Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies, according to a new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on May 9. The report noted that it is the absence of political will, not renewable resources, that can hinder progress: "it is not the availability of the resource, but the public policies that will either expand or constrain renewable energy development over the coming decades," according to Ramon Pichs, Co-Chair of the Working Group III. The 1,000+-page study looked at direct wind energy, solar energy;bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower and ocean energy and ran more than 164 different scenarios. It ruled out nuclear energy as cheaper way of cutting greenhouse gases stating that "renewables will contribute more to a low carbon energy supply by 2050 than nuclear power or fossil fuels using carbon capture and storage. Read the press release and the full report.
As announced in a media release today, an environmental coalition led by Beyond Nuclear, including Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwest Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio, has had its standing recognized and been granted a hearing by a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission three administrative judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The ASLB ruled on April 26th, the 25th commemoration of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe, that full hearings will be held on the coalition's renewable alternatives to a 20 year license extension at Davis-Besse, namely wind power and solar photovoltaics. In addition, the ASLB has granted a hearing on the coalition's severe accident mitigation alternatives (SAMA) contention, which argues that FirstEnergy Nuclear has severely underestimated the risks of catastrophic radioactivity releases from the aged reactor. In fact, Davis-Besse has already suffered numerous of the worst near-miss accidents in the entire U.S. nuclear power industry over the past 34 years of its operations, as described in a Beyond Nuclear backgrounder. The coalition submitted its petition to intervene and request for a hearing on Dec. 27, 2010. The Toledo Blade reported on this on May 12th, in an article entitled "Activists win chance to contest nuke license." (additional Toledo Blade coverage of the environmental coalition's resistance to the Davis-Besse license extension, going back in time, is posted alongside the article)
Reports CNN: "Japan's prime minister said Friday he has asked the operator to shut down the nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear plant until earthquake and tsunami protections can be built. The plant -- located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, southwest of Tokyo -- is vulnerable and could produce "grave damage to Japan" similar to the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said."
The continued operation of the General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors in the United States and around the world, like those destroyed and now leaking radioactivity in Fukushima, is increasingly dangerous and irresponsible. The clearest evidence is demonstrated by the plight of the Japanese people now faced with a 24-mile diameter radioactive "no inhabitation" zone in addition to the wreckage of the March 11, 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
More communities around the United States like Plymouth, Massachasetts are standing up and asking questions about these dangerously flawed and aging power reactors in their backyards. On Saturday, May 7th, a Rally for Safety will take place at Plymouth Rock, not far from the Pilgrim nuclear power plant (pictured left), organized by Pilgrim: Make Us Safe Today. The rally featuring a strong line-up of speakers including Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear will take place from 10am to 12 noon.
Two scientists retained by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oversee the construction of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina (pictured left) say the agency took safety shortcuts that seriously jeopardize the project. According to an expose by the news service, ProPublica, first Alex Murray, the lead chemical process engineer on the NRC review team, and then his replacement, Dan Tedder, a chemical engineering professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology, called out safety problems but were either removed from the job (Murray) or resigned in frustration (Tedder). The MOX plant is supposed to process left over plutonium pits from the U.S. atomic arsenal into commercial reactor fuel, although no U.S. reactors are designed to use MOX and the utility slated to use it - Duke - has withdrawn from the project.
According to the scientists, as reported by ProPublica: "Work on the facility was allowed to begin, they say, before some of the most essential questions were fully answered. They have been particularly concerned about the danger of chemical explosions, the adequacy of the ventilation and radioactive waste disposal systems and the way the plutonium will be tracked as it is processed."
According to Tedder, the NRC's "primary focus is staying on schedule and not doing anything to delay the applicant, rather than identifying dominant risks and safety issues.”
The NRC has a lamentable track record, called out by Beyond Nuclear staffers for years, of prioritizing industry profit motives over public safety. Needless to say, the NRC has denied the assertions of their former staffers.