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Climate Change

Nuclear power is counterproductive to efforts to address climate change effectively and in time. Funding diverted to new nuclear power plants deprives real climate change solutions like solar, wind and geothermal energy of essential resources.

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Wednesday
Apr162014

"Is The New York Times Missing The Decade’s Most Affirmative Climate-and-Energy Story?"

Charles Komanoff, is an article posted at the Carbon Tax Center (which he directs), has set the record straight with the "paper of record."

The Carbon Tax Center is a clearinghouse for information, research and advocacy on behalf of revenue-neutral carbon taxes to address the climate crisis.

Komanoff provides ten points to keep in mind in order to critically assess the New York Times, and others', dismissive attitude toward the German energy transformation, away from nuclear power and fossil fuels, to efficiency and renewables.

Friday
Mar282014

RMI: "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost"

Amory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, RMITitiaan Palazzi, Special Aid, RMIAmory B. Lovins, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, and Titiaan Palazzi, Special Aid (photos, left), of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, CO, presented "Nuclear Power's Competitive Landscape and Climate Opportunity Cost" at "Three Mile Island 35th Anniversary Symposium: The Past, Present, and Future of Nuclear Energy" held at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, on 28 March 2014.

Lovins and Palazzi report that, when compared to nuclear power: (1) Efficiency and renewables are far cheaper; (2) Renewables can deliver similar or better service and reliability; (3) Renewables can scale faster;  and (4) For climate protection, efficiency and renewables are far more effective solutions than new nuclear build, which indeed is counterproductive.

Lovins and Palazzi's economic critique extends not only to proposed new atomic reactors, but even to existing, age-degraded reactors. They state "Reactors are promoted as costly to build but cheap to run. Yet as Daniel Allegretti ably described, many existing, long-paid-for U.S. reactors are now starting to be shut down because just their operating cost can no longer compete with wholesale power prices, typically depressed by gas-fired plants or windpower."

Lovins and Palazzi also discuss the financial history of nuclear power, extending back decades. They point out that U.S. nuclear power orders collapsed before Three Mile Island partially melted down on March 28, 1979, and that 40% of U.S. nuclear-unit cancellations occurred before then, due to economic challenges.

Lovins and Palazzi conclude that "efficiency is clearly cheaper than average nuclear operating costs, which exceed 4¢/kWh [4 cents per kilowatt-hour] at the busbar and 8¢ delivered. Thus overall, for saving coal plants’ carbon emissions, efficiency is about 10–50x more cost-effective than new nuclear build—or about 2–12x more cost-effective than just operating the average U.S. nuclear plant."

Regarding nuclear power's retreat, Lovins and Palazzi report:

"Nuclear power also has to run ever faster to stay in the same place as its 1970s and 1980s growth turns into a bulge  of retirements. After the next few years, retirements will exceed all planned or conceivable global nuclear additions, even with all license extensions as shown here. Power reactors’ terminal decline will be over by about 2060—and in view of both competition and aging, this projection by Mycle Schneider [Mycle Schneider et al., World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013] is more likely to overstate its longevity than its brevity."
They conclude their presentation by stating: "So whether you choose e fficiency, cogeneration, or renewables, just being nearly carbon-free does not make new nuclear build an effective climate solution. Rather, because it saves ~3–50x less carbon per dollar than its main competitors, and deploys slower, new nuclear build reduces and retards climate protection. If climate is a problem, we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately, to get the most solution per dollar and per year. Anything less makes the problem worse. Nor do we need nuclear power to offset PVs’ and windpower’s variability, or to scale faster than renewables, or to save or make money, because, as we’ve seen, nuclear power cannot do any of these things. So there is no reason to build more nuclear plants. Capital markets, seeing big new costs and risks without offsetting benefits, long ago reached the same conclusion. Existing nuclear plants, a future idea whose time has passed, will simply retire; the only choice is how quickly and at what cost to whom. End of story." (bold added)
Thursday
Feb202014

Beyond Nuclear/PSR speaking tour across MI a big success!

Alfred Meyer, PSR board memberAlfred Meyer (photo, left), national board member of Physicians for Responsibility (PSR), spoke throughout Michigan on a tour organized by Beyond Nuclear from Feb. 12-17. His presentations of "Nuclear Power: What You Need to Know about Price, Pollution and Proliferation" were dedicated to the memory of Dr. Jeff Patterson, PSR's Past-President.

Alfred's first stop on Feb. 12, at Grand Rapids' Fountain Street Church, drew 35 attendees, despite the wintry weather. Corinne Carey of Don't Waste MI video-recorded the talk, and will post it to cable access t.v. in the near future.

Alfred had a productive day in Kalamazoo on Feb. 13th. His presentation at Western Michigan University (WMU) was attended by over 50 people, and garnered an extended interview by Gordon Evans on WMUK Radio, as well as an article by Yvonne Zipp in the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Alfred also spoke at a press conference held at WMU's impressive solar panel array, launching a campus climate campaign to divest the university from fossil fuel investments. Climate leaders who spoke included WMU and Kalamazoo College student leaders, WMU professor and Kalamazoo 350.org chairman Mark Miller, as well as WMU professor and Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress (MI's 6th district) Paul Clements.

