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The Crisis at Fukushima 4 Demands a Global Takeover

7:38 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

We are now within two months of what may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Smoke rises in an aerial view of Fukushima

Harvey Wasserman argues Fukushima is dangerously close to causing a global catastrophe.

There is no excuse for not acting. All the resources our species can muster must be focussed on the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4.

Fukushima’s owner, Tokyo Electric (Tepco), says that within as few as 60 days it may begin trying to remove more than 1300 spent fuel rods from a badly damaged pool perched 100 feet in the air. The pool rests on a badly damaged building that is tilting, sinking and could easily come down in the next earthquake, if not on its own.

Some 400 tons of fuel in that pool could spew out more than 15,000 times as much radiation as was released at Hiroshima.

The one thing certain about this crisis is that Tepco does not have the scientific, engineering or financial resources to handle it. Nor does the Japanese government. The situation demands a coordinated worldwide effort of the best scientists and engineers our species can muster.

Why is this so serious?

We already know that thousands of tons of heavily contaminated water are pouring through the Fukushima site, carrying a devil’s brew of long-lived poisonous isotopes into the Pacific. Tuna irradiated with fallout traceable to Fukushima have already been caught off the coast of California. We can expect far worse.

Tepco continues to pour more water onto the proximate site of three melted reactor cores it must somehow keep cool.Steam plumes indicate fission may still be going on somewhere underground. But nobody knows exactly where those cores actually are.

Much of that irradiated water now sits in roughly a thousand huge but fragile tanks that have been quickly assembled and strewn around the site. Many are already leaking. All could shatter in the next earthquake, releasing thousands of tons of permanent poisons into the Pacific. Fresh reports show that Tepco has just dumped another thousand tons of contaminated liquids into the sea ( http://www.alternet.org/environment/ ).

The water flowing through the site is also undermining the remnant structures at Fukushima, including the one supporting the fuel pool at Unit Four.

More than 6,000 fuel assemblies now sit in a common pool just 50 meters from Unit Four. Some contain plutonium. The pool has no containment over it. It’s vulnerable to loss of coolant, the collapse of a nearby building, another earthquake, another tsunami and more.

Overall, more than 11,000 fuel assemblies are scattered around the Fukushima site. According to long-time expert and former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez, there is more than 85 times as much lethal cesium on site as was released at Chernobyl.

Radioactive hot spots continue to be found around Japan. There are indications of heightened rates of thyroid damage among local children.

The immediate bottom line is that those fuel rods must somehow come safely out of the Unit Four fuel pool as soon as possible.

Just prior to the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami that shattered the Fukushima site, the core of Unit Four was removed for routine maintenance and refueling. Like some two dozen reactors in the US and too many more around the world, the General Electric-designed pool into which that core now sits is 100 feet in the air.

Spent fuel must somehow be kept under water. It’s clad in zirconium alloy which will spontaneously ignite when exposed to air. Long used in flash bulbs for cameras, zirconium burns with an extremely bright hot flame.

Each uncovered rod emits enough radiation to kill someone standing nearby in a matter of minutes. A conflagration could force all personnel to flee the site and render electronic machinery unworkable.

Read the rest of this entry →

Syria is an Epic Victory for the SuperPower of Peace, by Harvey Wasserman

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman

Syria is an epic victory for the SuperPower of Peace
September 15, 2013
www.freepress.org
The United States is not now bombing Syria.

Let’s savor that again: for the moment at least, the United States is not now bombing Syria.

That alone qualifies as an epic, unprecedented victory for the SuperPower of Peace, the global movement to end war, win social justice and somehow salvage our ecological survival.

Will it mark a permanent turning point?

That a treaty has been signed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons is icing on the cake, however thin it proves to be. We don’t know if it will work. We don’t know if the restraint from bombing will hold.

But in a world that bristles with atomic weapons, where the rich get ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, and where stricken Japanese reactors along with 400 more worldwide threaten the survival of our global ecology, we must count any victory for peace—even if potentially fleeting—as a huge one. Let’s do some history.

Ten years ago, George W. Bush took the United States into senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions of citizens marched in the United States and worldwide to prevent the coming debacle. But Bush and his cronies made a point of ignoring us all, as if the public demand for peace was somehow a sign of weakness.

Since then, utterly pointless slaughter has claimed countless thousands of lives, including those of at least 7,000 Americans. That number does not include the thousands more who have returned poisoned physically and mentally, with ailments that have driven so many to suicide, hopelessness and debilitating disabilities.

