Counting Victories. Facing Risks. Twilight for Nukes?

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?

Scroll on down….Eds.

Update from Friends of the Earth (FoE):

Santa Monica Council urges probe of San Onofre reactors
Posted Aug. 15, 2012
Council unanimously votes for state investigation of San Onofre costs, reliability and alternative energy resources and urges federal license amendment hearing

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.”

Victory for Anti-Nuclear Power Movement in the U.S.
By Matthew Rothschild, August 10, 2012 – Progressive.org

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.

U.S. Senate confirms Allison Macfarlane as NRC Chair Beyond Nuclear

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. ”

World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) – a sobering message for nuclear power enthusiasts

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.

on-line version here.

Reset or Restart? The Impact of Fukushima on the Japanese and German Energy Sectors
Briefing Paper
Chathem House
Antony Froggatt, Catherine Mitchell and Shunsuke Managi, July 2012

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)

Published on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 by Common Dreams
Nuclear Regulatory Commission Suspends New Licenses, Renewals
– Common Dreams staff

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.”

The NRC writes in its order (pdf):

“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.

An Uncertain Phase for Nuclear Power Licenses
By MATTHEW L. WALD NYT

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

Nuclear Industry Unfazed by NRC Ruling
Wayne Barber | Aug 09, 2012 – EnergyBiz.com

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.

NRC Stops Licenses! Roger Herried Nuclear Free California

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

The Dark Knight’s Mushroom Cloud
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 12:08 By Michael R Miller, Truthout | Op-Ed

… 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.

Our Lives Hang by a Devil’s Thread at Fukushima
By Harvey Wasserman, NukeFree.org
09 August 12

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).

To see clips of Cecile Pinieda reading excerpts from her book go to Devi’s Tango Book.
Here’s a sample: Why I Wrote the Book

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

Edison May Have to Give Refunds Over San Onofre Shutdown
The utility’s parent company, which posted weak financial results on Tuesday, may have to pay refunds or lower rates if its troubled San Onofre plant is not back on line by November.

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.

July 31, 2012, 8:28 p.m. ET
UPDATE: Edison Mired in Nuclear Plant, Wholesale Unit Problems

–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 …

Bill for damaged San Onofre nuclear power plant in California hits $165 million, and counting – WashPost

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.

Mainstream Rhetoric on Nuclear Power Far From Reality
By Julio Godoy

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.

Financial Chronicle (India):
India’s nuclear march of folly
by Praful Bidwai, Financial Chronicle, 11 July 2012

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.


Weakness exposed in California electricity trading

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.

For Nuclear Power This Summer, It’s Too Darn Hot
Sunday, 05 August 2012 00:00 By Gregg Levine, Capitoilette | Report

… 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.

Fukushima Watch: Highlights of Video From Inside Tepco’s Nuclear Crisis Center

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
by Jiji
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.

JPMorgan subsidiary accused of manipulating California electric market
By DALE KASLER
McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Monday, Jul. 30, 2012 – 1:00 am

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

PG&E or the CPUC, which treats us worse?
By Jon Chown

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.”

Fat chance.

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.

Study: Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Caused Mutant Butterflies
– Common Dreams staff

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.

And finally, this interview from The Australian:
Fukushima boss Masao Yoshida breaks silence on disaster

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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