Alfred was also interviewed by Dr. Don Cooney, WMU Social Work professor and Kalamazoo City Commissioner, and Dr. Ron Kramer, WMU criminology prof., on "Critical Issues: Alternative Views" t.v. program. The interview will be aired on Kalamazoo cable access in the near future, as well as posted to YouTube.

The tour stop in South Haven (4 miles from Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor) on Feb. 14 drew 25 attendees, despite it being Valentine's Day. Kraig Schultz of Michigan Safe Energy Future--Shoreline Chapter video-recorded the talk, and will post the recording to the MSEF YouTube channel in the near future.

Ferndale in Metro Detroit on Feb. 15 drew 75 attendees. Damon J. Hartley of the Peoples Tribune did a write up and took lots of photos.

Monroe's event (within the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone from the GE BWR Mark I, Fermi 2, as well as the proposed Fermi 3) on Feb. 16, drew 30 attendees, and garnered coverage in the Monroe News (text, PDF). The Ann Arbor (home base for PSR's new MI chapter) event on Feb. 17 also drew an audience despite an impending winter storm.

Beyond Nuclear has been honored and privileged to work with the following groups to make this speaking tour a success: Michigan Physicians for Social Responsibility; Sierra Club; Fountain Street Church; WMU Lee Honors College; WMU Environmental Studies program; WMU Institute of Government and Politics; Michigan Safe Energy Future (both Kalamazoo and South Haven chapters); Don't Waste Michigan; Ferndale Public Library; Alliance to Halt Fermi 3; Ellis Library; Don't Waste Michigan; Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes; and the Ecology Center.

Friday
Dec132013

Beyond Nuclear joins with Ralph Nader to promote carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy

Ralph NaderOn Dec. 12th, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps joined with Ralph Nader (photo, left) in an hour-long presentation to the Climate Reality Check Coalition on why nuclear power is a false solution to the climate crisis.

As described in the event announcement, Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics - named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, his documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power. He is a long time watch dog of the nuclear industry and critic of nuclear power.

The conference call, with about 70 participants listening in and asking questions from across the country, was hosted and moderated by Allison Fisher, Outreach Director for Public Citizen's Energy Program.

The announcement of the conference call was sent out by Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity, as well as Ted Glick of Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN was a coalition partner with Beyond Nuclear in the cancellation of the proposed new Calvert Cliffs 3 reactor in Maryland):

"We are pleased to have Ralph Nader and Kevin Kamps join our call to discuss why nuclear power is a false solution to the climate crisis.

The climate crisis is upon us. The world's leading climate scientists agree that time is rapidly running out and that urgent steps are needed to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. In recent months, a small number of prominent climate activists have been urging the movement to accept nuclear power as a necessary part of the mix needed to get us off fossil fuels. Ralph Nader is a prominent spokesperson for the view that uranium fuel, as an alternative to fossil fuels, is a false choice and to address climate change and the consequences of dirty energy we must move toward a safe, efficient, sustainable and democratic energy economy, rather than promote dangerous solutions like nuclear power and fracking.

We’ll be joined by Ralph Nader and Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear to discuss why nuclear is not the answer.  Our discussion will include:  
  
The exorbitant price and long completion time for bringing new reactors online; the opportunity cost of investing in nuclear power; the feasibility of a nuclear-free, carbon-free electricity sector; unique issues such as lethal waste, proliferation and safety.

The following background resources were mentioned during the course of the discussion:

Resources from NIRS and Beyond Nuclear on how to make public comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Con Game" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement by the Dec. 20 deadline.

An opportunity for organizations to sign onto a letter by NIRS and Civil Society Institute, addressed to climate scientists James Hansen et al., urging them to reconsider their advocacy in favor of nuclear power as a climate crisis solution. Organizational sign on deadline is 5 PM Eastern, Friday, Dec. 20th. Send your name, title (optional), organization name, city and state to nirsnet@nirs.org.

IEER resources:



UCS reports:

2011 UCS report by Doug Koplow of Earth Track, "Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable without Subsidies."

UCS's most recent nuclear power safety reports, by David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project.

Rocky Mountain Institute (Amory Lovins):

"Reinventing Fire" -- Electricity.

Peter Bradford resources:

Peter Bradford, along with Mark Cooper, both of the Vermont Law School, speak on the atomic reactors most at risk of near-term shutdown in the U.S. (link to audio recording of press conference at the bottom of press release).

Beyond Nuclear board member Karl Grossman's article, posted at Enformable Nuclear News, about Peter Bradford's 10/8/13 presentation in New York City (along with Ralph Nader, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan (who served during the first months of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe), former NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko, and nuclear engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc.), attended by Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter.