The war was sold as a campaign to rid Saddam Hussein of his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney assured the American public that as our troops attacked, the Iraqi people would spread rose petals of gratitude at their feet.

But Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. And the Iraqi people had run out of rose petals. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remain in abundant supply.

None of which deterred Team Bush-Cheney-Rove or the corporatist military machine that continues to reap millions in profits from a decade of disaster.

They did rid the world of Saddam Hussein. But in his wake came…what? A lesson learned in Iraq—for those paying attention–is the “you break it, you’ve bought it” syndrome. If you remove a dictator, however nasty, you still must have something better to put in his place.

That was clearly beyond the caring or grasp of the Bush Administration. Lethal discord has defined Iraq since the demise of Saddam, with no end in sight.

There’s been more of the same in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and much of the rest of the middle east. What once seemed an “Arab Spring” of popular liberation may be tragically degenerating to a regional slaughterhouse of counter-revolution and chaos.

The stakes could not be higher. As Fukushima boils at the brink of catastrophe, the global environmental movement—the SuperPower of Solartopia—strives to convert humankind’s energy supply from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables and efficiency. Green energy—primarily wind and solar—is by far the fastest-growing new source of supply. Increased efficiency has saved billions of dollars and oceans of oil and gas that will not feed the demon of climate chaos.

But the corporate addiction to middle eastern oil remains a defining force. And the presence of a reactor near Damascus and of nuclear weapons in the hands of the US, Russia, Israel and god-knows-what random terror groups, make our every move in Syria a matter of life-and-death on a global scale.

With that backdrop, the Obama Administration’s decision to back off air strikes takes on an epic dimension. There are all sorts of modifiers that can and should be used.

But contrasted with what George W. Bush told the world ten years ago, Obama’s speech to the nation last week was a pillar of sanity.

He referenced our ten years of disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. He acknowledged that while Assad is a terrible dictator, there’s no guarantee what follows would be any better. And he conceded that the attempt to use force could lead to costs we cannot predict.

He also made it clear that he was facing down the firewall of an overwhelming public and Congressional demand for peace that would not be denied.

A decade ago, George W. Bush deceived just enough of the American public to go to war.

This time, no deal. Whatever it proves to be worth, a treaty has been signed. We have a precious moment where bombs aren’t flying. We’re a few steps back from the nuclear brink. And our economy is not spiraling down into another senseless military firestorm.

It may prove a small respite…but it’s a victory by any reckoning.

Now the SuperPower of Peace—all of us—-must make it stick.

—————

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of the Columbus Free Press and , where this was first published. He edits www.nukefree.org and is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of THE SUPERPOWER OF PEACE. His Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at . Special thanks to David Swanson.

The Disaster at Fukushima Gets Even Worse

4:39 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

UPDATE: Radioactive water overruns Fukushima barrier.

Contaminated groundwater accumulating under the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has risen 60cm above the protective barrier, and is now freely leaking into the Pacific Ocean, the plant’s operator TEPCO has admitted.

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant_20

Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant

The Horror at Fukushima Flows Ever Deeper

By Harvey Wasserman

Just when it seemed things might be under control at Fukushima, we find they are worse than ever.  Immeasurably worse.

Massive quantities of radioactive liquids are now flowing through the shattered reactor site into the Pacific Ocean.  And their make-up is far more lethal than the “mere” tritium that has dominated the headlines to date.

Tepco, the owner/operator—and one of the world’s biggest and most technologically advanced electric utilities—has all but admitted it cannot control the situation.  Their shoddy performance has prompted former US Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Dale Klein to charge:  ”You don’t what you are doing.”

The Japanese government is stepping in.  But there is no guarantee—or even likelihood—it will do any better.

In fact, there is no certainty as to what’s causing this out-of-control flow of death and destruction.   Some 16 months after three of the six reactors exploded at the Fukushima Daichi site, nobody can offer a definitive explanation of what is happening there or how to deal with it.

The most cogent speculation now centers on the reality that, simply enough, water flows downhill.

Aside from its location in an earthquake-prone tsunami zone, Fukushima Daichi was sited above a major aquifer.  That critical reality has been missing from nearly all discussion of the accident since it occurred.

There can be little doubt at this point that the water in that underground lake has been thoroughly contaminated.

In the wake of the March 11, 2011 disaster, Tepco led the public to believe that it had largely contained the flow of contaminated water into the Pacific.  But now it admits that not only was that a lie, but that the quantities of water involved—apparently some 400,000 gallons per day—are very large.

