on old existing plants, until it satisfies the court’s concerns.
The NRC’s decision puts the breaks on new construction permits for 16 reactors, and renewal permits for 14 more.
That’s a welcome move.
President Obama tapped George Mason University professor Allison Macfarlane… (Evan Cantwell / George Mason…)
Yucca Mountain critic picked to head nuclear panel
President Obama selects Allison Macfarlane as chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a nod to the importance of the waste storage site in the swing state of Nevada.
May 25, 2012|By Lisa Mascaro, LA Times Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Stirring the lingering debate over storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, President Obama tapped Yucca critic Allison Macfarlane as the new chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The nomination of Macfarlane, an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia who has written extensively on Yucca Mountain, is sure to be a lightning rod in the Senate, setting up a confirmation showdown. Republicans in Congress continue to lead the fight against Obama’s decision to halt development of the nation’s nuclear dump 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
Today, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) issued the following statement:
“I am pleased that the Senate quickly confirmed Dr. Allison Macfarlane as the next chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Her experience and focus on the safety and security of all Americans will serve the Commission well. ”
India’s nuclear march of folly By Praful Bidwai, Jul 11 2012 HOLLOWMEN: Blind to the perils of nuclear reactors, India continues its ‘March of Folly’, even as it seeks untested reactors, with potentially dangerous consequences, such as the disaster in Fukushima.
All those, including Indian policymakers, who nurture the illusion that nuclear power is the energy source of the future and will flourish despite the Fukushima disaster, increasingly adverse atomic economics, and widespread social and political opposition, would do well to read the just-released World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) 2012 (https://www.¬worldnuclearreport.org).
Twenty years after its first edition, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012 portrays an industry suffering from the cumulative impacts of the world economic crisis, the Fukushima disaster, ferocious competitors and its own planning and management difficulties.
The report provides a global overview of the history, the current status and trends of nuclear power programs in the world. It looks at units in operation and under construction. Annex 1 also provides detailed country-by-country information. A specific chapter assesses the situation in potential newcomer countries. For the first time, the report looks at the credit-rating performance of some of the major nuclear companies and utilities. A more detailed chapter on the development patterns of renewable energies versus nuclear power is also included….
…The nuclear establishment has a long history of failing to deliver. In 1973-1974, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) forecasted an installed nuclear capacity of 3,600-5,000 GW in the world by 2000, ten times what it is today. The latest example was from Hans Blix, former Director General of the IAEA, who stated two months after 3/11: “Fukushima is a bump in the road…”. The statement is both crass and far from today’s reality.
Japan and Germany are on the brink of a national energy transformation, implementing new energy policies that reduce reliance on nuclear power as a direct result of the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Both are seeking a significant expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency programmes that will lead to a decrease in consumption, with a higher reliance on fossil fuels also envisaged in the short term.
In Germany the new national energy strategy, adopted by virtual consensus in the parliament, will phase out all nuclear power by 2022. In Japan, although some nuclear power stations are being restarted, it is doubtful that they will ever meet the pre-Fukushima contribution of 30% to the electricity mix, let alone the previously envisaged rise to 50% by 2030.
Geopolitical considerations are vital for a successful energy transformation. Europe’s integrated electricity grid has enabled Germany’s relatively radical denuclearization without affecting energy service or price. However, Japan is unable to access electricity transmissions from neighbouring countries, and the fragmented nature of the national electricity grid has further exacerbated electricity supply.
Public opinion has been a key driver for policy-making since the Fukushima incident. Public support has been and will remain the determining factor in the successful implementation of the new energy policies. Download paper here
For more articles on this topic, check out this project: Nuclear Energy after Fukushima
…[T]he future of the global nuclear sector will not be decided by government policy alone, and there are a variety of factors that are affecting its development. This series of papers, opinion pieces and presentations explores the status of the global industry, the factors affecting its future and the ways in which its development will influence other energy sources. US Freezes 19 Nuclear Power Plant Licensing Decisions
By Mat McDermott, TreeHugger
10 August 12
US Court of Appeals ruling saying that spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants “poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk” has prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt all pending licensing decisions, ENS reports.
Affected are 9 construction and operating licenses, 8 license renewals, 1 operating license, and 1 early site permit.
The NRC order says:
We are now considering all available options for resolving the waste confidence issue, which could include generic or site-specific NRC actions or some combination of both. We have not yet determined a course of action. […] This determination extends just to final license issuance; all licensing reviews and proceedings should continue to move forward.
