Benjamin Sovacool: Last week’s new crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan saw radioactive water leak again from the crippled facility, raising fears that groundwater flowing into the Pacific Ocean could be contaminated. The Japanese government also raised the international incident level – the scale used to assess nuclear accidents – from one to three out of seven. The original nuclear meltdown following the 2011 Japanese earthquake was scaled seven. Even if Fukushima was ultimately caused by the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, accidents such as this beg the question: can nuclear energy ever be truly safe? There are three reasons to think that nuclear accidents are common, and could increase – and it’s not because of the technology. Let’s have a look at the evidence. First, people are fallible, even at nuclear reactors. Operator error is still a very common factor in incidents and accidents. Second, big accidents almost always have very small beginnings. Nuclear power plants are so complex that relatively simple things — shirt tails, fuses, light bulbs, mice, cats, and candles — can disrupt the entire system. And finally, many failures are those of organisations more than technology. Given the right event, all these factors can lead to system-wide failure.
The Conversation 26th Aug 2013 read more »
Nuclear power, which in the 1970s faced massive public resistance in Europe and the U.S., with huge demonstrations opposing its use and lengthy legal delays that ran construction costs skyward. The accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl clearly made the public wary in most, though not all, countries. But it would seem that the public, over the long term, is capable of understanding and then accepting even complex systems. Predictions of massive increases in cancer rates from nuclear power failed to come true, and Three Mile Island became a tourist attraction. Combined with rising concerns about global warming and better reactor designs, expectations of a ‘nuclear revival’ became prominent in the U.S.
Forbes 26th Aug 2013 read more »
Steaming towards the Port of Liverpool at this very moment is the Swedish owned Ro-ro/container carrier, the Atlantic Cartier. Questions hang over this ship as to just how safe it is bearing in mind that on May 1st while in the Port of Hamburg it was seriously damaged when it went up in flames. The ship’s cargo included 9 tons uranium hexafluoride ( UF6 ), destined for the Areva owned uranium-enriching plant at Lingen, Lower Saxony. Also included in the cargo were four tonnes of explosives, and 180 tons of flammable ethanol. When UF6 is exposed to moist air, it reacts with the water in the air to produce UO2F2 (uranyl fluoride) and HF (hydrogen fluoride) both of which are highly corrosive and toxic.
Martyn Lowe 26th Aug 2013 read more »
In just over a year’s time, Scotland will be voting on whether or not to become independent of the rest of the UK. But when it comes to energy the SNP seem strangely reluctant to embrace independence. A new policy document – “Scotland’s Energy Future” – says the case for Scottish control of energy policy is “compelling” but, despite that, Mr Salmond and his colleagues want to maintain a UK-wide energy market after independence. What this actually means is that the tide of subsidies which has built up the wind power business in Scotland should be maintained. Scotland’s total wind capacity is now double the combined total of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It rose by more than a third last year alone. This means that Scotland has a surp lus of electricity. Under Mr Salmond’s plans that would continue to be sold to England, where consumers would pay the protected prices approved as part of the UK’s energy policy. Scotland would have every incentive to continue to build wind farms – at least a dozen more are in prospect – and to export any power they produce. And under the regime of subsidies called “contracts for difference”, consumers in England and Wales would have to pay for the capacity, even if the power wasn’t needed. For Scotland, independence must mean independence. Not a sort of adolescent relationship in which the youth pretends to be his own man but still collects his pocket money every week from his mam. Interestingly, the North Sea oil and gas business seems to be less contentious than many had expected. Everyone has an interest in extending the lives of the remaining fields. Tax revenues are limited and falling, and to overtax activity now would discourage the late life projects which can sustain activity and quite a lot of jobs for years to come. Decommissioning costs are a looming issue but even on that issue the approach advocated by the Treasury in London appears to have been accepted in Edinburgh. Decommissioning has been a cause of uncertainty for too long but the degree of agreement reached over the last few months has encouraged a new wave of interest and investment in the North Sea. But, by contrast, by promoting a fantasy policy on renewables, the SNP are creating a public policy risk for investors. If Mr Salmond wants continued investment in energy in Scotland he has to be realistic about what an independent energy policy would be, and who would pay. He would do well to remember the line Lewis Carroll wrote for Alice “It’s no use going back to yesterday. I was a different person then”.
FT 27th August 2013 read more »
Scotland’s opportunity to change the world. Renewable energy has been most successful when the key enablers – inve stors, producers, users, promoters and regulators – have worked together to overcome barriers. Scotland has been a test-bed for numerous early experiments in community-owned renewable energy schemes and has a pivotal role to play in the Sustainable Energy for All revolution. We have vast wind, wave, and tidal energy resources, a growing low carbon energy industry sector, and a successful model for partnership between government, business and the R&D sector. To mark the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All Decade, CIFAL Scotland, its UN parent agency UNITAR, the University of Strathclyde, and the Scottish Government have co-operated to launch an e-learning course on Renewable Energies for Developing Countries. The course aims to enhance the capacity of local decision makers, energy/sustainable development officers and other personnel to make informed decisions on renewable energy technologies that will meet their own needs or the needs of their countries, communities, vil lages or neighbourhoods. It aims to provide an overview of clean, secure and sustainable technology options and offers insights into the management of renewable energy projects, from small scale, through to major projects. Scotland is a small nation, but one with a global duty to reconcile environmental protection with sustainable economic growth. We have a huge opportunity to harness our skills and technology and political will to change the world and deliver a more sustainable energy future for all. With the upcoming UN Decade, now is the time to seize it.