Some of that water may be flowing from the aquifer.  Much of it also, simply enough, flows down Japan’s steep hillsides, through the site and into the sea.

Until now the utility and regulatory authorities have assured an anxious planet that the contaminants in the water have been primarily tritium.  Tritium is a relatively simple isotope with an 8-day half-life. Its health effects can be substantial, but its short half-life has been used to proliferate the illusion that it’s not much to worry about.

Reports now indicate the outflow at Fukushima also includes substantial quantities of radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium.  That, in turn, indicates there is probably more we haven’t yet heard about.

This is very bad news.

Iodine-131, for example, can be ingested into the thyroid, where it emits beta particles (electrons) that damage tissue.  A plague of damaged thyroids has already been reported among as many as 40% of the children in the Fukushima area.  That percentage can only go higher.  In developing youngsters, it can stunt both physical and mental growth.  Among adults it causes a very wide range of ancillary ailments, including cancer.

Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish caught as far away as California. It spreads throughout the body, but tends to accumulate in the muscles.  Strontium-90′s half-life is around 29 years.  It mimics calcium and goes to our bones.

That these are among the isotopes being dumped into the Pacific is the worst news to come from Japan since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whose bombings occurred 68 years ago this week, and whose fallout has been vastly exceeded at Fukushima.

Indeed, Japanese experts have already estimated Fukushima’s fallout at 20-30 times as high as the 1945 bombings.  This latest revelation will send that number soaring.

The dominant reality is this:  there is absolutely no indication how or when this lethal outflow will stop.  Thus far Tepco has built scores of tanks on the site to contain whatever contaminated water they can capture.  But they by no means are getting all of it, and they are running out of space.  Some of the tanks, of course, have already sprung leaks.

There is no clear idea whether this outflow is accelerating.  Tepco has injected chemicals into the ground meant to harden and form a wall between the reactors and the sea.  There’s also a surreal discussion of super-cooling a part of the site to conjure up a wall of ice.

But water has a way of flowing around such feeble devices.

We may yet hear that this massive outflow is a temporary phenomenon, but that’s not likely.

The dire reality is that the site is still unpredictably radioactive.  It remains unclear what has happened to the melted cores of the three exploded reactors. The recent appearance of a steam plume has raised the spectre that fission may still be occurring somewhere in the area.

It is also unclear what will happen to the hundreds of tons of spent fuel perched precariously in a pool 100 feet in the air above Unit Four.  Sustaining that cooling system until the rods can be removed—and it’s unclear when that will happen—is a major challenge.  Should the inevitable earthquake come before that’s done, and should those rods go crashing to the ground where they and their zirconium cladding could ignite in the open air, the consequences could only be described as apocalyptic.

Through it all, Japan’s new pro-nuclear administration has been talking of re-starting the 48 reactors that remain shut since Fukushima.  Tepco has been among the utilities pushing to resume operations at its other plants.  In the US, there is talk of atomic reactors somehow solving the global warming crisis.

But what we now know all too well at Fukushima is that the world’s worst atomic catastrophe is very far from over.  The only thing predictable is that worse news will come.  And that when it does, our increasingly fragile planet will be further irradiated, at immeasurable cost to us all. Read the rest of this entry →