The court ruling that brought a halt to US licensing decisions for nuclear power plants stems from an action brought about the New York State Attorney General over the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, 38 miles north of New York City and up for relicensing in 2013. One of the three reactors at Indian Point is already permanently shut down, with the remaining two reaching the end of their initial 40-year operating licenses.
Analysis of the impact of an accident at Indian Point shows that if an event on the scale of the Fukushima disaster were to occur, it would be 10-100 times more costly than the $60 billion estimated price tag for that nuclear disaster, in addition to forcing the evacuation of millions of people in the most densely populated part of the United States.
Relicensing of reactors 2 and 3 at Indian Point nuclear power plant are among those put on hold by the NRC. (photo: Librado Romero/NYT)
Acknowledging the problem of nuclear waste disposal, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ordered a hold on issuing new nuclear plant licenses or license renewals on Tuesday, a decision cheered by environmental groups.
Tuesday’s announcement comes in response to a June 8 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that found “the NRC violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in issuing its 2010 update to the Waste Confidence Decision and accompanying Temporary Storage Rule,” Reuters reports. More specifically, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy explains that “the Court threw out the NRC rule that permitted licensing and re-licensing of nuclear reactors based on the supposition that (a) the NRC will find a way to dispose of spent reactor fuel to be generated by reactors at some time in the future when it becomes ‘necessary’ and (b) in the mean time, spent fuel can be stored safely at reactor sites.”
“Waste confidence undergirds certain agency licensing decisions, in particular new reactor licensing and reactor license renewal. Because of the recent court ruling striking down our current waste confidence provisions, we are now considering all available options for resolving the waste confidence issue, which could include generic or site-specific NRC actions, or some combination of both. We have not yet determined a course of action. But, in recognition of our duties under the law, we will not issue licenses dependent upon the Waste Confidence Decision or the Temporary Storage Rule until the court’s remand is appropriately addressed.”
On June 18, two dozen groups including Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Friends of the Earth, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Public Citizen urged the NRC to suspend new and renewed licenses.
In a rare action, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has acceded to a petition filed by anti-nuclear groups that it halt some licensing activities until the agency can sort out its troubled policy on nuclear waste. The groups, two dozen of them, are sounding triumphant, as if they have brought the industry to its knees.
But for now it is not clear whether the decision will force any reactors to shut down or delay the opening of any new ones.
The crux of the waste issue is that for years, the commission has licensed reactors on the assumption that the federal government would eventually establish a disposal system for spent fuel. An official policy known as the “waste confidence decision” stated, in typical commission lingo, that there was “reasonable assurance” that a burial place would eventually be available and that the fuel could in the meantime be stored in spent fuel pools or on site in dry casks without significant environmental risks.
But in June the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that in reaching this conclusion, the commission did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, a law that mandates that environmental impact studies be issued before such a finding is reached.
The commission is now pondering whether it can fix the problem by issuing a broad generic statement about the safety of storage in pools and dry casks or whether it will have to do a reactor-by-reactor review.
An earlier version of this post misstated how the commission’s moratorium on granting new licenses would affect two twin-reactor projects. Construction and operating licenses for two additional reactors have been issued at Plant Vogtle in Georgia and at the Sumner plant in South Carolina, and those projects will not be affected by the moratorium, the commission says; whether the projects will be allowed to proceed is not in doubt. [emphasis added]
Dry cask storage is advocated by some as a safer, more secure approach to 'interum storage' of nuclear waste than overcrowded cooling pools at current reactor sites, where they are dependent on dependent on off-site power.
Nuclear Waste Confidence — NRC Ruling No Big Deal
James Conca – Forbes
…The 24 environmental groups that petitioned NRC to respond to the court are acting like they actually stopped all action on nuclear licensing (Marketwatch NRC Ruling). https://www.marketwatch.com/story/nrc-freezes-all-nuclear-reactor-construction-operating-licenses-in-us-2012-08-07 While no final decisions will be made in issuing licenses, the process for licensing new and existing plants will continue as before, the NRC said, which means the impact to the industry will be minimal… read more
Carlsbad residents (including former mayor Bob Forrest, center, in grey sweater) show their support for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
Nuke Us: The Town That Wants America’s Worst Atomic Waste
Christopher Helman – Forbes
… This attitude—“Yes in my backyard,” if you will—has brought near permanent prosperity to this isolated spot that until recently had no endemic economic engine. Unemployment sits at 3.8%, versus 6.5% statewide and 8.5% nationally. And thanks to this project—euphemistically known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP—New Mexico has received more than $300 million in federal highway funds in the past decade, $100 million of which has gone into the roads around Carlsbad. WIPP is the nation’s only permanent, deep geologic repository for nuclear waste. The roads have to be good for the two dozen trucks a week hauling in radioactive drums brimming with the plutonium-laden detritus of America’s nuclear weapons production….Read more
A Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) spokesperson said Aug. 9 that the industry is not too worried about a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ruling that suspends certain license proceedings until NRC better analyzes on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel at existing power plants.