Scotsman 27th Aug 2013 read more »
The acquisition is in line with professional services consultancy Rhead Group’s strategy to expand its existing operations in the rail and nuclear markets in the UK. Calvert & Russell has three UK offices, and one office in Brisbane, Australia. It supports clients in the delivery of projects across the rail and nuclear sectors by providing contract administration, commercial management, claims and dispute management and procurement services.
Construction Index 27th Aug 2013 read more »
Peace activists besieging a West Berkshire nuclear weapons plant vowed today not to be cowed by cops wielding camping bylaws. Demonstrators who breached the fences of Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Burghfield early on Sunday morning described “invisible” state repression after police threatened them with arrest unless they surrendered their personal details. The site, which surrounds a warhead manufacturing plant and is owned by the Ministry of Defence, is now also home to a “disarmament camp” erected by Action AWE and Trident Ploughshares. Campaigner Angie Zelter told the Morning Star today that people were welcome to join the camp’s 30-odd residents for a fortnight of direct actions against Britain’s nuclear weapons programme.
Morning Star 26th Aug 2013 read more »
Fukushima Crisis Update 23rd to 25th Aug.
Greenpeace 27th Aug 2013 read more »
Every bluefin tuna tested in the waters off California has shown to be contaminated with radiation that originated in Fukushima. Every single one. Over a year ago, in May of 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported on a Stanford University study. Daniel Madigan, a marine ecologist who led the study, was quoted as saying, “The tuna packaged it up (the radiation) and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.”
Liberals Unite 24th Aug 2013 read more »
Japan’s industry minister ordered on Monday (August 26) the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant to improve its monitoring and replace tanks at risk of leaking radioactive water, as he signalled the government may dip into emergency reserve funds. Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi said Japan may tap foreign expertise if necessary to combat contaminated water at the site, which continues to increase at a rate of 400 tonnes a day and is threatening to overwhelm clean up efforts.
IB Times 26th Aug 2013 read more »
The Japanese government has finally lost patience with the bungling efforts of Tokyo Electric Power Company to get the crippled reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant under control. Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister of trade and industry visited the plant on Monday to determine progress to date on decommissioning the three damaged reactors at the plant. Speaking after being shown around the site, Mr Motegi said, “The urgency of the situation is very high. From here on, the government will take charge.”
Telegraph 26th Aug 2013 read more »
Bloomberg New Energy Finance study highlights dominant role of clean energy in booming Chinese market, predicts national carbon price of $16 a ton. Greenhouse gas emissions from China’s energy industry are likely to peak in 2027 as renewable energy and gas play an increasingly dominant role in the country’s energy mix. That is the conclusion of a major new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) that predicts renewables, including large-scale hydroelectric projects, will contribute more than half of new capacity through to 2030 as the country’s total power generation more than doubles.
Business Green 27th Aug 2013 read more »
China-based power generating equipment producer Dongfang Electric Machinery (DFEM) has manufactured a 1,750MW nuclear generator for the Taishan nuclear project site in south China. DFEM said the generator has highest per-unit installed capacity among the nuclear generators in the world. The Taishan nuclear power project, located in south China’s Guangdong province, is being developed by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company (CGNPC) and Electricite de France. So far, DFEM has produced 14 nuclear generators with a total installed capacity of 15,790MW.
Energy Business Review 26th Aug 2013 read more »
Surging demand from Asia could help the global market for wind power more than quadruple in size by 2030, turbine maker Siemens has predicted. Markus Tacke, chief executive of the German group’s wind power division, said installed capacity around the world is set to grow to 1,107 gigawatts in 2030, from 273 GW last year. The forecast came as Norway’s oil and energy ministry granted licences to build eight onshore wind farms, with a combined capacity of 1.3 GW, as the country seeks to generate 67.5 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. However, Tacke said the market is poised to shift “significantly” away from Europe, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for more than 47 per cent of the market by 2030, up from 34 per cent currently.
Scotsman 27th Aug 2013 read more »
The smart meter project will be one of the most extensive infrastructure programmes ever seen in the UK, with the aim (set by the EU) of installing them in 80 per cent of homes and small businesses – some 52 million buildings – by 2020. At one point, it was going to be compulsory to have one, but the Government thought this would be an intrusion too far. Still, with the suppliers pushing them like mad, most of us are going to get a smart meter whether we like it or not. This programme is going to cost some £12 billion – and the bill is to be passed on to the consumer. So if we really are to be up on the deal, we must be about to get some pretty good bargains as a result. Indeed, DECC estimates it will deliver overall benefits of £18.8 billion, giving a net gain of almost £7 billion. Still, a number of energy experts aren’t convinced. Alex Henney, who worked in the electricity industry for many years, tells me that when a group of consultants carried out a cost-benefit analysis in 2007, they calculated a net cost of more than £4 billion. He also insists that the system being introduced here will be twice as expensive as in Italy and Spain.
Telegraph 26th Aug 2013 read more »
George Hollingbery, a parliamentary private secretary to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has warned that he will be “manning the barricades” if there is any danger posed to water supplies by shale gas exploration. Mr Hollingbery, the MP for Meon Valley in Hampshire, warned that gas fracking could be “disastrous” in his county because of the area’s fragile water supply. He is the first senior Tory to openly attack the process of fracking, which David Cameron this month backed in the strongest possible terms.
Telegraph 26th Aug 2013 read more »