The Tower That Toppled A Terrible Technology

10:41 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

There it stood, 500 feet of insult and injury.  And then it crashed to the ground.
The weather tower at the proposed Montague double-reactor complex was meant to test wind direction in case of an accident.  In early 1974, the project was estimated at $1.35 billion, as much as double the entire assessed value of all the real estate in this rural Connecticut Valley town, 90 miles west of Boston.
Then—39 years ago this week—Sam Lovejoy knocked it down.
Lovejoy lived at the old Liberation News Service farm, four miles from the site.    Montague’s population of about 7500 included a growing number of “hippie communes.”  As documented in Ray Mungo’s FAMOUS LONG AGO, this one was born of a radical news service that had been infiltrated by the FBI, promoting a legendary split that led the founding faction to flee to rural Massachusetts.
And thus J. Edgar Hoover—may he spin in his grave over this one—became an inadvertent godfather to the movement against nuclear power.
When the local utility announced it would build atomic reactors on the eastern shore of the Connecticut River, 180 miles north of New York City, they thought they were waltzing into a docile rural community.  But many of the local communes were pioneering a new generation’s movement for organic farming, and were well-stocked with seasoned activists still working in the peace and civil rights movements.  Radioactive fallout was not in synch with our new-found aversion to chemical sprays and fertilizers.  Over the next three decades, this reborn organic ethos would help spawn a major on-going shift in the public view toward holistic food that continues today.
For those of us at Montague Farm, the idea of two gargantuan reactors four miles from our lovely young children, Eben and Sequoyah, our pristine one-acre garden and glorious maple sugar bush…all this and more prompted two clear, uncompromising words:  NO NUKES!
We printed the first bumper stickers, drafted pamphlets and began organizing.
Nobody believed we could beat a massive corporation with more money than Lucifer.  An initial poll showed three-quarters of the town in favor of the jobs, tax breaks and excitement the reactors would bring.
For us, one out of four of our neighbors was a pretty good start.
But nationwide, when Richard Nixon said there’d be 1000 US reactors by the year 2000, nobody doubted him.  Nuclear power was a popular assumption, a given supported by a large majority of the world’s population.  We needed a jolt to get our movement off the ground.
That would be the tower.  All day and night it blinked on and off, ostensibly in warning to small planes flying in and out of the Turners Falls Airport.  But it also stood as a symbol of arrogance and oppression, a steel calling card from a corporation that could not care less about our health, safety or organic well-being.
So at 4am on Washington’s Birthday (which back then was still February 22), Sam knocked it down.  In a feat of mechanical daring many of us still find daunting, he carefully used a crow bar to unfasten one…then two…then a third turnbuckle.  The wires on the other two sides of the triangulated support system then pulled down six of the tower’s seven segments, leaving just one 70-foot stump still standing.  It was so loud, Sam said, he was “amazed the whole town didn’t wake up.”
But this was the Montague Plains, the middle of nowhere.  Sam ran to the road and flagged down the first car—it happened to be a police cruiser—and asked for a ride to the Turners Falls station.  Atomic energy, said his typed statement, was dangerous, dirty, expensive,  unneeded and, above all, a threat to our children.  Tearing down the tower was a legitimate means of protecting the community.
This being Massachusetts, Sam was freed later that morning on his personal promise to return for trial.  Facing a felony charge in September, he was acquitted on a technicality.  A jury poll showed he would have been let go anyway.
The legendary historian Howard Zinn testified on Sam’s behalf.  So did Dr. John Gofman, first health director of the Atomic Energy Commission, who flew from California to warn this small-town jury that the atomic reactors he helped invent were instruments of what he called “mass murder.”
The tower toppling and subsequent trial were pure, picturesque reborn Henry Thoreau, whose beloved Walden Pond is just 50 miles down wind.
Sam was the perfect hero.  Brilliant, charismatic, funny and unaffected, his combination of rural roots and an Amherst College degree made him an irresistible spokesperson for the nascent No Nukes campaign.
Backed by a community packed with activists, organizers, writers and journalists, the word spread like wildfire.  Filmmaker Dan Keller, an Amherst classmate, made Green Mountain Post’s award-winning LOVEJOY’S NUCLEAR WAR, produced on a shoe string, seen by millions on public television, at rallies, speeches, library gatherings, classrooms and more throughout the US, Europe and Japan.  For a critical mass of citizen-activists, it was the first introduction to an issue on which the fate of the Earth had quietly hinged.