The ruling is not an immediate concern and should not have an impact on construction work already taking place on new nuclear projects in Georgia and South Carolina, said NEI spokesperson Steve Kerekes.
A group led by Southern (NYSE: SO) subsidiary Georgia Power is developing two new units at the Vogtle complex and an effort led by SCANA (NYSE: SCG) subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) is developing new units at the Summer nuclear complex. Both those projects are still years away from completion, Kerekes noted.
NRC was premature in approving decades-long on-site storage
In June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that NRC had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in issuing its 2010 update to the Waste Confidence Decision and accompanying Temporary Storage Rule.
The court effectively ruled that NRC has not done enough groundwork to conclude that spent nuclear fuel can be stored on-site at power plants for up to six decades after the plant ceases operation.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted to hold up on all commercial nuclear reactor licensing until the agency deals with the June 8th Federal Appeals court ruling that the NRC had not analyzed the environmental impacts of storing nuclear waste without a permanent solution in place. The Court overturned the NRC’s “waste-confidence” and storage rulings.
The agency will continue to process new licenses as well as relicensing requests, it will not make any final decisions on them.
Facilities most effected by this will be Indian Point just north of New York City (owned by Entergy) with licenses expiring in 2013 and 2015. Diablo Canyon’s request for a 20 year license extension was put on hold due to public pressure just after Fukushima, and would have been decided on in 2011.
NRC Discusses Lessons Learned from Japanese Tsunami
C-Span video Washington, DC
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Critics of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday spoke directly to Commission members, saying the agency is too cozy with the industry, and has not done nearly enough to implement new safety recommendations in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake. The NRC meeting also included speakers from the nuclear power industry and agency staff, who said the industry will meet its deadlines for the highest priority recommendations.
This was just the second NRC meeting led by the agency’s new Chairman Allison Macfarlane. View
… So, what am I saying? That Time Warner’s “The Dark Night Rises” is pro-nuclear propaganda? That if viewers accept the conceits of this essentially escapist entertainment they embrace the notion that there can be “limited nuclear warfare” – that is to say, atomic blasts without devastating global or even regional consequences? You bet I am….
The Ongoing Danger from Fukushima
August 6, 2012
At the 67th anniversary of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima, Dr. Helen Caldicott, a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility pediatrician and anti-nuclear campaigner, reflected on the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima and the continuing threat from its radiation, in an interview with Dennis J. Bernstein.
By Dennis J. Bernstein
DB: I’ve been reading an interview with Yasuteru Yamada. He’s the president of the skilled veterans corps for Fukushima. This is the group of old people who volunteered, essentially, to sacrifice themselves because they had less years to live. And everything about this is extraordinary. You want to, sort of, talk a little bit about what you’re thinking is lately on Fukushima and what’s been happening there?
HC: Well, first of all, that report that was commissioned by the Diet, or the Japanese parliament, which said that the results of Fukushima was human error, a result of the Japanese culture, could just as easily been applied to the American culture. You are not as autocratic … but on the other hand, the whole nuclear enterprise is totally controlled by the weapons makers and designers, and nuclear power people.
And the corruption is vast and they are all interlocked, as they were in Japan. And there is no independent body, none, that is not paid for by the nuclear industry that is overseeing the whole, whole process; both weapons production and nuclear power production that would protect the people of America.
The molten cores at Units 1, 2 & 3 have threatened all life on Earth. The flood of liquid radiation has poisoned the Pacific. Fukushima’s cesium and other airborne emissions have already dwarfed Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and all nuclear explosions including Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Children throughout Japan carry radioactive burdens in their thyroids and throughout their bodies. Hot spots in Tokyo demand evacuation. Radioactive tuna has been caught off San Diego. Fallout carried across the Pacific may have caused spikes in cancer and infant mortality rates here in the United States.
And yet, 16 months later, the worst may be yet to come. No matter where we are on this planet, our lives are still threatened every day by a Unit 4 fuel pool left hanging 100 feet in the air. At any moment, an earthquake we all know is coming could send that pool crashing to the ground.