Beyond Nuclear resources:

(The three pamphlets above were written by Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey in St. Louis, MO.)

Additional Beyond Nuclear resources:

and

NIRS press release:

"All Levels of Radiation Confirmed to Cause Cancer," press release dated June 30, 2005 regarding the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR 7) report.
Thursday
Nov212013

Gambling with climate change, noted scientists blind bet on new nukes 

Climate and energy scientists James Hansen, formerly with NASA, Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institute, Kerry Emanuel from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s and Tom Wigley at the University of Adelaide in Australia recently released an open letter calling on environmental leaders to support a call for a massive global ramp up of nuclear reactor construction. In their view, there needs to be a last ditch effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions with a massive expansion of unproven reactor designs. The November 3, 2013 letter, entitled “To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power,” antes up an impressive array of institutional credentials against the anti-nuclear community and a high stakes gamble for the future of the planet.  

Ironically, given the global decline of nuclear power largely due to failing the economic test, the letter’s argument against alternatively ramping up a 21st Century renewable energy policy starts with, “Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires.”

Dr. Hansen argues that on the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory the planet’s fate arrives at a “tipping point” of no return in less than ten years. Beyond Nuclear does not dispute the scientists’ urgency for human civilization to address a man-made climate crisis. However, we adamantly disagree with staking the planet’s future on perpetuating the nuclear mistake.

So why are these scientists urging environmental leaders to make a blind bet on yet another unproven generation of nuclear power plants?  

This is not the first time that these same institutions have lent their prestigious names in what turns out to be a revolving door among academia, government and industry.

For example, take a closer look at the Carnegie Institute. The current and 9th President is Dr. Richard Meserve. Dr. Meserve, the academic, provided his promotional statement for nuclear power as the solution to climate change in an advertising supplement to the Washington Post, April 21, 2010 entitled “U.S. Cannot Dismiss Nuclear Energy in Quest to Control Global Warming.” The supplement also featured a front page advertisement by the industry’s top lobby group, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). It promoted nuclear power as “a zero greenhouse gas emitter while producing electricity," divisively omitting the significant carbon emissions from the uranium fuel chain. In 2012, the Nuclear Energy Institute presented Carnegie Institute President Meserve the nuclear industry’s William S. Lee Award for Leadership.

Dr. Meserve was also formerly the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1999 to 2003. He resigned his Presidentially posted five-year term early following  disclosures in an Office of Inspector General event report on the 2002 near-miss accident at Ohio’s Davis-Besse nuclear power generating station. The OIG report found that the NRC under Chairman Meserve required “an unreasonably high burden of absolute proof of a safety problem, versus lack of reasonable assurance of maintaining  public health and safety before it will act to shut down a power plant.”  We almost lost Toledo and portions of the Great Lakes, where the nuclear power plant was potentially weeks away and 3/16th of an inch from the rupture of a severely corroded reactor pressure vessel.

Carnegie President Meserve also serves as Senior of Counsel with the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP which provides legal services to the nuclear power industry. He  serves on the Board of Directors of Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) which owns and operates California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Dr. Meserve also served on the Advisory Board of UniStar Nuclear Energy LLC which unsuccessfully sought to license and construct a new reactor in Lusby, MD, as well as the Board of Directors of Luminant Holding Company LLC which is the parent company of the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Texas.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is long recognized as a champion of nuclear technology. Curiously, the climate scientists' missive fails to address the most fundamental obstacles to the expanded use of nuclear power as documented by Dr. Emanuel's own MIT 2002 report "The Future of Nuclear Power," which sought to answer already decades old questions to kick start the first "nuclear renassiance, a term now widely is disuse.

“The potential impact on the public from safety or waste management failure and the link to nuclear explosives technology are unique to nuclear energy among energy supply options. These characteristics and the fact that nuclear is more costly, make it impossible today to make a credible case for the immediate expanded use of nuclear power.” 

 

MIT’s findings are now only amplified by the real world events since the report was published eleven years ago when the global nuclear industry was at its peak and since slipped into a steady dangerous decline. The public safety and the environment are more impacted by in the uncontrolled nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima. The global industry remains without a geologically-secure repository operating anywhere in the world. Iran’s pursuit of “the peaceful atom” continues to threaten Middle East and global security with its inherent access to nuclear weapons. And finally, as evidenced most dramatically in the US, the increasingly exorbitant cost of atomic power has stymied the building of new reactors as corporate boardrooms abandon the construction license application process.

 

Rather than embark back down uranium's dirty, dangerous and expensive "yellow cake" road, we concur with Amory Lovins' plan for a stronger U.S. economy by 2050 with no coal, oil or nuclear power, one third less natural gas, a $5 trillion dollar net savings, and 82-85% lower carbon emissions. The most immediate these steps toward dramatically reducing carbon emissions from the energy sector can be quickly taken by ramping up energy efficiency technologies and conservation at residential, commercial and industrial levels.