In 1975, Montague Farmer Fran Koster helped organize a TOWARD TOMORROW Fair in Amherst that featured green energy pioneer Amory Lovins and early wind advocate William Heronemus.  A vision emerged of a Solartopian energy future, built entirely around renewables and efficiency, free of “King CONG”—coal, oil, nukes and gas.
Then the Clamshell Alliance took root in coastal New Hampshire.  Dedicated to mass non-violent civil disobedience, the Clam began organizing the first mass protests against twin reactors proposed for Seabrook.  In 1977, 1414 were arrested at the site.  More than a thousand were locked up in National Guard armories, with some 550 protestors still there two weeks later.
Global saturation media coverage helped the Clam spawn dozens of sibling alliances.  A truly national No Nukes movement was born.
On June 24, 1978, the Clam drew 20,000 citizens to a legal rally on the Seabrook site that featured Pete Seeger, Jackson Browne, John Hall and others.  Nine months prior to Three Mile Island, it was the biggest US No Nukes gathering to that time.
So when the 1979 melt-down at TMI did occur, there was a feature film—THE CHINA SYNDROME—and a critical mass of opposition firmly in place.  As the entire northeast shuddered in fear, public opinion definitively shifted away from atomic energy.
That September, NO NUKES concerts in New York featured Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and many more.  Some 200,000 people rallied at Battery Park City (now the site of a pioneer solar housing development).  The NO NUKES feature film and platinum album helped certify mainstream opposition to atomic energy.
Today, in the wake of Chernobyl, Fukushima and decades of organizing, atomic energy is in steep decline.  Nixon’s promised 1000 reactors became 104, with at least two more to shut this year.  New construction is virtually dead in Europe, with Germany rapidly converting to the Solartopian future promised so clearly in Amherst back in 1975.
Sam Lovejoy has kept the faith over the years, working for the state of Massachusetts to preserve environmentally sensitive land—including the Montague Plains, once targeted for a massive reactor complex, now an undisturbed piece of pristine parkland.
Dan Keller still farms organically, and still makes films, including a recent “Solartopia” YouTube starring Pete Seeger.  Nina Keller, Francis Crowe, Randy Kehler, Betsy Corner, Deb Katz, Claire Chang, Janice Frey and other Montague Farmers and local activists are in their 40th year of No Nukes activism, aimed largely at shutting nearby Vermont Yankee—a victory that soon may be won.  Anna Gyorgy, author of the1979 NO NUKES sourcebook, writes from Bonn on Germany’s epic shift away from atomic power and toward renewables.
Rare amongst the era’s communes, Montague Farm has survived in tact.  In an evolutionary leap, it became the base for the Zen Peacemaker organization of Roshi Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko.  They preserved the land, saved the farmhouse, converted the ancient barn to an astonishing meditation center, and culminated their stay with a landmark gathering on Socially Engaged Buddhism.  A new generation of owners is now making the place into a green conference center.
Like Montague Farm, the No Nukes movement still sustains its fair share of diverse opinions.  But its commitment to non-violence has deepened, as has its impact on the nuclear industry.  Among other things, it’s forced open the financial and demand space for an epic expansion of Solartopian technologies—especially solar and wind, which are now significantly cheaper than nukes.
In the wake of that, and of Fukushima, new reactor construction is largely on the ropes in Europe and the US.  But President Obama may now nominate a pro-nuclear Secretary of Energy.  More than 400 deteriorating reactors still run worldwide, with escalating danger to us all.  China, Russia, and South Korea still seem committed to new ones, as does India, where grassroots resistance is fierce.
There’s also talk of a new generation of smaller reactors which are unproven, untested, and unlikely to succeed.  The decades have taught us that  money spent on any form of atomic energy (except for clean-up) means vital resources stripped from the Solartopian technologies we need to survive.
We’ve also learned that a single act of courage, in concert with a community of dedicated organizers, can change the world.  The No Nukes movement continues to succeed with an epic commitment to creative non-violence.
In terms of technology, cost and do-ability, Solartopia is within our grasp.  Politically, our ultimate challenge comes with the demand to sustain the daring, wisdom and organic zeal needed to win a green-powered Earth.
For that, we’ll do well to remember the sound of one tower crashing.
————————
Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA!  OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com, as is HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US, written at Montague Farm, introduced by Howard Zinn.  This article was first published on thewe bite of the Progressive Magazine, www.progressive.org.