If that happens—and it could as you read this—the radiation spewed into the atmosphere could impact every living being on Earth. And that certainly includes you.
Cecile Pineda lays it all out in her brilliant new DEVIL’S TANGO: HOW I LEARNED THE FUKUSHIMA STEP BY STEP (Wings Press: San Antonio; www.ipgbook.com).
Ecosystems reveal radiation secrets
July 31, 2012 A new study by Tiina Tuovinen, from the University of Eastern Finland, and her colleagues casts doubt over the validity of models used to assess the impact of radiation on human health. Their work is published online in Springer’s journal Hydrobiologia.
Their analysis of the contamination of two Finnish lakes by radioactive compounds (137Cs in particular) suggests that the models used to predict consequences on human health are based on a false premise. Their work therefore questions the validity of the models used and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. Read more
By Sharon Bernstein
If Southern California Edison is not able to bring its troubled nuclear power plant at San Onofre back on line by November, the company may be required to pay refunds to customers or lower its rates, officials said Tuesday.
California law requires utilities to file a report with the Public Utilities Commission any time a nuclear reactor has been out of service for nine months. The commission then considers whether customers have overpaid for costs and profits that were meant to be associated with running the reactor.
The company also backed away from estimates that the plant might be operational again later this year, saying that it would not be started up until it was safe.
“At this juncture, we’re just trying to do this in the most disciplined, systematic, step by step approach,” Edison International Chief Financial Officer William J. Scilacci said. “At this point, of course all options are on the table.”
Scilacci’s remarks were part of a presentation to Wall Street analysts about Edison International’s financial performance for the second quarter of this year.
–Edison has no timeline for restarting San Onofre nuclear plant
–San Onofre costs year-to-date estimated at $190 million
–Edison aims to restructure $3.7 billion of debt at EME wholesale-power unit
–If debt deal fails EME could be sold or headed for bankruptcy
(Updates with comments from the CEO in the 12th paragraph and CFO in the 14th paragraph, and details about the San Onofre nuclear plant and EME unit throughout.)
By Cassandra Sweet
Edison International (EIX) said Tuesday it has no timeline for restarting the troubled San Onofre nuclear power plant and that it will sell its wholesale power unit …
By Associated Press, Published: July 31 AP
LOS ANGELES — The tab for the long-running crisis at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California has hit at least $165 million, and it would cost $25 million more to get one of the damaged reactors running at reduced power, officials said Tuesday.
Financial records released by Edison International — the parent company of operator Southern California Edison — provided a sober assessment of the troubles at the seaside plant, where malfunctioning steam generators damaged scores of tubes that carry radioactive water.
The plant has not produced power since January.
In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, Edison International Chairman Ted Craver left open the possibility that the heavily damaged generators in the Unit 3 reactor might be scrapped. It’s also possible the plant will never return to its full output of electricity, unless the four generators are replaced.
PARIS, Aug 1 2012 (IPS) – The catastrophe following the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power reactor in March 2011 has turned the old debate on nuclear power into a war of words between international agencies and independent experts with diametrically opposed views.
In their newest Uranium report, released Jul. 26, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) all but ignored the lessons learned from Fukushima, predicting that by the year 2035, world nuclear electricity generating capacity will grow by 99 percent.
This forecast also effectively dismisses the financial constraints caused by the ongoing global economic crisis, which has brought countries in the eurozone to the brink of collapse.
Both agencies, mostly financed by industrialised countries, say that during the next two decades nuclear power will grow between 44 and 99 percent, and that uranium reserves, despite higher costs of extraction, are more “than adequate to meet (the) high-case requirements through 2035 and well into the foreseeable future.”
But for independent experts, these optimistic forecasts are typical of the sustained delusions of both agencies.
Mycle Schneider, co-author of the new ‘World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012’ (WNISR), recalled that both agencies have a long history of exaggerated forecasts that never came true. “In 1973-1974, the IAEA forecast an installed nuclear capacity of 3,600-5,000 gigawatt (GW) in the world by 2000, ten times what it is today,” Schneider told IPS.
Blind to the perils of nuclear reactors, India continues its ‘March of Folly’, even as it seeks untested reactors, with potentially dangerous consequences, such as the disaster in Fukushima.
