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Friday
Jan122018

Letting It Be an Arms Race

As reported by Adam Mount in The Atlantic.

The article is sub-titled "A leaked draft of the Trump administration’s nuclear-weapons plan imagines a more dangerous world."

It begins:

As Americans question whether President Donald Trump has the judgment necessary to command the most capable nuclear arsenal on earth, the Pentagon is moving to order new, more usable nuclear options. Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a Pentagon document that sets the nation’s nuclear policy, demonstrates an aggressive shift that will add to the spiraling cost of the nuclear arsenal, raise the risk of a nuclear exchange, and plunge the country into a new arms race, according to a draft published by HuffPost three weeks ahead of its planned release. Though the document is marked “pre-decisional,” insiders have told me it reflects the final text.

Here is the link to the full article. 

Adam Mount is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.

Thursday
Jan112018

California’s last nuclear plant to close after unanimous vote by regulators

As reported by David R. Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) and Friends of the Earth have issued statements.

See here for more info. on this historic victory for a genuinely clean energy future, free from dirty, dangerous, and expensive nuclear power.

Beyond Nuclear, alongside Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), will co-present on radioactive waste issues at a MFP educational event in San Luis Obispo, CA on Jan. 19, 2018.

Wednesday
Jan102018

FERC stands by competitive utility market by rejecting Trump’s nuke-coal bailout

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to rig the nation’s competitive wholesale marketing of electricity with a colossally expensive bailout through rate tariffs for financially failing nuclear power and coal-fired generators. On January 8, 2018, the FERC Order terminated the Trump Administration Energy Department’s September 29, 2017 proposed rulemaking for “Grid Reliability and Resilience Pricing.” The FERC regulates interstate electricity and gas transmission as well as the licensing of hydroelectric dams.  

In October 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) had ordered the FERC to open a proposed rulemaking aimed at providing full cost recovery for financially ailing plants that have 90-days of fuel stored onsite as a national security measure to assure electric grid reliability and resilience during disruptive events like extreme weather. Secretary Perry’s disingenuous attempt was in fact more focused averting the impending economic failure and closure of increasingly expensive and unreliable nuclear power plants and coal-fired generators. But merely having a 90-day onsite fuel supply, such as enriched uranium fuel rods or a humongous coal pile, does not assure grid stability during extreme events. To the contrary, when hurricane force winds cause perturbations on the electrical transmission lines that supply 100% power to an operating reactor’s safety systems, nuclear power stations are designed to automatically shut down. Federal safety standards, in fact, require all U.S. nuclear power stations to manually SCRAM once a hurricane’s sustained wind exceeds 73 miles per hour (Category 1). It is because of safety concerns that nuclear power plants cannot re-energize or “black start” the electrical grid even once its repaired.  Similarly, extreme cold weather is responsible for shutting down coal-fired generators when coal piles freeze solid as did during the Polar Vortex of 2014. A frozen coal pile cannot be efficiently transferred as fuel to the generator’s furnace.  

Critics of Perry’s rulemaking, including Harvey Peskoe, a senior fellow of electricity law at the Harvard Law School of Environmental Policy Initiative, pointed out that DOE didn’t bother to make a cogent argument nuclear power’s reliability and failed to even define “resilience” of fossil and fissile power generators. What is crystal clear from expert and former regulators testimony alike is just how unpredictably expensive the Trump nuke and coal bailout was going to be. Former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff was quoted to say “It’s going to be as expensive as hell. Expensive as it can be because we will be paying the full freight on coal and nuclear plants.”

Meanwhile, FERC is predicting an additional 116 gigawatts of renewable wind and solar power to be installed in the US by 2020 with the continued decline of coal and nuclear over the same timeframe.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Trump's own appointees don't buy need for nuclear and coal bailout

It was front page news on the conservative Wall Street Journal. The headlines ran: Federal Regulators Rule Against Trump Administration on Power Plants. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rebuffs plan to aid coal-fired and nuclear power plants." (WSJ articles are behind a pay wall and cannot be linked to or reproduced.)

"Federal energy regulators on Monday rejected a Trump administration proposal aimed at shoring up struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants to bolster the nation’s electricity grid, saying the administration hadn’t persuaded them the plan was needed to ensure the system’s reliability," read the WSJ lead.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post pointed out right in its headline that the FERC committee were not willing to play "follow my leader" and fall for the nuclear/coal boondoggle: "Trump-appointed regulators reject plan to rescue coal and nuclear plants," it read.

The Post opening paragraphs, in Steve Mufson's story, read: 

"The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets.

The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding."

Wednesday
Jan032018

Why do we continue to ignore the deadly risks of nukes in space?

Plutonium was jettisoned into the sea by the stricken Apollo 13 after its aborted moon mission. The ill-fated Challenger had been slated to carry deadly plutonium on a scheduled mission that would have followed the January 1986 launch that ended in tragedy. Even as far back as 1964, an aborted space mission carrying a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator had resulted in a reentry burn-up over Madagascar, releasing plutonium later found all over the world.

Why aren't people up in arms about these gambles, especially now as the Trump administration prepares to invest in space shots to Mars loaded with mini nuclear reactors and propelled by plutonium powered rockets? One journalist has covered these risks for decades -- Beyond Nuclear board member, Karl Grossman. Linda Pentz Gunter writes about his lonely quest for attention to these reckless endeavors in a December 29, 2017 Truthtout article. Read more.

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