Atomic Rate Rape & the New China Syndrome

12:38 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

Atomic Rate Rape & the New China Syndrome

 

 

By Harvey Wasserman

 

 

Small wonder the death knell of new US nukes may be upon us.

 

Two reactors proposed for Florida will now, say its would-be builders, cost $24 billion or more…up from their original maximum guess of $4 billion each…far beyond comparable renewables and efficiency ( http://nukefree.org/florida-nukes-delayed-3-more-years-cost-now-19-24-billion ).

 

Two Georgia nukes still wanting tax-funded loan guarantees have been caught pouring faulty concrete and using non-design rebar steel

( http://nukefree.org/nrc-says-vogtle-steel-does-not-match-requirement ).

 

Currently licensed reactors from California to Vermont, from Texas to Ohio to Florida are leaking radiation, shut for faulty steam generator tubes, closed for failed repairs running over $1 billion and being fought tooth and nail by local downwinders who are tired of rate rape want them shut forever.

 

But the fate of the Earth may ultimately rest on which China emerges after Fukushima:   the green one pushing solar, or the dictatorship pushing nukes that threaten us all.

 

What we Americans can do about it remains problematic.

 

But shutting down our own industry begins with killing proposed federal loan guarantees for two new nukes at Vogtle, Georgia

( http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees ), and stopping the rate rape being perpetrated to build two more at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer ( http://nukefree.org/ncwarn-duke-rigging-rates-pay-nukes ).

 

Throughout the US, wanna-be nuke builders are pushing regulators and legislatures to force ratepayers to foot the bill for new reactors while they’re being built.  In Iowa, Missouri and Florida ( http://nukefree.org/editorsblog/obamas-atomic-solyndra-0 ) , an angry public is pushing back—hard.

 

Progress Energy’s staggering new cost estimate for Levy County is a game changer.  The idea of paying $12 billion for reactors that can’t even begin construction for at least three years is beyond scale.  Progress has blown at least $1 billion on its botched repair and expansion job at north Florida’s Crystal River, which may now never reopen ( http://nukefree.org/editorsblog/nuclear-powers-green-mountain-grassroots-demise ).

 

Failed steam generator tubes at California’s San Onofre may also keep two reactors there forever shut. In Vermont, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and virtually everywhere other home to geezer nukes, grassroots opposition has seriously escalated.  movements are gaining increasing strength.  Sooner or later, they will win.  We must all pray that happens before yet another nukes blows.  It will be a close call.

 

In part because fracking (another environmental disaster) has made natural gas so cheap ( http://nukefree.org/small-towns-begin-rising-fight-fracking ), and in part because the price of wind and solar continues to plummet, 2011 was the first year since deep in the W Administration that the Executive Branch did not ask for new reactor loan guarantees.   If the money can be nixed for Vogtle, and the rate rape for Summer defeated, the whole “nuclear renaissance” could could definitively disappear.

 

Small modular nukes must still be fought ( http://nukefree.org/are-small-modular-reactors-future-nuke-power ).  But the numbers on this imperfected technology do not work without massive taxpayer subsidies or public liability insurance.

 

Europe’s one-time “nuclear poster child” is about to lose its pro-nuke Sarkozy is poised to the Socialist Francois Hollande ( http://nukefree.org/french-frontrunner-cools-reactor-shut-downs ), who may or may not begin shutting the nation’s reactors.  But French public has moved strongly toward renewables and probably won’t tolerate new ones.

 

Led by Germany, Europe’s nuclear future is past.  Proposed reactors in Great Britain and elsewhere are stalled.  Bulgaria has cancelled two.

 

Of Japan’s 54 licensed post-Fukushima units, just one now operates—and may soon shut.  Tokyo wants to open more, but grassroots resistance is fierce.  Ditto India, where massive demonstrations and hunger strikes have erupted against the Koodankulam project ( http://nukefree.org/10-000-india-hunger-strike-v-koodankulam-reactor ).

 

South Korea and Taiwan still want new reactors.  Korea may sell at least one to the United Arab Emirates.  The Saudis and Jordan may soon start construction.

 

But the global key now rests with China.  Despite its campaign to corner the world market in wind and solar hardware, China has been poised to bring on line close to 100 reactors. It may claim the largest number of new proposals—more than 30.

 

But Fukushima prompted a suspension of new approvals ( http://www.technologyandpolicy.org/2012/03/05/chinas-nuclear-energy-industry-one-year-after-fukushima/ ) and a move toward a national energy plan.  A final rejection could blow the floor out of any global nuclear future.

 

With a rising tide of grassroots environmentalism in China, any No Nukes movement there must be embraced worldwide.  In its hands may lie the future of the Earth.

 

Reactor backers desperately hype potential orders from China and India, and from small nations like Turkey and Taiwan.  But who will protect us —or even tell us—when they explode?

 

This weekend the Sierra Club while host a packed national gathering of grassroots No Nukers ( http://action.sierraclub.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=159641 ) to plan the Us nuclear industry’s final demise.  There’s much to celebrate.  The campaign for a green-powered Earth has become one of her most successful non-violent social movements.

 

But the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima are far from over.  The radiation they still spew threatens our survival.

 

Without a truly global Solartopian uprising, the ultimate China Syndrome may yet come in China…and spread worldwide.

 

In economy and ecology, we have no future without finally cleansing from every corner on Earth the lingering plague of the failed atom.

 

—————————

 

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, is at www.solartopia.org , along with THE LAST ENERGY WAR.  His Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.prn.fm.  In 1973 he helped coin the phrase No Nukes.

Obama’s Atomic Solyndra?