All those, including Indian policymakers, who nurture the illusion that nuclear power is the energy source of the future and will flourish despite the Fukushima disaster, increasingly adverse atomic economics, and widespread social and political opposition, would do well to read the just-released World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) 2012 (https://www.¬worldnuclearreport.org). This annual publication, with independent energy consultant Mycle Schneider as its lead author, has over 20 years evolved into the most reliable, strikingly original, comprehensive and penetrating assessment of the global nuclear industry.
What WNISR depicts is an industry that has repeatedly failed to deliver on its always-hyperbolic promises, and which is in deep crisis thanks to the Great Recession, the triple meltdown at Fukushima, formidable and growing competition (especially from renewable energy sources), and “its own planning and management difficulties”. The crisis could well become terminal in the industrialised countries, nuclear power’s heartland. The OECD countries account for 70 per cent of the world’s 429 reactors. The total rises to 80 per cent if Russia and Ukraine are added.
Contrary to the illusion of a “nuclear renaissance”, the number of operating reactors worldwide peaked 10 years ago at 444, and installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 gw (or 1,000 megawatts). It’s now down to 364 gw. Nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation has declined relentlessly, from the peak of 17 per cent (1993) to about 11 per cent. In the past 18 months, only nine reactors started up, while 21 were shut down. Right now, only one of Japan’s 44 reactors is operating despite unusually strong public protests. Ten reactors have been definitively taken off the grid, and the fate of the others remains uncertain.
Four countries have announced time-bound nuclear power phaseouts: Germany, Belgium, Taiwan and Switzerland. At least five countries (Egypt, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait and Thailand) have abandoned their nuclear plans. Not one of the other countries in the “potential newcomers” list (Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and Vietnam) has put financing arrangements in place for building reactors. Iran alone newly started commercial nuclear generation — for the first time since Romania, in 1996. France, the world’s most nuclear power-dependent country, is reeling under excess capacity, and has only one reactor (a European pressurised reactor — EPR) under construction, and that too plagued by numerous problems.
The average age of the world’s nuclear reactors is 27 years. Assuming a 40-year lifespan, an additional 67 reactors, with a capacity of 35 gw, would have to be ordered, built and commissioned by 2020 just to maintain the status quo. This is highly unlikely given that worldwide, it took an average of 9.5 years to build the five reactors that began operating in 2010. Construction time got lengthened to 13.8 years for the seven units commissioned in 2011.
The Associated Press
FOLSOM A big electricity trader may have figured out a way to exploit vulnerabilities in the state’s $8 billion-a-year electricity market, just as Enron did a decade ago, officials said.
Authorities were investigating a subsidiary of the New York investment bank JPMorgan Chase, which might have grabbed an extra $73 million during 2010 and 2011 while trading energy in California, The Sacramento Bee reported Monday.
The California Independent System Operator, a Folsom-based agency that runs the state’s power grid and oversees last-minute electricity sales, has recovered $20 million from the company so far, the newspaper said.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is investigating on California’s behalf, and the fate of the remaining $53 million isn’t clear.
The investigation became public when the commission filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C., alleging JPMorgan was impeding its investigation by refusing to turn over internal emails.
… When a coal plant is forced to shut down because of a lack of cool intake water, it can, in short order, basically get turned off. With no coal burning, the cooling needs of the facility quickly downgrade to zero.
A nuclear reactor, however, is never really “off.”
When a boiling water reactor or pressurized water reactor (BWR and PWR respectively, the two types that make up the total of the US commercial reactor fleet) is “shutdown” (be it in an orderly fashion or an abrupt “scram”), control rods are inserted amongst the fuel rods inside the reactor. The control rods absorb free neutrons, decreasing the number of heavy atoms getting hit and split in the fuel rods. It is that split, that fission, that provides the energy that heats the water in the reactor and produces the steam that drives the electricity-generating turbines. Generally, the more collisions, the more heat generated. An increase in heat means more steam to spin a turbine; fewer reactions means less heat, less steam and less electrical output. But it doesn’t mean no heat.
The water that drives the turbines also cools the fuel rods. It needs to circulate and somehow get cooled down when it is away from the reactor core. Even with control rods inserted, there are still reactions generating heat, and that heat needs to be extracted from the reactor or all kinds of trouble ensues–from too-high pressure breaching containment to melting the cladding on fuel rods, fires, and hydrogen explosions. This is why the term LOCA–a loss of coolant accident–is a scary one to nuclear watchdogs (and, theoretically, to nuclear regulators, too).
So, even when they are not producing electricity, nuclear reactors still need cooling. They still need a power source to make that cooling happen, and they still need a coolant, which, all across the United States and most of the rest of the world, means water.
