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Thursday
Jan192012

False claims (on Frontline and elsewhere) persist that nuclear-free Germany will release more CO2

The suggestion made during the Frontline program that Germany will emit more Co2 as a result of its nuclear phase-out is another perfect example of those skeptics who claim that the German nuclear phase-out was a panicked overreaction and could even amount to environmental vandalism.  But science disproves these claims. Thanks to Arne Jungjohann at the Heinrich Boell Institute for the following rebuttal:

Looking at the German nuclear phase-out, some have argued that Germany will produce an extra 300m tones of carbon dioxide between now and 2020. However, Numerous feasibility studies, amongst others by the Federal Environmental Agency or an independent Commission on Energy Choices , have shown that the nuclear phase-out will not jeopardize Germany's ambitious climate action efforts: reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and by at least 80 percent by 2050. If emissions were to rise due to the nuclear phase-out, the government would have to come up with compensating measures to reach these targets.

However, it is unlikely that emissions will rise, because according to the rules of the EU cap-and-trade system there is a cap for emissions from the energy sector and that of course also applies for Germany. Even if Germany’s nuclear capacity was to be replaced by using energy generated in coal plants, the total energy emissions would still have to be reduced. This could be achieved by either shifting to more natural gas or by replacing older coal plants with new and more efficient plants. That's the genius of a cap-and-trade system. Believe it or not, with that system in place, Germany's nuclear phase-out will even cause emissions in other European countries to fall.

The German nuclear phase-out – which is being followed by other countries including Switzerland, Italy and Belgium – is in reality another important element to accelerate the long-term strategy of a transition towards a low-carbon economy.

 

Wednesday
Jan182012

A mountain of waste 70 years high and no solution in sight

Check out the new Beyond Nuclear pamphlet - The Lethal Legacy of the Atomic Age, 1942 - 2012 - infinity. A Mountain of Waste 70 Years High. (Feel free to download it or email us at info@beyondnuclear.org to request printed copies.) Ever since the first self-sustaining chain reaction occurred on December 2, 1942, no solution has been found to deal with even the first cupful of radioactive waste generated in the US. Shortly, the Department of Energy's Blue Ribbon Commission will be releasing its report which will likely recommend so-called "Centralized Interim Storage" - effectively a parking lot dumpsite whose deadly cargo may never be moved to a "final" destination. Historically, Indian reservations or communities of color are the most likely targets to host such "storage." In addition, the DOE will likely begin a search for a new repository site to replace the wisely canceled and scientifically unsound proposed Yucca Mountain dump. The granite states appear to lead the list of possibilities although all of the 48 contiguous states are in the mix.

Tuesday
Jan172012

Fish Eaters Threatened by Fukushima Radiation

Evidence has emerged that the impacts of the disaster on the Pacific Ocean are worse than expected.

Since a tsunami and earthquake destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant last March, radioactive cesium has consistently been found in 60 to 80 per cent of Japanese fishing catches each month, as tested by Japan's Fisheries Agency.

Overall, one in five of the 1,100 catches tested in November exceeded the new ceiling of 100 becquerels per kilogram. (Canada's ceiling for radiation in food is much higher: 1,000 becquerels per kilogram.)

"I would probably be hesitant to eat a lot of those fish," said Nicholas Fisher, a marine sciences professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Cesium was especially prevalent in certain of the species:

• 73 per cent of mackerel tested

• 91 per cent of the halibut

• 92 per cent of the sardines

• 93 per cent of the tuna and eel

• 94 per cent of the cod and anchovies

• 100 per cent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish

Some of the fish were caught in Japanese coastal waters. Other catches were made hundreds of kilometres away in the open ocean.

There, the fish also can be caught by fishers from dozens of other nations who fish in the waters of the Pacific.

Yet, Japan is the only country that appears to be systematically testing fish for radiation and publicly reporting the results. The Vancouver Sun (reproduced on ReaderSupportedNews)

Beyond Nuclear note: Although this story is about seafood concerns in Canada, it is worth noting that the US allowable contamination level is greater than the levels allowed by both Japan and Canada, and that the US imports seafood and other foodstuffs from Japan.  The Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) of the United States is allowing a contamination level of 1200 Bq/kg of just Cesium 134 and Cesium 137 to be present in food imports from Japan that are not banned outright. Foods banned outright seem mainly limited to only select items grown in the localized areas of contamination within Japan.

Tuesday
Jan172012

Russia's Radioactive Phobos-Grunt Space Probe Fell to Earth Sunday

Russia’s Phobos-Grunt space probe, with 22 pounds of radioactive Cobalt-57 on board, fell to Earth Sunday. The probe was launched in November to go to Phobos, a moon of Mars, but its rocket system failed to fire it onward from low Earth orbit.

There is some confusion as to where pieces of the 14.9-ton probe fell. Read Karl Grossman's article in Common Dreams

Saturday
Jan142012

Palisades atomic reactor "an accident waiting to happen"

Against the backdrop of the reactor's cooling tower steam and Lake Michigan, Don't Waste Michigan activists Michael Keegan, Alice Hirt, and Kevin Kamps called for the permanent shutdown of Palisades at the August 2000 Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Action Camp.As reported by the St. Joe Herald-Palladium, Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps -- as well as other anti-nuclear activists from Don't Waste Michigan -- called for the permanent shutdown of the long problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in southwest Michigan, on the Lake Michigan shoreline. The watchdogs spoke out at a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting about two of Palisades' five un-planned shutdowns in 2011, one of which the NRC and even Entergy Nuclear admit was of "substantial siginificance to safety." 

Kevin was quoted as saying "We should not be here today, actually. The plant should have been shut down at the end of its 40-year license. This plant was a lemon to begin with. We see Palisades as an accident waiting to happen. The risks are very great. Talk is very cheap. Throw the book at this company. It's way past time to shut (it) down."

Referring to a worker who was nearly electrocuted, Palisades' general manager of plant operations, David Hamilton, confessed "I could have killed somebody" during the incident, which also caused the loss of half of the reactor's control room indicators. Kevin expressed concern for the worker's safety as well, but pointed out that NRC's own "Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences" in 1982 reported that a catastrophic radioactivity release at Palisades could cause 4,000 "peak early fatalities," 7,000 "peak early injuries," 10,000 "peak cancer deaths from cancer," and $52.6 billion in property damage downwind and downstream. However, the report was based on 1970 U.S. Census data, so almost certainly significantly underestimates potential casualties. When adjusted for inflation, property damages would now top $137 billion.

Don't Waste Michigan led the campaign from 2005 to 2007 to block Palisades' 20 year license extension, but were steamrolled in the NRC's rubberstamp proceeding. Palisades' previous owner, Consumers Energy, admitted in spring 2006 that several major safety repairs or replacements were needed -- such as to the highly embrittled reactor pressure vessel, for the degraded reactor lid and steam generators -- but Entergy has not done so.

The Kalamazoo Gazette also reported on this story, as did Michigan Public Radio.