9:31 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

OBAMA’S ATOMIC SOLYNDRA?

by Harvey Wasserman

The future of nuclear power now hangs on a single decision by President Obama—and us.

His Office of Management and Budget could cave to the unsustainable demands of reactor builders who cannot handle the standard terms of a loan agreement.

Or he could defend basic financial procedures and stand up for the future of the American economy.

You can help make this decision, which will come soon.

It’s about a proposed $8.33 billion nuke power loan guarantee package for two reactors being built at Georgia’s Vogtle.   Obama anointed it last year for the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power.  Two other reactors sporadically operate there.  Southern just ravaged the new construction side of the site, stripping virtually all vegetation.

It’s also stripped Georgia ratepayers of ever-more millions of dollars, soon to become billions.  This project is in the Peach State for its law forcing the public to pay for reactor construction in advance.  When the project fails, or the reactors melt, the public still must pay.  A taste of what’s coming has emerged in shocking defects in poured concrete at the site which will cost millions to correct and months of delay on a project whose construction has barely begun ( http://nukefree.org/nc-warn-vogtle-already-hit-major-design-flaw-delay ) .

Nonetheless, Southern runs virtually no financial risk.  It actually has an interest in never finishing.  Florida is now in turmoil, trying to rid itself of a similar Construction Work in Progress law ( http://nukefree.org/florida-legislators-sue-stop-nuke-bailouts-advance ).

Worldwide estimated reactor costs have jumped from $3-5 billion each a few short years ago to $10 billion or more, and rising.

Uranium prices are set to soar as the supply of Russian weapons-based fuel is about done.  And renewables have long since outstripped atomic energy as being cheaper, faster to build, cleaner, safer, more reliable and open to community ownership.

There are virtually no private investors willing to back new reactor construction.  There are no private insurers willing to take the risk on operating reactors.  There is no place to store the radioactive wastes they generate.

Operating reactors in Vermont ( http://nukefree.org/vermonters-tell-vermont-yankee-get-out ), New York, California ( http://nukefree.org/nrc-chair-jazcko-says-san-onofre-be-shut-indefinitely )and elsewhere now face ferocious public uprisings to get them shut.

They are being joined by Governors, US Senators and entire legislatures.  Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont, has appeared at a major public rally to shut Yankee.  The legislature long ago voted (26-4) the same way.  Shumlin was joined by US Senator Bernie Sanders, who has issued a stunning denunciation of the loan guarantees ( http://nukefree.org/sen-bernie-sanders-ryan-alexander-stop-nuclear-subsidies ) .  US Senator Ron Wyden of Orgeon has published a serious warning about the on-going dangers of Fukushima, which he recently visited ( http://nukefree.org/sen-wyden-warns-situation-fukushima-worse-believed ).

Once the public kills one of these elderly reactors, a tsunami of shutdowns among the 104 currently licensed in the US will follow.

Germany and much of the rest of Europe have abandoned the technology ( http://nukefree.org/europes-war-over-nuclear-financing ).  Bulgaria has just scrapped plans for two proposed generators.  Major banking institutions have warned potential investors in Britain’s planned reactors that if they proceed, they will lose their financial standing.  Mexico has also said it won’t build new nukes.

In Asia, only one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors now operates, and it may soon shut.  Huge demonstrations and hunger strikes are raging against a proposed project at Koodankulam, India.  The Philippines says it won’t build any reactors at all ( http://nukefree.org/philippines-says-no-new-nukes ).  China, the last bastion of any apparent large-scale interest in multiple nukes, seems to be wavering, in part because of the rise of a No Nukes movement there.

Here, two reactors barely beginning construction in South Carolina are also in deep trouble.  Their builders need massive rate hikes in North Carolina to proceed, and the opposition there is fierce ( http://nukefree.org/ncwarn-north-carolina-can-kill-south-carolina-nuke-project ).

But the lynchpin is Vogtle.  The construction loan guarantee program got $18.5 billion from George W. Bush in 2005. With the industry in deepening chaos, it took until last year for a president to designate less than half that money.  For the first time in years, there is no Executive or Congressional request to put more money into the fund.

The French National Utility EDF did step forward to get funding for Maryland’s proposed Calvert Cliffs project.  But haggling over terms contributed to its demise.

Now Southern faces the same abyss.  It refuses what the mortgage community would consider a normal 20% downpayment on its taxpayer-funded loan.  Southern wants to put virtually none of its own money into the project, leaving the radioactive gamble totally to the public.