By Phred Dvorak and Mitsuru Obe – WSJ
On Monday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the first time released footage taken inside its command centers during last year’s devastating accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The visuals won’t win any Oscars: They’re 150 hours recorded over Tepco’s emergency videoconference system — 100 of them without audio — and they largely show tiny, blurred-out faces around conference tables. The bulk of the footage is available for viewing only by select journalists in Tokyo (including JRT).
But Tepco has distributed publicly an hour and a half of some of the most interesting clips, around 15 minutes of which has audio, and the content is hair-raising. It’s the soundtrack to one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents, and the overwhelming impression is one of confusion, disorganization and intense strain.
In it, you can hear the voice of Fukushima Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida cracking as he alerts Tepco headquarters to the hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3; the confused back-and-forth between plant and Tepco headquarters as they try to avert a meltdown at reactor No. 2 (they weren’t successful); and the grim tones of Tepco brass as they bring up the possibility of evacuating workers from the plant.
Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 Prosecutors open criminal probes over Fukushima meltdown disaster
Prosecutors opened converging criminal probes Wednesday into the March 2011 triple-meltdown disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, looking to hold people in positions of power accountable, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office and two other district prosecutor’s offices acted in response to five criminal complaints, including accusations that Tepco executives and government officials committed acts of professional negligence that resulted in deaths, injuries and exposure to high levels of radiation that could have been avoided, sources said.
SACRAMENTO, Calif — SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It’s been a decade since companies like Enron Corp. manipulated California’s electricity market to generate billions in excess profits.
Enron went out of business long ago, and California’s energy market has been a place of relative calm. Now, however, another big power trader is being investigated for allegedly gaming the state’s electricity system.
State officials believe a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the New York investment bank, pulled down an extra $73 million by exploiting a small wrinkle in California’s electricity market over several months in 2010 and 2011. Read more
Every decision the CPUC makes seems to be to the benefit of these privately owned public utilities, such as PG&E or California American Water, at a huge cost to residents.
Grand Jury reports always make for interesting news, and the latest issue from the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury is no exception.
One item that was passed over by most media outlets in Santa Cruz is the Grand Jury’s investigation of the condition of PG&E’s natural gas pipelines that run underneath the homes and businesses of the citizenry. Ssince PG&E is not under the jurisdiction of local authorities, the Grand Jury couldn’t find out much, which is why it had no coverage. But it did come to the conclusion that the California Public Utilities Commission should get involved in order “to ensure the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates.”
Every decision the CPUC makes seems to be to the benefit of these privately owned public utilities, such as PG&E or California American Water, at a huge cost to residents.
PG&E enjoys a near monopoly over 70,000 square miles of Northern and Central California. With 15 million customers, it hauls in hundreds of millions each financial quarter, but can’t seem to find the funding to maintain its infrastructure and wants the public to pay extra for it. According to a 2011 study by the New York Times, The California Public Utilities Commission allows PG&E to charge rates 30 percent higher than the national average. As a regulated utility, the publicly traded company’s shareholders benefit from a guaranteed 11.35 percent return on equity, which is also above the industry average of about 10.5 percent.
Radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused mutations to butterflies, researchers show in a new study.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, documented physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha, which was overwintering as larvae when the nuclear disaster began.
The researchers write that “the Zizeeria maha population in the Fukushima area is deteriorating physiologically and genetically. Most likely, this deterioration is due to artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP, as suggested by our field work and laboratory experiments.”
“It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation,” lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, told BBC news.
THE boss of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant at the time of the disaster has told of how he and his workers felt they would die as they heard debris from one of three explosions clatter on to the roof of their quake-proof concrete bunker.
Masao Yoshida, the former manager of the plant, broke a 17-month silence today with a video message describing his experiences wrestling to control the stricken plant amid soaring radiation levels in March 2011.
Mr Yoshida, who is in hospital suffering cancer of the esophagus, said the efforts of the workers who remained on site throughout – dubbed the Fukushima 50 – prevented a far more serious disaster.
The accident was second only to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in terms of radiation released and Japan is still grappling with the fallout from the tragedy with up to 100,000 people still unable to return to their homes.
“It was clear from the beginning that we couldn’t run,”Mr Yoshida said in the interview, which was screened at publisher Bunya’s Bunya-za conference in Fukushima today.
“Reactors five and six would have also melted downwithout people staying on site.