But the Office of Management and Budget is apparently demanding something more reasonable ( http://nukefree.org/vogtle-loan-guarantee-not-yet-done-deal ).  Because the OMB is a White House agency, Obama holds the key.  It’s our job to make him turn it in a green direction.

A short while ago, this package was considered a done deal.  But the GOP uproar over the failed $535 million loan to the solar company Solyndra changed to context.  Initiated by Bush, Republicans have made Solyndra the poster child for bad federal loans.

Vogtle involves some 15 times Solyndra’s liability.  And it’s all Obama’s.  At least three petitions are circulating against the package.( http://nukefree.org/please-do-sign-petition-stop-new-nuke-loan-guarantees ).

There are many ways to finally shut down what has been the most expensive technological failure in human history.  Fukushima and the killing power of radiation, the unsolved problem of radioactive waste, the campaigns against failing reactors such as Vermont Yankee, Indian Point, San Onofre and Davis-Besse—all are key.  This weekend, a conference convened by the Sierra Club in Washington, DC ( http://action.sierraclub.org/site/DocServer/no_Nukes_Flyer2.pdf?docID=9701 ) , will weigh the various strategies.

But killing this loan guarantee package could finally kill the prospect of new reactors in the US.  The astonishing rise of Solartopian green technologies has far outstripped atomic energy in the marketplace.  Every delay deeply diminishes the possibility of building more of these profoundly uneconomic anachronisms.

In the long run, Vogtle, Summer and any other new nukes that seem to slip through in the short term will almost certainly be stopped by what has become one of the most powerful non-violent social movements in human history.

But right now, it’s up to Obama—and us.  Does he really want an atomic Solyndra on his hands?  Will we really let this happen?

Let’s relieve the President of this radioactive burden.  Let’s kill these reactors before they kill us, and take the most significant leap of all toward a green-powered Earth.

——————-

Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA!  Our Green-Powered Earth is at www.harveywasserman.ning.com, along with HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE US.  He edits www.nukefree.org, and his Green Power & Wellness Show airs at www.progressiveradionetwork.com

America’s 2 New Nukes Are On the Brink of Death

6:48 am in Uncategorized by solartopia

MyFDL Editor Notes: Title edited to remove all caps in accordance with MyFDL rules. Image link also removed as image was not from an approved source for MyFDL, also covered under MyFDL rules.

Harvey Wasserman

America’s 2 new nukes are on the brink of death
April 5, 2012

The only two US reactor projects now technically under construction are on the brink of death for financial reasons.

If they go under, there will almost certainly be no new reactors built here.

The much mythologized “nuclear renaissance” will be officially buried, and the US can take a definitive leap toward a green-powered future that will actually work and that won’t threaten the continent with radioactive contamination.

As this drama unfolds, the collapse of global nuclear power continues, as two reactors proposed for Bulgaria have been cancelled, and just one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors is operating. That one may well close next month, leaving Japan without a single operating commercial nuke.

Georgia’s double-reactor Vogtle project has been sold on the basis of federal loan guarantees. Last year President Obama promised the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power, $8.33 billion in financing from an $18.5 billion fund that had been established at the Department of Energy by George W. Bush.

Until last week most industry observers had assumed the guarantees were a done deal. But the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, has publicly complained that the Office of Management and Budget may be requiring terms that are unacceptable to the builders.

Southern and its supporters remain ostensibly optimistic that the deal will be done. But the climate for loan guarantees has changed since this one was promised. The $535 million collapse of Solyndra prompted a rash of angry Congressional hearings and cast a long shadow over the whole range of loan guarantees for energy projects. Though the Vogtle deal comes from a separate fund, skepticism over stalled negotiations is rising.

So is resistance among Georgia ratepayers. To fund the new Vogtle reactors, Southern is forcing “construction work in progress” rate hikes that require consumers to pay for the new nukes as they’re being built. Southern is free of liability, even if the reactors are not completed. Thus it behooves the company to build them essentially forever, collecting payment whether they open or not.

All that would collapse should the loan guarantee package fail.

A similar fate may be awaiting the Summer Project. South Carolina Electric & Gas has pledged to build the two new reactors there without federal subsidies or guarantees. But it does require ratepayer funding up front. That includes an apparent need for substantial financial participation from Duke Power and/or Progress Energy customers in North Carolina who have been targeted to receive some of the electricity projected to come from Summer. [cont.] Read the rest of this entry →