“My colleagues went out there again and again. The level of radiation on the ground was terrible, yet they gave everything that they had.”
Mr Yoshida said he and his workers were immediately aware of the mortal risks they faced in battling the overheating reactors after the magnitude-9 quake and subsequent tsunami smashed the plant and knocked out cooling systems.
His fears grew in the hours and days after as ashen-faced workers periodically returned to the seismic isolation room with horrific stories of the damage outside.
Mr Yoshida said he feared for his life on three occasions in the days after the accident as huge explosions ripped the roof off reactors one and three as the plant spewed radioactive isotopes into the air and the ocean.
“At the time we didn’t know they were hydrogen explosions,” he said. “When that first explosion occurred, I really felt we might die.”
The explosions were caused by the ignition of hydrogen released from the water being injected into the reactors. Although they severely damaged the reactor buildings and hampered relief efforts, they didn’t rupture any of the containment vessels around the nuclear fuel.
Mr Yoshida said he thought at least 10 of his workers had been killed in the first explosion and was stunned to find out that all escaped with their lives, although several workers and army personnel were injured.
“I felt awful for those injured, but I felt like Buddha was watching over us.”
Mr Yoshida, a devout Buddhist, said the efforts of his colleagues reminded him of that religion’s Lotus Sutra,which describes Buddhist saints emerging from out ofthe earth.
“Pushing their physical limits they would go out and risk th eir lives, come back in, then go out to do it again,” he said.
“It’s only because of them that we have been able to get things under control to the extent we have now.”
At the time of the accident on March 11, Mr Yoshida, a veteran employee of plant operator TEPCO, was on his fourth stint at Fukushima Daiichi and knew everyone on site by name and had earned their trust.
He recalled in the interview often passing out cigarettes to workers in a heavily used smoking room beside the bunker during the disaster and once joked: “We don’t have the US army fire trucks we need but at least we have got smokes.”
At one point, Mr Yoshida encouraged colleagues in the room to write their names on the whiteboard as a memorial in case they were all killed. One worker said he felt like he was writing on his own headstone.
“I probably wanted to record all the names of those who were there fighting to the end,” Mr Yoshida said.
The former plant boss – who hopes to overcome his cancer and return to a role helping overcome the damage of the disaster – sought to refute any suggestion that he or anyone at the plant had raised evacuating.
“I never said to headquarters anything about pulling people out – it never occurred to me,” he said.
“Our main concern was to find a way to stabilise the plant. There was no way we were going to leave the plant. There was no way we were going to pull people out who were on the ground.”
Former prime minister Naoto Kan, who was in office during the disaster, said TEPCO management told him it was preparing to pull out and abandon the plant and wasonly stopped by his intervention.
Mr Yoshida made no comment on whether TEPCO headquarters had considered withdrawing the workers in the interview.
The former plant boss is viewed among some Japanese as a hero for refusing orders from above to cease the injection of seawater into one of the stricken reactors.
Experts say this single act prevented the disaster from becoming much more serious. Video shot inside the TEPCO concrete command bunker and recently released by the company show that Mr Yoshida also raised leading a suicide squad comprised of himself and elderly workers to mount a death mission to restore cooling if the situation worsened.
However, the interview did not touch on either of these points.
Mr Yoshida did use the opportunity, though, to call for foreign expertise to be brought in to help stabilize the reactors, something experts claim TEPCO and Japanese authorities have been reluctant to do on a meaningful level.
“People won’t come back to Fukus hima until the plant isstabilised and we still need to find a way to do that,” he said. “We have to bring people in from around the world. It will require people, technology and wisdom from all corners.”
The reactors at the plant – which sits on the Pacific Ocean 250km north of Tokyo – are in a state of cold shutdown in which ongoing nuclear reactions have ceased, but thanks to a jerry-rigged cooling system andstructural weaknesses at the plant the site remainsvulnerable to another quake or tsunami.
While the government of Japan has declared the cold shutdown and is anxious to talk up progress at the site, Mr Yoshida spoke in his interview as if he didn’t consider the reactors stabilised.
He said he had remained silent until now because he felt it was not right to speak while the four investigations into the tragedy – now concluded – were still under way.
Mr Yoshida said he and the other workers told everything to investigators and the findings reflected this, but their human stories didn’t come through in the investigatory reports.
He said he agreed to the interview with Hideki Yabuhara – who has conducted extensive counselling of workers on the site since October 2011 – to remedy this.
“I felt we have to find ways to get our message across ourselves. We have to find ways to properly tell our experiences,” he said.
Mr Yabuhara, who promotes a kind of counselling or “active listening” that he calls wamon, said TEPCO employees were victims themselves, but were also seen as bad guys due to the disgrace the company finds itself in.
He said workers were not able to wear their company jackets outside the plant and planned marriages of some employees had been called off because of the stigma attached to the company.
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Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, for more than 20 years the leading opposition group to space nuclear missions, declared that 'NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining its dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry.' (photo: Nation of Change)
…In Space, or Anywhere Else.
Like planet Earth, Mars, or the moon. That’s right. The nukophiliacs are planning to export the plutonium economy to the stars.
So, while we’re closing down California’s nukes, we have to lift our eyes to the heavens. That’s the message of Karl Grossman and Bruce Gagnon in one of the pieces below.
Also in the news are the mad, ongoing, international race for even more nuclear weapons (no ‘austerity’ there), and the question of how much damage nukophilia has already done to damage our ‘genomic stability,’ as Dr. Michel Fernex puts it in his urgent call for monitoring the Children of Fukushima. Which, when you get right down to it, R us.
Students wear masks at an elementary school outside of the 20-km (12 mi) radius zone from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on September 8, 2011. A line dividing the no-go zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant and the area deemed safe from radiation cuts right across this coastal city but the 'good' part is starting to look very much like the ghost town on the other side. Six months after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a deadly tsunami that triggered meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Tokyo Electric Power's complex, Minami Soma, a city just a half an hour's drive away, struggles to stay alive. (photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
On the up side, the push to shut down San Onofre continues, with the Berkeley City Council passing a ‘decommission Sano’ resolution, a Credo petition to that end making the rounds, and SoCal Edision, Sano’s operator, reportedly in deepening financial do-do.
All that, and more in this edition. Scroll on down…
World Nuclear News, the information arm of the World Nuclear Association which seeks to boost the use of atomic energy, last week heralded a NASA Mars rover slated to land on Mars on Monday, the first Mars rover fueled with plutonium. Read more
…What genetic damage has been done to the population following the accident at Fukushima? Are the alterations already recorded in the cells of those workers who have exhausted themselves, over the last year, in an effort to reduce the dissemination of radionuclides into the environment. What about people who inhaled radioactive material and ate contaminated food ? Has this induced genomic instability? And the children that have been born since, or who will be born to fathers or mothers who have been irradiated. Have they inherited the fragile genomes of their parents ?Are they, perhaps, going to be even worse affected than their parents ?
In fact, researchers have been surprised to find that genetic damage, and above all perigenetic damage, which is responsible for genomic instability, to descendants is far worse than to parents; and this risk increases from one generation to the next. Read more
UNITED NATIONS – As U.N.-led talks on disarmament resume in Geneva Monday, calls are growing for nuclear-armed nations to cut spending on their stockpiles and instead divert resources to development.
“The amount still being spent on nuclear arms makes no sense, just as continued reliance on the weapons themselves makes no sense,” David Kreiger, president of the U.S.-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told IPS.
His remarks alluded to the fact that nine out of 193 U.N. member states continue to increase budgetary allocations for the maintenance and modernization of nuclear weapons, despite promises to reduce their stockpiles. Read more
Unit 4 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. (photo: AP/Tokyo Electric Power Co./Kyodo News)
The government-commissioned panel charged with investigating the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant submitted its final report to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday. The report made clear that obsessed with the myth of nuclear safety, both Tepco and the regulators lacked capabilities, organizational setups and mental preparedness to cope with a massive accident.
“Because the government and the power utilities, including Tepco, were biased by the safety myth, thinking they would never ever face such a serious accident, they were unable to realize that such a crisis could occur in reality. This appears to be the fundamental problem,” said the Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co.
A big question is whether the government and the power industry have really liberated themselves from the myth and have a humble attitude needed in handling nuclear technology. The decision by the government and Kansai Electric Power Co. to restart the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at Kepco’s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture appears to point to the contrary. Read more
More than a year after Fukushima, why is Japan relaunching its reactors?
Prior to the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake, Japan depended on nuclear reactors for more than 30 per cent of its electricity. After the meltdown at the Fukushima power plant, the government shut off more than 50 reactors, scrapping much of its plans to increase nuclear energy. This month, two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant were turned back on, prompting massive protests and public outcry.
In this episode of The Stream, Charles Ferguson (@FAScientists), co-chair of the US-Japan Nuclear Working Group and Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Green Action.
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